Mixing for loud masters!

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by ouzo77, Sep 1, 2007.

  1. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    I'm just curious. I read somewhere (don't remember where) that in order to achieve loud levels in mastering you have to mix your song a certain way. but they didn't say how.

    Now my question to all ME's out there is, what must a mix have, or not have, to get a maximum of level without squashing it or getting undesired pumping?

    I'd appreciate any comments.
  2. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    ? Typically people squash the hell out of mix with L2 or similar to make it loud. By over limiting you can raise the overall average level, but of course the dynamics get lost.

    But you say you want it un-squashed. So you still want dynamics in the song? So then some sounds will be loud and others won't be-is that correct? For example you may have a large snare hit (-6dBFS) every fourth measure, but every other snare hit has a lower perceived volume (say -9dBFS). There is nothing wrong with this by the way. Then every 4th measure you will have one loud snare. You can continue this on, just as you would with any mix, watching the overall level as you do. You can adjust you CD level to be -0.7dBFS or so.

    But I have to ask why does it have to be loud? And why can’t you just turn the volume knob up?
  3. multoc

    multoc Active Member

    He wants it to be radio loud which involves lots of good compression and junk like that that i don't feel like getting into because ijust got done with a LONG session, maybe tommorow
  4. multoc

    multoc Active Member

    He wants it to be radio loud which involves lots of good compression and junk like that that i don't feel like getting into because ijust got done with a LONG session, maybe tommorow
  5. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    I know that you can sqash the hell out of a mix with the L2 or something similar. And I don't need or want my music to be as loud as, let's say the last nickelback album (which is loud as hell). I don't want it to be "radio loud" either, cause I hate radio sound. That wasn't my question, at all.
    I got a decent level out of my mixes and they're not squashed at all. And I'm really happy with the results (the softer snare hits are lower in level, as it should be...!?!)

    But I was just curious (cause I'm just a curious guy and I like knowing things, even if I will never use this knowledge), because I read somewhere (if only I could remember where... there's that curiosity again) that in order to get a loud master you have to mix it accordingly, and as I've written before, they didn't mention how to achieve this. (Did I mention I'm quite curious?)

    So again, my question was, what does a MIX have to be like, to get a high level? Not, what things do you use to squash a mix to little bricks.
    I'm sure you MEs out there had one or two mixes you worked on, that automatically got louder than others. What was different about those mixes compared to others?

    By the way, I don't have any problems with using the volume knob. Most of my favorite cds are really low in level, some others are not.

    So please satisfiy my curiosity! Just for the sake of it. I promise I will never use this knowledge to hurt any innocent mix, whether it's mine or somebody's else. Really! You can trust me on that.
  6. DrGonz

    DrGonz Active Member

    well well

    I think loudness depends on the material and song specifically. The idea is not really to see how loud you can get this one song. No the question is how do u get that loud song to match your quietest material. Now by the way you post I believe you have a very good outlook on material and different dynamic settings for every song. Mix for the master.
    I think you can squish the hell out of a good dynamic performance and it sounds good still, but that is not how I mix and master. I try to focus on the project at hand as a whole. Go listen to Californication Red hot Chili peppers That album sounds great but loud. Too loud really cuz when u turn it down it has no cushion. The softest songs get lifted. So if u try to mix and master a song for loudness as your goal, then u should go work for the radio stations really. Cuz I am still trying to find amps to crank my tunes out of....

    My best advice is to get that low end as tight as hell in the mix for overall loudness. 8)
  7. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    The mixes that I get that work the best are ones that are rather simple. Meaning there is not a lot of effects on them and someone has not strapped a compressor limiter across the two track. The worst tracks to master are the ones where someone has tried to do the mastering work before the track gets to me. They have already added a lot of eq and squashed them with some software plugin or an L2 and maybe added reverb and lots of effects and then they want the track made loud. The other problem is when someone "features" a bass drum or bass (by turning them up in the mix) and then they want the rest of the mix to sound loud.

    Best advice is to follow the KISS principle. More info here:


    Best of luck!
  8. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    lol wikipedia has everything now!
  9. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    Thanks for your answers.

    Is there anything frequency-wise that should be considered? More mids, or less mids or something like that tight low end DrGonz suggested?

    A few years back I've recorded and mixed my old bands demo. We had it mastered by a guy in Nuremberg. He wasn't really a mastering pro, but he had a good reputation as a recording and mixing engineer for metal. He told me to bring the drums and vocals up by at least 4 dB, so he can later get more level out of it. But I guess this only works, when you compress and limit it very much. Too much
    Well, it got loud, but I never liked it. My band mates liked it because it was loud and in your face, although it was all squashed and pumping. So they had the last say, and I quit the band (but not because of that!)

    Are there any tricks like that, that are used frequently? (There's my curiosity again!)

  10. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    What type of music are you recording? What equipment will you be using to do the mixing? Need to know some more about your general setup. Monitors, room and your experience.
  11. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    I'm recording mostly rock and metal, but also electronic stuff. I'm mixing in the box. My monitors are Syrincs M3-220 and my room is a corner of our living room. My experience is 12 years in home recording. I'm not an educated engineer, just an autodidact. But I think I'm quite good at it.
    I'm making my own album right now, I'm almost done with the mixing and I've also tried the mastering (I know, but I'm doing it anyway) and I'm very pleased with the results. I will post a sample later. I'm interested in what you think of it.

    So it's not about that I want to make my songs louder or anything, it's more about wanting to know what they meant in this article i read somewhere. The story about this guy mastering our demo was only to bring an example of how such a trick could look like.
    You know, just being curious! ;-)
  12. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    Here's the sample of one of my songs:


    This clip is already mastered. I'd be happy to hear some opinions.
    There are no vocals yet, so I'll probably have to adjust the mix a bit when they come in. I'll begin with the vocal recordings this week.

    Like I said, I'm very pleased with the results, I don't necessarily want it to be louder than this.

  13. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Balance is the key. A well balanced mix, no matter what kind of music, is going to sound loud. Now balancing a mix is hard, it's not a plug or a simple formula. But when you get a mix balanced right, it can take all kinds of abuse and still stand up. It's the right amount of everything for everything. This takes a very good listening environment and lots of patience and skill. Most of the problem mixes I get are over processed, IOW don't eq the hell out of everything. record it well, and the mix will come easy, if it doesn't come easy then something is out of balance. maybe it's the instrumetation, arrangement, problem tracks.... Look a what is causing problems with your mix. A lot of mix problems are the monitors or room, this will cause you to chase your tail until you give up.
  14. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    (Dead Link Removed)

    I can't believe this thread is happening.

    Make a GOOD mix. Don't worry about volume. Is that what's happning now? Isn't it enough that we're (mastering engineers in general) asked to CRUSH the life out of mixes day in and day out?

    CLEAN mixes - CLEAR mixes - Mixes with LOTS of headroom (at EVERY STAGE) are the mixes that hold up to the abuse.

    God help me if people are actually carving frequencies during the mix to get an additional half dB out of it...
  15. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    Well, thanks for the input.

    Massive, if you read my posts CAREFULLY, than you will find, that I don't want to make my mixes louder! I was just interested in what those people in that article I read (still couldn't find out...) meant with "a way to mix to achieve loud masters". That's all! I didn't mean to hurt anybody's feelings.
    I believe that the more you know, the better you get, even if it's knowledge about things you will never use.

    Michael, would you say that my mix is well balanced? Or is there something you would do diffently?

    I'd appreciate some comments on the clip.
  16. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I have a good friend who is a mix engineer. I do all of his mastering. His mixes coming in sound really good and when I finish with them they sound GREAT! His mixes are alway very well balanced. There is nothing that sticks out. He does not use any bus compression but does use compressors on most of the tracks. He does not add any overall eq to the two track mix but eq's the individual tracks in mix-down. He does not use any effects on the two track mix and I add any reverb that is needed when I do the mastering. It is always a pleasure to do his mastering.

    Recently I got to do a mastering job for the Dirty Rooks, a Chicago band. I am sorry I do not know who the mix engineer was but he was a genius and the tracks coming in were amazing. I was able to master them and get the tracks very loud but never a hint of distortion or edginess. They were well mixed and sounded very balanced but I could do anything to them and they held up. It was a very ear opening experience. A couple of years ago I did Bob Gatewood who also brought in tracks that were amazing and were mixed by a top mix engineer in Nashville and they sounded incredible. The tracks came in on 1/2 inch tape at 15 ips and were some of the cleanest tracks I have ever had the pleasure to work on.

    Unfortunately these are highlights in the day to day mastering I do.

    Most of the tracks that come in from inexperienced mix engineers are already squashed. They have been played with in Pro Tools and 39 effects have been added to each and every track and then a compressor limiter has been hung across the two track mix to squash the living he!! out of them. There are all kinds of wild EQs and flanging and phasing effects also added to the two track mix and in one recent case the whole mess was put though a convolution reverb that was going in and out of phase and was such a mess I suggested that the mix engineer re mix the whole album.

    A good incoming mix should sound great. I should be balanced. It should be free of a lot of effects and should be almost dull sounding in a good way and not have a lot of reverb, eq or compression added to it. if you can provide that kind of mix to a mastering engineer your chances of getting a good job have gone up exponentially.

    Best of luck in your mixing.
  17. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    Thanks for the insight.

    I don't use any bus compression or eq. But I do use quite a lot of compression and eqs on the tracks, if needed. Is also use much reverb, but only slight amounts to add some space to a track, unless I want to use it as an effect. On heavy rhythm guitars I never use any fx or compression. I try to give each instrument it's own space by panning and cutting frequencies that are not needed.

    Well, I think I'll just forget this article I read. I guess some things should never be known! ;-)

    If anybody would like to comment the sample I've uploaded, please do so. I'm still interested in any opinion about it.

    Thanks again.

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