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Mixing level...confused?..can anyone make this simple?


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Hi guys,


Thanks in advanced for your help.


Before some people "comment on how this has been discussed", i have searched the forums here for people who've posted - but i couldn't find the answer, so maybe someone can point me to a posting that answers this, or maybe an article that will explain it....

my setup: Logic 8 on a macbook pro 2.33ghz with 2gb ram, focusrite saffire pro io10, and KRK RP5's




- I've been looking for an article or post to put it in laymens terms and explain what i'm doing wrong in the mixing. About mixing to certain levels, and leaving "headroom" (which i'm still not sure what it means)

- So that when i master something it seems "airy" but still has the "Volume" that is equal to other material





- I'm mixing everything in Logic 8, and then mastering it in Waveburner

– recently finished a mix in Logic, and and it sounded good - the matser fader was set to -3db (as i have read to allow things "headroom")

-All the faders don't clip and the master 1-2 out doesn't clip either


- I took it into waveburner and even though nothing was "clipping" and it was limiting and compressed. the final AIFF sounded REALLY overdriven, and was "distorting" and sounding generally rubbish


- it was also A LOT lower in volume (and this is not a "volume war" question - but since it's over driven how could it be so quiet too?)


-The final AIFF said it was outputting at -0.1db (great, but see point above? doesn't make sense to me)


-This especially happened when i used a Linear Phase EQ, switched it off and it sorted things out... but that didn't make any sense either ?


Anyone help me make sense of this...




Ket :)

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i dont think its necessary to have so much headroom.

i usually get as close to 0db as possible.. but thats just me.


first of all you have to mix the things good and compress overly dynamic sounds in the mix already, or else it pumps up the limiter. (it has high peaks and it squishes EVERYTHING on that point)

its good to have locut on instruments that DONT belong in the lower spectrum, it tends to add many rubbish to the low spectrum which can pump the compressor up pretty fast.

if you are using multiband and have general unneeded crap in some of the spectrum areas it will be compressed more than needed.


dont use presets for mastering, thats crap


try parallel compression for mixing, might give you better overall volume in the end, especially with drums and such. (you get power + dynamics, its funny thing.)


make "spaces" for instruments, cut highs/lows where you dont need them, less spectrum will be eaten therefore volumes will be higher by default and it will be easier to compress them in the final mix.


theres no such thing as Airy AND commercially loud. its either :D


you should generally mix as good as possible and use the mastering EQ just for small general tweaks (and that includes not putting any rubbish on the OUTPUT bounce)


general EQ rule: Cutting makes it sound better, boosting makes it sound different (and adds noise)



and really, there is much to be discussed here.

you have Mastering STUDIOS which deal only with this, so mastering is really apart from mixing another topic. :)

but dont use presets if you need good results, if you need quick results knock yourself out.


anyway, if your mix sounded compressed and distorted ease up the limiter and compressor. and fix the mix.

you can easily leave it at -1db in the bounce... doesnt make a difference, if its not clipping its not clipping, then you just set the limiter threshold higher and thats it!

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Hi Man,


thanks for the advice, most of it, i've followed already - and took the principle of "get it right in the mix and use my home mastering as ONLY a limiting exercise


My latest track www.myspace.com/MyPetShadow (Track: Had Enough) i'm happy with BUT i REALLY struggled with trying to keep things "Airy" as was possible (if at all) when home-mastering it... and that really caused problems...


and that's why i posted my question ?....


As you've said... it seems you can't have seem to have both... BUT that said so many of the mixes of commercial stuff, that i, hear sounds very airy and still quite loud.


examples that of simialr ilk would be:- Wallis Bird, Ben Harper (Older Stuff) Bonobo and Cinematic orchestra... all of them have a large dynamic range (IMHO)


Anyone one else have any advice ?


Ket :)

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Yeah, mastering is a very tricky subject. That's why a lot of people pay to have their stuff mastered. So that they can have a loud mix with as much of the dynamics in tact as possible. If I were you I'd try to avoid Brickwall limiting as that will just smash the hell at of any dynamic range you might have. I would suggest to try to limit so that you are just limiting the highest parts of your song. Try to keep the levels "dancing" so to speak. Keep experimenting. Home mastering is very difficult. I personally go for the best mix possible and throw on a bit of mastering reverb, (Ozone's- I love how it glues a mix together.), maybe multiband compression to smooth things out a bit, and a limiter to avoid clipping and to drive it slightly as to add a bit of saturation.


Have a good one. :D




BTW. Your song is great. Really catchy.

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I like your songs... I'm not really answering your question, but...if you want to get closer to the sound of a Ben Harper, then compare your mix with his, trying to focus one instrument at a time. I think you'll find you are missing a lot of high frequency content in your voice, the percussions, the snare...


Basically what I'm saying is, before you worry about the level of your MIX, you should try to get the basic mix itself closer to your desired result: instrument's levels, panning and EQ, then individual compression. Keep comparing the sound to the sound of the Ben Harper mix, get all the instruments right (or close), then you worry about mastering and getting a hot level.

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be sure to uncheck "normalize" when bouncing (at least if you wish to keep the headroom, which i still dont know why :) )


Good point, that could be the culprit, in fact I think you just found the problem Ploki. Makes perfect sense.


IMO it only makes sense to have a certain amount of headroom on the mix if you're outsourcing the mastering and the engineer requires that specific amount of headroom (some do). If you're going to master it yourself you don't really need the additional headroom.

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  • 2 weeks later...
This is along shot but i have occasionally found that if i do stuff in logic with the inbuilt soundcard on my macbook i can get away with a lot more bass in the mix but when i bounce it down the bounce sounds completely different. It goes away completely when i use an external soundcard though. As David says the normalize option could be the problem aswell.
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There's no difference in actual mixdown sound when using the internal and an external sound card.


Naturally there's a difference in the converters but that doesn't affect the actual bounce. So bouncing with one sound card or another won't make any difference, do a null test to verify in case you want to hear for yourself (or rather: not hear).

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