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How to get super loud pop tracks?
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#31
12th December 2012
Old 12th December 2012
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Originally Posted by OwensDrumming View Post
I have my mixes sounding great with some headroom but it seems that no matter what I do I'm getting distortion. Nothing is clipping. I have my mix pretty loud too.
That's good to hear. I was just trying to deture you from following the advice of some people that are either screwing with you or are clueless on the subject. Never do anything to the mix for the sake of anything other than good sound. If you want to compress the guitar because it sounds better that way, go for it. If you want to compress the guitar because you think it'll help you get a louder master, forget it.


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Originally Posted by OwensDrumming View Post
The thing is though, my cymbals are distorting. Those aren't exactly low frequencies! I'll try that though.
Low frequency issues can cause distortion anywhere. If you have an unruly note at 55Hz, your cymbals will get pushed up into the threshold of your limiter 55 times per second, making for a very heavily textured distortion.


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Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
The thing that strikes me about this post is how how ends in "and I'm still distorting". A more fitting reaction would be "so of course it's distorting".

You gotta' either be much kinder to your sonics if you don't want distortion, or you have to stop caring that the song distorts. You can't beat it to death and lament that it is battered.

If you want it cleaner, try more manual volume adjustments of individual notes and less processing. Manually set the volume of every note on every track if you have to.
This is the best thing I've seen in this thread so far. You're limited to the laws of physics here. Most rock music generally can live at about -20dB to -14dBfs RMS without any real effort given to making it loud aside from normalization. Anything you do to make it louder will cause distortion. Clipping causes very nasty harmonic distortion that sounds like nails shredding a chalkboard into pieces. Slow limiting causes dynamic distortion that sounds like somebody filled a basket ball with a wet sponge. You expect it to make a great sound when it hits the floor, but it just goes "flop" instead. Fast limiting gets you something in between clipping and slow limiting. Those are the tools you have available for "making it loud". How could you possibly make not only the entire snare drum's sound, but the vocal, bass, the most subtle of backing vocal etc. constantly hit full scale without it distorting? Most modern pop stuff is around -4dBfs RMS. IT IS ALL DISTORTED and some of it outright crackles with how bad it is. You're more sensitive to your music because you know what the undistorted mix sounds like. If you want to make your master that hot, you'll have to turn down the bass and all the drums, emphasizing vocals over everything else. Make sure the overall frequency response is pretty flat. It's OK to have a bit of a hump around 3-5KHz because human hearing is more sensitive to that range and it'll sound louder than if there's a dip in that range. Anywhere else, rises in the audio spectrum are bad because they make the limiter & clipper work harder. Beyond that, you just have to live with it sounding bad in order to get those kinds of levels. You'll need both limiting AND clipping to get the levels that hot. You'll want to clip everything above nominal levels of the mix to get rid of those pesky spikes from the drums, then limit to bring up everything else, then clip again and again in several small stages. Crack open a beer and enjoy the fruits of the loudness war.
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#32
12th December 2012
Old 12th December 2012
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Originally Posted by lucey View Post
A great ME can make a great mix loud in a good way ... in about 20 seconds.

...there are only a handful of people in the world with the monitoring and skill to pull off that kind of mixing style ... most will do more harm than good...
Brian, can you expand on this a bit for everyone like me who is still learning?

What skill set and tools does a world class ME have that a world class mixing engineer does not have? Is it mostly a fresh perspective?
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12th December 2012
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Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
Mix at low volume. If it sounds loud and present at low volume, well it will sound loud and present at loud volume. As has been mentioned, it's all about "perceived loudness." People turn to compression for loudness---NO!!!! It's all about frequency balance. Those super-loud mixes sound good because the compression is only used when needed. If you can't push your 2buss limiter into the -10/-8 range without it still sounding pretty good, your mix is the problem. Hard limiting/compression will only accentuate the frequency problems inherent in the mix.
Great point. Frequency balance is the best part of a great mix.

That's why I started to sell mix speakers on the side, even though it's unorthodox ... people always ask "what does my mix need" and besides better tracking and better arrangements, which can't be fixed come mix time ... the answer is very often better monitoring, so the freq balances are better without a lot of hassle.

The second best part of a great mix is a balance of transients to compression that suits the style. And again, the monitor can mask compression and distortion too much.
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Originally Posted by Nonlinear View Post
Brian, can you expand on this a bit for everyone like me who is still learning?

What skill set and tools does a world class ME have that a world class mixing engineer does not have? Is it mostly a fresh perspective?
We are all still learning ... my point in the first post was that mixing loud is not the solution to a loud master, and yet there are a lot of people talking about limiters as a panacea lately. Just because you got some free ones in your plug in bundle and Tchad can do it with his 30 years of experience and $19,000 speakers in a tight room doesn't mean you can do limiters at mixing on your $1500 or less speakers in a bad room and not do damage. Compression to transient balance and frequency balance are the thing you want. Better monitoring can't be overstated. It seems boring but it's everything.

As far as your question ... the skill set of a mixer and a mastering engineer are completely different. The gear is not so different. Mastering is from a mindset of overview and musicality. Potential vs. where it sits ... what does this thing want to be based on what it is now and the style, fasion and trends, how it will be perceived etc.? I see the whole and work back to the parts. The mixer and the artist are much closer to the source, forging something from nothing. Mastering is looking back from the end with the mix as the start. Mixers should be grabbing things aggressively and making bold moves. Creating the vision of the mix from the inspiration of the song. Mastering is bold only by subtlety ... the parameters are way way tighter. Completing the vision, not creating it or shaping it like a mix does ... small is big in mastering, everything in a more subtle way. this of course assumes great monitoring, which is again, huge. Even bigger in mastering obviously. Then the art of the craft. How does track one set the tone? ... how do 2 and 3 counter expectations? How does the record or this single seat the artist at this moment in their career? How does this or that tonal balance make this music current or dated, make this singer sound famous or more ignorable? Make this a pop or a rock record? Where does what I'm doing place this music in the pantheon of all that has come before on first impression and over time? These are my thoughts more than creativity on one mix, the mixers job.

The mastering room is key, the gear is not ... only is the signature tone of the ME and the best for his or her work flow. Mixers rooms are less exact and more suited to creativity. The actual knobs are nothing much at mastering. EQ and limiter and maybe some subtle MS tweak. The perspective is really very different. I always say that you can learn anything, but you're born a mixer or mastering engineer by how you hear. I hear harmonics and frequencies over details like snare tone or guitar. Sometimes I don't know the music 10 minutes later because it was a feeling.
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#34
12th December 2012
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Awesome reply! Thank you.
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Originally Posted by OwensDrumming View Post
I'm having trouble getting maximum volume out of my pop tracks. I'm using a limiter on my master bus and whenever I push the threshold, it distorts. I've tried using them in series and that does the same thing. Are there any tricks to get maximum loudness like you hear on today's music? I've tried several limiters and the same thing happens. Am I using the plugins wrong? Thanks.

P.S. I'm primarily using a Massey L2007 limiter. I love that thing. It's so musical.
How loud should your tracks be?? I'LL decide how loud - with my VOLUME knob!

Now go enjoy the 12/12/12 concert.
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13th December 2012
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Originally Posted by sage691 View Post
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Originally Posted by greggybud View Post
All the time people ask why their masters aren't as loud as commercial masters by ME's with years of experience. And the rest of the people are complaining about loud masters and how they were ruined in the mastering process, often by inexperienced users.
Yeah, unfortunately it's like a broken record on both sides of the equation here recently...
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13th December 2012
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Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post
That's good to hear. I was just trying to deture you from following the advice of some people that are either screwing with you or are clueless on the subject. Never do anything to the mix for the sake of anything other than good sound. If you want to compress the guitar because it sounds better that way, go for it. If you want to compress the guitar because you think it'll help you get a louder master, forget it.

Low frequency issues can cause distortion anywhere. If you have an unruly note at 55Hz, your cymbals will get pushed up into the threshold of your limiter 55 times per second, making for a very heavily textured distortion.
Thank you. I'm not tweaking a thing in the mix for mastering. It sounds great so why mess with it. I'm just trying to get it up to commercial loudness. Also about the low frequency stuff, I put a high pass filter starting at around 50hz (6 db/O) on my master buss and it seemed to help. The weird thing is that some cymbals are distorting as well. Should I low pass everything at around 10-20 khz and bring it back up with another EQ after the limiters?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OwensDrumming View Post
I'm just trying to get it up to commercial loudness.
It's been said at least twice already, but then maybe you require the services of a commercial mastering engineer?
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Originally Posted by Babaluma View Post
It's been said at least twice already, but then maybe you require the services of a commercial mastering engineer?
I know mastering engineers can do a great job (better than I could) at limiting, EQing, etc. but I want to get experience in doing it on my own for future albums. Maybe I should talk to a mastering engineer and learn how he goes about mastering for CDs. Do you know anyone who is good around the CT, NY area? Thanks
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Just so everyone's on the same page, according to this website the OP is 14 years old.

OwensDrumming - YouTube

Whether that makes a difference is up to the individual poster, but I guess from responses here that most are under the impression he's quite a bit older than that.
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If you are actually a drummer wtf are you doing trying to make pancakes - pancakes kill drums and if the earlier RUSH albums were mastered in the same way the latter ones have been spit out - nobody who even know who N. Pert is.

Drums need to move some air to sound good.
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OK, well if that's the case then I applaud the OP for trying, and the only thing that will improve your mastering skills is practice, practice, practice!!! There is no one quick fix bullet, as every track/album/artist/genre requires different things. That's what a professional ME will be able to bring to your work, experience.

Can I ask why loudness is so important for you, surely sound quality should trump that, if you really care about your music?
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Originally Posted by Babaluma View Post
OK, well if that's the case then I applaud the OP for trying, and the only thing that will improve your mastering skills is practice, practice, practice!!! There is no one quick fix bullet, as every track/album/artist/genre requires different things. That's what a professional ME will be able to bring to your work, experience.

Can I ask why loudness is so important for you, surely sound quality should trump that, if you really care about your music?
Sound quality is of utmost importance. I have a great final mix already done and now I'm on to the mastering stage. I want the outcome to be loud like all the mixes are these days. I don't want my album to be quiet compared to other new songs. If someone puts my song in a playlist with other current music, I want it to be the same volume. When I say loud, I don't mean blast your ears out. I mean loud like the new pop music.
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If things like ReplayGain and SoundCheck are on when someone is listening to their playlist, then all the songs will sound the same level anyway, whether they are crushed to death or not. The crushed to death tracks will just sound worse!

I'd say don't worry about loudness so much, especially if sound quality is of utmost importance to you.
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13th December 2012
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Originally Posted by OwensDrumming View Post
Thank you. I'm not tweaking a thing in the mix for mastering. It sounds great so why mess with it. I'm just trying to get it up to commercial loudness. Also about the low frequency stuff, I put a high pass filter starting at around 50hz (6 db/O) on my master buss and it seemed to help. The weird thing is that some cymbals are distorting as well. Should I low pass everything at around 10-20 khz and bring it back up with another EQ after the limiters?
If it already sounds great then don't worry about commercial loudness. If - I take it this is your own project? - if it makes people feel a certain way and catches their attention by virtue of content then they will turn their own volume up to enjoy it even more. That's all I was saying earlier.

I'm just frustrated by all the "keeping up with the Jones" when it comes to average levels having to be as high as someone elses. Sorry if my "volume knob" reply came across as gruff. Diplomat is not a word that accurately describes me.
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Let me chime in with the obligatory "how good are your speakers and room"...
...So, how good are they? What are you listening to when you track, mix, and master?
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Originally Posted by OwensDrumming View Post
Sound quality is of utmost importance. I have a great final mix already done and now I'm on to the mastering stage. I want the outcome to be loud like all the mixes are these days.
You're wants are contradictory here. I'll say it again. YOU CANNOT MAKE YOUR MASTERS THAT HOT WITHOUT DESTROYING THE QUALITY. YOU CANNOT, ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! If you insist on making your masters that "loud" the sound quality WILL suffer, end of story, no question about it. You can have good or you can have something that forces people to instantly skip over it as fast as they can.
If you haven't seen it already, check out.
The Loudness War - YouTube

For a real world example, there's my video.
Why I Don't Buy "Remastered" CDs. - YouTube
This remaster is about -10dBfs RMS and you can already hear obvious degradation to the impact. This was also done by a very good mastering engineer with years of practice, not a hobbyist who just got started. Mastering is a lot like playing music. It takes tools, talent, direction and lots of practice to get good at it. To get the song in my video up to the levels of modern pop music, you'll have to push it 6dB higher and in process, degrade the sound at least 4X as much.


Quote:
When I say loud, I don't mean blast your ears out. I mean loud like the new pop music.
New pop music is about as hot as it gets. A few years ago, I thought "WOW, THIS SOUNDS HORRIBLE! It couldn't possibly get any worse than this!" Now, it's even worse. The normal these days is 2dB hotter than the levels/distortion that made me stop buying new music several years ago. How many people actually notice a 2dB difference in level? That's no where near double the sound pressure level (6dB) but it's more than double the distortion. Even if you're an excellent mastering engineer like Bob Ludwig, making the master that hot will make it distort, badly. If a fake numbers game is all that matters, you have to learn to live with bad sound. If sound quality matters at all to you, you have to run the risk of somebody turning UP the volume rather than turning DOWN the volume.

Quote:
Also about the low frequency stuff, I put a high pass filter starting at around 50hz (6 db/O) on my master buss and it seemed to help. The weird thing is that some cymbals are distorting as well. Should I low pass everything at around 10-20 khz and bring it back up with another EQ after the limiters?
I wouldn't just flat out remove everything below 50Hz but listen for any extremes anywhere in the spectrum. The problem could be 40Hz, it could be 240Hz. As for the cymbals distorting, I said earlier that LF problems can cause distortion in the high end. Even if you DO take care of any spectral issue, YOU WILL GET DISTORTION in your master trying to make it that hot. Getting rid of the high end will only reduce clarity.


On a completely unrelated note, I've seen your channel. You have the potential to be a great drummer, but I suggest taking rudimentary lessons from a classically trained drummer and learn to hold the sticks properly. You'll get a lot more control and response when you play!
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Originally Posted by lucey View Post


The mastering room is key, the gear is not ... only is the signature tone of the ME and the best for his or her work flow. Mixers rooms are less exact and more suited to creativity. The actual knobs are nothing much at mastering. EQ and limiter and maybe some subtle MS tweak. The perspective is really very different. I always say that you can learn anything, but you're born a mixer or mastering engineer by how you hear. I hear harmonics and frequencies over details like snare tone or guitar. Sometimes I don't know the music 10 minutes later because it was a feeling.
Thanks for that kickass post. I really understand where you're coming from as a ME not concerned with tone but rather frequency balance.

Since you really stress the importance of the monitoring room, do you find bedroom mixes can still make a professional product? In other words, are the imbalances caused by a less-than-ideal mixing environment easily fixed provided the mix itself is good?
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14th December 2012
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Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post
You're wants are contradictory here. I'll say it again. YOU CANNOT MAKE YOUR MASTERS THAT HOT WITHOUT DESTROYING THE QUALITY. YOU CANNOT, ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! If you insist on making your masters that "loud" the sound quality WILL suffer, end of story, no question about it. You can have good or you can have something that forces people to instantly skip over it as fast as they can.
If you haven't seen it already, check out.
The Loudness War - YouTube

For a real world example, there's my video.
Why I Don't Buy "Remastered" CDs. - YouTube
This remaster is about -10dBfs RMS and you can already hear obvious degradation to the impact. This was also done by a very good mastering engineer with years of practice, not a hobbyist who just got started. Mastering is a lot like playing music. It takes tools, talent, direction and lots of practice to get good at it. To get the song in my video up to the levels of modern pop music, you'll have to push it 6dB higher and in process, degrade the sound at least 4X as much.




New pop music is about as hot as it gets. A few years ago, I thought "WOW, THIS SOUNDS HORRIBLE! It couldn't possibly get any worse than this!" Now, it's even worse. The normal these days is 2dB hotter than the levels/distortion that made me stop buying new music several years ago. How many people actually notice a 2dB difference in level? That's no where near double the sound pressure level (6dB) but it's more than double the distortion. Even if you're an excellent mastering engineer like Bob Ludwig, making the master that hot will make it distort, badly. If a fake numbers game is all that matters, you have to learn to live with bad sound. If sound quality matters at all to you, you have to run the risk of somebody turning UP the volume rather than turning DOWN the volume.



I wouldn't just flat out remove everything below 50Hz but listen for any extremes anywhere in the spectrum. The problem could be 40Hz, it could be 240Hz. As for the cymbals distorting, I said earlier that LF problems can cause distortion in the high end. Even if you DO take care of any spectral issue, YOU WILL GET DISTORTION in your master trying to make it that hot. Getting rid of the high end will only reduce clarity.


On a completely unrelated note, I've seen your channel. You have the potential to be a great drummer, but I suggest taking rudimentary lessons from a classically trained drummer and learn to hold the sticks properly. You'll get a lot more control and response when you play!
Holding the sticks the "classic" way works for Charlie Watts. If I held the sticks properly for the style of drumming in that video I might have the FAA at my door - wanting to find out how one of my sticks became embedded in the wing of the 8am American shuttle to Boston! lol I can't use classical position and perform complex fills. Ain't gonna happen.
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Originally Posted by The_K_Man View Post
Holding the sticks the "classic" way works for Charlie Watts. If I held the sticks properly for the style of drumming in that video I might have the FAA at my door - wanting to find out how one of my sticks became embedded in the wing of the 8am American shuttle to Boston! lol I can't use classical position and perform complex fills. Ain't gonna happen.
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I'm not talking about "traditional grip" which is really not the traditional grip at all, but "matched grip". You don't drop as many sticks, you have better control and better rebound. The O.P. holds his sticks really far back, between his thumb and 2nd knuckle with no other fingers supporting them. That guy from Dream Theater does fine like that, but I tried it and couldn't play worth squat.
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Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post
I'm not talking about "traditional grip" which is really not the traditional grip at all, but "matched grip". You don't drop as many sticks, you have better control and better rebound. The O.P. holds his sticks really far back, between his thumb and 2nd knuckle with no other fingers supporting them. That guy from Dream Theater does fine like that, but I tried it and couldn't play worth squat.
Ohh I see what you mean. Yeah - when I'm holding sticks I make sure the butts are at least just past the bases of my pinkies when I'm in action.

Just as with mic-swallowing and other habits, it's all about being as LOUD as possible. Some drummers think the more of the stick that is on the business side(between their hands and the drums) - the louder their strikes will be. They're swinging with their whole arms! To me, it's all in the wrists.

I think folks are seriously deafer today on avg than they were 20, 50 years ago. LOL!
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Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post
On a completely unrelated note, I've seen your channel. You have the potential to be a great drummer, but I suggest taking rudimentary lessons from a classically trained drummer and learn to hold the sticks properly. You'll get a lot more control and response when you play!
I do. Arti Dixson is my teacher. He's played with Ahmad Jamal, Michael Bolton, Harry Connick, etc.
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Originally Posted by The_K_Man View Post
They're swinging with their whole arms! To me, it's all in the wrists.
And if you really want quickness and control, it's all in the fingers.
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I dunno... I turn the knobs on my EQs and compressors with my whole arm and it works great for me...
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Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
Thanks for that kickass post. I really understand where you're coming from as a ME not concerned with tone but rather frequency balance.

Since you really stress the importance of the monitoring room, do you find bedroom mixes can still make a professional product? In other words, are the imbalances caused by a less-than-ideal mixing environment easily fixed provided the mix itself is good?
Well, a professional result is always possible but the quality of that is more subtle and objective. Professional is a very broad term.

Arrangement

Tracking room
Tracking mics
Tracking AD
Tracking Engineer

Mix room
Mix speakers
Mixer

It all matters.

Mastering can make up for many weaknesses but it all matters.
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Rossd25 is offline
First, the mix has to be loud.

Second, you will never get all of your loudness out of a single limiter plugin. I have also found that a chain of two limiters on the master bus sounds strange and unnatural (despite the lower pumping artifacts). I stopped pushing limiters years ago and now aim for about -1.5 to -3.0 decibels of gain reduction at most. It almost always sounds better and more like the natural mix, but then again I don't make contemporary pop music and have to compete on that level (thankfully).

What you will have is a crushed mess dynamically. If you know how to do it well (like Radiohead for instance) you can crush all of your dynamics without terrible clipping and distortion. I think that is applying compression/limiting at all stages of recording, mixing, and mastering, not just at the end.
#59
15th December 2012
Old 15th December 2012
  #59
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Joined: Nov 2012
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Paradox is offline
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rossd25 View Post
First, the mix has to be loud.

Second, you will never get all of your loudness out of a single limiter plugin. I have also found that a chain of two limiters on the master bus sounds strange and unnatural (despite the lower pumping artifacts). I stopped pushing limiters years ago and now aim for about -1.5 to -3.0 decibels of gain reduction at most. It almost always sounds better and more like the natural mix, but then again I don't make contemporary pop music and have to compete on that level (thankfully).

What you will have is a crushed mess dynamically. If you know how to do it well (like Radiohead for instance) you can crush all of your dynamics without terrible clipping and distortion. I think that is applying compression/limiting at all stages of recording, mixing, and mastering, not just at the end.
I find the more I use compression/limiting on individual tracks, the less I have to use on the final master. The less I use on the master, the more natural it sounds.
Sebastian S
#60
15th December 2012
Old 15th December 2012
  #60
Sebastian S
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Loud mix (-12 dBFS RMS you got a looooooot of headroom ), then ''squash'' the compressor, maximizer and the limiter and you got it!
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