Dealing with dynamic, high peak wave files

Looking for some advice, please. I’ve received some wave files for a mix that were recorded with a lot of dynamics and many peaks sometimes reaching -.02dB. Sure, it’s better than flat and overly compressed signals, but I’m still left with the challenge of taming and preparing the tracks for mixing. Ideally, I’d like a signal with no more than around -10db or so for the peaks. Here’s the question: what are the one or two best options for dealing with this? Some compression (even serial processing) that targets these transients and peaks? Manual gain adjustment (a lot of targeted work)? Lower the entire track volume (which will also reduce RMS)?

If this was Midi, I could handle this in a number of ways; for example, using the Project Logical Editor or tweaking the higher midi velocity, etc. But, when it comes to audio, I’m being somewhat cautious and want to avoid processing the signal too much. While I can whack the peaks, I need to preserve the RMS (body of the sound) as much as possible. Any best practices to approach this? Any special techniques or processing tips? Thanks!

Apply a negative gain to the whole signal (use the channel pre-gain)
or Brickwall Limiter (threshold set carefully to process transient peaks only or will cause distortion)
Threshold setting depends on difference between body and peaks and how many extreme peaks there are. Where peak limiting is concerned -10dB would probably be too ambitious.
Probably not a good idea to do any permanent processing to the audio if you want to preserve its characteristics.

Thanks! Yeah, I tried lowering the whole signal, but it also lowers the body of the sound too much given the big difference between peaks and RMS. I’m just curious about what are the preferred methods for dealing with files that have a good sound but strong dynamics (peaks). Other than doing a lot of manual tweaking, I’m being told by fellow mixers to just employ the aid of technology and process with a deft hand and quality compressor(s). I ask myself: what’s the point of collecting all these plugins and not use them? Cheers.

IMO there are no standard methods of dealing with this as it depends entirely on the characterstics of each signal and the difference between the peaks and RMS, and of course this difference can vary enormously within the same file. You might have just one or two peaks at -0.2dBFS. Plug-ins which limit just the peaks is what you need for limiting the peaks (the supplied brickwall limiter for example as already mentioned above) and beware, lots of so-called limiters don’t do this ! Compression is going to be touching the body of the signal more. Your choice depends on how much you are willing to effect the body of the signal.

So, what is the average difference between the peak and the RMS of the audio material you have in mind? (post a screenshot of the waveform if you need more advice because without precise details you’re not going to get accurate feedback here).

This may or may not help, but I come across this with highly dynamic orchestral mixes, because I avoid filtering and compression while writing.

Would you be open to parallel compression to strengthen the body of the audio which may allow you to bring the peak level down a bit more… without completely chopping off the transients.

Or use the MultibandEnvelopeShaper, but a standard compressor should be fine.

(I come across this a lot, so I’m following this for my own benefit as much as offering any help…)

You’ve got some good advice here. An initial stage to deal with the transients (tried Flux? It’s free… or the Envelope Shaper…) and then subsequent stage(s) to tame the body. In short, several simple stages (perhaps bouncing in between), each tackling one issue, will probably give better results and will be much easier to keep track of as you fiddle.

How about that screenshot?

Hi good people, Many thanks for all the advice. As I suspected, there probably is no one best way that can be agreed by all. The approach one takes will reflect the experience, plugin choices in your fx folder, and time available to the engineer. I now need to figure out what’s my way of tackling this…that is, until I find a better way and incorporate the advice from other helpful souls.

As for a screenshot, I confess that I don’t know how to do this. But, let me share the source! The files are (practically) free to all, can be used as you wish, and for me are serving as great educational material on which to practice my mixing. Check out Warren Huart’s mixing lessons for the band Little Empire and song Stay New. If you subscribe (free, but he will then send you via emails once in awhile), you’ll receive a link to the individual multitrack wave files. In fact, Matthew Weiss even used the drum tracks as a basis for 2 of his recent video tutorials (Pro Audio Files on YouTube). These files are dynamic. So, I’m doing better than just sending a screenshot – you’ve now got the entire raw mix to play with. Cheers.

In the Full Editor for messages, click on ‘Upload Attachment’. Then ‘Browse’ to find the file. Then ‘Add the file’.