Rush’s 1989 album Presto has always been one of my favorites. However, along with Roll The Bones, the two Rupert-Hine-produced albums have a lot of headroom and a light touch on bass. I’ve been wanting to remaster Presto for a while now, mainly to give it a bit more punch on bass and to put its overall volume at a level similar to Counterparts and Test For Echo. I think I’ve finally done it.
I approached the process with the goal of not over-compressing the music. I detest the engineering that produced Vapor Trails; the school of “LOUDER IS BETTER”. At its loudest points, I wanted the music to still have a dynamic range of at least 6dB. That meant that there should be even more range on the softer parts. I think my recipe achieves that.
There are three main parts to my method: equalization, multiband compression, and limiting (applied in that order). I ripped the CD audio as one large WAV file using CDex (which I use a lot). Then I loaded the file into Sound Forge, one of the best Windows audio editors. I used Sound Forge’s included plugins to do the job, but they admittedly aren’t the best ones available. I don’t own any other plugins, but might try using Waves or Ultrafunk’s equivalent plugins to do the job at a later date. The settings I share here should be easy to transpose in similar plugins.
To avoid clipping, I didn’t boost any levels in the EQ. I cut most everything, with a floor of -3dB, except for the bass “sweet spot” and the high end. This was the beginning of helping Geddy Lee’s bass stand out in the mix more, and it also helped the kick drum. The effective high-end boost is there to give the music just a little more “air”.
I used the four bands available in SF’s plugin to perform multiband compression. The settings for the low-shelf band are pretty aggressive and served to put the final oomph in the bass that I was looking for. The main goal of the low-mid band was to keep the vocals and some of the guitars in check. The high-mid and high-shelf bands were not set too aggressively.
I used relatively tame limiting settings, so as to preserve dynamic range. After I was done with this step, I ran a “normalization” volume increase to get the peaks to -0.01dB. I then took care to burn the resulting CD with the same track times as the source CD for maximum CDDB compatibility.
I don’t believe any clipping took place during any of these steps. The CD I made using this recipe has sounded great every place I’ve listened to it so far. I hope anyone who tries this recipe is pleased with the result; I welcome any feedback you might have. Enjoy.