Mastering, am I'm mourning the end of the loudness war?

Mastering to -12 LUFS seems to have taken the punch and vibe out of some of my mixes, I know about chopping and tailing frequencies take back headroom in the mix. - but to me things seems to have gone too far the other way. Is anyone out there keeping their mojo without whacking the limiter? To my ears 95% of what I like is back by about -8, but this means my mixes will get turned down by the online audio streamers.

Don’t whack a limiter. Compress in stages. If the dynamic content is very different from band to band, you may want to dress it with a multiband before your 1st bout of compression so the compressor doesn’t approach the compression strangely. Think an overly dynamic low end of a mix causing the compressor to pump.

Whats your signal chain for mastering?

Thanks for the reply, I usually have a multiband on the mix-bus lightly kissing the mix during mixing and exporting.

In my mastering chain I usually end up using a transparent compressor followed by a Fairchild 670 or vintage warmer 2 (again just lightly kissing the peaks) and then tape compression finally the limiters (yes two!) I usually limit in two stages (slower than faster) so neither limiter is doing all the heavy lifting, Izotope’s Vintage limiter followed by the standard iZotope one is another favourite chain of mine. My mastering chain has a lot of options but the above is usually what I end up with 90% of the time. So if you add it all up I’ve got at least 6 layers of compression!

Why -12 dBFS? I thought most streaming services were -13 to -15 LUFS …? ( ; )

Also, if mastering to high levels doesn’t work well for you, why are you mourning the end of the loudness wars … aren’t they the cause of your misery?

If you look at my mastering monitoring in the screenshot, the default patch I have loaded is actually -16LKFS. If mixing for CD I usually go a bit hotter, this is my point at -12LKFS I just don’t like the sound and volume compared to when I mastered hotter during the loudness wars, typically a pop or rock track of mine would average around -5LKFS - and that’s with the track cut at -0.4db to give lossy encoders an easier time, but at this level, online streamers would massively pull the volume down. So I’m trying to do the right thing and master at -12LKFS or quieter - I just don’t like the results sonically - I’m wondering if other people are having similar issues.

I see, thanks for clarifying!

Not sure what to say… It seems like a lot of processing to me. FWIW, I usually only have this chain in the box:
Precision Multiband-> MSED ->33609-> MSED ->Precision eq -> ST Tool -> sonnox limiter. Externally mastering the limiter stays and the msed plugs too, 2 comps (1 tube, 1 vca) and eqs are outboard equipment. I usually M-S master

Really simple. My rig is fairly rich as far as sonics go during recording. HiQ preamps and mics, tuned rooms… so I don’t feel I need tape emulation kinda things. That’s me… back to you.

Kissing doesn’t tell me a whole lot. For instance if a band centered at 300hz is kissing a multi and it has 15db of dynamic range and you have a centered at 2kHz kissing 20db of dynamic range, the overall result will be the same dynamic range difference between bands of processing.

Anyway, the only thing I can say is if the depth of your processing for lower D.R. imparts a grit or pump… (you have to identify EXACTLY what it is), you will have to see how you can create it. Some compressors as they process transient material add a subtle distortion to those peaks creating sonic excitement. Hit them harder, they give you more excitement.

I don’t know if that was helpful at all. Hard to advise without hearing the tune and looking at some scopes.

Obviously I don’t use all the plugins in that session - they are just options I can use. :smiley:

Yeah, I know! :laughing: it’s funny. Tonight I was mixing a piece and I crushed the Precision limiter and totally get what you’re talking about. This made me think to tell you to try parallel compression. You can crush it to Smithereens and Blend it in to get that punch

To much processing, can’t sound anything else than like mushy peas.
You must reach your loudness target BEFORE hitting your limiter.
Your “chain” “barely kissing” already shaves shaves of -6 to -8dB stacked.
This has NOTHING to do with mastering.
Target loudness by itself can NEVER be a goal, it depends on the mix. Also having 5 to 6 plugins on your masterbus and calling it a “mastering chain” is NONSENSE, that’s not what mastering is about.
Would recommend to educate yourself on the purpose and principles of mastering. Katz is a good primer.
And why you would like to “master” (read squash) beyond streaming target normalization is a mystery to me.
There IS no loudness war, only in your head.

Excellent advice!

Mastering in general has changed so much that when referring to “mastering” in forums it means something very different. Everyone has the great tools. Unfortunately, experience with the tools and how to implement them, when to implement them, and on what type of audio to manifest a desired audio objective is severely lacking. Apologies sounding so pious. ME’s know their tools and when to use which tool for a desired outcome.

With the exception of EDM, (most of what I did was pop and pop rock) I’m not convinced multi-band is all that useful. It can be, but IMO there are too many wrong avenues unless you have experience in a good room listening for adverse effects of multiband.

Obtaining majority of volume before limiting is going to pay off dividends. That is how to keep the mojo. That seems to be contrary to most home mastering I read about. With home mastering and lots of marketing, it’s all about chains, buying the latest limiter, and how hard you can hit that limiter with the least amount of bad artifacts to make it sound like Brian Gardner. Brian, and most ME’s I know of, don’t do it that way.

Having a “mastering chain” IMO is silly unless you have an input labeled “I take anything” and an output that says “mastered better than Gateway.” It completely depends on the content, genre, and how the pre-master sounds and what it needs. Sure there are some basic concepts, but a pre-set chain, even when disengaged, seems dangerous because you continually re-arrange processing that is dependent on the objectives which are always different.

Get the desired volume before mastering. Get it in the mix. Get it by knowing composition, and how instruments work together. That is where the mojo is at. My admiration of commercial mix engineers completely over-shadows the best ME’s.

Most commercial pre-master pop tracks arrived (and I think still arrive these days) relatively loud. (There are a lot of variables, but -12dbRMS to -10dbRMS would be a general guess.) What the ME does to a great mix is enhancing per the clients objectives. Making it slightly louder via EQ, M/S, parallel or SERIES compression, and proper gain staging which adds cohesive sound to an album.

Don’t mix by numbers. Have knowledge of the numbers and how they usually relate to sound, but use your ears. Turn the lights out, and do a lot of A/B’s. Having a tool such as smart bypass in Wavelab is beneficial because it removes any volume bias and allows you to focus only on the different A/B processing. It also impresses clients who sit in sessions to demonstrate loudness bias.

Good luck!

Man, I have been out of it for a while… this is a great thread to catch me up… thanks to all who have posted in it…

I hear what you’re saying about loudness before limiter ('scuse the pun) - but - I LIKE the sound of the limiter, that’s my point if I reach that loudness without limiting it starts to sound lifeless in comparison. We’ve had a similar discussion before, you like clean and clinical - and I like hot and dirty! :smiley:

greggybud, my mixes do go loud before mastering, I trim fat from the bottom end and balance elements carefully. The Nugen Send plugin I use (in combo with mastercheck) does the same job as smart bypass. Again, I don’t have a set mastering chain in that sense, my mastering template is a palate of options I may try during mastering, it’s sort of a virtual patch bay. About not mixing by numbers, the K scale doesn’t lie - if your end product is too loud, it will get turned down by spotify, air play etc. this is what I’m trying to achieve, getting the punch I’m used to by hitting my favourite limiter fairly hard whilst trying to keep the automatic volume police happy!

What is the genre of music? Can you post a link?
What limiter are you using to achieve this desired limiting sound thats adding the “punch”, and how much GR?
Usually too much limiting is what makes the audio lifeless. For broadcast radio, after an Obran Optimod it often gets even worse, or more quiet. In this case, assuming no expansion anywhere, and this is for streaming not radio, you are saying the opposite?

What were the dB RMS numbers of the track that Spotify rejected or was that -8db RMS as mentioned prior? Did you do error checks prior to submission?

Assuming you submitted a .wav file at 24bit/44.1/ 48/ 82.2 or 96k, you are aware that some headroom is needed or overs can happen when converted from .wav to MP3 correct?

You followed the mastered for i-tunes guidelines? Last I heard, Spotify was the same.

Exactly, a vain attempt to make songs sound like a radio broadcast. :slight_smile:
Try listening to the CD versions of those tracks and be amazed.

So, if you like how it sounds on the radio, get yourself an Orban

My artists usually distribute online, the general consumer does not buy CDs anymore.

My favourite mastering limiter is Ozone’s. The material doesn’t sound terrible online just doesn’t have the punch I’m used to when mastering to CD.

PS regarding the “mushy peas” comment I meant to comment on, plugins only impart as much colour as you demand, if you chained a 1000 vst (non character) passive EQs flat, the signal coming out the other end would be identical to the one going in. Try that with a thousand of the best, cleanest, most expensive analogue EQs in the world with solid gold interconnects, if you had any usable signal left at the end of the chain I’d be amazed. Chain length is irrelevant in the digital world, obviously what you do in that chain does matter though.

Please post some material for context, since your clients release digitally,the spotify or itunes link will do, pretty they don’t mind public links.
This thread is nothing without context.