Recording levels

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ianb
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Recording levels

Post by ianb » Wed Feb 15, 2017 5:25 am

Greetings again from Norfolk, UK.

Here's a puzzle which left me lost for reply. I record at home on a Zoom R16, a machine which I like a lot. I do not use the machine as an 'interface' for a computer, as most people do, (because I have always been unable to load the software) but I mix down on the R16 itself and copy to a master CD. That master is used for duplication, either at home or by a professional repro house.

Typical samples of the results, for our blues and ceilidh bands, are here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVKkwq ... v42M_Qz_XQ

Our recent Blues from the Broads CD (it refers to the Norfolk Broads, a bayou-like area in the east of the UK) has gone down well and is on the playlist of a local pub. However, the manager says, it plays at a higher volume than any of the rest of his playlist CDs, and he has to turn it down every time a track comes on.

This has puzzled me. I recorded the thing at my usual level (just touching into the red bars on my meter). No one who has played it at home has complained.

The CD repro house has said it's nothing they've done, and commented that 'post mastering' is often used to make things louder, not the other way round! Recording studios I've worked with in the past say that a good, loud, but clear level is exactly what they want.

Is there a 'conventional' volume at which CDs should be recorded, and if so, how do I achieve it?

All the best
Ian B in Norfolk, UK

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Re: Recording levels

Post by Wulfraed » Wed Feb 15, 2017 7:12 am

It's not the peak level, per se, that gives the impression of loudness.

At some point in your mixing did you apply a compressor (or even a limiter) -- and what settings did you use on that compressor?

Unfortunately, the Zoom documentation makes it difficult to equate settings to conventional compressors -- but conventional is easier to describe.

Assume the raw music peaks at 0dB, but the majority is around -18dB. If you were to apply a 6:1 ratio, with a threshold of -18dB (and 15dB post gain), you'd squeeze the range -18..0dB into -3..0dB, rather severely flattening the top end dynamics... You'd also be raising everything below -18dB by the 15dB post gain amount; so the entire production will sound that much louder.
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zoniopoda omnicolor
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Re: Recording levels

Post by zoniopoda omnicolor » Wed Feb 15, 2017 11:05 am

Wulfraed's comments, as usual, make a lot of sense. Over-compression and gain could be a factor in too-loud, or too-hot recordings. Mike Senior talks about this in his book, "Mixing Secrets". It's odd that others do not find the recording overly loud, while at the pub, it is. Using a reference CD may help? i.e.: compare the recording an example of another CD in the same genre, on the same system, you'd want yours to sound like. See how it compares.... I mean, I think it's true, you want a clear recording, and loud enough, but not so loud that it is going to be out of kilter with the other music.... If I'm not mistaken, this can occur with over-the-top mastering compression? I would have thought that the R16 patch for this would be made to just add some shine and glue. But I guess patch settings sometimes may not be ideal for the current project.

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Re: Recording levels

Post by ianb » Thu Feb 23, 2017 6:44 am

Many thanks. I remain largely puzzled, but am obliged to you!

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Re: Recording levels

Post by Jim_Fogle » Sun Feb 26, 2017 9:15 pm

ianb,
Sample Wave.jpg
I hope the photo will visually demonstrate why two audio files with the same volume level can sound different.

Both audio files in the photo are the same length. Both audio files have been adjusted so each has the same volume level. However when they are played the top audio file will sound much louder than the bottom audio file. Notice the top audio file does not have much distance between the peaks and valleys and there is almost no silence. Much of the bottom audio file has no volume so most of the file is filled with valley with just a short peak every now and then.

If you were to measure the average volume level of the two audio files you would find the top file has a much higher average volume level than the bottom audio. It is this average volume level that makes the top audio file sound louder than the bottom audio file.
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Re: Recording levels

Post by Wulfraed » Sun Feb 26, 2017 9:30 pm

Might be more "believable" if you'd started with the same sound sample, but then applied a lot of compression to one copy of it <G> {especially if links to the audio were provide so the OP could actually compare them}
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Re: Recording levels

Post by Jim_Fogle » Mon Feb 27, 2017 11:50 am

Wulfraed wrote:
Sun Feb 26, 2017 9:30 pm
Might be more "believable" if you'd started with the same sound sample, but then applied a lot of compression to one copy of it <G> {especially if links to the audio were provide so the OP could actually compare them}
True but that was not my intent. I thought it was more important to see extreme content differences than extreme wave envelope differences. A recording with sparse content, for example a a classical guitar performance recorded in a concert hall normally will sound softer than a performance recorded by a full heavy metal band.

But I think we both can agree that both content and how compression is applied affects the perception of how loud a recording sounds.
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default ... tent=music
https://soundcloud.com/you/tracks
http://fogle622.wix.com/fogle622-audio-home
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Re: Recording levels

Post by Munsterduane » Tue Apr 11, 2017 4:02 pm

I recently recorded our band, drums, bass Guitar. lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, two vocals and i added another back up vocal afterwards and a few touch ups. When i mixed it down i kept my levels up to the max. I used the ST Wide mastering algorithm and it sounded good.. I transferred the wave files to my computer and burned off a copy. The sound was good but wasnt up to the levels of regular store bought cds is there something i missed or is there anything else i could do to get the volume up to the store bought levels ? thanks

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Re: Recording levels

Post by Wulfraed » Wed Apr 12, 2017 7:50 am

Judicious use of a decent compressor module (unfortunately, most of the Zoom compressor modules have documentation that is practically encrypted: on the R24, only the Dual Mic algorithm has something with numbers that make sense).

Also you might want to take into account that many commercial releases have been in a "loudness war" and are practically over-compressed; they've lost most of the dynamic range that the real performance contained.
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Re: Recording levels

Post by Munsterduane » Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:57 pm

Thanks for the advice i probably should have mentioned i was using the HD16cd but i do know the algorithn you speak of and ill probably go back and do another take and see if that improves the level

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