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Output in the red to achieve -14 LUFS

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I just want to check something.  I come from the days of tape so learnt in those days not to "go into the red" except for the occasional blip or two.  Now, doing stuff in Logic I find that the ONLY way for me to get  -14 LUFS is to mix at a level where the meter is constantly pushing the red all the time.  I notice that the meter on the Stereo Out fader only goes as high as 0 so that full scale red = 0.  

I imported three audio files into a test project (all region gains untouched at 0) and looked at their loudness using both Logic's LUFS meter and Youlean, as follows:

1. A bounce from one of my projects where the LUFS meter integrated measurement was -14, but I had normalised with  "overload protection on" when I bounced it (prior to importing it to this test project).  In this case the resulting LUFS (after bouncing) was  -16.6.  As expected....with some overall volume loss due to normalisation.  The imported file appears visually to have plenty of headroom on the track.

2. The exact same project bounced to -14 LUFS integrated, with normalisation set to "off".  The resulting bounce, when imported into the test project was at -14 LUFS......pretty much as expected again.  The imported file does appear visually to hit the volume limits at various times, but is not consistently right up against the boundaries. I am not hearing any distortion.

3. A commercial track by Cat Empire "On My Way", to see what loudness they achieved.... around -8 LUFS.  Visually this track appears to be at maximum loudness throughout, pushing the boundaries on the track, due to limiting no doubt.

Images of each of the above tests are attached.  In the case of the first two tracks, the stereo out meter is indeed pushed into the red all the time.  Look at the little overload indicator at the top right of the meter.

So my specific question, and the reason for this post, is......

Is that always how -14 LUFS integrated is achieved - by pushing meter on the stereo bus right to the limit when bouncing?  Is that really what we do in Logic....work in the red on the output all the time?

My supplementary question is......what is the most likely way to consistently achieve -8 LUFS like Cat Empire? I presume that a limiter is the answer, and that constantly working in the red on the stereo output would be mandatory to achieve that? 

How do people feel about Logic's own limiter?  Is there something else I should be using?  I have never much considered limiting before, but am starting to  put out music that I have recorded for other people (a new thing for me) and loudness is now becoming an issue for me.



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The key to getting good loud mixes, is firstly to mix them that way.

If you can't get the *volume* you want (not the peak levels), then likely your mix is too dynamic. Yes, you can compress and limit and squash down the loud parts to get the loudness you're after, but too much of that is very bad for your mix.

For modern contemporary productions, some form of buss compression and limiting is usually necessary, but you don't have to be heavy handed about it. But like I say, if you're having difficulty keeping the peaks below 0dBFS, and getting your overall volume where you want it to be, then you might be looking at working on the mix - obviously without knowing what audio you are working with I can't say what the issue is for sure.

You should not be pushing beyond 0dBFS as you're just clipping your mix - just an uncontrolled (and nasty) form of limiting.

Logic's limiter is OK, and you should investigate it, but I prefer third-party ones, personally.

-8 LUFS is *really loud* (and imo not a good idea). You're very unlikely to achieve that without a mix and arrangement that supports it and fairly aggressive mix buss compression and limiting.

Edited by des99
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Thanks Des99

So when you say "not pushing beyond 0dBFS" are implicitly accepting that pushing up to that (ver red) level is OK?  If so that means you would be comfortable working in the orange and red parts of the meter on a routine basis.  

I just always thought, generally from thinking about tape, that you were supposed to stay in the green on thee meter, with the occasional dart into the yellow/orange areas, but never reach the red.  Maybe that thinking is outmoded in Logic?  I guess that is all I am trying to establish.  

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Anything under 0dBFS on the master is generally fine, and won't clip. The meter colours are a guide to warn people away from running too hot in general, but as many people "master" on the mix bus these days, as long as you're under 0dBFS (ideally a little below that to counter for intersample peaks, something like -0.3dBFS is a good practical maximum.)

The old analog signal level guidances doesn't apply to digital recording these days. With analog, you had a low level range which you wanted to aim above because of the noise floor, you had a good range that gave you a good clean signal a decent level above the noise floor, then you had a higher range that was driving level into the tape/mixer electronics which might start adding saturation and other distortion, but you could get away with it (and might even like the sound!), and the hotter still and you move progressively into more and more distortion.

None of that applies these days with digital. There is no (practical) noise floor, and there are no level ranges that progressively distort your signal as you get louder. You have good clean signal, right up to 0dBFS, and anything that tries to go above that will be hard clipped - nasty distortion.

Inside the Logic mixer (ie anywhere before the main mix buss), you can even go above the 0dBFS point - *way* above it (like +1500dB!) - without consequence (no distortion) as long as you bring the level back down before the output of the main stereo output, because at that point the signal goes from a 32-bit/64-bit float signal, where there isn't a (practical) fixed upper bound, into a 24-bit fixed point signal, where nothing can go above 0dBFS.

Hope that clears some things up!

Edited by des99
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That clears everything up nicely thanks Des99.  That is  one new very useful fact I have learned clearly today.  Not all days are like that!

By the way do you have a favourite limiter plug in?  I have not played with them much to date, so am wondering what are the pluses and minuses of using the stock Logic Limiter. 



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1 hour ago, amusong said:

so am wondering what are the pluses and minuses of using the stock Logic Limiter. 


I personally only use the Logic Adaptive Limiter for the final limiting plugin, but I bring the Output setting on the plugin down to -0.3 or lower depending on how compressed the mix is. If you have brick-wall limiting stopping at 0 dBFS, you might most likely get digital overs when it converts to AAC or Ogg on streaming services. Hence lowering the output of the limiter a bit.

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Thanks David.....I was stuck thinking tape.  I have now managed to get all 14 songs up to a consistent -14 LUFS  now and they sound fine with the stereo output bouncing just below the top of the red - it was only possible with judicious use of the limiter.  I'm off to look into limiters now, in particular the difference between Logics two limiters, Adaptive and Normal.

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