Today, I will share with you my mixing and mastering tips for streaming services. If you are struggling in mixing and mastering streaming services then this article will help you.
Technology has always been in revolution mode. The music industry is not an exception. For example, the way we listen to music is now shifted from offline to online mode.
Audiophiles now love to connect with their favorite musician and singer through streaming apps.
This creates the need for mixing and mastering for streaming. You can’t just put your content online and it will sound like a pro.
Online content is not the same as offline media so you have to mix and master your music according to the requirements of streaming platforms, otherwise, it would not sound well.
In this article, I will share with you some tips that I follow in my mixing and mastering process before sharing my music online.
So, if you are struggling in mixing and mastering your music for streaming then these tips will definitely help you.
Well without wasting any more time let’s jump into the article.
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Table of Contents
Dynamic range for streaming
Loudness war is a never-ending game. The fact is, loudness war is spoiling the dynamic range of music. And this is also applicable to online music.
If you see this dynamic range resource, 25 years back the dynamic range of audio tracks was around 12dB. back to 2021, this has decreased to 07dB.
You can easily imagine, how dynamic range is decreased over time.
I admit loudness matters. So don’t let your streaming down from others in volume levels.
So, the first thing you need in your track is to make the dynamic range better while maintaining the loudness.
Especially in streaming, where the size of data impacts broadcasting, maintaining a good dynamic range without distortion is a tough job.
So, the question arises, how you can increase the dynamic range of a track without spoiling the sound quality and getting rid of annoying distortion?
Here’s the answer.
How to Avoid Distortion Without Compromizing the Dynamic Range
Every instrument and vocal has a certain dynamic range and loudness. We manage their dynamic range by using the right equipment, proper gain staging, equalizers, effects, etc.
If everything is used in the right way, you will get the desired dynamic range as well as loudness in the processed sound.
Let me show you the factors involved in maintaining higher dynamic range and loudness without messing with the distortion and getting the perfect sound quality for streaming.
Recording equipment plays the main role in sound quality.
I know, audio interfaces made it very easy to record your projects without costly hardware but, if you don’t choose good audio interfaces, microphones, and other equipment then you will not get the desired dynamic range.
So, the first thing you need to choose is the best audio interface, microphone, etc. These are the heart of a digital audio recording environment. So don’t compromise in quality.
The second important thing is software. There are hundreds of DAW and plugins available in the market. But the perfect ones are only a few.
I have multiple articles on choosing the right hardware and software for streaming that could help you in selecting the best ones. But, the below article is the essence of all of them.
You should read this to set up a streaming studio in your home.
Gain staging is the second important factor in capturing the proper dynamic range of vocals or instruments.
SO, what is gain staging??
According to Wikipedia,
Gain staging is the process of managing the relative levels in each step of an audio signal flow to prevent the introduction of noise and distortion.
It is clear that the amount of noise and distortion is directly related to gain staging.
That’s why you need to manage proper gain staging on every stage of recording and streaming.
This article “Gain Staging: 5 Secrets to Get Good Levels In Your Mix” will help you in understanding and applying proper gain staging in your projects.
If you manage proper gain staging in each input and output level from hardware to software then you will get a good loudness level and dynamic range.
Equalizers are the firstmost part of the effect chain. Proper equalizing helps you to achieve the dynamic range while keeping the cloudless high and without messing with the unwanted noise and distortion.
The best way of equalizing is SUBTRACTIVE EQUALIZATION METHOD.
I use this equalization method in almost all of my projects.
This gives me the desired loudness level and dynamic range. The subtractive equalization method is the part of gain staging so don’t forget to read my article on gain staging where I have explained this in detail.
Another best practice of proper equalization is cutting the unwanted part of the spectrum. This method is called “Equalizer Sweeping”. This helps you lower the resonant frequencies and gives you more loudness and dynamic range in the audio.
Don’t forget to read my article on Equalizer Sweeping that will give you a better knowledge of this equalization technique.
After the equalizer, the most important effect is the compressor.
The compressor directly impacts the dynamics of the audio. If you used it well during and post-recording, you will get audio with improved dynamic range.
So, using it wisely on your projects is the need for better streaming audio quality.
I have some set of rules for the compressor which helps me to optimize my audio for better streaming.
I have shared those rules in my article, “Compressor Settings For Vocals [Ultimate Cheat Sheet]“. In this article, you will also get a cheat sheet for vocal compressing.
Keep in mind, don’t overdo the compressor as it could ruin the dynamic levels of the original audio and give you distorted audio which when goes through streaming becomes low-quality audio.
Reverb and Delay
When you stream music, the effects got dry slightly. It’s mild but noticeable. So always keep the reverb and delay slightly up than usual levels.
This happens due to the data transfer through copper and optical cables as well as wirelessly. Imagine your data is a car and it’s passing through a highway that is already overloaded with other vehicles.
As the effects are not as compulsory as the main audio, it got diluted slightly by the data compressing system used within the network.
So, I recommend keeping the reverb and delay slightly up the normal range.
We use multiple effect plugins within our mix. All the effects more or less impact the dynamic level of the audio.
So, always use them cleverly to retain the dynamics levels while keeping the loudness more at more competitive levels.
Don’t overdo any effect otherwise it would ruin the dynamic level and ultimately the user’s listening experience.
Now let’s discuss some mastering tips because proper mastering is important to make your streaming better for users.
My first mastering tip on,
Master channel is the sum of all the audio tracks in your mix. Applying mastering effects properly on the master channel is crucial.
Especially, when you are doing audio streaming, where there are no other options left if you get wrong.
So always populate the master channel with the right mastering effects in a proper series.
Such as, I first apply compressor, and then Equalizer.
It’s far better if you use mastering bundles such as iZotope or Fabfilter bundles.
I have written a review on both of them. If you want to know more about them you can read that detailed review on them.
You can apply these plugins directly to the master channel of your DAW, and you can choose any “broadcasting preset” to make the audio better for streaming.
Loudness normalization is a process of turning the volume of a track up or down prior to streaming. This is done to match the predefined loudness of the streaming app.
All streaming apps have their own set of rules to normalize the track. Some turn the track up and down according to the predefined loudness, whereas others only turn it down if it’s too loud.
However, the loudness normalization by the streaming services doesn’t affect much the overall loudness of the track, but if your track has a wide loudness range then chances are some peaks will be hit by the limiter of the streaming app.
So, you should balance your tracks carefully so that the peaks don’t hit by the streaming service’s limiter.
Similarly, if your audio is too quiet then when the streaming service will take it to the normalization level, the overall loudness of the track will affect.
Keeping the loudness around -10 LUFS to -12LUFS is a good practice if you are preparing your track for streaming.
This infographic by ProductionAdvice.co.uk will help you to understand online loudness by different streaming services.
Loudness of a sound is measured in LUFS. LUFS stands for Loudness Unit Full Scale, which refers to the maximum level a system can handle.
However, most of the DAWs and mastering suites had been using dB metering scale but now some of them including Cubase, Logic, and iZotope included LUFS metering on public demand.
You can use this LUFS metering to adjust the average LUFS of your track between -10 LUFS to -12LUFS.
Some Mastering tips to keep in mind
Most of the mastering suites come with a brick wall limiter. Use this to maintain the average peak level below -5LUFS to -10LUFS.
But don’t over-limit the sound as it will compress the dynamic range which causes choppy sound.
Multiband compressor is the best effect to use in the master channel. You can use this to compress the audio according to the spectrum.
For low frequencies, you can use different compressor settings, for mid frequencies and high frequencies you can use other settings.
Don’t use single-band compressors on the master channel. It will compress the overall spectrum and hence the overall dynamic range.
Don’t over compress during mixing
Compressor moves down the loud sounds to a desired range so that the quieter sounds come above the dynamic range.
This process squeezes the dynamic range. But if you overdo the compressor, then the dynamic range will over squeezed and you will get a choppy sound.
Over squeezed dynamic range is not good for streaming.
Use LUFS metering
LUFS metering is the best for mastering. So always use the LUFS metering instead of dB metering. With LUFS metering you can visually adjust the dynamic range. So I recommend using LUFS metering in mastering.
Mixing and mastering for streaming is a large topic. I will share my experiences and pro tips from time to time with you.
Remember, each streaming service is unique and has different loudness normalization levels. I have a list of loudness levels of major streaming services that will help you to mix and master your audio according to their need.
- Spotify: -14 LUFS
- YouTube: -14 LUFS
- Apple Music: -16 LUFS
- Tidal: -14 LUFS
- Amazon Music: -13 LUFS
- SoundCloud: -14 LUFS
When you are mixing and mastering your audio for streaming, I would recommend using this normalization level list for reference.
Please share your thoughts on this article through comments and don’t forget to share this on social media so that others could get benefit from it.
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