Mixing for mastering gain

I’ve been reading over at Gearslutz. I understand the logic behind mixing ITB at a RMS of -20dBfs with peaks around -10dBfs. What I don’t understand is, given that clients want a CD that is loud, with this method I’m depending on one piece of gear, or plugin to raise the gain to commercial CD level. I’m spending all this money on microphones, preamps, compressors, plugins, converters etc, only to have one piece of gear do this heavy gain lifting?

In my mind, this Ultramaximizer or (substitute plugin or hardware here that raises the gain) better be pretty damn transparent, or all the control I tried to have in recording or mixing is being minimized.

Am I missing something? Or, is the technology so advanced that you can take a two track master and raise the entire mix +10dBfs or more without it being a problem? Or, is this part of the chain now the most important studio purchase you can buy if you’re running a “do it all” shop.

Note: I’m not looking for “that’s why you go to a mixing engineer” answer. My clients can barely afford to record, let alone get it mastered by a pro mastering house.

well you could always just turn the gain up till the peaks are very near the top then slam the hell out of it :laughing:

Eh … don’t believe everyhing you read @ GearSnobs. Having peaks at around -10dBfs is only required in uncontrolled environment, where you might have unpredicted peaks. In mixdown process you only have to stay below 0dBfs … unless you’re worried about intersample peaks, in which case you should stay something like -1dBFs for traditional rock/pop music, around -3dBfs for some techno stuff and up to -6dBfs if your music is more or less like white noise.

Please educate your clients! Louder is not better! Give them links to sites like:
… etc … If they still want it louder just insert your favourite mastering dynamics-destroyer/loudness-maximizer plugin to the main buss and turn it into “eleven”.

Is that the huge ITB thread that’s like 300 pages long and a few years old? Hilarious!
That idea is actually a hold-over from the limitations of older TDM systems which shaved off bits every time you scratch your nose. The idea was that they wanted you to actually record your tracks down at -20db so you wouldn’t have to reduce fader volume too much to avoid master buss clipping (which on older systems would throw away LSBs).
I think ProTools is almost entirely responsible for giving ITB mixes a bad name. The newer PT systems use floating point processing. TDM uses 48 fixed which has more headroom than the older systems.

Simply insert a limiter on the stereo buss - I use the stock maximizer without any gain and a ceiling of neg .5db because I like the metering better than the stock limiter. If you’ve got a 3rd party limiter like an L1 use that with 0 gain.
Then do your mix the same way that you would on an analogue console.
Unless you squashed the heck out of your tracks and recorded them really hot you’ll have no trouble.
The limiter will control the transient peaks without attempting to maximize volume.
If you think there’s too much gain reduction happening in the limiter then set up some subgroups (drums, instr, voc… Etc) and pull them back a few db. Cubase’s floating point internal processing is glorious.

When you’re done you should have a respectable file that’s not dangling down at -20db which you can confidently hand off to a mastering engineer - or just master your project yourself.

Hope that helps.

Amen to that.

OMG! So this is all about shortcomings of The Industry Standard Super Duper Software (the one, the teacher at the class in that Suberb Audio Enginering School said was The Best).

And there is no Santa either :open_mouth:

WHAT… next you’ll be saying the Tooth Fairy is not real either :astonished:

Boy am I glad I very seldom find myself at Gearslutz - usually after a mindless click on a Google search result…

Luck, Arjan

Thanks for your reply.

Why didn’t they just recommend pulling down the master fader?

Because it’s not a solution if you have a f*cked up audio engine. Pulling down the master fader works only if you have a 32(or better)-bit floating-point audio engine (like you have with Cubase) or 32-bit fixed-point engine (like I have with my digital mixing console). The old ProFools mixing engine was just outdated compared to everything else in the market back then … which led to PT “professionals” to convincde you to follow their retarded practices.

As a lurker in that site, I would have to say: there’s some educated people there, who know what they’re saying and some people who seems to be educated … but are just spreading their (not so educated) opinions. It’s not too hard to figure out to seperate those two if you are literate enough to read plain English and distinguish the plain bullsh*t out of real facts.

I think there are some interesting people there, even in the thread I referenced. But maybe I’m wrong.

Here’s an example: The original poster in the thread says “By lowering the line trim we now have a good level so we can Compress/Gate/EQ the Signal without it overloading the processing. Sounds simple right? Remember that all outboard equipment was designed to work around the 0VU/+4/ 1.23 Volt reference. So by putting the incoming signal at around this reference, your rack equipment will work better as well.” The “reference” he’s talking about is a RMS value of -20dBfs.

Does this make sense for people who are using hardware compressors and EQ’s?

The poster recommends trim plugin as the very first plugin, because it gives the mixing engineer the ability to adjust the tracks to a Mixing standard of (+4/1.23 volt) reference, which translates to -20 dBfs. Did he grab -20dBfs out of thin air, or does it have validity in the +4/1.23 volt hardware world?

I’d appreciate any feedback regarding this from people who work both itb and otb.

Any reference to 0dBfs in regards to the output or input level of your converters depends on the manufacturers reference level, usually quoted in the specifications of your hardware but not always! and varies

Turn it up until your ears bleed and then break out the pipe wrench and give it another 1/2 turn. Damn the meters, full speed ahead! :wink:

This is what I was going to post. Gearslutz is no worse than the CB forum; just more people posting so more folks spreading b.s. Just filter out the obvious know it alls and its a good place.

This is an admirable sentiment but you have little chance of remaining competitive as a studio if your goal is to convince customers to like mix levels because you think they’re good. I could only see this working with long term customers .Otherwise you’ll spend time wondering why people never come back.

Right or wrong the ship has sailed on loudness

Sounds simple BS to me. If you mix ITB, your not going to overload anything. Any decent DAW software has had floating-point signal path for last 10 years or so. Any decent digital console has at least 32-bit fixed point internal signal path. Only point you should be worried about digital levels is A/D/A conversion stages and your master buss output.

Analog signal levels are different animal, though. But as Split said, reference level between dBfs (digital) and dBu (analog) depends on manufacturer. And to compensate this you only have to use your analog gear’s gain/output level controls (unless your A/D/A converters are cr*p and can’t handle full 0dBfs levels properly).

Using trim at input and from plugin to plugin in the chain can help prevent inter-sample peaks, which is a fancy word for clipping.

SSL makes a great meter you can use for this and it’s free.

The Solid State Logic X-ISM

X-ISM is a state of the art VST/AU plug-in which can interpret inter-sample peaks, allowing engineers to make informed judgements about the resultant sound quality of the mix.


You are soooo correct on that point!
And even tho I wish it was not this way,
the truth is, I am of two minds.

1- I really really wish my clients wanted more, not less dynamics in their music.
that being said:
2-It has taken me several years to learn to fight and win in the
‘Loudness Wars’ and I do not want to just flush this experience out of existence.

As distasteful as this is, this ‘acquired’ knowledge is now another arrow in my quiver
and has helped me in making a living for my family and me.

Swurveman posted:

only to have one piece of gear do this heavy gain lifting?

Over the years I have tried that approach and the results were never
quite what I wanted. No matter which piece of gear it was.

So now instead of one piece, I use about five->six pieces in a chain,
each device adding only a slight amount of gain.

But by the time the signal gets to the end, it is ‘kickin’
with the big boys.