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How loud should my mix sound? Plugin Bundles
Old 15th April 2018
  #1
Gear Head
 

How loud should my mix sound?

I have an example of some music attached that I've written/recorded and at the moment is mostly EZDrummer + Synths. This is the Mix as it sounds from Logic - no EQ, effects or compression - completely vanilla.

First off - I have EZDrummer sitting at 0 and I've mixed the bass, synths etc to fit around the drums.

The Master Output is peaking at times, the RMS level is around -13, which to my knowledge is almost the agreeable limit. It is audibly very quiet however... I know Mastering and compression is supposed to help enhance loudness but is my mix unusually quiet for the mixing/tracking stage?? Am I doing something wrong here?

I'm interested to hear other peoples examples of how loud a mix should sound BEFORE any compression/EQ/effects are applied. Everything on YouTube I've seen has been compressed for the purposes of their video, or they're just rambling on about loudness war etc.
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How loud should my mix sound?-screen-shot-2018-04-15-3.14.37-pm.jpg  
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Mix Example.mp3 (466.2 KB, 1079 views)

Old 15th April 2018
  #2
Sky
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Sky's Avatar
 

Good topic. I've started measuring loudness (LUFS) on my individual tracks and stems. A quiet track sits around -24 dB, normal around -21 dB, and loud -18 dB.

I mix to what sounds good for my softer alt-pop genre, while paying attention to peaks. Typically my raw mixes are around -16 dB LUFS and -1 dB peak. I've been mastering to -12 dB LUFS and -1 True Peak. Streaming services will drop this level by perhaps 2 dB without needing to limit or otherwise change the mastered mix.

Some people like to target CD loudness to -9 dB LUFS or louder, which may audibly smash the dynamics - works great for power pop, harder rock and EDM genres. But I'm finding -12 LUFS / -1 TP to be loud enough for me.

Fyi, I ran your raw mix sample through R128X-GUI and noted:

Integrated Program Loudness = -20.1 dB (LUFS)
Loudness Range = 0.7 dB
True Peak = -0.8 dB

Program Loudness and True Peak levels are workable for your raw mix, pre-mastering. The Loudness Range is low, indicating not much variability within the sample clip you've posted.

R128X (Mac) is a GITHUB project here:
GitHub - audionuma/r128x: a tool for loudness measures on Mac OS X

It's really instructive to drag reference songs from iTunes into the R128X interface, to compare the levels behind more smashed (generally louder) and more relaxed mixes. You can also compare multiple versions of your own mix to get a better sense for what levels you prefer sonically.

Mastering The Mix offers tools and education for mixing and mastering here:
Learn | Mastering The Mix

This podcast is fun too. Ian somewhat addresses your specific question about why your track is so quiet with peaks close to 0 dB:
The Mastering Show #44 – Loudness Units 101

Regards,
Sky
Old 15th April 2018
  #3
Quote:
I'm interested to hear other peoples examples of how loud a mix should sound BEFORE any compression/EQ/effects are applied.
Its all relative to each mix. But anything between -12dB peak and -3dB peak is what i tell my clients. I also tell them not to have any compressors and limiters on the master bus before the mastering process.

Do not pay attention to the RMS when mixing, as it doesn't matter as long as you are between -12dB and -3db peak and you have no comp and limiters on the master bus. Mastering is the stage ware you want to pay attention to it, but its not a tell all of loudness. Its one of many that are used to determine how loud it should be.
You can have 5 different songs at the same RMS level and each song will have a different loudness to them
Old 15th April 2018
  #4
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matucha's Avatar
1) make sure you're not clipping the output

2) well mixed song will take limiting quite well so you can check that by adding a good limiter to your master buss and boost the volume to the level you'd like to get (referencing some good sounding song in the same genre). It may change things a bit, but it should still sound good after the limiting (all things considered).

If it doesn't sound good, chances are (quite high), your mix isn't good enough (or at all). You need to keep trying and learning.

Experienced mastering engineer can do much better than just the limiter on masterbuss, but that's a suckers game. Well mixed stuff needs almost no tweaks at the mastering stage. Just some well set limiting/clipping (depends on the taste of the engineer).
Old 15th April 2018
  #5
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
I <> tell them not to have any compressors and limiters on the master bus before the mastering process.
I'm sure you're good at what you do, but... what kind of client puts up with that?
Old 15th April 2018
  #6
Quote:
I'm sure you're good at what you do, but... what kind of client puts up with that?
LOL, your funny, not The ones who want their songs to sound there best. those are the ones who do that
Old 15th April 2018
  #7
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
LOL, your funny, not The ones who want their songs to sound there best. those are the ones who do that
Just speaking personally, if I've mixed a song to the point of sounding finished without any compression or limiting, and then apply a bus limiter -- even a gentle one -- the limiter rebalances my mix. So I never let that happen.
Old 15th April 2018
  #8
Quote:
Just speaking personally, if I've mixed a song to the point of sounding finished without any compression or limiting, and then apply a bus limiter -- even a gentle one -- the limiter rebalances my mix. So I never let that happen.
I said not to have it before the mastering process. I never said 'not to use it when mixing'. I just like it taken off before my it gets mastered.

Its hard to undo mistakes once they get printed onto a track. So its safe and better for me to take care of all the dynamic processing in the mastering stage.

If someone insist on having their dynamics on the audio file they send, me, i oblige.
Old 15th April 2018
  #9
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
I said not to have it before the mastering process. I never said 'not to use it when mixing'.
Okay.

Quote:
If someone insist on having their dynamics on the audio file they send, me, i oblige.
I bet that happens sometimes.
Old 15th April 2018
  #10
Quote:
I bet that happens sometimes.
Oh yea, About 1 out of 6.
I do not know new clients skill levels and after getting files that are almost squashed here and there, and then going back and telling them to re-submit the audio file and explain to them why, i found that its better to have them take it off from the start. Saves turnaround time..
Old 15th April 2018
  #11
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
Saves turnaround time..
Understood. It is, after all, a "volume" business.
Old 15th April 2018
  #12
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I have to say I've yet to meet a mix engineer who doesn't print their masters with the mix bus processing... it's part of the mix, that's why you use it.

Surely if it needs removing before the mastering process then the mix isn't very good?
Old 15th April 2018
  #13
Quote:
I have to say I've yet to meet a mix engineer who doesn't print their masters with the mix bus processing
Mixing engineer doesn't print masters. They print a mix. Also processing is Broad and can mean anything like EQ or reverb

Quote:
Surely if it needs removing before the mastering process then the mix isn't very good?
Absolutely not true. Why you ask. Ill tell you why. A good or bad mix doesn't depend on having a compressor or limiter on the master bus when in the mixing stage. Who ever told you that is wrong. Flat wrong .Completely wrong.. Get the point!!
Old 15th April 2018
  #14
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dights's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
Mixing engineer doesn't print masters. They print a mix. Also processing is Broad and can mean anything like EQ or reverb


Absolutely not true. Why you ask. Ill tell you why. A good or bad mix doesn't depend on having a compressor or limiter on the master bus when in the mixing stage. Who ever told you that is wrong. Flat wrong .Completely wrong.. Get the point!!
Calling something a master is simply a term, you can have a master recording or a master mix.

I also never said that a good mix depends on having mix bus compression, whatever blows your hair back.

Although I haven't met a professional mix engineer who didn't mix through a mix bus compressor most of the time, and I know a lot of them as well as being lucky enough to assist some pretty big mixers on my way up. It's a standard process, and the idea that they would remove that processing before sending it to their mastering engineer is nonsense.

To be honest I wasn't really asking, it was a rhetorical question...

What I said was that if you had mixed through mix bus compression/processing and it had affected the mix in such a way that it needed to be removed then your mix is likely to have real problems.
Old 15th April 2018
  #15
You are completely missing the point.. You are not understanding what was said. Thats ok though
Old 15th April 2018
  #16
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dights's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
You are completely missing the point.. You are not understanding what was said. Thats ok though
OK sorry, my mistake.

I thought you said that mixers shouldn't put mix bus compression on their mixes that they send to mastering engineers, and that if they have they should remove it.

If I've misunderstood, please tell me what the point was?
Old 15th April 2018
  #17
Quote:
If I've misunderstood, please tell me what the point was?
Read the thread. IM NOT GOING TO DO YOUR WORK LOL
Quote:
I thought you said that mixers shouldn't put mix bus compression on their mixes
Read the whole thing. I can take a part of your post and do the same thing. Like you calling a mix a master.

Do your work and read the thread!!
Old 15th April 2018
  #18
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dights's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
I also tell them not to have any compressors and limiters on the master bus before the mastering process.
Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
I said not to have it before the mastering process. I never said 'not to use it when mixing'. I just like it taken off before my it gets mastered.

Its hard to undo mistakes once they get printed onto a track. So its safe and better for me to take care of all the dynamic processing in the mastering stage.
Erm, thanks but I did read the thread and that's exactly what you said... I'm not the only one who questioned it.

Since you said I had misunderstood what I had read, I was just asking you to explain what you meant as I was interested in your point of view.

PS Feel free to quote me on using the term "printing masters". As I already said a "master" is simply a term, it could be a recording master or a mix master... it doesn't necessarily refer to the mastering process.
Old 15th April 2018
  #19
Quote:
Erm, thanks but I did read the thread and that's exactly what you said... I'm not the only one who questioned it.
And it was cleared up, if you read it OMG you tire me man!! READ!!! the!! WHOLE THING!!!!

Again if you cannot comprehend the English language, im not going to do your work for you. If you read the whole thing, you will know. Its not my job to explain what things mean.
Old 15th April 2018
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
And it was cleared up, if you read it OMG you tire me man!! READ!!! the!! WHOLE THING!!!!

Again if you cannot comprehend the English language, im not going to do your work for you. If you read the whole thing, you will know. Its not my job to explain what things mean.
OK mate, I didn't mean to antagonise you. If you don't want to explain yourself that's cool.

However please don't attack me saying I cannot comprehend the English language, especially if your post is full of grammatical errors...

Peace out
Old 15th April 2018
  #21
Quote:
However please don't attack me saying I cannot comprehend the English language, especially if your post is full of grammatical errors...
This is what people do when they have no facts. They pick on your grammatical errors instead
Later peach!!
Old 15th April 2018
  #22
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dights's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
This is what people do when they have no facts. They pick on your grammatical errors instead
Later peach!!
Erm... you're the one who started saying I didn't understand the English language rather than explaining yourself.

Oh the irony! On both counts!

I was simply asking you to clarify what you said.
Old 15th April 2018
  #23
I clarified it in the postings above. If you do not care to read them, then
Old 15th April 2018
  #24
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dights's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
I clarified it in the postings above. If you do not care to read them, then
Actually I read the whole thread before my first post, that's why I commented. Unfortunately it didn't clarify anything for me, you just restated the same thing.

My understanding of it is that you said people shouldn't really mix with mix bus compression, and that if they do they should take it off before delivering the mix to a mastering engineer.

With all the effort you've spent telling me to read your earlier posts you might as well have just explained what you said...

Whatever, it's all good.
Old 15th April 2018
  #25
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Quetz's Avatar
Turn that snare down then you can turn everything else up.

Look at your Drums channel, you're more than 4dB over.

The drums are eating up all the headroom, and so is the bass - you shouldn't have to have your channel faders all down that low, even for a mix at quieter than -16LUFS.

I know you haven't added any processing yet, but your basic balance is off; it should already have a nice clean crisp and balanced sound to it.
If it doesn't, you need to revisit your sound sources. You'll thank yourself later.
Old 15th April 2018
  #26
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Owen L T's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quetz View Post
Turn that snare down then you can turn everything else up.

Look at your Drums channel, you're more than 4dB over.

The drums are eating up all the headroom, and so is the bass - you shouldn't have to have your channel faders all down that low, even for a mix at quieter than -16LUFS.

I know you haven't added any processing yet, but your basic balance is off; it should already have a nice clean crisp and balanced sound to it.
If it doesn't, you need to revisit your sound sources. You'll thank yourself later.
Spot on.
Old 15th April 2018
  #27
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@CJ Mastering - I'm also confused here.
I don't want to add to the argument, but as someone that's not that experienced, it was always my understanding that there were basically two avenues - you either mix into 2bus compression or you don't, and consequently you either deliver a mix with compression printed or you don't.

People that don't mix into compression as an end goal often check their mix with a mastering chain now and again to make sure things are in check (as I understand it), but deliver the mix with no master processing.

I've actually just started mixing into 2bus processing and I can see why those that do would want to keep that processing in place.
Those people though I believe are far more likely to be people that are very confident in their abilities to deliver the right sound for that track (not me I should add, I'm doing it because I'm not good enough yet to consider having anything mastered), so they don't need a mastering engineer second-guessing their decisions on what was right for that song.
Therefore for them the mastering engineer just needs to sprinkle the old whatever or make it homogenous enough for an album.
And I've often heard that mastering engineers are most happy when they get a track that they hardly need touch, which is exactly what those printed mix masters with processing on deliver.
Right?
Because you did say as a generalisation that people should take compression/processing off the mixbus before they send it off to be mastered.
If you have explained this statement previously, then it wasn't in this thread..
Old 15th April 2018
  #28
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Owen L T's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quetz View Post
@CJ Mastering - I'm also confused here.
I don't want to add to the argument, but as someone that's not that experienced, it was always my understanding that there were basically two avenues - you either mix into 2bus compression or you don't, and consequently you either deliver a mix with compression printed or you don't.
That's also spot on. I was thinking of addressing the same point to CJ, but didn't want to accidentally wade into a flame war.

I always have a compressor on my 2bus. Mostly, these days, the Elysia Mpressor. My settings are usually 2:1 with a slow attack (20-30ms) and medium-fast release (100-150ms), with it compressing no more than 2-3dB at the loudest surges of volume. I also usually have an L2. Early in the production process, the L2 isn't reducing anything - it's just there so my peak level is consistent. During the mix phase, the L2 will shave off 1 or 2 dB of very occasional peaks, though most of the time it won't be doing anything at all.

My mixes would sound basically the same if I disengaged the L2 at the last minute before sending the track off. But removing the Mpressor would alter the whole balance of the mix, and is not something I would do - nor advocate for. It is, as you said, something that I mix into - though I don't abuse it.

I would guess, though, that a lot of mastering engineers get mixes that have already been squashed pretty flat, from which there's no recovering. But I wouldn't expect one to insist on removing discrete, glue-like compression from a mix.
Old 15th April 2018
  #29
Quote:
People that don't mix into compression as an end goal often check their mix with a mastering chain now and again to make sure things are in check (as I understand it), but deliver the mix with no master processing.
They also mix into a compressor and then take it off before its mastered. That is my preferred way. if they want to keep it on, that is fine with me also. A lot of times i get mixes that are SQUASHED or the attack is too short or the release is too long or the knee is too hard or the ratio is to low!

That is why i like it off, for people who are not confident with their compressor skills and there are more that are not confident then there are that are confident in my experience.
Old 15th April 2018
  #30
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dights's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
They also mix into a compressor and then take it off before its mastered. That is my preferred way. if they want to keep it on, that is fine with me also. A lot of times i get mixes that are SQUASHED or the attack is too short or the release is too long or the knee is too hard or the ratio is to low!

That is why i like it off, for people who are not confident with their compressor skills and there are more that are not confident then there are that are confident in my experience.
Fair enough.

I think it's two different things though. As others have said, mixing into a bus compressor is reactionary; it alters your balancing and mix decisions. Once you've gone down that route, if you take it off at the end you change your mix.

That's the skill and benefit of mixing with a bus comp, as it allows you to set the compressor to compliment your real time mix decisions.

Whilst mastering engineers are no doubt usually far more proficient at using stereo compression techniques, they can't alter the mix to compliment the compressor.

It's a trade off for inexperienced mixers as for me learning to use bus compression is a valuable skill, however if you're bad at it it's probably better to not use it at all and leave it to the mastering engineer.

However, again as has been said, surely the best situation for a mastering engineer is a mix that requires the least amount of shaping and carving.
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