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Author Topic: casualty of the loudness wars  (Read 4476 times)

chai t

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casualty of the loudness wars
« on: April 30, 2011, 06:03:15 am »

hi.
not a mastering engineer but i figured this is a good place to get feedback.

i tend to mix for dynamic effect and am very careful of staying away from 0dbFS but this practice has a dent in my clientele. questions of the quality of my mixes aside, what can i do to keep the way i like things and keep clients happy without L2-ing everything so that everything sounds like a squarewave? i'm looking for ideas from people who are constantly being asked to bring mixes to "contemporary loudness".
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Laarsų

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Re: casualty of the loudness wars
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2011, 11:25:33 am »

There's not much you should be doing with the L2.   It's only good on some program and even then not more than 1.6 dB (-threshold), full tilt.   Better results, here, with Xeon, all day long...

But you're talking about mixing - not CD premastering.  So, just make sure your peaks don't go over - 6 dB FSD and that your control room monitor is set for little enough attenuation of the mix signal that it sounds loud when it's supposed to.  That's it.   You don't need to participate in the loudness wars - especially at mix down.   

If your clients want to have a version to audition somewhere else which will sound already-premastered loud, then premaster your own mix as a reference of what crush potential it has.   But that is also sort of idiotic.   As you already may know, the radio limiter will compensate for most level differences and only really penalizes overly loud average signals by pulling them _down_.   Fans don't seem to like hyper-loud releases simply because they are hyper-loud.   Only musicians are so vain as to want their music to require no volume knob turning.   Funny thing is, they make the knobs get turned down!

I'd just tell them to crank up their stereo when they audition your mix and to have it premastered loud, in another studio, if that's the direction they want to go in...  _and_ that the mix is not supposed to be clipping and that if someone else is doing that, then they shouldn't.   Why?  Because it's a shot in the dark how much of the clipping is going to sound terrible due to the unknowability of what CD player/DAC will be reconstructing the blown bits.   :o

To quote a guy in Hollywood who still sells and repairs cutterheads*, "CD is for voice.   Vinyl is for music."  (:



*  _not_ L. H.




Cheersų,
     Laarsų 
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Laars Oglethorpe, V
Space Camp CD Premastering
Pivot dub lab vinyl products and consulting

Waltz Mastering

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Re: casualty of the loudness wars
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2011, 12:53:26 pm »

I agree with Laarso..

The trick is to convince your clients that mixing and mastering are two separate processes and that the mind set and  goals of each are different.

Many artist who have been around the block get this and have the patience to wait for the mixing to be finished before any mastering can be done proper... Getting your final level is just part of what mastering entails... retaining the sense of dynamics while being loud can be done as well, but involves a bit more than a bw limiter on a 2 buss.

Basically the best thing to do is try to search out an ME that fits what you and your client like and recommend them to your clients for their projects.

I'd be almost certain that most ME's on this board have a working relationship with mix engineers who know and like their style of doing things.

Laarsų

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Re: casualty of the loudness wars
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2011, 07:51:18 pm »

I appreciate your not warring with my rhetoric...   In spite of penchant of mine for hyperbolic absurdity, is all for explication's sake and based largely on e-posts of likes of Ohlsson, Meadows, Finnberg, and Thal, to name a few.   Oh, yes, DC, Dave Davis, and Bob Katz.   For all newbs, just focus on how these posters are corroboratink your other research.  Is nice.  >?< 

Laarsų

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Laars Oglethorpe, V
Space Camp CD Premastering
Pivot dub lab vinyl products and consulting

chai t

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Re: casualty of the loudness wars
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2011, 07:55:51 pm »

Thanks for the replies. Truth is I haven't met a client who didnt want it blackeyedpeas-loud whether it was a metal band or a choir. Ridiculous as that may seem, it's what I'm facing as people only listen to smashed mp3s on their iPods.

Is -6dbFS what you would recommend to peak to? I usually watch for -3.
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Laarsų

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Re: casualty of the loudness wars
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2011, 08:10:15 pm »

Yes.  and Yes.  What you say is the real world experience of life as hostage to Loudness Wars.  But that doesn't make that real world experience logical, helpful, or musical, right ?   If it sounds good - and I mean, truly good... tuh yah.... .   If it's good tuh yah.   Then it just _is_ good, and it don't matter how yah got it, I'd reckon.   But, "chances are....."   that the best sound in digital audio is found way below full  scale, Mate.     -3 is safe, but -6 is safer, according to DC.  (See: Intersample "overs")  .       And there's no reason to fear not being loud enough and clear as a bell, as long as you are at 24 bits and at least 48kHz F/s and going to one of your favorite mastering or premastering suites for the big ups.   Rock on with the FabFilter for the ref CD, but it would be great if you only strapped it on (after) mixing to a thumbs' up producer in the contol room ....  and had it always included the 24 bit Wav file of the mix done _WITHOUT_ mixing _into_ the Fab that the band has with them... Or try to get it to the premastering clerk...   S/he needs it.     (;

Servus,
     Laarsų
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Laars Oglethorpe, V
Space Camp CD Premastering
Pivot dub lab vinyl products and consulting

Bob Olhsson

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Re: casualty of the loudness wars
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2011, 12:22:58 pm »

I would never make a seeping generalization about any limiter or about how much limiting to use. Six dB. with an L-2 can sound wonderful with some material while one dB. can sound horrendous with other material.

Each has its pluses and minuses with it being necessary to determine the best trade-off between overall transparency, dimension, distortion and how the rhythmic and low-end "feel" of the music is affected.

I still consider L-2 to be the best overall however others are often better for specific applications.

Mastering is about listening and determining the best possible compromise between all factors. It is never ever the same twice.

Laarsų

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Re: casualty of the loudness wars
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2011, 07:35:38 am »

Ok.  I of course always defer to Mr. Ohlsson whose experience trumps mine and yours, combined.    And it _is_ all about the sound.   But for me, not making the L2 do big lifts is best.  I encourage you all to run a 1 kHz sine wave through the L2 while looking at the output on FFT.   Make sure there is no GR going on first.   Then, lower the threshold until just the point at which there is some GR (on L2 meter).   Now, look at the FFT.   There should be fractional partials - sidebands spaced at fractions of harmonics above and below this fundamental.  This is that ugly shred that L2 introduces...   Whereas Xeon, for me, when using type C, is benign.   Types A and B experience the same distortions as L2 when there is GR present, however.   Without GR, L2 is a nice digital preamp.   


Laarsų
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Laars Oglethorpe, V
Space Camp CD Premastering
Pivot dub lab vinyl products and consulting

Bob Olhsson

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Re: casualty of the loudness wars
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2011, 12:43:18 pm »

All limiters generate distortion.

As I said, it's always a trade-off. I learned some time ago that it's always worth trying L-2. It's well worth trying the new built-in limiter in Sequoia 11 too. I just had one where the L-2 VST plug-in actually sounded cleaner at 44.1 in SaDie after capture than the hardware L-2 did at 88.2 before capture!

Always listen with your ears and not with your eyes or mental concepts. An open mind is crucial to this work.

Laarsų

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Re: casualty of the loudness wars
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2011, 03:07:50 pm »

As I was saying, if it sounds good tuh yuh - it _is_ good (tuh yuh).    8)

Lest anyone think I premaster with my eyes, I actually used the FFT to see if the L2 was broken, since it was not playing as nicely to my ears as the Elephant and Xeon.   I noticed the fractional partials whenever GR is occurring and wondered if Xeon did this, too, since it sounds generally better.   I saw that Xeon also does this fractional partial sideband addition upon gain reduction unless it is in type C mode.    Type A and B sounded smoother and more spatially intact than L2, but they both had a touch of the same edginess...  In type C mode, there are no such fractional partials.  Nor are there any with Elephant.    It might be distorting, but not in this alien way...   I know one studio locally that dumped their L2 since it didn't stand up to modern plugins.   I have kept my hardware L2, however, since it sounds ok on some material and can be used in conjunction with Xeon in small amounts (both) and also to prove how much better sounding no limiting is without having to open up the other DAW (;     


Servus,
Laarsų





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Laars Oglethorpe, V
Space Camp CD Premastering
Pivot dub lab vinyl products and consulting

chai t

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Re: casualty of the loudness wars
« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2011, 06:20:58 am »

sigh.
a client came in again to have their stuff smashed even more. it was a low budget deal so they expected me to master my own mix(which i hate doing for the reason that can't stand the dynamics i've worked for to be devastated). i "mastered" it a little with some parallel compression and a little limiting. it goes on the radio and was found wanting in terms of severe smashing so they're back. like a friggin poltergeist that won't go away.
 :'(
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Laarsų

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Re: casualty of the loudness wars
« Reply #11 on: May 05, 2011, 04:53:03 pm »

Did they ever approve the mix that you also premastered?    Or did they just leave it up to you and then complain about a radio broadcast?




Servų,
Laarsų
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Laars Oglethorpe, V
Space Camp CD Premastering
Pivot dub lab vinyl products and consulting

chai t

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Re: casualty of the loudness wars
« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2011, 09:02:51 pm »

they approved it. i haven't the heart to tell them that it's actually their playing/arrangements/songs. at this late stage it would sound like a cop out.
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Laarsų

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Re: casualty of the loudness wars
« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2011, 08:28:11 am »

When you say that the premaster's radio broadcast was found wanting in terms of severe smashing, does this mean that the apparent level was too low?  I wonder how other recordings sound on that station.   Maybe they are not limiting as much as many other stations and, as a result, quieter average levels are not standing up to the perceived loudness of hypercompressed mixes?   I wonder how Stevie Wonder's "Race Babbling" sounds next to Jay-Z's latest sonic cannon on such a station?

In any event, it reads as if this band didn't really want you to do a tasteful, dynamic premastering to their mix.   However, they probably shouldn't have approved a mix which is quite dynamic if they wanted the premaster to have severe smashing.  Not that the premastering session is too late to convert a dynamic mix to a 2 x 4, but they are not giving you consistent feedback if they approved your tasteful, audiophile mix.   Maybe they don't know what is wise and are merely floundering around when, as you say, it is their music which is suck.  ::)


Laarsų
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Laars Oglethorpe, V
Space Camp CD Premastering
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SafeandSoundMastering

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Re: casualty of the loudness wars
« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2011, 12:11:08 pm »

-12 / -10 RMS is common and I am generally satisfied with the sound around here but sometimes people want -7RMS ish, of course they do not ask for "-7" but want it as "commercial" cd's. I find thats starting to poo up in general. I err on the side of caution and then smash the poo out of it if they want (as tastefully as possible of course).

All depends on the mix, some go to -6RMS without issue, of course actual perceived levels relies more on frequency content, the old +14dB Q of 0.5 (broad sounds natural,lol) at 3.2 kHz technique usually does the job I find. (joke)
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Barry Gardner
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