Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

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lunabass
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Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by lunabass » Thu May 10, 2012 10:17 am

this has often puzzled me and i'm hoping someone can explain why (in about 50% of the tracks i sign to labels) my pre-mastered mix needs to be at -6dbfs for mastering. the standard response i've had from labels is "so our mastering engineer has plenty of headroom to work with", to me that makes no sense.

in my mind it doesnt matter if i present them with a mix at -1db or -8db, my dynamic range is going to be the same. if they were talking about dynamic range i'd understand.

it doesnt make sense either if they use analogue hardware as part of their mastering chain. if that was the case surely it would be required at -20dbfs (0VU)

i'm sure i'm missing something here, can someone give me a practical reason?
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icedsushi
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Re: Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by icedsushi » Thu May 10, 2012 10:54 am

Yeah I don't get this either. What's the difference if they lower the fader of a -2db mix & render that to -6db themselves or if you do that before sending it to them.

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Re: Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by synnack » Thu May 10, 2012 12:37 pm

lunabass wrote:this has often puzzled me and i'm hoping someone can explain why (in about 50% of the tracks i sign to labels) my pre-mastered mix needs to be at -6dbfs for mastering. the standard response i've had from labels is "so our mastering engineer has plenty of headroom to work with", to me that makes no sense.

in my mind it doesnt matter if i present them with a mix at -1db or -8db, my dynamic range is going to be the same. if they were talking about dynamic range i'd understand.
It is exactly to provide headroom to work with. Your dynamic range should be much different if you leave headroom. Tarekith and I are dating. At a lower level the engineer has room to apply effects that boost the levels before the whole thing starts clipping. If you send it loud, and the engineer wants to, let's say, boost the high end, now the song is clipping because you gave no headroom. You should never compress or brick wall limit the track before sending it to be mastered, you should turn it down instead.
Last edited by synnack on Thu May 10, 2012 1:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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andydes
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Re: Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by andydes » Thu May 10, 2012 1:00 pm

So mastering engineers are incapable of turning the level down before it passes through whatever fancy pants effects they have?

As long as it's not clipping and has plenty of dynamic range, they should be able to work with it. At least that's what logic suggests (not the program).

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Re: Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by Khazul » Thu May 10, 2012 1:48 pm

I tell my co-producer to bounce his stems for me to mix such that he doesnt see anything above about -12dB peak and thats to ensure that clipped peaks are very unlikely - I would guess mastering engineers are giving out this general advice to provide something that is easily watched on your meters such that you are unlikely to end up with the occasional clipped peak.

Its just a simple recommendation that avoids discussions and confusion over normalising etc.
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Re: Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by synnack » Thu May 10, 2012 1:49 pm

andydes wrote:So mastering engineers are incapable of turning the level down before it passes through whatever fancy pants effects they have?

As long as it's not clipping and has plenty of dynamic range, they should be able to work with it. At least that's what logic suggests (not the program).
"plenty of dynamic range" is exactly the point. If someone exports their track with less than -6db of headroom, there will not be enough dynamic range. A squashed file, turned down using a fader when mastering, is not the same thing as exporting a file with more headroom. If you export louder than -6db, with dynamic range, and without clipping, you will smashing the file which is a destructive act that a mastering engineer can't reverse. Logic requires this (not the program).
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Re: Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by synnack » Thu May 10, 2012 1:53 pm

Khazul wrote:Its just a simple recommendation that avoids discussions and confusion over normalising etc.
No. it's to ensure there is enough headroom to be able to do anything.

For example, I just recently mastered a remix EP. The artist sent me the original song without much headroom. The highs were lacking. It was a really dull mix. I wanted to boost a specific frequency range however without headroom doing so would cause the file to distort because there was no headroom to allow for this.

Another track, the artist had obviously compressed it. There was a 5 second bit towards the end with tons of low end that was distorting. There was nothing i could do to fix that. Simply turning the fader down when mastering wouldn't fix it, that over compression is printed in the file that was sent.

NEED HEADROOM.
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Tarekith
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Re: Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by Tarekith » Thu May 10, 2012 1:57 pm

The -6 is peak, not rms, and yes it's just a ROUGH guideline we recommend to people, not a firm requirement. Doesn't matter if its -2 or -8, but -6 is just a safe number to aim for awhile doing the mixdown.

The only reason is to be sure there's no unintentional clipping in the song, with a little bit of headroom just to be safe.

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Re: Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by andydes » Thu May 10, 2012 2:30 pm

tempus3r wrote: For example, I just recently mastered a remix EP. The artist sent me the original song without much headroom. The highs were lacking. It was a really dull mix. I wanted to boost a specific frequency range however without headroom doing so would cause the file to distort because there was no headroom to allow for this.
In this case, why not just turn it down before boosting the highs. I don't see the difference between a producer using a normalised sample and a mastering engineer working on a complete track. It's not like you loose quality in a 64 bit float system by knocking off a couple of dbs.

The overcompression case is different of course.

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Re: Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by Tarekith » Thu May 10, 2012 2:41 pm

Or just turn down the input of the Eq. I agree, that example doesn't make much sense, but maybe he has his signal chain set up differently than I'm used to.

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Re: Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by icedsushi » Thu May 10, 2012 3:49 pm

tempus3r wrote:"plenty of dynamic range" is exactly the point. If someone exports their track with less than -6db of headroom, there will not be enough dynamic range. A squashed file, turned down using a fader when mastering, is not the same thing as exporting a file with more headroom. If you export louder than -6db, with dynamic range, and without clipping, you will smashing the file which is a destructive act that a mastering engineer can't reverse. Logic requires this (not the program).
Hmmm...I don't get it. I might be misunderstanding what you're saying but some of what you've posted seems to make sense & then other parts of it contradicting itself.

As long as you haven't processed (compressed or limited the final rendering), and all other things equal, having the highest peak level is actually giving you more dynamic range. (i.e. a mix ranging between -inf to -2db has a greater dynamic range than one of -inf to -6db.) So keeping the same mix & just turning down the master fader will actually reduce your dynamic range from the lowest bit to the highest bit. Additionally, the exact reading of the highest peak in the track is not enough information to indicate the dynamic range. The dynamic range is the difference between the highest & lowest levels across the whole track.

What are you referring to as "smashing" the track? Less bits because turning the master fader down & rendering that? That would seem to make sense. You agree not to export anything above -6db, but all (all other things equal) your reasoning for doing so is not true. Making sure that your peaks are below -6db doesn't increase your dynamic range, it reduces your dynamic range.

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Re: Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by savyurrecords » Thu May 10, 2012 4:57 pm

It sounds like you are over thinking this. It really is a good precaution to do to not have your mix full scale before mastering. You can do it however you want of course but there is a reason that the mastering guys do what they do.

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Re: Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by synnack » Thu May 10, 2012 5:05 pm

icedsushi wrote:
tempus3r wrote:"plenty of dynamic range" is exactly the point. If someone exports their track with less than -6db of headroom, there will not be enough dynamic range. A squashed file, turned down using a fader when mastering, is not the same thing as exporting a file with more headroom. If you export louder than -6db, with dynamic range, and without clipping, you will smashing the file which is a destructive act that a mastering engineer can't reverse. Logic requires this (not the program).
Hmmm...I don't get it. I might be misunderstanding what you're saying but some of what you've posted seems to make sense & then other parts of it contradicting itself.

As long as you haven't processed (compressed or limited the final rendering), and all other things equal, having the highest peak level is actually giving you more dynamic range. (i.e. a mix ranging between -inf to -2db has a greater dynamic range than one of -inf to -6db.) So keeping the same mix & just turning down the master fader will actually reduce your dynamic range from the lowest bit to the highest bit. Additionally, the exact reading of the highest peak in the track is not enough information to indicate the dynamic range. The dynamic range is the difference between the highest & lowest levels across the whole track.

What are you referring to as "smashing" the track? Less bits because turning the master fader down & rendering that? That would seem to make sense. You agree not to export anything above -6db, but all (all other things equal) your reasoning for doing so is not true. Making sure that your peaks are below -6db doesn't increase your dynamic range, it reduces your dynamic range.
Tarekith's comment explains the confusion. When I ask people to send things for mastering "with headroom" i am not talking about peak. I don't really care what the peak is at (so long as it's not clipping), to your point, thats relative. I care about RMS. I want tracks around -12db RMS and peaking around -1 (i.e. not clipping). If you're just talking about "don't PEAK above -6" then everything you've said makes sense.

This is one of those things harder to discuss by writing and so easy to just show.

I also woke up at 5am after going out in Las Vegas to catch a 7:30am flight when typed my first reply... So I could had explained that better. I"m not talking about peak, i'm talking about RMS. If someone gives me a track at -6db or louder RMS, i can't do shit with it. That seems obvious but so many people keep doing it.

If you're talking about peak, then yep, who cares. just turn it down. At that point to the other peoples replies its just a simpler way to try to make sure someone sends you something with headroom rather than trying to explain RMS and mastering to them. You can see how well that goes. :-D
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Re: Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by ObtuseMoose » Thu May 10, 2012 7:35 pm

OK, now I'm all confused.
Tarekith wrote:The -6 is peak, not rms, ...
tempus3r wrote:...i am not talking about peak. I don't really care what the peak is at (so long as it's not clipping), to your point, thats relative. I care about RMS. ...
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andydes
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Re: Why do some "Mastering Engineers" require wavs at -6db?

Post by andydes » Thu May 10, 2012 7:46 pm

I think it comes down to this-

Tempus is jet lagged and not making much sense.

The 6 dbs headroom is a safety margin so you don't give the mastering engineer any little peaks you might not have noticed, and it keeps them happy.

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