Let's talk about the loudness war
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  1. #1
    Tech Convert
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    Default Let's talk about the loudness war

    I recently got a few tracks which sound muddy. The softs are almost as loud as the peaks. Traktor sets the autogain somewhere between -1.5 and -4. The tracks lack punch. I've seen it with both well-known (e.g., a couple of Depeche Mode remixes) as well as with more "obscure" music.

    In any case, I'm sure a few people here own such tracks. Somehow I couldn't find a thread on DJTT dedicated to this issue exclusively. So shoot away and tell us how you handle such tracks: do you try to fix them? do you just play them or do you decide to not play them? can you be bothered by overly compressed music? etc

  2. #2
    Filterkat
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    i totally agree... a lot of tracks coming out at the moment are this way... espacially in the kind of harder electro stuff... theyre too muffled, overly compressed, and lack depth in the mix...

    i wont go out of my way to fix them... i still them play them occasionally in the clubs if the actual track is descent music... but i preffer to stick to tracks with more depth to them... i feel depth in a track helps create the atmosphere/mood of the track... with overly compressed tracks... it just feels like theyre being forced down your throat...

  3. #3
    Moderator of Silly Walks Citizen_Insane's Avatar
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    I have the opposite problem sometimes actually. Yesterday I finished mastering a mashup that I made, exported it as a 320kbps mp3 and when I loaded it into traktor it set the gain to +9.1dB! And I had the highest volume possible without clipping before exporting the track after mastering it. Then again, I did beef up the bass drum and sub so it's pretty heavy in that department, adds a lot of feeling to the thing.

    I frequently load up tracks and have them be between 5dB and they don't sound too muddy or cluttered, but I guess it's because they're just well produced and not low quality audio files.
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    Quote Originally Posted by photojojo View Post
    All these subgenre's are like the grandchildren of disco with dubstep and D&B being the bad kids that smoke cigarettes and are in and out of jail.

  4. #4
    Schreiberie Meister Afterhour Ali's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Citizen_Insane View Post
    I have the opposite problem sometimes actually. Yesterday I finished mastering a mashup that I made, exported it as a 320kbps mp3 and when I loaded it into traktor it set the gain to +9.1dB! And I had the highest volume possible without clipping before exporting the track after mastering it. Then again, I did beef up the bass drum and sub so it's pretty heavy in that department, adds a lot of feeling to the thing.

    I frequently load up tracks and have them be between 5dB and they don't sound too muddy or cluttered, but I guess it's because they're just well produced and not low quality audio files.
    This sounds like a certain (small) frequency range is a lot louder than other parts You should probably visualize the frequency band and use some EQing before you can compress/increase the volume again!
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    Moderator of Silly Walks Citizen_Insane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HedgeHog View Post
    This sounds like a certain (small) frequency range is a lot louder than other parts You should probably visualize the frequency band and use some EQing before you can compress/increase the volume again!
    Just visualized it. Everything below 400hz is a fair bit louder according to the visualization, but if I change that the mashup loses it's punch, it's oomph. And when I increase the mids and highs it just makes the mashup sound bad... any ideas? I really don't know much about mastering.
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    Quote Originally Posted by photojojo View Post
    All these subgenre's are like the grandchildren of disco with dubstep and D&B being the bad kids that smoke cigarettes and are in and out of jail.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Citizen_Insane View Post
    Just visualized it. Everything below 400hz is a fair bit louder according to the visualization, but if I change that the mashup loses it's punch, it's oomph. And when I increase the mids and highs it just makes the mashup sound bad... any ideas? I really don't know much about mastering.
    The first part is because your speakers have bad response below 400hz, you're compensating for sub-standard monitors (do you have a sub?). If you have a car stereo I would use this as a gold standard if you do not have a pristine monitoring environment, its a trick I learned a long time ago that's actually held up quite well over the years. Granted the low-end (sub 200hz) is easily the trickiest part of a mix to get right because it is the hardest for the human ear to register correctly given that the frequency response for the human ear is not flat and low frequencies are felt rather than heard.

    It sounding bad when you increase the mids/highs is likely that there is too much going on there frequency wise. Clever EQ-cutting, multi-band sidechaining and other tricks to balance the tracks you're trying to mash might help here. Right now you're turning down vital frequency bands because you're getting sonic clashes due to that part of the spectrum being overly busy, or sonically incompatible. Have you checked keys for the two tracks to make sure they're sonically compatible with one another?

    It's hard to provide an honest opinion without having something to listen to however, everything I've provided here is just conjecture and without a reference I can't really overly helpful.

  7. #7
    Moderator of Silly Walks Citizen_Insane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirkd View Post
    The first part is because your speakers have bad response below 400hz, you're compensating for sub-standard monitors (do you have a sub?). If you have a car stereo I would use this as a gold standard if you do not have a pristine monitoring environment, its a trick I learned a long time ago that's actually held up quite well over the years. Granted the low-end (sub 200hz) is easily the trickiest part of a mix to get right because it is the hardest for the human ear to register correctly given that the frequency response for the human ear is not flat and low frequencies are felt rather than heard.

    It sounding bad when you increase the mids/highs is likely that there is too much going on there frequency wise. Clever EQ-cutting, multi-band sidechaining and other tricks to balance the tracks you're trying to mash might help here. Right now you're turning down vital frequency bands because you're getting sonic clashes due to that part of the spectrum being overly busy, or sonically incompatible. Have you checked keys for the two tracks to make sure they're sonically compatible with one another?

    It's hard to provide an honest opinion without having something to listen to however, everything I've provided here is just conjecture and without a reference I can't really overly helpful.
    Ok so about 1/2 of that sounded like technical jargon that I only partially understand. I've tested it on my headphones which are good, my friend's soundsystem, which is good and has a sub and they and some other friends thought it sounded nice. As for the keys potentially clashing, I don't use any key analysis software but they sound good together, as opposed to making you cringe. If you want I can send you the mashup as far as I have it mastered in wav or mp3 through soundcloud or email or some such.
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    Quote Originally Posted by photojojo View Post
    All these subgenre's are like the grandchildren of disco with dubstep and D&B being the bad kids that smoke cigarettes and are in and out of jail.

  8. #8
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    He didn't saying anything about the keys, he was talking about frequency ranges clashing together and making it muddy

  9. #9
    Tech Guru mostapha's Avatar
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    I have still yet to see a paid DJ not running a mixer into the red other than myself, so…i'm going to go ahead and say that this "problem" is something you should complain about online but do nothing about.

    Redlining mixers like that does more to f-up the sound than clipping during mastering.

    So…set your gains right and stop worrying about it…but feel free to complain online. That's what the internet's for.

    Also…you can't fix it. Once you lose that dynamic range, it's gone. Just don't clip it worse.

    Also, gain of -1.5 to -4 is nothing. Most of the hip hop I've analyzed in Live peaks at +18.

  10. #10
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    it's not a deal breaker as long as you use them carefully.

    avoid playing too many of these skunks in a row to dodge the ear fatigue bullet that these tunes lacking dynamics will cause.
    since not all the tracks you're gonna play have this issue (hopefully), the best way to compensate for it is by second-guessing the auto gain function and tuning it by ear so that it carries the same weight as the previous/next tracks.

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