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Approach to A/B loudness workflow 2019 (pre & post Processing) Metering & Analysis Plugins
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
Gear Addict
 

Approach to A/B loudness workflow 2019 (pre & post Processing)

Hello peers!

This is something I have been trying to wrap my head around for a while now in these modern times with LUFS values and other cleverness.

For all years I have matched changes I made with EQ by ear -Bypass EQ after the change and adjust the EQ main Output - Like most of us. Clearly not the optimal solution but I'm fairly sure this is how we all did it up until recently.

I got some excellent advice from this forum (the Workflow thread) using LUFS to -normalize- my audio (each song) before I send it to my outboard gear and back to the DAW again.

The problem shows after this process.

Particularly when changing my EQ settings after using my old trusted A/B match by ear. I conclude that I can read my LUFS value before I EQ the audio, then watch it again after my EQ setting to see the change and dial my EQ Output so it resetsto the previous LUFS value.
In - some - cases this works out okay but far from always. Often it becomes too bright. I generally don't use huge attenuation or adds with any EQ. Here lies the core of the problem! And the following does not make it any better:

The more I have been using the able tools from Tokyo Dawn Labs with their excellent auto-gain adjustment feature as well as the auto-TRIM (on Nova) the more I sink into the swamp of confusion.

When I let Nova EQ do it's own auto-gain the LUFS values does not match up. So I think their method of A/B matching does not rely on LUFS.
Besides, it gets further thrown off when I use the auto-TRIM to adjust the output to match the input signal. It easily gets too bright if I also auto-TRIM.

So after this long essence of the problem presented and interesting to discuss I hope:

A) What is the modern preferred & appropriate way to work with A/B matching? If any?

B) Should we trust the active auto-gain and skip the TRIM function? Or should we EQ without the active auto-gain and use only the TRIM?

C) For outboard EQ should we reset the LUFS value to its previous state after EQ?

D) When using digital EQ to clean up peaks or mud (before sending it to main EQ) do we apply A/B matching in the same way? Assume that we have a resonant peak at 250hz and we use a narrow cut. After we reset the LUFS value that now has changed due to the cut, instead we boosted the harmonics of the 250hz resonance and the over all signal of the broadband. How do we solve this?

So much to think about and learn.

I hope I'm not the sole engineer feeling lost with this.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
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Virtalahde's Avatar
 

Verified Member
I don't A/B much these days. It's distracting, and I tend to listen to the difference instead of what the master sounds like. A/B'ing also takes away from the precious, fresh, first impression time you have with the master. Tweak it for too long and you're lost.

But I understand this isn't everyone's cup of tea. When I A/B'd, I simply lowered the ceiling of my limiter to match the output of the original mix file. The mix is output to the chain through AES outputs 3+4.. master (with the limiter) at outputs 1+2. Then I just tapped off these outputs with my Little Labs AES router. And bypassed pre-chain plug-ins manually.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
I do A/B a lot when working on a track but in a "Before and after the chain" way and not each processor which doesn't really ake sense to me. (The chain is a whole)
And I do it at a certain time when I've brung the song where it feels well.

To do this you have two ways that I know :
- You can do the normalisation by hand playing the same part of the song going from source to destination with DMG Dualism : DMG Audio : Products : Dualism
- Or you could use Perception by Meterplug : Perception: eliminate "loudness deception" (AAX, AU and VST) which does that automatically.

I tend to prefer the first way because I like to put the master -0.1dB quieter than the source to be sure about what I'm bringing to the table.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
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mastermat's Avatar
 

I do it all by ear with a only glimpse at the LUFS meter...if there´s a big difference between what my ears tell me and the LUFS meter I stick with what I´m hearing!
numbers can lie! I usually know in advance if the LUFS will be different for ceratain tracks..I can´t exactly say why but some tracks just measure way off from what human brains are percepting..I think it has a lot to do with low end energy but not allways. the loudness algorithms are very very far from being perfect! human ears (minds) are better if they are trained.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
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SmoothTone's Avatar
 

I'm finding the more time I spend in this room, the less I'm A/B-ing. I'm just trying to make it sound good compared to the internalised reference of what sounds good in this room.

That's not to say that I don't get lost or that my perspective doesn't get skewed or thrown off sometimes. When that happens I use my strategies to try get back on track: A/B, reference tracks, take a break, listen somewhere else, etc.

I find where A/B comps are still essential is when I'm not completely sure a move is helping or I'm less sure whether the benefit outweighs the side-effects.

I'm generally comfortable matching the processed signal with the unprocessed signal by ear. Where I like to use LUFS (integrated or short term) metering for A/B matching is when there's fairly large tonal changes involved or dynamics or harmonics processes that alter perceived loudness in subtle ways and more easily fool the (my) ears.

For this, I have an instance of Limitless always open and can reference the LUFS meter in that. Other times I use the Reaper loudness tool (LOVE that thing!). Sometimes I just run a tone throught the chain and match on the peak meter.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
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if levels seem to be way off, i re-adjust the output of the eq manually to compensate for level loss if needed; a small difference usually gets leveled out by the comp/lim following the eq though, so i'm not really having issues with level offsets when tweaking eq.

and i feed my hardware measurement devices pre fader levels from the monitoring outputs of my daw so i can always see what's going on with my master: no need for re-adjusting.

Last edited by deedeeyeah; 3 weeks ago at 01:43 PM.. Reason: edited for clarification
Old 3 weeks ago
  #7
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Hermetech Mastering's Avatar
 

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Still a combo of TDR plugin matching and Crookwood A/B switches hear (can ABCDEFGH 8 sources to within 1/4dB).
Old 3 weeks ago
  #8
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b0se's Avatar
This is handy:

AB_LM

Free Reaper JSFX version also: Professional Audio Tools

Quote:
Originally Posted by SmoothTone View Post
Other times I use the Reaper loudness tool (LOVE that thing!). Sometimes I just run a tone throught the chain and match on the peak meter.
Do you mean the SWS extension?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by b0se View Post
This is handy (and free):
Ahem It's freee for 90 seconds, kinda.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #10
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b0se's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Henrik Hjortnaes View Post
Ahem It's freee for 90 seconds, kinda.
Wires crossed with the Reaper version
Old 3 weeks ago
  #11
Lives for gear
This:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Virtalahde View Post
I don't A/B much these days. It's distracting, and I tend to listen to the difference instead of what the master sounds like. A/B'ing also takes away from the precious, fresh, first impression time you have with the master. Tweak it for too long and you're lost.

And this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smoothtone
I'm finding the more time I spend in this room, the less I'm A/B-ing. I'm just trying to make it sound good compared to the internalised reference of what sounds good in this room.
I don't A/B a whole lot, if I do it's generally the post-capture, limited master level matched with the mix, to make sure I didn't ruin anything. But as I'm working I just focus on making it sound good.

Obviously some records are more problematic than others, so if I'm needing to do more drastic moves I might be doing more A/B's in progress than usual. But at the same time/on the other hand, say you have a mix that is super subby and boomy...you can hear there's a problem right away...you take whatever steps to correct it...now if you A/B with the mix I think you can easily fool yourself into thinking you've taken off too much low end, when in fact you maybe haven't taken off enough. So like Dom said, I tend to just trust what I know to sound good in my room.

With a good room and calibrated monitoring levels you really don't need the meters for much. They're pretty to look at though.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #12
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Virtalahde's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by scraggs View Post
With a good room and calibrated monitoring levels you really don't need the meters for much. They're pretty to look at though.
I still like my Weston VU's. Good for all around loudness reference, and very handy for sanity bass checks too. Was that one note louder than the other? Nope, VU says it's all right.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #13
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I like my VUs too, have a whole monitor devoted to the Klanghelm VU, with the Wavelab peak meter below it.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #14
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JP__'s Avatar
 

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As we all know our brain becomes easily used to a certain sound very much, so ABing is also a way to keep us on track/open minded. I also think ABing with other references (which I mostly do at the start of day to tune the brain in) can easily leads to too much "corrective" processing which could easily kill the individual vibe of a mix.
So all these diff approaches to calibrate our brain are a two sided sword imho.
In the end the mix is what the client send me, its THE main reference therefore, but its mostly a kind of ABC here at daily work. I often even AB with myself, mostly on the first track of an album.

Last edited by JP__; 3 weeks ago at 09:02 PM..
Old 3 weeks ago
  #15
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Hermetech Mastering's Avatar
 

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Crookwood/Sifam VUs here, love them.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #16
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SmoothTone's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by b0se View Post
Do you mean the SWS extension?
Yep.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #17
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Trakworx's Avatar
I often A/B the whole chain vs the unmastered track - I find it useful for perspective - but I would never trust any meter or auto-loudness-matching software - they're just not reliable enough. By ear is the only method I trust. One hand on the mouse and one hand on the volume knob.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #18
Gear Addict
 

Great points everyone. So it seems that so far we're all not too keen to use meters and A/B.


Quote:
Originally Posted by JP__ View Post
As we all know our brain becomes easily used to a certain sound very much, so ABing is also a way to keep us on track/open minded. I also think ABing with other references (which I mostly do at the start of day to tune the brain in) can easily leads to too much "corrective" processing which could easily kill the individual vibe of a mix.
So all these diff approaches to calibrate our brain are a two sided sword imho.
In the end the mix is what the client send me, its THE main reference therefore, but its mostly a kind of ABC here at daily work. I often even AB with myself, mostly on the first track of an album.
Yes my A/B is always with the clients mix so I know I make an improvement of it.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #19
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moostapha's Avatar
 

I use MeterPlugs Perception. It seems to work rather well apart from adding some latency/delay (including when switching).
Old 3 weeks ago
  #20
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my experience is only with this one Professional Audio Tools

Only using plug-ins, eq'ing is fine but once any type of compression is applied in the end (mastering finished) to my ears can be up to 2db of difference.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #21
Gear Maniac
 

I'm not a pro, but I'm very often astonished that an effect sounded better at first but sound worse after a/b-ing loudness matched to the original. So I try do loudness match + a/b as much as possible.

I find it difficult to believe that you don't need loudness matched a/b just with more experience. But maybe I'm wrong and it it possible with more experience and better speakers/room and the need for it is just my lacking skills and a mediocre room.

Last edited by AreYouHuman; 3 weeks ago at 03:34 AM..
Old 3 weeks ago
  #22
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teebaum's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by AreYouHuman View Post
I'm not a pro, but I'm very often astonished that an effect sounded better at first but sound worse after a/b-ing loudness matched to the original. So I try do loudness match + a/b as much as possible.

I find it difficult to believe that you don't need loudness matched a/b just with more experience. But maybe I'm wrong and it it possible with more experience and better speakers/room and the need for it is just my lacking skills and a mediocre rooms.
a comparison with the same loudness is very important and cannot be replaced by anything.
i have a tool in reaper where the mix is adjusted to the same loudness (lufs short term) and i can compare at any time.
lufs short term isn't the last word either, but as a side effect you can also hear how the master is working in relation to the mix in volume adjusted players.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #23
Gear Maniac
 

Good to hear, teebaum. I started to wonder because so many people seems not to need it here in this thread.

Short term lufs is the measurement I also use.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #24
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Hermetech Mastering's Avatar
 

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I still loudness match A/B/C/D/E/F/G/H a lot.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermetech Mastering View Post
I still loudness match A/B/C/D/E/F/G/H a lot.
:-)
Old 3 weeks ago
  #26
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Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

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I've been loudness-matching since we were taught to do that at Motown during the late 1960s.
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