Help with understanding loudness, please!!

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Member Since: Sep 03, 2008

Dear Anyone.

OK, this is gonna sound crazy silly to anyone who knows more than I do, but every mix I try to do sounds a ton quieter than the meters say it should do. I play someone else's track, it sounds nice'n'loud and the meters are going up to just below 0DB. I play my track and the meters go up to just below 0DB, but it SOUNDS like they should be about 20 decibels LOWER than that.

Now I write, ATM, until I know more, piano'n'strings New Age music (cringe and get it over with, all you rock gods!) I've got Edirol Orchestral and East West Gold Edition orchestras and have this problem with both - meters say 'fine', ears say 'far too quiet'. I'm not thinking it's compression - why? Because a guy on another forum said he never used compression on strings and his strings sounded lovely and loud and took my meters up to just under zero DB. Mine take the meters up the same amount, prettywell exactly, and they just sound a ton quieter.

Anyone got any ideas why? I've tried just turning them up/adding more velocity and the velocity makes them sound loud-ER but distorted, as does using straight gain. I've tried using compression on the strings but by the time that gets them any louder you can REALLY hear the distortion, it kills the track (not that the track was brilliant anyway!)

I'd love to follow all the tips'n'tricks on this great looking site but first of all I have to crack this lack-of-loudness problem - it's there even if I haven't EQ'd anything, so I don't think it's EQ taking on the role of volume. I USED to be guilty of that, granted, bigstyle, but my EQ'ing's OK in itself now (could always learn more but the basics are there.)_

It's just this lack-of-loudness thing that's throwing me. Wouldn't mind if it was just 8 notes in a scale if I could make the scale sound as loud as any other piano piece on the Web!

Any ideas will be tried, I promise you.

Yours uselessly


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Since: Dec 04, 2007

Jul 03, 2013 06:02 pm

First of all, what are your meters telling you?

By that, I mean, are you looking at a peak meter, peak RMS, or average RMS?

I think the situation is that your peaks may be hitting the same levels as other pieces of music, but your average RMS (the "meaty" part of the waveform) isn't getting enough volume.

So, while your peaks may be hitting -0.1dBfs, your average RMS may be more like -20dBfs.Commercial music is often anywhere between -16 RMS to -12, or even -10, which is f-ing loud! A good mix before mastering might have around -18dBfs to -16dBfs average RMS.

So, basically you need to figure out how to raise the "meat" of your music, but at the same time, you have to be careful that you don't decimate the peaks/transients too badly.

So yeah, trust what your ears are telling you. They are telling you it sounds too quiet. And it probably is!

That's basically how I interpret things, and I may be "not quite right" on certain details. This is kinda dipping a little into the area of mastering. Someone else with more knowledge could probably correct me at this point or offer a more detailed or refined explanation.

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Jul 03, 2013 10:02 pm

In addition to the good advice J-Bot gace you, there is technical volume, and perceived volume...perceived volume can be affected by a lot, including the overall eqing of the sound, the speakers they are pumped through (the emphasized frequencies in the mix might be a weak spot in some speakers)...

In addition, don't worry about the overall volume while do want to keep it up around unity for a final mix, but, after premastered, you'll then do some harmonic balancing and compression/maximizing of the tracks (otherwise known as mastering) that will bring the track to it's final, mind numbing, dynamics crushing, loudness war empowering volume.

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