Go Back   Cockos Incorporated Forums > REAPER Forums > REAPER General Discussion Forum

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 03-30-2024, 09:17 AM   #1
JohnnyMusic
Human being with feelings
 
JohnnyMusic's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Twin Cities, Mn
Posts: 398
Default How to get loud masters without pumping and distortion?

Hello All,

I've been recording and mixing in reaper for several years now and am starting to pay more attention to the mastering process. I work entirely in the box.

What I'm running into is distortion and pumping of masters (presumably from making the limiters work too hard)

I don't actually want super loud masters. I'm fine with something like integrated -11 lufs for a track. But even at that level, I end up with some distortion and pumping (for example in the last chorus with the most RMS, when the vocals come in, the whole mix gets sucked down and loses punch, then comes back up when the vocals are absent).

For comparison, I have reference tracks that are at -8 LUFS and I can't hear any pumping, and distortion is there but not terrible.

I've researched how to get mixes loud and the best I am come with is that you need to do some dynamics control at every stage of the mix (individual tracks, busses, etc) so that the mix is already loud and you need to do very little compression, limiting, or clipping on the master bus to get the lufs level you want and it prevents the pumping I desribed above.
(I've tried to do some of this but maybe I'm not being aggressive enough with it).

Is this how getting a loud mix without pumping is achieved? In the days of adat tapes and CDs, how did they get them so loud without pumping?

Again, I don't necessarily want my mixes at -8 lufs, integrated, but I want to know how that's achieved with the most transparency, so I can skillfully use dynamics to get the results that I want.

Thanks in advance for any advice you have, I look forward to your comments.

John
JohnnyMusic is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-30-2024, 10:24 AM   #2
drummerboy
Human being with feelings
 
drummerboy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 235
Default

Try a clipper on transient-heavy stuff like Snare or Drumbus during mixing.
I routinely can get away with clipping 3-4dB off a snare without it sounding bad.
Then another clipper on the master before going into limiting. Small amounts go a long way.
Also - do you have a mixbus compressor to mix into as you go? Can‘t live without it.

Best,
Frank
drummerboy is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 03-30-2024, 10:51 AM   #3
DVDdoug
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Silicon Valley, CA
Posts: 2,809
Default

Pumping usually comes from compression. Usually limiters are "instant" so you don't have that side effect.

...I'm not an expert but I've always assumed it takes skill & experience to "win" the loudness war without too much other damage.

A tape saturation effect may help. Analog tape "soft clips" as it saturates and it has NAB EQ that boost the highs when recording with complementary playback EQ. The playback EQ further softens the distortion harmonics.

...If you don't know this all of the popular streaming services use loudness normalization so you can't be louder than everybody else. Over-compression & over-limiting just kills the dynamic contrast, IMO making music boring.

You can still be quieter than everybody else on streaming because they won't boost into clipping.

For my digital files I use ReplayGain for loudness matching. I don't play CDs that much but it's not that important with CDs because you can adjust the volume when the CD starts and all of the songs are all about the same loudness, or with "appropriate" differences as intended. quieter.

Quote:
best I am come with is that you need to do some dynamics control at every stage of the mix (individual tracks, busses, etc) so that the mix is already loud and you need to do very little compression, limiting, or clipping on the master bus to get the lufs level you want
That should help, but you'll still need compression and/or limiting on the master. You can't predict how the peaks will line-up or how loud they will be before mixing.

I think the "standard professional practice" is for the mixing engineer to mix for the "best sound". That usually includes compression & limiting, but it's not done for loudness.

Then the mastering engineer takes care of the loudness target.

...Actually, it starts with the arrangement & performance which may, or may not, be played dynamically.

Last edited by DVDdoug; 03-30-2024 at 11:01 AM.
DVDdoug is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 03-30-2024, 10:40 AM   #4
JohnnyMusic
Human being with feelings
 
JohnnyMusic's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Twin Cities, Mn
Posts: 398
Default

Thanks for your thoughts Frank.

Regarding the bus compressor,

I haven't mixed into one because I don't quite understand how it works.

It seems like as the mix progresses, the way the bus compressor is reacting would change.

Do you adjust it periodically as you work on the mix?

Do you put it on right away or after the mix is taking shape?

Any thoughts on the rationale of why you do this and how you do this would be appreciated.

Thanks again!
JohnnyMusic is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-30-2024, 10:59 AM   #5
serr
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 12,803
Default

Typical volume war CDs (or whatever format that mayhem is written to) usually get a big treble boost. Sometimes low end attenuation or compression too. And often they are still pumping with the kick drum! They're all brutally distorted and tinny with this. That's the extreme -8 LUFS and louder examples.

There are shades of grey and all but the short answer is you can't and either has anyone else been able to! They don't seem to care or notice either as long as it's loud. It's like an 8 bit world and ear buds and soundbars are the height of audiophile-ness.

My caveman approach if I have a mix hitting the limiter stupidly even though I have it at the level I believe it should be sitting at. Assess the damage after and now maybe I can spot the elements I had too hot or some low mid masking crap getting in the way. Now I'll go back to the mix and hopefully finish it.
serr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-30-2024, 11:08 AM   #6
King Stupid
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Posts: 1,256
Default

Composition, eq, compression distortion and limiting individual instruments, frequency ducking. And composition.
__________________
Tell us your hardware and setup. Show us your Options > Preferences > Device screen.
Nearly human, with very few feelings.
King Stupid is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 03-30-2024, 11:30 AM   #7
JohnnyMusic
Human being with feelings
 
JohnnyMusic's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Twin Cities, Mn
Posts: 398
Default

This is all great input. Thank you!

By the way, the music is standard indie/alt rock and pop. Drums, bass, guitar, vocals, keys.

I am aware of the normalization with streaming and I am not trying to get crazy loud masters. My goal is right at or just above the standards.

The composition point is a good one, I think, but one of the mixes I referenced is pretty dense with instruments (maybe mixed well to limit RMS?)

The weird thing is, I seem to get some pumping even with limiters and clippers only on the master.

Overall, it sounds like the game is good composition, controlling dynamics at different stages skillfully and transparently, etc.

Serr, I get there are definitely compromises to getting louder, but the sound I'm getting even at -12, I am not happy with, thus this overall question.

Thanks again and I'd appreciate any other advice or thoughts.
JohnnyMusic is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-30-2024, 12:09 PM   #8
fourdogslong
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Sep 2023
Posts: 588
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyMusic View Post

Thanks again and I'd appreciate any other advice or thoughts.
You don't have to go crazy and limit/clip everything individually to get a loud mix/master even though sometimes some elements need it.

One thing I would encourage you to do, which might help you get better at this is to put a clipper followed by a limiter on your master. You can also have your usual EQ/compressor on the master before the clipper if you want, this is personnal.

Then mix through the clipper/limiter chain at the desired level, -10dB LUFS for example.
Inevitably you will get distortion and undesired effects, when that happens it time to go fishing, see which element of the mix causes it, then try maybe removing some offending frequencies from that instrument, maybe its just too loud, maybe its got too much useless low end or too much midrange?
Figure it out one element at a time.
Doing it like that will make you learn a lot and you won't have any bad surprises at mastering, you can bypass your clipper/limiter before rendering to have a clean mix.
fourdogslong is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-30-2024, 01:00 PM   #9
serr
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 12,803
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyMusic View Post
The weird thing is, I seem to get some pumping even with limiters and clippers only on the master.
That's not weird. That's genuinely what would be expected from limiting on the master bus!

There's the part you wanted to turn up and that's all good but then a bunch of murky mids and lows comes along with it and things get weird. Try listening for what gets in the way and too forward and then go after those issues in the mix.
serr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-30-2024, 12:01 PM   #10
fourdogslong
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Sep 2023
Posts: 588
Default

It's been said thousands of times but loudness starts at the mix (and a proper mix starts with proper arrangements).
All the little bits count.
fourdogslong is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-30-2024, 11:19 AM   #11
King Stupid
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Jan 2020
Posts: 1,256
Default

Composition, eq, compression distortion and limiting individual instruments, frequency ducking. And composition.
__________________
Tell us your hardware and setup. Show us your Options > Preferences > Device screen.
Nearly human, with very few feelings.
King Stupid is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 03-30-2024, 03:56 PM   #12
drummerboy
Human being with feelings
 
drummerboy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 235
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyMusic View Post
Thanks for your thoughts Frank.

Regarding the bus compressor,

I haven't mixed into one because I don't quite understand how it works.

It seems like as the mix progresses, the way the bus compressor is reacting would change.

Do you adjust it periodically as you work on the mix?

Do you put it on right away or after the mix is taking shape?

Any thoughts on the rationale of why you do this and how you do this would be appreciated.

Thanks again!
The way I use it (Dramastic obsidian, but any SSL-like comp will do) it‘s usually doing 2-3dB of GR with slow attack (10-20ms), auto-release and 2:1 ratio. If I adjust anything, it‘s the release (auto or fastest. Usually like auto best.)
I keep it on there from the start and mix into it. Any moment it gets squashed too much I‘ll turn down all my busses a bit. But after a while you‘ll have an established threshold that works for your usual gain staging.
Mixing without the comp on feels unfinished to me. You‘ll also need a lot less compression on the individual tracks because the master comp kinda puts a „rubber-band“ around the mix that defines it‘s limits (much like a frame does to a painting, in my mind).

I usually only do the clipping/limiting for client mixes so it gets a bit of a push. I never master my own mixes, they go to the same mastering engineer since 10 years. Always good to have a fresh set of ears

Best,
Frank
drummerboy is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 03-30-2024, 06:01 PM   #13
SmoothOperator
Human being with feelings
 
Join Date: Oct 2021
Posts: 258
Default

IMO the only way to get clean mixes without pumping or distortion is to embrace the media. You're never going to have a "clean" mix at 8lufs where you can hear an acoustic bass drum with its full impulse response. In fact, I would go so far as to say these kinds of recordings never existed.
SmoothOperator is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-30-2024, 09:02 PM   #14
JohnnyMusic
Human being with feelings
 
JohnnyMusic's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Twin Cities, Mn
Posts: 398
Default

Thanks for the detail about mixing into a compressor, Frank.

Smooth operator, I'm not sure what you mean by "embrace the media" but rest of what you said makes sense. I'm not really aiming for -8 mixes, but I figure that knowing how it's done will be instructive for how to keep things as transparent as possible even in a more dynamic mix, if that makes sense. Thanks for your reply!
JohnnyMusic is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-31-2024, 12:38 AM   #15
tonalstates
Human being with feelings
 
tonalstates's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Posts: 685
Default

and then there's Mr. Bill who I've seen push a mix to -3 LUFS hahaha insane yeah, probably unnecessary yet he still has great sounding mixes imo...

https://youtu.be/6xJoyAofIVQ

That tells me it really is all in good arrangement and mixing process, carefully choosing sounds in their own place within the spectrum.

He also has said he often clips his tracks (like literally going into the red) because according to him it works like a clipper, sometimes better. I don't know about that but man, if he says that and his mixes sound that way then he probably knows a thing or two about modern digital mixing, I on the other hand don't so take this with a grain of salt. There are many ways to achieve that but EQ and compression seems like the biggest ones.
tonalstates is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 03-31-2024, 06:04 PM   #16
vdubreeze
Human being with feelings
 
vdubreeze's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 2,655
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyMusic View Post
I've researched how to get mixes loud and the best I am come with is that you need to do some dynamics control at every stage of the mix (individual tracks, busses, etc) so that the mix is already loud and you need to do very little compression, limiting, or clipping on the master bus to get the lufs level you want and it prevents the pumping I desribed above.
(I've tried to do some of this but maybe I'm not being aggressive enough with it)
Individual track and bus dynamics plugins are definitely an important ingredient in being able to put the mix exactly where you like it into the master plugins. And it takes arriving at the combinations for that to work as desired. If I'm going for a radio friendly pop or rock mix, I (very generally, not as a rule) have busses for every layer of instruments, with compression and limiting in use and always using parallel comp/limiting, where you let a certain amount of dry signal come through, using either a dry/wet mix parameter on the plugin or Reaper's own, in the little knob in the upper right. Same on most of the tracks. Then sometimes the busses get bussed, so it becomes just five or six stereo busses hitting the master, and each of these can get subtle or not subtle dynamics, and again, instead of backing off the thresholds or ratios I'll often dial back the effected to 50-70%. I do have the attacks and releases go from slower to faster down the chain, but not so much the low ratios to higher ratios as I used to before I go so into parallel processing. I'll have a hair more dry coming through an earlier plugin rather than always having a low ratio on it.

As far as eq contributing to getting more in, I'm a fan of Roger Nichols' strategy of passing out the freqs of each instrument that don't actually contribute to its sound. That'll buy you a few quarter dbs


It makes for more to keep track of, but it puts each category in it's own pocket before layering into another category, and it makes it all sit nice at the end. I have plugins on the master in place (from a mix template) but keep them off until it's pretty much in shape. Then the master gets a little comp and a little brick wall maximizing limiter (I like toneboosters' Barricade here).


If this will go to a mastering person I always give them a version with the master plugins off. If not, I'll give the artist the mix with it on to use as they want, but I'll keep a version with master plugs off.
__________________
The reason rain dances work is because they don't stop dancing until it rains.
vdubreeze is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 02:54 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2024, vBulletin Solutions Inc.