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Microlab
Supreme tranceaddict



Registered: Jul 2008
Location: behind the cow
Mixing and Mastering

Hey guys, please confirm my understanding of the processes consequence is correct - I first need to mix my track at below -10 db RMS, not thinking about the final loudness and then when I am satisfied with the mix, I have to make a pre-mastered version of my track with RMS at around -8,-9 db in order to give it a label-friendly quality? Does it make sense?

Thanks.

Old Post May-03-2018 13:11  Russia
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SystematicX1
Supreme tranceaddict



Registered: Sep 2010
Location: Las Vegas

I always thought it was -6db


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Old Post May-03-2018 13:19  United States
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DJ RANN
Supreme tranceaddict



Registered: May 2001
Location: Hollywood....

Oh god, here we go.

Firstly, and before I get in to anything else, there's absolutely no point even thinking about what levels you should be mixing to unless you've calibrated your system t one of the mixing standards (-18dbfs or -16 if you must).

Without it, you have no idea what those levels mean in real applications.

If you are on a calibrated system then we can talk about what levels you should be mixing to.

And the answer is just a fraction below (or as close as humanly possible to) 0dbfs on your meters.

One of the reasons that things like "-6db" and "-10db" get banded about is because someone asked Robert babicz what level they should send him a file, and he responded with -6db.

However, this was slightly loaded becuase as I understand it, he was sick of people sending him clipped files with tons of compression, so he said he prefers so compression at all (except maybe if you've got it on a drum group) and then leave him 6db of headroom so he can compress and add enough makeup gain. It was also so that if any stems needed rebalancing he had a little space to play with.

So in essence, his answer was for those that were sending him files that weren't really ready for mastering and that extra space could let him fix it.

IMO (and not to contradict someone as talented as him) we should aim for a perfect mix, then treat mastering as a completely separate stage and entity.

not to get too tangential but too often we try to do it all; We compose, arrange produce, sound design, engineer, mix, and master, as is the nature of electronic music, but we need to realize that these are actually separate disciplines and in nearly every other form of music, you'd never attempt to do all of them (unless you're prince, and even he had engineers to help).

Having said that, we have the tools to do it....up to a point.

Personally, I believe the furthest we should try is up to the mixing point, and leave mastering to a professional. I've been a studio and score mix engineer for close to 15 years now. One guy I worked with has an IMDB that would make you shit yourself, he's arguably one of the best mix engineers on the planet (i.e. top 5). Even he states mastering it out of his league. he could probably do it if he applied himself, but it's a completely different disclipine using different equipment and a different mindset.

Why am I going on about this?

Because, if you deliver a well mixed file that's at 0dbfs, any decent mastering engineer will have no problem working with that.

All they have to do to give themselves headroom is attenuate the gain down to a lower level if that's what they need - The crucial advantage of this (and why I disagree with babicz) is that inherent noise floor has been printed at it's optimum level of signal to noise ratio at it's calibrated peak of 0dbfs. If you deliver a file printed at -6 or -10, then the noise floor is printed relative to that level, and then when you bring it up to 0dbfs, as any mastering engineer will on a calibrated system (see why it's important to have a calibrated system now?) the noise will be raised along with the gain, meaning there's more noise than the file that was at 0dbfs.

Also, from an engineering perspective, especially in terms of gain staging, you set the benchmark for your system and you mix to that benchmark. It makes no sense to setup your signal flow and gain staging, only to mix to some arbitrary figure below that.

Every single mix engineer I know mixes to 0dbfs. If you need anything else, then change the gain after the fact or let it be the mastering engineer's problem.

Finally, if your asking these sort of questions about mixing to strange levels, you're not in a position where you should be considering mastering. Mastering these days costs nothing, and there plenty of guys out there that will do it for relatively little and give you decent results.

Old Post May-03-2018 19:36 
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Microlab
Supreme tranceaddict



Registered: Jul 2008
Location: behind the cow

Well I once had a chat with Sunny Lax and he said -8,-9 is ok too. But thats not the point. Assuming that what I wrote in my prev post is true, lets say I mixed my track and got it ready for pre-mastering. On separate channels I used various dynamic processing FX like saturation, compressor etc. How do I add the loudness to these separate channels during mastering ? Use the same compressor and saturation but with different settings or add extra instances of the FX and process them again for loudness?

Old Post May-03-2018 21:00  Russia
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Microlab
Supreme tranceaddict



Registered: Jul 2008
Location: behind the cow

@DJ Rann, most labels want demos in a good pre-mastered shape. I guess producers should be able to do at least pre masters by themselves.

Old Post May-03-2018 21:07  Russia
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DJ RANN
Supreme tranceaddict



Registered: May 2001
Location: Hollywood....

There's no such thing as "Pre master".

There's a final mix which you can send as a project file or stems to a mastering house, but there's not such thing a "pre maser" as such.

If you send a track to a label and they bounce it becuase it isn't mastered then they're idiots. Labels, even the shittiest of digital ones, have people they can master with.

Now granted, a lot of artists prefer to have control over their final track (and some labels murder tracks with poor mastering) so find yourself someone that you can work with and afford. Raphie (JJ) on here actually had a pretty nice setup for mastering and although it wasn't penthouse studios at Capitol quality, it was certainly good enough for a digital release. I think he was like 25eur a track too.

I don't really understand what you're getting at with "how do I add the loudness to these separate channels during mastering".

I'm really not trying to be a dick, but if you're honestly asking how you do things like compress and effectively use makeup gain for mastering.......

........then you really shouldn't be attempting mastering. It's the long winded equivalent of slapping Ozone across the master.

It's like telling your friends you'll drive tonight, then asking "what do these pedal things do?".

So the short answer is don't do it as you don't know what you're doing

The long answer is that you do your final mix, then print the stems, which are split in to things like drums/perc, vox, leads/synths, strings, etc, and then you apply the mastering techniques to these stems. Sometimes, you may need to revisit the tracks within a stem if it's not sitting right but on the whole, you usually just work with the stems.

Sometimes when mastering, you'll have the tracks dry within stems and then also have the wet FX prints and this might be one stem or you might have a wet stem for each individual stem. The former is more common but I've seen both before.

You then mix and FX these stems in to the master.

Now guys that really know what they want as a final master, will pre-empt their final product by putting some of the FX on the master. it's basically a shortcut because they know they're going to use an 1176 during the mastering phase, so instead they choose to mix right in to it.

Do not fucking attempt to mix in to a compressor/limiter if you are not a ninja. It won't end well.

Old Post May-03-2018 22:49 
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AlphaStarred
-__---__-_-_-_-----_



Registered: Jul 2002
Location: Brooklyn, NY

I always just recorded my trax by ear - sometimes only through headphones. In retrospect, it wasn't always the best idea, but generally you want your stuff to sound good to you. Many of my trax are intentionally distorted, so it may also depend on the type of sound you're going for.

Old Post May-10-2018 03:12  Israel
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Trancelover03591
Trained tranceaddict



Registered: Feb 2011
Location: Southern California

Because I am not great at the technical side of music, I have followed the -6db rule pretty consistently trying to achieve some sort of pro mixing. However, my solo tracks (if I collab my partner tends to mix and master) tend to be much softer than other songs in the same genre, to the point of being difficult to mix in a DJ set. About 2-3 years ago I began to wonder how much the -6db thing is really followed in the industry, especially when I was listening to EDM songs that were so much louder than mine. I don't work solo much anymore so I haven't had to deal with it too much, but 2 recent tracks I did solo were too soft as well.


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Old Post May-10-2018 03:46  England
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evo8
Virtual Wannabe



Registered: Aug 2004
Location:
Re: Mixing and Mastering

quote:
Originally posted by Microlab
Hey guys, please confirm my understanding of the processes consequence is correct - I first need to mix my track at below -10 db RMS, not thinking about the final loudness and then when I am satisfied with the mix, I have to make a pre-mastered version of my track with RMS at around -8,-9 db in order to give it a label-friendly quality? Does it make sense?

Thanks.


stop worrying so much about all that stuff, concentrate your efforts on the actual music


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Old Post May-10-2018 10:11  Ireland
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DJ RANN
Supreme tranceaddict



Registered: May 2001
Location: Hollywood....

quote:
Originally posted by Trancelover03591
Because I am not great at the technical side of music, I have followed the -6db rule pretty consistently trying to achieve some sort of pro mixing. However, my solo tracks (if I collab my partner tends to mix and master) tend to be much softer than other songs in the same genre, to the point of being difficult to mix in a DJ set. About 2-3 years ago I began to wonder how much the -6db thing is really followed in the industry, especially when I was listening to EDM songs that were so much louder than mine. I don't work solo much anymore so I haven't had to deal with it too much, but 2 recent tracks I did solo were too soft as well.


You don't have to be "great" at the technical side of things, but frankly you already are technical enough to make a track so what I'm talking about (0dbfs as your benchmark) is really no extra brainpower.

Try making your next track to peak a fraction below 0db. If you don't want to get a sound meter and do a full calibration, then just have your master at unit gain, no FX on the master, and mix to 0db. Turn up you monitors so that the loudest sound that peaks at 0db is getting close to the upper limit of your comfort zone in hearing. (Calibration has a side effect that basically makes it so that if you clip and go above 0db, it's uncomfortable to listen to).

If you do that, you're mixing to your full available noise floor and it will standardize your volume for listening/mixing.

Old Post May-10-2018 20:09 
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Trancelover03591
Trained tranceaddict



Registered: Feb 2011
Location: Southern California

quote:
Originally posted by DJ RANN
You don't have to be "great" at the technical side of things, but frankly you already are technical enough to make a track so what I'm talking about (0dbfs as your benchmark) is really no extra brainpower.

Try making your next track to peak a fraction below 0db. If you don't want to get a sound meter and do a full calibration, then just have your master at unit gain, no FX on the master, and mix to 0db. Turn up you monitors so that the loudest sound that peaks at 0db is getting close to the upper limit of your comfort zone in hearing. (Calibration has a side effect that basically makes it so that if you clip and go above 0db, it's uncomfortable to listen to).

If you do that, you're mixing to your full available noise floor and it will standardize your volume for listening/mixing.


That description is actually different than I have heard mixing/mastering explained before, and it makes some sense to me. I am trying to have great technical production work on my upcoming music, since I am looking to work with top labels.


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Old Post May-11-2018 02:20  England
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Vector A
Your petrochemical arms



Registered: Apr 2011
Location: U.S.

If you're mixing to 24 or 32 bit audio would 6 db of lost headroom really make that much difference to a skilled mastering engineer? I mean we are talking about dance music here, not something with real dynamic range like a soundtrack.

Old Post May-11-2018 12:23  United States
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