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Topic: OT: How do you really make a cd?

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  1. #1
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    OT: How do you really make a cd?

    I can burn cds of mp3s and all that but how do you REALLY do it? I mean, mp3 CDs dont get loud enough for 1. For 2, I dont think my burning software (Roxio) will even do WAV files. Just mp3s. So my band is recording a CD and I am mixing and semi-mastering. We're trying to do it all ourselves. So how do I get them loud enough? I'm using Cubase SX and I'm rendering with the meters dipping gently into the red, but the mp3s still arent nearly as loud as regular commercial CDs. How does this get done? I am using Ozone 3 for compression and my mix is pretty consistent. Just the overall volume is low. Any help is much appreciated.

    Eric

  2. #2

    Re: OT: How do you really make a cd?

    You need to make sure what enters your ear is what the mix ACTUALLY is. If you're listening on bad headphones, bad monitors, are in a bad acoustic space, or some combination of the three, you might not be hearing the mix correctly. I would suggest using an analysis plugin of some kind - such as Inspector by Elemental Audio Systems - in the sequencer of your choice.

    To maximize loudness, first check to make sure everything is under 0db in the final waveform (WAV not MP3). Exceeding 0db = clipping, which is very very bad. If you do have clipping, just reduce your master volume until there is not a single millisecond of the mix that clips. Once you've done that, I would use a simple normalize on the whole thing (your sequencer of choice should have one built in). Next comes the hard part, which is raising the overall relative loudness. Ozone's compressor/limiter should be able to handle the rest from here. Every mix needs its own compressor/limiter settings, so it's difficult to recommend any ONE technique. If you need advice on just this step, maybe provide us with an unmastered mix so some of the master engineers (NOT me!) can give it a shot.

    Some people swear by "loudness maximizers". However, I am wary of them. You know how some stereos, CD players, and MP3 players have something like a "loudness" button or preset setting? A loudness maximizer (hardware or software) usually acts the same way. Essentially the device compensates for what's known as the Flestcher-Munson curve, which states that when you play stuff back at lower volumes, the low end frequencies drop disproportionately, and the highs as well to a lesser extent. By creating what is basically a 'bathtub' EQ curve - increasing the lows and highs - with some other small changes, you're effectively eliminating that effect. The problem is that if someone listens at NORMAL volume, the mix becomes sort of oversaturated. That's why many people will tell you to use maximizers sparingly.. they will wear down your ears otherwise!
    Zircon Studios - Original music for media, electronica, sound design, and synthesis.

  3. #3

    Re: OT: How do you really make a cd?

    First of all, making cd's from mp3's is a very bad idea (Not that many ppl would hear the difference between a 192/320 kbps mp3 and a PCM wave, but anyway).
    With that said, creating a loud master tape is not an easy task.
    It takes a lot of experience before one reach that point when noone's complaining about the mix saying "..This isn't loud enough, I have to pump up the volume a lot at my home system to reach the same levels as my other cd's."
    You're at war with both dynamics and frequencies.
    According to me, it's a very unfortunate and bad development that all commercial products these days have to be as hyper-ultra-mega-maxed-out. Spare no headroom!, seems to be a common mantra or something.
    But since that's the way things ar heading, we obey and follow.

    In a mix with a constant 0 dB peaking, you obviously have a very powerful sound, but on the other hand no dynamics at all.
    Besides the fact that everyone wants a loud mix, you have to consider the war of frequencies. Remember that if you have a lot of channels/instruments where frequencies collide (Kick Drum and Bass at 80 Hz for example), you start getting peaks really fast. Cut out all 'unnecessary' frequencies from the individual tracks, and you have more 'space' to fill before the master fader starts screaming in agony.

    Always recording your tracks with as much gain as possible w/o peaking is also essential, since any normalising that you have do later on, reduces the overall sound quality (esp. at lower bit-rates). This obviously also gives the best signal to noise-ratio.

    Ok..hehe, I might have gone a bit astray here, but anyway...compression and EQ:ing is overall the main key to a loud mix. And don't fear using mastering equipment or plug-ins such as the Waves L-series. But use such equip. wisely and listen carefully for audible artifacts before applying.

    If your mix is consistent but with an overall low volume, I would say you have recorded the individual tracks with a way to low gain.

    Good luck!
    /Daniel Beckman

  4. #4
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    Re: OT: How do you really make a cd?

    Ok, Thanks guys. I know that I dont want mp3s. I was just saying that I have experience with that and want to now burn with uncompressed WAVs. All my master waves so far are pushed to where the peeks are riding extremely close to 0 db. The overall mix is pretty hot. Would it help if I posted a picture of the WAV? Also, what does normalization do? I havent used that yet. I checked it out and it only offered negative values through 0 db. Does it bring the whole wav up to the set point? just wondering. Thanks for the help so far. Also, what software do people use to burn thier CDs? I have Roxio but it's just a cheesy little thing. Is there something better that I could or should be using?

    Eric

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    Re: OT: How do you really make a cd?

    I'll give you a tip. Bring in a stereo wave file from you favorite CD and compare that to yours. You see how all the peaks are chopped off? That's your goal, chop the peaks off. Now compress it even more. The goal is to have 2 dB of play. It sounds like mash now, but at least it's loud for 45 straight minutes, even on the quiet parts.


    You know, the other option is to mix and master your CD so it sounds good and let the listeners worry about the volume themselves. They do have a volume knob you know. Nah, it's way too much trouble.............

    My whole post is very sarcastic if you can't tell. But that sad part is that there's no reason to kill your music to compete with a commercial CD's level. You honestly haven't heard?

    POINT IS: To compete with commercial CD's in their volume wars you need to kill your dynamics. If you like that, well, you know what you need to do. You can't have it both ways.

    I'm joking, yet I'm not........... that's the sad part. Good luck!

  6. #6

    Re: OT: How do you really make a cd?

    I also use Roxio (8). If there are no errors in the burning proccess, the buffer is full at all times and the medium you're writting on is top quality you achieved your goal.
    You're writting data, right (bits - 0's and 1's)? therefore there's no "better" / "worse" (supposing the above requirements are fulfilled).

    ...another thing: the burning software integrated in WinXP in signed by Roxio. If I were to choose between Roxio and Nero, I'd choose the first.
    Burn safe .

  7. #7
    Senior Member Tom Crowning's Avatar
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    Re: OT: How do you really make a cd?

    Quote Originally Posted by EricWatkins
    I can burn cds of mp3s and all that but how do you REALLY do it? I mean, mp3 CDs dont get loud enough for 1. For 2, I dont think my burning software (Roxio) will even do WAV files. Just mp3s. So my band is recording a CD and I am mixing and semi-mastering. We're trying to do it all ourselves. So how do I get them loud enough? I'm using Cubase SX and I'm rendering with the meters dipping gently into the red, but the mp3s still arent nearly as loud as regular commercial CDs. How does this get done? I am using Ozone 3 for compression and my mix is pretty consistent. Just the overall volume is low. Any help is much appreciated.

    Eric
    I'd buy a good book about (pre-) mastering or try to read everything available
    in the WWW.

    If you don't have to make your income with your music, don't become a
    believer in 'loud is good'.
    One of the most importent things of the CD is the dynamic rate (compared
    to elder things like vinyl or tapes), which modern 'producers' successfully
    compress away to about 10 db.

    If your mix is not loud enough, push up the volume control on your stereo,
    that's what it was made for!

    Tom

  8. #8
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    Re: OT: How do you really make a cd?

    Thanks guys. One thing that I dont understand is the graphical representation of waveforms in Cubase SX. I can adjust how they are viewed to where the peaks exceed the top and bottom of the display or shrink it in to where it doesnt. With this being adjustable, I dont know in a graphical sense, when I'm clipping or not. Obviously I'm not hearing it and I DO know what digital clipping sounds like. Just seems odd that I dont see a DB scale vertically in that window. I agree that I dont want to completely squish all my dynamics out of the mix. However, I do want to get the peaks as high as possible. Thanks for the help and I'll continue on from here.

    Eric

  9. #9
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: OT: How do you really make a cd?

    You know, to provide just a dash of counterpoint here...

    When I read Bob Katz's stuff way back when, I felt as if I were being scolded. That is to say that music has functionality, and if part of the functionality is that your album needs to be slamming on the dance floor, then it is desirable to have some serious limiting. I understand and agree overall with his "mission," but he's definitely on the strident side when it comes to what might be an artistic decision in some cases to create a particular sound that has limiting and compression used as artistic choice.

    Eric, you might want to invest in either CD Architect, Wavelab, or a more serious Redbook-disc layout software if you are getting an interest in burining CD masters. They have some of the features you'd need for commercial-grade reproduction. I'm not sure how suitable the Roxio software is as far as designing a cd-for-repro.

    I have mastered quite a few albums. What I said above aside, one of my biggest regrets was letting an overzealous client talk me into making his album too loud. I resisted for a while, and he said he'd take the job away from me, so I said, "fine," and mashed the crap out of it. Five years down the road, the guy who produced it (who was a friend of mine) has yet to send me a single other client for mastering, he was so pissed at me...and he was sending me a consistent five or six albums a year, a good chunk of change.

    I realize that's not your case, but in case anyone else is reading this and thinking of doing some mastering--you need to really examine who your client is. If the work's getting sent to you by a mixing engineer or producer, then it might pay to frustrate the artist a bit and stick to your guns on quality.

    THAT said...

    You need to be in the range of volume of commercial albums you really admire in your genre, that you think sound great...or your album will be the bane of anyone with a CD changer.

    What Kid Surf said about looking at the waveforms is dead on. Take those CD's you really like, rip them to wave files (the whole CD) and put the entire thing on the timeline to see how the album looks overall.

    A couple of thoughts...

    Mastering has changed in scope. In vinyl, it was about the physical limits and properties of the medium more than anything else. Now, it's generally about making a disparate set of mixes sound like an "album," and getting the volume and bass right.

    One aspect is correcting for the ears and room that mixed the album. This is why commercial albums with no budget restrictions use separate mastering engineers. Different ears, different room, no emotional bond with the mix or music...so the various defects that need to be corrected are not encumbered with any baggage. And there are times when a mastering engineer might even push back and recommend a remix if something just won't fit.

    If you're mastering your own, then just be sure to get out of the studio and into some other listening environments. The danger is that you're mixing and mastering on exactly the same gear, so in some cases, you might actually exacerbate a frequency problem, for instance.

    Provided your mixes are sounding just how you want them, try as much as possible to get them into the right volume with peak limiting rather than "gentle compression." This might seem counterintuitive, but actually it's not. There is the very least amount of musical information in peaks. They're usually just drums, and they'll express their "volume" just as well if you flatten them out. But on the other hand, a compressor is going to dip down into the mix and mash everything up a little. So, therefore, you'll actually affect the sound of your mixes less by peak limiting...within practical limits, of course. Eventually, you're going to hear the limiting, but if you're using a good limiter (and Ozone is just fine), then you'll know when you've reached the practical limits. At that point, you need to back off the limiter some and compress a bit.

    Hope that helps. It's not comprehensive by any stretch, just a few ideas and notes.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: OT: How do you really make a cd?

    I should add this...

    Remember that tip about finding a CD in your genre you think sounds great. Be sure to take it with you when you audition your mastered CD on other listening systems, and take note of differences you hear between your CD and that one.

    For at least your first couple of "mastering jobs," it really helps to simply pick a target sound and do your very best to match it. Otherwise, you might find yourself going back and forth and getting a little nuts.

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