jrmasteringsmall

mastering headroom

How much headroom before mastering should you leave in your mix?  Here's the correct amount of headroom you should leave, using detailed graphic examples.

Note - It doesn't matter what DAW software you use FL Studio, Pro Tools, Logic, Reason, Cubase, Sonar or Ableton, the headroom examples and instructions apply to all of them. Read more....


There are two factors to consider when exporting your final mix for mastering:

A. Peak level - The absolute highest level the output signal reaches.

B. Dynamic range - The range between the highest level and the lowest level of the output signal.

 

  audio mastering secrets        subscribe youtube
 

PEAK LEVEL

The loudest part of your song (peak level) should be around -3db to -5db (below 0 level).  This is considered +3db to +5db of headroom.  This is the ideal amount of headroom for mastering that you want to leave.

 

How To Create Headroom Before Mastering In Your Mixes

In your mix, never let your levels go over 0db on the stereo out (main out) meter, OR on ANY of your individual instrument or vocal tracks. 

Note - For the record, at times you can peak at 0 level or slightly over if its quick hits like a drum, hi-hat, etc. and they don't distort.  But again, there's no reason to go over-level. 

Remember, loudness maximization is done in mastering NOT mixing.  DO NOT keep raising the fader on the stereo out (main out) way over zero level, totally distorting the song, to match the volume level of your favorite song.  Yes, you matched the volume level, but now you have a scratchy distorted mess!  

If your mixes are going to be mastered by someone else, the mastering engineer prefers a lower level, more dull sounding mix that he or she can bring up to where it should be.  NOT an over-level scratchy distorted super bright mix.  NO ONE can do anything with this!  It's a trainwreck!  If you listen to the before samples on my website, you can hear what a song is supposed to sound like BEFORE mastering.  What a raw mix is supposed to sound like.  Did you notice they're not real loud, or distorted, or super bright or bassy?  This allows me to bring them up to where they should be in the after samples.      

Sometimes I receive songs that correctly have +3db of headroom, but the vocals or certain instruments are still distorted.  This is because the "individual tracks" were mixed over-level.  Nothing should ever go over 0db on any channel of your entire mix!!  Read more....


I get so many over-level submissions, I've decided to show graphics of how your .wav or.aiff files should look.  These are your ideal mastering levels in dbs.

 

audio .wav example 1

This .wav file peaks at -6db. This .wav has too much headroom before mastering.
But, I can still work with this by just gaining it +3-4dbs.

 

audio .wav example 2

 This .wav file peaks at -3db. This is the ideal amount of headroom before mastering.
 

 

audio .wav example 3

This .wav file peaks at 0db but is fine because there are no distorted flat
spots in the wave. The high hats are hitting at 0db and everything else
drops down, leaving good dynamic range. I can work with this.

 

audio .wav example 4

This .wav is +3db over level. All the flat spots you see are distortion. You can't
just jack up your levels past 0 and distort everything to make your song louder.
Loudness is increased in mastering.  Do not submit a file that looks like this.
 

 

audio .wav example 5

Once a week, we get at least one file that looks like this! Let's call this the
"trainwreck file." +6db over-level and totally distorted from beginning to end.

I can't do anything with this. No one can!!

 

audio .wav example 6

This is an interesting file. We get this quite often too. It's the "train-wreck file"
we mentioned above, gained down -9db. It's completely distorted, but its -3db under 0 level.

A file where the mixer channels are over 0 level, but the main stereo out
is -6db would look exactly the same.

I can't use this either. Once your song is distorted and over level, you
can't just gain it down. All you're doing is making a distorted file quieter.

You have to be under 0 level on the stereo out, and on all the mixer board
channels when exporting the original .wav file.

Unfortunately, many times the recording studio gives you the "train-wreck" file
and you're stuck with it.  Gaining it down yourself does nothing.  Read more....


And Of Course If You Want Your Songs To Sound AMAZING!
Check out my low Online Mastering Prices.  Incredible results at an affordable price!
 

DYNAMIC RANGE 

As a song plays, the output meter constantly goes up and down. Dynamic range is the area between the peak level (when the meter is up) and the low level (when the meter is down). Roughly, 3db to 5db of movement between the high and low meter level is average, but this does depend on the genre of music. 

With a heavily compressed/limited or over-level mix, the meter will not go up and down more than 1db, if any.  Not good. 

The reason I need dynamic range and headroom in mixes is because compressed/limited or over-level mixes already have music content removed from them, which greatly limits what I can do in mastering.

 

"Leaving no dynamic range is comparable to a woman who goes to a hair stylist with only 3 inches of hair. The stylist would be “very” limited with what she could do!  10 inches and the sky's the limit!"

If you've made it this far, you now know how much headroom you should have in your mixes.  Now you need to know how to properly MASTER your own music.  Read more....

The Music Production Secrets Serie
by John Rogers

  

My Best Mixing & Mastering Articles

Top 20 Audio Mastering Tips, Techniques, And FAQ
 
 

 

 

 

 

Here are the top 20 audio mastering tips, questions, and answers that I've been asked over the years.

 

 

Read more ...
The Sound Engineer SCAM! Does More Expensive Mean Better?


The sound engineer scam, the online recording studio ripoff, whatever you want to call it.  I hear about it 3-4 times a month from my clients, since 1999.  It never changes!

 

Read more ...
Mastering A Song For Radio

14 song ready for radio

Here's another popular question I see online, always with the wrong answer! "There's no such thing as radio ready mastering!"  REALLY?  Read more....

 

Read more ...
Should Your Mix Sound Close To A Mastered Song?

13 mix sound like master

Note - This section is basically a tip for those of you working with clients or if you plan on submitting your mixes to a mastering engineer.

 

Read more ...
What's The Difference Between Mixing And Mastering

8 difference between mixing mastering

What's the difference between mixing and mastering?  A lot of people new to music don't know the answer to this.

 

Read more ...
How Much Headroom Before Mastering Should I Leave?

mastering headroom

How much headroom before mastering should you leave in your mix?  Here's the correct amount of headroom you should leave, using detailed graphic examples.

Read more ...
Why Do Songs Need To Be Mastered?

12 why need audio mastering

Why do songs need to be mastered?  I've seen this question on the Internet many times.  The answer I always see is "Because all songs on the radio have been professionally mastered, yours should be too."  This is a true fact, but not an answer.

 

Read more ...
What Is Headroom In Mastering?

15 what is headroom in mastering

In order to produce a good master, a mix needs proper headroom and dynamic range.

Read more ...
My First Music Video!

Here's the first music video I directed, Mahalin Muli by JAI, released on July 10th, 2018.  I also wrote more than half of the script. 

Read more ...
How Much Should I Charge For Mastering?

I've mastered over 40,000 songs since 1999.  I've charged $10 a song, $20, $30, $50 even $100!  Some prices worked better than others.  Here are a few facts to consider when deciding on what prices to charge.

Read more ...
What Does Mastering Do To A Song?

10 what is audio mastering

What does mastering do to a song?  Your main goal in audio mastering is to replicate the sonic qualities of a well professionally mastered commercial song, in the same genre and style as the song mix you are working on.

 

Read more ...
Mastering Hardware Equipment You Need For Your DAW Home Recording Studio

7 mastering hardware equipment daw recording studio

Here's the basic hardware you need to master music:

 

Read more ...
John Rogers - Danceur Magazine Interview (July 2018)

Since the begining of his solo career in 2008, I mastered over 80 songs with the top French recording artist NYLS.  Great pop dance music with a lot of remixes.  During his entire career (as of now), I mastered most of if not all the song he released.  It was a great pleasure working with NYLS and Nico at Icon Records!

Read more ...
Why Does A Mix Need Headroom And Dynamic Range?

16 why do songs need mastering

Why does a mix need headroom and dynamic range?  In one sentence, it gives the mastering engineer more room to work with.
 

Read more ...
Stereo Widening Techniques | How To Use Stereo Widening In Mastering Music

Here are a few great stereo widening techniques and how to use them in music.  When you listen to music on a car radio, you want that wide stereo sound that extends from the left door to the right. Not just two feet wide right above the stereo!

 

Read more ...
How To Master A Song In Only 5 Minutes!

Would you like to know how to master a song or how to master your own music?  So many people think just making the volumes the same level for every song is "mastering" their CD.  Well, mastering is a lot more than just that! 

 

Read more ...
Audio Engineer Hearing Loss And Tinnitus

5 sound engineer prevent tinnitus

Millions of people suffer from tinnitus.  A new study shows around 10% of the U.S. population suffers from it in some form, but many have never even heard of it until they get it!  Unfortunately, I was one of those people.  It can happen quickly and it lasts a lifetime... 

 

Read more ...
What Is Reverb Effect In Music | How To Use Reverb

This article discusses what is the reverb effect in music and how to use it?  The reverb effect is used to simulate space. When reverb is applied to a dry vocal or instrument track, it will sound like it was recorded live in the space size that was selected on the processor. Common space size options include a small room, vocal plate, large hall, etc.

 

Read more ...
How Long Does It Take To Master A Song?

How long does is take to master a song?  There are several extra song mastering procedures I offer that other mastering engineers will not do. 

 

Read more ...
Best Free Redbook CD Burning Software
Yes, burning your own redbook master CDs is very easy!  Here's how to make your own redbook CD masters for free! 
 
Read more ...
Which Is Better For Audio Mastering Analog Gear Or Digital Software Plugins?

18 analog digital equipment

I started my career using the old analog stuff, since that was the only option.  I incorporated digital software plugins as soon as they became available, but it took many years before computers were fast enough to run them in realtime.  And also before they started making very high quality plugins. 

 

Read more ...
Can You Master A Song That's Already Been Mastered?
Can I master a song that's already been mastered?  Yes!  Every month I master songs that have already been mastered.  Read more....
 
Read more ...
Best Room Size For Audio Mastering DAW Home Recording Studio

6 best room size for audio mastering

So, what is the best room size for audio mastering in your DAW home recording studio?  Technically, you can properly mix or master in any room size.  But, I believe a smaller room is better than a very large one for someone who's just starting out. And when I say smaller I mean closer to 12'x15' than to 20'x30'.  I've mixed and mastered songs for a number of years in a 20'x30' room.  It took me a few days to get used to it, but after that I could do it.

 

Read more ...
Creating Headroom In A Mix

17 how create headroom in mix

OK

To create a mix for mastering with proper headroom is pretty simple. 

 

Read more ...
Mid Side EQ In Mastering

This is a quick video on how a mid-side processor works, and how to check the stereo field of your mix using a mid-side processor equalizer.

 

Read more ...
Go to top