Originally Posted by MASSIVE Master
And not surprisingly (well, I guess it's a surprise to some) the stuff that usually leaves here the loudest came in the quietest. More accurately, the stuff that can handle the narrowest crest came in with the widest.
Some of you are asking why I'm quoting myself... Let's call it a small flurry of interrogative statements that required clarification...
As Bob already explained, the crest is simply the "space between" the average and the peak. More dynamics = larger (wider) crest, less dynamics = smaller (narrower) crest. A mix that has an average level of -20dB(FS)RMS that peaks up around -0dBFS has a crest of 20dB.
What I meant by the above statement was that there are a lot of (usually "less seasoned" for lack of a better term) engineers out there who shoot themselves in the foot by tracking and/or mixing "for volume" -- Destroying the dynamics, using up all the available headroom at the first stage - along with pretty much every subsequent stage.
That's not the way to make recordings that can actually handle "loud" later.
Track with plenty of headroom. Mix with plenty of headroom. Don't throw limiters all over the place just to get the mix "loud" -- Do whatever it takes to make the mix sound *good* and don't be concerned so much with volume.
I'm not saying not to use limiters -- But as a "rule of thumb," if you find a mix actually sounds better
- And I mean *BETTER* -- Not "better because it's louder" -- If it actually sounds better being rammed into a limiter, take the limiter off and find out why. Maybe one thing in that mix is truly "too dynamic" for the rest of the mix. Put the limiter on THAT and see how it sounds. Use a compressor when something has a dynamic range that's too wide for the mix
-- Not because someone told you that everybody compresses everything so it can be louder.
"Punch" and "impact" comes from the difference between loud and quiet - Not the absence of quiet. And although I'm not a fan of the current "level insanity" going on, it's better to have decent sounding recordings that have the potential to be loud than loud sounding recordings that should be shut off. Almost invariably, it's those dynamic, wide-crest mixes that have that potential.
Mixing "hot" doesn't do anything to make your finished product louder. Tracking hot doesn't either (I don't even want to get into the nastiness that can happen from tracking too hot). Headroom is good room. Keep it, love it, cherish it - Your mastering guy (even if that's yourself, which I also won't get into) is almost undoubtedly going to use it all up... Give him some room to move.