Overdrive techniques



can someone recommend a good way to take my mix to the next level by boosting the decibel levels without creating clipping do i need certain hardware? tracking board? when i import a commercial song from heavy metal to rap it is really blocky and louder then my mixes, but when i try to make them like that they either clip afternormailation or just dont sound right...when i imported a beatles song back in the ussr the levels where about 3 decibels below the clipping level but still sound good, so my question is do i raise levels then normalize? or bounce to disk then raise and normalize or am i doing it all wrong.... thanks
by the way im using pro-tools 5.3.1 LE with a digi 001 i have soundforge and cooledit pro also! any suggestions will be greatly appreaciated!! :)


joe lambert

Well-Known Member
Oct 17, 2001
321 West 44th Street Suite 1001

This is a question that many engineers have. Making your mix louder does not always make it sound better. If you aren't satisfied with your mix keep tweaking it. Your point about the Beatles mix should go a long way in knowing good mixes sound good at any level.

What you should try is take a song you like, bring the level down to where your mix is and then compare. Try to get your mix as close to what you want before doing things just to make it louder. Listen to the over all dynamic range of your mix. Is it sounding the same at low levels as it does when you play it loud? Is it clear without being too bright?

The level can be brought up on yours to where it should be during a proper mastering session. If you do too much bus compression/limiting before mastering the mix you are limiting (literally) what can be done in the mastering process.


thanks for the reply,

the main thing is should i do much to the instrumental I.E. like boost the bass the treble of the vocals? or is this done in the mastering process? somtimes the vocals seem to be a bit muffled does this have do with microphone placement or simply is the room to enclosed? is it the spit guard? how much should i turn on the gain on the microphone/line input should i do it as close as i can till it peaks or will i get a great overdrive effect if it peaks then normalize later? i know my questions are broad im currently taking enginnering classes cuz im fed up with the mixes sounding medicore and the gettin the bass correctly.. does normalizing in the end usually help the peaks and clipping that occurs? or could it still peak and pop when its 2-3 db below the 0 point?

thank for the reply



Another quick question.........

What is exactly done in the mastering process? do they add vocal FX? bass treble? normalize? this will really help me when im ready...


Mastering does 2 things- first is to have a different pair of ears listen to the mix thru different speakers in a different room. It's a second opinion phase, and if they hear problems, they'll either fix them or point them out so you can fix the mix. They have EQ and compression tools that are both very powerful and very dangerous to use... and usually have a lot of experience to draw from.

The other thing mastering does is to bring the volume of a mix up to a more desireable level. This is done with compression, often multi-band compression so that the balance of the mix isn't messed up. The 'desireable level' is pretty subjective- if you put a 20-yr-old Iron Maiden CD into a disc changer next to Disturbed's new disk, you'll be playing with the volume knob a lot.

The second part of this CAN be done by you, if you're careful with it or can't afford to have it pro-mastered (my band can't). You can use a basic compressor to do it, but there are specialized units andplug-insthat will do a better job if you know how to use them.

Just make sure the finished product sounds as good as the raw mix does. When your compression starts to hurt the overall sound, it's time to back off.

Good luck!