On my latests mixes, I've been slapping a compressor and limiter on the stereo bus when I'm about ? done with the mix. The mixes I'm doing now have to be competitive in terms of level. That means I must smash them. Of course this really kills the drums. Well lately, as one of the last things I do in the mix, I've been using parallel compression on the kick and snare top.
I've been doing mixes as usual. I'll go ahead and smash the 2bus with compression and limiting to get the mix loud enough. Of course, after doing this my drums are usually buried. Then, I go ahead and kick in the parallel compression. When I bring up the fader containing the parallel compression, I can hear the drums regain their life and their definition again. Essentially, I'm using excessive overcompression to compensate for the excessive compression on the 2bus. It's kind of sillly when you think about it, but I guess in some ways, it's like fighting fire with fire.
I'm basically taking the 2bus (which is already getting spanked pretty good) and cramming quite a bit of attack into it. Of course, much of it is getting cut right off by the stupid Waves L2 limiter, but the drums do appear to hit harder without sacrificing overall level.
Some people are against mixing with compression and limiting on the 2bus. They insist that this is something that should be saved for mastering. Well, I've tried it every way under the sun and for me, I find the results are better when I can let my mix react to the compression. Obviously, if the mix is done and the master if applied there is little I can do to properly accommodate the changes that mastering can make.
Using parallel compression on the drums as one of the last mixing moves seams to be a great way of compensating for the disastrous effect that mastering will have on my mix. Yes, you heard me. I generally do not like mastering. My mastered mixes always sound worse on my studio monitors, but generally translate a little better. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I'm used to hearing music that's been smashed all to hell in my car stereo or on my computer speakers.