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Loudness Range - How Important is it For Acoustic Styles?

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Loudness Range - How Important is it For Acoustic Styles?

Postby ITHertz » Sun Jun 23, 2019 7:10 am

Hi Folks,

Lately I've become more interested in recording and mixing acoustic styles (Jazz, Folk, Country, Classical, etc.).

My general approach is "processed but not processed", that is, I wan't the final product to sound natural but I'm not averse to using hardware/software if it's needed to make things sound better and if it can be used invisibly or discreetly.

I've been looking into the use of compression in these styles (generally a no-no in classical, maybe a bit in the others depending on circumstances) and it's led me to wonder about the overall loudness range for these styles.

In an ideal world I'd say this isn't anything to worry about, however I'm thinking of people listening in less-than-ideal environments - ear buds, cars, etc.

What would be considered a "sensible" loudness range for acoustic styles?

Cheers,

Chris
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Re: Loudness Range - How Important is it For Acoustic Styles?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Jun 23, 2019 3:01 pm

Hmm, I'm very interested in the answers you get here as a) this is very much the area I work in, and b) I find a lot of music of this type really doesn't work in these adverse environments, especially cars. I have lots of singer-songwriter albums that never get transferred to the car.
FWIW I tend to aim for a programme LUFS of -14 (youtube type levels) hitting a short term loudness of around -10 for the loudest bits of the song.
But I refer you, as always, to the disclaimer in my signature... :)
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Re: Loudness Range - How Important is it For Acoustic Styles?

Postby erikveach » Fri Jun 28, 2019 5:24 pm

One of the things I love about acoustic-based music styles is the fact that there's more breathing room. Use this to your advantage and let it be more dynamic, with a lower overall LUFS than most songs, but higher LUFS in the loudest sections (i.e. larger overall loudness range).
You can also generally use panning more to your advantage with acoustic music. For example, if you pan a pair of acoustic guitars wide to the left and right most people say it sounds louder, even though the actual sound power level is exactly the same as if they both sit near the center stereo image. This is especially true with dynamic acoustic instruments. There's a psychoacoustic effect involved. So if you have a noticeable sound poking at you from one side or another, evolution has taught our ears to take immediate notice of that (think lion sneaking up on you in the jungle). Continuous heavily processed and dynamically compressed sounds coming from either side don't stand out quite as much this way as natural sounding, less compressed instruments. Use that to your advantage when mixing acoustic styles so that you get the impression of "loud" without having to give up those beautiful acoustic dynamics to do so.
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Re: Loudness Range - How Important is it For Acoustic Styles?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Sat Jun 29, 2019 5:23 am

The issues for me are most obvious with the group I sing with, a three voice unaccompanied outfit. There can be some quite large dynamic changes, e.g. where we switch from one voice to all three, which can be very noticeable on a CD in going from the end of one song with all of us going at it hammer and tongs to the next song with just one of us singing quietly (a mastering issue admittedly but I usually fix it in the mix).

I almost always have a compressor (LA-2A clone) on every track to even things out a bit but at quite low levels because if you crush the dynamics it just sounds wrong, but I also use automation a lot for volume transition problems. I've played around with LUFS meters and such but in the end I just went back to using my ears. That works best for me.

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Re: Loudness Range - How Important is it For Acoustic Styles?

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Jun 29, 2019 8:45 am

I'm broadly in agreement with CC, including his thoughts on compression.... A little compression is usually helpful, but it needs to be used with care. As we've said before here, a lot of folk, classical etc is about capturing the moment not creating music in the box/studio.

Drew is right about some albums... as recorded with a decent dynamic range they simply don't 'work' in a car. It always amuses me to listen to some tracks on Classic FM (and Scala will be worse) in the car. You're listening to what you know is a very quiet passage and anticipating a forthcoming crescendo.... when it arrives, the orchestra has clearly left the studio and is now behind a substantial brick wall in another room... The joys of broadcast processors!

But Drew, if you want to listen to these albums in the car you could always put them through a Broadcast Processor yourself. I use a free one that has variable parameters and different dial-in 'aggression' settings. I originally used it as intended - for broadcast work - but will now use it a lot for background music type situations where no-one is listening closely and a limited dynamic range is advantageous.
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Re: Loudness Range - How Important is it For Acoustic Styles?

Postby blinddrew » Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:29 am

Hadn't thought about doing my own processing Mike, but i'm not short of CDs that do work in the car so i'll take the path of least resistance.
Plus it gives me an excuse to just sit and listen to stuff at home sometimes. :)
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Re: Loudness Range - How Important is it For Acoustic Styles?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:52 am

Driving around with a newly-minted CD in the car playing is one of my key tests, it really shows up those volume transition problems. I may not choose to fix them but at least I know where they are ;)

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Re: Loudness Range - How Important is it For Acoustic Styles?

Postby hobbyist » Mon Jul 01, 2019 3:52 am

As a listener I say that 20dB is the maximum allowed.
Just like the old VU meters used to show.

Just because digital lets you have bigger DR does not mean you should do that.

Personally I take my CDs and rip them then compress them to a 10dB range and normalise the loudness on my stereo so I never have to adjust the volume knob.




ITHertz wrote:Hi Folks,

Lately I've become more interested in recording and mixing acoustic styles (Jazz, Folk, Country, Classical, etc.).

My general approach is "processed but not processed", that is, I wan't the final product to sound natural but I'm not averse to using hardware/software if it's needed to make things sound better and if it can be used invisibly or discreetly.

I've been looking into the use of compression in these styles (generally a no-no in classical, maybe a bit in the others depending on circumstances) and it's led me to wonder about the overall loudness range for these styles.

In an ideal world I'd say this isn't anything to worry about, however I'm thinking of people listening in less-than-ideal environments - ear buds, cars, etc.

What would be considered a "sensible" loudness range for acoustic styles?

Cheers,

Chris
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