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mixing level before mastering


Can anyone give me advice on the suggested db level for a mix to dat
or cd that will later be mastered. Im used to bumping 0db occasionally with the program material on my dat machine(DA30mk2) to let the limiter kick in. Recently a mastering engineer complained that my mix was to hot, and after the client wanted major amounts of eq added, it started to distort. I understand the concept of leaving headroom so mastering standards can be applyed, but i didnt hear any digital distortion on my mix even at that hot of a level. Im I in the wrong hear?
August 6, 2002 @03:46pm

this is really an impossible question, as there are so many variables to consider. Mixing is a process that only you can determine what is right vs. wrong, based on the needs of the project, at that time.
Besides the usual (compression, eq, effects) there are other things to consider, such as format...I tend to treat material recorded at 44.1K differently than stuff done at 48K...also remember that the end result will always be at 44.1 until CD redbook standards go the way of home based 2-track...
I usually mix to a -3db point, just to allow for master processing...but again YMMV...
when setting up to mix, make sure your sound card's gain structure is set properly, that -3 on recording software = -3 on the card...this is a mistake I made that was causing me to have great sounding mixes in the studio but lousy masters...
Please note this is all based on what works for me...it may cause some of the 'pros' to cringe, but once I re-structured my cards, every client I've had is thrilled with the end result...
August 7, 2002 @12:47pm

Any Mastering Engineer worth his salt should be able to work with your levels. If it distorts when applying EQ, simply lower the level a little before hitting the EQ. When mixing to DAT, which is a 16 bit medium (at least in this case), I think it prudent to have pretty hot levels. That said, I would not allow ANY overs to occur. The over indicators are calibrated differently on different DAT machines - most come on somewhere between .1 dB and 3 dB before reaching true 0 dBFS. If the over indicators don't come on you (assuming your machine is calibrated and working correctly) can be assured that you've provided a clean signal with levels that should be able to be worked with.
There is a sidebar to this story, however. If you're applying lots of compression to your mix you may achieve a state where the average level of the music is so high that it makes life difficult for the mastering engineer in a number of ways. It's hard to tell with the info you've given whether his complaint is entirely that your levels are too high for the electronics or whether some of it is that he simply can't do what he'd really like to be able to do.
Finally, I am not aware of any limiter built in to any of the Tascam DAT machines, so I'm not quite sure what you are talking about there.
Bottom line - If your program material goes right up to zero, but never causes the over indicators to illuminate then you should be fine from a technical point of view.
August 7, 2002 @02:22pm

Thanks for the replies guys,
I do allow an occasional bump at "0db" , and the over indicates only on the highest peaks. i have mixed many projects just like this and the mastering engineer I normally use has never had a problem with my levels. He actually is very impressed with my work and never feels a need to compress or eq stuff that much. WE usaully just ultra-maximize. This problem occured because my client didnt use "My" mastering guy, and frankly i feel like the person he went to doesnt know what he is doing. I sorted this out with my client and told him that we will go to my guy and if he tells me that I made a mistake or "messed Up" the mixes then I would remix the stuff for free. I havent heard from him yet ,but At this piont it doesnt really matter to me anymore, because this person is the type of client that will never be happy with anything. Put it this way, When the band went to this other mastering guy they decided to put reverb on the entire mix, NUFF SAID.
thank you
August 7, 2002 @03:27pm

Kewl concept! Reverb on entire mix...wow...(actually I occassionally put a 3-4% reverb mix, small room mode, from Ozone...kinda softens the whole thing up)
Anyway...I hope its reverse-gated hyper compressed reverb...at least it will be an original sound!:D :D :D
August 7, 2002 @05:21pm
Matthias Powerbomb

I usually go to 0 dB all the time. The loudest parts of the songs are hitting 0 dB. I've never had any problems with that. I know an guy here in town who did some work for MC Hammer (which shows he's at least semi-pro level) and he mixes the same way I do, so I assume it's a generally accepted way to do things. If the guy you usually go to can do it, then it must be alright.
August 14, 2002 @05:20am

Hey thanks for the support. I know that im doing my stuff the right way. ive been recording for almost 20 years, but its nice to have support from others that do what i do. we could all start another topic on this wonderful sweetwater fourum on "how to deal with cleints who dont know what they want until you give it to them, and there still not happy."
Its all about the hype, "yea, Ive done this and that in the music biz, but because i dont have gold records on the wall, i cant be totally trusted by naive, and unexperienced bands." To say the lest, it is a very frustrating thing to deal with in this bizness. I have friends that are working engineers in Canada, New York, Boston, and Austin TX. We get together every few months and laugh at all the things artist and bands do to savotage there own products either because of their own stupidity or fat egos. good luck everyone.
August 15, 2002 @03:44pm

Hi Moz, with DAT I can't say. With digital, as in my 788, I'd set the master fader to read 99 and apply gentle stereo compression, and coming into AudioDesk, where I recorded my 2 track masters, I'd never hit the clip light,,long as I laid off the effects in AudioDesk,,not to mention there's really no need to be effecting a 2 track master,,but those 32 bit floating point effects_are_kind if tantalizing. Now, with my Alesis ADAT HD24 going into the analog Spirit M12, and then from the S/PDIF on that through the MOTU828 into AudioDesk, I see I'll need to use a different approach, cuz with the 788 I was in the digital realm entirely, from A/D converter on the 788 all the way to burned CD,,but with my new rig, I'm hopping in and out of analog, and I find my levels aren't as high when I take a master into AudioDesk, and avoid clipping,,so, I'll be pushing things abit on this analog board. Thing is,,you don't hear the clipping when you_do_hit the clip light on the AudioDesk(DP3) program, coming in from analog, the way you_would_hear the clip in the purely digital app using the 788. I can't give you a good answer,,cept, I've seen that -3dbFS about DAT too,,all I'm saying is I'm finding I'll need to learn some new approaches myself. Not that I mind. The Alesis/Spirit rig has a superior sound. The different mediums require different approaches. There's some good advice in the Summer 2002 ArtistPro magazine I got when I ordered the book about Joe Meek,,,though I'm sure you'll find great advice here too.
August 16, 2002 @05:02pm

Hey thanks for the reply,
thats all good info and we can always learn more stuff out there!
how is that Joe Meek book? I have been interested in that for a while. Did you learn some cool stuff?
August 18, 2002 @04:56pm

The Joe Meek book is pretty good. It comes with a CD of some_pretty weird_sounding stuff, but in the mid 60's that would have been called avant guard, I guess. :D
You also get a copy of a quarterly issue of the ArtistPro Magazine associated with the publishers. I got the summer copy,,don't know what they're sending out now.The back part of the magazine is a catalog of all their other publications. Books on recording techniques, etc. There are some good articles in the mag, too. It's a good investment.
August 18, 2002 @06:29pm