Tim Latham

Blog

Loudness War

There is a lot of discussion in the mix engineer world regarding the “loudness war”.  There has been a trend for the past few years to limit and compress mixes to within inches of their lives to make them louder, not better.  There has been complaining from every section of the audio engineer world.  Mastering engineers and mix engineers alike have been at odds with each other over this topic.  Mix engineers are in a tough position as most are aware of how lifeless records become when compressed and limited too aggressively, but clients expect mixes to sound like records when submitted, before mastering.  Mastering engineers are left with no room to do much of anything, other than to provide a red-book standard file (ddp) suitable for reproduction purposes.  I’ve been asked by mastering to provide the un-crushed versions of mixes that were crushed, but the mixes tend to come un-glued at the seams when done so.  So the mastering engineer then has to approximate what was originally given them while adding their input, which is very difficult because the client expects the mastered version to be very close to what they’ve been listening to.  I try to educate new clients as best I can about the pitfalls of slamming before mastering with some success.  But there are occasions where I either hard limit to the point of clipping, or not pay my bills.  I typically will use compression across the mix buss as well as some soft limiting to give mixes enough apparent loudness while at the same time leaving enough room for mastering engineers to work their magic.  Until dynamics are re-introduced into the musical vernacular, as a mix engineer I will try to walk the line between crushing mixes and leaving  enough dynamics in mixes to keep them more musical.