Quantcast
EDM Music Mastering & Loudness - Gearspace.com
The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
EDM Music Mastering & Loudness
Old 13th September 2012
  #1
Lives for gear
 
Andrew Kinsey's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
EDM Music Mastering & Loudness

Ive been seeing alot of commercial EDM releases mastered to -5db rms and am really wondering how this is being done without completely destroying the music.

I have been noticing in my own mixes that although i am happy with the way they sound in terms of balance and presentation, i am not able to push them at the mastering stage to this extreme without seriously ruining the sonic integrity.

While i certainly dont agree with reducing the dynamic range for a lesser quality product, its makes it very difficult if your music is being mixed alongside commercial releases by dj's as both tracks need to gell in the mix, and if one is has more dynamic range than the other, it doesnt sound completely cohesive when they are mixed together.

I have tried all sorts of methods including clipping, softsaturation, limiting, UAD pultec cuts, and narrowing the signal using MS, and then more clipping, (doing a little bit with each process) but can only get to about -7db rms before its sounds too much.

Is it truly the case that you guys are really stacking up that many limiting, and clipping processes to get to these -5db levels or am i missing something?

Same sort of scenario in this video.
http://youtu.be/NgA1CiF9fHc

Old 13th September 2012
  #2
Gear Head
 
KK_AM's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Hi,
the dynamic range value by itself is not telling the whole story,
as many factors can influence the DR number that your meter reports: depending on
the kind of sub and bass used in the song (sine - square - tri - etc),
the length of decay and sustain of the sub, bass and kick sounds,
the global frequency balance of the track,
the use of sidechain between kick and sub,
you can push the song up to 5dB of DR without destroying the transients or the bass or the depth and separation between the different elements.

Cleaning the subbass area will give you some dBs of headroom that you can re-distribute to frequency areas that are more efficient in perceived loudness.

Parallel upward compression may help you to increase the DR by working on the inverse principle of limiting : you push up the body of the track from down up,
raising the level of the bottom content instead of clipping the upper louder transients.

As a rule of thumb, don't push the threshold of your limiter beyond the point where it starts clipping the kickdrum transients, or do it with extreme care when adjusting the attack and release times of the limiter,
as you said it's much better and natural sounding to achieve loudness by using parallel layers and get there in small steps, instead of trying to squash with the limiter.

Also, different meters will report different values,
the Dynamic Range meter plugin from the DR foundation shows a value that is around 2dB less than the one given by Voxengo Elephant : different algorithms and interpolation times will give you different readings.

Finally, it depends on the track, some are mixed and arranged to be loud,
other tracks may use depth as a narrative and expressive device,
so by reducing the DR you're actually destroying useful information that should be kept intact. As always, there is no fixed rule, each song has its own needs and affordances...

Check this thread also for some interesting suggestions :
Techno Mastering Guide

Bless,
Gio
Old 13th September 2012
  #3
Lives for gear
 
hmiller's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Kinsey ➑️
Ive been seeing alot of commercial EDM releases mastered to -5db rms and am really wondering how this is being done without completely destroying the music.

I have been noticing in my own mixes that although i am happy with the way they sound in terms of balance and presentation, i am not able to push them at the mastering stage to this extreme without seriously ruining the sonic integrity.

While i certainly dont agree with reducing the dynamic range for a lesser quality product, its makes it very difficult if your music is being mixed alongside commercial releases by dj's as both tracks need to gell in the mix, and if one is has more dynamic range than the other, it doesnt sound completely cohesive when they are mixed together.

I have tried all sorts of methods including clipping, softsaturation, limiting, UAD pultec cuts, and narrowing the signal using MS, and then more clipping, (doing a little bit with each process) but can only get to about -7db rms before its sounds too much.

Is it truly the case that you guys are really stacking up that many limiting, and clipping processes to get to these -5db levels or am i missing something?

Same sort of scenario in this video.
How to make a song louder in mastering - and the price you pay - YouTube

The loudest stuff is done as part of the mixing process so you can sort of mix into it. None of it is clean. The bottom usually sounds great, but the midrange is thin, hard, harsh and clipping. I have to match those levels all the time and use the same tools and techniques as everything else.
Old 13th September 2012
  #4
Lives for gear
 
Laurend's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Since you've never heard the source track, how do you know it hasn't been hurt by pushing its level to -5 dB RMS? I've never heard anything sounding good at this crazy high level.
Old 14th September 2012
  #5
Lives for gear
 
807Recordings's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 10 years
-5dB and sounding good?
I say or argue it would sound better with at -10dB. I have actually asked for the mastering to be less hit at -10dB as it was already starting to loose its feel. This is of course going to vinyl and I am a huge fan of not using a compressor or limiter. Oddly my records are often very loud with a +6dB cut.

IMHO kicks and bass always sound more and more plastic/lifeless when you go louder.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #6
Lives for gear
 
Andrew Kinsey's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by KK_AM ➑️
Hi,
the dynamic range value by itself is not telling the whole story,
as many factors can influence the DR number that your meter reports: depending on
the kind of sub and bass used in the song (sine - square - tri - etc),
the length of decay and sustain of the sub, bass and kick sounds,
the global frequency balance of the track,
the use of sidechain between kick and sub,
you can push the song up to 5dB of DR without destroying the transients or the bass or the depth and separation between the different elements.

Cleaning the subbass area will give you some dBs of headroom that you can re-distribute to frequency areas that are more efficient in perceived loudness.

Parallel upward compression may help you to increase the DR by working on the inverse principle of limiting : you push up the body of the track from down up,
raising the level of the bottom content instead of clipping the upper louder transients.

As a rule of thumb, don't push the threshold of your limiter beyond the point where it starts clipping the kickdrum transients, or do it with extreme care when adjusting the attack and release times of the limiter,
as you said it's much better and natural sounding to achieve loudness by using parallel layers and get there in small steps, instead of trying to squash with the limiter.

Also, different meters will report different values,
the Dynamic Range meter plugin from the DR foundation shows a value that is around 2dB less than the one given by Voxengo Elephant : different algorithms and interpolation times will give you different readings.

Finally, it depends on the track, some are mixed and arranged to be loud,
other tracks may use depth as a narrative and expressive device,
so by reducing the DR you're actually destroying useful information that should be kept intact. As always, there is no fixed rule, each song has its own needs and affordances...

Check this thread also for some interesting suggestions :
Techno Mastering Guide

Bless,
Gio

That was a great answer, thank you.

Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #7
Lives for gear
 
Andrew Kinsey's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurend ➑️
Since you've never heard the source track, how do you know it hasn't been hurt by pushing its level to -5 dB RMS? I've never heard anything sounding good at this crazy high level.
Well it doesn't sound better at -5db, infact after the mixdown processing the mastering stage sounds better with less limiting, but in order to achieve a similar level to commercial EDM realeses i find that i need to push it more than i would prefer.

Old 16th September 2012
  #8
ORC
Gear Addict
 
ORC's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Somehow, I am able to get many masters between -6 and -5 rms while retaining dynamics within the mix. For me it has quite a bit to do with EQ, suitable compression, gainstaging, cliping the ad converter, and very little to do with digital limiting (2 db or less) I would encourage you to experiment with release times on your final limiter, rather than the actual ammount of limiting. A proper release time can enhance the dynamics of tracks with high RMS levels, or at least lend the audible appearance of more dynamic range.
Old 19th September 2012 | Show parent
  #9
Lives for gear
 
807Recordings's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Kinsey ➑️
Well it doesn't sound better at -5db, infact after the mixdown processing the mastering stage sounds better with less limiting, but in order to achieve a similar level to commercial EDM realeses i find that i need to push it more than i would prefer.

And here lays the problem with the music industry.
Why on gods green earth do people need it to be competitive on club systems like Berghain that welcome dynamic range?

Of course to each his own but I never ever seen a louder track played more on a system than a well mastered track. But then again what do I know, not like I ever played any top clubs or been DJing (as a real DJ) for 20+years.

^^5dB and sounds dynamic, ok good one.
Old 10th April 2016 | Show parent
  #10
Gear Addict
 
🎧 5 years
Hi
To make a mastered EDM track sound good at 5dB, you can't come from the 'wrong' background.
You must like EDM music, and be genuinely interested in production and mixing, as (I think) EDM production, mixing and mastering is more integrated.
Besides that you have to know several 100 tricks, a typical EDM producer cant use most plugins and certainly only very rarely plugging of commercial DAWs
Same goes for the sounds, you just must use certain plugging and only some of their wave tables or sometimes built in effects
As 1/100+ tricks, the Access Virus bass patch with its digital distortion, but that only takes you a fraction of the way
Once you master the 99+ (X) other tricks, it doesn't matter how hard you push it, it will always sound good and other tracks always sound dull and muffled
Sometimes when you push it too much, the low end just 'clicks in' and just sounds better (this explains why extremely loud and musical EDM tracks are rare)
This principle has been used 20-30 years, at least since Cassius, to more recently, e.g. Disco Fries - Open Your Eyes (Psychic Type Remix) RX5 Total RMS Level -4.3 dB
A similar track, pushed to hard maybe without the 'click in', is Mayhem & Antiserum - Pakistan RX5 Total RMS Level -5.42 dB

Last edited by buckan; 10th April 2016 at 06:40 PM.. Reason: examples
Old 11th April 2016
  #11
Lives for gear
 
Conundra's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 5 years
The Question is, -5 RMS referenced to a Sine or Square wave? There's a 3 dB difference and I found that -5 (or -8 RMS) is actually the threshold in mastering 4/4 EDM (Trance, Techno and House etc) where going any louder is where things start to really fall apart.

If you mean -5 / -2dB RMS, then that is going to sound pretty damn ****ty, regardless of genre!

Most EDM has a lot of low end which will always read a higher RMS value for the same perceived loudness than less bass heavy material. I find I can get most dance stuff to -8 dB RMS (or -5 dB RMS according to the AES-17 definition) without too many compromises. Sure, there is often a bit of distortion in the parts of the track with significantly more energy, but usually it is fairly well hidden due to the broadband nature of the signal in those parts (Cymbal crashes / White Noise impacts etc).

So, how is that -5 dB RMS being measured? In the free Voxengo SPAN analyser you can switch between RMS (AES-17) and RMS -3dB. If you get readings of -5 and -8 with these settings, as opposed to -2 and -5 RMS, then I don't think that loudness is particularly crazy.

Some tracks have long sustained bass and huge kicks and can read 2 or 3 dB louder in terms of RMS than a track with shorter punchier bass, even though both sound similar in terms of perceived level.

Also, a really well crafted track reading -6.5 (or -9.5) after mastering can sound louder than a competent mix taken all the way to -5 (-8) RMS.

I've found that although the LUFS system is better at accounting for the low end, and has a smaller degree of error than standard RMS compared to human perception, it can still be way off (up to and over 2dB) than when matching levels by ear.

Basically, don't go too much on the meters! Does it sound good, punchy and an appropriate density for the genre?

Cheers

Conundra

Last edited by Conundra; 12th April 2016 at 08:31 AM.. Reason: Typos
Old 11th April 2016 | Show parent
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
Verified Member
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Kinsey ➑️
Well it doesn't sound better at -5db, infact after the mixdown processing the mastering stage sounds better with less limiting, but in order to achieve a similar level to commercial EDM realeses i find that i need to push it more than i would prefer.

i dont get it, dont the DJ's mixing yr tracks have "gain" knobs on their DJ mixer? and loads of headroom on the club system theyre playing on?? i level match dynamic stuff to crushed stuff in DJ sets all the time. the dynamic stuff always sounds bigger/wider and is less likely to stress any weak points in the system being played on.

stop looking at the numbers, use your ears to level match a commercial master you like against your best attempt at a loud master, and listen to the difference. is there more going on there than just -5 rms? or does your mix with lower levels actually sound better than the -5 guy once level matched? or something inbetween? quantify it with something besides an RMS number.
Old 12th April 2016
  #13
Lives for gear
 
Conundra's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 5 years
I've played on hundreds of club and festival systems and many are very badly set up and managed/monitored.

Badly set up limiters with a threshold way below nominal operating levels, badly eqed, under powered, over driven, zero headroom, you name it. If you thought there was a lack of level management in audio production, you would be surprised at how much worse it can sometimes get downstream.

I've also played on some incredible systems too but in reality, I would say this accounts for less than 30% of gigs!

Cheers

Conundra
Old 12th April 2016 | Show parent
  #14
Lives for gear
 
Conundra's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by 807Recordings ➑️
And here lays the problem with the music industry.
Why on gods green earth do people need it to be competitive on club systems like Berghain that welcome dynamic range?

Of course to each his own but I never ever seen a louder track played more on a system than a well mastered track. But then again what do I know, not like I ever played any top clubs or been DJing (as a real DJ) for 20+years.

^^5dB and sounds dynamic, ok good one.
With the greatest of respect, that's nonsense!

Vini Vici -The Tribe is smashed to bits and DJs and crowds can't get enough of it!!

I am sure there are many examples of tracks in other genres that demonstrate the same. How much was livin da vida loca played (on radio and bars, clubs etc.), and that was 17 years ago and smashed to insanity?

We really haven't come that far, despite what many are saying about the loudness wars getting better.

It only takes one big track now and then to have super loud and smashed maastering, and every bedroom producer and their dog is sending it to MEs as a ref to match levels to!

I don't like it or agree with it any more than anyone else here, but it's simply not true to say that people will not play a popular track to death just because it is mastered too hot.

Cheers

Conundra

Last edited by Conundra; 12th April 2016 at 08:33 AM.. Reason: Typo
Old 15th April 2016 | Show parent
  #15
Lives for gear
 
807Recordings's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Conundra ➑️
With the greatest of respect, that's nonsense!

Vini Vici -The Tribe is smashed to bits and DJs and crowds can't get enough of it!!

I am sure there are many examples of tracks in other genres that demonstrate the same. How much was livin da vida loca played (on radio and bars, clubs etc.), and that was 17 years ago and smashed to insanity?

We really haven't come that far, despite what many are saying about the loudness wars getting better.

It only takes one big track now and then to have super loud and smashed maastering, and every bedroom producer and their dog is sending it to MEs as a ref to match levels to!

I don't like it or agree with it any more than anyone else here, but it's simply not true to say that people will not play a popular track to death just because it is mastered too hot.

Cheers

Conundra
How is what I wrote nonsense and in which way have you proven me wrong?

Just because you showed a few hit tracks that are smashed it does not mean people would prefer a better less compressed version.

Things that make hits are not usually sonic quality but something that appeals to people. Loops, hooks, lyrics, whatever it is. Even I have many songs I have as my favorites but I do wish they where better mastered.

Point is do it right if you can. Why F it up if it does not need to be.
Old 15th April 2016
  #16
Lives for gear
 
Conundra's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 5 years
You said you never heard a loud track played more than a well mastered track. Maybe you haven't but I have, many many times.

So perhaps we're both right!
Old 15th April 2016 | Show parent
  #17
Lives for gear
 
807Recordings's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Conundra ➑️
You said you never heard a loud track played more than a well mastered track. Maybe you haven't but I have, many many times.

So perhaps we're both right!
Perhaps I was not clear enough (too few words) but what I meant was on systems like Berghain. But then again I tend to go for the Detroit Techno sound and nothing commercial

Nothing written in stone.
Old 15th April 2016
  #18
Lives for gear
 
Conundra's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 5 years
Sometimes meaning gets a bit lost, no worries!

Actually, I just noticed above you said;

"Just because you showed a few hit tracks that are smashed it does not mean people would prefer a better less compressed version."

Where I think you must have meant;

"Just because you showed a few hit tracks that are smashed it does not mean people wouldn't prefer a better less compressed version."

Anyway, one thing I think we can both agree on is that if people can hear a level matched comparison between a well mastered track and the same track which has been mastered too loud, they would likely prefer the more dynamic one.

Cheers

Conundra
Old 15th April 2016
  #19
Lives for gear
 
Conundra's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 5 years
And I agree about Detroit style stuff being best left dynamic
Old 15th April 2016 | Show parent
  #20
Lives for gear
 
807Recordings's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Conundra ➑️
And I agree about Detroit style stuff being best left dynamic
Those kicks just have to move.

When poor systems that are underpowered come into play then compression is vital to get an acceptable level. Sadly even with promoters it is the same story as the less money on sound they can spend the more goes into the pocket.

You know the drill and it has been around forever actually.

But for me on a top rate PA with subs thumping and rolling with the right clear bass transients, highs clicking over the head, and some nice chords, or arps on the mids its just an evil drug. Once experienced it is hard to let go of.

No you don't actually even need drugs it's that good. Those moments when time stands still, and walls dissolve.
Old 21st April 2016 | Show parent
  #21
Gear Addict
 
ClaySchmitt's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by 807Recordings ➑️
Those kicks just have to move.
I have a question regarding this. I'm still climbing a ladder to get my room flat enough down to 20hz so that I can make accurate decisions when choosing a kick. Most artist's playback system looks half-hazard at best.

I realize a lot of kicks aren't touched at the mastering stage by compression. But how in the hell can artists even judge when a kick drum is accomplishing what they want or not without accurate representation down into the subs?!

Are they just shooting in the dark and its being corrected in mastering? Or are mastering engineers replacing/layering at the mastering stage?

How do you guys deal?
Old 21st April 2016
  #22
Lives for gear
 
Adam Dempsey's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 10 years
You keep referencing at the mixing stage – check your work on a range of systems, large and small. Tweak. Repeat as necessary. Same goes for all music genres.
Old 21st April 2016 | Show parent
  #23
Gear Addict
 
ClaySchmitt's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Dempsey ➑️
You keep referencing at the mixing stage – check your work on a range of systems, large and small. Tweak. Repeat as necessary. Same goes for all music genres.
Right on. I've been listening to Minimal stuff, mostly out of Berlin and I've been incredibly impressed with their management of the low end. Even after slamming the mix(too much for my taste) it is solid and powerful. There's a lot of great stuff coming out these days.

Thanks for the insight.
Old 21st April 2016 | Show parent
  #24
Lives for gear
 
Laurend's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClaySchmitt ➑️
...to get my room flat enough down to 20hz...
I hope you're rich.
Old 21st April 2016 | Show parent
  #25
Gear Addict
 
ClaySchmitt's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurend ➑️
I hope you're rich.
Ah, yes.

Thank you. That's very helpful.


Assuming a lot of people are getting it right in the mix, how is the low end content handled, generally speaking?

Say the kick/bass relationship is perfect and all they're looking for from the low end is loudness- Do edm mastering engineers end up running Kick/Bass content dry parallel to the mastering chain? Or do they HP sidechain their compression/limiting and throw it all through the chain?

I understand this is probably a per-case answer but I'm curious how the pros usually end up doing it.


Here is an example of the type of low end I'm referring to:

Last edited by ClaySchmitt; 22nd April 2016 at 12:59 AM.. Reason: content
Old 22nd April 2016
  #26
Lives for gear
 
gsilbers's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Kinsey ➑️
Ive been seeing alot of commercial EDM releases mastered to -5db rms and am really wondering how this is being done without completely destroying the music.

I have been noticing in my own mixes that although i am happy with the way they sound in terms of balance and presentation, i am not able to push them at the mastering stage to this extreme without seriously ruining the sonic integrity.

While i certainly dont agree with reducing the dynamic range for a lesser quality product, its makes it very difficult if your music is being mixed alongside commercial releases by dj's as both tracks need to gell in the mix, and if one is has more dynamic range than the other, it doesnt sound completely cohesive when they are mixed together.

I have tried all sorts of methods including clipping, softsaturation, limiting, UAD pultec cuts, and narrowing the signal using MS, and then more clipping, (doing a little bit with each process) but can only get to about -7db rms before its sounds too much.

Is it truly the case that you guys are really stacking up that many limiting, and clipping processes to get to these -5db levels or am i missing something?

Same sort of scenario in this video.
http://youtu.be/NgA1CiF9fHc


have you tried producing with a mastering chain on and hitting those levels from the start?
(then turn it off, balance/mix it and master it correctly.)


Also, one of the skrillex mastering engineers mentioned something about mastering with stems to be able to get it louder.
i cant find that article anymore. but i know infected mushroom does something similar of mastering with a session that has the mix minus kick and a separate kick stem so that way making the kick loud. they also do the clipping with a good I/O trick.

hope it helps.
Old 18th September 2016 | Show parent
  #27
Gear Addict
 
ClaySchmitt's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by gsilbers ➑️
they also do the clipping with a good I/O trick.
go on...
Old 18th September 2016
  #28
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
On this topic.
I find it somewhat troublesome at times to get decently loud tracks without low end distortion from limiting when working on bedroom artists music.
This is usually not a problem from seasoned artists. I come up with solutions and fix it in the master or pin point problems so the client can adjust it in their mixes. However sometimes it seems impossible to focus on how to solve the distortion even with very small gain reduction amounts on the limiter.

How do you all handle situations like these normally?
Old 18th September 2016
  #29
Lives for gear
 
Laurend's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Seasoned artists need less limiting since they use serious sound systems and monitoring which can stand peaks very well. Only tiny speakers require heavy limiting to get loud without distorting on the peaks.
For the same gain reduction, the shorter the release time, the higher the distortion.

Last edited by Laurend; 18th September 2016 at 07:29 PM..
Old 18th September 2016
  #30
Lives for gear
 
FabienTDR's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 5 years
I agree that this -5dB RMS is a pain for DJs and the audience. This material is not attractive to DJs! Quite the opposite, I've observed that DJs in particular (contrary to ipod listeners) favor the most dynamic and clean records, as they tend to work better in bad acoustic environments and mix much better!

Loudness is mostly a subject for itunes, with long listings of tracks right beside each other, and an audience using lofi audio chains (from source to ear-plugs). In clubs, loudness does no good at all, at least in my experience. Even worse is what happens as soon this overly heated material gets played on bbc radio 1! Trust me, it fails.

Last edited by FabienTDR; 18th September 2016 at 07:40 PM..
πŸ“ Reply

Similar Threads

Thread / Thread Starter Replies / Views Last Post
replies: 323 views: 105277
Avatar for VSTSlut
VSTSlut 11th February 2015
replies: 33 views: 16649
Avatar for spiral
spiral 25th January 2010
replies: 152 views: 38090
Avatar for samzilla
samzilla 1st March 2016
replies: 1 views: 801
Avatar for Alndln
Alndln 11th August 2015
Topic:
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearspace Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…

Forum Jump
Forum Jump