6 Replies Latest reply: May 16, 2012 10:31 AM by rsherid
rsherid Level 1 (0 points)

1. How many dB's should I export at before mastering? I've heard -3 to -4 is best.


2. When mixing, is it best to use headphones or studio monitors or both?

  • Christoph Drösser Level 6 (11,275 points)

    Do you master within GB or somewhere else? Since in GB you don't really see the dBs, I think the best way is still to max out the master meter without clipping (that would result in peaks being close to 0 dB). If the person who masters wants a different level, it's a piece of cake to normalize the output later in an audio editor - and the quality is better than exporting at a lower level and then blowing it up.


    As for the mixing: for stuff that is supposed to be published commercially, headphones certainly aren't enough - you should mix your stuff with good studio monitors, but also run it through a variety of cheap speakers to get a feeling how it will sound to people in a realistic environment.

  • oz-macnut Level 1 (35 points)

    I agree with Christoph - get a good set of headphones for recording, but mix/master with studio monitors.


    I read somewhere about modern mastering being finalised with a lot of compression (very little dynamics) and exported at peak of -0.3 dB. I don't like a lot of modern music, because it shouts at you (there is no dynamics).  Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter" is a good example of great dynamic range.


    From experience, make sure you have a Compressor or Dynamics Processor as the final link in your Garageband Master Track effects panel.


    Suggest exporting your track and have Garageband normalise the track to be at the highest level before clipping. It's in Garageband preferences: Garageband > Preferences | Advanced | "Auto Normalize"


    If you export your track to a CD, test it out in the car, on a crappy stereo, on an ipod - anything that will show up issues with your mix. Case in point are bass and kick drums that don't have enough "snap" to make them stand out on smaller speakers, like that crappy stereo I mentioned ;-)


    Mastering can take days/weeks to get right, so be patient and just keep experimenting!


    Good luck and have fun!


    - oz

  • PDX Celloman Level 1 (0 points)

    Suggest exporting your track and have Garageband normalise the track to be at the highest level before clipping. It's in Garageband preferences: Garageband > Preferences | Advanced | "Auto Normalize"


    I'm having issues with Auto Normalize. Even tho Apple says it's a way to "increase the loudness if needed so the project is not too quiet," I found that with a file I sent to iTunes, it actually toned down the overall volume so it lacked the "build" I had carefully constructed by adding tracks and making sure they didn't clip.


    I ended up using the AU Dynamics Processor to keep the overall volume I wanted and eliminate the peaks. Exporting to iTunes gave me a piece with much better dynamic range.

  • oz-macnut Level 1 (35 points)


    Note that if your track or song has just one millisecond of peaking, or clipping, Garageband's Auto Normalize feature will actually "tone down" the volume. Normalizing is doing just what it's name suggests: it makes the softer track louder, and makes the louder track softer to keep the average perceived loudness the same throughout the track.


    Christophe also notes in this thread: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/2214101?start=0&tstart=0

    Use whatever works for you. Suggest using the effects plugins would be better, and leave auto normalize turned off.


    iTunes also has a feature called "Sound Check" which will both boost and buck all the songs in your library to keep them all the same perceived loudness.

  • PDX Celloman Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks - it's good to get confirmation of my experience. I had looked at Hangtime's Bullets and Bones FAQ, but missed the part you refer to at the bottom.


    Wish Apple would make it a bit more clear as well, instead of leaving it up to you guys.

  • rsherid Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks for the tips. I have a professional mastering house that does all that for me, but with my last CD, I sent them the mixes and, while they came back OK, the mastering felt different from the way the original mix was. For example, they seemed to have given the songs a "streaming" quality (ex: like streaming Internet radio). Additonally, the songs were all at slighly different volumes because I had to adjust each song's peak dB's differently (ranged from -5 to -12).


    This is all to say that I probably just need better mixes. Should I add the master compressor before having it mastered? I've tried Auto Normalize before, but it still wasn't loud enough so I exported using a third party app (Audio Hijack) and normalized and boosted volume through Audacity.