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Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volume?

How to do this, that and the other. Share, learn, teach. How did X do that? How can I sound like Y?

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KVRist
 
185 posts since 8 Feb, 2008

Postby milosh_; Fri Jan 10, 2014 2:25 am Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

I just go by ear and let the mastering engineer do the rest
KVRAF
 
10362 posts since 18 Oct, 2003, from Berlin, Germany
 

Postby Compyfox; Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:57 am Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

I am mostly doing mastering.
And I can't stress enough that "go by ear" alone is definitely not the ultimate solution.


So this quote does also show a very good point:

dayjob wrote:hire a mastering engineer.


But better one that doesn't squash your tracks to sh*t to stay "competitive".
KVRer
 
21 posts since 21 Apr, 2007

Postby radio12; Fri Jan 10, 2014 5:35 am Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

@compyfox, could you link to some masterings you did, i would like to know how your mastering approach sounds.
KVRAF
 
10362 posts since 18 Oct, 2003, from Berlin, Germany
 

Postby Compyfox; Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:22 pm Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

Unfortunately, a lot of that material is confidential (since it was trailer work for companies), and it is mostly individual tracks rather than full albums.

But one album project where I heavily utilized the EBU R-128/K-System v2 technique, can be followed here on KVR: viewtopic.php?f=4&t=380733


Individual track wise I only aim for K-14v2 AZ+0 max these days. Best case scenario. It's usually K-12v2 still.
KVRian
 
638 posts since 6 Nov, 2006

Postby dayjob; Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:33 pm Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

Compyfox wrote:I am mostly doing mastering.
And I can't stress enough that "go by ear" alone is definitely not the ultimate solution.


So this quote does also show a very good point:

dayjob wrote:hire a mastering engineer.


But better one that doesn't squash your tracks to sh*t to stay "competitive".


it's usually the artists/producers/record labels who are trying to stay "competitive" by squashing mixes.. those mastering engineers that opt for that style of mastering as a way to be competitive and gain business are HACKS who are worthless and are just preying on stupid people who answer spam mastering adverts:

"Sound like the pros for $10 a track!!! don't let your song be the quiet one int he playlist!!!"

blah blah blah..

so, the problem isn't mastering engineers imo. they generally get held over a barrel and forced to make things loud and shitty.
User avatar
KVRAF
 
7321 posts since 12 Mar, 2012, from South Bavaria - near the alps... :-)

Postby Tricky-Loops; Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:50 pm Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

Compyfox wrote:Individual track wise I only aim for K-14v2 AZ+0 max these days. Best case scenario. It's usually K-12v2 still.
Is there any tutorial or video that describes IN STEPS how to use the K-system, depending on the material? Because all these technical terms are causing me headaches, it's all for the Katz... :x
KVRAF
 
38429 posts since 20 Dec, 2005

Postby hibidy; Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:59 pm Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

At that, I've been looking around at trying to understand the K system more of late and am not sold on the idea that you need to use that. Using your ears IS important because having all the levels the same is generally going to sound crappy. Correct me if I'm wrong but a really busy song is going to run out of headroom pretty fast with careful attention needing to be used, where as a sparser song can have more "oooph" because there are not things crowding things up.

So again, I don't think you can just use level meters and get things to work. The reason I mentioned the S1 method is that you can go through the songs, back and forth, and make a level adjustment OR change a mix. No it's true, you won't be seeing my next LP anytime soon, but it's still handy imho.
KVRist
 
47 posts since 4 Jul, 2005

Postby stevesg; Fri Jan 10, 2014 5:10 pm Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

uhhhh...I think I'm missing something. Why would a dreamy, subtle track want to be the same "loudness" as a pounding 4-on-the-floor dance track?

stevesg
KVRAF
 
38429 posts since 20 Dec, 2005

Postby hibidy; Fri Jan 10, 2014 5:20 pm Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

Well, I think that is the point many of us are making. You wouldn't. It just wouldn't sound right
User avatar
KVRian
 
970 posts since 14 Aug, 2012, from Australia
 

Postby werp; Fri Jan 10, 2014 5:25 pm Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

I've found with my stuff that the best thing I can do is to kill the amplifiers.
:help:
My avatar is fat and lazy, I'm 11 pixels narrower but just as lazy.
KVRAF
 
38429 posts since 20 Dec, 2005

Postby hibidy; Fri Jan 10, 2014 5:35 pm Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

:lol:
KVRAF
 
2023 posts since 18 Sep, 2003, from West Virginia USA

Postby kylen; Fri Jan 10, 2014 6:05 pm Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

I tend to use ITB metering from Voxengo SPAN, Klanghelm VU, PSP VU, Sonalksis FreeG, TT Meter, Behringer UltraCurve 2496 (just before the DAC), and do we need to say this - [yes] 'Ears' of course.

But most of all I wanted to see how my post looks in this pastel blue, heaven help all the ixxx MVC CSS programmers that have given us this utopia of bland constraint and middle-of-the-road interoperability - same as on gearslutz...trying to get used to it. :)
KVRAF
 
10362 posts since 18 Oct, 2003, from Berlin, Germany
 

Postby Compyfox; Fri Jan 10, 2014 7:32 pm Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

dayjob wrote:so, the problem isn't mastering engineers imo. they generally get held over a barrel and forced to make things loud and shitty.


Unfortunately that is not always the case.

Top producers (or those considered as "top class producers" these days) started to abuse the technicality of gear to a certain point, where it's always been like "I need to tickle more out of it".

The same goes for mastering engineers. And yes, I say that as audio engineer myself. The pressure came from top, the marketing: "make sh*t loud".

Instead of saying in a closed manner - by that I mean: radio stations, audio engineers that broke the rules and mastering engineers (that still insist on mixes with at least -1dB peak headroom up until this day!) - "sorry - not going to do that... because <insert very good reason here>", the reality was always "bend the rules, break the limits".

And this brought us to where we are now. On top of not using metering tools properly. One PPM can give different readouts as another standardized PPM being a prime example of such issues. One missing common standard rather than like 5-6 different ones for each application.

It's just as much the fault of the bedroom producers (who didn't learn it any better, just take a dive at music magazines), as it is by audio engineers (especially the non-telling elite) and the mastering engineers. These engineers failed(!) in terms of proper education. And that catched on with engineering schools.

Our generation has the chance to do it right for once. And this is why I created the K-System v2 proposal, based upon core ideas of the K-System v1, and the specs of the ITU-R BS.1770 / EBU R-128 standard.



Tricky-Loops wrote:Is there any tutorial or video that describes IN STEPS how to use the K-system, depending on the material? Because all these technical terms are causing me headaches, it's all for the Katz... :x


Hah, I see what you did there.
Unfortunately, in all these years, there was no real good video how to set up this system, calibrate your speakers and how to properly use the meters.

I can tell you how it should work in a nutshell. But it would go down to technicality again. Best would be, if I'd spend some time creating a tutorial video. But I need content that effectively won't be eaten by Youtube's GEMA crap.

The best I can do, is to write down bullet points. If that is helping in any form whatsoever. Or... dive into my KVRmarks, where I often tried to dissect metering tools. Else, throw me a PM.



hibidy wrote:At that, I've been looking around at trying to understand the K system more of late and am not sold on the idea that you need to use that. Using your ears IS important because having all the levels the same is generally going to sound crappy. Correct me if I'm wrong but a really busy song is going to run out of headroom pretty fast with careful attention needing to be used, where as a sparser song can have more "oooph" because there are not things crowding things up.


Agreed on that, but these days it is possble with plain mathematics to get at least a "rough" idea of a consistent loudness over a certain ammount of time (called "program stream"). And this is where the ITU-R BS.1770 standard comes into play.

My idea with the K-System v2 builds upon that. It is actually nothing else than the rules of ITU-R BS.1770/EBU R-128, only that I use color codes and specific ideal zones like the K-System v1 (Bob Katz). So it's an IMO natural evolution for music content (MP3, AAC, CD releases, etc), without the IMO very low loudness value of -23LUFS (-23dB) which is for broadcast material (radio, TV, movies, etc).



hibidy wrote:So again, I don't think you can just use level meters and get things to work. The reason I mentioned the S1 method is that you can go through the songs, back and forth, and make a level adjustment OR change a mix. No it's true, you won't be seeing my next LP anytime soon, but it's still handy imho.


Actually, it is working if you go plain technical and you focus on the Short Term Loudness Meter histogram. Then you can push/pull the loudness within your host's plain volume fader as needed. And then go from there. I did this several times, but in Cubase since I find Wavelab a bit hard to use in terms of montages. Similary like you do in S1.

You do need your ears of course. No meter can tell you if it's "feeling right". Meters and Analyzers can only show you possible problems or definite limits. You as engineering person are still the most important part. But your ears can fool you, and this is where unified metering tools really shine.

For example: you have one track that is soothing along, and the metering tool tells you "boy, this is too quiet". Of course you can turn it up "individually" just according to the readout of the meter. But if you analyze the whole "program stream", it might work in context. On the other hand, if you trust your ears after 4 hours of work that it's "still not loud enough", the meter can tell you "stop it right there - you've gone too far already".

You decide what's right - the tools like K-System and co only give you indications what the absolute limit should be!

And here, IMO the EBU R-128 meter (for both video work and music) can really help improving things.



The most used meters in a nutshell.
  • a digital meter only shows the maximum peak of a signal
  • a PPM meter shows a certain average "peak" of the signal, due to the ballistics (5ms to 10ms), which is why these meters usually stop at -9dBFS. They were initially the fastest "needle" meter you could get - and they are inacourate. There are even several PPM types existing, each with their own tagging and ballistics. Imagine the confusion while engineering!
  • a RMS/VU meter (300ms integration time, no weighting filter) can only show you the average loudness of a signal and a guess-timation of the peak (the infamous % markings on needle meters)
  • a K-System meter (600ms integration time, no weighting filter) can show you the average loudness of a signal, that feels more "perceived", but has the disadvantage while measuring (like an RMS meter) to have a too strong focus on the bass while measuring
  • The DR Meter only measures the so called "Crest Factor", which is the value between maximum digital peak, and max avg loudness (dynamic range!). These meters are unweighted, but latest iterations can be setup with different weighting filters for a tag more accuracy. The DR meter is now also built into the ITU-R BS.1770 metering specs
  • the ITU-R BS.1770/EBU R-128 specifications use several meters: Momentary (400ms), Short Term (3 seconds measurement timeframe), Integrated (whole stream, gated to analyze within a certain loudness range). These meters are weighted and summed to one bargraph for loudness: lowcut to ignore the bass issues from plain RMS meters, and with a highshelf to give emphasis on the (simple speaking) ear piercing frequencies. Which can damage your ears sooner on higher volume (see Fletcher Munson Courves). The digital meters are oversampled and unweighted. They are designed to show ISP incidents.
  • The K-System v2 concept used the ITU-R BS.1770 specs, but the color codes of the K-System v1. Unlike the K-System v1, the meters are weighted and give a better and more precise readout of the signal. The focus for loudness measurement is on the "Short Term" (SLk) meter rather than the Momentary (MLk) meter. The reference point relates to the K-System value (i.e. 0LU = -14dBFS, -14LUFS = -14dBFS), the max peak should still not exceed -1dB True Peak in order to not overlad any DAC or CODEC

The Digital Meter and RMS/VU meter combination can of course be used for mastering as well, but it is not as detailed. And if you trust your ears in that case and slam as much as possible, this is the infamous "peak limiting" of the loudness war.

This combination is however a really good starting point if you use heavy gain staging, or are used to ourboard gear and large scale mixing consoles. Here, the work area (hotspot) of a channel strip is between -9dBFS digital peak (transient heavy signal) and -18dB RMS (or 0VU = -18dBFS) (bass intensive signal). While mixing, the summing bus should not exceed -3dBFS digital peak, or -18dB RMS/0VU. And if you did things right, this high peak won't ever happen.


While mastering, I still recommend the most precise metering tool you can get. And currently, that is one that uses the ITU-R BS.1770/EBU R-128 specs for both maximum peak and average loudness. It's a fusion of several meters into one. And unless there are clever engineers that decide "wait - that's all wrong", that's the best there is.




And... I just went all technical again. :roll:

Furthermore, you folks reminded me to finally update my white papers on the K-System v2 concept. Ah.. time and patience. Where have you gone to?
KVRAF
 
38429 posts since 20 Dec, 2005

Postby hibidy; Fri Jan 10, 2014 8:13 pm Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

That's a hard read for a knucklehead like me, but I like the technical side. It's not like I'm an "expert" and have nothing to learn. I want to understand metering better.
User avatar
KVRAF
 
8807 posts since 7 Dec, 2004
 

Postby aciddose; Fri Jan 10, 2014 8:35 pm Re: Good ways to make your songs approximately the same volu

Simple version of the description of meters:

You have three classes of meters with reference to levels:

- Peak
- RMS (windowed)
- Average

In addition to that you have with reference to frequency:

- Flat spectrum
- Simple weighting (highpass filter, lowpass filter)
- Complex weighting (A, Fletcher-Munson, etc)

What I would like to add is that a peak meter with a flat spectrum is not a useless tool. Instead it needs to be used in conjunction with average/complex weighted meters and in some cases the approximations (RMS/simple weighting) work as well.

In addition, the thing I note most often is that the difference you get between peak and average levels can in itself be extremely useful. This provides information about the variation and dynamic range of the signal. Likewise for the difference between flat and weighted spectrum which will show where the energy is held.

For example looking at a highpass "high weighted" meter in comparison to a flat meter will tell you how "bass heavy" a track is while the difference between the peak and average levels of the same will show where that content is focused, into short pulses or continuous.

I see a lot of talk about using different metering techniques but I don't see much reference to the difference between these techniques taken as a measurement itself.
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