How to Make Your Mix Sound Louder Without Destroying Sonic Quality

Firstly, you have to realize that loudness is genre dependent and not every track needs to sound loud and thick. Obviously there are 2 stages when you can make your track sound loud.

 

 

Mixing stage and mastering stage

It is always good idea to have your song mastered in a professional mastering studio. The most prominent and successful mastering engineers have years of experience, trained ears and necessary knowledge how to use the sophisticated mastering processing gear. Mastering is very important final step, and any respectable mastering engineer will tell you that even a professional mastering studio with extremely skilled engineers and the best equipment and facilities won’t be able to make a bad mix sound really loud and clean. Therefor firstly you have to learn to cover the ground on the mixdown department, so the mastering can take your mix to totally another level.

 

Using quality samples and recordings

You have to have a decent listening environment, so you can make decision what is a good quality and what isn’t. Then you will easily learn to know a good quality sound when you hear one. It is all about training you ears – daily practice will get you there. When you hear sound, tend to listen for the low and high ends especially – do they sound clean and crisp? Are there any unwanted noises? Another important thing to listen to is the dynamics. Are they intact?

 

Learn compression and don’t ruin your tracks with too much limiting

People often think that compression is a magic pill that will help sound everything good and loud. Sure, compression is a great tool, but you have to learn how to use it properly. General rule of any compression is to use low ratios and to avoid short attack times. Short attack time usually kill audio. To avoid over-compressing your mixes you should remember, that the higher the ratio, the higher the threshold should be. Never forget, that heavy compression is always audible. Better idea is to use compression gently at different stages of recording and mixing. Also if you want to go for loudness, it is beneficial to learn how multiband and parallel compression works.

 

Saturation

Saturation is very powerful and often overlooked tool. By adding little bit of saturation to individual channels you can drive your mix a tiny bit louder. It is always worthy to experiment with saturation – different plugins give you different results. You can add saturation to bass track, tape saturation work excellent for drums. Saturation in any form adds harmonics to the sound. The perceived volume is raised as natural compression with little bit of limiting. These combined effects add up to what could be called ‘fatness’ or a ‘warm’ analogue feel. Remember that saturated audio should still sound clean and not distorted.

 

Be careful with bass

Bass is usually taking lot of energy in the mix. It is always good idea to use low-cut filter to stop very low frequencies to get out of control. If you want to be sure what’s going on there, use a spectrum analyzer!

 

Balance your EQ

If your mix is unbalanced, it will never sound loud. In other words – balance is everything. For total loudness of your mix is very important to have balanced your Mids and Hi-Mids area. Our ear hearing is very sensitive in the 2kHz region – you can always use this trick to make guitars and drums sound loud and aggressive without pushing up the average level.

 

At the end of the day don’t worry about loudness too much. As you will practice with mixing and as your ears will be more trained, your mixdowns will get better and louder as a byproduct. Also with more practice you will develop your musical instincts: you will be able to trust your intuition while making a decisions.

Keep your music production under control with IZotope Insight

izotope insight
  • izotope insight ozoneiZotope’s complete mastering system in a single integrated plug-in includes eight essential mastering tools: Maximizer, Equalizer, Multiband Dynamics, Multiband Stereo Imaging, Post Equalizer, Multiband Harmonic Exciter, Reverb, and Dithering.

    The process of mastering ranges from correcting mistakes made in the mix to preparing a recording for target listening environments. Like a final coat of polish, mastering makes the difference between a good-sounding mix and a professional-sounding master. Ozone 5 delivers the biggest update ever to iZotope’s critically-acclaimed software mastering system, making it easier than ever for anyone to master their audio simply and efficiently.

    With Ozone 5, see your mix like never before. A broad variety of updated metering tools provide unprecedented visualizations of how mix elements fit together, guiding both your eyes and your ears to the perfect-sounding master. Each processing module is complemented with useful spectrums, phase meters, vectorscopes and level histograms. For example, use the Gain Reduction Trace view to help set the compressor’s release time, or watch the Correlation Trace to catch instantaneous phase problems.

    [usr 4.8] 12 customers reviews
    buynow izotope insight

  • The company IZotope is for many years recognized for creation of processing audio signals tools (in both technical and creative way). Whether it is a plug-in or stand-alone application, it always represents innovative solutions and sophisticated concept. Tool that we present today is a creative tool, but also is designed to keep the creation of sound  within limits that prescribe standards and recommendations, as well as to enable audio visualize the important parameters which influence the final form of the sound image. We are talking about multi-function plugin for audio measurement and analysis, called iZotope Insight.

    Measure twice …

    Measurement and analysis of audio are very useful in the process of creation, as they can clearly demonstrate the sources of problems, which have their negative consequences even artistic and aesthetic level work with sound.

    What can Insight

    I said at the beginning that the Insight is a multifunctional tool for measuring and analyzing audio. It combines (as usual within one working window) several measurement tools. Insight thus continuing the trend associate company iZotope instruments into a single interface, which has the advantages of both ergonomic, as well as technical, as already explained in the plugins Ozone and Alloy. The main technical advantage of this is that calculations of the individual measuring tasks take place within a single environment.

    Insight includes a spectrograph, the spectrum analyzer and audio analyzer field correlator, which is not exceptional in any way, such facilities are also included in plugins from other manufacturers. Insight, however, is equipped with two measuring instruments that make this plugin very important today. I’m talking about loudness measurement.

    Loudness war and its consequences

    The pursuit of ever-increasing volume of sound recordings has no other goal than commercial (regardless of the relationship of modulation depth and range of the transmitter in the radio broadcast) . Loud sounding image attracts listeners easier than weaker competitors. Especially since the increasing volume is in the hand of record executives and producers. There are many negative consequences that this effort brings such a distortion and other effects of massive compression in the technical level and degradation dynamics and musical content in the recording.

    IZotope company reacted to this situation as well as some other software manufacturers with plugin Insight, which can measure and record the volume of recording. This is his greatest contribution, for which is sure to become a popular tool especially in post-production studios.

    Appearance and design

    Appearance of Insight is fully in line with other plug-ins Ozone 5 and Alloy 2. This means that its working window is large and well -arranged . Includes all 5 measurement tools, which all controls and architecture adjustment menu in the folder Options ozone and Alloye user knows intimately and without problems understand their function. To clarity at work even better, you can split a single window to maximize the size of the central window, or hide it completely. Thus, it is possible to customize the look of the plug-in for a particular measurement task. If the window is maximized, it becomes available in other, more detailed control and adjustment elements. The maximized windows can sometimes choose the size of the viewport display ( zoom) . The appearance of the plug-in is obviously modified for use in two-channel or multi-channel mode.

    izotope insight

    Individual modules

    Spectrograph is used for monitoring of individual frequencies over time. This is useful, for example for localization of noise such as hum or other noise tonal character. As well it should be possible to monitor the progress of the melody, like singing voice. Insight offers two-and three-dimensional display mode, allowing the visualization according to the specific needs of the user. Three-dimensional image can be also rotated in different directions and thus get a glimpse of the part of the spectrum, which is important at that moment. Zooming measurement scales is commonplace, as well as that analysis, which normally takes place in real time, you can stop and explore, during normal playback. Spectrograph module provides an interesting feature accessible in multi-channel operating mode, and color resolution spectrograms of each channel in a common box. It is possible to assign a own color to every channel and with the Meter Tap make a detail measurement of its progress over the time.

    Spectrum Analyzer is a standard tool for obtaining information on audio frequency format that provides clear picture of the traditional spectrum. You can choose the form of display, integration time and method of calculation. This module does not deviate from the traditional approach and is arranged for quick analysis of the underlying instrument.

    insight-spectrogram

    Sound field analyzer is particularly useful when downmixing, which provides information about the energy and directional distribution of the stereo and phase ratios in it. Also, we can change the appearance and detection method. Must be said that this module is most useful when analyzing the mixing of surround sound, the sound field distribution is very important and fundamentally determines the final form of the sound image.

    In terms of what was stated at the beginning, the most important part of Insight modules is measurement of levels and volume during the recording. Measuring module of level and volume is a comprehensive tool that summarizes information about the excellent and efficient level image with option to use measurement methodology used by Bob Katz (K -system). The value of the volume we can have shown instantly (with an integration time of 400 ms), short (3 s integration) and integrated (the integration over the entire duration of the program). Measuring range are selectable according to each methodologies EBU (European Broadcasting Union) and ITU (International Telecommunication Union) , so Insight is universally applicable for use in all areas of work with sound.

    insight-levels

    An interesting tool is the history view. It gives us information on the evolution of the volume for the duration of the program, clearly indicate exceeded preset limits (which is usually the value of 24 lufs – in line with the recommendations). This is certainly very useful, and Insight provides several tools how to fix errors in our mix.

    Conclusion

    Izotope Insight is a very useful tool and it is strongly recommended for every day work. It is a master plugin for all producers who want to have their audio production under control. 

What is mastering?

mastering

Mastering is the final creative step in the audio production process; it is the bridge between mixing and replication (the production of final media i.e. a Compact Disc) and is correctly called Pre-Mastering.

This is the last chance to enhance audio or repair problems in an acoustically designed room with excellent monitoring acting as an audio microscope. Mastering engineers offer a fresh experienced outside opinion, they know the technical difficulties that arise whilst mixing and have the knowledge and technical ability to fix problems and add finishing gloss to final mixes.

Having great equipment in a neutral acoustically treated room is one thing but having great hearing and the capability to use the right choice of equiptment to correct and implement change in a positive way is another.

The Mastering Engineer

Mastering engineers have to keep up to date with technology and be well versed with a broad spectrum of music trends with an open mind across the board. One day they could be mastering a classical orchestra the next a commercial punk rock track, so they have to be able to adapt to the different styles and be able to work in a relaxed, subjective, yet professional manor.

Mastering engineers usually have years and years of experience behind them; for instance some of the big name’s are 50+ years old and still going strong! It does seem strange that even though the engineers are getting older their hearing is not? Well the truth to the matter is their hearing is probably weakening like everyone else’s but they have the day in day out experience to know how to make something sound right (if that makes sense) say for example you play the trumpet five days a week for 40 years, your going to be better then someone who plays it twice a week for 10 years even if your ears aren’t as sharp they are more experienced, this is the same with mastering engineers. We come across certain problems that you just wouldn’t know how to or be able to rectify unless you had solved it before or had a certain technique which you knew worked.

A good mastering engineer will know their equiptment backwards. These are like a saw and hammer to a carpenter. If an engineer had a great class A compressor but didn’t have the ear nor the experience/technique to use it, then it would sound no better then a £100 compressor. The key to being a good mastering engineer is, knowing which piece of equiptement to use for the job. One EQ/compressor sounds different from another so the right choice is what makes all the difference with certain styles of music.

This gives the older more experienced mastering engineers greater power, as they have earned the respect over the years and are able to work at a quick pace, problem solving and repairing audio. They are able to make excellent judgments after listening to the track just a few times over and then apply the changes that make all the difference.

Getting the final mix ready for mastering

Mastering as previously explained is the art of manipulating a stereo mix to sound its best! So as this could seem very limiting (which it can be) surely it would be best to get it right in the mix or pretty close to!

I sometimes get a job come in that is super hot (loud) and sounds like its had mix compression added on the master bus along with for example limiting, leaving no headroom whatsoever to play with and sounding overall squashed or lifeless. For these sorts of jobs I usually request a remix or a clean mix with at least -3dBFS (decibels before full scale) head room on the loudest sections and no mix processing.

The reason I ask for a clean mix with headroom is quite simply because these sort of things are best left to fresh ears. Not only that but the fact that a professional mastering room/engineer will have much better equiptment aimed at final stage mastering and the experience to make professional judgmental decisions.

Once you’ve completed a mix and say for example run it through a compressor to get a fatter sound (remember it might sound fatter but what’s happening to your tops?), your blocking your mix into a dead end. A mastering engineer with a much more elegant mastering compressor and experience could apply compression in a different manner which would not only fatten up a mix but keep it as transparent and dynamic as possible.

Turn up your monitors to give yourself or others the loudness you require and don’t be tempted just for loudness sake to compress or limit. I think one big mistake people make when they make their final mix down is compare it too other commercial releases which have already been professionally mastered. By all means check for levels and taste but don’t try and match it loudness wise!

What you should be aiming for with your final mix is a well balanced and structured mix with ample head room and dynamics to allow a good mastering engineer to evaluate the mix in a natural flat room, using excellent responsive monitoring (no colouration) and allow him/her to add the final polish and loudness to the mix.

Why do we need dynamics control?

Limiters, compressors, expanders and gates are all devices which control the level of audio signals and therefore the dynamic range of a track or piece of music. They affect the loudness of a sound just as a fader or volume control does. In a dynamics device, however, the device according to parameters set up by the engineer controls the level automatically. In a traditional analogue device this would have been an electrical circuit element that would first sense the level of the signal and then adjust the output as required. Analogue compressors are still regularly used at the input stage, during recording, but in digital systems most dynamics control is now achieved through plug-ins which emulate the analogue world in terms of both performance and parameters. Below is a diagram to show how a traditional analogue dynamics unit would work.

dynamic control

As we noted earlier on, the useful dynamic range of the human ear is from OdB SPL (the threshold of hearing) to 115dB SPL (the threshold of pain). Digital sound equipment is now able to cover this dynamic range with 24bit recording, which has a range of 144dBs (theoretically anyway as the real limit of even the best Digital to Analogue converter is 122dB SPL of dynamic range). CD audio is a 16-bit system and has a dynamic range of 96dBs, which is more than adequate for most music and speech recording. Classical music is most renowned for having very quiet and very loud passages — a wide dynamic range. Even if reproduced in a Hi-Fi environment this would equate to about 65dBs difference between the loudest and quietest parts. Most pop and rock formats area designed to have a much smaller dynamic range since they need to be intelligible in a wide variety of situations – such as cars, factories, kitchens, railway stations etc – where ambient noise might be considerable. Under such conditions the signal must be compressed so that the quietest level is audible above the background noise without the loudness of reproduction being unacceptable for the given situation. Background music, for example, must be reproduced quietly yet should at all times be audible enough to be intelligible. The key to a successful commercial mix lies in an ability to engineer loudness and impact into a mix that is heard on a transistor radio. The limiter/compressor is a tool that makes this possible.

 

 

Common applications for automatic gain control

Protecting a system from being overloaded
In order to optimise the signal-to-noise ratio and maintain a high average record level without the fear of accidental overload, a limiter can be inserted to operate just prior to the onset of significant distortion

Increasing loudness
Changing the sound by making it either “denser (by reducing the dynamic range) or lighter (by increasing it).

Noise reducing
Reducing background noise, “spill”, cross-talk and improving the signal-to-noise ratio of analogue tape recorders and other noisy signal paths by the use of elaborate systems such as the Dolby ones.

Reducing sibilance
Extreme “s” and “t” in vocals and other similar problems with the use of de-essers.

Special effects
Voice-over and ducking (as used by disc-jockeys), dynamic equalisers such as the Opti-Mod for increasing loudness in radio broadcasts and a myriad of other inventive applications that we shall describe later.

Cover photo by Pedronchi

Loudness Wars versus Michael Jackson – Loud Loses !

How good is high volume? People now-a-days are more inclined towards louder music, very few prefer pleasant notes over the louder ones. The Loudness Wars are making all our music louder, more crushed and distorted – for no good reason. Research shows that “loud” records are fatiguing and harder to listen to and they also cause disturbance at some point.

Has the Loudness War been won ?

This is a very important topic where Ian Shepherd speaks about Bob katz who is a campaigner against the loudness war. He took a public stand against the loudness war. Itunes audio levels are fully regulated using Sound Check algorithm. Bob says “sound check” is an intelligent volume control in the “Itunes Radio” which adjusts the volume on its own. Bob Katz posted on his website “Digital Domain” that the loudness war has been won and the last battle will be over by middle of 2014.

Mastering: How to make a song louder in mastering – and the price you pay

Learn mastering with multiband compression. A song can be made louder using compressor, EQ and limiting. The main idea is to raise the volume without making the track sound crushed or distorted. Usually louder tracks are distorted and the chorus is not audible to the ears but multiband compressor helps to lessen the distortion and raise the volume on the other hand.

LUFS – the new Loudness Units. What do they mean ? How to read the new breed of loudness meters

Want to know more about the new LUFS?? This discussion describes how to read one of the new LUFS loudness meters, and what it means for any audio. The main idea of LUFS was to provide a consistent way of measuring loudness. Also the comparisons between LUFS, DBFS and RMS or the TT Dynamic range meter have been discussed.

Mastering EQ – make music sound louder, with LESS compression and limiting

Learn about Mastering EQ with Ian Shepherd. EQ is a great tool in a DAW which makes the music sound louder with less compression and limiting. While working on songs with heavy drums with loud snares there is a possibility of crushing the track sound and it is important to keep the songs at proper level. This problem is solved by Mastering EQ.