final mix sound levels

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by mzd, Jul 2, 2008.

  1. mzd macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2005
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    #1
    i have kind of a general question about final mix sound levels. (specifically i'm using Garageband, but have used other software in the past with the same problem.) when i compare audio i've recorded and mixed to studio tracks off a cd say, the overall volume is always lower on my stuff. why is that? is there a trick setting in final mixing i don't know about?
    if i push the levels any higher, they will clip a lot and my understanding was that hitting the red once in a while is ok, you don't want to spend too much time there. i know i can boost the volume and normalize and set it to eliminate clipping, but that just hacks off the top of the waveform right below clip, which i really don't think is a good thing because you are loosing parts of the original audio.
    i'm stumped.... :confused:
     
  2. 119576 Guest

    119576

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2007
    #2
    sometimes when you're bouncing your mixes, there is a normalise setting which is selected by default- I found that I was having that problem when using Logic.
     
  3. mzd thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2005
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    #3
    thanks for the quick reply! Garageband does normalize by default when exporting the final mix to iTunes - i can see it when processing. i'll have to check prefs to see if i can turn that off or tweak it.
     
  4. AviationFan macrumors 6502a

    AviationFan

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2006
    Location:
    Cedar Rapids, IA
    #4
    It seems like with popular music these days, the goal is to make it as loud as possible all the time. Normalizing is one step on the way, to remove any leftover headroom without (yet) changing relative dynamics within the song. In addition, you can run a multiband compressor on the final audio to squeeze more volume out of every second of your song, without ever clipping the waveform.

    Personally, I don't like this approach, and I should add that most of my mixing is for video projects, where different rules and conventions apply (compared with music production). Dynamics can add a lot to a song, especially with classical music but also with Jazz, for example, and compressing all that out of the final mix seems like you are throwing away an important ingredient. But as I said, with most pop music that's what they do.

    - Martin
     
  5. WinterMute Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2003
    Location:
    London, England
    #5
    It's all about compression, not just compression on the tracks themselves, but compression on the output buss too, typical pop and rock tracks have a dynamic range of 3-5db, i.e. none at all.

    The perceived loudness of the track is increased as the overall compression level increase, as the quieter sounds are made louder without increasing the levels of the louder sounds, this means that the output levels don;t clip, but the quieter mix elements are compressed upwards in the mix.

    Go look into compression usage and technique.
     
  6. Luap macrumors 65816

    Luap

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2004
    #6
    As well as compression, a lot of limiting (similar to compression) is also used. On top of that, some specialised enhancers also improve perceived loudness.
    The problem is, all this stuff is not simple to learn and master in order to apply it effectively.
    Some stereo audio editor applications have a kind of automated 'mastering' function built in, that may get you closer to where you wanted for little effort.
    I know SoundStudio has this. Im sure others do too. But for best results, you may want to give the tracks to someone that knows how to do this kind of thing better.

    For what its worth, im also against the loudness wars. But equally, you can certainly bump things up to more acceptable levels without squashing all the dynamics out of your work. It's just not so easy to make a nice job of it..
     
  7. WinterMute Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2003
    Location:
    London, England
    #7
    Just a note, but quite a lot of this effect is gained in the mastering stage, I've been mixing multi-track content for over 20 years, but I still wouldn't dream of mastering my work, it's a dark and arcane art.

    I tend to mix for the dynamic, knowing that the mastering engineer will take care of the overall level to my specification.

    I use Abbey Road's mastering studios, Sean Magee does my stuff if he's available.
     
  8. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    toronto
    #8
    agreed. my response to "my mixes aren't as loud as released titles" is "so what?"

    imho, shoot for good-sounding mixes with dynamics. and when you listen to it pre-mastered, simply turn it up.
     
  9. mzd thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2005
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    #9
    thank you all for the excellent advice and for sharing your knowledge/experiences! i really appreciate it. i'm just doing home demo stuff right now so none of this will get sent out for mastering. just trying to get the best sound out of what i've got. each stage in the recording process has its own skill set and nuances... so much to learn!
     
  10. WinterMute Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2003
    Location:
    London, England
    #10
    And on that point, Sean prefers to have mixes come in at -15db, as he then passes them through a 1/2" analog machine before using some ancient and magnificent outbaord to process the signal and bring it back to close to 0db.

    The problem is that digital systems don't have any headroom over 0db, and the transient response gets crushed if you mix too loud.

    So, mix quiet and let the mastering engineer sort it out..
     
  11. DJJONES macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2008
    Location:
    Newengland usa!
    #11
    tweakheadz.com
    great site to read up and get the basics down.

    if your looking for a simple solution grab a izotope ozone plugin.
    its a all in one eq limiter multiband compressor etc etc its perfect for what you may want.
     

Share This Page