How many 'overs' are a good thing?

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Michael Kiaer

Guest
I have looked at the wave forms of many current pop and rock CDs and it seems to be commonplace for tracks to hit 'overs' again and again on loud sections. I am talking not about one or two samples at 0dBFS but 5, 10, up to 25 or more on *each* peak.

I just looked at Coldplay's 'Spies' from the CD 'Parachutes' (mastered by George Marino at Sterling Sound). Overs abound and it is easy to find examples of 25 overs in a row. Yet, I think the production and mastering sounds great.

I know some of you will disagree and I have also heard examples so extreme that it becomes unlistenable, but I am just surprised how much you apparently can get away with.

Why doesn't it sound worse than it does? Is it due to the kind of limiting and compression that leads into the peaks before they go over? It often looks like the wave starts 'softening' before the 'over', like it is being let into it 'easy.' Is this part of it?

How does a mastering engineer approach this? How many overs are ok? How do you know? I guess you use your ears, rather than a counter? But the rule that you should never go over 0dBFS doesn't seem to apply to mastering.

Thanks for your thoughts and insights

Michael Kiaer
New York City
 

realdynamix

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 23, 2001
I would only look at the waves, my tweeters are very expensive, so I'll never listen to it, thanks for the warning! If they are banging the master that hard, imagine what they are doing to the tracks. I wonder if someone's calibration is off a bit? I'm just an old square..and my old system doesn't like DC.
--Rick
 

damster

Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
I have an older CD player(JVC) and if a cd is higher than -0.02 dB then it craps out giving me a bitey kind of distortion.I have listened to some top quality discs that distort like crazy and others that don't even flinch in this machine.I am talking about hard music made within a year of one another.This CD player is a great tool for me to gauge the output of stuff I am working on.

I use waves L1 plugin which has a preset called 'Final master-highest quality'.This preset has a max output of -0.03 dB which works perfect.No distortion in my rat's ass old disc player.Certainly no distortion in the newer ones I try either.
 
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OTRjkl

Guest
FWIW, we use a max level of -.3dbfs - that seems to be enough to keep the cheap DACs from crapping out...
...and who's gonna hear the 0.29 db difference?

BTW - When you talk about "clipping", are we referring to only the clipped (flat) peaks, or to anything that has been limited so as not to go 'over'?
 
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brad

Guest
If you look at any pop/rock cd released in the last 5 years, clipping abounds. It's everywhere. But don't worry -it doesn't make it to your tweeters - your DAC typically overshoots and reconstructs the waveform to a smoother output, though not the original waveform.
 

realdynamix

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 23, 2001
Originally posted by Brad Blackwood:
If you look at any pop/rock cd released in the last 5 years, clipping abounds. It's everywhere. But don't worry -it doesn't make it to your tweeters - your DAC typically overshoots and reconstructs the waveform to a smoother output, though not the original waveform.
No question on clipping (hard limiting) but overs?
I watched the meters with a Black Crowes CD, which I consider loud, but have not seen an over, it is up there just below 0 dbfs. I must not be in that loop, so to speak, because anything that I have seen with overs, was a poor pre-master, or just plain too hot. Like an attempt to get loudness with just gain. I think a slight .29db, or even less mis-calibration could easily show up as overs, or they are transient, so quick as to not sound bad. But it still really scares me man! I never realised in tuning a system, that even at my age I could ever detect a difference in a db much less a half, but I can now hear a 10th, and that is a conservative figure. Me hates digital clipping.
--Rick
 
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Michael Kiaer

Guest
I picked a few songs and found their peak values using Masterlist:

-.009dB I'm Real; Jennifer Lopez, J Lo
.000dB It's Not Right But It's Okay; Whitney Houston, My Love Is Your Love
-.098dB Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box; Radiohead, Amnesiac
.000dB Spies; Coldplay, Parachutes
-.200dB The Hunter; Bjork, Homogenic
-.359dB On The Bound; Fiona Apple, When The Pawn
-.170dB Song 2; Blur, Blur
-.084dB Sexx Laws; Beck, Midnight Vultures
-.239dB The Wretched; NIN, The Fragile

These were not necessary the loudest songs on the albums but they weren't ballads, either.

So, some hit 0dBFS, but most back off a little.

I don't know about you but I am a little disappointed Trent didn't hit full scale... :cool:

Michael Kiaer
New York City
 
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brad

Guest
The only difference between something with overs or not is whether or not the engineer backed the level down (or set the ceiling max below 0dbfs).
 

realdynamix

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 23, 2001
Originally posted by Brad Blackwood:
The only difference between something with overs or not is whether or not the engineer backed the level down (or set the ceiling max below 0dbfs).
I understand. Once it leaves your control, could it be bumbed up, or down by someone down the chain, as instructed by someone up the chain? Is it common for you to compare the product with your master, and find that changes were made?
--Rick
 
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