Monday, February 11, 2008

An Example of Loud Mastering

Okay, so you may have read my post called: To Limit or not to Limit. Well, I´m afraid I´m going to have to admit I was slightly wrong in that one. However, it still has some good points about limiting too harshly. Let me explain how I saw the light...

Below is a screen shot of a song I recorded. Take a listen Ain´t no Rock Old.mp3 (This is the same as the one posted in To Limit or not to Limit)

For this song the limiter in JAMin was bypassed. This allows the peaks their maximum amplitude, which is good because no sound quality is lost. The problem is that the track is far quieter than any commercial song. Trust me, this is a big problem - no one is going to take you seriously with a quiet track.

Below is a picture of the same track mastered loudly using the limiter to reduce the higher peaks. Take a listen to this track: Ain´t no Rock New.mp3

So in this track, as you can hear, it is much louder and competes with professional recording volumes. The cost: sound quality... As you can see the peaks have been hard limited to bring the big blob of sound closer to 0 dB. This means, your song can become less punchy. This is because the peaks are mostly from the bass drum and other percussive sounds. However, you regain punch in the fact that it will be played louder.

It´s a real toss-up and mastering professionals will debate this till the cows come home. I will make your decision easier, by saying that if you do not go for the louder mix, your songs are just not going to stand up to professional tracks.

Alrighty, with that all said, how do you get the louder mix using JAMin. This is where I apologise, you MUST use the limiter. Take a look at the screenshot of my limiter setup below.

You can see that I set the boost to the maximum - remember that we are trying to achieve a LOUD mix. Next, and most importantly, the Limit is set to -0.2 dB, this is the value at which the peaks will be cut off (you can play around with this, but only between values of -0.3 dB to 0 dB). I set the Release to round 400 ms, you want quite a long release otherwise the sharp peaks will not be cut. Lastly, we fine tune the limiter by adjusting the Input level. We do this by observing the Output level meter on the right-hand side of the JAMin window. You want your loudest parts of the track (i.e. chorus) to stay between about -2 dB and -0.2 dB, without hearing any distortion in the slightest. Make sure your track does not merely sit on the -0.2 dB mark - this means the limiter input is too high and you are limiting too much!

That´s the gist of it... give it a try and please don´t forget to rate this post.


Jamie said...

Cool Song,

I you wouldn't mind. I am a definitely not a drummer. So for my creative projects I definitely struggle in that aspect. I wouldn't mind seeing your Hydrogen Drum Beat if you have a chance.

Thanks and Keep Writing by All Means!

Brian said...

Hey Jamie,

I'm not at home at the moment so I cannot post my drumbeat yet. I will post it up as soon as possible.

If you are interested, I have written quite a complex Hydrogen Drumbeat for U2's song Sunday Bloody Sunday - here

I also plan to write up a set of basic Hydrogen beats to help non-drummers. Keep checking my blog because it should be coming soon.


Michael H said...

I haven't heard a good explanation of what the boost fader does, but I bet it's not a good idea to just crank it all the way, especially if you are going to turn the limiter input down at all. I would suggest playing with the multiband compressor first and limiting if needed afterwords.

Here is a track I did with my father-in-law. It's a christian rockish track that he wrote.

I used NO limiting, just compression on individual tracks and multiband compression in Jamin. I have an average volume of -14dbFS in the loud parts and peaks hitting 0dbFS.

Brian the Lion said...

Hey Michael H,

Thanks for the fantastic feedback. As far as I know, the boost is merely an additional gain stage for the entire JAMin mix. It can be used to crank your mixes up to the desired level.

I definitely agree with you, a compressor would work better for getting a mix to the desired level. I was just being lazy. However, limiting is useful and is used by professionals to eliminate some of those sharp peaks from the drums. The drum peaks are typically the loudest and chopping these can give you a far louder mix which is desired if that's what you're going for. Granted, its losing some sound quality but loudness sells - the loud mastering technique is widely debated but a quiet mix just won't cut it in the real world.

Thanks again for your input,

Brian the Lion said...

Jamie said: "I you wouldn't mind. I am a definitely not a drummer. So for my creative projects I definitely struggle in that aspect. I wouldn't mind seeing your Hydrogen Drum Beat if you have a chance."

I have written a Hydrogen Drumbeat Template which non-drummers can use to construct drumbeats easily. Check it out here:


jonathanku said...

Hey Brian and others... just wondering if you can give a quick summary of how you record the jamin' output normally.

Do you output the Ardour master to Jamin, then record the Jamin output in another Ardour track???

Help appreciated - gradually getting the hang of Ardour and busses/plugins etc. etc. This blog's been a good help.

Brian the Lion said...

Hey Jonathanku,

Thanks for the feedback. I have written a post on how to interface JAMin with Ardour here:

Hope it helps,

Brian the Lion said...

Sorry, I stuffed up the link code...Here's a working link:
Intefacing JAMin with Ardour