Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

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jukeboxjoe
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by jukeboxjoe » Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:28 am

dominicperry wrote: 3) Commercial/pro mastering engineers now have a sordid array of very expensive equipment to get levels slammed to 0dB (and sometimes over - digital clipping is becoming increasingly common). The tools consist of an army of specialist (often expensive) plugins, D/A convertors, summing boxes, A/D convertors, more D/A convertors. It's pretty extreme. All to get the level as high as possible while still leaving some semblance of impression that there's music going on. It's very clever stuff, and the guys who do it well are very good at it and command big fees. But as an amateur, firstly you can't compete with them and secondly, you don't need to. Because if you get good enough to need one, your record company will pay for one. You can also pay for mastering services online - ftp a folder of final mixes to them and get a properly mastered album for $500.

....

The built in compressors and limiters in Auria will do a perfectly good job of raising individual track levels and final mix levels to a very satisfying point. And with a little bit of practice, it can be done in a few minutes. Start with the song and the recording and the mix. (Mixing will most likely involve some track compression anyway). Once you've got it sounding how you like it, raising the final level and average levels is a relatively quick and easy task. Don't compare it with the latest release from one of the big pop/rock acts of the era, and you won't notice the difference. Just crank your monitoring chain up a bit and do your own thing.

Dominic
I wanted to quote the parts that were an excellent reminder to myself! I tend to compare my levels with the pro recordings and stupidly ask myself "why can't I reach those levels without distorting my music"? When the fact is, as you mentioned, on our own we can still achieve a very satisfying point! As for the $500, let me share something: I laid down $500 for just such an online service (just before Auria came out). Then Auria came out. Then I imported my mix into Auria to see how close I could get to "the $500 sound" (which was not as good as the stuff on the radio), used its basic mastering tools and got a higher and cleaner level on my own than what I paid $500 for! Moral of the story: in my opinion, unless you do not want to learn how to master at a decent home level (yes, it takes patience), then save yourself the 500 bucks (unless you want the quick and dirty but expensive solution). But THAT level you can definitely achieve with Auria (or any decent DAW with good plugins like Fabfilters).

drock
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by drock » Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:38 am

Interesting. So who did you pay the $500 to? Just curious, thanks!

Phil999
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by Phil999 » Tue Jan 15, 2013 9:17 am

louder = better?

dominicperry
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by dominicperry » Tue Jan 15, 2013 10:14 am

There are a couple of very interesting articles about the 'Loudness Wars' online. I'll see if I can dig up the URLs.

The problem is a complex one. Unfortunately, the truth is that, in blind listening tests, louder is better. In other words, ask people what they like and any track played even 1dB louder (maybe even 0.1dB louder) is voted as better. (This comes up time and time again in hi-fi comparisons). So, initial impressions are simply that - louder is better. This means that you can listen to something great followed by something rubbish, and you will still get an emotional kick from the rubbish track, just because it's louder. It doesn't lead to long term musical satisfaction, but it does lead to elevated record sales for those tracks with higher perceived loudness. And that's why it's a problem.

The best article I have read on this (I think it was by Bob Katz) shows a timeline with all the technologies used and what the peaks and average loudness values are. Along with his commentary, it allows you to spot the point where it all went wrong. In other words, some of the loudness wars were not such a bad thing - they were about overcoming the restrictions of the available recording and playback technologies, and they allowed music to be played in cars and bars and still be enjoyed - but at some point the musicality got lost.

Dominic

jukeboxjoe
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by jukeboxjoe » Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:22 pm

dominicperry wrote:...you will still get an emotional kick from the rubbish track, just because it's louder. It doesn't lead to long term musical satisfaction...
Dominic
Exactly. It does give you that initial impact. But it doesn't last. I get listening fatigue much quicker listening to the radio - even if it's at a low volume. The problem is not amplitude but dynamic range.

drock, it was the SoundLab at Discmakers, but I don't want to throw them under the bus. I am ridiculously finicky and they were extremely patient and friendly, and they even credited me back the $500 when I told them I was happier with what I was able to do on my own. In fact, they still got $2000 of my business since I used them for their other services as well.

As for the mastering, had I spent more time with the M.E. they provided me, I'm sure eventually we would have found a sound similar to or possibly better than what I got on my own with Auria, but that's the whole point! Auria reached a good enough level for me in less time than it took the M.E. (keep in mind I wasn't his only customer), so when I got the results I liked with Auria, I asked for a refund, and they gave it to me (possibly since I was doing more business with them for my album).

The end result is not as "loud" as what you'll hear on the radio, but it's pretty darn close, without oversquashing it. And keep in mind, I did it using Auria's built-in compressor and limiter, not the better Fabfilters plugins, which I can't wait to get my hands on!

If anyone's interested to hear a sample of what I'm talking about, my name is Joe Tunon the album is called "D.I.Y." (it's on iTunes, Amazon, and a bunch of other services), and you don't have to buy it, just check out the samples. (I'm not saying not to buy it, either! :wink: )

Phil999
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by Phil999 » Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:33 pm

do IAP plugins sound better than internal plugins?

It's possible, but I put this question here for the following reason: I've observed people tend to judge from GUI's and prices. A nice GUI and high price = better, while a cheap plugin with dull GUI must be bad. This may be true in many cases, but not always. One should do a test with the VST/AU equivalent demo's and compare.

There was once a test with Mini-Disc, DCC (Digital Cassette Tape), and CD. Four seasoned musicians were invited for a blind test. Each tester's result was different, some even favored the compressed media because these have some psychoacoustical tricks in the compression algorithm (slight boost of certain frequencies in the mids and highs). But that was a pure listening test, and is a similar example for my previous question (louder = better?). There was another test among audiophiles. A high-end very expensive stereo amplifier, and an average consumer amplifier. Both devices were visible to the testers (sorry, experts). All of them judged the high-end amp as clearly superior. Better 'transparency', more 'air', etc. You can imagine the tech talk. But what the experts didn't know: it wasn't a listening test. It was a psychological test. The signals they heard have been exchanged. :D

Trust your ears, your eyes and your prejudices can fool you. I'm a graphic artist and learned how advertising works. It is not an honest business. Not at all.

shotgun
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by shotgun » Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:18 pm

Wow some great responses in here thank you all. I'm reading and trying to learn what i can.
I did manage to get a better master (loud) on my one song i was playing around with, so i'm pretty happy. i didn't buy any plugins yet.
wanted to see what i could do in just aruia. I made 4 mastered version. (please don't laugh at the song , i just started lol)

1) Song straight from Beatmaker .WAV mixdown (not master)
2) Ariua NOT Mastered from Beatmaker .AIF
3) Ariua Mastered from Beatmaker .AIF
4) Logic master from the Beatmaker to .M4A

The Mastered Auria and Logic sounded the best and (Loudest) but the Logic was a little better.

but again this is not knowing wtf i'm doing, just turning buttons and using my ear.
But honestly please someone make a few simple auria mastering video tutorial and post them here. That would be so helpful Please! :)

thank you
Last edited by shotgun on Fri Jan 18, 2013 3:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Phil999
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by Phil999 » Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:32 pm

good effort!

Regarding specific Auria tutorials; just read on the topic (there are several books), watch mixing/mastering video tutorials. All you're learning can be applied to Auria. What you did is however much better. What you learn through your own work is what matters. Comparing different mixes from different methods is a very good way of learning.

Google/Vimeo/Youtube is your friend and enemy. Almost all major producers have learned through their own experience and ear training, not from what others think or advise. What you read and see on the internet can be helpful or misleading; you can never be sure.

Training, experience, and hard work is what will advance your capabilities; tutorials can only be a guide.

jukeboxjoe
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by jukeboxjoe » Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:39 pm

Phil999 wrote:do IAP plugins sound better than internal plugins?
They can, but it's not always the sound that you're paying for, nor just the look and feel. The two main reasons I buy an IAP plugin are for its added flexibility and its sound. The Fabfilter Pro-Q, for example, has an insane amount of functionality and it sounds great. It allows me to do things I cannot do with the built in EQ. It sure is a bummer to lay down the money for a plugin that doesn't give you a better sound or make you more creative than just using what's built in, but that's where other people's shared experience can help. I'm glad Fabfilter has their plugins available. It's hard to go wrong with them.

Phil999
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by Phil999 » Wed Jan 16, 2013 10:22 pm

full agreement with what you say. The Pro-Q is the one IAP I made, because it can do things I cannot do with the PSP EQ. Equalisers are most important next to the faders.

It is the sound you are paying for. Obviously your first sentence was not exactly what you were trying to say.

shotgun
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by shotgun » Wed Jan 16, 2013 10:38 pm

So would you use both the built in EQ and the Pro-Q? Or just the Pro-Q

Phil999
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by Phil999 » Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:31 am

I'm using both. Often only a lowcut or highcut is needed. Or just 'normal' EQing. I think the internal one is excellent to work with. Actually it was the screenshot of the channel strip which convinced me to buy Auria, mainly because of the EQ.

The Pro-Q I use for more creative stuff and effects. Deep notches, automated sweeps, such things.

It's so important that it is not a luxury to have two EQ's for choice.

rocdok
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by rocdok » Sat Feb 22, 2014 10:36 pm

I have a simpler newbie question that goes somewhat with this thread. I' m mixing my subs and keeping them lower than the master. I open the detailed master meter and even though the regular master meter is a bit into the red, the detailed meter is much lower. Do I push the master fader up to have the detailed meter into yellow and just under red even though the regular meter seems to be clipping? Which one do I believe? Thx.

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Tarekith
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by Tarekith » Sun Feb 23, 2014 11:38 am

Personally I would trust the detailed meter, but anytime you see red on a master meter it means you're clipping which is bad. You could use the default PSP limiter to tame those little peaks, or as has been mentioned before in this thread, the much better Pro-L version. Here's a simple mastering guide for people that want to master their own music, the concepts apply to any DAW:

http://tarekith.com/assets/pdfs/Mastering.pdf

Hopefully that gives you some ideas on how to approach mastering in a much easier way.

rocdok
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Re: Audio output levels / Mastering tutorial

Post by rocdok » Sun Feb 23, 2014 7:19 pm

Thanks very much for this!

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