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Unread 01-07-2007, 02:22 PM   #1
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Getting Full CD Volume

Now I've been recording at home for about a year now, and still my stuff doesn't sound nearly as loud as a CD. With my Pod and Toneport I can get a decent tone out of all the instruments and I've learned how to keep from clipping by watching the VU's regularly, but everything is way too quiet.

For a quick A/B, I ripped an Amon Amarth cd and imported it into Sonar, and sure enough it was much louder than my stuff, and the VU for the imported track was clipping (or at least in the red) like crazy .

Does this have anything to do with mastering? It's the only part of the process I havn't gotten into at all yet, so if it is any tips on what software/what to do are welcomed!
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Unread 01-07-2007, 02:57 PM   #2
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Hey, dude, we play the same guitar. Anyhow, yeah man, it's all about compression. Get rid of all the dynamics (which most people say is bad) and then just crank the levels. I suspect that truly loud mixes also have to do with the frequencies that each instrument occupies.

I don't necessarily think that compression is bad. That's what happens to the signal of a guitar that's metalled out. But the loud factor kind of sucks for us little guys. It's difficult to get a loud mix and still have it sound good, unless you really know what you're doing.
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Unread 01-07-2007, 03:01 PM   #3
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you can go into the red on analog easier than you can on digital equipment. reason being is that when you hit 100% (100 db on the VU meter) on a digital mixer, there is no signal. recording of the instrument, mixing them, and yes mastering has a lot to do with how loud an instrument is. a lot of people on the board and including me agree that it is not a good idea to use mastering software. the best bet is to take it to a mastering house if you can afford it. that's always the best. the kind of monitor's you use have a part in it too. the smaller cheaper computer speakers don't let you get very loud and that can harm the mixing of the instruments. i'm not familiar with working with a pod xt or toneport, but i have worked with analog equipment some. i wish i could offer more advice. i know someone on here will be able to add a lot more or correct anything that i have written. good luck!!

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Unread 01-07-2007, 03:40 PM   #4
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As Ancestor said, that's because people compress the hell out of most modern recordings.

I don't use compression on guitars at all, and I really wouldn't recommend it. It sounds louder, but loses dynamics and the finished result feels plastic and bad.

As I said, I don't use compression, but I can still get my recordings pretty loud without clipping the track. The trick is to record at a volume where you nearly clip the track.

If you want, try it, but I personally don't recommend it.

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Unread 01-08-2007, 03:14 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoSleepTilMetal View Post
For a quick A/B, I ripped an Amon Amarth cd and imported it into Sonar, and sure enough it was much louder than my stuff, and the VU for the imported track was clipping (or at least in the red) like crazy .
You've picked up on the downside of loud mixes, there's very little dynamic range so tracks often clip. Personally I'd prefer to have a quite recording I can turn the volume up on than a loud track that clips.
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Unread 01-11-2007, 09:05 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nik View Post
As Ancestor said, that's because people compress the hell out of most modern recordings.

I don't use compression on guitars at all, and I really wouldn't recommend it. It sounds louder, but loses dynamics and the finished result feels plastic and bad.

As I said, I don't use compression, but I can still get my recordings pretty loud without clipping the track. The trick is to record at a volume where you nearly clip the track.

If you want, try it, but I personally don't recommend it.
depends what compressors you use.



Some affordable but good compressors

dbx 160
RNC by FMR

SSL compression can certainly make any guitar sound slammin if you use it moderately
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Unread 01-11-2007, 09:24 PM   #7
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You know this may very well be blasphemy, but I don't mind the squashed dynamics of modern recordings. If I could have any guitar production I would choose something modern like Andy Sneap's production (particularly Dead Heart by Nevermore, or Empires by Biomechanical). I just like that very loud and in your face guitar sound, that still maintains clarity in all the other instruments.

I know that only so much is possible with only a Pod (then again Bulb throws that out the window), but if I could get even the general direction of that sound, I would be more than pleased. Are there any reasonablely priced plugins that really help in getting the most out of the guitar? Or any helpful tips about how to use them?
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Unread 01-12-2007, 03:17 AM   #8
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Why not PM Bulb if you like his production style?
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Unread 01-12-2007, 10:14 AM   #9
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I know this sounds bad, but you'll need to spend some money and get some good compressors (if you don't already). Sonar isn't the most accurate in terms of actual volume. You need a wav editing tool so that you can see just the levels are. And yes, most of that is done in mastering. As a general rule, I've found that files are about 3db quieter coming out of Sonar than when edited in Wavelab. I've heard that Vegas is good for mastering too but I've never used it.
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Unread 01-12-2007, 11:57 AM   #10
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First off, we're talking about mastering, not compression - related, but seperate subjects.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NoSleepTilMetal View Post
If I could have any guitar production I would choose something modern like Andy Sneap's production (particularly Dead Heart by Nevermore, or Empires by Biomechanical).
To be fair, "Dead Heart" isn't really as guilty of overcompressing as some of Nevermore's work - compare the mix on that to "Enemies of Reality" or "this Godless Endeavor," both of which were recorded hotter, to my ears, and suffer for it.

Mastering is a pretty big subject to get into, but the short version is most of what you're doing is some very selective EQ tweaking (and I'm not goign to even touch that), and a multi-band compression over the entire mix to bring the peaks down, coupled with a volume maximizer to bring the "new" peaks up to zero.

There's a whole slew of software mastrering apps - I'm using the Waves bundle - but if you don't have anything like that, then see if your FX program has a multi band compressor with a "high-res master" preset or something. If not, just pull up a regular compressor. Maximize your mix to -0db or JUST under (say, -0.1dB), and then set a compression threshold as far down as you're comfortable going - for a "hot" mix, probably somewhere in the -6dB range, although this is lower than I'd personally go. Set your compressor to hard limiting, then process, and maximize again. Viola, all of your hard transients have been squashed, and your mix sounds 6dB louder.

Look at it this way - most of your "clipping" will be in the form of transient peaks. an instrument such as a drum (often the limiting factor in how high you can get a mix) has a very hard attack almost instantaneously, that drops off quickly to a much quieter "sustain" part of the hit. With the aid of a compressor, you can effectively lop off those transient peaks and leave most of the dynamics there.

Two of my trademark ub3r-l33t MS Paint graphics for demonstration -





As you can see, by selectively hard limiting at the right threshold, you can buy yourself a couple extra decibels to boost up the finished mix.

The problem is, recently this has kind of gone to extremes. If you compress TOO far down, you begin to squash the dynamics, giving something like this:



This, done to a mix, will give you a SERIOUSLY hot, loud mix. The problem, though, is the human ear isn't used to hearing absolutely flat dynamics. Not only does this make the music sound weird (and, taken even further, distorted), it also leads to "ear fatigue," where it's actually somewhat unpleasant to listen to the mix for extended periods of time. It's the aural equivalent of taking a sledgehammer to your temple over and over and over again.

So, if you're going to do this, if you don;t have access to specific mastering software, a compressor (multi-band is ideal, as this gives you a little more control over which frequencies you're compressing, and by how much) and a volume maximizer will give you the results you're looking for. However, proceed with caution - few things sound as bad as an overcompressed mix.
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Unread 01-12-2007, 01:08 PM   #11
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I agree. Over maximizing a mix sounds like shit and should be avoided. Not only that, but if you get played on the radio or via any repectable podcast or internet radio your mix will be lower in volume than those recorded, mixed, and mastered correctly. It's pretty easy to get a loud volume without having to squeeze the hell out of the mix but you'll just need to learn the tricks more. For example, scooping out certain low frequencies of the guitars that aren't need, and are actually sometimes conflictive, with the bass tracks. Scooping out certain frequencies makes for a lot more headroom. Vocals for example also should have a fair amount of cut at certain low frequencies as they can make a mess of the mix and waste headroom. Proper compression and equalization on bass, drums, and vocals makes a HUGE difference in headroom.

So all in all if you get all that right then you can feel confident to maximize the volume which will get it up to normal play volumes but without destroying the sound. Recording is an art unto itself and getting your desired results can be totally maddening! That's why there are hundreds of thousands of people asking how to get their mixes loud out there I went through it too and have now learned what to do -correctly. Best of luck!

By the way... two examples of BAD over maximizing:

Marily Manson - The Golden Age of Grotesque (I have to turn the volume down lower than their earlier albums since it's so harsh!)

30 Seconds to Mars - A Beautiful Lie (The wife loves this album. Harsh clipping on loud parts from overmaximizing and volume pumping and breathing especially on the cymbals - probably from poor compression settings)

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Unread 01-12-2007, 03:45 PM   #12
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Ah thanks for the advice Drew and Rev, that's more what I was looking for. Honestly, I'm pretty familiar with compression (though a little review never hurt anyone) but I've never used a maximizer before. I'm really only familiar with the plugins that Sonar Home Studio came with (really not bad for the price), I know the Waves bundles are amazing but they're abit out of my price range as I've been spending hundreds over the past few months on musical things (everything from guitars to recording software to midi controllers, etc). Are there any comparable plugins for a lower price, or is the Waves bundle really worth the $2,000-3,000 price tag?

Also is it true that Sonar isn't entirely accurate in terms of loudness, like one user mentioned? I've grown so used to using Sonar, I'd hate to switch over to another program now.

Last edited by NoSleepTilMetal; 01-12-2007 at 03:48 PM. Reason: Left out vital point/grammer errors
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Unread 01-12-2007, 04:24 PM   #13
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No idea, really - it depends on internal settings. If your Sonar output is routing through one part of your card's mixing board (say, CD output) and your other programs are going through something else (say, .wav output), then it could be.

If the internal volume's a few dB lower, though, it shouldn't matter after you mix down and play it back through something else, which will have higher output. Moot point, I guess.

More importantly, who's the chick in your avatar?

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Unread 01-13-2007, 01:51 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew View Post
No idea, really - it depends on internal settings. If your Sonar output is routing through one part of your card's mixing board (say, CD output) and your other programs are going through something else (say, .wav output), then it could be.
Ah, thank god that I don't do such a thing, I really wasn't liking the idea of getting rid of Sonar! Moot point, indeed.

Quote:
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More importantly, who's the chick in your avatar?
Hahaha! Down to the real essentials of the internet forum, hot chick pics... Actually it's none other than the lovely Anne Hathaway

And further more, I would love to PM Bulb about his personal mixing settings (something that will no doubt take out from his time better spent writing more ass-kicking material, btw where is the brown noser smilie?) but I can't say that I know how. Sorry for being such a forum n00b, but how would I do this?
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