How Loud Should My Mix Be
As you can see from the last article, even in simple language it still takes quite a story to explain what headroom is. The question becomes why do we care and why does it exist?
The main point is that you want as much of your performance to be recorded at the sweet spot for full resolution recording.
By averaging your volume at the sweet spot, you're giving yourself a solid 18dB of safety margin so that you don't clip and distort.
Okay, okay, I know... we already talked about "how" to properly record to preserve headroom and nail the sweet spot. But let's talk about how we then use this headroom to maintain the high quality we are shooting for in the final master and how loud is to loud for our mastering engineer.
Here's the scenario... You've recorded every single instrument at the sweet spot. However, if you take every instrument and play them at the same time, your master channel is going to peak out and clip. So you have to turn down various sounds during the mixing stage and balance them so that they play well together without clipping. Now what?
So... NOW you're going to mix with -18dBFS as your target and your ideal export volume level should be no higher than -3dBFS.
With all the work you've done on the front end, it's going to make things so much easier for the mastering engineer. These days, every song on a record might be recorded in a different location with different equipment and mixed by a different mixer. The mastering engineer's job is to fix the tonal balance of all of the songs so that they sound unified, and then ultimately to push volume levels to the current standard for a professional release.
The point is, now they have the space to work with to apply their final processing and normalize the tracks so that the loudest peak across the whole album hits the ceiling without crossing it, and all songs are playing at the same average volume that is comparable to all other professional releases.
Your Mastering Engineer can thank me later. All check made payable to... kidding!
*Listen in on an interview I did with Mastering Engineer Maor Appelbaum and get some insight on even more! Some answers might shock you.
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