What are you using to achieve overall volume?

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Slider, Dec 30, 2004.

  1. Slider

    Slider Guest

    I've been looking at a lot of pro mastered stuff, and I notice these guys get some serious level without that trademark L2 distortion.
    Not that I expect everyone to be forthcoming as this is regarded as secret in some circles, but how are you guys achieving these kind of levels?

    Does the compression and multiband comps play a large role in achieving overall volume for you?

    Searched, but found no real answers.

    Anyone clipping converters?
    I've heard some guys do this, and I wondered if it was true.
    Maybe it's an old trick that is no longer used.

    Just curious as I'm a recording\mixing engineer, not a ME.
    I watched Eddy at Oasis use a Brick wall limiter plug on my mixes to get the level way up, but it was a plug I've never seen before.
    Made the L2 sound like a toy.
    This is not a question of volume wars, I know the whole bit.
    I'm just wondering how these guys get these extreme hot levels without distorting the mix completely. I can't get the RMS above - 15 without destroying the drums.
  2. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    Experience and experimentation. MBC's usually have very little to do with anything in most mastering rooms also - I'm still wondering why everyone thinks we've got 6 of them lined up... I don't even have a hardware MBC anymore.

    Keep in mind that there is an "optimum" maximum volume level that is dictated before the RECORD button is ever pushed - Some sounds, arrangements, mixes, etc. will just have a tendency to have the *potential* to be louder than others. This has to be attacked at the pre-production level - Not "fixed" during mastering.

    Again, experimentation and experience. There is no substitute.

    Also, the loudeness wars are making everything sound like crap. Do you really want to sacrifice your dynamics just to be a few dB louder? That still blows my mind. I have clients that care more about hoarding bits than keeping *some* of the dynamics.
  3. Slider

    Slider Guest

    Actually I don't want to destroy anything.
    I'm curious how these guys get level WITHOUT completly destroying the mix. Because waves plugs and such will only get you so far toward this goal. That's why home mastering sucks. People use an L2 and take off 6db and destroy the mix.
    To me it distorts before even getting close to professional mastered rock cd's.

    I'm not looking to go into the mastering profession, but I do make cd's like every other mixing engineer.
    There are some guys who get some hot levels and still keep the mixes overall original integrity intact.
    Maybe your one of the guys who plays it very safe with levels.
    Nothing wrong with that, I applaud your efforts, but I doubt your getting any big label work at the same time. Sad but true.

    It seems there is an artform of achieving decent volume and not killing the punch of the mix.

    When I do home mastering (mostly to check my mixes in the car and such) I do the same thing. I don't try and get things really loud. Just loud enough for me to have perspective on my car system.
    I'm just curious how pro mastering guys are getting the volume they are. What tools they actually use. Simple as that.
    I understand the whole thing that comes with that, and wasn't looking for a volume war discussion.

  4. Ed Littman

    Ed Littman Guest

    two main things.
    1. a great mix
    2. clipping

    Not just the a/d converter but different stages in the daw including plugs.

    Imagine what an original mix sounded like with all the dynamics intact before it got into ..lets say.......Ted jensens hands.

    I always like his eq choice but the sizzle & lack of dynamics on everything even the Dave Matthews cd is just too much.
  5. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    Jul 13, 2004
    Home Page:
    Maybe it was Eddy's skill and not the program? Or maybe he was doing something BEFORE the limiter to make the limiting shine. Why don't you ask him?
  6. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    That's the thing - Many mixes just don't have the potential no matter what the M.E. has. I get mixes in all the time that will never be "really" loud. Others, that come in with well-recorded, judiciously compressed and limited individual tracks, with a lot of "space" between the sounds - Those can get to fairly extreme levels without being pushed too hard.

    It comes down to the choice of the raw sound that's being recorded - Before the mic selection is even made. THAT is when the "volume potential" of a mix is decided.

    If you want a final product that has the potential for sheer volume, you need to start at the root, which is the core sounds and arrangement. This is why it's fairly easy to make a nice, airy ballad incredibly loud, while death metal is very difficult.
  7. Slider

    Slider Guest

    Yeah...Eddy has skill for sure.
    Did I give the impression he didn't?
    I watched everything he did actually.
    I tried to shut the hell up and watch rather than bug him.
    He did say he could never get that kind of volume from an L2.
    So that's why I'm asking what other ME's use.
    I know exactly what Eddy used.
    Now I'm asking what other ME's use.

    no more politician style answers please. I'm begging.
    If you don't know, or don't want to say, fine.
  8. Slider

    Slider Guest

    Thanks Ed! at least this is some information.
    I'm curious how often the clipping thing is practiced.
    And I agree a lot of stuff is getting smashed and destroyed.
    Hopefully the unprocessed mixes will be around to re-issue in the future.
  9. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Sep 12, 2002
    NYC New York
    Home Page:
    I would say it's a secret (not really a secret per se as it is a technique). Most anyone who's come up with something good, isn't going to share it. And no it doesn't involve an L2. Infact if you stick the L2 in at all, it destroys it.
  10. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    Ugh... Some people don't understand if you explain it 20 times...


    Overcompression, limiting, clipping. No matter what, adding volume over a mix's natural volume is casing damage. The only "secret" is knowing what to do and how much to do it (to any individual mix) causing as little apparent damage as possible. And the ONLY way to learn it is PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE.

    There is no "magic setting" that makes things "loud" while keeping the sound intact. There is also no "magic box" that will accomplish it either. Some do it better than others, but again, it depends on that single, individual mix, and it's stregnths and weaknesses that will determine the gear that is used on it.

    Sometimes I'll use a $5000 compressor, other times a $500 compressor. Sometimes a limiter, sometimes the A-SAT on my converters, sometimes just ramming it in and clipping it. However, there is no way to tell which one will work best without hearing the particular mix involved.

    And again, the orginal sounds, mic selection, recording technique, mix technique, etc., have MUCH more to do with the mix's potential volume than the mastering session. If a mix has the potential to BE loud, it's normally very easy to get it loud.


    Sorry, it's just been one of those weeks... I've had more questions like this sent in than I can count. It's like being asked "how long is a line?"

    BTW - Here's a secret I used on a mix yesterday - +4dB gain on the input and +6dB gain on the output of the VariMu with around 2dB of gain reduction. About 90ms attack, 8 second release. No EQ. A-SAT on the Lavry. Rip-your-face-off loud.

    Of course, the very next mix, on the same album, I didnt' use the VariMu at all. It just didn't sound right.

    Happy New Year! 8)
  11. Slider

    Slider Guest

    Your funny. So no one uses certain techniques for getting level??
    You just don't know what your talking about.
    But then again I can tell that from listening to your clips.

    I'm not asking for one answer or "secret" as you say.
    I'm simply asking a simple question about what techniques people have used to get level.
    How hard is that to understand?
    I think you just don't get it.

    You so badly wanted to make your big speech on CD volume.

    WOW we're so impressed. What a revelation!!
    I've never heard that before.
    Thanks for enlightening us all.

    We get it you know it all.
    Now let someone who actually knows what they're doing answer.
  12. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    Your sarcasm is truly bewildering, and you're obviously not paying attention to one damn word anyone here has said.

    I get it just fine. What you don't understand is that the technique is unique to the mix. Throw five mixes at one M.E. and he'll come up with five different ways to achieve the mix's potential volume.

    And if you weren't paying attention, I'll quote myself once again...
    If you're expecting a certain setting, it doesn't exist - The setting will be unique to the situation.

    Dissing my clips (which many are studies in BAD sounding mixes, again, if you paid attention, you'd know that) and personal attacks aren't going to get you very far on the forum.

    On the last message, I gave you the exact settings used to make a particular mix amazingly loud. The EXACT settings. What more do you want?

    Guys, tell me if I'm wrong, but I'm going into WAY more detail than I normally do on this, no?
  13. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Distinguished Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:

    I use to do magic when I was younger. I could not wait to learn to do new tricks and was always reading and watching other magicians so I could learn from them. I learned one thing very quickly it was not so much the trick (since everyone in magic basically knows how the trick is done) but the magicians way of presenting it. I have seen magicians do a simple French coin drop with so much skill that even I could not tell how they were doing it even though I know exactly how the trick works.

    The same can be said for Mastering. It is not so much the gear (although you have to have good gear) It is not so much the settings. It is not so much the "tricks" but it is knowing how to use the gear effectively, having a great room to master in and a LOT is dependent on the quality of the incoming material. THERE ARE NO "STANDARD" settings to get the ultimate loudness. They are strictly dependent on the material you are trying to master.

    I have had clients sit in my mastering room writing down everything that I do. They hover behind me making sure they know exactly what eq settings I am using, what compressor ratio and even what equipment is being used so the "next" time they can do their own mastering. I really don't care if they do this because what they are writing down will work for that song played that way and for no other and only in my room with my equipment.

    No one is trying to keep mastering a "black art" and not reveal the "secrets" of the trade it is just that it takes a lot of experience, the right equipment and a great room to make a really great mastering experience. Sure there are some "tricks to the trade" but they are pretty well known and most of them have been discussed on this forum.

    If you give the same song to 100 mastering engineers with 100 different rooms the song will be mastered differently by each of them. This is due to individual ways of working and due to the experience and knowledge of each engineer doing the mastering. It is also due to the equipment the engineer is using and the quality of his mastering room monitoring setup. Most songs that people say sound "really great" sounded great before they were mastered. They were well recorded and well mixed. The mastering engineer put the final polish on the songs and made them sound like they all belonged together on the CD. He or she also pumped up the volume if the group or producer wanted it but the song way ready for mastering and did not need any "sonic surgery" to make it sound good.

    I hope you find the "holy grail" of mastering. (there really isn't one but lots of people, yourself included, seem to be looking for it and when the find out in the end that there isn't any they get upset and start accusing mastering engineers of keeping secrets from them).

    Please excuse me I have to go and get my black robe cleaned and my magic wand polished as I have a mastering client this afternoon and I want to have all my "black art" equipment ready when he arrives. <GRIN>

    Best of luck!
  14. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    Aug 12, 2003
    If you want to start learn something you have to respect people first!
    You could easilly be one of those that are being misled by strong fancy personalities that doesn't know anything when it comes to musicality.

    The "if you want to get loud then just do this" refers to engineers that haven't realized what it's all about... and they will be making $*^t all the way to the samitary! -and that's the truth!
    So if you want to be one of them then please don't ask us for some qualified answers.

    I'm sure you just had to much vodka or something and that's why you got disrespected from almost everyone in here by your last post. but please convince us!! Do you really want to learn something??!!

    Best Regards
  15. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Sep 12, 2002
    NYC New York
    Home Page:
    this is pretty funny reading this. Good analogy Tom. No one is going to tell you how to do something. Even if they did, it wouldn't work for you. You'd have to have the same setup and the same experience and the same ears to duplicate it. Just won't happen. What kind of equipment do you have Slider?

    Here is the Scene as i see it.

    You've worked on a several projects recording and mixing in a Daw. Some of your clients need the stuff mastered and you thought why not, I need the extra cash. So you did a few and they turned out good. So now you feel comfortable pimping yourself out for mastering. You've sat in on a few mastering sessions and it was no big deal, just a few things here and there. You've got all the standard plugs and some self powered monitors that sound ok. A client came in and you did your thing and gave them a ref to take home and listen to. They said, sounds ok but how come it's not as loud as so and so. So you took another shot at it and really pushed those plugs. Gave them another ref, little better but still not loud enough. That's it, that's all you can squeeze out. anymore and it's garbage. Maybe I'll try the L3. Hmmm, still nowhere near the volume. Searched high and low through all the mastering websites looking for a hint of a magic box or plugin that maybe you didn't know about. Nothing, just eq's and some compressors and an L2 here and there. Read all the mastering forums, clipping pops up here and there, maybe that's it. Let me light up some lights on the plugs. Damn, that really didn't do it either. Client asks, how's it coming along. Were you able to get the volume up. mmmm, still working on it, I think it's a little better but I want to get it right.

    Am I close so far?

    So now it's down to the wire, the client needs his master so he can get it to a few people to listen to and such. You can't believe that there isn't some secret weapon that these guys aren't using and just not talking about. How, the hell are they getting it so loud yet retain the punch. You go back to the websites and zoom in on the pics of there consoles. Hmm, that looks familiar, that doesn't, that does, what's that thing. I wonder if that's the box. Let me see if all these guys have one in their rack. He doesn't, him neither. Maybe they have it hidden. $*^t. Let me just ask.
  16. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    Jul 29, 2004
    Montreal, Qc, CANADA
    Home Page:
    Oh s/$t ! I'm afraid that is 100% true.
  17. Ed Littman

    Ed Littman Guest

    :lol: :D :lol: :lol:
  18. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    Aug 12, 2003
    Yeah, and happy New Year (y)
  19. RockSkar

    RockSkar Active Member

    Dec 31, 2004
    I know the secret. But I'm not telling. I could say 3 words that would have every one of your mixes as loud as a Slipnot song.

    Actually, just joking.
  20. Heathen1

    Heathen1 Guest


    I've been learning this for years, I was in your predicament once and thought just the same thoughts.Now do what I did,read,play,read,learn,play,play,play,read, and read some more,the same applies to playing with your gear so by the time you are finished playing your master will still sound like $*^t, then if you have a moment of clarity you will understand there is no one piece of gear to do this. Also even if there is why should I tell you in 5 mins when it took me along time to learn too.Practice makes perfect.
    Happy New Year

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