First of all I have to say that english is not my own lengauge, so please forgive me if some sentences in this thread seems a bit incorrect.
My basic DAW is composed of an AMD Athlon 3500 pc,1 GB ram, an Echo Layla 3G soundcard and a pairs or Event tr8 xl monitors.
I work mainly with Cubase sx, on which I record various instruments, such as guitar, bass and a drum machine.
My main genre is electronic/chill out, with some jazz/ethnic flavours. In this kind of tracks the low end of the songs is the focus, so when I mix the whole thing I try to give the bass and kick a certain 'presence'.
Other than my studio monitors, I use to test the final result on 3 different systems: an early 90's Technics hi-fi, a 70's Luxman L2 integrated amp with a pairs of B&W speakers and my stereo car, which is quite decent.
In all 3 systems the problem came when the 'loudness' botton is switched on,specially in the car the bass freq are really too loud, making the whole thing inaudible over a certain volume.
This is very disappointing, since when I was mixing in the studio I even tought there weren't enough bass!
So I bring the Luxman and speakers in the studio, and mixed the same track with the loudness botton switched ON.
No need to say that the final result disappointed me again. Without the loudness, there was, in my opinion, a total lack of bass
Then I decided to make some tests concerning this damn loudness button. I put on several professional mastered CD's and vinyls of various genre: pop, rock, electronica, jazz... one thing I noticed is that, switching on the loudness, there
was NOT a bass boosting like there was on my CDs.
Does this means my tracks simply have too much bass freq in it?
Or is it a matter of professional mastering? Am I pretending too much from an home studio? I don't think so since I heard some, technically spoken, really good tracks maded in home studio systems like mine.
Do you people keep in mind the loudness while mixing?
Just another qestion regarding 'Normalization'. Once get the final mix out of Cubase, I use to process the track in SoundForge, for maximizing peak levels. SoundForge has a compressor, Wavehammer.
The 'smooth compression' preset give more volume to the track, with still a good dynamic.
Is this a good thing to do? Any other tips/tools for giving the tracks enough volume with still a 'natural' sound?
I think the purpose of "Loudness" buttons is to boost bass frequencies when listening to music at low levels. When listening to quiet music, the bass frequencies can be lost so stereos added a loudness button that could be used to boost those frequencies. I don't think they were intended to be used at higher volumes.
The loudness button shouldn't be used on a system when playing back music at normal or loud levels.
That said, you have compared your stuff with other stuff and found that the other material doesn't distort when enabling "loudness" while your tracks do. This could mean that that your tracks have too much low end in them.
What sort of bass frequencies are we talking about...100hz? 60hz? 40hz? 8hz? Start by decreasing the real low end stuff.
The Loudness button refers to the phenomenon known as the "Fletcher-Munson Curve." (Do a google search on this, and get it direct from the source.... ;-) )
It's used on many home and car stereo systems to compensate for the non-linear response of the human ear when listening to lower volume levels. Most people just leave it on all the time, giving them more bass and punch throughout. Few people really even understand it, other than "more bass".
You're finding out though, that your stuff still has too much bass no matter what your home studio mix situation is telling you. You have an inaccurate mixing situation on your hands, and you're going to have to take steps to correct it, or mix somehwere else. I'm guessing you don't have a subwoofer, and something in your listening area is absorbing the bass un-naturally, or not letting you hear what's down there. I'm willing to bet you have a ton of very low freq energy going on down there that you can't hear, but once it's on a CD, you can hear it ripping up your other systems with the "Loudness" button engaged.
You're going to have to explore and experiment with your home mixing/playback system to sort this out first, esp on the low end.
JoeH is correct, Fletcher and Munson found that the human ear can't hear bass very well below a certain dB level, to compensate for this the loudness button/switch was invented to boost frequencies around 60-250Hz to make the bass more noticeable and audible. But most of us, I myself included, are guilty of leaving that option turned on for the purpose of giving more thump.
Fletcher and Munson are two of several researchers that have found that our hearing is more nearly flat in response at loud levels and tends to be bass-insensitive and low volume levels. The various researchers have come up with slightly different curves but the effect remains aproximately the same.
If correctly implemented, the loudness button should engage an amount of bass bost inversely proportional to the volume, i.e. as you turn the volume knowb up the amount of bass boost should decrease. Of course there are probably plenty of amps out there where it is just a simple bass boost with no dependance on volume.