Courtesy of Mau...
(Keep in mind that this was sent to me over the span of 3 e-mails.)
"Yeah, its crazy. I've been doing more testing and research than I ever have on mixing lately. Reading the Bob Katz books on mastering, playing with compressors and EQs. Testing, doing phase cancellation tests between plugins to see if one produces a better sound than another. But this, is so simple, and helps your mix a lot. So why turn it down? Because you want room for the dynamics - the punch, the attack. YOU CAN NOT HAVE PUNCH AND ATTACK IF THERE IS NO SILENCE OR LOW VOLUME NOISE!!!!!
"If everything is loud, then nothing is loud" - Mau (Kamau Washington)
A lot of people don't seem to get this, and push the levels to close to or at 0 before the master bus because they think it sounds better - when in reality, it sounds louder. If your mix sounds like crap at low volumes, then it is exactly that. GO FIX IT WHILE ITS LOW!!! :-)Download this (it is free)...
Then put it on one of your channels or the whole mix bus for that matter. See what level you have to pull the fader(s) down to, to get the VU meter to peak at 0db. This, believe it or not, is the level you SHOULD mix at. Usually at around -12db.
This is the starting point, start here, it will sound low, it should, if you want your kick louder- guess what - now you have room! You can push it up above -12, compress it, do what ever. But start here. If it sounds good at -12db, it will be a crisp a** clean a** mix once you throw a limiter or compressor at the end.
If you want your mix loud - turn up the monitor OUTPUT (not the master fader in your DAW) to the speakers on a mixer/Big Knob/Dangerous Music Monitor/Presonus Monitor - or adjust the level setting on the back of your speakers.
Also, note that all digital DA conversion stops at 0db, keep it way under that, your ears will thank you for it when you are 60. To keep your ears sane and a "fresh" ear while mixing, ALWAYS change the output volume while mixing. Turn it up then mix, turn it down then mix, turn it down lower, turn it up really loud, turn it down, repeat randomly. Doing it this way, your ears can't adjust to the mix making each pass fresh. Your ears are your best and your worse enemy, they can filter out noises due to prolonged play, don't let them do that. TRUST ME ON THIS, for those who have heard my mixes (not track outs), know that I'm not bullsh*tting :-)
I forgot to mention - (I know its long, but if somebody told me this sh*t 4 years ago, I'd be more of a beast!)
1) The level I am referring to is on the master bus/fader (pre limiter)
2) On the VU meter, the calibration on the back of the PSP vintage meter for the OVU Level reference, set it to -20. You can do this by clicking on the PSP Vintage meter on the bottom, you can get the front back by clicking the center. -18 to -22 level ref is standard for post production (film) due to the amount of compression needed for television broadcast btw. When I said -12db, this is the average level (RMS) not peak on the digital meter. All DAWs let you specify or some show you the RMS, use that as your level for mixing, not the peak. Another reason to mix with -20db = 0VU, because you have tons of headroom for transients (the dynamics, the attacks, the punch)
You can use any metering plugin for this (shown in the attachment)...If you think the PSP vintage meter is too hard - try the Sonalksis free G (its free) and mix with the RMS around -12db on the master bus...
Also to note, to those who think that doing it this way will make your drums louder than everything once you raise them and your instruments will sound small. It will, which is what you want for the drums, but, squashing instruments and getting a louder level on the instruments independent of the drums is easier than squashing drums with compression.
So trick no.2 : compress and or limit in stems (all drums & bass together, all vocals, all synths, all strings, all pads, all leads, all guitars, all samples as individual groups). You can in effect if done right make your music 6db louder than current and way punchier by starting lower :-)And for the gear sluts, I ran my tests through one of these from an engineer at TreeSounds ->
My levels and average sound were on par with the raw mixes (no limiter) from their engineers when metered on PSP and on the MQ. So, that should tell you something :-)
Email 3 -----------------------------------------------------
They (Bob Katz, and other mastering engineers) were right the whole time.
1) Export your mix with an RMS of -12db. It will look like a wimpy piece of sh*t in a waveform editor.
2) Then bring it back into the audio program.
3) Now raise the volume on that track in the DAW,
4) Slap a compressor/limiter with limiting to taste (no distortion - you don't always need a limiter btw) and damn.
LOUD AND CRISP AS F*CK!!!!!
Better than mix mastering (mixing through a limiter or trying to fix a mix with Waves L1-L3 - like most people do)
I guess the two stage mix is important.
So I figured, why don't I run that -12db rms mix through the Avalon 737 using the avalon's pres and back into the computer, and HOLY F*CK!!!!! Ok, they were right again. I never noticed a difference when I was metering using peak and running through the avalon. I'm not even using the avalon's compressor or eq, just the pre-amps to boost the signal!
Running it through the Avalon, makes the L1-L3 look like sh*t. Also, I ran the signal through my mackie board, and believe it or not, its quite nice as well - on a mackie? Yes on a mackie?. Mind you this is through crappy converters on a Delta 1010, and it still sounds good.
So the -12 RMS / Re-import / Digital or Analog Amplification - is a nice mixing process.
To those who think this is over their head, ask me questions! I wish someone had explained it all to me a while back. One thing I've learned is that, perfecting ones craft requires constant study. And that is what I'm doing, something that I feel I forgot to do while chasing the dream of making music for the masses... Now, its just for me and those I believe in :-)"