Perplexed still re final volume level

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BillW
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Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by BillW » Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:06 pm

I've asked this quite some time ago - and chalked it up to not having enough experience to understand.

But I still don't.

When I listen to my CDs or (ripped WAV/FLAC files more accurately) I never have to reach for the volume knob to adjust from song to song or CD to CD. They all seem to be at the same relative loudness.

Not so my projects.

I recently bought Izoptope Ozone Essentials and used it's mastering assistant to help on a finished project. I first mixed the project to a WAV file and imported that to a new project. I let the mastering assistant do all the work, aiming for a CD quality with medium intensity (their options in the Mastering Wizard".

And I liked the sound. But when I play THAT one (mixed down to WAV) it's much louder than a typical CD track.

What do I do to get a loudness level that is consistent with commercial CDs?

Of course what I can do is have a reference track loaded in a player (like VLC) and alternately playing my Mixcraft project and the track in VLC. But assuming I need to do something to bring the volume down in my Mixcraft project - what is that "something"?

I've read I should not touch the master fader. OK - then the track fader (recall, it's just one track, the mixed down WAV file). Or something in the mastering software (Ozone)?

With no offense meant to any of the very helpful kind great experienced people here - an answer more than a couple sentences would likely confuse me even more. Not because I couldn't understand it - but more because I don't see why it would be more complicated than "once you like the sound, and you hear it's too loud compared to the reference track playing on the VLC player - simply turn down (this) until it has the desired volume.

Is it really NOT simple?
Mixcraft 8 Pro (32bit) runs fine on a Toshiba Satellite C55-B laptop with a wimpy Celeron N2830 (dual core). Now using 64bit on a "less wimpy" Dell 660S/Dual Core Pentium/8GB RAM.

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JonInc
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Re: Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by JonInc » Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:30 pm

It might help to use one product - for example, Samplemagic's Magic AB - to manage the playback/comparison between two or more tracks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6Yyn83AmmY

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Re: Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by BillW » Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:58 pm

JonInc - sounds helpful, but I have a couple basic questions that weren't clearly answered in the youtube video:

Relative to Mixcraft -
I have a project mix down to wav; I load this in a new project and put my Ozone Elements on the master track and let it do what the Wizard suggests (someday I'll use presents or even set my own, but for now, small steps).

Then what do I do with Magic AB? Load it as an FX on the master track after Ozone? And then load my reference track - where? In the Mixcraft project? Probably not - I think I can load the reference track right into Magic AB without it being part of the Mixcraft project?

OK - then I decide my Mixcraft master is too loud compared to the reference track. So I adjust - what?

It sells for $60 - and while I guess it's good to get exact volume matching - it still makes a mystery out of what in the Mixcraft project I need to turn down.

I just did two projects where I turned down the track - not master - fader to volume match (by ear) with my reference track playing in VLC. While they may not be perfectly volume matched - it's not obviously different. But is that the optimal way to adjust? Did I perhaps subtly counteract something Ozone did for me?

So again, my real question is what in the Mixcraft project do I turn down? The fader on the track with the rendered WAV file? Or the master fader? Or something in my mastering plugin (Ozone)?
Mixcraft 8 Pro (32bit) runs fine on a Toshiba Satellite C55-B laptop with a wimpy Celeron N2830 (dual core). Now using 64bit on a "less wimpy" Dell 660S/Dual Core Pentium/8GB RAM.

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Re: Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by rrichard63 » Tue Jan 16, 2018 7:23 pm

I think there are two different (but related) issues here:

(1) gain staging in general. This is a complicated subject. Maybe this discussion will help get you started:

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... w-software

(2) A/B comparisons. Comparing Mixcraft's output to the output from another program (e.g. VLC) is likely to be misleading. You need to get your reference track(s) into Mixcraft itself. Magic AB is one very good way to do that. As the OP guessed, it goes at the end of the plugin chain on the master bus. You then load your reference track(s) directly into Magic AB -- not on other Mixcraft tracks. For matching your level to the reference level, use an output fader on the last plugin in the chain in front of Magic AB.

If you ever need to insert something in a plugin chain for gain staging or level matching, Blue Cat Audio's Gain Suite is free and incredibly useful.

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Re: Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by Mark Bliss » Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:42 pm

UhBoy. :wink:

First off:
Is it really NOT simple?
No, its not. Nor can I help you in just a couple of sentences.

First problems for me- I haven't used iZotopes Ozone essentials, and also have no clue what VLC is. So I am starting out lost.

And next up I'm gonna go against the grain and state that while potentially convenient and handy, you don't need A/B magic, with all due respect to Jon and Richard. You can accomplish the same basic functional thing with a little minor effort without spending the dough. (That said, I might pick it up next time I see it on sale for half or less the full price, no way at $60)

It appears to me you are looking primarily at peak levels, which are important, but only part of the story.
Next you are relying on a plug line that notoriously trends toward overkill. (You might try the next step down in intensity.)
I don't know what your options are in this specific plug in....... And I am not knocking it. It may have potential, but I am going to guess its going to take you taking charge.

Lets revisit why some say to leave the master fader at unity for starters.
For me, reason number one is to discourage users who insist on using it for playback/monitoring level adjustment.
Next up is the consideration that if you insert most typical metering plug ins on the master bus, and get the results you wish for, then adjust the master fader, the mix down will not be what the meters indicate, as the meters are inserted pre-fader. There are work-arounds. We may come back to that.

What I would suggest is a loudness meter. You need to consider the relationship between RMS or more currently LU, and peak level combined.
Next, you need to consider we have a bit of a moving target, depending on your goal. Something you put on a CD may need different consideration than something you publish via a streaming service for example.
And on top of that, you need to let the music style and type speak its mind a bit, right down to the specific song.

And I would add that playing CD's from my extensive collection, ones from the last decade or so are MUCH louder than those I purchased 30 years ago....... Just sayin'

I would suggest pulling some of those ripped files into the DAW for referencing. Preferably in full wav format.
Keep in mind, you want no processing to affect your reference tracks. Theres a couple of ways to do this.
One, route your reference track via an output bus. Another method, is to have no processing on your master bus and place the reference track in a submix. (Hint, theres nothing but meters on my master bus)

Next, you need a means to meter both peaks and LUfs. I have several options, until recently one favorite was the free TB-EBULoudness meter.
*Erik Miller recently turned me on to an alternative I am evaluating from Hoffa. Advantage? it includes a fader that can function before the meter..... Cool.

Now evaluate those references. Are they your target? I'd suggest setting the peaks (Using the track fader) to an equal -1 dBfs and scrutinize the LU. Both short term readings and overall analysis. Then compare your projects the same way.

If the LU readings are too high on you rprojects compared to the reference material, try a less aggressive setting in the iZotopes plug in, compare again.
Is there a "make up gain" setting in the iZotopes compressor/limiter? If so back it down a bit and test again. Try some things. Experiment.
What adjustments are available? They tend to lock us out of some things in the essentials line.

Let me know if anything suggested isn't clear.
But the bottom line is that I have experimented with similar plug ins and found their predetermined settings to be consistently awfully aggressive.
I have come to the conclusion I generally prefer to "roll my own", but there is a place for good presets if you can find them. At least for a starting point......
iZotopes often seems to miss the mark in that regard IMO. Some of the pro versions are very good products, but its like learning a new language sometimes.

Nope, not that simple. Nope, cant explain in two sentences.
But maybe that helps? 8)
Stay in tune, Mark

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Re: Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by Mark Bliss » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:25 pm

OK, I just re-read that mess, and decided to take another tack-

You need to determine if the problem is comparing apples to oranges, or is the plug in adding too much gain. Matching peak levels and comparing "loudness" should reveal what the difference is.

If the plug in is adding a lot of gain via compression/limiting and make up gain, as I suspect, you could turn down the fader to match loudness and mix down, but- you might be sacrificing potential dynamic range. Reducing the compression/limiting in the plug in instead would be more desirable if that's what is needed.

Grossly simplified but functional example-
If two similar style tracks are both peaking at -1 dBfs, and one is analyzing at -12 LUfs, it has a difference between the peak and loudness that could be expressed as 11. If the other track is analyzing at -16 LUfs the difference in that track between peak and loudness is 15. The former will have considerably more apparent "loudness" while the latter will have considerably more dynamic range.
This test can vary a lot depending on the particular music however. We need to be comparing apples to apples.

Finding your own desired target comes first, then figuring out the combination of settings to get there will take some experimenting. Giving more specific advise would require familiarity with the plug ins available settings.

Note that I have seen some people do what I am describing the other way around, matching LU and then considering the difference in peaks. Whatever evaluation method works for you.
In the end, its basically finding out how to get a good balance between dynamic range and loudness.

Another question worth considering- how far off are your projects coming out without the iZotopes plug in?

Personally, I find the best results consistently come from getting the desired loudness "in the mix" and add little or no loudness via compression/limiting in the end. Little touch if needed sometimes, but I never use anything close to what these typical plug ins are set to by default or their presets. More often its a little bit here and there as needed on tracks, combined with a little bit here and there on submix busses, and I can usually hit my targets without anything more. I know that goes against much of what is taught all over the internet- but I can tell you that even the experienced guys I know that are mixing LOUD mixes don't add a bunch of gain via master bus compression, despite what so much of the advise we see shows.

so, the 800 pound gorilla in the room is likely to be the question: "So, whats the target?"
I think it comes down to style and genre and taste. And what serves the particular song.

Personal opinion- I am getting older and find the aggressive low dynamic range stuff quite fatiguing. That doesn't make it wrong, its just not what I am into. I find much of it is pushed up to -10 or more. Somewhere around -12 seems to be my comfort limit. That's pretty close to what I find to be a typical louder CD level (of music I care to listen to anyway).
Since most streaming services are beginning to adjust playback to something in the range of -13 or -14 LUfs, that has become a common target. Mixing down with peaks at -1dBfs is commonly suggested as "safe" while pushing it slightly higher is common for those seeking that last little bit of loudness. Again, nothing wrong with that if its your thing, but also be aware that if encoding to MP3 etc, its best not to push it higher because of the inner workings of the encoding process.
Depending on the music and goal, lately I have been mixing down in the range of -14 to -12 LUfs with absolute peaks from -1 to -.5 dBfs if that helps any.

*All of this is opinion and subject to change as I learn more on the subject. Despite that disclaimer, my neck is stretched out, chop away. :lol:
Stay in tune, Mark

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Re: Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by Starship Krupa » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:59 am

Oh, dang, Mark, you went way over the "short sentence" line!

Thanks for the shout, HOFA 4U Meter, Fader & MS-Pan is a great free tool. I use it as my master fader. By this I mean I turn Mixcraft's Master fader all the way up and use the HOFA one in its place to control the final output level.

https://hofa-plugins.de/en/plugins/4u/

As Mark says, you can set it up to read average output level in LUFs, which is a loudness metering unit that takes an average loudness reading over time. You can reset the meter at any time by just clicking on the readout.

The great thing about the HOFA plug-in for your purpose is that when you have its GUI open, you can drag and drop any audio file that Mixcraft can handle on to it and it will analyze it per various standards.

I just tried this for a song I ripped last night from a CD (to FLAC) and it said that the song analyzed at -8.9 LUFs, so if I wanted to make my song as "loud" as that one, the thing to do is find the loudest section of my song, loop about 15 seconds of it, and observe what the LUFs reading on my HOFA Meter/Fader is. Then just adjust the fader on it until it comes down or up to -8.9 LUFs.

I usually set up my songs so that they output at about -11 LUFs, so that's a loud song that I used.

That's the easiest and cheapest way I can think of to do what you want.

I, too have iZotope's Ozone Elements 8, and what their wizard often thinks is appropriate for CD's is SLAMMED (lots of limiting, very loud) compared to what I think is appropriate. So it's a good idea to put a meter after Elements and just turn it down if you like the SLAMMED sound, or you can fiddle about with the parameters of the Ozone Maximizer until you think it suits your program material better.

P.S. If you are wondering what LUFs are, I haven't a clue, I just know that they measure loudness and I like my songs to have about -11 of them and you get less of them when you turn the fader down and more when you turn it up
-Erik
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Re: Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by BillW » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:35 am

Whoah - a LOT to read here. Can't get to it all now.

Short responses here:
I do use Blue Cat's gain plug in - found it helps much.

I get the idea now on Magic A/B - makes sense

Yes - Ozone does push the final mix pretty strong - but (see my post on headroom) I was happy with the result once I got the final mix right (a -10 primarily, peaking at -6)

So - while I will read all the detail here (and thank you VERY much for taking the time) - I feel I'm OK for now.

(By the way - VLC is a simply a media player, like Windows Media Player; does videos, audios etc. So I'm playing a WAV file in that, pause - play the final mix - pause - and match the volume by ear. Since for now the only thing I'm doing with the reference track is volume, not worth $60 for Magic AB. When I get to referencing instruments and more as the YouTube demo shows, I'll consider it.)
Mixcraft 8 Pro (32bit) runs fine on a Toshiba Satellite C55-B laptop with a wimpy Celeron N2830 (dual core). Now using 64bit on a "less wimpy" Dell 660S/Dual Core Pentium/8GB RAM.

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Re: Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by BillW » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:47 am

Quick addition -
Erik, you say you put that (free) meter on the master track; then you push the master fader all the way up and use the plug in to adjust. All the way up past unity? As high as it goes?

Thanks
Mixcraft 8 Pro (32bit) runs fine on a Toshiba Satellite C55-B laptop with a wimpy Celeron N2830 (dual core). Now using 64bit on a "less wimpy" Dell 660S/Dual Core Pentium/8GB RAM.

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Re: Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by Mark Bliss » Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:30 am

Oh, dang, Mark, you went way over the "short sentence" line!
Yeah, I know. I geek out on the technical. It "tickles my synapses" :lol:
One of the things I love about music and DAW's in the digital age is the mingling of art and science and technology. It fits my nature. I have this need to have an understanding of how something works to use it. It may be reinforced by a career of figuring out how things work so I can figure out "why" when they don't. I fix things. :wink:

Its harder to describe "my way" than to do it though. And at some later point it may all click and make more sense to you.
And Bill, I used to do things similar to what you are doing. It worked at some level for me and I thought it was good. Until it wasn't anymore for me and I had to learn more. Its always an ongoing process for me. In a short time I may be doing it different than what I do now.

Whatever works for you is right. I've said it before- I am of the opinion when it comes to art, or creative expression, there are many ways to do a thing. None of them is "wrong" if it gets the result meets your desires.

Like I said, I am just getting started evaluating the Hoffa plug in, but I have to state I don't "get" what Erik is implying. If you turn the master fader up all the way you are adding gain. After the meter/fader plug in. And we are negating the purpose of using it in the first place..... I would suggest master fader unity. Not attenuating or adding any gain. Maybe there is something I am misunderstanding?

And Bill, clarification. Are you saying you are comparing a song playing in VLC to a song playing in Mixcraft? If so, you might turn up with some problems with that technique. I'd suggest both in one playback program would be a good idea.

Now on to an explanation of levels and what LU is? :?:
Stay in tune, Mark

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Re: Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by BillW » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:01 pm

Mark - yes, I play a track on VLC and then my project in Mixcraft. Have to start somewhere. Adjust the volume as needed (still not sure what I adjust, but I'm doing the audio track fader - that was my original question actually).

And therefore I see the value of Magic A/B.

Then I mix it down to WAV. And I failed to add that as a final check, I play the mixed down WAV file in VLC and then the reference track in a different instance of VLC as well. For the three I've done so far, no real need to go back into Mixcraft and readjust.

BTW - Magic A/B is on my "watch" list now.
Mixcraft 8 Pro (32bit) runs fine on a Toshiba Satellite C55-B laptop with a wimpy Celeron N2830 (dual core). Now using 64bit on a "less wimpy" Dell 660S/Dual Core Pentium/8GB RAM.

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Re: Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by Starship Krupa » Thu Jan 18, 2018 9:15 am

Through trial and error, I figured out that the fader on the Master channel behaves in such a way that if I crank it all the way up and control the level with a plug-in on the Master bus, the files that are created from mixing down are consistent with what is indicated by the metering on the plug-in I am using.

So for instance, let's say that I want to mix down a song so that nothing peaks higher than -10dBFs. I slap a fader plug-in and a metering plug-in (could be in the same plug-in) on the Master bus, and either play the whole song or just what I know to be the loudest section of the song, and watch my meter and set my fader so that it just kisses -10dBFs. Or whatever units.

Then "mix down to FLAC (or WAV or whatever)."

Upon analyzing the resulting file with the Orban Loudness Analyzer program, loading it back into Mixcraft and checking it against various metering plug-ins, whatever, the file will be peaking at around -10dBFs.

This is one area where I think Mixcraft and its documentation have a big hole: when you go to mix down your song, where do you park your Master fader? With the tools available to you in Mixcraft, how do you deliver good audio in the form of a 2-track mix that is an acceptable loudness level, but not clipped? The master meter has a color gradient, and I think it's not supposed to turn red, but there are no numbers on it saying what dBFs or LUFs or anything like that. Just supposed to guess? Trial and error like I did?

There's no "detent" or mark or anything like that on the Master fader to tell you where "unity" is supposed to be, unlike on the channel faders, right? No readout saying "-1dB" or any of that.

Try it:

Put your Master fader where you think it's at "unity."
Put a good metering plug-in last in the Master chain, play your song, read the meter.
Then mix down.
Now compare the mixed down file to what the meter plug-in was telling you.
Do they agree?
-Erik
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Re: Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by Mark Bliss » Thu Jan 18, 2018 11:31 am

Hmm, interesting.
Put your Master fader where you think it's at "unity."
Put a good metering plug-in last in the Master chain, play your song, read the meter.
Then mix down.
Now compare the mixed down file to what the meter plug-in was telling you.
Do they agree?
Yes, always has for me.......

First, I hover over the master fader and it shows 0 dB. Unity.

I mix down a project that is peaking just below 0 dB-
Mixdown 1.png
Mixdown 1.png (186.37 KiB) Viewed 3033 times
or:
Hoffa.png
Hoffa.png (73.07 KiB) Viewed 3033 times
Import that mixdown and it plays back at the same level.

Turn the Mixcraft master fader all the way up:
Mixcraft Master fader +6.png
Mixcraft Master fader +6.png (18.96 KiB) Viewed 3033 times
The plug in meters still read the same, because they are pre-fader.
But if I mix down and re-import, I get this:
Mixdown2.png
Mixdown2.png (40.41 KiB) Viewed 3033 times
All as I would expect, because the plug ins are pre-fader.
That is why I have always left the master fader at unity and adjusted my mix down levels pre meter plug in, either with a gain plug or in other cases, linking submix bus faders. (This is problematic for a somewhat unrelated reason having to do with send returns.)

Using the Hoffa plug in, I could adapt to adjusting its fader for tweaking the mixdown level if necessary, (still assessing) but I would still leave Mixcrafts master fader at unity. No gain, no cut.

If I understand what you are doing, you are essentially turning it down, then back up. I don't see the necessity.
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Re: Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by comedians » Thu Jan 18, 2018 5:47 pm

Bill, I don't use Elements but i guess it's a stripped down version on Ozone 8 advanced and one would assume the mastering wizard works roughly the same. do you have an option to choose what the final output is to be used for, streaming, CD or reference as in advanced ?
I ask because the LU target varies as to which you have chosen. The target LU, which you can vary, is in the bottom left corner of the limiter.

Not at the computer right now so can't explain it fully but certainly in advanced you can set or change the target level.

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Re: Perplexed still re final volume level

Post by Starship Krupa » Fri Jan 19, 2018 4:49 am

Mark Bliss wrote: First, I hover over the master fader and it shows 0 dB. Unity.
Oh, snap, how did I miss the @#$% tooltip! I've only been staring at the Master Fader on Mixcraft for what, coming up on 4 years now, including being a beta tester? It's right there in the Mixer view....

Well, I guess I'll try my experiments again and see how they come out. Thanks for the extra data points. It's so great to have correlation on all this.

The proof is, of course, always in the "pudding" of analyzing whatever file comes out at the end of the process, and maybe mine were coming out a few dB hot and I just wasn't realizing it. Which is a real possibility given my loose grasp of the concepts. :lol:

You get the idea anyway: nail your Master Fader down in place, and use the Hofa one with its built-in more sophisticated metering as your one-stop shop to get a file of a certain loudness out.
-Erik
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