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 "Loudness"...I don't get it!
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Hotz Offline
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 8:20 pm    Post subject: "Loudness"...I don't get it! Reply with quote

Ok, so I'm going on a road trip for the next few days, and I thought that it might be good for me to listen to some mixes of some various stuff I've done on the ride. I happen to have a tape player, but no CD player in my car, so I made a CD of all the mixes I wanted, put it in the CD player, and hit record on the tape player in my home stereo.

Now, some of these songs were "mastered" and others were not, so I set the level of the tape player so that the LED was usually right at 0, but would occasionally go up to +2 or +4; as high as +6 on my "hottest" song...

...so, the tape gets to the end, and I still have a whole other side to record stuff with. Since it's a long ride, I figured I'd put a part of a Dio CD on the other side. Now, without changing a thing, I have it recording, and looking at the levels I'm confused, because the highest level I'm getting on the cassette deck now is -4 or -2 with peaks at 0. No going into the red, whatsoever.

So, why is it that my home mastered stuff is way "louder" than the commercially mastered stuff? Now, I haven't had a chance to listen to either to see how I'm going to percieve the volume difference. All I know is what the LED told me, but now I'm confused.


Thanks for any and all thoughts.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My best guess - If it was a Dio recording made pre-90's or even early 90's, it probably wouldn't have been ultra brick walled the way stuff was after, say, 1995(ish)
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It wasn't long ago that sound quality took precedence over volume.

Personally, it still pisses me off that it doesn't anymore... I loved dynamics... I still love dynamics (like a long lost girlfriend that up and left to Europe that you never heard from again). And I've yet to hear an example of "louder = better" after all these years... Crying or Very sad

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 10:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool. Yeah, it was one of their 80's recordings...


And you know? I thought I was mixing kinda quiet...I guess I'm going to re-evaluate my whole sound production process...until I sound like Dio, of course! Smile

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So today, I thought I'd look into this whole business a little bit more. I took the same Dio CD (Last in Line) and set the cassette deck to record so that the peaks were hitting 0 dB, and so that it wasn't going into the red whatsoever. Then I took a Dimmu Borgir CD and let it play to see what it'd peak out at. Well, my cassette deck LED's go up to +6, and let's just say it was solid red. So, this might finally explain why I've never enjoyed listening to that Dimmu Borgir CD!


I've also learned another lesson in all of this...I need a good LED meter in my recording setup!

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 12:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, you need a set of accurate *VU* meters in your setup.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, I could use any meters in my setup, beyond the one in Cubase Embarassed

Anyway, wanted to share more about my exploits. Before I left Wisconsin, I remixed a few of my songs to lower volumes, and then "remastered" (threw them all in cubase and mixed them down from there so they all had a relatively equal volume) them all, but much quieter than I'd ever done before. Right now, I'd say they're a little quieter than "commercial" (Dio or otherwise), but I do think that I've noticed a difference in quality. So, thanks guys...for at least listening to me ramble about my exploits if nothing else!

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, and today I found a mix CD that someone else made, and listened to it for the sake of listening to it. First was "Ice, Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice, followed by "All the Small Things" by Blink-182. The Blink tune was significantly "louder" than the Vanilla tune, both to the ears and to the meters, and...the Vanilla tune sounded better than the Blink tune Embarassed
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's funny you mention that some commercial CDs sound better than others. I decided yesterday and today to audition a bunch of commercial tracks on my system to iron out some problems I was having in mixing ... and I realized that when I push the levels on my interface (either on the headphone amp, or on the line-outs) I get a bit more mud in the mix. If I keep all the levels around 0VU, and push the volume from the speaker's amplifier - it sounds noticeably cleaner. Shocked

I just discovered this like 3 minutes ago, but I should have known before then ... lol

I was also listening to some ambient D&B and it sounded great mmmmmm

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PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm surprised no one has mentioned that the two "tape" and "CD" are different.

Tape, as most people know here at the forum, has like a built in compressor once a certain threshold has been exceeded. You can push your audio a bit more with tape because it has more forgiveness then digital formats.

Massive has a good point when he mentioned an accurate meter. It's help and knowing the two mediums are different will also help.

sonicpaint

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PostPosted: Wed May 30, 2007 11:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

True, you could push tape a little further than it's "normal" operating level.

But to run one of "today's" projects (something that's sitting at -10dBRMS) to tape would probably cook right through it. It's far beyond what tape can handle. And go figure, it's far beyond what was ever expected from digital.

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PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2007 6:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The way I would describe a lot of todays loud recordings, is brash.

I tried using a multiband compressor in the mastering stage, on Hevy's and my last colab, wasn't happy, and took it out of the loop.

Also don't forget, your running your mix through more stuff to achieve a louder mix.

Since most of us here aren't going to ever be commercial, we can enjoy the fact that we don't have to make really loud mixes, so why bother.

I agree with MASSIVE, dynamics over loudness.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2007 10:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think anyone would disagree with dynamics over loudness is the way to go for when quality audio is concerned but it's tough at times when you compare home recorded stuff to commercial recordings and know that it's at better quality but average listeners think it sound "unprofessional". It's stupid to say the least and at this point, where regular listener are concerned, our recording have to be pushed to compete.

Once you know how to make a mix loud with the least amount of artifacts for the signal to peak ratio, it becomes your choice what to do when the time comes. The good thing is that you truly understand the result and why you chose either of the two methods.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 12:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hate having to explain this to 15 year old kids in scremo bands...

kid-
"uhh is it going to be loud.. we want it loud"

me-
"if you want to sacrifice sound quality for volume you can do it that way"

kid-
"I just want it to be as loud as cd's i have"

(what i wished i could say)
"okay i'll make it sound like shit for you then"


the loudness war is almost over... and i'm sorry to say looks like we've lost.. if i don't make my clients happy I wont get repeat business.. and then I lose more than just dynamics on an album...
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, in all fairness to loudness, I have found with some of my tunes that if I've managed to do everything right on the front end of things and done everything with the consideration that there will be more distortion in the mix later on, it actually turns out not as bad as I thought it would, even at -6dBRMS (though I much prefer -12).

You can probablyo make the mix backwards compatible by adding in less crunch to the guitars, less dist to the bass, and no non-linear distortion to the drums - I guess so that everything sound a bit on the sweet side during mixing.

I've heard emo bands that have 12 square wave tracks, but that still manage to have a sort of sweet edge as well. It's weird. I can only hear it on the monitors though - sounds like pancake on most of the other reference speaks I use..

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Then there's something to be said about getting it recorded properly in the first place... Just recently I finished a project with a set of kids - They do a great job live but have never been in a studio before... I set this gal in front of the mic and you'd think she was singing to the whole world! She had her nose right up to the condenser and pop shield and I was barely getting a signal! (oh my!)... The whole project went on this way...

(Um.. Can you put a little 'more' into it? - Ie: For PETE sake I'm only getting you about -60 with my preamp all the way up and I'm hardly seeing a waveform here!)...

Managed to get some good tracks but it was a JOB - I tell you!
Most of the time we manage a good amount of dynamics without too much argument...

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 12:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am not sure why any studio has to push anything. I record every instrument to zero, maybe a tiny peak here and there and after mixdown everything sounds just as loud as a newer commercial CD without using any compresson in the mix. I love that Styx/Little River Band/ Pink Floyd stereo sound and cant handle listening to anything that has that modern MONO sound. I dont understand how people can even consider it listening, while playing a modern CD. Everything is so dumbed down that you might as well listen to it out of one speaker.

I love setting sounds in a 3D space through two speakers, making the listener believe that say... the strings, are coming from behind them. It truly brings music to life. Unfortunately for most of the music "Listening" community, this just doesnt fly in the commercialized world of music production.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 5:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree and Welcome!
I do the same thing with my mixes... When I work with the sound I work hard to place each and every instrument in a specific "zone" in the stereo mix... It amazes me how much better the sound 'feels' when I move things around a bit - the mix becomes lush, clearer and more interesting...

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 6:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

thextreme1 wrote:
I record every instrument to zero, maybe a tiny peak here and there ...


Not sure I understand this... Do you mean you record everything so that it peaks at 0dbFS? Not knowing exactly what the musician is going to do before s/he does it, how could you pull that off? And then why would you want to? I have to be misunderstanding something.

thextreme1 wrote:
and after mixdown everything sounds just as loud as a newer commercial CD without using any compresson in the mix.


Really? You can get commercial loudness with no compression? Or are you limiting the crap out of it at "mastering"?

thextreme1 wrote:
I love setting sounds in a 3D space through two speakers, making the listener believe that say... the strings, are coming from behind them.


I'd love to be able to make a sound come from behind the listener with only two stereo speakers. And it's probably for no other reason than to say I can do it. How do you do that?

<edit> Do Pink Floyd and the Little River Band sound similar to you? They're way different sounds to my ear. Maybe I'm focusing more on style than sound, but I think those two bands are very different from one another.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1) I'm *hoping* he means 0dBVU (which would be around -18dBRMS, which would be perfectly normal).

2) I barely ever use track-level compression either, so I'll cut him a break there also. Headroom - Good room.

3) Just invert the polarity on one side (of course, it takes some tweaking. But it's nothing unusual).

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 7:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MASSIVE Mastering wrote:
1) I'm *hoping* he means 0dBVU (which would be around -18dBRMS, which would be perfectly normal).

2) I barely ever use track-level compression either, so I'll cut him a break there also. Headroom - Good room.

3) Just invert the polarity on one side (of course, it takes some tweaking. But it's nothing unusual).


1) Yep. He didn't say what scale, so that's why I asked.

2) He had said he acheived commercial loudness "after mixdown" which I took to mean before mastering. That seemed odd - what's an ME going to work with? There would be no headroom in that case.

3) I read an article a long time ago about the polarity thing. The article spoke about making a sound come from outside the edges of the speakers, but not from behind the listener. I've never personally heard a song where an instrument comes literally from behind me. Not to say it doesn't exist, I've just never heard it on a stereo pair. 5.1 doesn't count.

4) You were silent regarding The Little River Band's similarity to Pink Floyd. Smile

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 7:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure who started this (what labels, band, trend of music) "volume war", but you all seem to have nailed it. If you want to be competitive with todays pop and rock music it seems you have to crunch the hell out of everything.

I knew it was all over when a band that I really like, Big D and the Kids Table, but out "How it Goes", which was musically their best record, but every time I listen to it it's so loud and abrasive. One day for kicks I imported one of the songs to a DAW to check out the waveform of a song and sure enough the whole song was a solid brick of waveform. No transients, peaks, or valleys to speak of... just a wall of sound that when put up against other things in your MP3 library says "HEY LOOK AT ME!!!!!!"

Which brings me to my next point... perhaps it was the transition from sitting down and listening to a full CD or vinyl of one band straight through to putting our iTunes on shuffle that brought the demand to make everything compete for loudness. When shuffling music on radio I don't think this is a problem because everything goes through the same compressor/limeter before being aired (I think, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong)... but this isn't the case in your media player.

...just a thought.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yup. It hearkens back to radio in the '60s, and to the psychoacoustic phenomenon that leads to untrained listeners almost always identifying the louder material as being somehow "better". Back in the AM days, folks tended to stop twiddling the dial in their cars whenever they got to the loudest station they encountered, thinking that it would be less likely to fade or be interrupted by static. So radio stations invested in compressors and limiters and EQs, each trying to out-loud and out-sizzle the other in order to gain more listeners. There is also the lesser-known fact that banging the modulation of an AM transmitter harder increases its effective range somewhat, at least up to the point of overmodulation. So once again, to maximize the ad revenue, you would do whatever you needed to to maximize the range and number of listeners. In short, you squeezed the crap out of the program material and turned the knob right up to the max you could at the transmitter input, without Mr. FCC Man showing up.

When FM really became all the rage the practice was already well ingrained among broadcast engineers, so the same thing happened there (despite the fact that the receivers are inherently less susceptible to fade issues, and the effective range is largely independent of the modulation levels), and it just became standard broadcast practice. Pretty much every broadcast audio chain in pretty much every pop radio station now has 2 or 3 "leveling amps" all in series, all set to "stun", just for the purpose of outlouding the competition. A lot of stations still have that nasty 2kHz presence peak in their EQ curve as well, trying to outsizzle them as well: there are a couple of Denver area pop FM stations that I simply cannot stand to listen to for that reason.

Note also the ultraloud ultrasqueezed current TV commercials that are designed to *force* you to pay attention. "You have to grab their attention" was and still is the order of the day in the broadcast world. And since radio was for a long time one of the primary channels for generating sales, the pop music production folks just adopted the "squeeze the bejeezus out of it" approach to give the radio people (their great marketing tool) What They Wanted. Thus, Rush "Vapor Trails" and its ilk.

Sucks, doesn't it? The good news is that the traditional mechanisms for getting attention to new music are dying- so there's the opportunity to produce stuff with dynamics again. Untrained people will still say "but it isn't loud enough", but there's not much you can do about them. Like to folks who drive around with the gain turned up to self-destruct on their car stereos, for example. Ultimately, you have to decide that those folks aren't your main market, and go your own way.

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