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Loudness: Limiting vs. Driving the Master

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So in an effort to match the Loudness of Commercial Dance Releases I have discovered something i cant explain.


Firstly I like to ideally keep this away from the loudness war, im trying to obtain the same level of loudness that is achieved in popular tracks in my Genre, using (c.) as an example, although many tracks show the same squaring of the waveform, with similar RMS levels.


So i have used three reference tracks:


a. Original Track by myself, and rather than limting on the master have accidentally, had it running extremely into the red on the master fader, and merely exported as is. (Over + 6db)


b. Same Original Track by Myself, yet rather have it running through a PSP Xenon limiter, and have the input turned down, with between 4-6db of gain reduction.


c. Is the chosen reference track,


Now i have attached two images which illustrate my point in visual form. I used a program called scratchlive for its colourful and clear view of the wave forms.

Now from what i have read/learned so far, is that nothing should be in the read on the master, and that doing what was done in (b.) was the correct way to do things.

Although when i completely break the rules, Logic appears to "Self Limit" my original track (a.) and meets the RMS level, as well as the similar waveform overview matched to the reference track (I have termed Squaring)...... All without distorting the audio at all.


The second image shows, that even the visual look of the waveform (a.) when placed in Logic, as well as the RMS matches the reference track when i do it this way, (without the limiter)


Heres the problem: This makes no sense to me, as why logic would do this and i also would like to understand whats going on with the limiting/loudness of logics export, so ideally i can match my reference tracks loudness without such a "stab in the dark" approach, and obtain more precise results.


P.S Bounce settings were the same for a. and b. -> Wav 24bit, 44100, interleaved file with No Dithering.


All Help Appreciated :)



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I am not sure about the answer you are looking for, but the argument could be made that a signal leaving the digital domain cannot exceed the ceiling of 0dBFS.


When you bounce, your signal (no matter how hard you push it) cannot exceed 0dBFS. Inside Logic, the meter may read +6 and the meter may glow red but the D/A converter can only go to 0dBFS.


So by bouncing and bringing your signal back into Logic, you playback a signal that has been 'limited to the ceiling of 0dBFS.


The 'Loudness' you seek is going to come from the RMS section because that's how humans perceive sound. Stretch out your wave form and you will see that the peaks have been cut off, but there may still be lower values that make up the body of the signal.


So no matter what you do, you still have a ceiling and the signal will get 'limited' should you try to exceed it.




What about the 1st pic that shows the TTL Dynamic Range Meter with a RMS vale of +1.9?

That signal was a sine wave (test osc) pushed to the limit on the Stereo output channel strip and then bounced.

Played back inside Logic, the meter seems to display the distorted artifact and the distorted tone can be heard.


Many of the engineers are pushing to get back levels between -12 and -8 dB and preserve a more natural dynamic range. This signal (pic 1) is OVER the '0' RMS value and is clearly a toasted signal.



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I think the key difference for this is between limiting and clipping.


My explanation may not be perfectly accurate so I apologise if there is anything misleading.


Limiting reduces the peak amplitude of a waveform above a given threshold (like a compressor at infinitely high ratio, although more advanced ones like xenon try to preserve transients and other clever things) wheras clipping occurs when a digital signal exceeds 0dBFS; the difference is that limited signals don't really lose any information, it is sort of squashed into a tiny space, but clipping loses data. When Logic's meter is in the red on the master it doesn't necessarily actually clip, but when you bounce it down that information is lost.


The track posted as a reference looks like it has been treated a bit aggressively to me, but in dance music you can get away with a lot more clipping than other genres. A very small amount of clipping can actually make a sound punchy but gets fatiguing very fast.

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Ok so let me clarify whats being said, so when i push the master into the red, technically Im clipping rather than limiting it. So therefore, tracks a. and c. that have been "Clipped" and have technically lost data on the bounce, yet to me, when listening there is virtualy no distortion introduced. (Desirable),


So what would you guys recommend when it comes to accurately obtaining this level of loudness via "clipping" is there a recommended plugin i can use to soft clip my stuff as well as limiting. As my whole point is obviously its more desirable, as it matches common commercial dance release in look and RMS, yet without distortion.

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My advice for you is simple: don't allow the master output to exceed 0 dBFS, ever, for any reason, period. Use the Adaptive Limiter as the last plugin on the output channel and drive that as hard as you want. But do not exceed 0 dBFS.
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Don't master a tune for how it looks as a waveform or what the RMS is. Use your ears or your music will sound horrible! Clipping is not the way to get volume. A proper mixdown is, and you limit to get a bit extra at the end. When I say a bit of clipping is desirable I mean a few samples in duration, not massive sections of a track. Also, just because you don't hear it, do not think there is no distortion. There will be much more than you realise and it ruins a lot of music. Incidentally I had a listen to the tune you are using as a reference and the mixdown is hideous!


I would recommend Bob Katz book 'Mastering Audio; the art and the science' to anyone who wants to learn a bit more about the subject.


and if you can't be convinced; http://www.airwindows.com/adclip3.html

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It's funny, my brain always tells me I'll be much better off if I avoid overs at all times but I gotta say in practice my ears will often disagree. For some forms of electronic music where everything is digital, and a little bit too crystal clean, driving the master give's you extra dbs plus a but of crunch akin to tape saturation. A bit harsh maybe depending on the program material but every now and then with my eyes closed my ears prefer the clipped version. Sometimes I will use the overdrive plugin with everything on zero for a slightly warmer version of the same effect. Or adaptive limiter then overdrive. Beefs up drums and adds grit to bass and hats.
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