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Thread: More Volume on CD Master?

  1. #1
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    At the risk of getting drilled about dynamics, too much concern about volume, and lectured about the destruction of good music by overcompression and normalization I must ask anyway...Why is it that I can't seem to get even close to the volume of most cd's out there with my mastering projects? I'm using Sound Forge with CD architect for mastering. I've downloaded an endless stream of plugins to try to help with the problem, but nothing seems to work. I'm mixing and mastering these projects, so the mess could be starting anywhere in the project. I've compressed the tracks, tried slightly downmixing anything with hot peaks, and just about everything I can think of, but I can't get the level of the master mix up there where I think it should be. I have a TC finalizer also that seems to help a bunch, but I'm still not quite getting there. Could there be something going "wacky" in the actual burn process? I need help, or I will soon need mental help. This is driving me nuts! I am a musician also and I will not destroy a song for the sake of volume, but I've heard lots of stuff out there that's louder and still sounds good. Help???

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    Hard limit it.

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    Red face same problem here

    Yea Monte, I know what u mean. Look at the meter's on (most if not all) other people's cd mix's. The level's are almost constantly as far as they can go, yet never peak, or clip. Maybee it's the $10,000 compressors they're using (and i'll probably never own). It's very easy for me to get carried away during a mix, and as soon as i do, the red light at the end of the meter show's it's limitation without a super expensive compressor in the line up.
    So, we can either use consumer level equipment, or head out to the studio that can supply a million dollars worth of what ever it takes, to get the maximum volume without the hassle's of digital distortion.
    Damn good issue here. Glad you brought it up. I feel your pain.....

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    Monte,
    From your post, I assuming you are not interested in a lecture on the use of compressing/limiting normalizing - uses and do's and don'ts, so I won't.
    But understand that the loudness can not be the prior factor over sound quality.

    If you have a Mix that is overheavy in bass, this will take up a lot of unnecessary head room. If you have unnecessaryy Freq's all over the spectrum you will be eating head room.
    Just try to cut your mix for a sec on any band and see how the energy will ( not always- sometimes it lets another masked freq jump out) drop.
    Now if you combine a tight mix by compressing certain Freq's and by cutting some that are not needed,
    and treating the peaks and opening the mix with other freq's and.... this is only the tip of the iceberg.

    Not to mention - To make the right decisions and to have the right equipment in the right listening environment.



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    It sounds like the average level of your mixes is low compared to the peaks. Please remember that it's hard to make actual numerical suggestions without actually hearing and seeing the file... AND that my personal opinion is that mastering should be left up to real "Mastering Engineers". With that.....

    Compression
    You could put a compressor over the mix... say starting at ~1.5:1 or 2:1, with a long release ~500 ms. Rather than "Peak Mode" put it in "RMS Mode". In RMS, the compressor works on the "average" level of the signal rather than looking for peaks to tame. This will increase the "average" level of the mix. Our ears are sensitive to average level and not peaks. Play around with the threshold until you hear the mix being compressed in the way that you want it to be. If you haven't already, start raising the "make up gain" till the mix rises in level to where you want it to be. I generally don't prefer the sound of a overly-compressed mix when the make up gain is raised. Doing this after limiting sounds better to my ears most of the time. All of these numbers are relative, because every mix is different and is mixed to different absolute peak and average levels.

    Limiting
    You could use a limiter to limit the peaks. Limiting can be used "in addition to" or sometimes "in place of" Compression. If Limiting and Compression are used together over a mix, people usually Compress first Then Limit After compression. Also, compression over the mix should not be very heavy (if it is then you didn't mix the stuff right). Limiting is purely for peaks, although if you "Hard Limit", you can actually start to mess with the average level of the mix. Set the limiter for a starting ratio of 15:1 or higher (depending on the mix and the desired amount of limiting). The trick with "general/moderate" limiting is to have only the peaks hit the Limiter. If you set the threshold right and this happens, you will essentially push the peaks down to a level "close to" or "equal to" the average level of the rest of the mix. Thus, you will have made the overall level of the mix closer to being "even" and "under control".

    Now that's 75% of it. Once you do this with the limiter, you can then raise the overall "Post Limiting" level of the mix so that the mix "peaks" at 0 dB or a little less than 0 dB (I generally go for 0.05 - 0.1 because some CD players are calibrated differently and 0 dB on once scale will cause another scale to distort, but just my opinion). Raising the "post limiting level" is the trick to having a dynamic mix, that still retains the overall natural dynamics of the unlimited mix, but that does not have stray peaks all over the place that cause havoc to the listener and don't allow you to use up the full audio scale.

    In Practice
    When doing a home mastering job (I stress again that real mastering should be left up to real Mastering Engineers), I generally EQ the mix before limiting, because any EQ boosts raises the overall level of the mix putting a mix that was brought up to zero "OVER ZERO---- hence DISTORTion!). The converse is true, any EQ cuts lowers the overall level of the mix leaving you with a less-than-optimal mix, compared to the same mix brought right up to zero.

    Also, I generally try to get the dynamics of the individual instruments under control IN THE MIX (before attempting a home mastering job). The most common out-of-control signals are bass, drums... esp kick and snare, and vocals. Get these straight in the mix stage so that you don't have to resort to multiband compression and other wild stuff in the mastering stage. Most of these tricks should be used to rescue bad mixes. It's also true that most of those problems could be solved simply with better mixing. If you are boosting, cutting, compressing a whole lot (I know that's a relative statement), then you probably did not mix the track right to begin with. Good mastering is subtle and not heavy-handed.

    Signing Off,
    Rev E

    P.S. You don't need a $10,000 Compressor or Limiter to do this! The expensive stuff simply does the job in a way that sounds more pleasing to our ears.
    Last edited by Rev E; 03-07-2001 at 10:41.

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    Cool

    How about posting an MP3 in the mixing clininc with a brief write up of how you recorded it...there are some killer ears that lurk on this BBS....(not mine of course)...but Im sure they could put you on the right course....

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    Please don't feel you need to stop suggesting just because I wrote this. Just wanted to thank all of you who offered help so far. I will try to post an MP3 as soon as I get time.

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    No brainer plug-ins:
    First choice: Waves L1
    Second choice: Sonic Timeworks Mastering Compressor

    Both cost a few bucks.

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    Thumbs up

    Bless you, Rev. I have seen this question asked in various ways several times and this is the first time I have seen a helpful answer.

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    About loud mastering

    I use three plug-ins to get my music very loud & yet nicely dynamic and undistorted:

    1) The Waves C4 4-band compressor.

    It is this tool that does the most important part of the job.
    Where full-range compressors often fail to beef up the sound without getting bumps in the low-end, this one does the job easily.
    You can change the ratio in every band, without getting any hearable delay problems. This is a tool that is oftenly used in the music business as well.

    2) The Universal audio EX1 4-band parametric EQ

    Of course, it depends on how much you want to spend on a EQ.
    I own the UAD-1 Ultra card, which offers some very nice (and remarkable authentic sounding) plug-ins. This is one of them. Step 1 & 2 do not necessarily have to be performed in this order.

    3) The Waves ultramaximizer 1.0 (or 2.0) limiter

    Already mentioned, and indeed the best limiter you can have in this price category. And it works so easily. You can choose to make it work like a normal limiter, but you can also make the sub-low significantly fatter with the ultra setting.

    The success of this formula depends mostly on how you set the C4.
    This tool can easily ''break'' the sound, but once you get to know its functionality, you will not be disapointed.

    Menno (my first post here)

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