Old 02-21-2020, 01:36 PM   #1
Mikael Jensen
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Default How to compare volume between tracks?

So I have a beginner problem here in Reaper.

I have vocals on two different tracks, and I want to match them without automation, since it maxes the volume.

I have a feeling that the vocal on the one track is a little higher than the other, but I have a hard time seeing it with the master mixer, since it doesnt show consistent enough to compare.

How can I properly compare to vocal tracks to see if they are hundred procent identical in volume?
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Old 02-21-2020, 01:52 PM   #2
Kenny Gioia
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Originally Posted by Mikael Jensen View Post

How can I properly compare to vocal tracks to see if they are hundred procent identical in volume?
If they're two different performances, there's no such thing as 100% identical.
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Old 02-21-2020, 02:19 PM   #3
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If they're two different performances, there's no such thing as 100% identical.
It's the same artist who has recorded two different verses.
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Old 02-21-2020, 02:24 PM   #4
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It's the same artist who has recorded two different verses.
It doesn't matter. They're still two different performances.

Any software used will not be 100% accurate (because that's not a thing) and it will be no better than using your ears.

For example:

Let's say the singer sings 4 notes. Each note is going to be a different volume.

So if you have them singing those 4 notes twice, which note do you match it with?

It's always a compromise.
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Old 02-21-2020, 02:27 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Kenny Gioia View Post
If they're two different performances, there's no such thing as 100% identical.
So there's no technical way other than my ears to hear if the volume is close enough to each other? There's no meter that can help me?
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Old 02-21-2020, 02:30 PM   #6
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LUFS is probably the best overall measure of "loudness".


I don't think REAPER comes with a loudness scanner but there is a free plug-in called dpMeter 4 that will give you LUFS, peak, RMS, and more.


So then it's just a matter of adjusting the volume of one track or the other up or down by the dB difference to make them the same.

Of course, even with overall/average volume "matched" some parts will be louder in 'A' and some parts will be louder in 'B'.


Quote:
I want to match them without automation, since it maxes the volume.
Normalization "maximizes" the volume (peaks). Automation does whatever you tell it to.

Last edited by DVDdoug; 02-21-2020 at 02:45 PM.
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Old 02-21-2020, 02:39 PM   #7
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So there's no technical way other than my ears to hear if the volume is close enough to each other?
If they're close enough in volume that you can't hear the difference in isolation, then your listeners won't be able to hear the difference in the mix.

Also, depending on what else is going on on other tracks, you may want the vocal to be louder in one verse than the other.

I hate being one of those "use your ears" guys, but sometimes that's the best advice.
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Old 02-21-2020, 02:42 PM   #8
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If they're close enough in volume that you can't hear the difference in isolation, then your listeners won't be able to hear the difference in the mix.

Also, depending on what else is going on on other tracks, you may want the vocal to be louder in one verse than the other.

I hate being one of those "use your ears" guys, but sometimes that's the best advice.
The weird thing is, on my earphones and my speakers the vocal is so close that I cant hear any difference. But in my car it sounds like there's a huge difference.

What gives? And should I care if it's only in my car?
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Old 02-21-2020, 04:21 PM   #9
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The weird thing is, on my earphones and my speakers the vocal is so close that I cant hear any difference. But in my car it sounds like there's a huge difference.

What gives? And should I care if it's only in my car?
Loudness is "complicated".


It mostly depends on the (short term) average and the frequency balance (our ears are most-sensitive to mid-frequencies).


And, if your car is more-capable of reproducing bass, the track with the most bass may sound louder.


It could also be something "weird" like one of the tracks having one-channel inverted ("out of phase"). That would create some cancelation in the car (especially the bass), but not with headphones/earphones since with headphones the left & right soundwaves never mix.

There is also something called the Equal Loudness Curves which changes the perception of frequency balance when the volume is changed. i.e. When you turn up the volume it sounds like you've turned-up the bass even more (and vice-versa). That means "volume matching" has to be done at a known-standardized volume.
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Old 02-21-2020, 05:05 PM   #10
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Old 02-21-2020, 05:21 PM   #11
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Try listening to the two vocals with everything else muted. The meters will tell a small part of the story and your ears will determine the rest. You can't really tell anything on the master meters while the while track is playing as far as the difference between the two vocals.

Try a mix that compensates for what you heard in the car. Play it in the car and speakers and earphones.

Most of the frustration here is, I think, the common one that all of us face during mixes, which is: what happens when I take this mix elsewhere? The more you mix on your setup and listen to the mixes elsewhere, the better they will eventually translate to those other places. That they sound different in your mix speakers, earphones and car is totally normal. It's why people try to treat their mixing space acoustically so that they're not hearing the room, only the "flat" speakers. But that's a book in itself
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Old 02-21-2020, 11:26 PM   #12
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Try listening to the two vocals with everything else muted. The meters will tell a small part of the story and your ears will determine the rest. You can't really tell anything on the master meters while the while track is playing as far as the difference between the two vocals.

Try a mix that compensates for what you heard in the car. Play it in the car and speakers and earphones.

Most of the frustration here is, I think, the common one that all of us face during mixes, which is: what happens when I take this mix elsewhere? The more you mix on your setup and listen to the mixes elsewhere, the better they will eventually translate to those other places. That they sound different in your mix speakers, earphones and car is totally normal. It's why people try to treat their mixing space acoustically so that they're not hearing the room, only the "flat" speakers. But that's a book in itself
My problem is I feel my meter is somewhat unreliable. I don't know how to explain it, but if I compare the two tracks to each other on the meter, it's kinda useless. My meter is very low for some reason and I don't know how to fix it.
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Old 02-22-2020, 01:26 PM   #13
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My problem is I feel my meter is somewhat unreliable.
What are your meters measuring?


Peak meters are ideal for digital (especially digital recording) because you want to avoid clipping.


But peak meters don't correlate well with perceived loudness.


RMS meters are better and LUFS meters are even better than RMS (for "loudness").

SPL meters measure acoustic loudness and with A-weighting they correlate very well with perceived loudness.


The old analog VU meters were "not bad" but they were also a compromise and limited by their mechanical characteristics. And they were designed in the "analog days" when analog tape didn't hard-clip like digital so we weren't quite as concerned with peaks.
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Old 02-22-2020, 01:44 PM   #14
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What's the goal here?

Is this a scientific study? Or was the original goal a good take for a song?

It sounds like you had something recorded and mixed and were happy.
Then you wanted to replace a vocal take. You tried to hit the same levels as the original take so you could replace it and not have to put on your mixing hat again and make decisions over again. But something ended up different enough that it doesn't sit in the mix the same way for whatever reason.

Sometimes it doesn't take much. Peak levels aren't everything!
Mic distance through the performance and the proximity effect throughout for one thing...

If the goal is the mix and this isn't some kind of scientific study, just put your mixing hat back on, open your ears and make decisions. You tried the 'replace it without touching anything else so I don't have to listen and think again' route and it didn't work. So just mix the new vocal and keep moving forward.
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Old 02-23-2020, 02:27 PM   #15
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If the goal is the mix and this isn't some kind of scientific study, just put your mixing hat back on, open your ears and make decisions.
This was kinda my point. You've (OP) spent more time typing on this thread than it should have taken you to simply move the faders until it matched.
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Old 02-23-2020, 08:36 PM   #16
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If it sounds good it is good
If it sounds off it usually is

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Old 02-24-2020, 03:18 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikael Jensen View Post
The weird thing is, on my earphones and my speakers the vocal is so close that I cant hear any difference. But in my car it sounds like there's a huge difference.

What gives? And should I care if it's only in my car?
I would care in this case. A car is a great crash test for mixes imho.

Did you compress the voice? And sometimes, split voice track to items, and slightly change (+\- 2-3 dB) volume on items (before compressor) can help. And this is much easier than draw automatisation by the mouse.
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