How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed? - Jemsite
Gear, Equipment, Recording & Off Topic Gear, Equipment, and Recording discussed here. Amps, pedals, whatever.

Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-04-2010, 12:35 PM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Georgia, USA
Posts: 2,878
Reviews: 4
How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

I don't know what I'm doing wrong, I'm using basically no compression and keeping mastering to a minimum, but my music still looks like it has the "brick wall" thing going on in a lot of places!! i'm not using drums though, would that make things look more dynamic?

thanks in advance!
fwd0120 is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-07-2010, 11:44 AM
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Somerville, MA
Posts: 6,200
Re: How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

Any number of things, it's impossible to tell without a little more to go on.

*How hot are you tracking? When recording, where are you peaking?
*When playing back before mixing down to a .wav, where are your meters falling on your master bus?
*yuou say you use "basically no compression" - is this in the mix, or on your master bus/in mastering. And what does "basically no compression" mean, exactly?
*what does "keeping mastering to a minimum" mean? What are you using, and how?
*finally, is your concern that it LOOKS brick-walled, or that it sounds it? A distorted guitar doesn't have a terribly wide dynamic range, so you wouldn't expect as many peaks.
Drew is offline  
post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-07-2010, 10:49 PM
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: East Cost, U.S.
Posts: 164
Re: How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

Great post above by Drew. I find it a lot better to have, "quieter" tracks (less hot). As Drew mentioned, check your master bus meters. You have to remember that this wouldn't be the final product. The volume and fullness will come in the mastering phase.
SnakeEyes is offline  
post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-08-2010, 04:13 PM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Georgia, USA
Posts: 2,878
Reviews: 4
Re: How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

When tracking I try to keep the peaks at or below -5db. Then I normalize it, and then go ahead and set the track down -5db. When mastering, my main mastering suite is isotope ozOne, what I meant was, I keep the ratios for compression and the loudness maximizer down a bit. when I'm getting ready for the mix-down before I Mp3 it to final, I will back off the master track so it will not peak above about -1 to -3 db.

Here is a pic of a couple of my songs, these are the final Mp3 files, note that there are no drums.

Last edited by fwd0120; 11-14-2010 at 08:19 PM.
fwd0120 is offline  
post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-08-2010, 04:49 PM
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 1,641
Re: How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fwd0120 View Post
final
Quote:
Originally Posted by fwd0120 View Post
Mp3
You should always master for WAV, since MP3 is lossy and will reduce the quality of your sound.
GuitarBizarre is offline  
post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-08-2010, 05:14 PM
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Somerville, MA
Posts: 6,200
Re: How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fwd0120 View Post
When tracking I try to keep the peaks at or below -5db. Then I normalize it, and then go ahead and set the track down -5db.
Why? All that does is add 5db of clean gain, and then subtract it right back.

I usually track below -18dbps. I don't see the point in going much higher - if you're recording digital at 24-bit, you have an absolutely laughable amount of headroom at your disposal, and adding more gain at the preamp won't really benefit your noise floor much since almost all "noise" is going to originate before or at the preamp.

Most "prosumer" grade gear is actually quite good these days, but in the last couple db you do start to see some nonlinearity, especially with regards to peaks. Since the single biggest advantage of digital over analog is the staggering amount of headroom, you might as well use it - there's no point in running hot.

Also, again, do your mixes SOUND loud and overcompressed, or are you just looking at the waveforms and thinking, "that looks like it's been brickwall limited?" Drums are really the single biggest source of "peaks" in a finished waveform, as the attack of a distorted electric guitar doesn't really jump out from the body on a waveform. When you mix down a whole bunch of electric guitar tracks, you shouldn't expect that to change.
Drew is offline  
post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-08-2010, 05:51 PM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Georgia, USA
Posts: 2,878
Reviews: 4
Re: How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

hmmm... those are all very good points. btw i mention mp3 (actually got it backwards tho) because that is what the consumer would ultimately hear.
I'm just asking because I have never been tought anything about this and have been doing this for a relatively short amount of time, heck, I haven't even been playing for 3 years lol. thanks though! You can tell me what you think of my sounds if you go to my facebook page "frank dremel's day1 project" and tell me what you think if you want. btw, how does that picture look, does it "look" to brick wall-ish, or is it reasonable? \m/
fwd0120 is offline  
post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-08-2010, 06:00 PM
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Somerville, MA
Posts: 6,200
Re: How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fwd0120 View Post
btw, how does that picture look, does it "look" to brick wall-ish, or is it reasonable? \m/
How it "looks" is almost entirely irrelevant - it's how it sounds that counts.

That said, if you look at some of those tracks, particularly the second from the top and second from the bottom, it looks like the waveform is perfectly flat at the edges for a few sections - that to me makes me wonder if maybe you're clipping on input. And, in fact, the very bottom track has a clipping indicator that is lit up, and your master bus is comign in AWFULLY hot, at -0.1.

Also, another thing to keep in mind - you might be applying a pretty "conservative" volume boost in Ozone while mastering, but the dynamic range of a mix of low-dynamic instruments like electric guitars is going to be WAY different from that of a mix with a bunch of more peak-y instruments - drums, acoustic guitars, etc. If your mix has a "depth" of only 4-5db between peaks and the sustain, and you run your finished mix through a compressor set to 2:1 at -6db and then a limited to boost it another 3db, well, that's pretty much all your headroom right there; that first compressor (a pretty gentle one, at that) would rob you of half of your dynamic range and then the limiter would take away the rest.

Mastering and mixing are obviously VERY different pursuits, but if there's one thing they have in common it's this - what you need to do to your tracks is entirely dependent on what you have and not on some absolute arbitrary standards.

I'm still at work, but I'll try to listen tonight.
Drew is offline  
post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-08-2010, 07:21 PM
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Australia
Posts: 242
Reviews: 2
Re: How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

This can come from so many parts in your chain. Althrough way from mic placment, source volume and especially all teh way down to your pickups.

So does your original sound have a large dynamic range?
Maybe you should back off the gain on the mic a bit OR back the mic off physically?
Maybe you've got too much gain at the sound source (amp)?
Maybe your sound is being compressed by high output/active pickups?
Maybe roll ur volume on your guitar, JUST A TOUCH?

I'm just saying, check and make sure you're DAW is getting the best input signal possible (without overloading it, eg. Turn up loud and roll mic gain down) before trying to force out dynamics during mixing.

Maybe this might be the source of your problems. I used to run my gain on my guitar at 100%, and then a month or so ago, i rolled it back to about 70-75% and WOW, it's clearer and more dynamic.

Hope this gives you some ideas, Toodles!
julzius is offline  
post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-08-2010, 07:29 PM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Georgia, USA
Posts: 2,878
Reviews: 4
Re: How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

Wow, Drew, that last post was more clear more than the 3 months of research! that makes a ton more sense, its just basic math i see lol!! wow, I feel kinda retarded now lol, but at least it makes sense!
fwd0120 is offline  
post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-08-2010, 07:31 PM
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Somerville, MA
Posts: 6,200
Re: How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

Ok.

Fist things's first, I dig some of this = particularly the melody to Stamped is pretty damned cool.

Second, the good news is you're not TOTALLY brickwalling everything,but I do think I'm hearing a bit of clipping in a few of the busier sections. I'm jumping back and forth between your mp3s, a couple of VERY conservatively mastered rough mixes/clips from an album I'm working on, and Dream Theater's "Caught in a Web" (Dream Theater happening to border on Drew Peterson in iTunes. Your songs are audibly a bit hotter than mine, on playback, and I think maybe slightly hotter than DT's, but again a guitar's dynamic range isn't going to be as wide as a drum kit's so that's not completely absurd.

All the same, I'd go easier on compression and volume maximization in Ozone, and I'd definitely track lower than you are. It's either a product of Facebook's mp3 player or your mixes, but I do hear what sounds like a bit of clipping here or there.

Also, definitely try to pick up a drum sequencer/synth and a bass at some point - I think a lot of this stuff has potential, and I'd love to hear it given the "band" treatment.
Drew is offline  
post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-08-2010, 08:04 PM
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Somerville, MA
Posts: 6,200
Re: How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

Also, random trivia - did you know Winamp seems to have a built-in compressor algorithm? I was sitting here listening to "Caught in a Web" when I first queued it up and thinking, "Man, they squashed the **** out of this in mastering, I don't recall it sounding nearly that bad," only to notice I'd accidently clicked the 3khz slider up to a full 12db boost. This raises the output way above -0db, and it sounds like Winamp was able to detect that and limited it on playback to adjust.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fwd0120 View Post
Wow, Drew, that last post was more clear more than the 3 months of research! that makes a ton more sense, its just basic math i see lol!! wow, I feel kinda retarded now lol, but at least it makes sense!
Heh, sniped.

Yes and no. Long story short I've been dabbling/getting increasingly serious in home recording for a bit over a decade now, and there's a couple things that have become increasingly clear to me the more I do it. Chief amongst them is gain staging is everything.

So, sometimes it IS just math. Digital "gain" is pure right up to the point where it clips- if you take a .wav file and up the volume by 5db, then provided that extra 5db won't push you over 0 you'll get perfectly pristine added volume - no new noise will be added to the signal, though of course any existing noise will come up 5db as well. If you then, also in the digital realm, take that same signal and knock it down 5db in your DAW, then again it's pure, pristine gain (negative, this time), and all that happens is the same exact signal plays back 5db quieter than it was. So, if you add two gain stages in your DAW, one increasing it by 5db and another decreasing it by 5db, the net result is precisely zero.

However, for a gain stage that can potentially color or change the sound, that's NOT true. Analog gain stages such as those in the preamp of your recording interface definitely fall in this category - the difference between recording with your signal peaking at -0.5db and recording peaking at -10db and then using a volume plugin to boost it up to -0.5db is potentially huge. Essentially, at input you have two concerns - one, getting as good a signal-to-noise ratio as possible, keeping in mind that as you increase preamp gain you can potentially be increasing noise, and two, to make sure that whatever else you do, you're not screwing with the transients on your peaks, that they're being reproduced cleanly and crisply as possible. It's tough to gauge this by listening, especially to a track solo'd, but as you start to layer track after track with less-than-perfect transient response the result gets increasingly murky and muddy and dense. I can't offer you any more than anecdotal evidence here, but after reading a few good articles on this stuff I stopped trying to track between -3 and -6db (and then having to turn everything down in the mix) and started shooting for -12-18db (and have to do no more than balance the tracks against each other, boosting one or cutting another here and there, and have a finished mix peaking nicely around -6-8db), and immediately started getting clearer sounding mixes.

All of that is pretty esoteric, though - if there's anything you should take away is that given the headroom 24-bit allows, if you're finding you have to turn all your tracks down in the mix to keep your master bus from clipping, you're probably tracking too hot.

That said, the single easiest (and coolest) way to demonstrate how much gain staging matters in a mix is this - open a track, and load a compressor and an EQ. Put the EQ after the compressor, and come up with some truly stupid settings - say, a 24db boost at 3k with a narrow Q, and then a 20:1 compressor with a threshold somewhere around the body of your track. Something absolutely dumb that you'd never use unless you were trying to make something sound unnatural. Now, hit playback and listen for a while. Then, while playing back, switch the order of the plugins, so instead of Compressor => EQ you're going EQ => Compressor. What before sounded like a kind of unnatural guitar suddenly sounds like an even thinner version of that guitar that's absolutely getting squashed. The EQ plugin is adding a lot of gain to your signal - 24db, in fact, in a very narrow band. When it's happening after the compressor, then the compressor doesn't "hear" that extra gain, so you compress your signal and then boost it in the EQ. When you flip the order, however, suddenly the compressor is seeing this huge raging 24db spike that it has to clamp down on. The effect is twofold - first, it makes the compressor work much harder and more audibly, and second it lesens the impact of your boost - it only comes through as a couple db higher there because the compressor is slamming anything that passes its threshold, and your boost is way over that threshold. IT sounds aweful, and frankly is kind of unpleasent to listen to because your ears aren't used to hearing something that flat.
Drew is offline  
post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-08-2010, 08:07 PM
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Somerville, MA
Posts: 6,200
Re: How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

Anyway, I'm getting a little far afield. It's not JUST math, because sometimes gain changes aren't clean. And when they're not, you need to think about why they're not clean and what you want to get out of it. Are you using an EQ to cut some rumble out of the low end of a guitar? Well, if you want it cone, you probably don't want it to trigger your compressor, so if you're using a compressor on this track you want it after the EQ. Are you trying to boost a little bit to make a lead poke through the mix a bit? Since you want the boost to stick out a bit, putting it before the compressor is counterproductive because it's partially undoing what you've done by triggering that much earlier. It's all about putting the pieces in the order that makes the most sense based on what you're trying to do.
Drew is offline  
post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-08-2010, 09:13 PM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Georgia, USA
Posts: 2,878
Reviews: 4
Re: How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

Okay, first of all, thanks a ton for all the info! I'm gonna try to respond in order so bear with me!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew View Post
Fist things's first, I dig some of this = particularly the melody to Stamped is pretty damned cool.
Thanks! that song just kinda hit me, I came up with the loop, and then just heard the main melody part, it was kinda weird lol thanks! it was kinda hard to capture in recording, but thats the gist of it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew View Post
Second, the good news is you're not TOTALLY brickwalling everything,but I do think I'm hearing a bit of clipping in a few of the busier sections. .... Your songs are audibly a bit hotter than mine, on playback, and I think maybe slightly hotter than DT's, but again a guitar's dynamic range isn't going to be as wide as a drum kit's so that's not completely absurd.

Yeah, I will definitely try tracking lower and see how that goes!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew View Post
ll the same, I'd go easier on compression and volume maximization in Ozone, and I'd definitely track lower than you are. It's either a product of Facebook's mp3 player or your mixes, but I do hear what sounds like a bit of clipping here or there.

Also, definitely try to pick up a drum sequencer/synth and a bass at some point - I think a lot of this stuff has potential, and I'd love to hear it given the "band" treatment.
1: yeah, I believe You are correct, they seem to be clipping quite a bit on facebook, but for web (I have Dial-up internet) I had to make them 64kbps on the long songs and 96 on the others unfortunately.

2:Actually, I just started to dabble in that stuff, thats actually why I made this thread! I'm going to be re-building those songs from the ground up, hopefully for a more professional sound!

And at that Compressor and Eq thing:
That is very interesting!! Very good example, I had never really to that much thought into the chain of the mixing and mastering processes for some reason!

I really appreciate the time you put into writing this! Its going to be very helpful! Thanks very much!

I hope that pretty much covers it I think!
fwd0120 is offline  
post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 11-09-2010, 01:37 PM
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Somerville, MA
Posts: 6,200
Re: How do I NOT sound loud and overcompressed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew View Post
Also, another thing to keep in mind - you might be applying a pretty "conservative" volume boost in Ozone while mastering, but the dynamic range of a mix of low-dynamic instruments like electric guitars is going to be WAY different from that of a mix with a bunch of more peak-y instruments - drums, acoustic guitars, etc. If your mix has a "depth" of only 4-5db between peaks and the sustain, and you run your finished mix through a compressor set to 2:1 at -6db and then a limited to boost it another 3db, well, that's pretty much all your headroom right there; that first compressor (a pretty gentle one, at that) would rob you of half of your dynamic range and then the limiter would take away the rest.
By the way, on this...

Just to make sure you're clear on the "math" side of it, a compressor with do nothing right up to the threshold of a sound, and then apply a specified ratio of gain reduction past that point. So, for example, if you have a threshold of -10db and a ratio of 3:1, anything below -10db will be unchanged, and anything above will be reduced to one-third of its original "excess" volume. So, for example, if you have a peak that hits -4db, a 3:1 compressor (with immediate attack) at -10db will reduce it to -8db - it exceeds the threshold by 6db, so that excess peak is cut down to 1/3rd.

A limiter is the same idea, except it has an infinite ratio - anything that passes the threshold is squashed down to the threshold.
Drew is offline  
Reply

Quick Reply
Message:
Options

Register Now



In order to be able to post messages on the Jemsite forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.

Password:


Confirm Password:
Email Address

IMPORTANT: You will be required to activate your account so please ensure that your email address is correct.

If you do not receive your activation check your spam folder before using the CONTACT US form (at the bottom right of each page).



Email Address:
OR

Log-in











Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page
Display Modes
Linear Mode Linear Mode



Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
It Might Get Loud elcid Off-topic / Miscellaneous 22 02-21-2010 01:40 AM
Amp too loud! Kenix700 Gear, Equipment, Recording & Off Topic 6 07-05-2009 05:21 PM
How loud is "loud enough"? Drow Swordsman Gear, Equipment, Recording & Off Topic 13 03-03-2007 07:15 PM
Do they play too loud? Myst and rain Polls 21 12-17-2006 07:20 AM
My amp is too loud. What can i do? Bladerunner Gear, Equipment, Recording & Off Topic 12 11-04-2005 03:03 AM

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may 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
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

 
For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome