Old 11-19-2019, 12:41 PM   #1
bolgwrad
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Default Master output peaks at -24dB. Is this bad?

Downward circular mixing: I've got a quiet track (drums, bass, gtr, kbds, vox) with a few dynamic changes, but as I mix over and over I find the master level dropping, till it *peaks* at a paltry -24dB. If I set the master faders to the top it still doesn't peak above -6dB.

I'm liking my results a lot and the rendered WAV is perfectly usable (to normalise), so can anybody foresee a problem? Should I be more painstaking with my gainstaging? I don't particularly want to add a gain plugin as it might distort the way I'm hearing the mix.

I could just select all the essential tracks and push them up a few dB, but I just wondered if this matters, s/n ratios being what they are these days (remember them?).
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Old 11-19-2019, 01:03 PM   #2
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You can throw JS: Volume Adjustment on the master or similar and leave the master fader where it is - The difference there vs normalizing after the fact is you avoid the normalization step post render and you don't want the random intermittent peak exceeding 0 dBFS, but that's what I use a limiter for, to catch stray peaks if/when they occur - Pro tip: Limiters don't 'have' to be used to crush a mix.

What I actually do is similar, since I use a limiter on my master (whether I intend on increasing loudness or not), I just raise the input level of the limiter until it catches that stray peak causing it to kick in and knock off 0-1/2 dB et al which is perfectly fine and transparent in most every way.
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Old 11-19-2019, 03:50 PM   #3
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Thanks Karbo, that's what I'm finding if I open the render in Wavosaur; I can see one or two spikes on cymbal hits or kick subs - which actually helps a lot when doing the next mix - but mostly it's all well within limits.
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Old 11-19-2019, 07:16 PM   #4
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This is why proper gain staging is still a thing even at the digital age.

Also, normalizing inputs is a thing, meaning that unless the input is purely live, you should always normalize media items before you start mixing, then you add gain trim JS plugin as your first insert FX on each channel and you adjust that to get about -12dBFS to -16 dBFS (the specific amount differs depending where you read about it) on each track when the fader is on unity gain (zero).

This allows you to mix a ton of tracks and you won't get clipping on the master. If you only have few tracks, you can get by with -10dBFS per track, but you gotta remember: if you mix together 2 tracks that have -6dBFS peak, in the worst case they mix into a signal with 0dBFS peak, if you add one more track with -6dBFS peak, in the worst case you'll clip.

It depends of course on the actual signal content of the tracks, but I digress.

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Old 11-19-2019, 07:44 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bolgwrad View Post
...Should I be more painstaking with my gainstaging? I don't particularly want to add a gain plugin as it might distort the way I'm hearing the mix.

I could just select all the essential tracks and push them up a few dB, but I just wondered if this matters, s/n ratios being what they are these days (remember them?).
I agree you should probably pay a bit* more attention to gain staging, but -24dBFS peak isn't terrible at 24 bits or more depth. 16 bits, yeah, I'd personally correct if possible. Also depends a lot on genre, song, performance, etc.

Personally, I flirt around -12dBFS peak out on drum bus to master (which is typically my highest peak bus or track), for rock/metal, and build mix around that level, which typically results around -6dBFS at master out for prints. Very rough guide, no need for calculators or slide rules here. Headroom is your friend in this domain.

Don't lose any sleep over it

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Pro tip: Limiters don't 'have' to be used to crush a mix.
T-Shirt if I ever saw one!
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Last edited by cassembler; 11-19-2019 at 07:48 PM. Reason: *See what I did there? <Tee hee hee>
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Old 11-19-2019, 10:21 PM   #6
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This is not an issue at all whatsoever. Reaper audio is processed at either 64 or 32 bit depth, which is an insane amount of dynamic range.

I would bet a thousand dollars that no one here could hear the difference between two mixes that are identical except for how they are hitting the master bus, if they were both normalized to the same level.

You could always run a simple test.

Take a simple mix and render it.

then turn all the faders down by 24 db or so, then on the master track, put a gain plugin that raises the signal by 24 render the output.

EDIT: that first response to this thread is very resonable.

absolutely sure you wont be able to hear a difference.
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Old 11-19-2019, 10:44 PM   #7
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Dan Worrall demonstrates Reapers massive headroom in this video

DAW Headroom Test
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ph1M3QZGku8
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Old 11-20-2019, 12:46 AM   #8
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There's another thread, 'Why do you use Reaper?'. There you go.
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Old 11-20-2019, 03:34 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Icchan View Post
Also, normalizing inputs is a thing, meaning that unless the input is purely live, you should always normalize media items before you start mixing
Is this everyone's standard practice?
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Old 11-20-2019, 03:40 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by batcat View Post
Dan Worrall demonstrates Reapers massive headroom in this video

DAW Headroom Test
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ph1M3QZGku8
And related to my last post and this, I get that individual tracks can effectively not "clip" but as a matter of practice does anyone actually allow that to happen as long as the master is OK?
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Old 11-20-2019, 03:45 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martifingers View Post
Is this everyone's standard practice?
In my limited experience I think it is standard practice to freeze/render then normalise your completed tracks prior to mixing.

For me, rather than change individual track faders however, I have an action that disables all (top-level) selected track's Master sends and routes them (post-fader) to a PRE-MASTER track.

That way, I can adjust the volume of the overall mix hitting the master track (and its mastering plugins) with one fader and eliminate the risk of ruining the mix balance.
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Old 11-20-2019, 03:56 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martifingers View Post
Is this everyone's standard practice?
For me, yes. I use a lot of sample libraries of all different levels. I normalise all sample loops or recordings to -20 as a starting point. I use Neutron on my channels so I use that to trim the input + or - if required. I like to get the source into Neutron's sweetspot. I do the same with the VSTi synths. I trim them so that they are in Neutrons sweetspot. I then set the kick drum to register -12 on the channel fader and then build the mix. My channel faders are never too far from the unity point and I have plenty of headroom on the master bus. Makes a good print for the mastering process too.
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Old 11-20-2019, 04:00 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uncleswede View Post
In my limited experience I think it is standard practice to freeze/render then normalise your completed tracks prior to mixing.

For me, rather than change individual track faders however, I have an action that disables all (top-level) selected track's Master sends and routes them (post-fader) to a PRE-MASTER track.

That way, I can adjust the volume of the overall mix hitting the master track (and its mastering plugins) with one fader and eliminate the risk of ruining the mix balance.
This is the script I use, btw...

Script: Lokasenna_Create mix bus and reroute all top-level tracks to it.lua
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Old 11-20-2019, 08:52 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by batcat View Post
Dan Worrall demonstrates Reapers massive headroom in this video

DAW Headroom Test
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ph1M3QZGku8
Out of curiosity, I reproduced these results and added more tracks... I agree the practical headroom limit is infinite, but I found a theoretical limit of the headroom seems to be equal to the minimum master fader value of -144dB.

Having to disable auto-mute and apply +144dB of gain to something (anything) makes me not want to test any farther, but I assume if there's a way to increase the minimum fader value, that would likewise increase the theoretical headroom...

Just a side comment
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