The loudness wars killing our reputation

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Nutti, Feb 12, 2014.

  1. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    I had a band in to make their ep in my studio in november last year. As I run a little one-man-studio in my sparetime I try to work with bands as smoothly and nicely I can while doing all the stuff myself. I depend on them to get the feeling of coming in having a great time while recording some music so that they might spread the word around of my little studio. Now as a small project studio I offer my clients a complete finnished mastered record at a very low price so that young kids would be able to afford to make their own record without spending thousands of dollars. That is my vision.

    (Yes, I know that it's not so good to master yourself due to the same ears, equipment ect.)

    Well, with my latest project a band with years of experience came in and some of the members had a few records in their pocket already, so they knew how everything worked. I told them that for the price they will get a finnished mastered cd at a standard NON loudness war rms level of around -10 to -8db. I finnished the project at -9.7db rms but they wanted the mixdown so that they can compare the mastering from other places. So I gave them the files, waited a few weeks and checked back with them how it had gone with their ep. They had chosen a mastered version from a big commersial studio and I asked if I could get a copy to compare with my version.

    As I got to my studio I started analyzing and got chocked by the levels...they where at -6db rms and all the life was gone. So I got in touch with them again to hear of why they chose that master. I already knew the answer...

    So I started thinking, how are guys like me who like dynamics supposed to keep a good reputation when the big studios are still squashing the song? Am I doomed to start pushing the limiter, release it and forget about it? Spotify has since the beginning of their musicplayer had a volume control built in to get all songs the same level for the listener. So the loudness wars are pointless there...I recently read that itunes since this year (? Or last year, can't remember) have built in a similar setting to get levels more to be the same. Still records today are being squashed lifeless by the big companies. When will it stop?? And am I better of mastering at -5db rms to keep customers happy and to be a bit louder than the big studios? This is sick!

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  2. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    What are you using to measure loudness, TT DR Meter? I've found that the dynamic range number runs about 5dB louder than the RMS measurement in Sound Forge and Pro Tools.

    No, I wouldn't try to match commercial loudness because you won't get it to sound as tolerable as they do at that level and because the future of playback may be one where relative loudness is controlled by the playback system.
  3. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    I measue with presonus studio one professional version 2.6.2. And the studio that mastered it uses pro tools 11 hd. Not sure if this makes any sence as I checked booth on my system?

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  4. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    As long as you're using the same measurement tool for comparisons it will be useful. I had a confusing discussion with a client last year when he was using the TT DRM numbers and I was using the PT/Sound Forge numbers.
  5. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    Ah yes, that I understand. I never trust numbers that aren't compared with the same tool/system. You don't have to go further than the tempo beat between different daws to get everything messed up. I got a song idea one time that was recorded in garage band and when I loaded it up in cubase to add drums to it, the tempo would never match. Same thing has happened for people using pro tools and studio one for the same song.

    Anyways, I got a tip on what to do next time. Give the client 2 versions, one crushed and one as I would master it. Then they can choose themselves witch one they like more, but as I present them I should match rms levels and play them both versions of one song and explain the differences. Maybe, but just maybe, they come to their sences and choose the uncrushed one

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  6. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    If you intend on having clients you have to give then something they are happy w. I will put my personal tastes aside after expressing them, but most clients are somewhat reasonable.

    i like the idea of two masters, but the common client is comparing their stuff to their fav record. The awesome thing is not everyone like new music, so depending on style and genre and year you'll be able to get away w less limiting.

    but it's not just limiting IMHO, that makes loud masters that are also pleasing to hear. It's a lot to do w the mix. As you smash these frequencies into each other, how we'll they blend or crash gets exhaggerated.

    either way, at the end of the day, I end up throwing an eq or two a compressor for broad level control, and a waves limiter. I'm not a mastering guy, but will run the mix thru those, which usually has some light bus compression on it. For people who don't have the budget for mastering.

    the thing w me is trying to go as loud as possible before the bass goes away, the iminaging is flat front to back, or the upper mids get crazy. In other words as loud as I can go where it's full. If they want more than that, I'll do it, but usually when I bypass and engage the chain for contrast to them, they usually go wow, w even modest mastering processing. But you gotta give them what makes them happy, or sacrifice their business based on personal taste. I can't afford to lose clients based on my artistic integrity, and to be fair they came to me to make them sounds that they hear in their heads, and if I can coax some of my tastes into it, and they like it, great. It's smart business to do what your clients want a w in reason. I set the maximized to -.3 and keep it 3db or less of limiting, in general.

    i hate to sound like I have no merit, but the loudness wars aren't going away. I can beat me so I join me when I need to. This is a service job. Your cook or waitress may not like their steaks rare, but they will make and serve it to you. They re job is customer satisfaction, like any service work. Painters may not like every color they put on the wall, but they're job to put what the cliental sees.

    the thing where this taste factor is important is if you have a role as a co producer, or producer. That's when you have more say than "hey, let's just listen to this for a min and sees if it's ok". Other than that it's a choice of artistic freedom or making some money. I haven't made enough money, and honestly to get paid for audio engineering is a blessing. I'll let bob Katz fight head the loudness war, I'll do what the client says, either way, but I will always present what think is the best first, whether I do it in free time or not.

    The thing is what your recording. Like of you did jazz and didn't have dynamics it'd be weird, if you did rock and roll modern style it'd be weird if you did. I dunno I'd never put personal conviction over work, unless it was really bad.

    theres only one recording that I've ever scrapped, and didn't charge the person for the time, and just said it wasn't ready, but that was due to an above average lack of talent to the point of embarrassment to the person. I just didn't feel comfortable w my name on it or the studious name, especially since we were freshly opened in a new area. Other than that, it's too damn hard to get new clients.

    word of mouth will get you work, so things like fun to work w, got the sound I wanted, are key at any level. If not the artist telling you it'll be some producer, or some label person, there's a fair amount of, "just do what you do" type clients who are fine w not even being there for mixing, but plenty of the over the shoulder watchers.

    to me this is a business relations issue more than technical. So says a rec/mix guy :)
  7. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    That was a great post! My education is restaurant chef so keeping clients happy and know that the client is always right is already printed :) but there has never been a situation where someone has told me the mix is not loud enough, not even with this band. After sending them the cd and checking up on them how they liked it, they all said it was good so I never had the chance to even give it a shot to louder points. This is why I think the 2 version master would be great atleast for me, since I then know that I gave the client all I can give.

    Yesterday I bought the slate digital fg-x mastering plugin and just by testing it for a few minutes I knew that this would be a great tool for me as I can preserve the transients in the master even when pushing it harder. Also the ability to just focus on the master how I'd do it and then just push the gain knob on the limiter for a louder master seems so easy.

    Now, keep in mind that I'm faaar away from any pro standard on this so this might not be the correct way to do it. Also keep in mind that most of my clients are teens who don't have that much cash and are only here to make a demo, so I feel like the standard doesn't have to be abbey road studios. I also like to mention that I do try my hardest for every project I have and spend about 80-100 hours on a 4song demo just becouse I love to do it. For that I charge about 400$, and yes, you can start laughing now, but the point of my studio is not to make money but rather to make happy days for me.

    At this point I'd like to share one on my projects just to get you to hear where I am in terms of quality. This is a cover of Nirvana something in the way and everything is played, mixed and mastered by me in my studio.

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  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I think you're onto something. It's warm, top end isn't harsh, although I think you're a little shy on your low end "body".

    You might also want to tuck the backing vox back a skoodge...( LOL, engineer lingo for just a little bit) and place them underneath the lead vocal more as opposed to equal or on top of.

    But those are just personal observations after hearing the original.

    And glory be!!! You've got dynamics!! Let the pigeons loose!

    All in all, good job.
  9. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    Amazing! Thanks! I've had problems with the lowend since day one. Either it's to much or in need of more. I think that this problem roots in my monitors (tannoy reveal 602a). But earlier this week I got a sub (tannoy ts10) and have tweaked it so now it feels as if I might be able to spot it better.

    I always refrence my mixes to the nevermind album by nirvana, but not with this since I wanted it to sound like me and not a copy of the real song. The backing harmony vocals are always to loud for me and this is becouse I love vocal harmonies so I always tend to overboost them :)

    What did you think about the acustic guitar in the intro/verses? It was the first time ever for me to put nylon strings on a guitar and when doing that first chord I was amazed by the deep tone of the guitar. It almost sounds like a grand piano blended in with the guitar, and I was even more amazed when I listened to the playback realising I had captured the guitar as it sounded while I was playing. That same piano like tone was captured! With 2 akg c3000 going straight into my presonus firestudio interface.

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  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    My suspicion is that you are having trouble with your low end because of your environment... this is the most common cause for inaccurate low end in mixes. If you find your mixes low-shy, then chances are you have a room that is low end heavy.. and because you have this tilted low end, you think you already have enough in the mix - when you really don't.

    Keep in mind that the standard "go-to" 1" sonex tiles that are seen in almost every project studio are put there most of the time without any real regard to if they are actually needed.

    Those 1" foam tiles will do nothing for low end problems, they're only good for around 1k and up, so trying to tame low end with those tiles if futile. What you may need are bass traps - low end absorbers that can tame those low end frequencies.

    I'm not an acoustics expert... far from it... but the above would help to explain why your low end is shy in your mixes: it's likely because you think you already have enough - when you are really hearing standing waves in the low end, which fools your ears into thinking that you already have a sufficient amount of bass when you really don't. The other thing that low end absorbers will do is to help tighten up the bass in your room, helpring to make it more even so that you can define it more.

    Low end traps can actually add low end to a room, but it's a more even low end. If you are facing other issues, like null areas, where cancellation is occurring, this could also explain why the low end on your mixes is off.

    Some acousticians will tell you that you can never have enough low-end absorption, while others will calculate the amount needed by taking room measurements and the materials used in construction, and then figure accordingly.

    And to this point, I'm gonna have to relinquish further regurgitated opinion and hearsay, and direct you to someone like Space or Max, who can actually tell you facts. ;)
  11. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    Yeah I hear you, but since there have been times when I have overboosted the bass also?

    Also another thing to point out here is that my room is not even close to what it should be. It's about 4×2,5meters with 3meter celing height and just that is a poke in the eye. Adding to the negativity of a small room is that in the long side from bottom to top half meter deep, my wife got the warm storage I promised her when building this 2years ago. The main plan was that this room was supposed to be a storage, not the controlroom I built it to. So okey, I admit, I tricked my wife there :D but we are still living togeather so I guess it was an okey compromise that she got a very big shelf.

    The plus side to acustics are that those shelves are mainly stuffed with clothes, pillows and sheets, lots of bassabsorbing material. And I have always seemed to overproduce bass frequencies, and thought it was becouse of all the material in the room and the speakers not having low enough frequency responce. The nirvana cover was made after people giving me feedback that the low end is to hyped in my mixes, so that's why the lack of low end in the song (I think). When I earlier this week installed the sub to my system, it kinda opened a section in the frequency spectrum I never heard before.

    I don't know, it's hard to say what's really going on in my room without having someone with killer ears coming in and listen to some music with my system. I don't know anyone around here that would do that.
    Second choise then would be to measure the room, but that costs money I don't have.
    Third option (probably the best one in my situation) would be to measure myself. Then there's the microphone problem and software to do it, that also costs money.
    So I'm just trying to listen to music I know and try to set my system to that. Not a very good method but it's what I have now without spending money.

    I've seen there are some home recording how to's on the measuring your room but I never bothered with those since I feel it's too many different methods and techniques on this that it would take hours and hours to get to a good method witch in the end might result in even worse scenario than I'm already in due to lack of knowledge in the subject.

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  12. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    So... you can't be bothered to know the deficiencies in your mix environment... Nice... Especially when it's free to find out... Yup, there's a career in the making. Albeit short lived.

    You don't have to have a perfect room to mix in... but if you've got a nice big node (or 12) standing in your way of hearing your actual mix, it would sure make your life a bit easier and more efficient to know that those issues are there and then know pretty accurately what it is that you need to pay attention to, or ignore.

    There's lots of products out there to measure with, but one of the widely accepted measurement packages is Room EQ Wizard, or REW... Its free.

    It's about making mixes that translate well. LEARN YOUR ROOM, and you'll be consistent with your final mixes.
  13. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I have a reference mic and I use REW, but I would suggest starting to learn your room by listening to lots of familiar, well mixed music in there. When you're in the middle of a mix or master session take a break and listen to some reference tracks.

    The point that a mix will influence what can be done in mastering is an important one. I've sent mixes back when there were elements that made it impossible to achieve the requested level without unpleasantness. Certain things simply have to be done in the mix.
  14. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    That's the bad thing about posting on forums, sooner or later you'll get stabbed with negative response.

    I'm sorry dear mr madmax, I once actually did try one of the how to measure your room and add master room eq to get a flat responce. That was to use an omni mic, your speakers, frequency analyzer and eq. The result I got from that was terrible, and I read and read for 2 weeks on the net on what I could do to find out the problems with me not hearing the bass. I think I even wrote about it in this forum at the time under another thread about overhead microphones I posted.

    However me as in me as a person can research in a subject for a long time but when spending 2weeks getting nowhere trying different things in my room, it just came to a point when I gave up and just continnued doing what I love instead.

    Now many thanks to you for sharing this info about this program. I will give it a go once I get home from work.

    And with my post I mean no disrespect or anything, it's just that sometimes things get to a point when I just give up and after a long period of working on the same thing, it gets tensions around that subject.

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  15. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    Crap! I forgot to mention that reference music was my way of going to learn to know my room. But as I listened to professional made music I still couldn't hear the bottomend.

    Here's a band I recorded, mixed and mastered in november last year. What can you tell me about the low end here? This band was made with reference of nirvana's nevermind album. As all the low end just was a guessing game I don't know if it's good or bad. I am hoping that the added sub will shred some light on the lowend for me. And I will also look into my room again for analyze.

    That band came in and made 4 songs and 6 months later they came in and made 4 songs again. Within this timeperiod I sucked in every piece of info I could get on mixing, different micing techniques, mastering and everything studiorelated info I could find. So when they told me (after the later 4 songs where done) that they will release all 8 songs at the same time I had to remaster, trigger the later kick sound to the early songs, reeq the bass and vocals on the early songs I got a result that was close enough for me.

    Here's a song from the later recordings, the first was from the early recordings.

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  16. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    It's great that you are soaking in as much as you can about the craft...

    but if your room is lying to you to the extent that it effects the translation of your mixes to other mediums, then you'll only ever get so far... because sooner or later you're going to need to address those acoustic issues.

    The problem with compensating based on other sonic material is that you'll only ever get so close.

    It's good that you have some mass in the room, as you mentioned with the shelves with folded clothes and such - but those may only be effecting one particular narrow range of low end, for example, like 200hz - 300hz, and even then, maybe only by a db or so...(this is an arbitrary figure... I can't say what range(s) they may be effecting and to what degree, I'm just presenting possibilities). The current mass may be somewhat effective for those ranges, but it might not be doing anything for the other freq's in the low end spectrum, like 125, 80, 160, etc., and, it also depends on the measurements and shape of your room, too.

    You didn't mention if there may be null points in the room... when you walk around, does the low frequency change in volume? Are there any points where it is very shy or disappears altogether? If so, then you've really got problems because you are getting cancellation.

    As mentioned, you don't have to have a "perfect" room. But every improvement you add correlates to improving your mixes because you get that much closer to what you are actually hearing.

    Try one of those measuring programs Max mentioned. They're free, and at least it will give you an indication of what your problems are, because until you know what the problems are, you can't repair them.

    It's a start. Until you know what frequencies you are having trouble with, you'll continue to chase your tail on your mixes. ;)
  17. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    Yeah I got the room eq wizard and tried it yesterday but the only omni mic I got is a behringer b2 pro ldc so I will need to get a measuring mic first. I watched a tutorial and there they used a behringer ecm8000 measurement mic and recommended that as it is cheap and wery accurate so I think I'll be getting one this week or next week.

    A question about setting subwoofer levels though: as I was tuning the monitors to 75db according to REW spl levels, how will I know when I got the correct level on the sub as to work with my monitors? I ran the same level setting test for the sub and dialed the in at 75db also, but that was hardly a noticable level when playing music through the system. I had to touch the cone of the sub to know if it was playing anything at all. Any of you guys having info on this?

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  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I don't mix using a sub, so you're asking the wrong guy.... and in your situation, with the potential for low freq standing waves already there, adding a sub to the mix could do you more harm than good at this point.
  19. Nutti

    Nutti Active Member

    I found one step sine wave that sounds each step a second or two. With spl meter one should set sub level to same spl peak as in the high freq peak, for example 85db.

    Well I'm gonna research some more, but my main reason for getting the sub was that I feel I can't hear the low frequencies properly. This might well be due to null point, not sure, I'll try and walk some of the few squares I got to see if I hear more bass than when sitting in my chair.

    I got very positive again to research in this subject after getting the rew, maybe I'll find my problem one day. I should get the ecm8000 mic next week so I'll post some results here then

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  20. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    I busted your nads about a year ago at another forum with the same advice for the exact same problem... Or at least someone using the same handle.

    It's extremely plain to understand from your post above, that your mix position is in a null for a fairly large range of low frequencies caused by your room's physical dimensions.

    You either need to set your room up correctly and seriously consider adding some proper treatment... or find another room to work in.

    Set your room up by first finding the left to right center of the room. Snap a chaulk line or lay down some tape
    First, find your STARTING mix position that would be 38% of the distance from the front or rear wall... mark that point.
    Next, create an equilateral triangle whose angles are 30 degrees from the mix position to the corners... Mark these positions for where your monitors will sit.
    Place your monitors at those positions and set up to measure the room at the starting mix position...
    Take your measurements

    You may see nulls or nodes at that position... move forward and backward making measurements until you find the location giving you the flattest response.

    Once you have that point established, this is your "best" mix position... and where to start with any acoustic treatment.

    One thing you need to realize is that until you know what your room issues are, adding a sub woofer is a complete and total waste of time and money.

    ALL rooms... not 75%... not 90%... not 99%... 100% of all rooms less than 5000 cu ft in volume have low frequency build up... often referred to as "tip up".

    So adding a sub is just plain silly unless you know you can accurately measure it's effect on the enclosure.

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