need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

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rosko12
KVRist
49 posts since 22 Sep, 2012

Post Wed Feb 25, 2015 3:17 am

Hi

Does anyone have any tips on how to produce a dozen tracks or so to similar "loudness"? I'm keen to hear what different approaches you use.

Obviously I can use my ears but it strikes me that running some kind of loudness meter might be useful too. I've got a couple here but don't really get what all the labels mean.

For example I have a melda Loudness Analyser that gives values for Peak, True Peak, Momentary, Short Term, Integrated and Range. I also have a plug called RMS buddy that seems to be somewhat more self-explanatory.

I figure I could also run a spectrum analyser on each track and get an average spectrum for each one. That might be a help in gauging whether some of them are heavier in the bass than others (etc).

Or maybe none of this is really worthwhile?

If you're interested I'm putting together electronic music - ten or twelve tracks written at different times, using quite different approaches and techniques.

fluffy_little_something
KVRAF
12922 posts since 5 Jun, 2012

Re: need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

Post Wed Feb 25, 2015 3:23 am

Isn't that referred to as normalizing? I guess I read that some time ago...
I wish Youtube had such a feature :hihi:

No_Use
KVRAF
2350 posts since 13 Mar, 2004

Re: need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

Post Wed Feb 25, 2015 3:31 am

For starters you could check out Compyfox' public KVR links which got some good info regarding metering.

http://www.kvraudio.com/kvrmarks.php?u=9761

My general thought on it though: Use your ears ! (but meters can help) :)

A method I found on Youtube sometime ago and which I use for setting up home album 'mastering' sessions:

Image

This way I can skip to different tracks instantly and compare, make adjustments as needed so it sounds coherent.
Last edited by No_Use on Wed Feb 25, 2015 3:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

geroyannis
KVRAF
2115 posts since 1 Apr, 2004 from Athens, Greece

Re: need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

Post Wed Feb 25, 2015 3:33 am

I'm using IK Multimedia meter's "perceived loudness" indication to get the tracks to the same ballpark, and then fine tune by ear.

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DJ Warmonger
KVRAF
3020 posts since 7 Jun, 2012 from Warsaw

Re: need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

Post Wed Feb 25, 2015 3:45 am

...or you could do that by ear, like all the DJs do :wink: Still, that only works if you can mix the tracks in resonable way.
http://djwarmonger.wordpress.com/
Tricky-Loops wrote: (...)someone like Armin van Buuren who claims to make a track in half an hour and all his songs sound somewhat boring(...)

fluffy_little_something
KVRAF
12922 posts since 5 Jun, 2012

Re: need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

Post Wed Feb 25, 2015 3:50 am

I never use any analyzers etc., be it for loudness, equalization or whatever. I just close my eyes and listen, comparing it to a couple of other people's songs which I know are well done and thus serve as a reference.

Compyfox
KVRAF
14290 posts since 19 Oct, 2003 from Berlin, Germany

Re: need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

Post Wed Feb 25, 2015 4:53 am

No_Use wrote:For starters you could check out Compyfox' public KVR links which got some good info regarding metering.
Thanks for the forwarding - appreciated.




In all seriousness though, if you can get a hold of a cheap EBU R-128/ITU-R BS.1770 meter, you can easily set up your session and then go from there. My recommendation is ToneBoosters EBU Compact (small and simple) or EBU Loudness (with histogram function and even more technical data).


The way I usually do it, if I'm doing this in Cubase (works in every multitrack host):

- I'll have one song per channel, each track is currently at bar 1.1.1.0, so I can play all tracks at once (with my speakers muted) and just analyze things
- one instance of either EBU Compact or EBU Loudness on each channel (pre fader, no input gain compensation or HPF used), preferably set up to something that gives out LUFS (i.e. the ITU-R BS.1770-3 measurement preset)
- I hit play and let all tracks run through their corresponding EBU Loudness/Compact module
- one the playback is done, I take a look at each plugin instance to take note of the "Integrated" loudness (ILk) and "Short Term" loudness (SLk).
- depending on the production, I then pull up/pull down the mixdown to a specific value I want to work with. i.e. if the readout on a track has been -17,6LUFS SLk, but I want a more similar loudness of the whole set to be -16LUFS SLk (before you do the final touches/limiting), I adjust the gain of the clip by +1,6dB. If the readout has been -13,3LUFS , but I want to get to -16LUFS, then I trim is by -2,7dB


You can now move your tracks to the positions you want to have, and if you hit play, the whole "stream" (so to speak) should have a similar loudness that only needs finetuning according to your ears. This can work with both ILk and SLk. Only that ILk uses a gate for noise bursts above -10LUFS and below -70LUFS. ILk is more aimed at a "broadcast" stream (or radio plays, Podcasts, etc), while I personally think that SLk is more suitable for music.

You can now add your fairy dust and use a gain->limiter chain to push up your tracks to your specific desired loudness (i.e. -14LUFS, or back down to -16LUFS), and there you have your mastered record.

What you basically did, was doing "manual loudness normalization"!
Yes, it really is that easy.




If you happen to use Wavelab, it's even simpler to determine the track's current loudness, which can then be adjusted to get a more "evened out" average loudness stream.

Use the Batch Function in Wavelab!

If you only want to analyze content, but not "adjust" it already:
- Create a new batch
- go into Monopass Plugins and load the Audio Analyzer
- only select "exact peak", "Integrated Loudness" and "Short Term Maximum", then select whatever output format you'd like (I like to use .csv, since it can be loaded in MS Word or Open Office)
- set the output module to "no output"
- drag and drop your songs into the data folder window
- hit the play button, the created data sheet should open automatically

If you want to "prepare" the concent already, make a copy of the files, then go this route:
- Create a new batch
- go into Multipass Plugins and load the "Loudness Normalizer"
- set it up to the value you want to work with as starting point (i.e. from -23 to -16)
- set the analysis function to "short term loudness" and "exact digital peak"
- you can leave DC offset removal on, set the highest peak to -1dB and the tolerance to 0,10dB, then close the window
- drag and drop your songs into the data folder window
- set up the output module to "subfolder of the source path"
- hit the play button, the corrected files will then be put into an own subfolder

Then you can proceed as mentioned earlier.




There - loudness normalization in a nutshell.
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Tarekith
KVRian
577 posts since 21 Feb, 2005 from Upper Left USA

Re: need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

Post Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:14 pm

Mostly I do it by ear as well, and it helps a lot to also reference on other speakers or in another room once you think you have them all close. Generally that tends to show any tracks that are just a touch louder or quieter.

If you do use a meter to help, don't go by RMS, try and find one that that supports the LUFS as mentioned above. Much more reliable and accurate for what you're trying to do.

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Hermetech Mastering
KVRian
1026 posts since 30 May, 2003 from Paris

Re: need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

Post Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:16 am

Ears all the way baby, only way to do it convincingly. For my radio show I use the Loudness tool in RX4 Advanced, you can "Loudness Normalize" I usually go to -16 LUFS ITU/EBU standard. Does an OK job, but for client material I would never do this, always by ear. It's not hard to listen to gtrack to track volume and adjust to suit, but why do so many people seem not to want to?

If you do it automatically, you'll get the tracks that are supposed to be quieter at the same perceived loudness as the tracks that are supposed to be louder = not good.

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do_androids_dream
KVRAF
2871 posts since 26 Oct, 2007 from Kent, UK

Re: need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

Post Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:37 am

Yes - use your ears. If I'm mastering an album I will just keep listening, playing a few seconds from various sections of each track over and over until it all 'slots' into place - your ears will tell you when it all sounds 'right'. It's also worth noting that in the good 'ol days albums themselves would have a dynamic - there would be quieter tracks and louder songs on purpose so it's not always the case to just get every track at the absolute same perceptive loudness.

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Tarekith
KVRian
577 posts since 21 Feb, 2005 from Upper Left USA

Re: need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

Post Fri Feb 27, 2015 3:02 am

Ditto, needle dropping through tracks seems to work better than playing the whole thing.

Compyfox
KVRAF
14290 posts since 19 Oct, 2003 from Berlin, Germany

Re: need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

Post Sat Feb 28, 2015 5:08 am

Yes, your ears are still the most important weapon in this game. But you shouldn't underestimate your metering tools as well. They not only give you a general guide, but also show your your ultimate/final values.

A combination of both is essential. And using the ITU-R BS.1770-x/EBU R-128 specs is a great helper these days. Fine adjustments are then really easy.
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thecontrolcentre
KVRAF
23827 posts since 27 Jul, 2005 from the wilds of wanny

Re: need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

Post Sat Feb 28, 2015 5:18 am

Use your ears all the way ... metering, etc is very useful, but you should always go by what you hear (imho). Obviously you'll need decent monitors and a good listening environment too.

When putting an album together I usually find the track that sounds closest to what I want for the entire album, and then adjust the other tracks to sound similar volume and eq wise.

Compyfox
KVRAF
14290 posts since 19 Oct, 2003 from Berlin, Germany

Re: need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

Post Sat Feb 28, 2015 5:28 am

Your ears can be fooled (see Fletcher-Munson curve)
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Hermetech Mastering
KVRian
1026 posts since 30 May, 2003 from Paris

Re: need advice on mastering entire record to similar "loudness" (etc)

Post Sat Feb 28, 2015 8:51 am

So can your eyes...

It's called Fletcher's Law. It states that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Fletcher or Munson approaches 1. That is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Fletcher & Munson or bring up the topic of the Equal Loudness Contours. Despite being described as universal regarding the subject of the discussion, Fletcher's law is more likely to be applicable to social topics (including forums, FB, Twitter, etc.)

:wink:

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