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Final Mix Levels?

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Final Mix Levels?

Postby daposti » Mon May 10, 2010 12:49 pm

I've been told that a final mix is best mastered to -1 db. If some of the audio parts are at 0 db but the main output at -1db will this be ok? Also would it be wise to open in a wav editor and check the volume of the actual final mix wav?
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Re: Final Mix Levels?

Postby tomafd » Mon May 10, 2010 2:03 pm

Loudness war territory - again. Some consumer devices get all iffy when they're faced with levels within a couple of db of 0, so you may want to back off a bit - then again, a hell of a lot of new music seems to spend all its time banging its head against 0, or never, in fact, moving away from it at all, all for the dubious idea that louder is always better, regardless of the distortion, lack of dynamics, and brain-deadening boredom that approach normally results in.

Technically, as long as none of it actually peaks beyond 0, you're OK. Musically, peaks being between -6 and -2 will sound better, but DJs may complain, since they appear to have lost the ability to find, never mind move, their master faders, these days.

Something like this http://www.rndigital.com/inspectorXL.html is worth having around, it will give you all the info you need about how many samples you may have peaking above 0, and a range of different level meters so you always know exactly what's going on.
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Re: Final Mix Levels?

Postby Bossman » Mon May 10, 2010 2:20 pm

It doesn't really matter, as long as your not hitting 0dBFS.. when I master a track, I set the output ceiling in the limiter to -0.2dBFS. But I don't really care what the peaks are.

When I mix I like to leave plenty of headroom, with peaks hitting around -6dBFS, sometimes lower (but to be honest, I'm not fussed as long as the peaks are well short of 0dBFS)... Its good to have lots of headroom while mixing.

At the end of the day, there are a million more important things to worry about than peak levels.
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Re: Final Mix Levels?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon May 10, 2010 3:51 pm

I'll move this thread to the mastering forum as you'll get a more comprehensive response there.

However, my own thoughts on the matter are that once a track mix is complete there is inherently no further requirement for headroom within the digital domain and so there is an obvious argument for allowing peak sample values to reach 0dBFS. And most commercially mastered material does follow this idea.

However, this approach ignores the well proven fact that the analogue waveform reconstructed between the digital samples can, and often does, exceed the amplitude represented by those digital samples.

Given that pretty much every D-A converter these days employs some form of digital oversampling filter technology, these inter-sample peaks, as they are known cause obvious problems.

You can have perfectly legitiimate 0dBFS samples at 44.1kHz, say, but as soon as you try to oversample that signal in a digital filter the newly calculated intermediate samples may well need to describe amplitude values grater than 0dBFS... which is obviously impossible. The result is overload distortion in the digital domain and it is not that uncommon to find in commercial CDs.

Also, because of the similar digital filtering that is part and parcel of MP3 coding, similar overload distortion problems crop up regularly.

The best way around this is to use high quality oversampled digital metering to assess the true reconstructed amplitude of the signal, but if that is not available, then setting your maximum peak sample value to something between -0.25 and -1dBFS is a good idea and helpful safeguard. And no one is really going to get upset that your material is fractionally quieter than someone elses...

If they do, show them where the VOLUME CONTROL is on the ipod / amplifier / mixer!

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Re: Final Mix Levels?

Postby Flow Mastering » Mon May 10, 2010 5:17 pm

A final mix to be sent for mastering should have some headroom left. It doesn't matter how much it as long as it is enough to prevent clipping (around 1db is usually fine): when digital signal hits odb, some distortion caused by clipping will occur. This may not be noticeable at first, but processing added to the mix while mastering such as adding brightness may be severely limited as suddenly the distortion will be very noticeable.

Note that clipping doesn't just happen on the master bus. It can cause by clipping the AD convertors at recording, or overloading a plug-in during mixing.
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Re: Final Mix Levels?

Postby turbodave » Mon May 10, 2010 5:46 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:I'll move this thread to the mastering forum as you'll get a more comprehensive response there.

However, my own thoughts on the matter are that once a track mix is complete there is inherently no further requirement for headroom within the digital domain and so there is an obvious argument for allowing peak sample values to reach 0dBFS. And most commercially mastered material does follow this idea.

However, this approach ignores the well proven fact that the analogue waveform reconstructed between the digital samples can, and often does, exceed the amplitude represented by those digital samples.

Given that pretty much every D-A converter these days employs some form of digital oversampling filter technology, these inter-sample peaks, as they are known cause obvious problems.

You can have perfectly legitiimate 0dBFS samples at 44.1kHz, say, but as soon as you try to oversample that signal in a digital filter the newly calculated intermediate samples may well need to describe amplitude values grater than 0dBFS... which is obviously impossible. The result is overload distortion in the digital domain and it is not that uncommon to find in commercial CDs.

Also, because of the similar digital filtering that is part and parcel of MP3 coding, similar overload distortion problems crop up regularly.

The best way around this is to use high quality oversampled digital metering to assess the true reconstructed amplitude of the signal, but if that is not available, then setting your maximum peak sample value to something between -0.25 and -1dBFS is a good idea and helpful safeguard. And no one is really going to get upset that your material is fractionally quieter than someone elses...

If they do, show them where the VOLUME CONTROL is on the ipod / amplifier / mixer!

Hugh


Yet another post that will be framed and hung in the loo!...can I show this to my students?...."Dave, why do your mixes sound quieter than Muse?"...AAAAARRGGGHH!
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Re: Final Mix Levels?

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Mon May 10, 2010 7:06 pm

The most important points for you to consider are :

1)Do not exceed 0dBFS on the master bus

2)Remove limiters before sending to a mastering engineer referring
once again to point 1

3)Send a 24 bit version (should be an option on the export/bounce
dialogue window of your DAW/sequencer)

cheers
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Re: Final Mix Levels?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue May 11, 2010 9:42 am

turbodave wrote:Yet another post that will be framed and hung in the loo!...can I show this to my students?

Of course!

Course module 1: How and when to use a Volume Control

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Re: Final Mix Levels?

Postby Daniel Davis » Tue May 11, 2010 11:16 am

Watch out for those inter-sample peaks. I recently received a track to be mastered which had been normalized to 0dbfs. When imported into my DAW it showed overs at many points during the track.
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Re: Final Mix Levels?

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Tue May 11, 2010 5:52 pm

Are you sure you mean normalized?

Normally in my experience ISP's are only detected when a master is
hitting RMS values of -10dB RMS and above and has been limited to a celing within 0.001dB or so of 0dBFS.

I have yet to see it on a normalized file, unless it was a normalized and smashed master.
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