What looks like a brick-walled waveform at 24-bit suddenly looks (and sounds) like a useable mix at 32-bit (or 64-bit) floating point when properly gain staged. The GIF above demonstrates how even though the waveform initially looks to be peak-limited/clipped like the previous image, the fact that it was saved as 32-bit floating point by the mix engineer means that the peak levels are preserved when the level is reduced. Don’t use a peak-limiter or other similar plugins that prevent peaks that would otherwise reach or clip 0 dBFS by creating a hard ceiling at or below 0 dBFS. The mixing levels for each instrument should NEVER go over 0 level, and your mixing levels on your main/stereo out should never go over 0 level. It’s essentially all the same. Sadly, some mixes — or at least the reference masters from the mix engineer — are already much hotter than I would ideally make the master, so the damage is already done. And if you’re going to start with the drums you can go one level deeper and think of height-order within the drums. Often times when I receive mixes to master that are already peak-limited and lack headroom for any additional work, it’s because the mixing engineer didn’t know anybody else was going to master it so they took it upon themselves to apply some peak-limiting and other mastering processing. The main thing to take away is that if you’re not using a peak-limiter on the master fader and the peak levels are still hitting 0 dB now and then in your mix session, simply save the mix as 32-bit (or 64-bit) floating point and the peaks will not get chopped off as they would when saving as 24-bit WAV. I’ve had people turn down what was a peak-limited or clipped mix by 6 dB and then send it in thinking that I can work with it. Again, not a good starting point to master from. Each channel on your mixer board has a level meter for the individual vocal and instrument tracks you've recorded. Mastering engineers understand that sometimes a mix needs some extra juice from a limiter or maximizer to get approved by certain clients, but often that type of processing is usually best applied at the end of the mastering process, and not before mastering starts. In the end, the mastering engineer’s job is to satisfy the client and/or producer but it’s unfortunate when those involved in the process get accustomed to overly limited and overly loud mixes from the mixing session which then dictates how loud it must be mastered to seem right. I’m not sure why they think having them turn down a mix like that is somehow better or different than if I would do that on my end before I start mastering, but it happens. 85 dB seems to give you the flattest hearing curve because of the equal loudness contours of the human ear – the way the brain interprets what the ear sends it. This is a textbook example of what a well done pop/rock mix looks like prior to mastering. The Importance of Lacquer Cutting for Vinyl. The audio is in a delicate state at this point. However, saving a mix that clips your DAW output as a 32-bit or 64-bit floating point WAV instead of 24-bit means that any peak levels that exceed 0 dBFS are actually preserved and the mastering engineer can effectively turn the level down to work with the mix and retain all the peak info for the mastering process. It paints the mastering engineer into a corner and is often considered not vinyl-friendly. It happens. So use your EQ in stages as well when you’re mixing drums, percussion or any other sounds in the mix.If you’re mixing in the box (using digital software) then add analog emulation tools to make sure that your drums don’t sound too clean or too digital. Not a week goes by where I don’t see somebody on a forum or Facebook group asking about how much headroom to leave on a mix for the mastering engineer. If the mix is being captured from an analog source, you may … You had to be careful not to clip the input which could easily sound bad. 100% digital “in the box” mixes are where the peak level becomes much more arbitrary. Please try again. Similarly, we observe many on never-ending search for 'mastering' plugins that will magically make mixes sound 'professional'. For instance, if I was mixing a small band I might employ LCR mixing. Whether a mix peaks at -12 dB, -6 dB, or even -1 dB, I don’t really care, I can optimize the level of the song for my mastering chain without compromise. Then Set your Snare Drum peak level at -7db. When done correctly, this causes the drums to feel alive, and allows for a more musically dynamic mix. In other words, a high average loudness is really what can be problematic, and eventually a mix reaches a high enough average loudness where limiting and/or clipping the peak levels is required. This section explains how to use the tools at your disposal to create a good mix. Aside from peak levels, what’s potentially more important to watch (and listen!) Integrated LUFS measurements measure an entire song or piece of audio from start to finish, and is often done in an offline process faster than real-time instead of playing the entire piece of audio from start to finish. This helps me know what everybody is used to hearing in terms of loudness, dynamics, tonal balance, and other sonic aspects. I can’t tell you how many times I have attempted to communicate this ahead of time to a mixing engineer and/or client only to receive mixes that are heavily peak-limited and/or clipped with no headroom for additional mastering. All other instruments peak levels may be set by taste. All the more reason to aim for more conservative levels in mixing and just make sure the mix itself sounds great without any peak-limiting/clipping and let the mastering engineer handle the loudness aspect.

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