How do you get it LOUD???

Douglas Mckay

New member
Okay, here's what's been buggin' me for the longest time: I can't get my homerecorded CDRs to be anywhere as loud as the professional CDs put out today by other bands of similar sounds. Ever since my songs got more distorted and thick, they've never been as loud as they should be (the acoustic, thin songs are often much louder). If you put in The Flaming Lips after listening to my CD, you'll get blown away. I assume compression is something that might help, but whenever I use it (I use Cool Edit's) there's no more dynamics at all really. Maybe I just need some real pro compression or something.
Here's a good example of my problem: So I have this one song that is a real thick guitar song similar to "My Name is Jonas" by the band Weezer. Well, looking at the wave file, you see many peaks and valleys because, of course, there are dynamics to the song. But when I make that Weezer song into a wave file and look at it, it's just HUGE (way biger than mine)! In fact, the file actually peaks many times as I listen to it, but with no distortion! The file looks almost like just a big thick bar. It really doesn't have that many valleys either unless the music really drops out for a bit, but THERE ARE STILL DYNAMICS. It doesn't sound all compressed. How do they accomplish this? I want my songs to be as loud as I can get them so that when people put them on mix tapes, they aren't quieter than the pro ones.
For my last couple albums, I just had to turn all the louder acoustic songs down to match the quieter thick, distorted songs to normalize the record. That makes for a pretty quiet record.
I'm sure the answer is out there. Please send it to me if you know! Thank you.
Well, one way to get it louder is to normalize the whole wave file. Soundforge has a feature where you can select the whole wav and normalize to.. -6dB, -3dB, 0dB.. etc.. can get a very loud signal that way. Just have to watch out for clipping. I'm sure Cool Edit has a similiar feature. Increase volume by... XXX dB's.

Hope this helps.

thank you Emeric! However, this isn't really the solution. I should have mentioned that the wav is already normalized to 99%. The loudest peaks hit right under the mark. It's still way quiet though. I think there must be some magical compression that makes it loud as hell without making it sound all warbly and such. If I compress the thing enough to bring the volume up to even close to a band like Weezer or whatever, then the thing sounds terrible. The quiet parts are too loud and the loud parts seem quiet. Plus, this must not be exactly the way either because of this fact: (I know the way a wav looks is no way to judge a song by, but it's a good example that I'm not doing it the same way the pros do) All pro rock wavs seem to look like a big fat bar with hardly any dips, even with instruments and vocals going in and out. The only low points might be at the start or end of the wav. When I'm done compressing (way more than I should be), the wav still doesn't look like the pro wavs. It still has a lot of visible dips. I don't get how the pro stuff can have no valleys and sound dynamic, and mine can have them, but sound awfully compressed and crappy. Maybe I need to find Ric Ocasek's e-mail address. Also, maybe mastering is the key. All pro stuff is mastered. maybe they have the special juice! Anyone know????

I dunno? My CDs were awfully quiet until I found the normalization command. Now it's as punchy as a Rolling Stones CD. Now if I could only play like Keith Richards and.......
Seriously. If your .wav files are maxed out as far as being as close to 0 dB without clipping as they can get, nothing is going to get them any louder on the CD. All you'll do in trying is to discard any dynamic range that's left in your recording. I try for about -3dB before applying the normalization procedure. Sometimes I luck out and get it even closer. If it's quieter than -3 dB I rerecord. Hate it when that happens. :(
From what we've experimented with here, you can't get the same level out of cakewalk that you can get out using the TC Elecronics Finalizer or something similar.Why it doesn't it compare, I dont know. Ticks me off. We tried normalizing with cakewalk and it just didn't sound as good as the final product through the Finalizer.We mastered a DAT tape through the finalizer, then SPDIFed it to Cakewalk to see what it looked like and it was very phat.Huge wave!. What also seemed to do the trick was adding a good compressor like TL audio, Drawmer, or Meek to the final dat mix. That gave us that big sound.All out board gear man, way to go if you can afford it. Tube pararmetric EQ's also helps in mastering that big sound you're looking for.


[This message has been edited by LMSTUDIO (edited 08-25-1999).]
Engineers have been getting good, strong mixes for decades with anolog gear that costs thousands of dollars if not 10's of thousands. You cant expect that out of 300.00 worth of software.
Thanks for all your help people! I think the answer probably is that I'm just mixing onto shareware and not Pro Tools or good ol' analog tape or something like that. I'm thinking about maybe taking my mixes into a studio and seeing if they can do anyting that will make them a bit more rocking. I remember recording a CD with my old band at this studio, and after it all was mixed, the guys there ran the finished mix through a few diffrent compression units that didn't seem to compress it the way mine does. Instead, it made it sound better. Like before one of the times, the engineer said, "This compression will give it the kind of bass you can FEEL!" I think maybe I just need to finish my process with a little more expensive gear. Mastering would probably help too, if I had the $. Thanks again all!
If your peaks are where you want them but the rest of the mix is too low, the problem may be in the initial mixdown. You need to work on the ratio between your hottest tracks and your other tracks in the mix - this could mean compressing one track and bringing it up in the mix to match your peaking track, it could mean compressing your peaking track and bringing the overall mix up.

When listening to the CDs you are comparing to, try to figure out which instruments seem to be carrying the volume and then do the same with your own. You may find that the peaks in your mix may be coming from (to pick one thing at random) a really hot kick drum, while the peaks in the comparison mix are coming from the lead guitar.

*** Newbie warning - information in this post may be in error or just plain silly ***
If there is anything silly about this post, please specify WHAT IS SILLY.Your difference in opinion may help everyone to be guided in the right direction with this issue.

OK, sorry for the misunderstanding. I meant that I myself am a newbie and some of the things in my reply might be wrong. The phrase "silly" was an attempt to keep it light.

No impugning of any other poster's reputation was expressed or implied.

Having dealt with this issue myself, using Cakewalk Pro Audio 8, here's my humble opinion. :) When you record a track with no compression, its level is going to be all over the place. Viewing the track as a waveform is a pretty good way of seeing how even the levels are. Compressing a track using a GOOD quality compression plugin (Waves' Renaissance Compresser has done really well for me) is a MUST to get a good sound. I'm not going to go into the details of how to compress different kinds of instrument/ can find that elsewhere. :) But once each track is at an acceptable, relatively even level, you can THEN mix them effectively to get a good overall sound. After you've got your mix, you can use mastering plugins...or even the aforementioned Renaissance Compressor (at the right (read: light) settings) to finalize the mix. This process preserves much of the dynamics of the mix, and if done in the right proportions, you can get a good overall volume out of it. If you just take the raw tracks, mix them, and then throw compression into the stereo mixdown as an's gonna sound ugly :) My two and a half cents, hope it helps. :)

[This message has been edited by Sean Limes (edited 08-18-1999).]
Oh boy... the trials and tribulations of home recording!

The 'phenomenon' described here is EXACTLY why professional production engineers can command the prices they do for MASTERING! Professional mastering is expensive!... and for a good reason!

First things first: Mastering is a 3 step process...
first, the tracks are edited, sequenced, and spaced correctly.
Secondly, the audio is processed to unify the sonic characteristics.
Finally, a 'production master' is produced. This is the "original" from which, all copies are referenced.

In most instances, if you check the credits from any commercial release, you'll find that the engineer doing the mastering is NOT the same engineer who did the recording. The skill's required to 'Master the art of Mastering' are considerably different from those required to capture the original recording. Make a note here that even the best and most prolific recording (mix) engineers routinely rely on professional mastering engineers to accomplish this feat.

To master, you will need a few things: a console or DAW, an editing medium, a parametric EQ, and a Dynamics Processor (ie. a compressor, et al.).

Keep in mind that most (all) analog processors have the inherent trait of adding noise to the signal path. If you use analog gear, make sure it is properly grounded (has no hum), has a high S/N ratio (low hiss), and use it at an operating level that doesn't lead to distortion. Maintain proper gain staging at both input and output.

The alternative here is to do digital mastering on a desktop with specific software like Waves' Q10 for EQ and AnTares MDT (Multiband Dynamics Tool). The RAM of your machine must be large to accomodate long passage lengths. Trying to adjust EQ while listening to a short passage just won't cut it!

With any luck, your source data will be good... remember that while mastering, you can 'undo' EQ to an extent, but you can't undo compression! If your original passages are recorded with compression, your only options are to leave it or add more. The addage here is that in order to get a good master, the foundation is a good mix: In order to get a good mix, the foundation is a good recording. Recalling that Mastering is dealing with (primarily) frequency ranges, it should be obvious that you ought NOT have control over the individual instruments.

The MIX should be targeted with peak levels of -2 or -3. This will leave some headroom for the mastering.

When the MIX is ready, and you are ready, to MASTER: Don't start this at the end of the day... you need 'fresh ears' to master with any effectiveness!

Compression used in mastering is more subtle than that used in recording and should be used in moderation. Typical settings are 1.1:1 or 1.25:1 at a threshold of -20db (below digital zero). Attack of 1 ms and release between 10 and 100 ms.

EQ is parametric and possesses no 'typical' setting. Each range affects something specific and a few examples are provided here: at below 50Hz, EQ is usually not applied except maybe a rolloff if they are excessive. 60Hz to 120Hz is dealt with if the sound is either thin or boomy. 120Hz to 200Hz can add definition to bass lines. 200Hz to 400Hz can be cut to clear out thickness or muck. Thin vocals are dealt with in the range of 400 to 700Hz... etc, etc. Remember here that adding EQ increases the overall volume of the song, which could drive you to overload... don't confuse EQ with level... ensure that while doing the A/B swap, your meters stay at the same level.

Amplitude levels are adjusted to 'homogenize' the overall body of the album. It merely acts to prevent one from having to dive for the volume control when the subsequent track starts...

The major rule (when doing this at home and not having to worry about receiving a bill for the services) is: TAKE YOUR TIME ! ! !

When you get tired, put the tape in the box and come back tomorrow... be objective and go slow.

If all else fails: Get out your money and hire a pro.

Good Luck...

The guitar half of RockNGunz.

[This message has been edited by RockIt Recorder (edited 11-21-1999).]
Thanks Rockit Recorder man. That was so well thought out and easy to understand. And now I understand that I will probably need to get the stuff mastered by a pro, because I could never attempt such a feat. Now I must go to work ($$$). Thanks again!
Now wait a second! Before you go shelling out to much cash! I just finished my first CD (woohoo!) and did all of the mastering stuff (from DAT to CD-r) in CoolEdit Pro. It sounds LOUD (not quite as *good* as Flaming Lips mind you). The tracks were fairly similair to what you are describing with Weezer. I think your problem might be a matter of compressing tracks individually when they need them and mixing everything down to good levels. One thing the Flaming Lips do that helps is that they have a lot of instrumentation going on in the semi-background to fill up space in the mix. Then again-- I'm no expert, but CoolEdit worked fine for me.... and I'm on a very tight (college student sized) budget.

Well hey what the fuck do I know???
I went through the same visual confusion that you did... My waveform was all choppy and the pro waveform looked like a fat maggot. The way I approached the problem was to take each track one at a time and amplify, normalize, compress, and EQ them untill each track was a fat maggot instead of a choppy sawblade. Do that and then mixdown and you will get a "Fat"ter sound. Make sure each track maxes out at -3 db then mix them all together. This theory doesnt apply to the drum track!!!
If that doesnt work I was told about a program called "Free filter" by Steinberg. I havent tried it yet but it seems to be the shit...
After reading this entire post again I decided to go back into our Wave bundles software that we recently purchased, and try to get that phat wave you guys are talking about and came pretty close by using the Ultra Maximizer.The DAT level was recorded at about -2 to-3 allowing for headroom. I SPDIFed it to cakewalk and used one of the Ultra max pre sets. After processing the wave got pretty fat. I was impressed.I SPIFed it back to dat. The rec levels bounced up to 0 and peaks held constant at 0 db.Looked really nice and sounded big.Similar to what the TC electronics piece does. Kinda hard to explain but you get the idea.Check it out.My earlier posts kinda downed this type of digital processing but after playing with it, its not so bad, so I went back and edited my post.But I'm still a big fan of analog tube gear for mastering too.

Man...... this post attracted alot of attention.
See Ya.
Wow. I didn't know I'd start such a thing. Good to know that people are so helpful!
What is this wave bundle program or whatever you speak of? Where can it be found? How much does it cost? It sounds like something I could use maybe. I can't really compress each track individually because I really don't have a compressor. Was this something that you did to the final mix? That's about where I need it. Of course, fixing the problem may not be so easy as just mixing down and pressing the magic button!.
You know what that sounds like? I mean the "maximizer" thing. It sounds like the only way that I've found to solve my problem so far with Cool Edit. What I do is use the distortion menu. I find that I can give the final mix an amount of distortion that really boosts the volume, but doesn't go quite far enough to actually make distortion. And it's weird, because it keeps the dynamics, but fattens the wave just like I was talking about before. It starts to make it more "fat maggoty." Maybe this Maximizer thing works on the same level, but without distortion being the goal. What do you think? Let me know more about this process you described! Thanks!
Keep 'em coming! Where's Ric O. or Dave Fridmann when you need them? (I know, they're busy making some serious $$$ knowing the answer to all this!)
One other thing... layering guitars will give you nice HUGE sound too. I did about 6 tracks of guitars on top of each other on my CD. Plus maybe running that sonic maximizer over it will help. As far as analogue... I read an interview in EQ from a mastering engineer (who masters Archers of Loaf) and he runs everything he gets through analogue tape to "warm it up."
If you're using Cool Edit Pro then you can add compression to each individual track in the waveform editing screen...Try it...Compress>amplify>hard limit>EQ...These are the tools to get that waveform fat. Or phat...