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  • Audio Levelling Thread

    Now that the Loudness Wars are supposedly over, I though it might be a good idea to start a thread specifically related to levelling (note the correct spelling) :maniac:

    This is not related to ambient music only, but is intended to be of general interest.

    In part, this thread was inspired by the following article which I found to be quite entertaining and informative:-

    http://current.org/2014/07/why-youre...y-does-matter/

    and here is a link to The Loudness War on Wikipedia

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war
    Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

  • #2
    For the last 14 months or so I have dived into mixing and mastering. Been into several online courses and bought a ton of plugins. Also tested/demoed alot. But since alotta my releases are purely ambient and most of the courses I attended was for Club/DJ music, not all the knowledge is useable and many of the plugins I bought, I will properly never use:-) But then again knowledge is knowledge and alotta the technics for mixing/mastering DJ/Club tracks can still be used for Ambient and other styles, just in a more subtle manner. Nowa days I use metering plugins from Nugen and hornet to control Loudness according to the new Broadcast standards and also to deliver materiale for the different streaming platforms like Spotify, Itunes etc. as they use different algorithmes/compression. Luckily there is more focus on the dynamics of the track since the death of the Loudness war:-)
    Also consider taking a look at K meter as a means to measure level/dynamics in your track. I think it was invented by Bob Katz as I recall.?
    Last edited by Spicygod; 09-08-2016, 11:40 AM.
    Regards, Dan Stanley of imogen projekt.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Spicygod View Post
      Also consider taking a look at K meter as a means to measure level/dynamics in your track. I think it was invented by Bob Katz as I recall.?
      Indeed.

      I always put an instance of FabFilter Pro-L on my master track, and even though it is a limiter, it rarely fulfils that role. I always set it up to measure levels to the K14 scale and try to get my audio to sit as close to zero as possible, when it's at its most busy of course...
      >]:| ~ > Bandcamp < ~ |:| ~ > SoundCloud < ~ |:| ~ > YouTube < ~ |:[<

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      • #4
        Yeah, Fabfiler has some great plugins for sure. The EQ and the limiter. Also I like how you can make it fullscreen. But they are somewhat pricy.
        Regards, Dan Stanley of imogen projekt.

        Comment


        • #5
          This topic is one that's always interested me..never could grasp just why someone would want more gain over clarity of sound, right out of the box. To me, as a producer, it's always been about "the sound"..let somebody else turn the gain knob if they want..I don't see that as being my call to make. Granted, there are basic industry levels that you need to meet if you're releasing anything to the public, but when it comes to composing / producing, I have always thought it more important..obligatory even..for me to focus on the over-all sound and tonal quality of the piece in question.

          It's kinda like the difference between a painter tossing a can of paint at a canvas or taking time to paint a still-life piece. I know that's maybe not the best analogy to use in this case, but I think you can take my point from it. Personally (..wrongly or rightly), deep down, I've always equated quality of sound with a quality track and a loud track as something less in general. I know this has no solid basis in reality and is more a reflection on my own personal tastes, but I think it stems from not really liking loud sounds in general..well, that's what I've managed to deduce over the years.

          In my own case, when it comes to producing, I ALWAYS have the K-Meter from MeterPlugs as the last item on my master bus and keep an eye on it throughout the whole time spent working on every project. It's gotten to the stage now where I can practically tell without looking if something is tripping the meter, which is a good thing I think.

          Long story short..I think folks need to re-learn how to use compressors in general and understand that just because it can make something sound really loud, that doesn't mean that it should be loud. But in the end, I think there's also a very big element of personal taste involved..and that might be a lot harder to drop than any bad production habits one has picked up along the way.

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          • #6
            I was pondering this last night; I generally just render from my Daw then 'master' the exported wave in a sound editor, normalise it till it sounds in keeping with reference tracks (mine and others) and that's about it (never limit at this stage and treat compression as a stage during mixdown). However last night I actually paid attention to the levels and realised I hadn't a clue what was happening; obviously you can normalise up to 0db, maximum possible for digital, cool. I think I normalised at my usual -6db but then realised the tracks was playing back and peaking at 8 - 12db. Obviously that meter is showing something different to the levels on the wave editor...

            tl;dr: never trust me in any discussions regarding levels, I know not what I talk about (I guess too many years of just doing it by ear and being happy with the results).
            Latest release: never to be repeated

            Hearthis | Soundcloud

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Ambient Mechanics View Post
              This topic is one that's always interested me..never could grasp just why someone would want more gain over clarity of sound, right out of the box. To me, as a producer, it's always been about "the sound"..let somebody else turn the gain knob if they want..I don't see that as being my call to make. Granted, there are basic industry levels that you need to meet if you're releasing anything to the public, but when it comes to composing / producing, I have always thought it more important..obligatory even..for me to focus on the over-all sound and tonal quality of the piece in question.

              It's kinda like the difference between a painter tossing a can of paint at a canvas or taking time to paint a still-life piece. I know that's maybe not the best analogy to use in this case, but I think you can take my point from it. Personally (..wrongly or rightly), deep down, I've always equated quality of sound with a quality track and a loud track as something less in general. I know this has no solid basis in reality and is more a reflection on my own personal tastes, but I think it stems from not really liking loud sounds in general..well, that's what I've managed to deduce over the years.

              In my own case, when it comes to producing, I ALWAYS have the K-Meter from MeterPlugs as the last item on my master bus and keep an eye on it throughout the whole time spent working on every project. It's gotten to the stage now where I can practically tell without looking if something is tripping the meter, which is a good thing I think.

              Long story short..I think folks need to re-learn how to use compressors in general and understand that just because it can make something sound really loud, that doesn't mean that it should be loud. But in the end, I think there's also a very big element of personal taste involved..and that might be a lot harder to drop than any bad production habits one has picked up along the way.
              Agreed. But for alot or most Club/DJ music loud was better:-)
              I myself like when there is dynamics and change in intensity.
              Compressors can be used subtle to even out differences, but most just crank it up so its in your face.
              Regards, Dan Stanley of imogen projekt.

              Comment


              • #8
                Using your ears is good:-)
                I myself never use normalizing, as it just crank up the volume to a specific level.
                This normally done in the mastering fase, if you crank it all up before mastering there would be no headroom left.
                On the other hand if it works ......then who cares how its done:-)
                Regards, Dan Stanley of imogen projekt.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I bought Blue Cat Audio's DP Meter Pro about 6 months ago. It is highly configurable, and offers all the usual metering options. I also use their FreqAnalyst product, Voxengo Span, T-Racks metering and the Algorithmix DR metering. Between them I have most bases covered. I also use Spek to check the freq's post-render. The 3D Time/Freq plots in Wavelab are also quite useful. All of these are useful tools, especially during the EQ stage of mixing, but the best metering is built into the sides of my head.
                  Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

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                  • #10
                    Normalising is pure evil and should be punishable with unmentionable hideous atrocities. Loudness is extremely over rated in my opinion. Almost all music produced today, including ambient is mastered way too loud. I hate it when I can't turn down the volume level when trying to listen. I rather have the choice of either increasing the listening level or decreasing.
                    I want to engage the senses not irritate them.
                    | Bandcamp | Hearthis | website |


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                    • #11
                      Normalising does not equal compressing or limiting. And you don't have to normalise to peak either. Any original dynamics are retained.

                      To be honest, I don't mess with my levels outside of my DAW nowadays but I cannot understand the vehemence towards peeps that do.
                      >]:| ~ > Bandcamp < ~ |:| ~ > SoundCloud < ~ |:| ~ > YouTube < ~ |:[<

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by synkrotron View Post
                        Normalising does not equal compressing or limiting. And you don't have to normalise to peak either. Any original dynamics are retained.

                        To be honest, I don't mess with my levels outside of my DAW nowadays but I cannot understand the vehemence towards peeps that do.
                        synkrotron is correct in that the original dynamics are retained, however the notion that louder is better is a myth and I can only think of a couple of reasons for normalising. In most situations normalising is not necessary nor does it make things better. In fact I believe that habitual normalising is not only unnecessary but it can also detract greatly from the finished product.
                        Perhaps some people may not have realised that my first sentence in my previous post was very much tongue in check and was meant to be a sarcastic remark on the heated debate that has been the "loudness wars". My apologies for a poor sense of humour if it offended anyone.

                        Normalising does raise the signal level and it also raises the noise level. Louder tracks means louder noise. If your original recording levels were too low, normalising can help, but it will not make things better. You could turn the level of a normalised track down to lower the noise, but why normalise in the first place. A better option is to re record the track if possible.
                        Louder tracks often leave little to no headroom before clipping occurs. Tracks that peak near 0dBfs are more likely to clip when processed with EQ and other effects and can introduce what is called inter sample peaks, which you really don't want.
                        A single track normalised to 0dBfs won't clip. However, that track may be processed or filtered causing it to clip. If the track is part of a mix that includes other tracks, which it would be most of the time, and if all tracks have been normalised to 0dBfs it is virtually guaranteed that the sum of all tracks will exceed the loudest peak in any track.

                        Normalising does have some valid applications, but you should decide on a track to track basis whether or not the process of normalising is required. In most cases, if you got your recording right I think it is not at all necessary.
                        | Bandcamp | Hearthis | website |


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                        • #13
                          It is highly content related, I would think.

                          I never thought about playing Husker Du softly to meditate to. So yeah, bump it up a bit.

                          More subtle stuff like sitting outside on my back porch with open-backed headphones so the bugsong and splashes blend Maharg's A Philosophy of Walking into a wonderful new composition every time I listen...yeah, let that one be.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Maharg View Post
                            Normalising does raise the signal level and it also raises the noise level. ...
                            This is a great point (and a really useful post in general). Personally, noise in my tracks isn't generally a problem (bring it on! ) but in anything more considered then should be absolutely be taken into account.

                            I'm endeavouring to pay more attention at mix time, half my problem is mixing too low then having to raise the levels afterwards, post-DAW. I generally aim for -6db to allow for further processing if necessary. My use of normalising has nothing to do with 'loudness', really just to make my tracks sound roughly comparable to other tracks. Though that's not essential either, if the artistic statement you're after involves really low levels then so be it (I'm thinking of a Jim O'Rourke CD from a while back that prompted reviewers to moan about how quiet it was).

                            I'd take it more seriously if I was intending a physical release for sure.


                            Originally posted by aoVI View Post
                            I never thought about playing Husker Du softly to meditate to.
                            You should Paulstretch 'Dreams Reoccurring', transcendental dude.
                            Last edited by GaryG; 09-15-2016, 02:33 AM.
                            Latest release: never to be repeated

                            Hearthis | Soundcloud

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              [QUOTE=Maharg;34936]
                              Originally posted by synkrotron View Post
                              My apologies for a poor sense of humour if it offended anyone.
                              Hi Graham,

                              No apologies necessary, although your humour did go over my head and prompted me to play devils advocate. So perhaps it is me who should be apologising.

                              I think I can safely say that, for the most part, we are all singing from the same hymn sheet here...




                              On a side note, just as a matter of interest: A friend of mine, a music fan, and not involved in music production in any way, uses a piece of software that batch processes his music collection so that it sits at around, there abouts, the same RMS level. His argument, as a listener, is he likes to listen to compilations which span the last forty plus years. He gets fed up with having to turn up a Led Zepp track because it was a bit quieter than the previous Cohead and Cambria song, and then having to reach for the volume control yet again when the Led Zepp number gives way to an Alter Bridge track.
                              >]:| ~ > Bandcamp < ~ |:| ~ > SoundCloud < ~ |:| ~ > YouTube < ~ |:[<

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