Old 08-12-2019, 05:40 PM   #1
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Default Rendering Master volume

What is the best level to be at when I
render a final mix? when I have it set at +6 that's 3/4 volume on the master, one of
the band members say`s that comparing to other music track its still
seems low in volume, and that in his car, or on his iPhone or even his home sound system.
Should I max it or is that not recommended?
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:50 PM   #2
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13 LUFS is a good starting point

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Old 08-13-2019, 11:11 AM   #3
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render a final mix? when I have it set at +6 that's 3/4 volume on the master,
It's not the settings it's the results that matter.

I think the best approach is to adjust the levels as a separate "mastering" step after you're done with mixing, editing, effects, etc.:

- Render to floating-point WAV. (Floating point has virtually no upper or lower limits.)

- Open the floating-point file and normalize. That will "maximize" your file with 0dB peaks. Regular (integer) WAV files, CDs, ADCs & DACs are all hard-limited to 0dB.

- Peaks don't correlate well with perceived loudness so if it's not loud enough you'll need to use (dynamic*) compression and/or limiting (with make-up gain) to bring-up the overall loudness.

Compression makes the loud parts quieter and/or the quiet parts louder. In general (particularly when mastering) compression is used to bring-up the overall loudness without boosting or clipping (distorting) the peaks.

one of the band members say`s that comparing to other music track its still seems low in volume, and that in his car, or on his iPhone or even his home sound system.
That's a common complaint with "home recordings". Perceived loudness is complicated and you probably won't achieve the same loudness (with as little "damage") as a professional mastering engineer. And, you may not want to over-compress to match modern-commercial recordings.

Of course, with compression you are affecting the dynamic contrast and that changes the character of the recording/performance, and if it has constant loudness it can be boring. But constant-loudness is the current style so it's a creative decision. See Loudness Wars.

* Dynamic compression is totally unrelated to file compression like MP3.
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:02 PM   #4
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DVDDoug laid it out perfectly. What's meant by the settings not being meaningful is that they're relative to what's going in. We can say "Set threshold on the limiter so that it shows gain reduction of x" but we can't say "Set the threshold at -8" if we don't know how hard it will be hit.

It's damn near impossible to compete with commercial releases in volume. They're not just putting on a limiter/maximizer on the master. On many genres there's a compressor or two on every instrument's track, a compressor on each bus (for example a stereo guitar bus, stereo drum bus, vocal bus, etc) and the ALSO compression on the master. THEN it goes to be "mastered", a whole separate process, where the mix gets its final shaping and polish, which generally includes a touch more compression and a brick wall limiter at the end, with the level raised as high as the masterer decides is safe for making mp3s from (backed off a few fractions of a db from 0, depending.

You just can't compete with that by putting a limiter on a master and raising the output. You can't attain the LUFS level (which, in a simplistic explanation, instead of noting the peaks as peak level does, measures the listener's perception of the loudness) of the other songs your bandmate is playing before and after.


You can try to get more out your master limiter by putting a few stages of subtle compression before the audio gets to it. Try adding some transparent compression to individual tracks by using a low ratio, like 2:1 or 3:1 with a slowish attack and release, and set the threshold so that the track is only reduced by 1 or 2 dbs, or listen to when it starts sounding too compressed and then back off until it doesn't. Put on or two compressors on the master bus before the final brick wall limiter, also with low ratios, taking only a db or 2 down, and with the attack and release times gradually a little faster. Then, the final limiter with have a high ratio (by definition a limiter does) and and have it just knock down the transients that have made it through, and you can work with the threshold then to see if it sounds better going a the threshold a little more or a little less. Then the output can be raised to anything below 0. Some people choose -.02 and some -.08 or more, the idea being headroom for the lossy compressed versions converted from it, such as mp3s. Leave the master fader at 0 and use a limiter with a ceiling you can set. Since the peak level doesn't tell the tale, use the limiter settings to attain the LUFS level that you want, basically input or gain, threshold and output. You can also adjust the compressors on the master while watching the LUFS level on a meter to see what happens.

They may also be hearing some extra polish "pop" on the commercial tunes, like added sheen and bottom, that can make the track jump out more. Try putting an eq on the master, and try it before and after the compressor(s) but not the last in the chain. Sometimes what makes a guitar track pop loud is a goosing in a high mid just a touch, and maybe compensate on the bottom with a little bump. Maybe a high shelf and low shelf and experiment working into the other dynamics plugins to get more to jump out and then tamed back in place a bit by the others.
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