3 Ways To Create More Headroom In Your Mix

| Mixing, Tips

The name of the game with mixes these days is headroom. This is especially true with mixing in the box (i.e. your software). What is headroom and why is it important? The short answer is: the range between your song’s loudest peaks and 0dbfs (or clipping). The benefit of lots of headroom? Sonic clarity and musicality. Do you want your mix to sound squished and flat? I didn’t think so. So listen up.


TRR208 3 Ways To Create More Headroom In Your Mix

Via Justin Davis


No Room To Mix

If you don’t leave enough headroom in your DAW then you really have to where to go with your mix. You will be hitting the proverbial (and literal) ceiling early and often. No es bueno. In the analog world we had some fudge room near the top of the meter, but the same does not hold true with digital. The solution? Free up as much headroom as possible and your mix will gain life and room to breathe. Here are the three easiest ways to get back some precious headroom in your mix.

Turn Your Tracks Down

This is the most obvious solution to the headroom quandary. Although few people seem to take my advice on this one. By simply turning down your tracks in your DAW you will be sending less signal to your mix buss and consequently will have instant headroom and clarity. You can do this in one of three ways: turn down your faders, use clip based gain to reduce track level, or insert trim plugins across your tracks with a generous level cut.

I guarantee you your mixes will come together faster and will sound better if you would simply pull all your tracks down before you begin to mix. At the modern 24 bit depth provided just about every audio interface these days, you have plenty of quiet gain and a low noise floor. No need to have really loud tracks running way up the meter. Pull them down and turn up your speakers and your tracks will sound better.

Use Your High Pass Filter Often

A long time ago I wrote about how using your high pass filter is the fastest way to clean up your mix. It’s so simple that it’s mind boggling. By rolling off the ultra low end (100hz and below) on just about every instrument other than kick drum and bass you free up a ton of headroom and volume for your mix buss to breath. On most tracks in the mix, you gain nothing sonically from the sub 100hz area so it’s a waste of volume anyway.

Some people complain that your tracks will sound too thin if you high pass them all, and I would agree…if you listen to them in solo. But as you should know by now, mixing in solo mode is a fools errand. In reality, your tracks will sound 100% the same in the mix. The only difference will be the extra headroom you’ve just freed up. Nice!

Cut The Ugly Low Mids

The third and final way to buy back that precious headroom in your mix is to cut any and all of the ugly low mid frequencies. Low mids are notorious for hogging up volume. In fact, they arguably can take up more headroom than all that stuff you’ve been high pass filtering. Sometimes we label these frequencies (anywhere between 200 and 500hz) as muddy and I think it’s an accurate description. They don’t have nice warm low end, just thick, sticky, headroom sucking mud.

Here’s my reader’s digest version of how I cut low mids. I grab an EQ on say a drum buss, do a huge boost in the 300 to 400hz area, and sweep around until I hear the ugliest frequency on the planet. Once identified, I turn that boost into a cut of at least 3db. Then I simply compare the carved out EQ curve to what the track sounded like before. 9 times out of 10 the track sounds the same only better. More clarity in the top end AND in the bottom end. And all the while it’s taking up less volume, and consequently eating up less overall headroom.

What’s Stealing Your Mix’s Headroom?

At the end of the day, you can’t get a great mix going if you have no where to go on your mix buss. If your headroom is taken up, you might as well concede. That’s why it’s critical to free your mix buss up from wasted headroom so you can get to work creating a musical, clear, and punchy mix. Which of the above three target issues is stealing your mix’s headroom? Experiment and find out. Your mixes will thank you for it!



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92 Responses to “3 Ways To Create More Headroom In Your Mix”

  1. Brandon

    Totally agree. Curious if you normally add any HPF’s to kick and bass in the 20-30Hz region or if you tend to leave them be?

    • Andrew

      It’s a good idea to HP the ultra low end of you bass and kick, there is still signal there even tho its not audible but it is still stealing head room and the lower frequencies are good at doing so.

      • Rocky

        However… you still need to filter with phase shifting in mind. Addind hi pass filters all over does alter phase (like eq-ing in general). Some clever bussing and hi passing might sometimes be preferable over hipassing everywhere.

        That goes for multimiked instruments.

  2. Søren Dyhr

    It has been what I more or less have subscriped to for some years now, but then yesterday did someone in a forum come up with this weird thing from a book he’d read: http://www.mixingwithyourmind.com and if you poke into the topics shown, will one thing pop up:

    Don’t sweep!

    …and it seems like a craftsman to craft mans advice to prevent pulling out “wrong” frequencies, and instead he suggest to A/B with and without a cut at initial guesses until something actually works. Now I haven’t read the book yet, but what would be the reasoning be beyond avoiding pulling wrongs?

    • Jordan

      Making you more intelligent with frequencies, and not just ;finding’ a problem to ‘fix’

        • Jordan Rea

          I’ve read mixing with your mind, like an audio bible. It says to never sweep frequency as the A/B method ‘strengthens your ear’ and makes you learn what certain frequencies sounds like. Plus if you buy the book, the author because your mentor for life.

  3. Michel

    Great Post! I think this is one of your most helpful post since the beginning, just for the low mud trick.

    Thanks Graham!

  4. Erick Paquin

    After watching Friedemann Tischmeyer’s DVD’s (http://www.tischmeyer-mastering.de/pwde/) one also realize the full potential of doing mixes and mastering in 32 bit, exactly for the same reasons posted here, headroom! Watch those DVD’s you’ll be amazed at what this guy has to offer in terms of experience! Amazing!

    24 bit is good but 32 is simply better. He’ll convince you as to why!

  5. David Stagl

    Here’s another tip: Calibrate your monitor level. This is best done using an SPL meter, but you can still achieve close to the same thing just using your ears.

    The idea behind this is you will naturally gravitate towards mixing at a certain loudness within your room. If you calibrate your monitor level ahead of time, you probably won’t even need to look at a meter while you mix. You just mix to where you’re comfortable. This is a standard practice in broadcast and film, and it translates to music mixing quite well.

    Start by sending pink noise to your master at -20 dbFS. There’s some variation between gear, but -20 dBFS is a good place to put the pink noise because it typically corresponds to a reference level of 0 VU in analog world. If you have an SPL meter, you typically want to measure in C-weighting so that each of your monitors is around 79 dBC. If you have a bigger mix room, 82 might be good. The end result will probably put the output with both of your monitors running between 82-85 dBC. If you don’t have an SPL meter, you can just turn your monitors up to where you’re most comfortable mixing/listening. Then mark your level and try not to change your monitor level until you have a ballparked mix.

    I learned about this several years ago from Bob Katz. I think this was the original article: http://www.digido.com/how-to-make-better-recordings-part-2.html

    If you follow it, you can get plenty of headroom in your mixes.

    • Robert V

      One of Graham’s most effective suggestions that I reluctantly took to heart was the idea of using reference tracks. Not only did incorporating this practice work from an eq-ing standpoint, but as a level adjuster. I use Ozone (5 currently) for my mastering stage with Studio One pro. I can easily drop any wav file I want into the track arrangements and by using already-mastered commercial material that is in the same genre and sound as what I am going for I know the levels on those tracks are already what they should be (non-adjustable save for my monitor level adjusting. You just have to make sure you have no processing on those tracks to calibrate properly). Using only my ears I play back the reference track and adjust my monitor volume to where I think my normal listening level should be. Then, when I play the track I’m mastering I can jump the play cursor between the two songs with my mouse and A/B.

      I mix with my levels about halfway, and that’s the LEVELS, not the faders. I can use the final limiting to achieve “volume” to match the reference tracks in question. In the mixing stage I can just as easily drop wav files of a reference song onto any stereo track and do the same thing with my monitor levels, but I generally treat the song as an independent variable at that point, as my levels are relative to each other and I’m keeping them all well down below the threshold. I turn the monitors up for mixing, and down for mastering (the reference tracks demand that you do this!)
      It’s all about relevance. I’m following Graham’s advice with clip gain on entire tracks vs adjusting any automation as well if one track in particular is too hot. This preserves my initial automation adjustments on volume relative to the track itself, as well. I use Alloy2 in the mixing stage and sweeping is definitely one of the advantages of the program.

  6. Iain G

    Hey Graham, love the site. All your tips are awesome. However I do have one tiny gripe with this article. Of the 3 ways you mention in the “Turning your tracks down” section one of them might not be the best advice for the novice mixer. Particularly the idea of “turning down the faders” to preserve headroom. While that may help in terms of the volume of tracks hitting the mixbuss it seems to encourage recording at hotter levels and therefore improper gain staging throughout the mix. If you simply turn down the faders on an otherwise too loud clip or track you are still hitting all your plugins at possibly too high a level and could lose some air and punch and the general glue and feel of a good mix, not to mention most plugins save for a few are optimized for levels around -18dB.

    I think I remember seeing a gain staging article on your site that went over good levels to record and mix at so maybe you’re assuming people are already following that previous advice. I just wouldn’t want someone who only sees this one article to get the wrong message. I’m really sorry if I was out of line with this comment. I really do love all your valuable advice.

  7. Rich Airchess

    some subtle Low-pass filtering can certainly help as well, I usually don’t go much lower than 13k (depending on the track of course). Really helps warm up toms, top snare head (considering you have a some bottom head mic to balance), and can help clarify the 5k-7k area on the kick drum.

    a word of caution, even if you have too much high freq. in the OHs or hi hat mics, low-pass may help some, but i’ve realized that manipulating the highs out of these too much will only accentuate highs on other tracks and could make vocals and guitars harsh and unpleasant! keep it subtle, simon.

  8. Geir

    As far as I know the headroom-thing is not true when it comes to a floating-point-system like Reaper has implemented. You can peak far above 0dbfs and still have no trouble -just turn down your masterfader.
    Some plugins however react different to different levels, and thus it’s good practice to have an rms around 15-18dbfs, and peaks somewhere between 15-8dbfs.

      • Jeff Nucci

        You can solve this issue by outputting a “dimed” track to an aux track. not a send but the whole output. Floating point software ads as much headroom as you need. You’re both right about plugins needing a correct signal. That’s where the aux track comes in. In fact, if you’ve written volume automation (i.e fader rides) you need to output that to an aux to gain back your master fader for that track as well as the ability to compress the output before being sent to the master bus. GREAT website by the way. Really helping my mixes get clearer.

  9. Todd C

    The way I like to look at it is that every bit doubles the recording resolution. So if you record a 24-bit track and your peaks are only halfway to the maximum, you essentially have 23 bits of resolution on your recording. Drop the fader halfway when mixing and you give up another bit and you’re down to 22. Since the end game is most likely going to be a 16-bit CD or MP3, you’ve got plenty of extra room to work with. Even if you both record and mix at 1/4 of the maximum level, you still have 20 bits of resolution left, which is 4 bits (or 16 times) greater than you need at the end of the mastering process.

  10. J Maglo

    I love this advice. I have been mixing for a little over a year but I have been a musician for the past 15. Your videos and advice are overwhelmingly relevant and effective. Definitely broadens your subscribers technical knowledge with easy to understand application. I have been recording much lower and Gainstaging which is giving me less bass heavy vocals which are now coming in somewhere around -5db. I even used trim plugins on my older mixes and it gave them more headroom which allowed the vocals to naturally expand and sound full without occupying too much space. I use StudioOne Presonus to track vocals and this is really true with this DAW but you gotta be courageous to record low and take control!!!! But I make tracks with FruityLoops. This program doesn’t have the same problem because the max output for every channel in the patten roll is 0db. Is that right? I know plugins can push that past it but I haven’t noticed and real peak metering in FL?!?! I could be wrong but I don’t mix or create loud. I save it for my amateur mastering lol.

    I would appreciate some advice on a couple topics which I have learned improve my sound and increase my headroom giving me a full sound. 1: Signalflow 2: Panning techniques (eliminates a lot off crowding and muddyness w/o alot of plugins and vocal editing. 3: properly stacking your plugins 4: Simplifying mixes through Mix Bus and stereo plugins (these plugins are powerful enough people!!! 4: Review of the Kramer Master Tape Plugin 4: when can we do lunch? My treat!!!

    Cheers from Baltimore!!! Stay blessed

  11. John

    Hey Graham,

    Love the site, and I can’t even tell you how much value I have gained from your tutorials. Uber-good stuff!

    I have a question…or two…

    When you’re fiddling around with the mid-low cuts and do your sweep, do you have a go-to Q setting to start with? And does that Q setting generally remain the same when you make your cut on the annoying frequency?

  12. Joe

    This is a great tip. One thing that has helped me get better headroom overall is to turn my monitors up. Huh? Once you turn up your monitors you no longer need to increase gain to hear your tracks and you realize that you will mix at a lower overall level. For example, I used to mix my drums to peak at -3db. Now my snare and kick never exceed -7db and when readying tracks for mastering there is that much headroom for the mastering engineer to work with.

    • Kirawa

      Agree with Joe. Turn up the monitor levels instead of increasing the fader levels of the instruments. Gives more headroom to work around.
      My overall mix nowadays doesn’t exceed the -6 to -7dB mark.

      Great mixing article as always Graham! Cheers.

  13. Juan

    Hey Graham! Great post, I have 2 questions:
    1) After you’ve found the offending bandwidth and cutting it with EQ, you mention A/B comparison. Do you also increase gain accordingly to match the perceived level the track had per-EQ?

    2) What is the average peak level on your mixes before the mastering stage? I’m usually bouncing anywhere from -12dB to-15dB I haven’t had complaints yet but I wonder if I’m overdoing it.

    • Graham

      Hi Juan, I generally don’t add gain back if using subtractive EQ. Less gain is never a bad thing in my mind 🙂 Plus I tend to compress after EQ and the level could come back up a bit.

      My average levels on a mix peak anywhere between -12 and -6.

  14. Jeff

    Always love the extra info on headroom but what I liked about this post with the other stuff you had about the Hi-Pass and the Midrange stuff. Nice tips and since I’m a junky for headroom…..does that make me a Headhead?

    I dovetail in to this other things you’ve said about the input and getting it as right at the recording stage as possible.

    I mean, being largely a guitar player, in my ‘metal’ days, it was all about huge tone…massive, monster, chunky tone. That doesn’t always translate to massive, chunky tone at the recording stage. Sometimes ya gotta dial back the mid and let the stereo mix and bass guitar do the heavy lifting.

  15. Andres

    “No es bueno” 🙂 gracias por el español amigo Graham! saludos desde Argentina.

  16. Vega

    Really like your stuff, Graham, but what’s with all this dislike against 200- 500 khz?
    I can see how mic placement, bad room treatment and such can make these frequencies sound muddy, but I think they are as important as any other region of the sound spectrum.
    Think of all the car stereos, ear buds, televisions, travel radios of which these are the lowest frequencies.
    My ride and ukulele loves a bit of 200 – 300 hz.

    Not that I haven’t cut some 200 hz off a kick before : )

    • Robert V

      A little reference trick I’ve started using for myself at the mastering stage (where subtlety is KING) is to make a wav of my mastered track, drop it into my desktop and listen to to it with earbuds using my comp’s media player. Using the onboard eq for my computer’s audio output, I set it to flat across the board. Using only my ears I adjust the bands on the eq to make the song sound as best as possible on the tiny earbuds. Once I know the song sounds its best I can look at the curvature/waveform of the eq and get a snapshot of where any frequency bands could use some attention – particularly where the result of my tweaking results in some subtraction. I can then return to my mastering eq and perhaps make subtle, general adjustments that favor the eq curve I ended up with on the earbud mix. (Just make sure you have no processing in your audio when referencing!)

      The reality is that the earbud/headphone mix is what most people will listen to on a daily basis more than anything. Once I’ve made the minor adjustments to my master and play it back through my monitors it always still sounds great. Usually I’ve found that the 200-500hz (muddy) spectrum is the culprit, and I just attenuate a little in that area if necessary.

  17. Hein

    Hi Graham. I love your tips, and thank you. I’m just a rookie old man trying to mix on Sonar, but I found that in a instrument / vocal mix, one should do less tinkering around 500Hz on the vocals than on the instruments. Don’t know why. Maybe it depends on what kind of voice.

  18. brian

    Hi Graham, I’ve a question: what do you mean by “use clip based gain to lower track volumes”? I’m not sure what that means. Thank you.

    • Hein

      Sorry to but in, guys. I thought , like on Sonar, one can insert a clip gain envelope, which varies volume. Acts like a fader.

    • Graham

      Many DAWS allow you to turn down the actual audio wave on the track BEFORE it goes through the mixer section. On the clip level (the audio clip that is).

      • brian

        Ah, thank you. I’m using protools9. Could you tell me where to find that please? I’ll figure out the rest from there. Thanks Graham.

          • Brian

            hmmm…that would explain why I couldn’t find it. lol… I don’t feel so defeated now. No biggie. Just forces me to get it right from the start. *silver lining moment* =)

  19. Raf

    This might sound stupid. I left headroom for mastering. Now when I master how to I bring it back up to 0Db?

    • J Maglo

      If I could interject a little advice.

      BE CAREFUL!!! You might not wanna master the track back up to 0db. Maybe a -10 to a -6db RMS. The only reason is that you gotta still leave some headroom for End Users!!! Plus RMS is different than a normal level, it’s your average output overall. If your average is 0 or even close, its toooo hot!You wanna average about a -6 (at the loudest!!!) on the loudest parts of your song ie. the hook typically. There is nothing worse that making a mix louder with a limiter and then realizing that when people turn it up to their liking it gets distorted.

      That was my problem for a while mastering. Always remember, mastering brings vibrancy and coherency as well as volume. But when you over compensate then you’re really hurting the master. Mix low and then Master conservatively. 0db is unity and being under that is always a good place. Let your listeners turn it up that loud. Not you.

      We make music for other people and they gotta be able to turn it up!!!!

      Cheers from Baltimore,
      Stay Blessed!!!

    • cafenitro

      Audacity has an “amplify” effect that quickly and automatically brings your WAV file up to the loudest non-clipping level. I always end up using that in my mastering.

  20. Justin J

    Hello Graham,

    Very thankful for you all your advice and tips!

    I have something that is driving me crazy though, I cant seem to get my vocals to sound mono. I am using a condenser mic running into a Duet 2 but when I listen to my vocals they are just so WIDE! I am trying my hardest to get a mix where my vocals are directly over a bass in the middle with a wide synthesizer almost hugging my vocals but it sounds like my vocals are just as wide as the synth. Its so fustrating! Any advice would be greatly appreciated 🙂

    • Vega

      Do you use any kind of stereo reverb or effects?
      Maybe it’s a wiring thing or maybe your synthesizer is using many of the same frequencies as you vocal and it’s hard to distinguish them.

    • J Maglo

      I had that problem for a while and I couldn’t understand why my panning or lack there of did nothing. Be sure your recording on a Mono Track #1 (Don’t feel patronized lol) #2 If your using an Aux or Mix Bus and not using stereo effects on your Aux for your Mono inputs you bussed, the stereo effects will cancel out any mono panning, spreading, centering ect. Use mono effects on mono inputs and stereo effects on your (Stereo)MixBus or Aux tracks that you send the tracks to. Otherwise…idk that weird dude.

      Cheers from Baltimore,
      Stay Blessed

      • Justin J

        Thanks for all the replies guys. I was sending my mono track output to a aux and using stereo effects on the aux.

  21. zweibeh

    I read about this before but I never payed that much attention to it.

    So I did a litte before and after for myself.
    The result is really amazing. The Song got really clear and also all Tracks are working better together. It sounds way more professionell now just with some EQ work. Amazing!

    Thanks Graham.

  22. Nathan

    Thanks for this great article, but what is the importance of bit depth for a beginner ? If I understand correctly, it frees up more headroom. Is spending more money on (my very first) a 24 bit audio interface, (something like M-Audio FastTrack pro) worth it ? or a cheaper 16 bit audio interface(I’m looking at the ART dual pre USB) is OK for now ? This is limiting my options (n.1 rule 😀 ) or am I better off saving a bit more money ?
    Thanks again !

    • Graham

      Hi Nathan, I would recommend getting a 24 bit interface. They are so affordable these days. It’s worth it.

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    You have ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day.

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  25. Mark

    Post is a little old, so I’m hoping this may get an answer, but I’ve been reading a lot on this lately and wanting to follow the -18dbFS = 0db rule. On a current project I’m working on, some of my stuff hits -8db in my DAW(Logic Pro X). I thought about throwing a trim plugin on the channel and turning it down, but you mention clip gain. Would one be better than the other to use for bringing volume down? Does one have an advantage over the other?

    Love the side, Graham. Thank you so much for all you put into it.

  26. Abhishek Gupta

    Hello Graham,Also can you tell us that which frequencies should i cut in high range which doesn’t do anything on vocals as well as on other instruments.And also as you said cut of the frequencies listed in this post to make great mixing tracks and free up headroom,can you also tell us that which frequencies should i boost in low,mid,high range to get nice warmth and clarity without Naselness.And Also Both For Voice Overs As well as Vocals (Male Vocals).Thank You

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  30. Rik Snuiverink

    Hey Graham,

    Thanks for the tips. I am going to be sharing them on my website in the facebook comments section. Will be linking to this page of course. Do you mind?

    I created a free ableton live course. In one of the lessons headroom (mastering) is discussed see the website here : http://www.999tracks.com/video/283. Do you have any suggestions maybe for a beginner? I will definitely keep coming back to this website for more information. Keep up the good work not only on this website but on youtube as well. Love reading the emails I get from you. Bye

  31. Jurado

    I was hoping for advice regarding gain staging… My understanding is: to avoid feeding insert plugins a signal that is too hot, which can overload the master output, we lower each tracks audio signal before it enters any plugins or fader? To do this correctly I require a ‘VU’ meter which reads a particular signal that needs to be reduced to -18dbFS?… So, if for example I had a 24 bit vocal recording with: RMS -16.50dB and True Peak: -8.30dB. How do I use this information to decide what gain staging to apply and how do I apply this? Thanks again for this guide DG and hopefuly folks can advice me.

  32. Patrick

    This post was super helpful. Was dealing with a really thorny mix problem that I had wasted hours on and cutting the whole mix at 300 really cleared it up. Thanks!

  33. Vic Stathopoulos

    I find doing low pass filtering helps also. I usually reduce the bass. I also sometimes high pass filter the reverb in the buss. Sometimes when I am mixing sometimes experiment with the master fader I either move it slightly up say 2db and mix the song that way. Once you nearly complete your mix you put the master back to zero and adjust the volumes if required. This works sometimes, but not all the time. I use Logic Pro and I like to add a multimeter plugin at the end of the plug in chain, this gives me an idea of the gain structure. I make sure it doesn’t go past – 3db because after that it can hit the read and it does not sound too good. Until I found out about the need of more headroom for years I battled distorted mixes or the mixes would not sound that clear. By doing suggestions in the articles it would definitely help with clearer and more defined mixes.

  34. SVRKM

    I’d recommend mixing with healthy dynamics BUT to use as much of your headroom as possible (peaks at -0,5 dBFS).
    Every 6dB under 0 dBFS (clipping) you lose 1 bit (= lesser quality)

    • Graham

      This doesn’t make any sense. There is no quality loss from a quieter to louder signal in a modern DAW.

    • Brett

      Yeah….. Aside from the obvious differences that higher gain can make for certain types of tracking the only other place I am aware of that this principle concept could be applicable is with cheap cymbals in which you have to smack the crap out of to get the actual “wash” sound of the cymbal to even occur. Maybe there was a typographical glitch of sorts causing B8 to show up as the topic instead of DAW 😉

      Haha, just kidding. Though that concept seems a bit contradictory to me I’m open minded. “~ 6dB < 0dBFS = -1bit" would appear to be a fully extrapolated and finite formula that someone, somewhere has taken the time to calculate… So fact or fiction I'm interested to know more about it and it's origins. I would think surely if someone had put forth the efforts to conclude that to be a viably legitimate equation it must at least have some correlational value relative to the topic at hand. I have come to find that often my biggest strides in the development of my knowledge in regards to such things comes inadvertently as I more or less accidentally ascertain a working concept of something entirely different than that of which it was that I originally set forth to. In fact, I dare say that most of histories greatest components of new knowledge, concepts, or even inventions come as an unintended byproduct or development of sorts in which was based purely on something that already exists. Like if no one had ever seen the color purple before how in the world would someone invent it by thinking it up!? (If someone can think up a brand-new color they should recieve some majorly deserved cool points!) Just as a scenario as basic and simple as a red crayon and a blue crayon on a table could facilitate the development of knowledge and provide potential for a newly implemented creation to be used by that person who has never seen purple before I can't help but to wonder about this formula's origin and application. Or maybe I am absolutely incorrect in my assumption that this particular equation is invalid and there is nothing more to it than that. Or, the third option; it wasn't intended to be a formula at all and I misinterpreted what you were trying to convey as a loose, general concept. If it is an actual equation to be applied to bit degradation and is used in the mechanics of digital audio I would very much appreciate any direction that you may be able to give me in order to find out more.

      (sorry for the long explanation rather than just simply asking you where you acquired that specific bit of knowledge. I just wanted to make sure my sincerity was apparent and that it did not appear as if I was making fun of the concept or you in any way.)

  35. MaestroPhil

    Hi Graham and members. Just after reading the above was very interesting and made me think of a few related things to loudness etc. I know from the old days recording to tape it was always a good policy to obtain the best signal level for every instrument because you needed to avoid having too
    much empty headroom that would add noise. That was cool because you could always turn things down in the mix.
    With mixing in the box digitally i find with using midi to instrument plug in’s for example after getting the required level so it sits in the mix nicely with other instruments 9 times out of 10 it is a lot lower in level than possible but sounds perfect. To save cpu if I am really happy with it I will bounce the plug in instrument down but always keep the midi just in case I need to go back.
    I carry on this way with others until finished. When I mix towards the mastering stage most of the instrument bounces have to be tweaked with volume, eq and pan but most stay relatively near to what they were before in level. What I’m trying to get at is sometimes the waves can be quite small to look at but i do not experience any noise as in the digital domain.
    But I do wonder if there is any difference in bouncing down a low level instrument track but sits right there nice in the mix or should I have the instrument louder before I bounce although after it’s bounced I would have had to turn the level down very much in some circumstances.
    I hope that makes sense, bit of a tricky one to explain!!

    • Graham

      In Pro Tools you can adjust the size of the waveforms without actually turning them up or down. It is a waveform zoom feature. Not sure what DAW you are using but maybe it has something similar!

  36. Warren

    Thanks Graham. I have a pop/rock mix that is currently peaking at about -7db with a HUGE range. It has quiet string sections at the start and then progressively instruments come in so at the end bass, drums, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, piano, vocals (and still strings) and everything.

    The only mastering I am using is Ozone 5 maximizer with IRC III (none of the other Ozone modules), and then after this J37 tape simulation. Earlier I was using L2 ultramaximizer at the end of the chain to give it that final boost but now I am exploring using Ozone maximizer to do the whole job of limiting.

    My question is this. When keeping the mix peaks at below -7dbs I have to pull the threshhold on Ozone maximizer down to -10db to get a mastered track at about the right overall loudness and dynamic range for me. -13db RMS and -0.3db peaks with a nice shaped wave file that shows the loudness toward the end of the song. Some forums indicate this is pushing the maximizer too hard.

    To push the maximizer threshold less hard (say -8db), I can simply raise my faders so the mix is peaking at about -4db. To MY slightly hearing impaired ears both end results sound the same. Which do you suspect would be the wiser choice for ears that can pick up on the subtleties? More maximizer and the mix with the lower peaks. Less maximizer and the mix with the higher peaks?

  37. Maris

    Hi! How about Volume levels in Windows? Is it better to leave them to Max or not? I’m talking about Volume mixer on Windows computers.
    Thanks! 🙂



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