Dynamic Range in Mixing: “Too Much” or “Too Little”

Robert Katz Leave a Comment

From: Anuroop

Hello Sir, I am Anuroop from India and I study at SRFTI, Kolkata, pursuing Audiography at the institute.  My question/doubt to you is as follows:  Yesterday I was mixing a hindi song which was originally recorded in the 1970s. Although I had re-recorded all the instruments and vocals as well, a part of our curriculum; I wanted to mix it just as the original one sounds, keeping in mind the dynamic range as well.  After the mix, I measured the loudness with an LeQmeter, which showed the mean at 84dB.  It was a 5.1 mix and the machine was calibrated with nuendo (-12 dB 1k tone) – 0 VU – 93 dB SPL / C Weighting.  As I compared my mix to others, I thought of increasing the level a little bit, but I didn’t do it, as it was killing my dynamic range (after all my ear would also compress the sound after a certain level).  The peaks in my mix went to 95 dB and the lows to 70dB.  Is this a right way to mix?  Is there anything more I should concentrate on while mixing a track?

Thanks and Regards,

Anuroop Kukreja Satyajit Ray Film and TV Institute, Kolkata

Hi Anuroop,

As you probably know, mixing a track is a very complex job that involves a lot more than low levels and high levels and SPL.  No one but your ears and your experience and your monitors and your room can tell you whether the dynamic range of the material you are mixing is the right dynamic range.  An SPL meter is not a good way of judging low level passages.  Some things will sound good at 70 dB and some will not.  The ears are the only way to judge.

The best way to see if you have “too much” or “too little” dynamic range includes:

1) listen at different monitor gains (quiet and loud, in ranges which are appropriate for the audiences who are going to listen to the recording) and see if the important elements of the music are still in good balance and can be heard

2) listen in a quiet room and to listen in a slightly noisy room to see if it translates

3) Lots of experience dealing with many different kinds of music and how they sound to the average listener

4) Check with an “average” listener to see if he/she is comfortable with the mix
And lots more!
Hope this helps,
Bob

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