Any time you find yourself shaping track transients before the equalization filter stage it is best to leave all shelves off and use a flat or below zero Db meter input range on any track components that use level adjustments prior to any of the transient shaping algorithms that are applied. If you stage these transients for processing later you will have a detectable amount of noise floor because of the inherited noise from the original capture compounded by the chain of effects. Applying light compression to a track transient(s) is considered acceptable, but only in cases where the dynamics of the captured transient(s) need to be expanded or compressed for loudness and/or clarity.
During capture sessions it is best to have all mics in phase and amps set as close to flat equalizer or less as needed. Subtraction will produce better results than addition in most cases due to the need to sum all tracks at the mix down session. This ensures a cleaner sum total mix of the tracks later as each track will operate its own set of automated filters and the resulting transient shaping can effectively be done in real time. Advantages to ordering the effects chain and settings in this series allows a flat response at a low, desirable and audible level for that track. This will decrease noise floor and, in some cases, eliminate noise floor completely. Alternatively, you can also use a gate to eliminate any undesirable transients below a certain audible level around -6 to -10 Db.
Once you have a transient captured in raw (wav, mp3 etc) format you can begin to shape it accordingly and specifically for the overall mix you are working toward. Repeat each track sequence making exceptions for different tone color and instrument frequency on each track saving the lower bass frequencies for drums and bass and mid to higher frequencies to be dedicated to vocal and guitar or cymbal tracks. This gives you a narrow scope of frequencies that you can apply while shaping the tracks transients individually and eases work load. This procedure also prepares each track for the summing stage while mixing and ensures that all tracks are well below the desired input stage clipping ceiling. At this point your track should be ready for monitoring and the equalization (from flat eq on capture) stage can begin on each individual track. The ordering of transient shaping applications should now be set for each track. Make sure unused or muted tracks have their VST setting to “off” if they will not be used in the mix of subsequent tracks that you are working on for this project. This will save processor power during subsequent and second check passes on each track.
If all tracks are set then begin the mixing session. You should be able to keep your signal sum of all tracks that pass into the master channel well below zero Db while sounding dynamic. Don’t worry about a flat sounding mix because later when the mastering session is ready all of the frequencies, transient shaping applications and effects will be balanced from the sum of the final mix of all of the captured tracks. If it doesn’t sound “glossy” enough, it will after being mastered.
The mastering session will be the final transient shaping stage but will focus primarily on the equalization and compression needed to keep the audio program sounding vibrant and dynamic. The reason we use flat or “subtractive” equalization settings during the ordering of the transient shaping stage during capture is because the transients retain more of their natural frequencies that are commonly heard “in the wild” by the human ear. If carefully crafted they are far more clear, responsive and reproducible in a studio session or sessions over a period of time that would require that the settings be saved for later use. Think about a frequency band filter settings used for a recognizable guitar sound and essentially that information can also be saved in a project file to be used later for new material. You can also retain a certain transient shaping chain from each track and store them as settings for individual performers. This is a time saver when working on a full album with the same performers. These can also be used later as templates for certain styles of music.