Old 08-10-2020, 03:18 PM   #1
StewartD
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While researching what proper level a mix should be when finalized, I read conflicting arguments.

Some say my finished mix should be around -18dB.

Others say -12dB.

A few have said -6dB.

While one article I read said -3dB.

any help on this issue would be helpful. Thank You in advance.
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Old 08-10-2020, 03:47 PM   #2
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It depends what decibel scale you're using. There's more than one, which accounts for much of the confusion that arises when people fail to specify which one they're using.

It also depends on what you mean by "finalized", and what you intend to do with the mix.

If you're releasing it as is, maybe aim to keep Reaper's master meter < -6dB, but don't break a sweat if you end up at -3dB.... if you're uploading an mp3, you might want to raise the level of the mp3 post-render anyway, or you might need to aim for whatever level is recommended for the platform.

If you intend to put the mix through a compressor, you'd want to leave enough headroom for that. I won't quote figures, because I'd probably be talking rot, and it's more important that you learn about compression before you start squeezing the life out of your mixes, rather than taking the advice of some anonymous idiot on the internet, eg, me.

If you're putting the mix through a limiter, it might well end up at 0.00, and that might be just fine.

If you're sending the mix to some trusted other for mixing or mastering, comply with that person's recommendations (which will cetainly involve removing the limiter), even if you think they're wrong - but you will need to know what decibel scale they're using.

The most important thing is this: in the digital realm, provided that none of your signals are clipping at the master, you will not damage the audio (and don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise). If the mix gets too loud for a specific requirement, you can always turn it down.

The rest of this thread will perhaps be full of very clever people talking about RMS & LUFS & stuff, and you might very well learn something of value from those people.

Last edited by Fex; 08-10-2020 at 05:12 PM. Reason: Typo - "uploading an mp" - don't upload Members of Parliament, they don't like it, and they can destroy you.
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Old 08-10-2020, 04:55 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Fex View Post
The rest of this thread will perhaps be full of very clever people talking about RMS & LUFS & stuff, and you might very well learn something of value from those people.
Ha ha, not from me I'm afraid, but I'll add a comment to the really great reply above.

Note Fex's point about mastering ... if you're sending your work off to be mastered somewhere, they should be able to answer this question for you.

If not ...

Well, it also depends significantly on the style of music, Classical symphonies will require different treatment from heavy metal (for example).

The golden immutable rule is don't clip.

Other than that I'd recommend experimenting. Listen to some examples of other recordings of the same musical genre as yours, compare the levels to yours, and adjust accordingly.
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Old 08-11-2020, 07:38 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StewartD View Post
While researching what proper level a mix should be when finalized, I read conflicting arguments.

Some say my finished mix should be around -18dB.

Others say -12dB.

A few have said -6dB.

While one article I read said -3dB.

any help on this issue would be helpful. Thank You in advance.
I think telephone game might have been at play here...

The mastered levels are in LUFS

The industry is aiming at a final mastered level of -16 LUFS
(That's about where Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl or bluray sits. Not the CD versions FYI. And a lot of arty or classical music.)

That's apparently a shock to too many people coming right after the volume wars so most bluray and HD downloads and even some CDs are shooting for -13 LUFS nowadays.

Most streaming services are hitting -12 LUFS right now. (Just a little louder.)

CDs can be found anywhere from -13 LUFS (same as the bluray) to -7 LUFS (extreme volume war territory). I don't think anyone has hit -3 LUFS!! The Metallica and RHCP CDs everyone rips on are -6 LUFS I think. Sounds bad.

-13 LUFS is pretty user friendly from engineer to consumer IMHO. Make the mix sound right and this is plenty of volume. If the genre finds CDs from the past doing the volume war thing, you can make the decision to boost the CD as you find appropriate. The streaming services will just turn anything over -12 LUFS down. Don't give them the CD version if you make a blasticated one!

You can actually kind of make everyone happy with all this. Audiophile types go for the download or bluray and are happy. The CD listener can hear the bits coming off the CD before even hitting play, so they're happy. And streaming services are putting a hard stop to the volume war.
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Old 08-11-2020, 07:53 AM   #5
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The rest of this thread will perhaps be full of very clever people talking about RMS & LUFS & stuff, and you might very well learn something of value from those people.
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Originally Posted by serr View Post
LUFS & stuff
Yeah, like that.
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Old 08-11-2020, 12:17 PM   #6
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I don't think anyone has hit -3 LUFS!! The Metallica and RHCP CDs everyone rips on are -6 LUFS I think. Sounds bad.
Iggy and the Stooges, Raw Power, 1997 remaster CD hits -2.2 dB LUFS.

And of course it sounds awful It even looks awful on the screen
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Old 08-11-2020, 01:11 PM   #7
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Quote:
Some say my finished mix should be around -18dB.

Others say -12dB.

A few have said -6dB.

While one article I read said -3dB.
All of these people may be using different standards. Whoever said -3dB is probably talking about the peaks, although most commercial music is normalized to 0dB (or nearly 0dB) peaks.


In general, it's up to you (or whoever is wearing the producer hat) to decide if your production is "loud enough". Typically, you'll have a reference recording in the same genre that you want to approximately-match. For that you can just use your ears or you can measure/compare LUFS. (Peaks don't correlate well with perceived loudness.)


Or once you're satisfied with the overall sound and the dynamics, you can normalize to 0dB (or near 0dB) and ignore loudness, especially if it sounds "loud enough" to you after normalizing.


The ACX audiobook standard requires peaks no higher than -3dB with RMS between -18 & -23dB. I don't know why they require 3dB of "headroom".

Most of the streaming services have "internal standards" and they'll automatically the your volume so you don't have to. (They may not be able to hit the volume-target if your music doesn't have enough compression.)
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Old 08-11-2020, 03:34 PM   #8
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While researching what proper level a mix should be when finalized, I read conflicting arguments.
That's because the numbers get thrown around without being properly defined...

dBFS RMS (or LUFS) everyone.

We have to be painfully consistent here or things get terribly conflated. That said, there is no number where it should be other than you probably want your loudest peaks near zero'ish, then...

where dBFS RMS and/or LUFS lands is entirely dependent on how compressed or limited your mix is and/or what instruments the mix actually consists of - that is ideally what controls that number (because again we assume our peaks will be in close vicinity to zero dBFS).
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Old 08-12-2020, 08:26 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Fex View Post
It depends what decibel scale you're using. There's more than one...
My mistake, I was referring to about 85dB.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fex View Post
If you intend to put the mix through a compressor, you'd want to leave enough headroom for that.
From what I've gleaned thus far, as a total noob, placing a compressor on the master bus is a no-no at my lowly skill level. But, I did compress individual tracks, with settings that were applied incorrectly, as I finally 'Hear' what compression does/can do...after 5 months of "Mixing"

Eventually, I'd like to master my own tracks with some degree of psuedo-professionalism.

Thank You for your valuable insights Mr. Fex. I learned something new that I can go forward with.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nicholas View Post

The golden immutable rule is don't clip.

Other than that I'd recommend experimenting. Listen to some examples of other recordings of the same musical genre as yours, compare the levels to yours, and adjust accordingly.
"Don't clip"...got it!!!

I'm trying styles from jazz, lofi hip hop, EDM, trying to compose an orchestral piece, and produce a rock track on which to shred the life out of my guitar, or a sad facsimile of such an endeavour.

Reaper has opened my mind to trying everything while knowing nothing. For all I have learned, it leads back to not knowing much again, but on a new level. Baby steps.

Knowledge is power. Thank You Mr. Nicholas.

Quote:
Originally Posted by serr View Post
I think telephone game might have been at play here...

The mastered levels are in LUFS.

-13 LUFS is pretty user friendly from engineer to consumer IMHO. Make the mix sound right and this is plenty of volume.
You make a very compelling argument to hold at -13 LUFS. I like it! Personally, I am an 'Audiophile' guy, dynamics will always outweigh loudness in my world. Hopefully, that will translate to my creations.

I do appreciate your candor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DVDdoug View Post
All of these people may be using different standards. Whoever said -3dB is probably talking about the peaks, although most commercial music is normalized to 0dB (or nearly 0dB) peaks.
Yeah, no article nor video specified what standard they were adhering to. Such a glaring oversight by multiple 'Pros'.

I like RMS, but lean more towards LUFS.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DVDdoug View Post
Typically, you'll have a reference recording in the same genre that you want to approximately-match. For that you can just use your ears or you can measure/compare LUFS.
Where do I get reference quality recordings covering multiple genres?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DVDdoug View Post
(Peaks don't correlate well with perceived loudness.)
Understood. Another vote for LUFS.

I never expected this level of diverse, yet consistent information from yourself and everyone else. Thanks for giving me direction and great tips on normalizing my finished mixes!

Quote:
Originally Posted by karbomusic View Post
That's because the numbers get thrown around without being properly defined...

dBFS RMS (or LUFS) everyone.
I'm already sold on LUFS, yet RMS seems to be a good double-check for my mixes that need to all be re-mixed after these conversations.

A firm handshake to you Mr. Karbomusic, as your definitive comment will be held closely as I labor to polish my turds to a commercial grade.

As a hard-core listening consumer, I feel I am behind by not delving into the production of music a LOT sooner. But, I'm here now, armed with the stupidest questions imaginable...ready to test everyone's patience.

Sorry for my lateness in reply. I apprecite you all for your time.
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Old 08-12-2020, 08:29 AM   #10
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I'm already sold on LUFS, yet RMS seems to be a good double-check for my mixes
That is absolutely fine.
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Old 08-12-2020, 08:54 AM   #11
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It depends what decibel scale you're using.
Quote:
Originally Posted by StewartD View Post
My mistake, I was referring to about 85dB.
I think I understand you well enough, but I hope you understand that "85dB" still doesn't mean anything!
Quote:
Originally Posted by StewartD View Post
Where do I get reference quality recordings covering multiple genres?
The most important thing for a loudness reference in this context is that it isn't insanely loud, it pertains to the product you're producing, and that you like it.

If you're looking for some recordings which were well engineered from tracking through to to mastering, you should perhaps see this:

https://www.digido.com/honor-roll/

(bottom of the page, click the + buttons!)
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Old 08-12-2020, 08:55 AM   #12
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I target 12 1/2 lufs for everything nowadays based on reference tracks I really like and their Dynamics
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Old 08-12-2020, 08:59 AM   #13
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Where do I get reference quality recordings covering multiple genres?
Usually from your own personal music collection.


As far a loudness, it's usually just a matter of not being quieter than everybody else.


It's a common practice for professional mixing & mastering engineers to have a few favorite reference recordings that they are familiar with. It's not to exactly-match the sound or the loudness. It's mostly to "keep your ears & brain calibrated".


If it's a genre that you don't normally listen to and you're working for a client, the client might may have a reference... "I want to sound like this..." Or if there is no client, you can ask for suggestions on a forum or just pick a couple of Grammy winners, etc. Or, do whatever you want!
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Old 08-12-2020, 09:08 AM   #14
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RMS is usually close enough to LUFS anyway.

-13 is a decent place to shoot for, but don’t get weird about it. Some pieces are louder than others and that’s ok. A dB or two in either direction isn’t worth fighting for as long as it actually sounds good. If it’s way off, it might indicate an issue - perhaps something you’re not hearing for one reason or another.

Don’t clip unless you want to. Really hot mixes sometimes do need a hard clipper at the end of the mastering chain mostly so the engineer gets to decide what the clipping sounds like rather than leaving it to the playback device. Even more will use a saturation which is “soft clipping”.

If you’re really sending this to somebody else to master, probably just don’t compress or clip the mix bus, but if you’re going to DIY, you’re gonna have to figure it out.

On where to find “reference quality” recordings: Preferably a CD, but high bitrate mp3 or a lossless flac of something you think sounds good. If you want multiple genres in one place, maybe look at movie soundtracks or label samplers.
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Old 08-12-2020, 12:25 PM   #15
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The best reference recordings are the ones YOU think sound the best in the style you are doing.
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