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Topic: Loudness?

  1. #1


    Whenever I give my music listened to somebody, I always received a complaint about one thing that my music are too small (not loud enough). They love all the eq balances but the volume.
    I have tried to put the Waves L2 maximizer or the UAD-1 tools, they help but sometimes the peak part sounded harsh on the mixdown.
    Any idea?

  2. #2

    Re: Loudness?

    Can you post some examples?
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  3. #3

    Re: Loudness?

    BIG can of worms here. While proper limiting at mixdown or mastering can bring overall percieved volume of a master up, and often there is headroom to work with there it has got SO out of hand now it's absurd. Rock records are mastered to be so loud that all peaks and transients are removed. Snare drum hits are destroyed. Things clip. It's bad sounding. But if you don't get your mix as loud as everybody else's cruddy mix you get the reaction you get from your friends. I use L2 to get my mixes to where the highest peaks limit gently and that's it.
    To get the kind of loudness you're talking about without horrible side effects reqiures expensive analog equipment, IMO.

    So, just get things as loud as you can but still correct sounding to your ear and tell your friends to deal with it

  4. #4

    Re: Loudness?

    Heh yeah this really is a good topic, I'm very glad it was brought up.

    I had one experience where I was filling in for another composer on a game soundtrack, and even though we both used primarily VSL, his tracks were always easily much louder. I tried volume maximizers but they colored the sound horribly, I tried multiband compressors and they worked much better, but I still seemed to be losing in the volume fight. I then realized two things: one, my music just had a lot wider a dynamic range, and two, all his tracks had quiet-playing instruments but were just boosted to max. I should've just asked the developers if I could take his tracks and turn them down, but I didn't b/c it would've seemed too presumptuous given the circumstances. I guess in the future I should be more assertive/bossy.

    Nonetheless, I think it is important to try and avoid overdoing it in the battle for volume. I use Isotope Ozone and had a lot better luck with that then when I was using Waves Ultramaximizer; in Ozone you can specify the speed, from "fast and hard" to "smooth" to "transparent". Waves has a good multiband though, and since you can adjust the Q between bands then you can give yourself a smooth Q for orchestral music. You can also roll off the EQ low end to save a few dB, but I guess until you post an example it's hard to give suggestions; I might just be telling you stuff you already know.

    I will say that music with very dynamic volume changes is gonna be a lot harder to tweak than stuff that's the same volume throughout; this usually makes an orchestral composer's job a bit harder than someone doing other genres. One of my pieces had these big grand crescendos that were kind of lost when I maximized it (to get rid of some clipping issues), but actually a few minutes ago I plopped it into Sonar, added a volume envelope over it, and manually did some adjustments to get those crescendos back. Now I strongly prefer the more dynamic version and it actually sounds louder overall, even though technically I only turned things *down*. I figure if people are in their right minds, they won't listen to a soft orchestral piece at the same volume as they'd listen to heavy metal, and having impressive dynamics just makes the orchestra piece sound even bigger in comparison.
    Wilbert Roget, II

  5. #5

    Re: Loudness?

    I think it's a better idea to downmix or deliver the music as dynamic as reasonably possible. Compression is easier to add onto the whole mix afterwards - if needed - than using an expander to get flat-compressed music dynamic. Anybody using your music for something will almost always apply at least a small range of compression to it anyway - renderings of media material usually results in a modest compression, and radiostations compress alot.

    It's also a question what end use your music is for. A radio pop-song might be better off for commercial use if it's flatter. and for the guys complaining about the music being to soft? Tell them to yank their volume button up I wouldn't bother to listen to noodling about higher compression rates providing better S/N ratio on the end user's stereo.
    Kid: When I become an adult I wanna be a musician.
    Parent: Son, you cannot become both.

  6. #6

    Re: Loudness?

    The answer to this is actually three parts.

    The first two parts are good use of compression during recording (part one) and mixing (part two) on individual tracks. If you've got a mixed track (or a rough mix) that is pushing around the stereo meters "too much", it's going to give the mastering engineer fits. It is totally possible to keep your track's perceived dynamics without killing it by good use of compression while recording and again during mixing. In fact, things like vocals and bass really benefit from a little compression in both stages rather than trying to do it all at once during mixdown (or worse, none at all on the raw tracks). Those of us who started mixing and mastering for vinyl know what this is about, so it's probably a dying art.

    The third part is enabled by the first two. When the first two are done well, the mastering engineer has less to do and can get more out of something like L2 without hitting it too hard. This doesn't take fancy gear. I've got a Presonus Eureka and an old ART TubePac for front end. Various compressor plugs for mixing and L2 for mastering. I will put my CD in a changer behind anybody's... something we should all be doing for reference anyway.

    - G

  7. #7

    Re: Loudness?

    Hi all thanks for the replies,
    Yes I am preparing my web now so you guys can listen to it whenever it is ready soon.
    I mixed my music in digital domain, I always adjust my main volume level down until where clipping not occurs, then I bounce the tracks internally. I didn't put any mastering effects because at first I thought I was going to bring my music to the mastering service but unfortunately I am stuck with the budget now so I think I need to at least do the mastering myself. As I've been listening to it over and over, I think I am pretty much happy with the overall eq balances and my concern is just the volume if I can push up more. I've been playing around with plugins like the Waves L1, L2, UAD-1 1176, LA2A, Fairchild to master my music myself but none of them satisfied me, because it sound harsh on the loudest parts. (never try the isotop yet, but I will)
    I've been listening to the commercial soundtrack CDs, although they have huge dynamic range of sound, can still sound loud & the peak (loud) parts are clean. I mean I know it must be the $$$ hardware units they used also, but for me at least I can push up the gain more without compromising the peak (loud) parts.
    Is it because of software don't have headroom as much as hardware?

  8. #8

    Re: Loudness?

    My approach is:

    1. Moderate compression on individual instruments or (in my case) on subsections of instruments (e.g. horns, tb's and tp's, celli and basses, percussion, etc), in order to address only their loudest passages.
    2. Gentle multi-band compression on the mix in order to gain about 3-4 dB overall. An alternative is to use upward compression (low threshold, small compression ratio) on the mix. This is also the point where you can add a little low and high to the softer passages.
    3. Gentle limiting on the mix to gain 3 - 3.5 dB as final step.

    Especially step 1 can help you a lot to gain additional headroom without really affecting the overall perceived dynamics.

    My 2 cts

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Paris, France

    Re: Loudness?

    Software and Hardware don't make everything, don't underestimate also the knowledge and experience of a (good) mastering engineer, and the benefit of a calibrated monitoring system (almost never used during mixing)...

    It's very difficult to be objective after hours of mixing his own stuff.
    Dynamic range is highly subjective. If you can't afford a mastering engineer, try to get external view of another (good) sound engineer, or good critical listener. This helps a lot.

    It's so easy to rush toward loudness, and so destructive !
    Make your critical listening in the morning, with fresh ears... and choose carefully your benchmark, many productions today are over compressed.
    Ho yeah ! it sounds BIG and great, in a car, the first minute. But so tireing.
    It's always time to overcompress for broadcast, later.

  10. #10

    Re: Loudness?

    Do you guys normally mixdown your tracks internally or go out & in when doing mastering?
    I noticed that my bounced tracks sound clipping but I didn't hear that in my monitor during the mastering process.

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