Master volume vs low volume mixing

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by Cosme, May 25, 2006.

  1. Cosme

    Cosme Guest

    I've heard that it's better to mix every channel in a digital mix in a low volume so that the master output channel doesn't clip, instead of lowering the master volume 3,4,5dB to avoid master output mixing, is this necessarilly true? why?
  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    In general, I would state that this is an abuse of a generalization that people propagate on the unwitting.

    Essentially, it's kinda true, but grossly oversimplified.

    Think of it this way - When you mix 10 signals that are all peaking at -3dBFS, your master output bus could register as high as 10 dB over full scale or more (depending upon program material and timing).

    By simply lowering the master output bus on a computer, you are in essence lowering the total output and this manuever should not affect the amount of headroom. However, you'll find that your rather dynamic mix is now way too quiet. On an analog console, if you do this you may as well kiss any headroom goodbye.

    Instead, keep your master fader/meter in the corner of your eye and mix to a constant level. Use compression wisely on your various instruments and only mix as hot as the output bus on your DAW can handle. If you notice several transients sneaking by, find the culprit. Often non-compressed or poorly compressed drums can clip the output frequently but can easily be fixed with a little compression.

    Remember, the art of mixing is more than just panning all of the instruments to their own respective spaces, it includes proper use of all effects, level matching, listening (probably should have listed that one first), and creativity.

    Good luck.

  3. Good post.
  4. hxckid88

    hxckid88 Active Member

    May 9, 2005
    Definately a great post. Though I'm bringing up something about 2 months old, I was searching for this answer. I recorded my band and everyone in the band complained it was too low, but the recording was pretty good for my first "band" recording. I noticed my main probably was CONTROLLING dynamics between drums, and bass, and high squeels of guitar and soft melodic clean parts. And I generally had to lower the master to prevent huge clipping on some parts though I did my best to compress and put a little gain on certain tracks. Basically backing off on too much reverb that clipped the hell out of certain tracks. If I knew how to compress better, I think I would have done a better job. I learned ALOT through the recording experience with my band. But we all learn and move on. Definately great advice Cucco, could save alot of time and effort =)
  5. THeBLueROom

    THeBLueROom Member

    Jan 15, 2005
    usually you can get that volume back in a mastering situation, but a lot of the time I find that a "master" volume mixes tend to distort quicker than if you were to mix the tracks appropriately and keep the overall volume lower on the faders and leaving the master as close to Zero as possible. I think I have an idea on why this happens:

    the tracks are too loud and are overloading plug-ins BEFORE they even get to the master.

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