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Why do most studios ask for -6dBFS?

Leaving headroom in your mix for a Mastering Engineer

“Leave headroom for mastering” is a term that is quite often used in the world of digital audio. Nowadays there are a lot of amateurs in the industry without sound knowledge of basic concepts. There is a lot of misinformation on the internet regarding headroom, which causes a lot of confusion especially for those who don’t have years of experience in the subject. Here, we aim at clearing some of the common doubts regarding this concept.
Peak Vs Root Mean Square (RMS)
Audio waveforms have the highest point, a midpoint or average and the lowest point. The highest point or maximum is referred to as the “peak”. The maximum peak that is allowed in digital audio is 0dBFS (Decibels Relative to Full Scale). Similarly, the average point is called “Root Mean Square” or more commonly, “RMS”. RMS lies between the loudest and the quietest portion of the audio.
The importance of RMS is that it measures how loud we perceive the sound to be. As the sound gets louder, RMS draws closer to 0dBFS. However, the perfect amount of “loudness” for mastering is not solely based on RMS. The difference between the maximum and minimum RMS, known as dynamics, is the best way to measure loudness in digital audio.
What is Headroom? What is its relationship with Peak and RMS?
Headroom in digital audio refers to the difference in decibels between highest level “peak” and 0dBFS. Although very commonly confused, headroom is not between the RMS (average level) of the mix and 0dB. Headroom is a “safety zone”, and it is often advised to leave headroom for mastering. This implies that a finished audio file should peak at some decibels below 0dBFS, else the task of mastering becomes very difficult for the sound engineer.
What is digital and analog clipping? What is the difference between the two?
When a signal recorded in the digital domain goes above 0dBFS (the loudest recordable signal) it results in a “clipped” waveform.
Clipping is a distortion in the amplitude that occurs when the incoming signal cannot be handled properly by the electronics. Distortion across a whole mix is undesirable. It indicates a loss of exactness or “fidelity” of the original recording when it is reproduced.
Almost all audio was recorded and released using analog tapes before the 1980s. Analog clipping occurs when the incoming signal goes above the headroom in an analog tape. Analog electronics can still output the signal, but there will be significant distortion. However, these analog output waveforms are still rounded and sometimes even used on purpose to create a particular effect by musicians. Analog clipping is termed “soft” as it has almost a musical sound.
In digital clipping, the transition to distortion is not smooth and you cannot go past the ceiling. The output after digital clipping is a flat line. Hard digital clipping results in the highest level of loudness, maximum distortion and the greatest loss of bass.

What are inter-sample peaks?

All digitally created music has to be converted to analog before we can hear it. In order to smoothen out our listening experience, reconstruction filters are used to round off the digital audio signal. However the drawback is that, these filters can cause differences in audio levels, resulting in clipping of signals close to 0dBFS. A good quality digital-to-audio converter can handle these inter-sample peaks, but cheap speakers would not have sufficient headroom for it.

How do you avoid intersample peaks?

The best possible way to avoid intersample peaks is to incorporate a good amount of headroom between the peak levels and 0dBFS. Intersample peaks can also be avoided by improving metering.
The aim should be for every mix sent for mastering to have minimum distortion.

How do you leave enough headroom for mastering?

A mix that is sent for mastering generally lacks headroom because it was mixed “hot” (by setting the meter level too close to 0dbFS) or if plug-ins were used on the master bus just for loudness.
In order to leave enough headroom for mixing, you must keep in mind the following basics.
As mentioned previously, 0dBFS is the point where clipping starts to occur(in digital domain). Keep the peaks in the mix below -0 dB FS. A good buffer and safe zone is -6dBFS.
Aim for a “fishbone” shape for the waveform so that the transients and dynamics are intact and even transients do not go above -6dBFS.

Orban processing

Do not eliminate headroom by automating volume too early. The best way to start is by adjusting individual faders to achieve a good balance and then move on to automation.
Keep the volume levels conservative when mixing. Mixing at loud volumes can result in misinterpretation of the actual loudness of the mix.
The bottom line is, if you steer clear of 0dBFS and aim for a dynamic production, a good mix isn’t far away.
One of the most crucial points in leaving enough headroom is to always try and work in 24 bit. Let us discuss the difference between 16-bit and 24-bit files.

What is difference between 16 bit and 24 bit files?

Earlier, all digital audio generators and recorders were 16 bit. Through gradual change, now, almost all digital products are in 24 bit. Recording at 24 bit increases audio resolution by 250 times compared to 16 bit. It may not make your audio sound much better, but it makes it possible to record dynamic music with both very soft and extremely loud parts. Recording in 24 bit gives your audio more room to breathe. This means you can record at low levels with greater headroom. Bandwidth limits are not exceeded, which results in better clarity of instruments and vocals.
Another important difference between 24 bit and 16 bit in digital audio recording is the variance in signal noise ratio (SNR). Signal noise ratio is the level of noise in relation to the signal. For music that is quantized at 16 bit, SNR is low, with the quantization noise just below the hearing threshold. However, with 24 bit audio, SNR is almost double that in 16 bit which is preferred for mixing and recording as it provides a good reserve to work with.
Thus, it is highly recommended that recording is always done with 24 bit as it gives the recordist adequate noise floor and headroom.

There are many varied opinions regarding how much headroom to leave after mixing for mastering. To add to the confusion, especially for budding sound engineers, there is quite a lot of wrong information being circulated regarding the “ideal” headroom.
In reality, more than sticking to a particular value for headroom, it is integral to always try and record with 24 bit in order to allow for sufficient signal to noise ratio. It is also important to avoid peaking close to 0dBFS. In order to keep a safe zone, –6dBFS can be considered as an adequate value for headroom though it is not a magic number or gold standard by any means.

Radio Ready Masters – Make the Most of Your Radio Play (Part 2)

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In the first part of our writing, we discussed what happens with our song when it plays on the radio. Professional Music Mastering for broadcasting industries plays a vital role to create our song radio ready. However, the quality of the output device is also responsible for how good your audio sounds on a device like a home speaker, car speaker, boom box or headphones. In the below segment, a brief discussion will take place about the 7 components of a radio broadcasting processor that plays the main role to create your song ready to play for the radio broadcasting.

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Radio Ready Masters – Make the Most of Your Radio Play (Part 1)

Technology is meant to change. Even radio broadcasting is not out of this trend. Like all the technologies, radio technology is developing and changing constantly. With the invention of a digital radio system, our way of working has changed and that reflects on how we record a sound and struggle with the infidel internet radio. It is important for us to reproduce most of our recorded audio for quality analogue FM radio. Have you ever give it a thought what exactly happen to your songs when it broadcasts on a radio channel or did you ever made a strategy to make the most of your radio play?

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Why Mastered For iTunes Matters In Music World?

There are many consumers and pro-audio press, who are well aware of the introduction of Mastered for iTunes technique. But there are some music producers, who do not know about the details of this procedure, as well as its advantages and utilization in the real world. This article will help you to know about Mastering for iTunes program and importance in the music industry.

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Mastering for iTunes- Latest Technique to Improve Sound

The mastering for iTunes from Apple is creating the latest buzz in the recent years. Even, there are lots of confusion regarding this matter among the musicians and the music composers. Mastering music for the iTunes is a common process yet it is gaining importance due to its wide acceptance among the music lovers. There are four ways through which the mastered iTunes can be discussed. Have a look on them in brief-

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Have a Clear Overview on Barcodes Used In Music Industry

If you realize that your item will be distributed and sold through the usual wholesale or may be the retail channels, you should then definitely consider paying the additional cost for the bar codes. The barcodes that are generally used in sales and marketing come in two different formats- one is the EAN13 and the other is the UPC-A. The first one is common. The second one has the advantage of being readable in most of the places in Europe and USA. But the EAN13 is more generic to the European market.

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Audio Mastering Explained at Red Mastering Studio London

What is Audio Mastering?

Audio mastering is the final and last step in the process of creating that perfect sound that we so often hear everywhere. While to us mere mortals, it may only be seen as a complex post-production behind-the-scenes step, the actual process of mastering audio is a lot more interesting and intriguing than it sounds. Simply put, audio mastering is the process of taking a mix and preparing it for distribution, but as we all know, nothing is as simple as it seems and there are many factors that feature in audio mastering.

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Audio Mastering, Mixing and Creating Great Music!

Audio Mastering And Music Creation

Whether it is commercial music or audio for other purposes such as movies, you can be sure that the audio has been through quite a long process of being created, recorded, edited, mixed and finally, mastered. While the creation of music by artists still remains the most important element of the process, the music would not exist on record without the behind-the-scenes work that goes on to release this music in many different formats which can be played on modern technology.

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Audio Mastering and mixing at our Red Mastering Studio London

Mastering Audio at Red Mastering studio London

Red Mastering studio London is an audio mastering studio specifically dedicated to high quality audio mastering and mixing. We have created a professional audio environment that allows us to work in the fast-paced and ever-changing music industry, and allows us to provide only the best service to our clients at affordable and competitive prices.

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