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why are my RMS levels still so low? Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 13th June 2006
  #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hellcat
this has all been great information, some of it even entertaining.

would it be better if i posted one of my songs (one version mastered and another non mastered), plus a "target" sound source, a la something i'm trying to match?
Great! Yeah, that would really help...
Old 13th June 2006
  #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hellcat
does the term thread hijacking mean anything to anyone here?
Yes, but that Trakker that Bob is talking about I think is really crucial in this context and also how it should be implemented in the signal chain...! So sorry if you felt like it was thread hijacking...
Old 13th June 2006
  #33
Mastering
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RainbowStorm
I'm really interested in that Cranesong Trakker! I've been using the L3 for a while, but currently I am trying to use the Waves C1 instead. Basically I feel out of options with my current gear. I pretty much stopped using the L3 after I noticed that I lost some important signal with it, dimension is everything for me. It happens though that I still make attempts to get that L3 work the way I want it to, much also because it has the best dithering algorithm I have available (Type1 Ultra)... Are you familiar with the quality of this dithering algorithm? Are there any better software/hardware alternatives? In order to replace my L3 I would need two Trakkers. I read that Cranesong has a STC-8 stereo compressor also. How does it perform compared to the Trakker? Should I choose two Trakkers or one STC-8?

What kind of converter quality is needed to do analog reroutes like this from the digital signal when you track everything directly to the DAW and want to use the Trakker after the digital mix bus?
The best converter you can afford! I use the updated Cranesong HEDD-192 and it's "up there" for sure. Very solid. There's better than that but I'd call it the icing on the cake. Perhaps a Lavry or Weiss or Prism would be incrementally better. Not done the shootout.

The Trakkers and the L2 L3 are completely different animals. You can't do the same things with them and one will never replace the other. Every compressor/limiter is going to leach the depth to some degree by the very fact that low level material is being brought up. Type 1 Ultra is a very nice dithering algorithm, it's available in the L2 as well. I personally "vacillate" among POWR-1, POWR-2, POwR-3, and Type 1 Ultra from Waves. Depending on what I'm trying to achieve, or what I'm trying to hide!

The STC-8 and the Trakker are again two different animals. You can ALMOST get the STC-8 sound with the trakker set to Optical and slow, but they really have different time constants. I used to have an STC-8 and sold it and bought the trakkers because I wanted to be able to do aggressive, which the STC-8 does not do as well. Recently I bought a customized (by the designer) Pendulum OCL-2, just to do "optical" a little sweeter than a plugin and definitely "sweeter" than the Trakker or possibly the STC-8, though my memory of the STC-8 is fading. When I need a little more "cream". But the Pendulum is an extremely transparent design, not innately "creamy" but with the custom drive circuit it can be made a little fatter. That plus some outboard transformers and I'm adding a few more pieces to the shmorgasbord.
Old 13th June 2006
  #34
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RainbowStorm
Yes, but that Trakker that Bob is talking about I think is really crucial in this context and also how it should be implemented in the signal chain...! So sorry if you felt like it was thread hijacking...
all good mate, just bustin some chops. i'm gonna try and post those files plus some screenshots soon.
Old 13th June 2006
  #35
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Masterer's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by hellcat
does the term thread hijacking mean anything to anyone here?

My point exactly.
Old 13th June 2006
  #36
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max cooper's Avatar
 

I'm printing this thread and marking it as a "must read" in 2011.

Either we'll be laughing because of how bad the loudness war was in 2006 or we'll be laughing because of how bad it hadn't gotten yet.

I'm scared to know.

Very interesting stuff, either way!
Old 13th June 2006
  #37
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robot gigante's Avatar
It seems like it's been kind of hinted at already on the thread here, but even though if all you have is plugins, you still should be able to get close to competitive levels.

However, it ain't easy!

It really comes from the mix and the especially the arrangement imho- with dance music there really is an art to getting things punchy and loud from the get-go. Some people are really really good at it, and the rest of us struggle a bit... but I would look at making the low end (kick/bass) really work, make sure your arrangements are stripped down to only what the track needs, and make sure that nothing is fighting in the mix. Sounds basic I know, but it seems like every genre has its formulas so it's harder to get much more specific than that- but the fact that most genres follow formulas means that you can dissect to a point what they are doing to get their tracks loud and punchy in the arrangement and mixing and do the same.

With that in mind when you compare your tracks to other, louder ones, see what they have and don't have compared to yours that could make your perception of them seem louder, or allow them to be louder if that makes sense, instead of starting with the thought of what you can do with the L2 or whatever.

Just a thought- seems like quite a bit of dance music gets released that hasn't been properly mastered that sounds plenty loud and punchy, although it's true that a good mastering engineer can get levels a lot hotter then with plugins.
Old 13th June 2006
  #38
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bob katz
The best converter you can afford! I use the updated Cranesong HEDD-192 and it's "up there" for sure. Very solid. There's better than that but I'd call it the icing on the cake. Perhaps a Lavry or Weiss or Prism would be incrementally better. Not done the shootout.

The Trakkers and the L2 L3 are completely different animals. You can't do the same things with them and one will never replace the other. Every compressor/limiter is going to leach the depth to some degree by the very fact that low level material is being brought up. Type 1 Ultra is a very nice dithering algorithm, it's available in the L2 as well. I personally "vacillate" among POWR-1, POWR-2, POwR-3, and Type 1 Ultra from Waves. Depending on what I'm trying to achieve, or what I'm trying to hide!

The STC-8 and the Trakker are again two different animals. You can ALMOST get the STC-8 sound with the trakker set to Optical and slow, but they really have different time constants. I used to have an STC-8 and sold it and bought the trakkers because I wanted to be able to do aggressive, which the STC-8 does not do as well. Recently I bought a customized (by the designer) Pendulum OCL-2, just to do "optical" a little sweeter than a plugin and definitely "sweeter" than the Trakker or possibly the STC-8, though my memory of the STC-8 is fading. When I need a little more "cream". But the Pendulum is an extremely transparent design, not innately "creamy" but with the custom drive circuit it can be made a little fatter. That plus some outboard transformers and I'm adding a few more pieces to the shmorgasbord.
Thanks! Very useful information!
Old 17th June 2006
  #39
urumita
 
7rojo7's Avatar
 

I've been doing this on my last few projects:
mix being very careful not to overload anything but get a good hot level to an aux buss for L&R, when I have a great sounding dynamic mix, I strap an MC4 followed by 2 STT-1s (compression, eq and tubes if I want them) and bring it back into my Prisms to a master fader that has a TC Master X3 on it, then I patch my L&R outs (always Prism) to 2 channels bussed out to a different monitor path and record my mix there (tests with clients have proven the reconversions sound better than the bounce to disc method)
My mixes sound a little dull before they hit this chain but they brighten up nicely when it gets amplified without adding any treble to brighten up the mix, if anything I have to dampen a little between 2k and 7k, and I add some 21k and off some 34Hz, for these projects anyway.
I can adjust the mix into the shredder and slightly adjust the shredder and in the end I can get my RMS to a top -9 even -8 but always hanging in the -12 to -10 area. I make some very "dynamic sounding" mixes that sound very natural (I'm even doing a solo accordeon project like this) even though they're really stepped on, it took me about 2 weeks to find this chain.
If your setting the threshold on the limiter to -3 then you're not going to get loudness without it sounding like it's being bludgeoned. I set my limiter to 0dB and my digital ceiling to-0.01dB and don't use much compression at the end.
I use compression on individual groups of instruments for musicality and color, then at the MC4 I cut the bands at 60, 240 and 960 to control the bottom and leave the top alone then the STT-1 as a sort of amplifier with about tops 2-3 dB GR the Master X3 gets me about another 3-4 dB. in the end between all the layers of compression I'm getting betwwen 9 to 12 dB of GR. I've had some success with the Sony Inflator on some material but always as part of this other chain (doesn't always sound good)
With the budgets that most bands have, even if they have support from a "label" (I explain to them that they're paying in the end anyway so they should keep it as low as possible) projects here usually get mastered here also, so this is how I've been doing it. Having good converters that have a stellar analog side and some good outboard helps.
Old 20th June 2006
  #40
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Ben F's Avatar
 

Verified Member
As stated before, with dance music the power is in the mix. Mastering can enhance the final outcome but never make a poorly mixed track sound like a slammin one.

I work with the artists and get them to bring in their Protools/Logic/Abelton session and help them get the mix right. Then they go home and tweak some more before bringing it back for mastering.

Many of the electronic music guys are not great mixers. I think it helps to come from a rock music background when mixing electronic music.
Old 24th June 2006
  #41
Gear Guru
 
lucey's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by hellcat
Hi guys, very happy to find this forum. I'm an independent DJ/Producer. I usually make custom mixes everytime I play out so it doesn't make sense to send every mix to be mastered. I tend to use har-bal + waves & izotope plugs to make my "pseudo-masters". I'm not trying to compete in the loudness war, just want to match levels to records i play so mine mix well and compete at the same level. But no matter what combination of plugs I use, the final render is still -4db to -6db short in "loudness". That's with the limiting threshold under -3db. To get my mixes to the level I want I have to smash the crap out them in L2 or izotopes limiter. Below are two links to some chains I've been using. The waves one in particular has a "dance music" chain (first one in the pdf) that sounded great but still short in loudness at the end. Am I missing something? I know my mixes aren't the greatest yet but they still sound pretty good. I render @ 24bit/44.1 ususally around -6 to -3dbfs.
You really cant avoid competing in the loudness war, if you're also "just trying to be competitive". The bar is pretty high/low to be 'normal'. Depending on what you're comparing to some smashing of L2 or clipping may be needed.

Best to post some files, and see what you're doing in terms of balances ... also to see what the mixes are doing. To get really hot levels the mix has to be at least as good as the mastering, and mix changes mean real differences in the options at mastering.
Old 27th June 2006
  #42
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey
You really cant avoid competing in the loudness war, if you're also "just trying to be competitive". The bar is pretty high/low to be 'normal'. Depending on what you're comparing to some smashing of L2 or clipping may be needed.

Best to post some files, and see what you're doing in terms of balances ... also to see what the mixes are doing. To get really hot levels the mix has to be at least as good as the mastering, and mix changes mean real differences in the options at mastering.
i'm definetely gonna post the files soon. i sent this album i'm working on to get mastered by someone. he got the levels way above what i could accomplish with LinMB, ozone3, and/or with an L2. i'm gonna ask him what his chain was after the deal is done. but now i'm not even sure i'm describing the problem correctly as "low RMS levels". i figured RMS was the perceived loudness. but i analyzed a track that is super loud that registered -5 and and lower one that was -3, so i guess i should have said why are is my perceived loudness still so low. anyway, i've read alot about mastering, ie forums, websites, manuals. but after reading some of what you guys say on here i know i'm definetely still an amatuer!

plus what Ben F said was right. you can't polish sh*t! this guy WAS able to make my mixes alot louder than i could though.
Old 22nd July 2011
  #43
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by max cooper View Post
I'm printing this thread and marking it as a "must read" in 2011.

Either we'll be laughing because of how bad the loudness war was in 2006 or we'll be laughing because of how bad it hadn't gotten yet.

I'm scared to know.

Very interesting stuff, either way!
Have you read it yet?
Lol
Oz
Old 23rd July 2011
  #44
Gear Nut
 

Not to go against the extremely talented and smart people before me... but a lot of guys that I know are mixing entirely ITB and basically exporting right out of the DAW and it's for sale. These are the people making those super smashed mixes that are big in dance music right now (opinion aside). As said before it entirely relies on the mixdown. The master chain is just a part of having a solid, loud track. The tools you use also determine how loud you can go. I like the Waves plug-ins a lot, but fire up Elephant or even Ozone's limiter. With the right settings they are very LOUD
Old 25th July 2011
  #45
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by djdstar View Post
Not to go against the extremely talented and smart people before me... but a lot of guys that I know are mixing entirely ITB and basically exporting right out of the DAW and it's for sale. These are the people making those super smashed mixes that are big in dance music right now (opinion aside). As said before it entirely relies on the mixdown. The master chain is just a part of having a solid, loud track. The tools you use also determine how loud you can go. I like the Waves plug-ins a lot, but fire up Elephant or even Ozone's limiter. With the right settings they are very LOUD
are they mixing with limiters on every track?
Old 26th July 2011
  #46
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bbell View Post
are they mixing with limiters on every track?
Bwahahaha. Why did they make the Report button right before the Quote button?

Elephant can at best sound "pushed" if it's mixed into too hot. Not to get me wrong - it's a great limiter - but you have to know what you are doing. Just mixing into a limiter with <1ms release time, regardless what it is, isn't gonna magically fix your mix if you have no idea what you're doing. Drive it hard - but if the material isn't worth it - it ain't worth sh**.
Old 26th July 2011
  #47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by max cooper View Post
I'm printing this thread and marking it as a "must read" in 2011.

Either we'll be laughing because of how bad the loudness war was in 2006 or we'll be laughing because of how bad it hadn't gotten yet.

I'm scared to know.
I'm whimpering more than laughing. Anybody else?

You were right to be scared to know.
Old 26th July 2011
  #48
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Cellotron's Avatar
 

Verified Member
I honestly haven't seen much of a change in the past 5 years in average levels I'm being asked to tracks and albums to. The vast majority of my clients just want to find a compromise between having things crushed enough that they are still somewhat within the range of typical iPod shuffle levels but without crossing the line into any obvious distortions or severe loss of punch and snap. I'm also blessed that I get a lot of clients who just want things placed at sensible levels and have no interest in "competing" in the loudness war at all. There have even been albums I've worked on recently where no digital limiting or clipping was used whatsoever.

So frankly - while there have indeed been some egregious examples within the past 5 years of albums truly destroyed by the treatment done to them both in mixing and mastering in order to have the tracks stay continuously "loud" - I haven't had to master any of these - and find that things really haven't changed for myself at all in terms of the "loudness war" in the past 5 years.

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 26th July 2011
  #49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
I'm whimpering more than laughing. Anybody else?

You were right to be scared to know.
Classic! Not much has changed, except we really miss Bob's contributions!
Old 27th July 2011
  #50
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bbell View Post
are they mixing with limiters on every track?
Hard to believe, right?

Sometimes two - bet that strikes a nerve!
Old 27th July 2011
  #51
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Th3_uN1Qu3 View Post
Bwahahaha. Why did they make the Report button right before the Quote button?

Elephant can at best sound "pushed" if it's mixed into too hot. Not to get me wrong - it's a great limiter - but you have to know what you are doing. Just mixing into a limiter with <1ms release time, regardless what it is, isn't gonna magically fix your mix if you have no idea what you're doing. Drive it hard - but if the material isn't worth it - it ain't worth sh**.
Of course not. Even though I apparently said what wasn't "right" but is true, according to the above troll who is saddened by the fact there's a loudness war...that's what's happening in a lot of the top tier dance music, whether you like it or not is your own opinion.
Old 16th August 2011
  #52
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bob katz View Post
When you're saying "short in loudness" you mean on an A/B comparison with some other stuff. Well, it's a two-fold answer:

1) Some of the guys doing mastering have had to develop some pretty special "tricks" to increase the absolute loudness at the end of this loudness war, where the last salvo is a nuclear bomb. So it's real hard to "compete" using an all-plugin-chain. You may have to use some analog outboard and clip an A/D (arrrrgggggggggghhhh!!!!!)

2) But so f-ing what! At the levels you appear to be "competing" with, it's going to suck. Current levels are, in general, 3 to 4 or more dB hotter than is necessary not to compromise the sound. Get the DJs to turn their own volume controls up. It's real hard, but it is the answer, the one true and only answer.

BK
What does that mean in detail? Where does it clip? In the analogue gear before entering the A/D Converter or allow the A/D to clip (Truncate?) the hot input (parts going >0 dB) signal while creating the waveform?
Old 20th August 2011
  #53
Gear Addict
 

Clipping an A/D means allowing the levels to go "above" 0dB FS on the digital scale, clipping the A/D converter itself. As there is nothing above full scale, just like a power amplifier that is asked to deliver a higher output voltage than its power supply provides, that part of the signal basically goes missing. Depending on the converter, it's going to sound bad or worse.
Old 20th August 2011
  #54
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bob katz View Post
When you're saying "short in loudness" you mean on an A/B comparison with some other stuff. Well, it's a two-fold answer:

1) Some of the guys doing mastering have had to develop some pretty special "tricks" to increase the absolute loudness at the end of this loudness war, where the last salvo is a nuclear bomb. So it's real hard to "compete" using an all-plugin-chain. You may have to use some analog outboard and clip an A/D (arrrrgggggggggghhhh!!!!!)

2) But so f-ing what! At the levels you appear to be "competing" with, it's going to suck. Current levels are, in general, 3 to 4 or more dB hotter than is necessary not to compromise the sound. Get the DJs to turn their own volume controls up. It's real hard, but it is the answer, the one true and only answer.

BK
help me out here
i was led to believe
that all djs turn their knobs to 11
so there is no "up" available to turn to here

was i misinformed ?
Old 20th August 2011
  #55
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huejahfink's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Yes.
Old 20th August 2011
  #56
Gear Addict
 

I know he was just joking two posts above. Most DJ mixers can deliver more than triple the level a typical pro amp needs to reach clipping/limiting. But, there is still the occasional dumbf&&k that turns all the knobs up, then when there's no more knobs to max out he tries his luck on the 3-band EQ.
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