Nowadays I cannot imagine a mastering or mixing process without an oscilloscope - a vst plug-in, that display a graphical waveform of the playing sound. This habit came to me after using Sound Forge software, where I usually edit my samples. So waveform view is very familiar for me to understand some sound characteristics. It allows us to see some specific sound details like compresion ratio, amplitude, peak values, which cannot be heard by ears.
These parameters are very important to see and control during mastering or mixing process of your musical material, and that's why it could be better to include such function inside Ableton, so you could view the waveform here. But unfortunely, Ableton does not have such function in it's built-in modules. Thats why I found an interesting VST plug-in called S(M)exoscope made by SmartElectronix, which is shown on the next figure.
I place this plug-in usually in the end of my master chain of every project I put it behind the last processing plug-in Waves L2. This allows me to control the final sound picture at the output, that corresponds to the final mastered mix. Plug-in has two main regulators, it is Time - scaling of the image along the horizontal axis of time X, and Amp - scaling along the vertical axis of volume Y. Usually I set regulator Amp into a value of 1.000 (by default), to see all the sound space at the output, in a full its amplitude. And by changing Time parameter I zoom the waveform to view some of its small details.
I don't use other regulators. They are intended to sync a waveform in a certain cue points, and I'm not going to talk about these functions here. The three switches in lower right corner of the plug-in I always put to OFF state, and the switch of viewing channel next to them I set to LEFT (by default). Sometimes you can click it to switch between LEFT and RIGHT to check the sound amplitude of different channels.
In the next publications we will talk about how to use S(M)exoscope plug-in during mastering process. You will know how to control the volume of a low frequencies in your mix using this plug-in, and also how to make a correct balance of the other frequencies of your sound. Finally, these knowledge will take your mix closer to a quality professional sounding and will help you to avoid some rough mistakes in mastering process.
Written by Jim Pavloff, 2010