OTT with Multi-Band Expansion

The Over-The-Top (OTT) sound is becoming an increasingly popular type of audio effect in various music genres such as pop and EDM. So what is OTT, why is it so popular, and most importantly, how do you create it?

What is OTT?

The Over-The-Top (OTT) sound is the addition of extreme low and/or high frequency boosting to a mix or parts of a mix. But getting a good OTT sound is not accomplished with fixed gain using just an EQ; such an approach would cause a great deal of distortion. Furthermore, while that can be a cool effect sometimes, it’s not what the OTT sound is about. Instead, multi-band upward expanders are used to bring up the low and high frequency signals, but only when the signal levels are relatively low.

In case you aren’t familiar with upwards expansion, you can think of it like the opposite of traditional compression. Compressors are generally used for reducing the volume of a signal after it crosses above a specified threshold, while an upwards expander will boost the volume of a signal when it falls below a specified threshold.

The use of multi-band upwards expanders lets the user select which frequency ranges get the extreme boosting. By choosing which frequency ranges get boosted and by how much, the “tone” of the OTT sound can be adjusted. This technique is much better than static gain from an EQ because it only occurs when the signal level is already relatively low, as determined by the upwards expander threshold. If the signal levels get loud, the upward expander does nothing because the audio is above the threshold.

Using a multi-band compressor is also very useful when going for the ideal OTT sound. The signal boosts generated by the upward expander might be a bit too much at times, so a multi-band compressor (dialed in around the same frequency ranges as the upwards expander) can be used to attenuate exceptionally loud upward expander output.

Why is OTT So Popular?

The human ear is particularly fond of songs and sounds with lush highs and thick lows. That’s why many consumer speakers and headphones tend to boost these frequency ranges; they’re designed to sound particularly flattering to the average consumer. Who wouldn’t want their kick to rattle a few windows now and then, or have their sweet synth pad shimmer over the top of the entire track, thus solidifying your spot as a mix genius?

Okay, if the OTT sound is so dang cool, how the heck can YOU create it?

Enter the ML4000 Mastering Limiter Plug-In by McDSP!

The ML4000 Mastering Limiter by McDSP

The ML4000 is a high-resolution limiter and multi-band dynamics processor plug-in. The ML4 (one of the ML4000’s two configurations, pictured above) features a multi-band section alongside a mastering limiter. This multi-band section features 4 bands, each of which has a fully featured gate, expander, and compressor.

The ML4 is the perfect tool for creating your own set of custom OTT presets, and it even comes loaded with plenty of OTT presets to get you started! The 4-band expander can be operated as an upwards expander to create all kinds of OTT effects, while the 4-band compressor can be used alongside it to tame some of the sharp peaks that might occur if the upwards expansion is too aggressive.

Sometimes, the upwards expansion gives a pumping-like effect to the low or high frequencies its being applied too. This can be a desirable effect, but other times you might be looking for a more natural sound. Adjusting the attack and release times of both the ML4 expander and compressor can minimize or exaggerate the pumping, and further customize the OTT sound in general.

As an added bonus, the ML4 4-band gate can be used to clean up tracks getting loads of gain from the upward expansion. And last but not least, the patented ML4 mastering limiter will put a nice touch on the increased overall signal levels and smooth out any remaining peaks that would have otherwise caused unwanted distortion.

Let’s hear it all in action in the Synth, Drum, and Vocal audio examples here:
Artist: M.LAU
Song: Cnt Slw Dwn
Producer: Mark Parfitt
Song on Spotify:
Song on YouTube:

Want to check out the ML4000 for yourself? Try out a free 14-day, fully functional ML4000 trial here.

As always, we hope you learned something new! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter below to stay up to date on all things McDSP. We’ll see you next time!