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Subject:Ideal Master Volume
Posted by: nomis
Date:5/17/2003 12:44:59 AM

Is there an ideal range for the master volume on a project? For example, most of my projects end up being -10 to -13 db, but I'm wondering if that is too low. Perhaps I should lower the volume on individual tracks and raise the master?

I also normalize in Sound Forge, which may make the master volume in Acid irrelevant...???

Subject:RE: Ideal Master Volume
Reply by: fresnog
Date:5/17/2003 10:37:27 PM

I sure would like some other input on this same subject.... In the past, I would take most or all of my tracks (electric guitar, bass, vocals) and normalize them in SF before mixing together in Acid. However, I have recently quit that and concentrated on getting the best sounding original signal into Acid - not necessarily the LOUDEST signal, but the best I can get using a little compression and EQ on the way into Acid.

I listen to a couple of songs that I did about a year ago where I normalized tracks in SF then back into Acid, and they all sound so UP FRONT that 'I can't believe I thought it sounded so good at the time....'

Now I record into Acid, back all tracks WAY DOWN and assign buss/track effects like compression and EQ again. Then I bring each track up one at a time to start mixing. Also, on the Master Fader/Channel, I apply compression so the level maxes out at whatever I have the fader set to (-0.3 in many cases). This brings the mix up to the level I set on the slider.

My master fader is almost to 0.0, but some of my tracks are way, way down. The last song I just finished - I took the 24 bit wave over to SF and applied some slight EQ and that was it. I was so happy that I didn't have to tweak the hell out of it or worse......Ultramaximize it.

What are some other stories on this?


Subject:RE: Ideal Master Volume
Reply by: dkistner
Date:5/18/2003 6:51:01 AM

I still don't understand how volume is handled in Acid. What I do is record my voice lines out of another program, getting the amplitudes all right for the mix. When I pull them into Acid, I leave the individual volumes at -6.0 and then tweak just a little if I need to.

What I don't exactly understand is if the volume settings of the faders are relative or absolute. I leave the master fader set where it is. It appears that the -6.0 levels are absolute. At least my audio looks like it's up to that level. But I just normalize the whole mix after I'm done with it. I discovered, much to my great joy, that my Mia card gives me absolutely NO noise if I normalize up, I don't pull up a noise floor along with the rest of the mix. So I don't worry so much about what's going on in Acid as long as I can normalize the final mix to whatever level I want.

There's a great little freebie program Elemental Audio has just released called Inspector that shows a spectrum analysis (peak and RMS), clipping, headroom, and stereo balance. You can put it in your master effects and use it to analyze your entire mix; but when you solo tracks, you can see what that particular track is doing in the mix as well. Or see how two different instruments in a mix balance off each other. Maybe that would help you figure out how best to set your volume.


Subject:RE: Ideal Master Volume
Reply by: FT13
Date:5/18/2003 4:11:53 PM

I usually keep it at 0db till i have around 4 tracks, then start knocking it down as i add tracks.

I usually never go below -12db.

Hope that helps!


Subject:RE: Ideal Master Volume
Reply by: drbam
Date:5/18/2003 9:13:54 PM

Typically for a final mix its recommended to keep the loudest peaks within -6 to -3 db range. This gives a mastering engineer sufficient room to work with the material. If you're doing your own mastering (generally not a good idea), this same guideline applies.



Subject:RE: Ideal Master Volume
Reply by: nomis
Date:5/19/2003 10:47:27 AM

Sounds like there are varying opinions on the ideal master volume - anywhere from 0db to -12db.

I'll have to play with it and compare the results.


Subject:RE: Ideal Master Volume
Reply by: rwes
Date:5/19/2003 11:04:33 AM

If you're using SoundForge to master, you should notice that on the left and right wave forms, that line marker is at -6.0 db. That is an ideal *average* level for your acid project.

As a rule of thumb, I try to *rarely* touch the master volume in Acid, as that is *absolute* and affects everything from the dry tracks to the effects. I generally follow these rules:

1) Don't worry about the softness of the *master* level. You can always boost it later.

2) Do worry about the level of any tracks you are recording from scratch; try to get them in recorded in that -6db range, and definitely do not clip them out.

3) Work with *dry* tracks (vs. using effects) until you are just about satisfied that you have all the tracks you need. The beauty of this kind of software is that you mix as you add tracks so that it always sounds good.

4) Once you have a good general *relative* mix of tracks, i.e. the drums, bass, vox all sound good together, start looking at your master level. If it seems like it averages out to -6db, you're good to go. If it is way too soft, select all of the tracks and slide the volume up on one of the tracks. This boosts the volume of all of the tracks relative to each other (the master level) without losing your mix (this is also why you should try to work with dry tracks as much as possible).

5) Layer in your effects. If your effects boost the master level significantly so that it clips out, you should re-examine how you use effects; i.e. tasteful vs. OVERPRODUCED.

6) Of course in this process you are always going to be putting final touches that MIGHT make the project clip out. Like you switch out the bass drum for something deeper, etc. At this point, look at how much it clips out and back the master volume down appropriately, giving a good cushion, too. So, if it clips out at .3 db, back the volume down to -1db.

In other words, the only thing you really ever need to do with the master volume, if everything is recorded properly, etc., is LOWER it.

Hope this helps. It took me a long time to get to a point where volume wasn't even an issue. You should worry more about the mix than anything else!

Subject:RE: Ideal Master Volume
Reply by: SonicSounds
Date:5/19/2003 1:13:22 PM

Not sure if this will help, but this is what I do:

I mix as I go so I don't have to go back and completely adjust my levels. I've found that you can actually let some tracks clip excessively (way past -3db) and not hear any distortion. I think the most important step is to make sure your master levels don't clip. As long as those are metering in the right range (-3db to 0db), you can then normalize it and get a good mix. I've messed with compression and I find that normalizing or maximizing the final mix gives it a cleaner result. That's just my opinion.

Still, even after I maximize it, I still don't get the same loudness as a professionally-engineered track unless I boost the entire mix way past clipping. If anybody knows how to get the maximum loudness without clipping let me know and check out my thread:

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