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Why mix balance changes when lowering master fader
Old 19th October 2013
  #1
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Why mix balance changes when lowering master fader

First off, at this point in the game I am working on EDM.. so input from these folks would be great; although, I'm sure this phenomena occurs everywhere, regardless of music style.

Okay, I have noticed when working on anything really... whether it's putting together a drum track, combining drums, synth, bass, sfx, or even making a kick drum/ snare (where various layers might be used, and multiple tracks are combined). As long as various track are being combined this issue occurs...

and that issue is this: Say I have a mix going, I've balanced the independent tracks to one another and everything (to my ears) sounds good... If I drop the level of the master, at some point the "balance" between tracks starts to quickly change, and perhaps the kick becomes the loudest element, or maybe the snare, etc. This happens with for instance a layered kick-drum project also. I'll have everything balanced per se, and when I lower the volume, all of a sudden the kick might loose its "click", or perhaps the opposite happens, the boom is all of a sudden gone.
I have noticed that, with the songs of my favorite producers etc. when I lower their volume, or raise it for that matter, the frequency balance and everything remains even, no matter what volume it at... the same goes for purchased drum samples, if i raise or lower the volume, the character and balance of the drum sample components all remain evenly present in my ears.

Is this whole phenomena simply due to the result of a mastered product? and the use of maximizers, limiters compressors, etc.?

Is this something I can solve prior to sending something to the mastering engineer, or is this what happens to all projects that haven't been mastered?.. or am I simply doing things incorrectly?

Thanks to all who reply
Old 19th October 2013
  #2
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Listening/monitoring level effects the perceived freq's balance. You will notice at around 80-85 db that the freq response of human hearing of all freq's is a flatter curve than at 40db spl.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fletcher–Munson_curves
Old 19th October 2013
  #3
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JohnRick's Avatar
Read up on your Fletcher Munson-curve. Basics for anyone involved in some form of music production/mixing/mastering/etc:

Fletcher–Munson curves - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


edit: already referred to above....
Old 19th October 2013
  #4
Gear Addict
 

In short: it's the human ear, reacting differently at different volume levels, not the mix. Our ears have the equivalent of compression with an EQ'd sidechain.
Old 19th October 2013
  #5
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Thanks for the quick replies everyone...

Yes I am totally aware of the Fletcher-Munson... and also, I mix at a "low volume level" roughly the level of a quiet conversation... so I also understand the deal where mixes sound "better" the louder you listen to it...
however, despite fletcher-munson, why is it that mastered mixes or drum samples, all sound relatively even at different levels, but my projects dont? is this cuz of mastering? is this a phenomena experienced by all producers, and is only remedied in the mastering stage? ... what can or should i be doin to counteract this if not remedied in mastering stage? (for exmple, in terms of making drum samples, I should be able to counteract this issue myself, right?).
Old 19th October 2013
  #6
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loujudson's Avatar
Try this: Change the master fader level as you listen, notice the change. Then, change only the monitor speaker level - is the change the same? If not, perhaps there is something going on in your DAW that changes the actual mix.
Old 19th October 2013
  #7
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johnnyv's Avatar
I am thinking if you have a multi band compressor on a master bus the balance will defiantly change as you hit it harder or softer.

The bottom line is once you finish a song and print it to a CD or Wave file, does that mix change at different levels?
If so then it's not mixed correctly. A good mix will sound clear at all volume levels.
The tip on lowing your monitor level instead of the DAW master fader is the ticket.
If the balance changes and all you hear is a kick drum at low levels then it is simply just too loud.
Old 19th October 2013
  #8
Gear Head
 

I never ever never move my master fader. I pretend it doesn't exist. I use an SM Pro Audio M-Patch 2 to adjust my monitor level. I don't want to affect any mix bus effects I have on there by moving that thing. And if I'm clipping the master bus I readjust all the other track levels instead.
Old 21st October 2013
  #9
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Considering, at this point with my mixes, I haven't put any fx on the master, I figured moving the mastr fader or monitor level was the same... but i do realize no one could've known that so... considering there is nothin' on the master, it must be just some tracks are too loud in my mix... aka, my fault.


Thanks for the feedback

P.S. pretty happy 'bout finally joinin' the site, I've read so many posts throughout the past couple of months, it has helped a lot.
Old 21st October 2013
  #10
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loujudson's Avatar
You don't say what you are using for mixing... some have master beofre and some after the plugins.

Another excellent test for mix integrity is to leave it playing and walk out of the room, down a hall if there is one, and see how it sounds from a distance.
Old 21st October 2013
  #11
KEL
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welcome to the struggle of trying to make things sound as good as the best people doing it. Often there is no easy answer, no magic piece of gear. Sometimes it's arrangement, knowing frequency ranges, painting with EQ, luck(andrew!), and hard work.
Old 21st October 2013
  #12
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I hope no one takes this the wrong way (because, if no one fits the following description then it can be completely disregarded).
Due to the fact that there is no way to convey non-verbal elements to communication through posts/emails, etc. I realize it is easy to misunderstand people; however, it seems like there is a possibility that some are giving answers in a way that could seem to some (such as myself) to be condescending? not sure... so, as I said above, if no one was doing that, then no worries... but I am not one of those newb's that is looking for the "best" compressor setting to sound like my favorite producer, and junk like that so... now that that is out of the way...

As far as my master fader... it is post any master fx, so I believe in my situation it was the same as changing the monitor level. Anyways, aside from that, I just had the kick volume too high!! It was that simple.


thanks again for the help yall!!

P.S. no worries 'bout miscommunications

peace
Old 21st October 2013
  #13
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loujudson's Avatar
qb, nobody meant any put-downs. Some things we learn with long years oif hard work, and some things in email or interwebs posts.

In the 70s and 80s, when I took a break from mixing and went down the hall with the restroom key in hand, I listened to the music I had left playing. When I came back, I had a whole new appreciation for the work and a new direction to go. At first I thought it was the relief, then realized I had heard something important as I walked away listening.

MUCH later on, I read magazine and book articles about studio sessions where a normal part of mixing was to go down the hall and see how it would sound from a distance, and on a cassette in a car, etc.

Same thing with turning it down.

We live and we learn, and it comes in many guises. I am often scornful (internally, not out loud) about "newbs" asking things on forums that it took me years to learn by doing... but happy to help share what I know if it helps someone get better sound!
Old 22nd October 2013
  #14
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owensands's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by qb748t394 View Post
I hope no one takes this the wrong way (because, if no one fits the following description then it can be completely disregarded).
Due to the fact that there is no way to convey non-verbal elements to communication through posts/emails, etc. I realize it is easy to misunderstand people; however, it seems like there is a possibility that some are giving answers in a way that could seem to some (such as myself) to be condescending? not sure... so, as I said above, if no one was doing that, then no worries... but I am not one of those newb's that is looking for the "best" compressor setting to sound like my favorite producer, and junk like that so... now that that is out of the way...

As far as my master fader... it is post any master fx, so I believe in my situation it was the same as changing the monitor level. Anyways, aside from that, I just had the kick volume too high!! It was that simple.


thanks again for the help yall!!

P.S. no worries 'bout miscommunications

peace
If your kick drum was too loud and you pulled down the master fader with nothing on the master bus it should still be too loud relative to every other mix element unless you were clipping the master fader. Then anything could be out of whack I guess.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #15
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skillz335's Avatar
i always thought the master fader was the very last stop for signal prior to monitoring from daw. so it should not be altering balance. the only way i can see it altering the balance of a mix is if you were hitting a compressor or limiter very hard externally or with software like cue mix which will alow for compression prior to monitoring sending after daw. you could have the same thing set up with your interface? all ow which would be altering how your hitting the threshold or if even at all, i dont know though just a newbie educated guess.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #16
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AudioRadar's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by smysteryman View Post
I never ever never move my master fader. I pretend it doesn't exist. I use an SM Pro Audio M-Patch 2 to adjust my monitor level. I don't want to affect any mix bus effects I have on there by moving that thing. And if I'm clipping the master bus I readjust all the other track levels instead.
yeah I wondered about that. I don't think I have ever used the masterfader.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #17
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loujudson's Avatar
I use the Master fader for - guess what!?! - fading in and out! Imagine that. It is even automatable in PT.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #18
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AudioRadar's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by loujudson View Post
I use the Master fader for - guess what!?! - fading in and out! Imagine that. It is even automatable in PT.
I assume most people have a seperate mixbus where they route all tracks to and do any fading there as well.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #19
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loujudson's Avatar
? In Pro Tools, the master is the mixbus. What software are you assuming?
Old 22nd October 2013
  #20
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Sounds appearing equal at any level...

is an illusion.

Everything about this is about learning ways to create illusions.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #21
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not sure how to explain the fact that I was only able to tell the kick drum was too loud when pullin down the monitor level, and noticing everything else quickly falling away in comparison to it. I can say that what I had been currently working on was a style of beat where the kick is the main part (kinda like a techno-beat) as opposed to say, a hip-hop beat where the kick and snare alternate (which is the only kind of beat that I had previously messed with).
Old 22nd October 2013
  #22
Maybe you just have the kick too loud.. and it becomes obvious to you listening at low level. Maybe you could post an example??
And to me everything sounding the same at any level means its compressed to ****.. like radio broadcast
Old 22nd October 2013
  #23
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AudioRadar's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by loujudson View Post
? In Pro Tools, the master is the mixbus. What software are you assuming?
I mean to leave the Masterbus, as is and only apply analysis plugins (spectrum analysers, M/S analysers, Phase/Stereo Analysers, Dynamic Range meters etc) and create a separate track as their mixbus where they do volume automation and apply mix compression and so on.
Old 23rd October 2013
  #24
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the fact that you (Bradovic) mentioned that only compressed-to-death stuff would sound same at any level, is why I even brought this topic up in the first place; since it was the hunch I had, but wanted confirmation form more experienced people... and also why I made the assertion that producer's finished/mastered tracks seemed to maintain more of an even sound at different levels, and must be due to this kind of processing; although, as I've gathered from evryone's highly informative posts, my issue was probably more a reason of my mix being out of whack.. while obviously still taking into consideration the human ear's "compresed and side-chain eq'd" nature... great point btw!!
Old 24th October 2013
  #25
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loujudson's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by AudioRadar View Post
I mean to leave the Masterbus, as is and only apply analysis plugins (spectrum analysers, M/S analysers, Phase/Stereo Analysers, Dynamic Range meters etc) and create a separate track as their mixbus where they do volume automation and apply mix compression and so on.
Sounds complicated. I use track, not bus. But whatever...
Old 24th October 2013
  #26
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Taking the human ear thing a step further, combine that with room acoustics at various levels. Psychoacoustics play a part in what you may perceive as balanced. Room reflection, standing waves, nodes, etc. the louder you are monitoring the more things like this become apparent and or introduce anomalies. Changing the level of the music could effectively change the mix the room is creating by its inherent properties.

Is your listening environment treated ? Or are you listening on headphones? Try phones also and see what happens. Loujudson had the suggestion to try changing the speaker level as opposed to the master fader. Good suggestion. I know you have it figured that the kick was just too loud, but knowing just exactly how your environment is affecting your mix decisions is an interesting thing to pursue.

My monitors used to sit on my console, and when cranked up used to cause the desk to vibrate, adding more low end than actually existed in my monitors, weird bass coupling. I got them off onto stands and my mixes have translated much better since doing that, plus everything just seems more solid and accurate.

At first I was going to suggest looking to see if some element or bus was set up post fader? Maybe overlooked in your sends. But sounds like you have checked that stuff out.

Lots of good suggestions here, good luck!
Old 24th October 2013
  #27
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Unfortunayrly mixing on headphones.. Sony mdr-7506's

So i'm well aware of the possible mixing issues that could result w/ that situation.
As far as issues with room/ ambience etc (in terms of regular monitors), I am aware of all of those kinds of contributing factors, had I been using that setup; however, I realize nobody was (up until now) made aware of my understanding of that.
Thanks for the input Multicore.
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