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Equal Volume On All Tracks


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  • Equal Volume On All Tracks

    I'm using Adobe Audition 3. I have made about 20 recording projects most of
    them have around 12 songs (tracks). I use normalize on each track. None of my
    projects so far have the same volume levels. Is there any way to get all tracks
    of equal volume?

  • #2
    'Normalize' functions work on the peak value of an audio file. Perceived volume is related to RMS power, which is affected by dynamic range. If your audio has large dynamic range, but is normalized so the peak value is at 0dB, it won't sound as loud as audio that has less dynamic range but normalized to the same point (higher average level).

    The way to get your songs all sounding like they're the same volume is to become an expert mixer. You need to learn how to tame level peaks in unnoticeable ways (whenever possible), and to restrict dynamic range with compressors and limiters (when necessary).

    Start with paying attention to where in your audio the peaks are, and listen to what is playing at that time. You may be able to lower a particular instrument to keep that peak down, or you may be able to do some subtractive EQ to lessen the build-up of a frequency range that is causing peaking. Or you may have to resort to compression or limiting.
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    • #3
      The key is percieved loudness vs actual measured db levels.

      Most do this using a brickwall limiter to match volumes on tracks when they are completed so you dont have to re adjust
      your volume for each track, And the overall volume of all the tracks are somewheres close to commercial levels.

      There are three ways I can think of you can do this.
      The first way is to A/B match the volume to another track and use your ears to match the volume.
      For a beginner this is probibly the worst method because they havent developed an ear for it yet and may wind
      up slamming the track too hard or too weak.

      A second method is to use an audio analizer to find the RMS or Average mean power level of a mixdown and use it as a guide
      to target another recording level that has a simular genre, style best etc. It can be another commercial recording of another song on the CD.
      Once its limited, you can again analize the song and see how close it is to the target file.

      As an example, the target file is -6db RMS, (its mastered to commercial level already) and your recording is a typical -16db rms.
      In order to match the target file you would bring the limiters threshold -10db. The out window is set to -.02db so no peaks go above 0db and distort.

      This should bring your recording up to match the target commercial recording. There are exceptions of course. Songs that have a long quiet intro
      followed by a loud section at the end may give you a false reading analizing the file. You may have a bunch of sub frequencies (a big problem)
      that prevents you from getting good volume levels. You may need to eak it in by ear or do some major EQing of the mixdown to get good results limiting.

      The absolute best method of loudness matching actually requires practically no brain matter at all.
      Theres a mastering program called Har Bal that lets you scan a commercial wave file.

      They have a tutorial how to master here. And also how to match the percieved loudness in other sections on their site.

      You simoply scan a reference file, hit Ctl/M and the program will self adjust the limiter setting to match the commercial target file.
      The only time it doesnt work well if you got some really funkey EQ peaks caused by a poor mix.
      The program is also used for adjusting the overall EQ of the recording so it can be done prior to brickwall limiting.

      Lastly, with a good audio editor that shows a good view of the audio file, you get used to seeing what a limiter does to a wave file. You do get
      used to rendering the file with a limiter and knowing what it the wave file should look like afterwards. You learn what peaks can safely be croped and which ones
      shouldnt. I been doing it long enough where I can read the display graph and know wether I need to boost the wave file 4,6,8 db etc.
      You do need to have seen allot of commercial waveforms to develop an ear for what music is crushed more and which types retain full dynamics.

      One other thing I'll say. After doing a bunch of master limiting, you start getting a feel of what you can do mixing to give you stronger and better quality masters.
      A limiter will only boost DB level till it hits the output threshold and starts to flatten the peaks. You begin to learn less is more when it comes to mastering and
      stop throwing plugins on tracks just because you have them to use. Too much compression on tracks can make for a lifeless master, Too much bottom end can
      overwork a limiter and make for a farty sounding master.

      If mixed right, Brickwall limiting should put some major elastic snap back in your shorts.
      The power and up front sound in commercial recordings should be there after limiting especially if its a bright limiter like Waves L2.
      Others may sound mellower. Experimentation and trying a few till you find the right one for your ear will be needed. Sometimes you
      just have to remix to the master limiter you have or use a multiband limiter that targets the various frequencies independantly.


      • #4
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        Originally Posted by Slipperman

        That'll learn those arrogant LA ****************tards.



        • #5
          As you may have gathered, there are a lot of factors that go into getting not just a consistent apparent volume across a set of your own tracks -- but also in getting those tracks up to what some might call a competitive loudness.

          The reason there's a competition in the first place is that the ear is 'a cheap date' that will usually prefer the louder of two sounds, giving the impression that the louder sounds better -- even if, when listened to at equal subjective loudness, the more compressed (and so, the more "competitively" loud) mix sounds dull and inferior to the less compress -- but less competitively loud version.

          But, as noted above, because there's always a maximum level implicit in any digital signal, the way to we have to bring the apparent loudness up is by reducing the dynamic range between softest and loudest and then making sure that the peaks are as close to 0 dBFS as possible without going over. (This is complicated by the phenomenon of so-called intersample peaks or intersample overs. You can get a good explanation -- and a free but CPU-hungry intersample-aware meter here: www.solidstatelogic.com/music/X-ISM/ )

          RMS average levels are taken and averaged over time. That means that a conventional real-time meter can't easily tell you what the RMS is as the file plays. But by selecting a section (or all) of the file to measure with an RMS utility, you can develop such an average. Because intros, fadeouts, and breakdowns can throw of that average, many users will measure just one, representative section of a given track.

          Now, keep in mind that the "mastering engineers" (I'm old enough to remember when a mastering engineer was someone with highly specialized knowledge allowing them to run a variable groove disk cutting lathe so it's almost impossible for me to call today's crop of "sweetening" knob jockies mastering engineers) have a number of tricks up their sleeves, including but not limited to compressor/limiters (sometimes with a number of presets allowing your typical bozo "ME" to dial up a combination of compression, sometimes split into multiple bands, typically combined with brick wall limiting).

          One of the first things frustrated seekers of competitive loudness find is the wac-a-mole phenomenon: you push something (a frequency band, an instrument or block of instruments in a submix) down and it pushes something else up -- or vice versa. But as many have found over the years, most of your dynamic bandwidth goes to the engergy required to produce bass tones. So if you have 'unneeded' bass information (sub-bass that few playback systems can reproduce), one of the first places to 'find' a little more space is by rolling off the very lowest bass, which, in effect, 'frees up' some dynamic bandwidth that will allow you to raise your overall level.

          That said, some commercial releases from the last decade represent product so wildly over compressed (squashed in the common vernacular) as to not only 'win' or tie in the the loudness wars but also be so squashed and unpleasant as to be all but unlistenable at any level. (One of my guilty pleasure faves released an album a few years ago that was so squashed that I couldn't even listen to it with the level really, really low. Even at levels that would be lost beneath normal conversation, the playback was so grindy and unpleasant that listening was a painful chore.

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          • #6
            Whether your final masters are widely dynamic or not very dynamic at all your ears will be the best judge when determining consistent levels from song to song. Listen for elements like the lead vocal or lead instrument as a guide. That should have a consistency across the tracks. Also listen for parts of the rhythm section. Part of the mastering process is to get an eq balance between and within the songs so there isn't a big swing from song to song. When mastering the songs with consistency and the album flow in mind ..most of the time, the songs will fall right into place without needing hardly any final level adjustment at all.
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            • #7
              I think I should hasten to say that my comments about the contemporary role of mastering engineer above shouldn't be taken to suggest that I don't think that, when there's a budget for it and one can expect to get a return on his investment (in some form, not necessarily monetary), that there can be value in the process.

              On the contrary, it can be very valuable to have a second pair of ears, guided by what we hope is greater experience and good monitoring gear, with hands on appropriate sound-shaping tools in order to catch and hopefully smooth out problems with a mix that is going to be distributed or sent for licensing. Is it appropriate for every project? Maybe not.

              But for important projects, particularly those that will be distributed, it can be well worth the effort. (And, of course, sometimes it just makes things worse. I've heard those mastering jobs on occasion. That's why it's important to go with someone whose track record and work you trust.)

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              • #8
                Hi Blue, I didn't take your post as being demeaning to ME's at all.
                I was just trying to point out that even that when preparing ones own songs for consistent level, simply lowering or raising the songs in volume rarely does the trick. It's more about the frequency distribution, energy and keying off certain elements of the mix that will help make an albums songs not seem disjointed when played back to back despite what the dynamics are.
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