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Author Topic: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?  (Read 8590 times)

fj

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Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« on: September 30, 2005, 09:25:16 pm »

I've read in a few places how zero DB in digital may overdrive some CD players. How do you mastering gurus feel about this?
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compasspnt

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Re: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2005, 09:49:49 pm »

Hi Frank.  Thanks for the post.

There are MANY comments about this already on the Forum, if you'll try a search.  A recent one in particular is

http://recforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/t/7012/6490/?SQ=1 f5d76e0eb8e4e9aff2142e12f7c52ae

In short, yes, it's too high...for that reason, amongst others.  Many try to keep the max output around (-.2) or (-.3).
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Jerry Tubb

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Re: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2005, 01:33:22 am »

Quote:

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compasspnt

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Re: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2005, 08:09:18 am »

Is there anything other than peak?
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Barry Hufker

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Re: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2005, 10:32:05 am »

According to a thread in another part of the forum, Bob Katz says it can be Peak or RMS (if I've understood him correctly).

Barry
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lucidwaves

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Re: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2005, 12:24:52 pm »

Jerry was joking with the 0db RMS comment.  Although recently they are getting closer and closer.
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bobkatz

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Re: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2005, 12:28:50 pm »

Barry Hufker wrote on Sat, 01 October 2005 10:32

According to a thread in another part of the forum, Bob Katz says it can be Peak or RMS (if I've understood him correctly).

Barry


Yes, but I think the poster was asking about peak. Paul Frindle in the other forum explained pretty well about 0 dBFS+ when translated through filters and to the analog domain. So yes, 0.0 dB FS peak level measured on a standard digital meter is too high.

I just mastered a fantastic mix by the great John Richards, who mixed the music for  the James Bond films, for Road to Perdition if I remember correctly and other works. It was classical/pop, orchestra and band and singer. He left tons of headroom relative to full peak level in all his tracks and worked with a large Neve as well as Pro Tools at 96K. The sound is so open and clear and beautiful. Sure, the recording and mix have a lot to do with that. But so does the fact that he worked all his levels conservatively.

Leaving headroom is VERY useful and important to avoid cumulative distortion in all the stages of a recording. I am firmly convinced of that. It's one of the easiest things to do if you know how to work. An "old-time" film mix engineer knows how to do that.

I received a rock recording with a very sharp transient percussion instrument that was overloading and distorted. He was hitting full scale nearly all the time and some of my DACs were producing 0 dBFS+ levels. When I reduced the level of his recording digitally about 90% of the distortion went away so that was due to the dac. But that which remained showed that this engineer was straining something throughout his mix. He mixed Pro Tools plus external analog processors. The clients are something of perfectionists and they're coming Tuesday to master, and so four days ago they took my advice and are completely remixing the album at about 4 dB lower level, also paying attention to all the intermediate levels in sends/returns to processors, etc. I believe in other words he did more than just "drop the master fader 4 dB". I expect to hear a greatly improved recording.

The mix is not the place to start playing with "maximizing" and "loudness making". I know there is a big war in the pop field amongst A&R/Record companies to see who makes the loudest. It's "crunch time" out there. But I've heard nothing but ugly/fatiguing mixes and masters resulting from that philosophy.

There's stuff out there now that's shredded and clipped and RMS'ed so hard that reducing it by 1 dB, 2 dB, 3 dB, 4 dB isn't enough. Someone in another thread asked where do we set +4 dBu. I responded that the proper question should be "where is your 0 VU". Well, the "big guys" are exceeding -6 dBFS for the 0 VU cal as far as I can see, and pinning the VU at that point.

Pick up "Black Eyed Peas" "Let's Get It Started". That's what we're up against today. More square wave than music and 6 dB louder than where we should be mastering for this kind of stuff*. I know, it's just a "dance hit", "who cares whether it sucks", but I dare you to tell me "where's the zero" on that one! And since that's the "leader", everyone else follows.

*Please, no one argue with me that there shouldn't be a "should". Because there should be a "should". The practice of normalizing to the peak and the fact that the digital medium has no standardized average level is EXACTLY the reason we are in the mess we are in today.

In the days of LPs I could put on an audiophile LP and follow it by a current "pop" LP and they would be close, within 3-5 dB of eachother. Black Eyed peas is subjectively 12 to 14 dB hotter than the average levels we were using for CDs in 1980 when they came out. There's something very very wrong with that. Jukebox????

BK
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William Boyle AKA Elfy

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Re: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2005, 03:00:59 pm »

I agree with your should Bob.
I think there should be some sort of mastering committee, RMS police. a few or many experienced guys to say yes or no to weather a song is allowed to even be sent to a mastering plant. But im not normal.
Im 26, just starting out in mastering. I do not want to have to put up with level wars for the next 30 years.
Its time to abolish loud messy mushy crap.
I will be mastering an album for a dear friend soon and i will master with respect to the song and nothing else, and if the rms levels aren't jaw dropping, we don't care. At least whoever buys the album will listen to it a few more times.
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Ryan Leigh Patterson

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Re: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2005, 03:09:02 pm »

Bob, I read your book a while back and I remeber a section about including a built in limiter in consumer end digital audio players (like an L2).  I think this is the solution.  The digital audio (music) can then have an encoded limiter setting, so that unless the end user defeats/adjusts the limiter, the music will be as loud as the A&R freaks want it.  This also means you can master to taste, not to peer presure, and those of us who like our music dynamic can have it that way.  Also, if I feel like listening to some classical or jazz in the car, i can do that with out reaching for the volume knob every 30 seconds.  

Someone need to make this happen.

Every iPod etc should have a built in L2 or similar.
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bobkatz

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Re: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2005, 05:47:52 pm »

William Boyle AKA Elfy wrote on Sun, 02 October 2005 15:00

I agree with your should Bob.
I think there should be some sort of mastering committee, RMS police. a few or many experienced guys to say yes or no to weather a song is allowed to even be sent to a mastering plant. But im not normal.
Im 26, just starting out in mastering. I do not want to have to put up with level wars for the next 30 years.
Its time to abolish loud messy mushy crap.
I will be mastering an album for a dear friend soon and i will master with respect to the song and nothing else, and if the rms levels aren't jaw dropping, we don't care. At least whoever buys the album will listen to it a few more times.



Right on. As Brad pointed out recently, name one medium that has come along that has not gone up to its "maximum". The problem is that with digital audio, the "maximum" is completely intolerable. The NEXT medium better have some safeguards, I suggest some kind of enforceable dialnorm built into every player (which can be defeated manually of course). Otherwise the next 30 years will be very dry. It took 25 years for the compact disc to die an ugly death; it will only take 5 years for blue ray or HD-DVD to do the same thing with its sonic quality.

The CD has been killed in "pop" "dance" "regaeton" and "hip hop" as far as I'm concerned. Vlad the impaler is not helping my condition, as things tend to lean to the lowest common denominator and clients want it as loud as "Vlad's" if you get my drift.

I'm holding on as best I can in blues, jazz, some rock, Latin Jazz, most Salsa, and some other genres, but it's going downhill fast, and nothing is going to stop it. I'd love to "sell this stock" before it tanks, but I don't know what to do for a living if I do Sad.

BK
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bobkatz

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Re: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2005, 06:00:26 pm »

Ryan Leigh Patterson wrote on Sun, 02 October 2005 15:09

Bob, I read your book a while back and I remeber a section about including a built in limiter in consumer end digital audio players (like an L2).  I think this is the solution.  The digital audio (music) can then have an encoded limiter setting, so that unless the end user defeats/adjusts the limiter, the music will be as loud as the A&R freaks want it.  This also means you can master to taste, not to peer presure, and those of us who like our music dynamic can have it that way.  Also, if I feel like listening to some classical or jazz in the car, i can do that with out reaching for the volume knob every 30 seconds.  

Someone need to make this happen.

Every iPod etc should have a built in L2 or similar.



I wish. But seriously, an L2 would accomplish nothing... much too severe and threshold based peak limiting is not RMS action per se. Something more like a smart upward (parallel) compressor would be useful. Something to make the CDs in the car survive the low level noise.

The modern day equivalent of this is dialnorm. If the designers of the CD had had the prescience to design in metadata and dialnorm and if dialnorm could be assignable automatically on a disc by disc basis, we'd get somewhere. Especially remember that dialnorm is simply an attenuator, it is NOT a compressor.  So even when it gets it wrong, it is not going to change the sound per se, unless you want to consider resolution loss due to digital attenuation. There's nothing that says that dialnorm can't be an MDAC, or a VCA, or a motorized volume control.

If the next great medium does not have an enforceable dialnorm, then hang up your quality ears and quality goals for good.

BK
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There are two kinds of fools,
One says-this is old and therefore good.
The other says-this is new and therefore better."

No trees were killed in the sending of this message. However a large number of
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compasspnt

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Re: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2005, 07:07:03 pm »

Pretty dire sounding future!

Bob, you're so right about the "should."  There certainly is a "by the book" way to do things, but today so many are using the Cliff Notes version, if not the comic book!

But I can't see any way a "policing" situation would work.  Some A&R person, or perhaps even an artist or manager, will still find some way to beat the system, and smash everything.  What would we do...make a fine or jail penalty for doing it?  How would it be enforced outside the US?  Just wondering out loud here...

But is it really a matter of how close to dBFS the highest single sample peak is, or is it rather how close is the lowest point of the dynamic range?  So would "they" outlaw that highest single peak, no matter the dynamic range, or make a law concerning how much total dynamic range one could have?

But the other big problem is, as you pointed out, those trying to get full scale on EVERY SINGLE TRACK, and on the mix as well...
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bblackwood

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Re: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2005, 07:48:02 pm »

Though I generally don't care for hyper-limited music, it is cool for some projects, imo. The point it, we're still talking about art, and to place some sort of limitation based on your (or anyone else's) subjective idea of what art should or shouldn't sound like is simply wrong.

It's akin to telling someone that they can't use too much red in a painting.
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Ronny

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Re: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2005, 10:46:46 pm »

bblackwood wrote on Sun, 02 October 2005 19:48

Though I generally don't care for hyper-limited music, it is cool for some projects, imo. The point it, we're still talking about art, and to place some sort of limitation based on your (or anyone else's) subjective idea of what art should or shouldn't sound like is simply wrong.

It's akin to telling someone that they can't use too much red in a painting.


The bottom line is that we don't need sound police. If they want to squash it, let them. It's their music, it's their ears and their fans. This is what freedom is about. When I hear talk of trying to standardize a level for all ears, it conjurs up thoughts of radical countries that outlaw traditional or non-secular music. I have a real heavy feeling that if you give an inch they will go a mile with trying to say X level is good for everything and everybody. Genre's are different, musicians are different, arrangements are different. Our ears are different. I can't change the loudness deal, no one can, all we can do is give our opinions and show examples of why dynamic music sounds better to "some" ears.


How many people talked a client out of pancaking a cd and than had them come back 2 months later after the pressing and complain that it wasn't loud enough? Raise your hands.
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blueboy

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Re: Is -0.0 DB too high for digital levels?
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2005, 01:50:19 am »

I was just thinking the other day about this as well and thought that having built-in "L2-like" limiters in all the playback devices would be a cool idea so consumers would have a choice. But then I realized it would probably be too expensive for all manufacturers to add, and the sound quality would most likely vary dramatically from device to device.

Wouldn't something like the DualDisc format make sense to solve this problem?

The CD side would continue to offer the "hot mix", while the DVD side could offer the "audiophile" version.

MP3's ripped from the CD portion and would still sound good in the car or iPod, and those who appreciate higher quality audio can play the 24/96 "full range" versions on the DVD side.

Some kids might even accidentally flip it over at home and discover the benefits of high quality audio.

Is this format dead in the water, or is it selling? Are the compatibility problems killing it?


....Sorry, old news...I just found Bob's DualDisc thread.

It would be great to find a way to make it work though!
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