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  • Do listeners care about volume/compression?

    Friends, I need to get my band's new EP to the CD printer as soon as possible for our release next week. I got it mastered by a real pro in Brooklyn (w/ 20 years experience), but when i got them back from him, they were really realllly quiet. The sound was good, but the only thing in my itunes library that was as quiet were CDs from the 80s (original masters) I had ripped. Our EP was soooo quiet compared to anything contemporary.

    So i talked to the engineer about doing a second pass, and he did make it a bit louder (still much much quieter than most contemporary stuff) AND the compression is really obvious on some parts. Can't hear the kick and tom as well as before. The mix posed some real challenges, so I'm not blaming the mastering engineer. But I'm not sure what to do!

    Do you have any thoughts on how non-musicians/engineers hear things? Do they care when they have to reach for the volume knob and turn way up? Can they hear compression? Grrrrr!!!! I've gotta post up a private stream tomorrow for a Wednesday debut on Wild Honey Pie. But I don't know what to do! Any thoughts??

    Here's the first track! (This master is the louder master version i have. The compression doesn't really hurt this song like it does others.) If you realllly wanna do me a favor, I invite you to go to http://gimmetinnitus.com/2013/07/friday-night-vids-steel-phantoms-dan-deacon-coke-weed-teardrop-factory-radical-dads/ and listen to our youtube video compared to others. Isn't ours much quieter? Or am i totally nuts???

    My band!:
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    fender jimmie vaughan strat, korg dt-10, ts-9, keeley rat, thoroughly modded big muff, 4ms tremulus lune, eventide timefactor running stereo to a traynor bassmaster (w hotplate) and a fender HRD. Everything ('cept the TimeFactor and dt-10) is modded, with much help from folks at Harmony Central. Thanks everybody!

  • #2

    I feel your pain. So much music IS SO EFFING OVERCOMPRESSED that it sounds like crap, but it makes anything else sound quiet. And as we all know, given an A/B comparison between Something and Something Louder, people will think Something Louder "sounds better." Then again, many of those same people think Kim Kardashian actually matters.


    Personally, I blame the American public for not supporting my presidential bid in 2008, when I ran on the "Squash Control" platform. I promised that if elected, I would push through legislation that all playback devices had to have Squash as well as Volume controls. That way, people could mess up their sounds themselves instead of asking mastering engineers to do it. Car with road noise? Squash it!


    But seriously...I've kind of made a career out of finding ways to make recordings sound louder without using as much dynamics control, mostly through a combination of waveform re-drawing, normalization, and limiting (I never use compression when mastering with the exception of very rare usage of multiband compression). It's not AS LOUD AS MOST CDS, but it's loud enough to be "competitive" and still has dynamics.


    Personally, I think people should be adult enough to turn up volume controls if they want louder music. I bet the "quiet" master you have sounds great if you turn the volume way up, but the "louder" master doesn't.


    If it's any encouragement, several clients asked me to give them a recording that was as loud as possible. So I gave them a choice of two masters: a master the way they wanted to hear it, or a master the way I wanted to hear it. Most of the time, to my surprise, they choose the master I wanted to hear. Once exposed to dynamics, they liked it.


    As to your situation...I hate to say it, but you probably need to choose the louder one so that if it plays in a playlist or in rotation, it doesn't get completely lost.


     

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    • Ronan Murphy
      Ronan Murphy commented
      Editing a comment

      I am wondering if your mixes were extremely dynamic before you sent them to the mastering engineer. I just recently had this situation with a mastering client. The client wanted a very loud master but his mixes had virtually no compression on them (on the buss or individual tracks). It proved really challenging to get the levels he wanted without really throwing off the balances of his mixes and having some negative consequences to some of the tones.


      Luckily after a couple revisions he ended up with a master he loved, but it is always a trade off. The best sounding "really loud masters" are usually from mixes that were mixed with that loudness in mind.


    • arcadesonfire
      arcadesonfire commented
      Editing a comment

      Anderton wrote:

      I feel your pain. So much music IS SO EFFING OVERCOMPRESSED that it sounds like crap, but it makes anything else sound quiet. And as we all know, given an A/B comparison between Something and Something Louder, people will think Something Louder "sounds better." Then again, many of those same people think Kim Kardashian actually matters.

      Personally, I blame the American public for not supporting my presidential bid in 2008, when I ran on the "Squash Control" platform. I promised that if elected, I would push through legislation that all playback devices had to have Squash as well as Volume controls. That way, people could mess up their sounds themselves instead of asking mastering engineers to do it. Car with road noise? Squash it!

      But seriously...I've kind of made a career out of finding ways to make recordings sound louder without using as much dynamics control, mostly through a combination of waveform re-drawing, normalization, and limiting (I never use compression when mastering with the exception of very rare usage of multiband compression). It's not AS LOUD AS MOST CDS, but it's loud enough to be "competitive" and still has dynamics.

      Personally, I think people should be adult enough to turn up volume controls if they want louder music. I bet the "quiet" master you have sounds great if you turn the volume way up, but the "louder" master doesn't.

      If it's any encouragement, several clients asked me to give them a recording that was as loud as possible. So I gave them a choice of two masters: a master the way they wanted to hear it, or a master the way I wanted to hear it. Most of the time, to my surprise, they choose the master I wanted to hear. Once exposed to dynamics, they liked it.

      As to your situation...I hate to say it, but you probably need to choose the louder one so that if it plays in a playlist or in rotation, it doesn't get completely lost.

       


      Thanks for your thoughts Craig. I realized last night that we'll probably be included in some upcoming "mix tapes" from web sites, and even though the louder masters are still quieter than most, I don't want to be totally silent in comparison. I used this engineer on the advice of a friend. I heard other masters the guy did, and they weren't abnormally quiet, so it was our mix--which has sooo much stuff going on below 400 hz--that made it tough i guess. Still, I'm baffled at how obvious some of the compression is. When i put an L2 on something (including these mixes) it gets way way louder before the compression becomes this obvious. Maybe this guy was only using analog outboard gear? I dunno. Gotta ask.

      Well, my hope is that one of the unheard-of record companies talking to us might want to invest (or co-invest) in getting these remastered.


  • #3

    arcadesonfire wrote:

    I got it mastered by a real pro in Brooklyn (w/ 20 years experience), but when i got them back from him, they were really realllly quiet. The sound was good, but the only thing in my itunes library that was as quiet were CDs from the 80s (original masters)

    So i talked to the engineer about doing a second pass, and he did make it a bit louder (still much much quieter than most contemporary stuff) AND the compression is really obvious on some parts. Can't hear the kick and tom as well as before. The mix posed some real challenges, so I'm not blaming the mastering engineer. But I'm not sure what to do!

    There are so many ways to make music not sound right (which may only be "bad" in the ear of the creator), however much of the time it's possible to make a piece of music subjectively louder without sacraficing dynamics. Sometimes, though, this is better done during the mixing process than leaving it for mastering. If, for example, the drums are poking several dB up above the average level (as you suggest might be the case by saying that your drummer is very dynamic), compressing those peaks in the mix is going to be quite audible. If you were to compress the drums during the mixing process, you would likely be able to find a place for them in the mix where they wouldn't always be what's determining the maximum level.

    To the mastering engineer's credit, I don't hear things ducking on those loud drum hits. Personally, I think the drums are too loud (which may be a result of the mastering if they're the loudest thing in the mix) and the vocal isn't quite loud enough. I just find them annoying most of the time, but then this sort of music isn't something I listen to often enough to have any standard of comparison other than my own taste.

     

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    • #4

      arcadesonfire wrote:

      Do you have any thoughts on how non-musicians/engineers hear things? Do they care when they have to reach for the volume knob and turn way up? Can they hear compression? Grrrrr!!!! I've gotta post up a private stream tomorrow for a Wednesday debut on Wild Honey Pie. But I don't know what to do! Any thoughts??

      Yes, I have some thoughts.  People may not be able to articulate why, but they know when something sounds like ass.  If it's really quiet, they wonder why it's quiet and turn it up.  Everyone can hear excessive compression, but they can't articulate it, but they know when it sounds awful.  And somehow wrong.  I work with a lot of non-musicians.  

      It is the absolute height of arrogance for musicians to assume that people don't care about these things or can't perceive when something sounds bloody awful, but nonetheless, we'll carry on butchering the sound of our music because we need to "compete" in the Loudness Wars.

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      • UstadKhanAli
        UstadKhanAli commented
        Editing a comment

        By the way, as others have mentioned, there's numerous ways to get a mix pretty damned loud without losing most of your dynamics and while having it still sound good.  It doesn't need to be the quietest bunch of songs in iTunes to have dynamics, panache, and vibrancy...and yes, VOLUME.  '

        Mixing with the intent to have loudness is a good approach.  

        There are gain optimization things such as Massey L2007 Limiter or Waves L2 or L3 that can give you some volume without completely screwing your sound.  Like anything else, it requires good taste and judgment to use these things because you can screw anything up with these tools if you try.


    • #5

      "Dark Side Of The Moon" hasn't actually been on "the charts", except as a catalog title, for 25 years. Yes. It's the reissues selling to older fans who are the primary market for these "40th Anniversary Edition"s who keep the albums active. Really? You think it was all the under-30s who bought "Celebration Day"?

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