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Best reference for classical loudness
Old 21st January 2016
  #1
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Best reference for classical loudness

Hi all, can anyone recommend a guide for how to set loudness in classical recordings? @ Plush has recommended -3 or -4 db for the absolute loudest stuff, with softer things like violin/piano being considerably lower. I compared some recordings of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with piano on louder songs and some (made in 1980) peak at -2.9 and others (1970) peak at -0.2.

Regardless, I calibrated my speakers to 83db pink noise from each speaker...that is so damned loud! Even a -3.8db peak makes me feel like I'm losing my hearing. Though it does make me much lighter on effects like EQ and reverb....

Larry
Old 21st January 2016
  #2
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Digital audio is data and encoding that data in the maximum number of bits produces the best result.

Loudness is set with your volume control.

Old 21st January 2016
  #3
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Roland's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by LarryS ➡️
Hi all, can anyone recommend a guide for how to set loudness in classical recordings? @ Plush has recommended -3 or -4 db for the absolute loudest stuff, with softer things like violin/piano being considerably lower. I compared some recordings of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with piano on louder songs and some (made in 1980) peak at -2.9 and others (1970) peak at -0.2.

Regardless, I calibrated my speakers to 83db pink noise from each speaker...that is so damned loud! Even a -3.8db peak makes me feel like I'm losing my hearing. Though it does make me much lighter on effects like EQ and reverb....

Larry
You have to mix for your available headroom. I wouldn't, typically, put out a CD that wasn't within 1db of maximum level, with the possible exception of particularly quiet instruments that would sound horrifically loud if mastered that loud. Then I might go as low as -4/-6db. Orchestral music sometimes needs level rides to slightly reduce dynamic range, even brickwall limiting to loose silly transients that would otherwise ruin your average loud level.
Old 21st January 2016
  #4
Deleted User
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Generally, -18LUFS and -1dBTP seems to cover most requirements outside of specific broadcast and film specs.

This also neatly corresponds to the standard 1kHz alignment tone level of -18dBFS which reads as -18LUFS on an absolute scale (+5 LU relative) on a loudness meter.

The Reference listening level is calibrated to 73dBc SPL for each main speaker (previously 82dBa SPL for stereo and 78dBc SPL per loudspeaker for surround).

Last edited by reynaud; 26th January 2016 at 02:34 PM..
Old 22nd January 2016
  #5
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by LarryS ➡️
Hi all, can anyone recommend a guide for how to set loudness in classical recordings? @ Plush has recommended -3 or -4 db for the absolute loudest stuff, with softer things like violin/piano being considerably lower. I compared some recordings of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with piano on louder songs and some (made in 1980) peak at -2.9 and others (1970) peak at -0.2.
You seem to be confusing levels for capture (recording) and levels for delivery (CD, FLAC, mp3, etc.). These are completely different steps in the process, with completely different needs.

What Plush is perhaps talking about is the original capture. The reason he has the levels at that setting is to avoid clipping. You can't really fix clipping after the fact. Plush can get away with levels that high because he's got a boat load of experience. I record with peaks closer to -10 dBfs, because I don't have the years of experience required to have years of experience.

But after you've got the capture and you're done mixing, you master it (more likely you pay someone to master it) for your delivery system of choice. And most Masters typically raise levels to peak in the range of -1dBfs or less (there are some interesting mathematics behind why you don't want to go right to 0 dBfs). Because there's no danger of clipping (if you know what you're doing) and there's little to be gained by backing way off of the delivery system -- that's what the listener's volume control is for, and the listener is going to listen to the delivery system at a volume of the listener's choosing.
Old 22nd January 2016
  #6
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
OK, this makes lots of sense. So what is Bob Katz and K-20 and 83dB calibration used for?
Old 22nd January 2016 | Show parent
  #7
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by LarryS ➡️
OK, this makes lots of sense. So what is Bob Katz and K-20 and 83dB calibration used for?
Calibration of your mixing/mastering listening environment. Yet another different thing.

As you're beginning to figure out, the end-to-end process of audio capture to delivery is huge and complex. Which is why people tell you to hire it all out, so you can concentrate on the music. Not that you're going to do that of course. I mean, what would be the fun of that? I'm only half kidding.
Old 22nd January 2016
  #8
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Got that...but calibrated to that volume, the peaks at -1 are unbearably loud. I thought the idea was to encourage people not to mix that loud? Or is the idea to mix at softer levels and then up it to -1dbTP only at the end?

Also, I know I'm not a pro...but I am really enjoying learning all this and would like to be a pro someday. My initial post was just asking for a reference guide, so I hope you don't feel badly that I'm taking your time on such an ignorant question!
Old 22nd January 2016 | Show parent
  #9
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by LarryS ➡️
Or is the idea to mix at softer levels and then up it to -1dBTP only at the end?
Yes, mixing is more about relative levels. That is, balancing your mic inputs to your stereo field. It's not about delivery levels. Most people I know of are mixing with average peaks in the 70-75 dB range. So they say. If your ears are telling you to turn it down, turn it down.

Mastering is a separate step from Mixing. Mastering is about polishing the finished mix, and making the mix match the delivery system. IOW, mastering is where delivery levels are set, among other things.

Mixing at delivery levels can be a good recipe for clipping.
Old 22nd January 2016 | Show parent
  #10
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Roland's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson ➡️
Yes, mixing is more about relative levels. That is, balancing your mic inputs to your stereo field. It's not about delivery levels. Most people I know of are mixing with average peaks in the 70-75 dB range. So they say. If your ears are telling you to turn it down, turn it down.

Mastering is a separate step from Mixing. Mastering is about polishing the finished mix, and making the mix match the delivery system. IOW, mastering is where delivery levels are set, among other things.

Mixing at delivery levels can be a good recipe for clipping.

There are no accepted reference levels for CD. As it is 16 bit (technically about 96db, realistically about 3-6db worse), it is best to use as much room as you have, i.e. final mix should be only just below CD limit.

As an example, when I have been recording solo classical piano, with peaks close to maximum, the average noise floor in a really quite room with next to no perceivable outside noise, noise floor modulate at around -65db below peak level. This is just air noise, people breathing, distant cars/traffic, weather. I've seen it often quoted that a really well constructed studio, in a quiet area, with proper isolation can achieve about 20dba without people in the room. Take a loud drum kit around 130dba then the maximum dynamic range is about 110db theoretically, (that doesn't factor in that you have someone in the room who will invariably create more noise just by being present). This is about the limitation of analogue electronics.

What further muddies the water is that we only can accommodate a 60db listening window, hence why when you've been to a really loud gig and you come out your can't hear quiet things for a while.
Old 22nd January 2016
  #11
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One or two comments from the cheap seats.....
Setting monitoring levels isn't rocket science. All this talk of "Sparks and Ohms" doesn't do anything to find the right volume level.
Do the following:
1) rip a bunch of good sounding classical CD's into your workstation.
2) play these out of the workstation at unity gain through the converter that you use on your workstation into your monitoring system.
3) Adjust monitor volume control (Not the workstation master output!) so that it is at the high side of a comfortable level. Listen to a bunch of different CD's this way and fine tune the monitor level. You will find that there will be a small (~3dB or so) window that these commercially produced masters will fall into. Pick a level somewhere in the middle and never change your monitoring level.
4) Mark down the level or put a piece of tape with a mark on it next to the knob so that you can reset this level.
5) listen to your recordings. Adjust them so they are comfortable to listen to at the "calibrated" listening level.
6) if you listen to Popular music at all repeat the process with good sounding pop music. You will find that the monitor level will be about 6 db lower in general. Stick another piece of tape next to your volume control and mark this level.
****Never adjust the monitor volume once it is set!!!****
That's all folks.
It's the same way I've set control room levels on remotes for the last 20 years. Takes about 5 minutes to find the monitor level then you never have to think about it again....
As always, YMMV.
All the best,
-mark
Old 22nd January 2016 | Show parent
  #12
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NorseHorse's Avatar
Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by mpdonahue ➡️
Setting monitoring levels isn't rocket science. All this talk of "Sparks and Ohms" doesn't do anything to find the right volume level...

Pick a level somewhere in the middle and never change your monitoring level.
Post of the Day

Old 22nd January 2016
  #13
dtf
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
Onno Scholtze propagated to take an spl-meter and adjust the playback level to the level in the recording venue. In such a way, e.g. a conductor could listen back to the orchestral recording at the same spl as when standing in front of the ensemble. It's a very straightforward idea that eliminates a lot of issues that might come up during a session.

When I started as an intern, one of the editors told me to always check an edit at several playback levels, as you might not hear certain effects at a fixed level.

It makes much sense to have a reference, as Mark described, but it's good to be aware of the effect several playback levels have and use them to your advantage.

Best,
Dirk
Old 23rd January 2016 | Show parent
  #14
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brhoward's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by NorseHorse ➡️
Post of the Day

x 2 mpdonahue's advice
Old 23rd January 2016
  #15
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
I set the peak level on CDs at about -0.5dBFS for loud classical (organ mostly) and slightly less for quiet chamber music type stuff, like -3 to -4dBFS, just because it is more quiet and I do not want to surprise the listeners too much. Technically all CDs should be mastered as close to 0dBFS as possible, but for me -0.5dBFS is close enough. As said, the volume knob is there to set the final playback level, mastering engineer can not make that decision for the listener.

What comes to mastering listening levels I have set my system so that I measured -20dB pink noise signal with SPL meter (slow C weighting) to 85 dB SPL, happens to be 0 (zero) on my Avocet monitor controller also. For classical that is not too loud for final listening, but bit high for mixing. Sometimes when I feel reckless I listen to agreeable music at +5dB, which means peaks at around 110 dB SPL… Those cathedral organs make me do it… Impossible to listen to contemporary pop/rock at 85dB standard, has to lower levels by almost 20 dB.

When I started out I aimed for the highest possible levels when recording, but I have realized that that is not really necessary, and now I am happy if I have hit -6dBFS peaks. Recording at 24 bits that still leaves me more dynamic range than what 16/44.1 contains (and the lowest levels are ambient noise anyway, the most real DR I have got was bit over 70 dB). I keep notes of mics used, mic positions, levels set and levels recorded (measured from the files transferred to DAW) for all venues I visit, so I can start from fairly good guesses next time I record at the same place.
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