Loud records get a very bad name these days and how loud you will want to make your own particular record is a huge creative decision that must be made for your record. Unfortunately, many people do not know how to properly make this crucial judgment call. After the jump we will discuss how you can begin to figure out how to make a wise decision for your record.
Every group is going to have a different sound that they are going for. One of the best things you can do is get together a few records that you like the sound of and find to be at a volume you would like to get a comparable level with. It is often smart to also find records your producer has done that you enjoy to use for this process. Once you have assembled these records (which we will be referring to as your references) we have to do a proper comparison of them.
If you are going to be comparing Mp3s to your master, make sure you have good
rips of your reference material. Low bit rate Mp3s or webrips do not
provide accurate references. You can click to get info in iTunes to see
the bit rate for these Mp3s and see if they are up to par (128 kbps is nowhere near up to par). Next we also
need to go into iTunes preferences and make sure SoundCheck is not on in
the Playback panel or else it will give you an inaccurate playback of
All of these records need to come from the same source. If you are going to listen to your master from iTunes, you then need to listen to your references through iTunes as well. If you are going to listen to your master off a CD, then you need to listen to your references off CDs as well. We then need to put your music on at a reasonable volume. If you have a smart phone download an decibel meter and turn up the volume of your stereo till you hit an average of 82db. If you do not have one turn your stereo up to a volume that you could talk loudly over the top of. Once this volume is set DO NOT TOUCH THE VOLUME KNOB AGAIN until the process is over.
Once the volume is set, put on your reference material and then put on your song (in that order) keep doing this and take notes on what you hear. Listen back and forth for a while and make honest judgments about whether your record is as loud as the records in your reference material. In the end you should have a clear perspective on where your record stands in this process.
One of the thing you must now do is listen carefully, if you want your record to be very loud you need to listen and make sure there is no crackling distortion and that parts of your song still have the amount of dynamics you want. As well, it is necessary to be honest, sometimes the recording or mix you have just can’t work and be as loud as your reference material. These are decision your producer and you should evaluate carefully and experiment with until you know you have the right volume for your record. If you are smart you are dealing with a mastering engineer you trust and have them weigh in as well.