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RMS - What's the message ME's???
Old 16th November 2009
  #1
RMS - What's the message ME's???

So, I just have just produced an album mastered by Fred Kervorkian and I gave the instructions that I wanted "fidelity over absolute volume".

The masters that I have received have been similar to the mixes, but with greatly increased loudness (I sent dynamic mixes with little buss processing) and some eq fixes (meaning he kept the original mixes very intact except for fixing problems while getting them loud).

My average RMS is around -12 for the album and some of the band have commented on how their songs are quieter that others on a playlist in itunes. I have explained how this means that they album retains more sound quality and dynamics on a good system and the band is satisfied.

Now I read here that some ME's are dismissing more dynamic masters as "too quiet" - one of the big reasons I decided to give the ME the freedom to do his job as based on THIS FORUM, and I find it very disheartening that this is an industry attitude.

This is my first major album about to be released as a producer and I am now second guessing myself do to the loudness war.

So ME's what is the message - that I should have demanded a -5 rms to be "competitive" or that this approach is the correct one and I have some balls for choosing sound quality???


(BTW - I believe in the bands material - indie pop rock - and I think that being quiet may even be it's own advantage as people reach over to turn up the "great song")
Old 16th November 2009
  #2
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MAzevedo's Avatar
 

Where have you seen folks on this forum dismissing masters as 'too quiet'?

I think -14 to -12dBfs is pretty close to the ideal level for a pop record, but it is definitely low for the industry average in 2009. It sounds like you asked for a dynamic album and got one, I don't see where the problem is here.
Old 16th November 2009
  #3
I am referring to comments made in the "Bob Katz Rocks" thread by various professional ME's.
Old 16th November 2009
  #4
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Waltz Mastering's Avatar
 

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1 Review written
Do what ever sounds right and serves your music the best, and do what you'll be happy with in the long run.

People listen to music they like, and music sounds good to them not because it 2 or 3 db louder or softer than the next guy.

Outside of GS, there's not that big of a war goin on...
Old 16th November 2009
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hardtoe View Post
I am referring to comments made in the "Bob Katz Rocks" thread by various professional ME's.
Hardtoe:

If the mix sounds good at the level you print it, that should be the answer.

I feel as though the mastering engineers work is based on mine. I refuse to base my work on his.

peace
A/B
Old 16th November 2009
  #6
Thanks guys, this is what I was hoping people would say - BTW I am very happy with the job Fred did on the mastering, this thread is just about volume insecurity and the guidelines supported by professional ME's. Most seems to have a "the client made me do it - I would have loved to leave it less cruched" kind of attitude, but then some are actually encouraging very high RMS by creating doubt with comments like "yes, but is it loud enough".
Old 16th November 2009
  #7
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Alécio Costa's Avatar
 

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Not numbers but sound but most of my stuff leaves between -13 and -10.8 ( choruses peaking at -9 or -8).
Old 17th November 2009
  #8
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It also depends on your intended market. Is there a label involved? Is it a wide release or a niche market? What are the records from the competition, or other bands on the label doing about level? Is there radio support? In some cases, commercial reality or unavoidable input from label or radio means you can't completely ignore level. However, being a couple dB lower than the competition will probably allow you to gain some dynamics without being jarringly dissimilar. However, if the competition is between -6 and -8 (which is unfortunate, but not uncommon), you probably won't be able to get away with anything below -10.

Here's an example. I just remastered something originally done by Vlado Meller. He's known as the loud guy, the radio guy. This adult contemporary song caught the attention of a radio station that decided to promote it to the rest of the stations across the country in their chain. However, they decided it had to be LOUDER before they would start pushing it. They sent it back to Vlado a second and even a third time. It still wasn't loud enough for them.

It's a shame. I have to say, Vlado's first master was actually really tasteful. It got loud at the end for the big crescendo, and allowed some dynamics in the delicate part up front. It actually sounded really good. So imagine my lot in life if the third attempt by Vlado, Mr. Loud, was too quiet for them, and I have to make it even crazier. They wanted the first note of the intro to literally be just as loud as the crescendo near the end.

But hey, they said, "do this and we put your song in rotation on a bunch of stations coast to coast." It made the song. In this case, they essentially became the client. The artist and producer really liked the sound of the first one (as did I), understood everything about what they were giving up by slamming it, but without the slam, they don't get the promotion and all the adds. No-brainer. We made a super-loud radio edit.
Old 17th November 2009
  #9
I have heard that super slammed is worse on radio due to multiband-broadcast limiting?

No???

Sorry to hear that story - the group I am working with is very indie, so it's not like I'm looking for hip-hop (or adult contemporary??? ) levels.

I can see where ME's get the stress of "loud enough?" syndrome.

It must really suck to have developed such pristine hearing skills and a perfect listening environment, only to turn around and use it to find a way to minimize damage while crushing music. (Not to mention this being due to foolish decisions made by people who are not knowledgable).

Maybe it will become underground and hip to have a quieter record as the majors crush to the limit (maybe this is already happening and I'm part of it???)

I feel for you guys
Old 17th November 2009
  #10
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jayfrigo's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hardtoe View Post
I have heard that super slammed is worse on radio due to multiband-broadcast limiting?

No???
Unfortunately true. But don't try to tell them that.

Quote:
Sorry to hear that story - the group I am working with is very indie, so it's not like I'm looking for hip-hop (or adult contemporary??? ) levels.

I can see where ME's get the stress of "loud enough?" syndrome.

It must really suck to have developed such pristine hearing skills and a perfect listening environment, only to turn around and use it to find a way to minimize damage while crushing music. (Not to mention this being due to foolish decisions made by people who are not knowledgable).
Not as fun as it could have been, but in the end, everybody was happy, the artists were really cool, they got to #34 on the charts, did a Christmas remake, and the checks didn't bounce; so there have been far worse gigs.
Old 17th November 2009
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayfrigo View Post
a radio station that decided to promote it to the rest of the stations across the country in their chain. However, they decided it had to be LOUDER before they would start pushing it.
Quote:
I have heard that super slammed is worse on radio due to multiband-broadcast limiting?
Quote:
Unfortunately true. But don't try to tell them that.
Wow, that is really weird. The radio station itself insisting on a louder master, all the while knowing that they will slam it again? It must be like a brick when you hear it on the air.

Mychal
Old 17th November 2009
  #12
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dub3000's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jayfrigo View Post
It also depends on your intended market. Is there a label involved? Is it a wide release or a niche market? What are the records from the competition, or other bands on the label doing about level? Is there radio support? In some cases, commercial reality or unavoidable input from label or radio means you can't completely ignore level. However, being a couple dB lower than the competition will probably allow you to gain some dynamics without being jarringly dissimilar. However, if the competition is between -6 and -8 (which is unfortunate, but not uncommon), you probably won't be able to get away with anything below -10.

Here's an example. I just remastered something originally done by Vlado Meller. He's known as the loud guy, the radio guy. This adult contemporary song caught the attention of a radio station that decided to promote it to the rest of the stations across the country in their chain. However, they decided it had to be LOUDER before they would start pushing it. They sent it back to Vlado a second and even a third time. It still wasn't loud enough for them.

It's a shame. I have to say, Vlado's first master was actually really tasteful. It got loud at the end for the big crescendo, and allowed some dynamics in the delicate part up front. It actually sounded really good. So imagine my lot in life if the third attempt by Vlado, Mr. Loud, was too quiet for them, and I have to make it even crazier. They wanted the first note of the intro to literally be just as loud as the crescendo near the end.

But hey, they said, "do this and we put your song in rotation on a bunch of stations coast to coast." It made the song. In this case, they essentially became the client. The artist and producer really liked the sound of the first one (as did I), understood everything about what they were giving up by slamming it, but without the slam, they don't get the promotion and all the adds. No-brainer. We made a super-loud radio edit.
i don't get overly hung up on the loudness thing as long as it isn't taken to crazy extremes (sometimes loud sounds good, and it's nice to have a little bit of consistency when you put a bunch of stuff on shuffle) but that story makes me sad on a whole bunch of levels.
Old 17th November 2009
  #13
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Bob Yordan's Avatar
Hopefully someone will soon find a work around for evil RMS radio stations.

Cause they seem to be the source of the loudness war.



Old 17th November 2009
  #14
Mastering
 

How ironic. I've NEVER heard of anyone before where Vlado wasn't loud enough for them! He must be turning it down lately :-).

BK
Old 17th November 2009
  #15
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I guess a reminder is in order for all the mastering "engineers" and producers, what level and loudness actually is.

I personally still haven't figured out, how you guys all the time talk about increasing the volume and loudness for the people listening.

By telekinetics, turning their volume up or down remote controlled?

When I got my masters degree back in the days, we had learned that all you could do is influence the dynamic of the program. Volume/level would depend on the listening side. Loudness as well, plus on perception.

Why everybody here talks about volume and loudness?
Is this about the Emperor's new clothes?
Old 17th November 2009
  #16
Mastering
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by audio ergo sum View Post
I guess a reminder is in order for all the mastering "engineers" and producers, what level and loudness actually is.

I personally still haven't figured out, how you guys all the time talk about increasing the volume and loudness for the people listening.

By telekinetics, turning their volume up or down remote controlled?

When I got my masters degree back in the days, we had learned that all you could do is influence the dynamic of the program. Volume/level would depend on the listening side. Loudness as well, plus on perception.

Why everybody here talks about volume and loudness?
Is this about the Emperor's new clothes?
In general, you are right, we engineers have NO CONTROL over the consumer's volume control. But there is a such thing as "intrinsic loudness", which is the difference in the center of gravity of two different master recordings when the consumer holds his volume control (monitor gain) at a fixed level. The "couch potato" effect.

For example, where Itunes is playing singles from all sorts of albums, or the CD Changer. That's where the relative loudness between different releases causes our artists to feel insecure. Does this help clarify the issue?
Old 17th November 2009
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob katz View Post
In general, you are right, we engineers have NO CONTROL over the consumer's volume control. But there is a such thing as "intrinsic loudness", which is the difference in the center of gravity of two different master recordings when the consumer holds his volume control (monitor gain) at a fixed level. The "couch potato" effect.

For example, where Itunes is playing singles from all sorts of albums, or the CD Changer. That's where the relative loudness between different releases causes our artists to feel insecure. Does this help clarify the issue?
Maybe it all starts, when an artist cares about a couch potato.
Is he still an artist then? Or "only" an ordinary business man trying to make a buck.

I could care less, if it wasn't reaching a dimension, where a whole generation is becoming desensitized to actual music. Except for Classical and Jazz, it's almost 99% acoustic pornography what you can buy these days.

Nothing of that has to do with art. Just imagine the painter who would say he must paint as bright as his colleague, in order to be recognized. What a joke ...
Old 17th November 2009
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by audio ergo sum View Post
Maybe it all starts, when an artist cares about a couch potato.
Is he still an artist then? Or "only" an ordinary business man trying to make a buck.

I could care less, if it wasn't reaching a dimension, where a whole generation is becoming desensitized to actual music. Except for Classical and Jazz, it's almost 99% acoustic pornography what you can buy these days.

Nothing of that has to do with art. Just imagine the painter who would say he must paint as bright as his colleague, in order to be recognized. What a joke ...
I agree with most of this and it is why I let Kevorkian do his job with the focus being on sound quality. There is, however, the reality of the "relative" volume of things such as itunes playlists as Bob pointed out - some things are so loud that they really skew the median (I also listen to lots of classic funk, soul with more modern stuff, so my playback requires constant volume adjustment - some pretty drastic volume jumps can happen). The way people listen today seems to be based much more on playlists and much less on full albums (IMO), so it is something to consider when understanding the final listening experience - this is not just some imaginary sloth dribbling dip on his belly, but almost anyone who listens to a portable player (most listeners - many of whom have very good headphones and stereo's to plug their mp3 player into)

What that has to do with art is that many artists feel that they are getting the short end of the stick with a quieter final product because loud seems better at first listen - once the quality of a sonic and dynamic master is demonstrated to them, they are likely to understand and support a reasonable RMS as they want highest quality for their music (at least the people I work with). The more ME's and producers who promote this idea, the more things will start to sound better.

Musicians make music (perhaps "art" if it's good) - producers develop it and ME's finalize it. It is up to us to help the industry go in a better direction. This thread is not about the art itself, but how it is delivered to the public and what ME's feel about RMS levels in todays climate - I was just bringing it to the forums attention that some ME's seemed to be fostering this RMS anxiety by their comments on gearslutz. I wanted to find out what most ME's think about these kind of comments.

I'm actually not really all that insecure about my RMS (is that a modern syndrome specific to producers???) as I fully understood from the start that I was asking for a dynamic master and all the sonic bliss it brings. But, I am enjoying the discussions and opinions from the pros on the subject.
Old 17th November 2009
  #19
Gear Nut
 

-12 RMS is plenty loud if you ask me, sounds like a job well done.

Isn't it funny when it comes to TV adds, I've often heard viewers complain about how loud they are and how they have to turn down the volume when they come on.
If only the same were true of music!
It seems that it's really the inconvenience of having to alter the volume, whether it's music or TV, that people react negatively to, rather than it being a preference for loud material.
(Though I understand that people will tend to show a tendency for louder=better in listening tests).
I suspect that if most music was mastered at a lower level, people would complain about the louder tracks as they would be what's making them adjust their volume (being in the minority) rather than the other way round.
Old 17th November 2009
  #20
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jayfrigo's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by bob katz View Post
How ironic. I've NEVER heard of anyone before where Vlado wasn't loud enough for them! He must be turning it down lately :-).

BK
I was surprised too, but credit where credit is due. His first one was a good master.
Old 17th November 2009
  #21
Lives for gear
It doesn't make any sense. If I'm running a radio station, I'm going to listen to the audio expert I'm paying to make me a master. If he tells me my station will sound better if the master sounds like X, I want X.

Who are those guys listening to for advice on what their stations sound like?

Mychal
Old 17th November 2009
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peakly View Post
...
Who are those guys listening to for advice on what their stations sound like?
Orban sales guy. Tells them they will increase their range, their loudness, their listener base, their revenue from advertising.

You've got to know something about radio and sound, in order to resist. And who owning a radio station knows much about sound?
Old 17th November 2009
  #23
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Hysteria's Avatar
 

The recently released KISS album (Sonic Boom) was about -12. Kiss have never shied away from sales.

Great recording too! If you like KISS
Old 17th November 2009
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Yordan View Post
Hopefully someone will soon find a work around for evil RMS radio stations.
...
Radio is dying.

That's the workaround.
Old 17th November 2009
  #25
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andsonic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Masterer View Post
Radio is dying.

That's the workaround.
Yes, but...

A lot of stations around here are pushing their "HD" channels. Which to me sound worse then their analog equivalents.
...and the 3 local (& locally owned) "listen at work" stations are trying to out-loud each other. If I switch from the local NPR/roots rock station to the local AC station I'll get bleeding ears.
Old 18th November 2009
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Waltz Mastering View Post
Outside of GS, there's not that big of a war goin on...
What... like:
Mutual assured destruction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Quote:
Originally Posted by jayfrigo View Post
No-brainer. We made a super-loud radio edit.
"No-brainer" indeed, since the smashed version undoubtedly had less impact and less loudness on the radio than your "director's cut" would have had.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Hardtoe View Post
I have heard that super slammed is worse on radio due to multiband-broadcast limiting?

No???
Yes. But not just because it's multiband processing, but because the processors actually have a considerably tweakable topology "inside" and 95% of the stations out there don't even consider hiring a consultant that *really* knows wtf they are doing. It can take about a week of really tweaking and listening and stepping back from the rack (or remote gui) for a while... before you nail the sound the station wants AND retain the consistency that the boxes can get if they are close to perfectly tweaked by a well trained & experienced ear & mind.

By the way... this consistency CAN be had without just resorting to crushing the living bejesus out of everything. But half of the battle is having an excellent broadcast audio processor.

Opinion warning: Omnias are getting pretty decent if well controlled and with little use of the dynamic high-frequency shelving EQ. Orbans are actually getting progressively worse since the 8200.

Spoiler warning: Omnia has two new boxes coming out, one that I've been heavily involved with, and they are both going to revolutionize not only the way that people control what they want to get from audio processing, but they are bringing back CLARITY back to FM radio - completely free of audible distortion without compromising the loudness. Actually... the one I'm involved with is even louder than an Orban 8500 cranked to the max, yet is considerably cleaner than any other processor that's ever been created, even cleaner than the upcoming Omnia flagship which is also a large jump from current Omnias. For the sake of Orban Corp, I would hope that Bob and Gregg have something in the oven. A little competition is good.



Quote:
Originally Posted by hilander74 View Post
Isn't it funny when it comes to TV adds, I've often heard viewers complain about how loud they are and how they have to turn down the volume when they come on.
The main guy behind the upcoming Omnia distributed processor I've been working with... released a product for processing TV/audio signals that was essentially an Orban 8200 (which retailed for ~$8 grand 1992 dollars) without the bass clipping and with an added noise reduction... for $49.95 i think it was. It eventually got picked up and produced by Audiovox, but after they filed for Chapter-whatever, it never made it back to the production line. At any rate... if you can find one of them out there...

Oh wow, I stand corrected, I just did a search and a sub-company of the reformed Audiovox is now making them again, for only $23.94 on Amazon, amazing.
Amazon.com: Terk VR1 Automatic TV Volume Controller: Electronics
And even slightly under 20 bucks from a bunch of other retailers, check Google shopping.

Another thing these boxes work WONDERS for is speech recording, for instance at a church. I bought a master pack of 20 of these things a few years ago, and installed all but two of them in local area churches, and they have just went coocoo for coco-pops about the sound they get from it on cassette & CD-R. I made 2-3 bucks doing it too.

Not a bad price for most of the topology in what is still imho Orban's best/cleanest processor to date which still fetch around 3-4 grand used... and setup nice & slow so it doesn't totally kill the dynamics of stuff like a movie. Just loud commercials, and long-term average differences between the channels.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Peakly View Post
It doesn't make any sense. If I'm running a radio station, I'm going to listen to the audio expert I'm paying to make me a master. If he tells me my station will sound better if the master sounds like X, I want X.

Who are those guys listening to for advice on what their stations sound like?
As I mentioned before... only about 5% of the stations out there bother to hire a consultant who is really good at tuning broadcast processing. SO it's usually diverted to an electronics "geek" who they call the Chief Engineer (aka do-all "monkey boy" that does most anything electronic related that doesn't involve climbing) or even worse in some cases... the Program Director. And as audio_ergo_sum mentioned, sometimes they at least have the sense to call up the support number for whoever manufactured their box, but the likelyhood of the person calling being able to accurately convey any problems, and support being able to tell them exactly how to "fix" them, is kinda down to luck. But I wouldn't say they always tell people to turn up stuff to get more listeners. The broadcast processor companies (some more than others) know that many times a more open & clean sound gets way more listeners and more importantly gets much more "stickyness" where listeners spend a lot more time listening.

When I was working at radioio for instance, we were #1 online for 2.5 years running as rated by Arbitron and Ando Media. The processing I designed for it was pretty rad... it did much of what current radio processing does but it was designed to have an output that had the same loudness and close to the same dynamics as the input. All of the average loudness change was just done using a simple and very slow AGC before the rest of the processing. None of the dynamics changes were done using multibands or any hard limiters, just subtle dynamic EQ correction using... very effective methods I do not wish to reveal at this point, but capable of doing so with much less brute than current publicly-known techniques allow.

When we did adjust up the AGC to a point where the pre codec protection limiters were starting to get used more than 2-3db at the most, we actually did get emails/calls from a lot of people that noticed. Big time. Even with the 1-2db point, we had a few listeners with truly high end systems that were using 2-3db of expansion to (oh boy, here we go again) try to undo some of the dynamics lost during limiting.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Masterer View Post
Radio is dying.

That's the workaround.
Actually, not even close. The recent numbers I've seen show radio is still the majority compared to ALL other forms of music/speech listening COMBINED, in ALL categories including CDs, downloads, and streaming. But radio does especially well in the car with over 75% of all listening forms... FM/AM radio is king still. Sorry, but you're dead wrong. (pun un-intended)


Quote:
Originally Posted by andsonic View Post
A lot of stations around here are pushing their "HD" channels. Which to me sound worse then their analog equivalents.
...and the 3 local (& locally owned) "listen at work" stations are trying to out-loud each other. If I switch from the local NPR/roots rock station to the local AC station I'll get bleeding ears.
HD radio is an epic failure. Beyond belief. The wasted ad dollars literally goes into SEVERAL BILLIONs of dollars. The lack of quality is two fold, partially lack of proper audio processing for HD which is even less understood by the pundits running most station's processing... but also the compression itself. The *best* HD radio gets is two channels (of content, actually 4-channels of sound, but i digress) of PS-AAC @ 44.1kHz 32kbps stereo. The next step up in channel & meta-data count degrades to 44.1kHz 24kbps stereo... all the way down to the worst which is 1 channel of 44.1kHz 24kbps stereo, with the remaining 5 channels at 32kHz 16kbps mono.

Even sadder? AM HD not only sounds even worse, but it requires spectrum for the data that is in the audio sideband. AM doesn't have any extra services on it, so it requires that the standard AM channel be bandwidth reduced to 4.5kHz to fit in the data. So you get crappy HD signal AND also a crappy AM signal. On the contrary... NTSC / CQUAM AM Stereo can hit 10kHz bandwidth and actually can sound pretty freaking good for AM with the right processing. The real kicker is the HD signal causes such a massive interference that it's not even legal to run the signal at night.

Moral of the story... HD radio is completely backed by egotistical station owners who are desperately trying to justify spending the insane amount of ad money on pushing HD radio... so they have to push it more. The hole is not filling up, it's getting deeper. If you look at the HD radio sales, it's truly a sad story, even with a few (very few) select vehicles coming with them built in. Mark my words, in 3 years there will be more cars that are capable of playing streaming radio from the internet, than off-air HD radio. If that.

-J

p.s. holy crap this was a long post :P
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