loudness war, mixing & mastering tricks?

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Member Since: Jun 07, 2009

I realize that those two words may trigger reactions in people, so i chose not to capitalize them :) i make electronic/hip hop-esque music and frequently find that my bounced pro tools tracks aren't anywhere close to those of commercial recordings...

ok ok, i know what you're going to say... they haven't been mastered, yet on many accounts i've been able to get the levels comparable to some recordings from say, 10 years ago... acceptable if you ask me!
i do use L3 & Maxx Volume, but I dislike the idea of too much compression (esp on the top end), so... i don't know if there's a way to have the best of both worlds. i don't mind compressing stuff so that average volume is increased, but i like a song to be dynamic too, u know?

i've found a lot of times, it's the bass beat (at least I believe it to be) that is taking up a lot of noise-space and therefore it is inhibiting me to bump up the volume even more without losing punch. I do a a steep HPF @ around 20 Hz as most people are unlikely to hear the difference (cuz they aren't at a club). but even so, the volumes for a few songs are not where i would like them to be... i will definitely experiment, but so far, you guys seem to be pretty knowledgeable about mixing and would love to hear any advice or tricks. btw, i don' t master my stuff.

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bace135 in the house tonight!
Member
Since: Jan 28, 2003


Jun 10, 2009 02:22 am

sorry, don't have any tricks along those lines. When I'm done mixing, my tracks are generally relatively quiet. I don't even think about loudness until the mastering starts.

MASSIVE Mastering, LLC
Member
Since: Aug 05, 2008


Jun 10, 2009 11:13 am

Quote:
frequently find that my bounced pro tools tracks aren't anywhere close to those of commercial recordings...


As well they shouldn't be.

Quote:
ok ok, i know what you're going to say... they haven't been mastered, yet on many accounts i've been able to get the levels comparable to some recordings from say, 10 years ago...


"Mastering" (does not equal) "Loudness" and "Loudness" (does not equal) "Mastering" -- That said - The levels of 10-15 years ago were "horrible" -- Now, they're "completely nuts" - Far (FAR) beyond what the playback circuitry is designed to handle.

And trying to actually attain those levels digitally... Where there is no headroom to work with... It's hard enough with a chain that's tweaked to ignore those levels. Turning that voltage into a usable signal, especially with converters that are calibrated to having that voltage equal a "more normal" signal... That's for another thread entirely.

Quote:
acceptable if you ask me!


If volume is your goal, you're missing the target.

Quote:
i've found a lot of times, it's the bass beat (at least I believe it to be) that is taking up a lot of noise-space and therefore it is inhibiting me to bump up the volume even more without losing punch. I do a a steep HPF @ around 20 Hz as most people are unlikely to hear the difference (cuz they aren't at a club). but even so, the volumes for a few songs are not where i would like them to be...


As the low end consists of FAR more energy than everything else combined, sure. A lot of low end = higher voltages at the converter at lower levels. HP'ing at 20Hz is... No one can hear that. Few subs (even those in the clubs) can reproduce it. There shouldn't really be anything below that in the first place.

But let's get down to the basics here -- You're talking about destroying your music just to make it louder. Throwing playback systems completely out of whack, making people turn the systems down (or actual physical damage of the system will result, not even considering how fatiguing and harmful it is to your ears - even at low volumes), just to keep up with "the other guy's" tunes...

Where did we go wrong? When did we stop caring about sound quality?

Don't get me wrong - I'm as guilty as the next mastering guy in throwing out projects that are far louder than they wanted to be. That said, the entire chain here is very carefully calibrated to handle those loads. But realistically speaking, very few chains in the 'real world' are able to handle them. Certainly not iPods or home stereo systems, even most recording studios (which should be calibrated to typical tracking levels).

The bigger question is: How do we get the world back to "normal" levels and just stop this whole silly thing? The end-user certainly didn't ask for this - The "loudness war" is an infantile "pissing contest" between artists and labels. Never was anything else, never will be anything else.

http://www.reverbnation.com/2ndg
Member
Since: Nov 27, 2007


Jun 10, 2009 08:46 pm

i think crazy loundness like youre mentioning MM, should only really be used as a texture in songs if thats what youre looking for in that part. metal mainly.

no need to make the whole song like that. you'll get no texture that way and itll just sound annoying and be fatiguing to your senses.

if you want goosebumps when listening to a song then, excessive loudness will destroy that idea. IMHO.

so im offf now to change all my mixes. ha ha ha .

http://www.reverbnation.com/2ndg
Member
Since: Nov 27, 2007


Jun 10, 2009 08:54 pm

hey also Massive, dunno if you have the same pic (bottom right corner of this page) very reminisent of your avatar.
thieving b*******'s?

as for the Quote MM,

"The bigger question is: How do we get the world back to "normal" levels and just stop this whole silly thing? The end-user certainly didn't ask for this - The "loudness war" is an infantile "pissing contest" between artists and labels. Never was anything else, never will be anything else."

maybe we could start a petition! throw it around Facebook, My space and other recording forums. See what happens.

not that the powers that be would care. but if you got alot of legit entries, then it could start a trend, or re trend. and we all know the big wigs are doing it for the people eh?

imagine if we could get them thinking that sales are down becuase of this reason. coz Cd sales are down.



MASSIVE Mastering, LLC
Member
Since: Aug 05, 2008


Jun 10, 2009 09:27 pm

Arrrgh - Nope, probably not the same image. If you happen to see it again and can pull a capture, I'd love to see it though... Wouldn't be the first time (wouldn't be the 40th or 50th for that matter).



There are a bunch of "movements" out there trying to get levels back to "more normal" -- Most of them gain a lot of ground with (I know, it's a hard guess) mastering engineers and audiophile organizations. Otherwise, most of the labels and artists still have this freakish idea that "louder" actually sounds "better."

http://www.reverbnation.com/2ndg
Member
Since: Nov 27, 2007


Jun 11, 2009 04:20 am

would be interesting to do some testing on people as to what they like the most. maybe six or 7 sniptes. some at todays loudness and some at nice levels that give the songs more texture.

maybe even, 7 of the same song each.

will do on the pic cap. for ya, vey similar just bigger, and honestly almost the exact same colouring in it too .

http://www.reverbnation.com/2ndg
Member
Since: Nov 27, 2007


Jun 11, 2009 04:28 am

cool found it.

well its obviously not the same photo, but it has its similarities.


http://img211.imageshack.us/img211/3494/sutdiodeskmm.jpg


Member
Since: Jun 07, 2009


Jun 11, 2009 09:01 pm

wow. so many responses.. pleased that my question turned into a discussion!!! :D

here's my only concern for wanting to keep up with the joneses...
i dislike the fact that when i put my songs into my computer or mp3 player that in comparison with all the others songs that my song is softer in volume... it makes it feel like a weaker song, naturally and from my understanding and my opinion that is why the record labels are so concerned with it. when most people hear a song being played louder than the others, it creates the illusion of it sounding better (all other things equal) and i am no different.

i don't like a song to be loud JUST BECAUSE, but i would like it to be comparable to other recordings so i don't always have to turn up the volume just for my songs (and i don't want my friends and fans to have to do that either)... i dunno, i do what i can!

Ne'er ate 'er
Member
Since: Apr 05, 2006


Jun 12, 2009 05:42 am

If Ansel Adams followed trends.



http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2479/3618541541_b65aa32569_o.jpg



Dude, that's a nice picture but I have to squint my eyes to make out the details. Haven't you heard? Everybody's making brighter pictures these days.


http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3567/3619359604_a902930ddf_o.jpg



Wow, much better man! You rock!

http://www.reverbnation.com/2ndg
Member
Since: Nov 27, 2007


Jun 12, 2009 09:30 pm

i liked it better before, but since everyone else likes this one, i go with that.

Member
Since: Jun 07, 2009


Jun 17, 2009 07:02 pm

i think it depends entirely on the genre of music
obviously dynamics are important in any genre of music,
but obviously there are some genres that would suffer more from over compression...

personally, and i'm probably going to get crap for this, but for pop music, like on the radio, i don't mind the loss of dynamics... > <

maybe it's cuz i grew up with it. i'm 27 now and i think music was over compressed from when i started listening to music, late 80's

there's a guilty pleasure in getting my volumes up to comparable levels with actual cds and recordings... i know that it degrades the quality and also the dynamics of the recording, but... it sounds more 'professional' that way to me.. lol... oh no, i'm really asking for a bashing

just my humble opinion!

Typo Szar
Member
Since: Jul 04, 2002


Jun 17, 2009 08:03 pm

I think it is genre specific, not that any genre would benefit from over compression but for stuff like heavy rock and metal with super crunchy guitars and throbbing drums ur not starting off with alot of dynamics anyway... should these types of songs be pushed to unlistenable levels? no, but compressing and limiting them until to bring most of the detail front and center is just how songs of these genres are best heard (and this isnt a bash to the genres)

Hold 'Em Czar
Member
Since: Dec 30, 2004


Jun 17, 2009 10:08 pm

a nifty trick i like to do is use parallel compression , this can be done on a single track or an entire mix....the goal is to blend a dry (uncompressed) signal with a wet (compressed) one and mix the two together...this retains the transient peaks of the uncompressed track and the squished one adds RMS type 'volume' to do it set an aux send to a compressor and have the return come in on it's own channel..blend the two to taste....generally a quick and dirty way is to set the uncompressed signal almost peaks at zero and slowly bring up the compressed until it pushes yer main output into the red....try different ratios always fast attack and med to slow release.

salt and pepper to taste

http://www.reverbnation.com/2ndg
Member
Since: Nov 27, 2007


Jul 07, 2009 05:35 pm

music that really really irritates me, and more so just latley, is poxy lame dance music, im not sure what genre it is, but the keys and effects are already in yer face as it is, but just latley ive noticed its so much more louder than it used to be.

when im in the gym is when i hear it most and man i just wanna rip the speakers out at times, it puts me in a bad mood.
music of any sort has never had this effect on me before.


Czar of Turd Polish
Member
Since: Jun 20, 2006


Jul 08, 2009 01:10 pm

I guess it could be labled genre specific as some sound worse than others when smashed but....

Metal, acoustic folk, rock etc. all sound better when not smashed to crap. Pop, Hip Hop, they get some neat effects pumping bass n what not, but I would do that to the specified instrument and not the final mix.

Newer CD's from the store... when my car stereo hits 26 (my stereo maxes at 35) they are too loud and start to stress my speakers. Songs I have recorded after reading MM's blog easily hit the 30+ range and are just as loud in the long run.

If we think about CD's like we do live sound, why would we ever limit the crap out of something to bring up the volume when we can just turn it up?

http://www.reverbnation.com/2ndg
Member
Since: Nov 27, 2007


Jul 08, 2009 10:00 pm

ha ha ha, well Captain! it would seem just turining it up would be the logical thing to do. where is the logic these days??

remember though, if they gave you that option, they would no longer have the control.


Member
Since: Jul 11, 2009


Jul 11, 2009 06:47 pm

A good way to have a punchy loud recording before you even get to the mastering stage is to really check carefully the phase on all microphones during the recording and align them perfectly on the Digital Audio multi-track software you're using so that there are no (or hardly any) frequencies cancelling eachother out.

When the phase is not aligned properly, it really hurts the bass, the recording sounds thin.

But taking careful care of the phase during the recording process will put you ahead of other recordings in terms of punchyness and loudness so you wont need that much compression in the mastering process to be as loud as everone else.

Also, try to use a multi-band compressor in the mastering process rather than a traditional one. That way you can use different levels of compression for each frequency range and avoid that "pumping" effect and retain as much dynamics as possible.

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