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Mastering Levels for Audio

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by ericu112, May 18, 2009.

  1. ericu112

    ericu112 New Member

    I am currently recording a project with Logic Express Version 8. The problem that I am having is with mastering relatively equal levels across a set of tracks that I want to ultimately present together. I don't expect the levels of each song to be exactly the same, but in their current state, they are too far apart. Now, there are varying instrumentations for the different tracks, which is part of the problem. For example, I want to put a solo guitar piece alongside some guitar-bass-drum arrangements. I get the level of the solo piece as hot as I can get it without clipping, but of course it doesn't have the same impact volume-wise as the multiple instrument tracks. If I pull the level of all the "hottest" tracks down to match the quieter ones, the level of the disk as a whole will be uncustomarily low. There must be some mastering tricks... perhaps some tools inside Logic that I am not aware of, or outside for that matter. It almost seems like I need software that could compare the relative levels of multiple tracks. Does such a thing exist?
  3. alienimplant

    alienimplant Senior member

    I recommend you use a master compressor/limiter. My favorite is currently the PSP Xenon, next would be iZotope Ozone. If you don't have a budget for a third party plugin, then use Logic's own Ad-Limiter. Adjust the input of your softer songs so that the input level is similar to your louder ones, then apply the amount of compression you feel sounds good and gets your album nice and loud. Good luck!
  4. alienimplant

    alienimplant Senior member

    Note: When I say, "Adjust the input" I mean the input gain within the plugin itself.
  5. Eli

    Eli Senior member

    IK Multimedia has a great new feature in their new version T Racks. The metering not only displays the usual peak and RMS levels, but there's also a meter for "Perceived Loudness" which is really useful for this exact type of scenario.
  6. ericu112

    ericu112 New Member

    Hey guys, thank you for the suggestions. I will investigate both the Xenon and T Racks. They are a little pricey (Xenon $250, T Racks $500), but then so is commercial mastering. The least expensive price I have found so far for levels mastering a set of 10 songs is about $500. So, I expect I may as well invest in the software; that way my investment will extend past the current project. Thanks again, and best of luck with your own projects. - Eric
  7. alienimplant

    alienimplant Senior member

    Good idea. The best all-in-one solution is iZotope's Ozone. It has a very transparent very good EQ, multi-compressor, exciter, master limiter, and more. But my current preferred master chain is the UAD Pultec Pro EQ > Oxford Inflator > PSP Xenon > (sometimes) UAD Precision Maximizer, in that order.
  8. mark Ainsworth

    mark Ainsworth New Member

    I used to do my own mastering but a fresh pair of ears works best.
  9. timrob

    timrob New Member

    Combining tracks with different dynamics can be very tricky. Sometimes additional space between cuts can be helpful in terms of a CD project. Won't do you much good in terms of iTunes shuffle mode.
    Sounds to me though, like you should consider taking your project to an experienced mastering engineer. You will likely learn more about how your mixes translate than trying to do it all yourself. Which will improve the recordings you make in the future.
    Frankly, the tools built in to Logic should be enough to do a credible job of mastering.
    While there are better or more preferred tools out there, it is really more about knowledge and experience than it is about the tools.
  10. Pete Thomas

    Pete Thomas Administrator Staff Member

    I agree, watch and listen to a good mastering engineer, if you can find one who doesn't charge too much extra for the client being there!

    For something pro I always send out for mastering, the equipment, ears and experience is way above mine.

    But for demos I have a tried and tested method.

    (Disclaimer, the following is possibly quite "wrong" - I'm a composer/producer not an engineer, but it has worked very well for me)

    Just put all the finished mixed tracks in a new Logic project one after the other, on separate tracks, then use the output faders to make everything sound at an appropriate level with each other.

    Often I find it's a great help to listen from another room or just in the doorway to the control room, this way any anomalies seem to jump out at you.

    Once all the levels seem about right I grab all the faders at once and adjust so the overall peak about -1dB to 0dB, then put a limiter across the output and give it all about 6dB of limiting. (Actually my favourite is Vintage Warmer medium compression).

    I might try pushing a bit more depending on the material, but 6dB seems to work fine without crushing any dynamics.
  11. GeeWhiz

    GeeWhiz New Member

    We just got the PSP Xenon, is it really all that man? I havent tried it yet in a mix. ANy suggestions?

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