preparing tracks for mastering

Discussion in 'Production' started by ShirPan, Feb 15, 2013.

  1. ShirPan

    ShirPan Member

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    small question:

    im about to send some tunes out to some labels for mastering, so im supposed to send them with -6db.

    now: should i just turn down the master-channel an amount of -6db OR should i turn down the master channel until the highest peak is reaching a maximum of -6 ?

    i think it makes not tooo much of a difference, but how do you guys do it?

    thx for help!
     
  2. Interruptor

    Interruptor Member

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    Why you should turn the master down? Cant figure it out. At least, in f. ex. rock songs you just mix it down tightly and leave the master channel empty and just see it doesnt clip. (Talking about submixes and limiting them is another story, though.) What they (nowadays) do anyways in mastering is compression/limiting, eqing and often modifying the stereo image. Still cant figure out the -6dB thing, after thinking about it while writing this post.
     
  3. N3GUS

    N3GUS Member

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    I prefer to work at low levels on all of the 'track' channels so there is plenty of headroom anyway, then to get the final 'loud' mix compress/ limit the master.

    So I would say go back in on your mix, and pull everything down together to give you main output the headroom nturally.

    And for future I would advise being really anal about signal path, make sure all your plug ins etc are running at a reasonable level and the level to your master output doesnt go over 0db apart from the odd stray peak.

    as a rule I try to keep working levels around -4db on master.
     
  4. lasiien

    lasiien Meh

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    It's a good question I think, as i've wondered about the difference between mixing to -6db and simply mixing to 0 (not clipping) and then turning down the master (ensuring nothing is on the Master bus) to -6db or so as well.

    i think the best answer is to talk to the mastering engineer who's going to do it for you, if at all possible and get advice on what they prefer (though I suspect they will tell you to mix it down to -6db and not simply lower the master).

    If you can't but are happy with your mix and are entirely sure it's not clipping anywhere, then from what I have read just turning down the master is possible. However, like N3GUS above I tend to start my projects now by mixing down to a lower level. Almost everyone seems to agree this is the best approach, whereas mixing to 0db allot of people tend to argue about mathematical inconsistencies and stuff like that........ i.e. I've read the best advice is to start by mixing down more quietly and getting your headroom that way on individual channels etc. If you already have finished tunes that you're happy with then I'd be tempted to do what you're considering though (google and this forum search is your friend, read up about gain structure, preparing a track for mastering etc.).

    One other tip - check your mix in mono before you send it. Remember that mastering is the 'polish' on top, it can't correct issues with your mix but only paper over them somewhat :)
     
  5. Attire

    Attire Last Winter

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    Yeah I've got into the habit of bringing down the levels on each mixer channel when trying to balance them so I always end up with lots of headroom.
     
  6. ShirPan

    ShirPan Member

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    the problem triggering my question was that:

    when i turned the master-channel 6db down, it got some peaks at around -5db or a bit more.
    so, in order to make it peak at -6db, i needed to turn down the master-channel down not 6 but 7db.

    @ n3gus:

    thanks for the advice.
    so far, while mixing down i was trying to make my master peak at 0db, then put a camelphat on it to handle the stray peaks (all in order to make it sound good without mastering).
    now these are the first tunes to be mastered. i think its reasonable to just lower the master-channel and get rid of any limiting device on it? or should i do a complete new mixdown?

    @Interruptor
    im not at all familiar with mastering techniques, all i know is that the master-output should peak at around -6 to give the one mastering 'smth to work with' or smth.
     
  7. lasiien

    lasiien Meh

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    Yes, you need to turn the master down more so you don't peak over -6db.
     
  8. ShirPan

    ShirPan Member

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    @lasiien:

    (i saw ur post after i posted mine^^)

    very useful post, thanks for the helpful words! i guess ill try mixing to a lower volume with my next projects
     
  9. N3GUS

    N3GUS Member

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    cool, just take the camel phat off and any processing youve done on the master then for this instance just pull the master down

    I wouldnt worry too much about the odd stray peak either. if the main body of the track is peaking -6db I dont think its going to be a problem with the odd spike.
     
  10. ShirPan

    ShirPan Member

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    will do that, thx mate!
     
  11. lostnthesound

    lostnthesound Burns Easily in the Sun

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    Contact the mastering house that you plan on sending your recording to and inquire what their preferred headroom range is.
     
  12. Paul Ashmore

    Paul Ashmore Audio Animals Mastering

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    The only reason you are lowering the overall level of your track is so you do not peak above 0db. If you are peaking above 0db you will cause unwanted distortion and cut out some off your dynamics. As long as your track does not peak above 0db it is fine.

    Too many artist get fixated on the fact that your track has to be a certain amount of db under 0 but in reality if your track is under 0 db and never peaks above it is fine. When you look at your master meter in your daw if it is flashing red lower your mix until it doesn't. For good measure it's always best to lower your track an addition few db just to make sure you are not peaking into the red.

    More info on how to prepare your tracks for mastering can be found HERE

    Mastering £25 per track mastered on a full analogue SSL, MASELEC signal chain.

    ORDER MASTERING HERE
     
  13. ShirPan

    ShirPan Member

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    so this is the only reason why engineers wanna have them with -6db? almost seems too simple somehow
     
  14. Paul Ashmore

    Paul Ashmore Audio Animals Mastering

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    Thats about the gist of it. You look at a waveform that is peaking above 0db has flat spots. What you want to see is a good clean waveform with no flat spots in the file. Any decent engineer will tell you as long as you send a clean waveform with no flat spots that's fine. There's no reason for them to ask for an exact level. They should just want the audio with plenty of headroom so there is no clipping. Why not just ask them why they want the files at -6db. Any engineer will be happy to help you and have a good working relationship with you
     
  15. lostnthesound

    lostnthesound Burns Easily in the Sun

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    Let me preface this by saying I'm novice at best when it comes to grasping the fundamentals behind mastering.

    When talking with the few engineers I've worked with, they've emphasized that the ~ -6db headroom is for the type of hardware they use for mastering in that it's expecting an incoming signal of -6db, and that audio going over the -6db won't may not get the best results. From articles I've read I've also seen where certain digital mastering tools perform better operations on tracks with the extra headroom because the plugins were designed to emulate their hardware counterparts.

    I guess my question is does the headroom value differ from one engineer to the next or is just a matter of preference? Or, is the whole -6db argument not even relevant?

    Thanks for all your insight and feedback.

    Cheers.
     
  16. Dubsta

    Dubsta Well-Known Member

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    first off paul does all my mastering.....Brilliant sevice i must add.

    Basically all i do is take off all the compression and limiters off my master out, and lower the master unilt theres no redlining.....you dont need to worry about exact figures to bring the db too, as long as its below -0 and not redlining. Maybe your concerned with overall volumn loss...If thats the case dont worry as the mastering guys will bring the track up to the right levels.

    Id also loop the loudest part of the track ie, with the bass, drums all playing and then lower the master.
     
  17. lostnthesound

    lostnthesound Burns Easily in the Sun

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    Good stuff, thanks for the feedback Dubsta.
     
  18. Paul Ashmore

    Paul Ashmore Audio Animals Mastering

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    Hi Dubsta

    Some hardware will need a certain headroom but as long as your bounce is not peaking at all above 0 the headroom can be adjusted with a fader inside the daw or even with the input gain on such hardware we master with like the Maselec MLA-3. -6db or -3db it doesn't matter as long as its below 0. too many people get so fixated on this that they worry about sending their track off for mastering. If you are ever worried that your track may not be at the correct db simply drop it another -6db. Any decent mastering engineer will be running protools and have access to clip gain or a fader to give your track -6 or -3 db of headroom.

    For instance the track I am mastering now was sent to me with -2 db of headroom. Running the analogue chain I am running I have had to drop the level of the track an additional -1.7 to get the perfect headroom for my gain staging through my chain. It will vary from engineer to engineer but any decent engine will look at a waveform and adjust it to whatever db he wants. The only time you should be sent a track back is if you have a track that is peaking above 0 db.

    And if you are sent a track back ever that is below 0db and is a clean waveform tell the engineer the waveform is sufficient to work with and has he never heard of a fader.

    It really is not as big a deal as it's made out to be don't worry about it
     
  19. Paul Ashmore

    Paul Ashmore Audio Animals Mastering

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    Cheers glad your still enjoying the service we provide. While I have you if you haven't already check out the discount coupons for when you order your next master may come in handy.

    SPECIAL OFFERS
     
  20. lostnthesound

    lostnthesound Burns Easily in the Sun

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    This makes sense and is what I was looking for. Cheers Paul!