Finished/mastered mixes very quiet?

Discussion in '2488 and DP-24/32 Digital Portastudios' started by J_bus, Feb 14, 2017.

  1. Phil Tipping

    Phil Tipping Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2016
    Messages:
    546
    Likes:
    364
    From:
    West Wales, UK
    Gear:
    dp-32sd, 202 mkIII
    EeMm. The way the mix/master file is created and processed is shown in the tutorial videos, but basically you need to press Record in mixdown mode to create the file in the first place. If you're happy at this point, there's no need to go any further - the file is there waiting for you to either play it (but only in mastering mode with all mastering effects turned off!) or to copy out to your computer (note that the Export process is not relevant or required to do this as it only applies to individual tracks).

    The mastering phase is optional. but if you do want to use the mastering effects, you have to press Record again (in mastering mode) in order for the mix/master file to be re-processed and overwritten with the mastered result. I doubt if running through this process with the mastering effects turned off would affect the quality, but there is only one mix/master file (and it's already been created during the mixdown phase) so there's no point.

    Also note that if you're happy with a 'bounce' result, then you don't even need to enter mixdown mode - just export the bounced track.
  2. EeMm

    EeMm New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2017
    Messages:
    28
    Likes:
    3
    Thank you so much for the excellent information. I can't say it enough, my greatest concern is the audio quality when unnecessarily running it through that extra recording pass in mastering mode. For me it has just been an extra task that I have gotten use to performing. I use an incredibly large amount of tracks and bounce constantly, and it all just ends up in one final bounced stereo track to my liking. Then it just comes down to that final mixdown mode and mastering mode, which I personally never need yet do run the pass through it because I always thought the machine required it in order to complete the final wav file. I must ask, if I were to export the bounced track, wouldn't it be split due it being a stereo track? I'm fine running it through the mixdown mode if it gives me the completed wav file, which I have been doing. I just don't want to compromise the audio integrity by running it through a process that is unnecessary. However, from what you said, it seems as though you don't think running it through the master mode will interfere with its fidelity. I'm releasing some singles in the next few days, so this is something that I'm currently giving thought to, after already completing some really long studio sessions and dealing with all of the legal aspects to my project; so now it's just a matter of promotion and marketing etc..
  3. EeMm

    EeMm New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2017
    Messages:
    28
    Likes:
    3
    Haha, thanks again, I just read your reply again and you mentioned "export", so that is what I can do.
  4. Phil Tipping

    Phil Tipping Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2016
    Messages:
    546
    Likes:
    364
    From:
    West Wales, UK
    Gear:
    dp-32sd, 202 mkIII
    Well you're right in that Exporting a stereo track creates two separate files, whereas Mixdown creates a single stereo file, so it depends on the requirements of your final destination, e.g. DAW or CD burning software. If it can handle separate left & right files, then you can use either method. As with the mastering phase, I don't think running a track through the mixdown process just to create a stereo file will impact the quality (just make sure no other effects and/or tracks have been left on!), but it does require an additional pass in real time. Good luck with the project.
  5. EeMm

    EeMm New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2017
    Messages:
    28
    Likes:
    3
    Thank you yet again, for your time and your intellect. Hopefully others reading our conversion can learn more from our discussion about this. Like you seem to mention quite often, the mixdown/master mode is the trickiest part of these machines. Insofar as your latest reply, for me, it is most easy to at least take my projects to and through the mixdown mode, in order to create a single master wav file. Insofar as the master overwrite of the first mixdown/master wav file copy, I honestly don't know how that could possibly have any kind of affect on the quality of sound in that particular file, from a technological standpoint, other than the machine purposefully altering the sound for whatever reason, whilst running it through the recording in the mastering mode - which kind of harkens back to my initial question about how, if at all, it would or even could affect the sound of the final sound file rendering if recorded in mastering mode with no added mastering features, such as eq, compression, normalization, etc.. The reason I get curious about all of this on the first place though is because as excellent as these wonderful machines are to use as one of my primary tracking and mixing tools, at the end of the day they are like any other piece of electronic music gear regarding their tendency to have an ocassional quirk or glitch. It's expected from audio equipment and music gear. I just like knowing what I'm up against. The final question that I have then pertaining to my original question, which I'm quite sure that I already know the answer to, is this: If and when I hit the play button while in mastering mode, is it the first rendering of the newly created master file that I'm listening to immediately after mixdown, and is it the overwritten master file that I'm listening to immediately after a recording pass? If so, then it's worth the extra effort to just reenter the master mode and revisit that final copy to compare it with my pre- mixdown bounced track. I can just do a simple a/b quality check comparison.
  6. EeMm

    EeMm New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2017
    Messages:
    28
    Likes:
    3
    Yet another reason why I'm asking these questions is because once I have completed the final mixdown and master of a song using these machines, I seldom revisit it again on the machine - unless of course I want to do a remix or remaster. It gets cumbersome comparing the final wav file on this machine along with many other sound devices, such a home stereo system and car stereo etc..
  7. Phil Tipping

    Phil Tipping Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2016
    Messages:
    546
    Likes:
    364
    From:
    West Wales, UK
    Gear:
    dp-32sd, 202 mkIII
    Yes, there is only one file per song. It's overwritten every time you mixdown and every time you master, i.e. every time you press Record in those modes. When you press Play in mastering mode, you will hear that file (if you've left any mastering effects on, they will influence what you hear). When you press Play in mixdown mode, you will hear the original tracks. Not exactly intuitive, but that's how it is :)
    EeMm likes this.
  8. Mark Richards

    Mark Richards Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2017
    Messages:
    438
    Likes:
    439
    From:
    Southern USA
    Gear:
    DP-24, vintage 40-4
    No. The Mixdown process creates a master .wav file using the song name. You do need to go to 'Mastering' mode though to play the song back on the unit.

    No. That's one of the big advantages of digital over tape. But if you're done with the master after mixdown, there's no reason to press 'record' in mastering mode.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2018
    EeMm likes this.
  9. BikerDude

    BikerDude Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2018
    Messages:
    55
    Likes:
    25
    Gear:
    DP02, DP32
    I've found it challenging to get the volume that I want in the final mix.
    I've upgraded from a DP02 to the DP32. The 02 was very simple to just boost the volume in the mixdown. I have to get the levels just right on the 32 or there doesn't seem to be a way to fix it in mixdown.

    I actually just downloaded one of the free mp3 volume increaser programs.
    It does the job. Increases the overall volume of the final master.
  10. J_bus

    J_bus New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2017
    Messages:
    11
    Likes:
    3
    Gear:
    DP-24SD
    I am at the end of my rope here. I set my levels, record the song in mixdown mode, go into master mode, apply eq, hit record and listen through, apply compression, hit record and listen through, normalize, and once normalize completes, I press mixdown master again, and turn off the machine. I put my sd card into my pc, listen, check waveforms, and it is still significantly quieter than any other song I listen to. Waveforms from other professional recordings are much larger, and even other amateur recorders music is much louder than my own. Is there another step I am missing? Perhaps some kind of export step that I perform on my DP-24 to complete the process? I don't know what else to do at this point other than switch over to garage band.
  11. J_bus

    J_bus New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2017
    Messages:
    11
    Likes:
    3
    Gear:
    DP-24SD
    quick follow up, I even messed with eq and compression settings to an undesirable level so that I could confirm that those mastering effects were present in the mix I moved off of my SD card. Sure enough, they were there, but as a whole, the mix was still quiet. I continue to assume that I missing some sort of final step that applies all of the mastering to the file that ends up on the SD card, but if not then I am completely lost.
    -mjk- likes this.
  12. Mark Richards

    Mark Richards Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2017
    Messages:
    438
    Likes:
    439
    From:
    Southern USA
    Gear:
    DP-24, vintage 40-4
    J_bus,
    The multi and single compressors have "Gain" settings. The reason the Gain setting is there is to compensate for changes in volume resulting from the application of EQ and Compression.

    So, try this experiment:
    using Single Compression to keep it simple, set your various EQ and compression levels; playback the song; watch your stereo meters for the amount of headroom and the Compressor meter for gain reduction.

    Use the Compressor Gain control to compensate so that the stereo meters stay in the green at about -6dB, with peaks at about -3dB. Listen for distortion (audio sounds "grainy"). If you hear distortion, back off the Compressor's Gain setting. If you don't hear distortion, try raising the Compressor Gain to bring the stereo meters up until there is a very occasional blip in the red. Then back off the Gain until the red blips go away. Listen for distortion. If you hear distortion back off the Gain again until the distortion is gone.

    You also could try turning on "Auto Make" in the Compressor and let the DP do all the work.;)
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2018
    -mjk- likes this.
  13. Mark Richards

    Mark Richards Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2017
    Messages:
    438
    Likes:
    439
    From:
    Southern USA
    Gear:
    DP-24, vintage 40-4
    J_bus, I've put a 4 minute demo clip together for you using some cover songs I've been working on.

    The Purpose:

    Demonstrates how compression gain can be applied to optimize the audio level.
    (listening with good quality reference (e.g. Beyer DT 880 or similar) or monitor (e.g. Sony 7506 or similar) headphones will really highlight the differences in each song's dynamics and audio quality)

    The Process:

    For demo purposes:
    • The first song in the clip (Wagon Wheel) was mixed and mastered after reading about the production technique that -mjk- uses and shared on this forum (sub-mix a group; master the group sub-mix using the on-board Compression mastering tool; repeat; then make a final mix of all the mastered sub-mixes).
    • The second song in the clip (Undermine) was mastered for demo purposes using custom multi-compression settings.
    • The last song in the clip (Africa) was mastered for demo purposes using only simple compression.
    The stereo mix audio levels differed for each demo song by as much as 6 dB, so Compression gain was applied to each song during mastering to adjust each song to a maximum peak audio level without clipping.

    I also applied very mild single compression and compression gain adjustment (+/-) in real time to fine tune all the songs in the demo clip to the same approximate peak audio playback level without clipping, as might be done when mastering an album of songs.

    None of the demo song masters (including the demo clip itself) have had EQ applied during mastering, nor have they been Normalized. All were processed completely within the DP-24 environment.

    The Results

    Notice how the second song has an average audio level slightly lower than the first, and the third song is lower still. Yet all three have audio peaks at the same level (about -1 dBFS). The third song won't sound as loud as the first two at the same audio playback setting, or conversely, you would need to turn the playback volume up on the third song by about +3 dB to hear it as intended when compared with the first two.

    To bring the third song up to the same average audio level of the other two songs by relying only on compression during mastering would have required applying more compression to the third song, which would have had a negative impact on the third song's overall quality. The solution in this instance would be to remix the original tracks to a higher average level by better controlling during mixdown the individual instrument track(s) driving the peaks.

    !CLIPS!WAVEFORMS.JPG
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/ab4uic9yual4mrr/DEMO CLIPS RECORDED ON TASCAM DP-24 PORTA-STUDIO [FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY].WAV?dl=0
    (There's a "Download" button on the top right of the song screen on my Windows OS, so I think you can d/l the .wav file. Not sure how it would appear if using an Apple OS.)

    The demo clip plays very loudly without clipping on my DP-24 (using Audiotechnica M50x headphones, monitor level set at the 10 o'clock position), as well as on par with commercially recorded CDs and hi-def audiophile downloads on my reference audio system, on my DAP, and even on my smartphone.

    So perhaps my demo clip can serve as an objective reference point for you since it was recorded, mixed and mastered on my own DP-24.

    Assuming you were able to d/l my demo clip, when played on your own DP-24SD how does my demo clip compare to your own recordings; and how does my demo clip compare when played back on your computer?

    I hope this is helpful to you in resolving your issue.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2018
    -mjk-, Phil Tipping and David Porter like this.
  14. J_bus

    J_bus New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2017
    Messages:
    11
    Likes:
    3
    Gear:
    DP-24SD
    I really appreciate both of your replies! I followed the steps in the first post, set everything up and boosted the gain as much as possible without going into the red. Recorded the new compression settings over the master file, dropped it onto my PC, and yet again, quiet. I went back and also normalized, and listened to that as well, still quiet. What was strange to me was that the normalized mix and the non-normalized mix looked identical in terms of wave form. I am attaching a picture showing my wave form versus the demos you posted. [​IMG]
    -mjk- likes this.
  15. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2018
    Messages:
    913
    Likes:
    501
    From:
    Hukou Township, Hsinchu County, Taiwan
    Gear:
    DP-32, | 2A Mixer, A3440
    Mark, somehow, I missed part of this thread. I just d/l your clip and I'm going to give it a listen in the car - my favorite environment, hehe. Very useful experiment, thanks!
    Mark Richards likes this.
  16. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2018
    Messages:
    913
    Likes:
    501
    From:
    Hukou Township, Hsinchu County, Taiwan
    Gear:
    DP-32, | 2A Mixer, A3440
    Hey Mark, you're getting very clean, and very LOUD tracks on your DP! I like it!

    You have directly identified the key point: It's all about the peak to average ratio.

    I have a bit more info to add to this discussion. All the while I was engineering and producing music sessions in the Boston area, I was concurrently a broadcast engineer. Working at that end of the field of music production, the delivery system of that time - radio, was invaluable to my work as a recording engineer. I have always "mixed for radio" and I built my reputation on that.

    It's well known among broadcast engineers that the talk show host Bruce Williams' voice has one of the highest peak to average ratios in the field. I've been in on discussions with other engineers on what they had to do at their affiliate station to keep Mr. Williams sounding as best as possible without wreaking havoc on the rest of the programming. Very interesting! You can bet that my knowledge of broadcast chain audio processors like the Texar Audio Prism and the widely used Optimod, and what they would do to a mix when run through them came in handy at mix time. The more you can tame the mix before Mastering, the more the Mastering can do it's real job - which is to compensate for the shortcomings of the media on which it's being delivered as a final product. I've seen far too much of 1. We'll fix it in the mix, and 2. We'll fix that in Mastering. You cannot polish a turd! There is a reason why by the mid 80's, nearly every major mixing desk had online compressor/limiters on each channel, and some also had gates and ducking too. And it was not unusual for nearly all of them to be activated too. We can do that on our DP recorders also, just 1 track at a time.

    Good work Mark!
    Mark Richards and David Porter like this.
  17. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2018
    Messages:
    913
    Likes:
    501
    From:
    Hukou Township, Hsinchu County, Taiwan
    Gear:
    DP-32, | 2A Mixer, A3440
    J_bus, this situation is exactly why I developed my SOP. The mastering compression is not able to sufficiently lower the peak-to-average ratio on a broad spectrum waveform because it cannot manage the transients well enough. Those peaks are causing the compressor to hold down the average levels in the center of the waveform. The solution is more aggressive application of compression and limiting on tracking. That can be accomplished on existing tracks by submixing and mastering the individual submixes.
    Mark Richards likes this.
  18. Mark Richards

    Mark Richards Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2017
    Messages:
    438
    Likes:
    439
    From:
    Southern USA
    Gear:
    DP-24, vintage 40-4
    OMG, not the car stereo test. :eek:
    (keep in mind too that those mixes were done to make a point and are a bit on the rough side)
    (and I mix expecting the songs to be played back a lot louder than elevator music - like at least 75-80 dB so as to really annoy the neighbors :D.)

    Seriously, suggestions on how to improve always welcome (via Profile Conversation).
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
    -mjk- likes this.
  19. J_bus

    J_bus New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2017
    Messages:
    11
    Likes:
    3
    Gear:
    DP-24SD
    Is your SOP posted here on the board somewhere? I think I am just going to have to move on from this track, and try something fresh with a little more knowledge going into it. I remixed this one again, making sure certain tracks that where very heavy on the low/high end were eq'd to be less intense on their respective eq sides, and still with compression and normalization it was quiet.
  20. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2018
    Messages:
    913
    Likes:
    501
    From:
    Hukou Township, Hsinchu County, Taiwan
    Gear:
    DP-32, | 2A Mixer, A3440
    J_bus, there is a topic called -mjk- all about that particular production technique.