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What is the science of loudness?

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What is the science of loudness?

Postby Kinh » Sun Aug 12, 2018 3:06 am

Is there some kind of formula to getting your mixes loud? Most of the stuff I find on youtube is very general and everyone has a different opinion. I know about RMS and perceived loudness but what about EQ?
For example, you have a vocal that peaks around 200 hz to 5k on average then you have several other tracks that are the same, given it's the most common range. What is the general rule (if there is one) that tells you to reduce the db by who much on the vocal or synths to compensate for each other and in doing so, boost the overall volume? What formula?

Obviously you cant cut all the frequencies out of one track just so the other can breathe otherwise nothing will be left of the track especially if the other track happens to be vocal where the peaks slide up and down the frequency spectrum on every word.

So what I'm asking here is how do I 'prioritize' or get the average of the number of tracks which share the same frequency and by what percentage do I reduce them in relation to the other tracks that have a different range in order to increase the 'overall' volume of the mix?
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Re: What is the science of loudness?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Aug 12, 2018 8:02 am

If you want the technical stuff it's here:
For the less technical amongst us, search amongst your plugins for a loudness meter, or download one.
As the EQ side of things, the standard linked above specifies that it operates a high-pass filter at about 100Hz and a shelving filter at about 1000Hz.
If you're asking about a more general balancing of the different frequencies in a mix, then I'd recommend having a search for Zukan's (Eddie Bazil) article on mixing to pink noise.

[EDIT] here you go: ... -reference
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Re: What is the science of loudness?

Postby hz37 » Sun Aug 26, 2018 4:37 pm

The thing to understand is that lower sounds have a long period per cycle. So very bassy sounds, like an 808 kick or a bass line, slowly move from negative to positive amplitude and back again. Essentially, they come close to DC (Direct Current) and this easily saturates the available loudness of your mix. So that would be the first thing to get right. If you listen to a lot of modern music, there is an intricate balance of bass information as a function of time. If your production has a very heavy kick drum, the bass will either be moved out of the way in composition or in production, e.g. by using a side chain that quickly pushes it out of the way until there is room again. Another technique that is often used is the mere suggestion of bass. The heavy aggressive bass sound may be high pass filtered and is mirrored by a very low sine wave that is ducked (via side chain compression). That way, your ear is fooled into thinking there is a constant super low bass line happening, where in fact there isn't.

And then there are additional techniques, like multiband compression, distortion, band limiting all the other instruments, side chains on things like reverb/pads and parallel compression that all aid in bringing the perceived loudness up.

The best advice in my opinion is to learn from the masters. For just a small amount of money, you can buy a template session at a site like that is of your desired genre of music and uses the DAW you're using. You can then copy the techniques and use them in your own productions. Good luck!

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Re: What is the science of loudness?

Postby Argiletonne » Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:52 pm

Based on what you are asking I'm going to think you are talking about producing music from your computer using plugins, correct? Okay.

Yes there is a thought process to making mixes louder before mixdown.

If you are asking you must be dealing with issues but your not specifying where the issue starts for you and that would help with your issue rather than a general purpose topic about loudness.

You say you want vocals defined without losing the density of the music in the same range.

My research states a male voice is commonly found at 100hz. That's the sweet spot for kick drum and sometimes bass. There's an overlap of bass, kick and vocal you have to deal with when recording guys with mid to low voices.

You might be dealing with a masking issue and knowing loudness may not solve your problems. Loudness is for mastering and I'm not sure why it's relevant for producing a song. I would try taking off all your compressors and EQs and mixing the music without all the processing first then seeing where you need to enhance the sound adding EQ and compression specifically to the places where necessary the most.
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Re: What is the science of loudness?

Postby My Own Silence » Fri Sep 07, 2018 2:41 pm

Took me a while to understand this as well.

Here's some tips:

Obviously getting compression and EQ right in the mix is key.

The next thing is your master bus (if you intend on doing a bit of self mastering),

I use a bus compressor, not doing too much 1-4db gain reduction.
Now a multiband compressor, set the thresholds to just touch the frequencies can acheive a bit more push.
Tape saturation to pull back the transients a bit.
and maybe a combination of limiting and compression. Waves L3 with a few dB gain reduction and l2 for just the of dB or less.

Clipping is also popular. now to do this well hardware is preferred but there are software clippers. These will shave of the transients but without the obvious effect of compression.

Now my method here is not a fixed method but more of an example of how you can use little bits of things to gently massage a track to loud. If you try to do it all with a limiter it is not going to work that well.

Subtle, controlled changes will lift things up. There are better limiters (Fabfiler) that will be easier to use and better to work with, but the fundamentals are the same.

You can brighten up a mix with EQ but be warned as if you turn up a particularly bright mix, it's not as nice loud. try to get a good balance, even a little darker can mean a more enjoyable loud listening experience.
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