Does this type of "stem mastering" have a name?

I have a bunch of stems and I need to master them, BUT I need to keep them all as stems when they are done.

Basically, what I’m doing is that I need to get all these stems to sound as good as possible for playing back in a live band/DJ situation, and they will be played back as stems so that I can mute certain instruments if and when i want to play those back live.

So I’m trying to do a type of “stem mastering” but it’s not the typical kind where I’m just mixing stems and then mastering that in to a stereo track.

Does anyone know of a name for what I’m trying to do? I’m hoping maybe I just don’t know the name of it, because I’d like to see if anyone else has shared how they have best gone about this.

I don’t know if it has a certain name but I do something similar for a client that creates library/production music.

I dial in the master settings based on the full mix version, and then I process a number of alternate versions using the same processing. Combining the versions doesn’t result in a perfect match to the full version because of dynamics processing but that is not the goal. Natural cohesiveness between the versions is more of the goal. If one of their clients needs to rework a mix, they are provided with fully unmastered stems so they can recreate the full mix perfectly and they can modify from there to what they need.

When I do this work I have a montage for each song, and then all the alternate versions are on their own montage tracks stacked up vertically and all starting at 0:00. FX are loaded in the montage output section and then I just mute all tracks besides the version I want to work on or render. When I am dialing in the settings for the main version, of course all other versions are muted.

I do think some things can be improved in WaveLab for stem mastering such as entering the name you want for each resulting file somewhere on the montage track, and then with the press of one button WaveLab could render each stem/track one at time for you to get the same result as I described above.

I could also see a case for WaveLab to apply the processing to all stems/alternate versions based on the levels of the main mix which would make the resulting stems add up more accurately when combined.

Am I understanding your process correctly?

  • you bring in the stems and then get a good master coming out of the main output of wavelab.
    -you bounce down that “main master”.
    -the then essentially solo each stem and run each of those stems through the same master output processing chain.

Is that correct?

That is correct though they are technically considered alternate versions. Some are 30 and 10 second cut downs, one is a version without any lead elements that won’t get in the way of a voiceover, and if a song has vocals, there will be a no-vocal version and a vocal stem. We also provide a version with just the rhythm elements.

I process all these versions with the same montage output plugin settings which doesn’t provide 100% stem compatibly but it fulfills what we need to have happen.

This might interest you:

https://www.fabfilter.com/help/pro-l/support/externalsidechaining

AFAIK, WaveLab doesn’t allow sidechaining of plugins but yes…

In some cases of stem mastering, it would be nice to process the stems based on the dynamics reaction of the full mix but in WaveLab, it’s not really possible at this time apart from maybe some major tricks and workarounds.

Yeah, I’m using the Pro-L2 sidechained. I’m doing this in Cubase currently.

Jason-that’s what I thought you were saying. What I’m doing is different. I am bringing in stems and then doing mastering while maintaining those tracks as stems. Then I export those stems again. The end result is to be playing back the stems themselves-not various mixed down versions.

What I’m doing right now- and it seems to be working ok (but it’s cumbersome) is that I have 10 stems and I have the Pro-L2 on each stem and they are being sidechained but a stereo unmastered version of the song. That way each stem is responding appropriately.

I was looking through my plugins yesterday, and I think I will be able to set up a processing chain for each stem that is being sidechained where I can have an eq, compressor and the limiter all reacting to the original master. Theoretically that should get me so that the stems will null…which isn’t the requirement, but it should get close enough for my needs. But, yeah, I don’t think this is a job for wavelab.