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Compression & Limiting

 
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loomerz
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Joined: 28 Sep 2009
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:19 pm    Post subject: Compression & Limiting Reply with quote

Hey, sorry if this is in the wrong thread, I just have a question regarding things to do with mastering if theres anyone thats knowledgable on the subject..

I basically just had some songs of mine mastered for a digital single, and compared to the quieter, uncompressed versions, they sound horrible. Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about but I just think I can hear when the limiter is working because theres points in the song where the volume will suddenly just dip for a second or so. I'm assuming that all this compression and what have you is used so that the volume of the tracks is louder, but they just sound awful to me. Again I really don't know anything about this subject its just that the uncompressed versions of each track weren't that quiet, and sounded nicer to me, also I feel i'd rather have a quieter MP3 or whatever, as apposed to something louder that actually doesn't sound very good. My question is basically why is there this need for louder and louder mixes? Sorry if this comes across as a moan but these guys that did the master said they worked all day on it and its just confusing me.
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Al_
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to the now. Compression and brick wall limiting kill dynamic range--something that tends to make music listenable. Sounds like they over did it in an effort to chase commercial "loudness". Google "loudness wars" and you're like to find some good info. Basically both processors operate off a threshold a d ratio. The threshold sets the level at which the compression kicks in. Anything over the threshold essentially gets lowered in level by the applied ratio. It gets things louder, because the loud parts get reduced down closer in level to the quiet parts--flattening everything out. There's the loss of dynamic range. When things are level, you can raise the overall level up, making it louder--that's the makeup gain. In a compressor, that can go wherever and even peak above digital zero; in a limiter, the level gain is essentially capped by a second compressor with a close to infinite ratio that lets nothing pass above it--thus the name. If mis-applied, the settings can cause odd volume swells known as "pumping". I'm not sure what your mastering duds used, but if it was just DAW plugin stuff they probably just mis-applied it in an effort to get things louder. What makes things loud is an average (rms) volume level that is close to the peak. The closer these two are, the louder something will sound at the expense of dynamic range, and the results can be un-listenable. Limiting tends to over promote high frequencies, so mixes get brighter. If you don't compensate, things can get grating. On the flip side, lot's of low end content takes up a lot of the overall sound and level energy, eating dynamic range. An initial mix needs to be prepared properly if its going to achieve blasting levels while remaining listenable. Put another way, not all mixes an achieve the same loudness levels and still sound good, even with competent mastering.

As for the reason--think mix tape. What if your uncompressed/limited song is on a CD with a commercially loud one--your song is going to sound quiet by comparison. There's the genesis of the loudness wars. If this doesn't bug you, release your un or gently compressed mixes and be happy.
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loomerz
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the response man, thats a good read. I think I am going to settle for my own mixes, also considering these guys are French so there is a ridiculous language barrier.
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Al_
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Right on, and definitely google that if you want to dig into the issue a bit more. I did after I posted that and a bunch of cool links came up--probably with better descriptions than my iPhone ramblings.
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loomerz
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reading the Wiki page right now. Kevin Shields says some interesting stuff in here about it too:

http://pitchfork.com/features/interviews/8809-kevin-shields/
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Concretebadger
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd also recommend this article by Nick Southall:

Louder Than Everything Else (The Quietus)
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Al_
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

loomerz wrote:
Reading the Wiki page right now. Kevin Shields says some interesting stuff in here about it too:

http://pitchfork.com/features/interviews/8809-kevin-shields/


Yep, and that brings up a good point--the loudness stuff really didn't start until the advent of CDs. Vinyl records, particularly classical recordings, have huge dynamic range.

One other thing to point out--true mastering engineers are artists--it takes refined equipment and meticulous listening environments to do competent mastering. It's good to get samples of their work before signing on.
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loomerz
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks guys. Also, this is gonna seem lame, but...comparing the dynamic range values, the songs they sent me come up at 8 on that TT DR Meter, whereas my versions come up at 12, is there much difference?
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Al_
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think -12 dB rms is fine, and plenty loud. I wish more mastering engineers would work on the overall sound of the mix, as opposed to just trying to make it loud. I do some what I refer to as "ghetto mastering" for bands I record that aren't going to be able to go to a separate mastering house; and I can rarely push something to -8 dB rms without it falling apart.
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loomerz
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 26, 2013 8:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks man, this is has all been a good help.
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Ian
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd love to have an unmastered and mastered copy of what you are talking about.

Can you PM it to me?
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honeyiscool
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 15, 2013 1:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you want to make a loud mix that doesn't suck, you're going to have to use some sort of compression and limiting on almost every track with high peaks, especially drums, preferably with something multi-band. Then, when you combine everything together, you'll already have eased each track's peaks and it will combine to make a pleasing result that is still loud and punchy. While it's true that you can't apply huge amounts of limiting at the mastering stage, if your peaks are more peaky than is normal on commercial recordings, try and make sure that you don't have a mix that is peaky just for the sake of being peaky. While brickwall limiting is a digital-era artifact, it's not entirely true that loud mastering is a new thing. Motown records were plenty loud, just that they used pleasing, analogue methods to reach the goal, often methods like tape saturation.

I would say that you should compare your mix to something that is analogue recorded and dynamic yet considered finished, like any Albini mixed album, really. If you can't get your mixes to be as loud and punchy as an Albini record, then you probably overdid your dynamics.
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