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Topic: Loudness?

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  1. #1

    Loudness?

    I'm in the process of doing final mixdown on a few shows (note to beta testers - you haven't heard these mixes yet). I wanted to see what you all think about the "loudness" issue.

    There's a lot of variety in the mixes I receive. Some are more or less straight "out of the box" from GPO Studio, while others have been processed, limited and expanded to obtain maximum loudness. Of course, putting a song that's been limited and amplifed next to a song that's only been normalized (often unavoidable) gives the perception of a significant difference in volume between the two.

    My approach thus far has been to do no processing on your music other than normalizing it, to preserve the dynamic range as it was recorded. The down side of this is that subsequent segments that have been optimized for loudness will seem to jump out a bit. The upside is maximum dynamic range.

    I can see a case for handling it either way, normalized or loudness-ized. I'm currently working under the assumption that if you wanted your volume maximized you'd have done it in your mix and am therefore leaving it alone. However, I do realize that some folks just aren't used to tweaking these things, so that may not always be an accurate assumption.

    Broadcast airwave radio is notorious for compressing the heck out of the signal, but I'm not sure that's desirable for orchestral music. On the other hand, the difference in volume can bring you out of your seat sometimes.

    Anyway, I'd like to know what you guys think about this issue since it is, after all, your music.

    Thanks!
    Christopher Duncan
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer
    www.PracticalUSA.com


  2. #2
    Senior Member rwayland's Avatar
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    Re: Loudness?

    Quote Originally Posted by Christopher Duncan
    I'm in the process of doing final mixdown on a few shows (note to beta testers - you haven't heard these mixes yet). I wanted to see what you all think about the "loudness" issue.
    * * * *

    Anyway, I'd like to know what you guys think about this issue since it is, after all, your music.

    Thanks!
    My view is that they should be as close to possible the the dynamic range and level as recorded by me. You might need to shift the whole package to higher or lower level, but maintain the original dynamic relationship as closely as possible.

    Richard

  3. #3

    Re: Loudness?

    I would never alter the dynamics in any piece, but set the loudest point to (0) db

    IMO


    Thanks Christopher
    Dan

  4. #4

    Re: Loudness?

    Quote Originally Posted by DPDAN
    I would never alter the dynamics in any piece, but set the loudest point to (0) db

    IMO


    Thanks Christopher
    Dan
    Absolutely!

    Jerry

  5. #5

    Re: Loudness?

    Sure, I've heard that over and over.
    But have you actually tried using a compressor and limiter?
    With a good limiter you can gain 3-4 dB without it being audible. So, why not do it?
    And you should be able to gain a couple of dB's as well using a compressor. With a low ratio that should also be inaudible.
    Pro recordings nowadays goes through similar treatment when mastered for CD.

  6. #6

    Re: Loudness?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mosquito
    Sure, I've heard that over and over.
    But have you actually tried using a compressor and limiter?
    With a good limiter you can gain 3-4 dB without it being audible. So, why not do it?
    And you should be able to gain a couple of dB's as well using a compressor. With a low ratio that should also be inaudible.
    Pro recordings nowadays goes through similar treatment when mastered for CD.
    While it appears by my previous post that I am totally against compression of masters, I am not. I just don't want my music compressed by someone else without hearing it first.
    Besides reverb, compressors are my most valuable tool in my DAW as well as my live concert sound equipment.
    Compressors can be used for a ton of different reasons,
    1) minimizing (taming) exagerated, excessive volume peaks (often used for radio and television stations)
    2) affect (not effect) the sound, pop oriented but almost never in classicalorchestralsymphonic music
    3) using a threshold setting that allows all of the music to be compressed with a very low ratio will actually "pull up" soft lyrics and notes that otherwise would have gone unheard relative to the average level
    4) creating more dynamic "attack" energy with a slow attack setting for instruments that need to be more punchy, ie. kick, snare, bass,,, I often add this excessively compressed signal to the untouched signal.

    There are lots of reasons to use compression, and I'm very aware of that. Each compressor has it's own characteristics and is great on one thing and may stink on another, so using the right kind of compressor on an instrument or sound is very important. Yes, I have used compression on some of my stuff, but never after the full mix, and in fact never on any GPO stuff that I have made. I am an engineer first, and a musician second, since I have only been a musician since April of 2004, and a recording engineer since,,,, well the 70's, yikes

    Using compression after (post) mix is horrible and makes the piece sound terrible,,,,, reverb pumps up at the end of every phrase and makes the recording sound too wet, and pumping levels because of bass response, the list goes on and on. Most novice engineers, musicians and home recording enthusiasts read that the "pro" mastering engineers always use some sort of compression, and those articles are just plain wrong in my opinion.

    I absolutely love what a compressor is able to do, a good one that is.
    My previous post was to indicate that "I" would prefer to not have my submitted music normalized or compressed.

    There is a huge problem in the music mastering industry and it is mostly about track levels relative to each other. EQ is another problem, but not nearly as bad as radically different levels of tracks from different sources played back to back. I appreciate and totally understand, that this was the reason for Christophers request for opinions of what should, or shouldn't be done. I respect and appreciate even more the fact that he is aware of sensitive opinions about this issue.

    The answer is not compression. The answer is mastering.

    Mastering is a time consuming process that in the end makes a CD or project flow. Using compression to fix all of these inconsistant tracks is the lazy way to make the volume of the station reasonably consistent. I trust Christopher will do what is most reasonable, to assure that some music is not super loud and other tracks barely audible. This is an ongoing problem with every station that plays music. It's so ugly sounding when I hear a song on the radio with a lead vocal, and then the drums and bass come in after the intro and cause the level of what was a vocal to drop suddenly everytime the kick drum or bass is hit.
    Typical tv sound, oh don't get me going about that junk, and Satelite TV with the video so early relative to audio uggghh!

    Mosquito, I realize that your response may not have been pointing to me, but just in case it was, and you think that I may not be experienced or familiar with compression, this post should allow you to rest at ease that I have used compression for a little over thirty years. Your recommendation of a small amount of compression is reasonable advice for the reasons that Christopher was asking. But "I" would rather not have any compression on any classicalorchestralsymphonic music that I listen to, whether it be mine or anyone else's.

    I'm DPdone and said my peace

    DPDan

  7. #7

    Re: Loudness?

    yep...loudness is indeed an important point in orchestral recordings. we do not want to loose the dynamical range but especially "faked->sampled" orchestra stuff tends to sound in its piano passages often very thin and lifeless.

    for me I found out that voxengo's elephant does an excellent job in powering up the volume without cutting the dynamical variety. give it a try.

  8. #8

    Re: Loudness?

    Quote Originally Posted by GigaLove
    yep...loudness is indeed an important point in orchestral recordings. we do not want to loose the dynamical range but especially "faked->sampled" orchestra stuff tends to sound in its piano passages often very thin and lifeless.

    for me I found out that voxengo's elephant does an excellent job in powering up the volume without cutting the dynamical variety. give it a try.
    I'll second Elephant. Cheap and cheerfull. And rather brilliant.

    DPDan.... thanks for the essay. I see where you are coming from. And no it wasn't aimed only at you but also at rwayland and Gerald Berg.

  9. #9

    Re: Loudness?

    Well, so far I see that my instincts on this issue were on target. As Mosquito points out, there are a ton of good tools and many of them can increase perceived loudness without a terribly obvious impact on audio quality. On the other hand, as others have pointed out, Dan in some detail, this is a double edged sword.

    Dan touched on what I feel (for this project) is the most important consideration. Like him, I wouldn't be wild about someone else tweaking my final mixes without my being able to hear and make a call on the final result myself. It's true that I'm a notorious control freak. Nonetheless, I believe in offering other people the same considerations that I require for myself, and so I've been following the old adage of "First, do no harm."

    Of course, as you can see by the conversations so far, this is a somewhat controversial topic in our industry, particularly in CD and radio mixes, and it's not an easy question to answer. When your song is half the volume of the one that came before, it's perceived by the masses as being of lesser quality in comparison. We all know that's nonsense, but the listener's perception (who typically isn't an audio professional) is all that matters, right or wrong.

    So, I'll continue with my approach of trying not to leave a fingerprint on your music, i.e. just bringing everything up proportionately so that the loudest peaks are 0db (.98 actually) and otherwise leaving it alone. Those of you who, like Mosquito, understand the issues and want to maximize your audio will doubtless do it before sending me the mix links, and so everyone's happy.

    The shows are typically 30 minutes in program length (including promo spots, etc.), and they're being mixed into single 30 minute files containing that half hour's content. This allows me to simply automate the volume of the final show mix so that it's a more seamless experience to the listener.

    As an aside, I moved into new facilities a couple of months ago and also picked up a lot of new software and tools in the process. This project has been a nice exercise in getting to know my new toys. For those of you who are interested in such things, the show is being mixed in Nuendo 2 (one of the new toys), and I must say that typical learning curve aside, I'm enjoying the experience.
    Christopher Duncan
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer
    www.PracticalUSA.com


  10. #10

    Re: Loudness?

    I appreciate all that you are doing Christopher.
    No bruised ego here Mosquito, hope you feel the same,

    Dan

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