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CD Final levels

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LandofNid
CD Final levels
on Feb 1, 2006 at 1:25:42 pm

Hi, I need to master an audio magazine show which consists of spoken voice. There is a little music to tie speakers together and this will be posted on the net for download as well as be available in a conventional CD. I used Peak to limit, soapsoap, and normalize the tracks. They sound great. I am now putting together the final mix in Deck. What level is the proper output level for a CD and/or a web program that will downloaded? I was taught the sweet spot of analog audio is between 8 and 4. Right now my program is hitting at 6. Is this correct or am I way off target here with the proper levels? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


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Seth Bloombaum
Re: CD Final levels
on Feb 1, 2006 at 6:19:36 pm

Most engineers would suggest somewhere between -3db and -0.3db.

You don't want anything over 0db in digital, not even momentary peaks, such is destructive of your sound.


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Ty Ford
Re: CD Final levels
on Feb 2, 2006 at 9:50:32 pm

I always turn mine up to eleven, with compression and then limiting.

Regards,

Ty Ford



Ty Ford's "Audio Bootcamp Field Guide" was written for video people who want better audio. Find out more at http://www.tyford.com


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LandofNid
Re: CD Final levels
on Feb 3, 2006 at 1:27:48 pm

Thanks for everyone's quick response. From my research, and from what I've read here there seems to be no set levels. Am I correct here? Is it all subjective? You set your program level at -11 correct? My program is set to an average level of -6. Most of the program falls between -8 and -4. I listened to a burned test CD in my car and it sounded great. I didn't need to turn it up to hear it clearly. I tried playing it in my computer, and CD player and I found the levels seem to be just right.
However is there a set standard on what the levels should be on a spoken voice CD. And are there a set of agreed upon levels for voice recording that will be downloaded over the net?

So in fact I wondering do I need two different mixes at different volumes on the digital meter. Thanks!


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Seth Bloombaum
Re: CD Final levels
on Feb 3, 2006 at 5:13:05 pm

ummm... no.

I think Ty was referring to the incomparable movie "This is Spinal Tap", where, the lead guitarist said he "turns his amp up to 11".

Or maybe I'm misinterpreting Ty. He does mention compression and limiting. Mastering is the final process of preparing an audio program for replication and distribution. Final levels will be determined, as well as dynamic range. Compression, limiting, volume maximization are just a few of the processes used in Mastering that affect dynamic range.

My car is quite loud. I shouldn't have to turn my radio up to 11 to hear the quiet passages of a piece of music only to be blasted when all the instruments are playing. (At least for music someone expects me to listen to in my car.) So, an audio engineer mastering a recording for my car will use a smaller dynamic range, accomplished with compression. This squashes the volume of louder content, allowing the whole program to be turned up louder without exceeding 0db. The effect is that quiet passages are now louder.

If you rip a pop music CD and look at it on your digital meters, you'll see a *very* narrow dynamic range. A classical CD - a much broader range. Folk - it depends. This isn't just the composition and instruments, it's how the recordings were mastered.

Details of mastering could be many hours or days of study, some people do only mastering as their full-time job.

You're right - there are no hard-and-fast standards. However, you want it heard. I'd not peak at -11db, and I don't think Ty was suggesting that for replication and distribution (could be wrong about that). Most say peaks -3 to -0.3db as you go to CD or encode for the web. How loud the quieter material should be is a judgement call, based on the content. You want it to sound like it should.


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Ty Ford
Re: CD Final levels
on Feb 3, 2006 at 5:39:39 pm

I was. :)

I peak everything at -.1 dB. I also use a lot of processing to make it loud, but not distorted.

Regards,

Ty Ford



Ty Ford's "Audio Bootcamp Field Guide" was written for video people who want better audio. Find out more at http://www.tyford.com


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David Jones
Re: CD Final levels
on Feb 4, 2006 at 12:01:55 am

Well as silly as it sounds, I like mine to be around 10.5, Not 11 like Ty does....... ;)

I run my max just a little under where Ty sets his max, but probably use the same type tools to get a more finished sound, like multi-band compression as well as limiting for final mix.

But as Ty said, for CD, you want your max output level to peak under digital 0.


Good Luck with your projuct!


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LandofNid
Re: CD Final levels
on Feb 7, 2006 at 1:13:37 pm

Thanks everyone for the responses. When I premastered in Peak I used a limiter to bring the levels to -2. When I brought those cleaned/limited tracks into Deck the levels on the master levels were down around -6. They have the same audio levels to my ear when I compare them to the way they sound in Peak . Does Deck have lower a lower level output than peak? or is there a -10 and +4 setting in the preferences somwhere. I am refering to the master output levels in Deck. I use Deck 3.5 Any thoughts on this issue?
I'm thinking about creating two mixes to show my boss...one with the levels at -6 and one with the levels limiting to -3/0.


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LandofNid
Re: Deck metering issue?
on Feb 7, 2006 at 9:21:26 pm

I completed my experiment. I created two final mixes. One mix with an audio level around 6, and mix two with a level brought up to -2. (Both levels refer to the master meter levels in Deck) I finished the mix bounced both and saved them as AIFF files. I opened the finished tracks and the mix one sounds great. Mix two distorts. I opened both AIFF files in Peak to look at the meters. Mix one hits around -2 during the whole program. Mix two level distorts most of the time...(Using up all the one and zeros...boo hoo hoo..)
So is deck overall meter not accurate or is it set at -10? I looked through the manual included with Deck 3.5 and it doesn't mention changing hardware levels anywhere nor in the windows under preferences is it listed. I've always used Protools or sonar to master audio. This is my first run with Deck. Does anyone know what is up with the levels on Deck?


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