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Thread: Not happy with the loudness of your mix? This will help...

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    Not happy with the loudness of your mix? This will help...

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    I am writing this so that you do not have to go through the pain of finding your mix does not have the same kind of loudness as the commercial mix you A/B against and want.
    No bs, just help.

    To be able to get the loudness that you want, you first of all need a high enough end-to-end headroom in your hardware. With that in the signal combined state you have more information about each sound source in the mix. Part of that information is the room that the sound source lives in, so therefore each sound source also gets more space in the mix. Their transients stand out more, you have less negative resonance, more perception of modulation... With this you get a better input into the compressors and the monitors feed your ears a better output. This results in some increased size of the elements in your mix, which also contributes to the perception of the loudness.

    Secondly, loudness is impacted by the relationship between the arrangement and the dynamics (long- and short term). This is a major part to what makes a mix to be perceived as loud in a good way. When you arrange you have to do so with loudness/dynamics in mind, you do not necessarily need to be loudness oriented, but you have to know that if you are not you might be creating a dynamically complex mix and with that you will struggle more with loudness later on. Keep in mind the importance of getting the right frequency response out of each sound source during tracking.

    The third thing is that when you work with the dynamics you also need to consider the amplification as part of that process - both in terms of gain and EQ - because various hardware and software are to various degree non-linear in their dynamic response. You should consider using a hardware console for this, not a software one.

    The fifth thing is that when you during mixing and mastering work towards ideal dynamics and loudness, this is a step by step process you do at various dynamic scopes in various ways for various reasons. The "in various ways" means really there are quite a lot of various techniques you can apply depending on what's inside of the scope and whether you are working with the long term or short term dynamics.

    The seventh thing is that for loudness you need a level aware approach that is applied end-to-end throughout the entire process, that can guide you to some degree beyond what you hear and beyond what you think you need, both when it comes to individual sound sources and when it comes to the mix as a whole.

    When you have the dynamics right there are other things that contribute to the loudness perception, actually quite a few:

    For instance the stereo processing is a big one, I am not going much into that topic, but please be aware that you do need certain type of hardware to get what you need and similarly to how you work with the dynamics at various scopes you do so with the stereo processing as well.

    Then when it comes to the limiting part of it, you need certain hardware for this that has certain characteristics that makes the limiter react to the input in a way that is desired. When you do this it is a part of the overall dynamic work, so you do need to consider getting the right impact on both the long term and short term dynamics. And this is not only about compression, it is as much about expanding and it is a delicate work all in all, because the more late time dynamic work you have to apply, the more the stereo image is going to suffer. So get the bulk of the loudness achieved prior to the final stereo track, have those tracks combined in such a way that you have a good peak - integrated lufs ratio hitting the final stereo track. On the final stereo track reserve some headroom also for the final non-limiter gaining, then put a limiter for distortion protection afterwards.

    Also make sure that you first of all get the right loudness in the most important chorus before considering the loudness of everything else.

    With accurate monitoring all of the above can be dialed in properly.

    If you do all of this properly, then it is not a loudness issue anymore but you might have other issues leaking into it being considered a loudness issue. For instance one thing to pay attention to is whether it is a loudness issue or a warmth issue. With lots of warmth in the mix you naturally feel it is cool sounding even when it is not 100% at the loudness target. At the end, do pay attention to a lot of other mix qualities besides loudness... A loud and cold sounding mix rarely works.

    A great sounding mix first of all must feel right, that's the number one. When that has been ensured, you can make it feel even more right by adding some amount of cool and warmth into it... If at the end you have a pretty ideal loudness level too, then that's perfect.
    Last edited by DarkRed; 09-23-2017 at 09:11 AM.

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