a WOXNERW and Dr J Co-Production
MAXTRAX - a WOXNERW and Dr J Co-Production -
First the legal stuff, there is a disclaimer at the bottom of this topic please read it carefully -
Many thanks to Bill (WOXNERW) for the hours he has dedicated in replicating my findings and supplying additional technical information (which may be disclosed in later topics but by the very nature of its technicality is for advanced users only) - Please copy the area between the dotted lines and paste into NOTEPAD to make operation easier than keep returning to this topic -
This project was bourn out of a recent disagreement i had with some members over a MASTERING COMPRESSOR, everybody seemed to agree it was very good (except me) - to my way of thinking a MASTERING compressor takes an input and then returns an output which has a perceived increase in loudness AND NOTHING ELSE - the compressor that i disagreed with COLOURED THE SOUND on every preset - I personally am still very much in favour of HARDWARE units for compression and most effects - the quest was on to find a software compressor that emulated a hardware one - was FREE, would equal and/or exceed many SO CALLED MASTERING compressor/limiters and worked in the background with no knobs to twizzle so even an absolute beginner could get HOTTER TRACKS - but as i had already found it long ago i did not have to look far - yes its in N, its FREE and it is very very good -
As both Bill and myself are old ANALOGUE HEADS we are well used to working with signal levels way above anything a DAW can generate - N can emulate analogue signals within itself but cannot output them without causing distortion - the MAX level that you can squeeze out of a DAW without, what are now called AUDIO ARTEFACTS is 0db - past this your audio sounds horrid - IN THE ANALOGUE WORLD 0db is between 18 and 24 db further down the scale on your output meter, the top of the VU meter was not 0db but +18db to +24db (meter dependant) this was the level that clipping took place, HI-FI EQUIPMENT had an extra +10db headroom on top of that and RADIO stations could take upto +38db to +42db before clipping took place -
it is common for people to spend many hundreds of dollars/pounds/euro’s on these so called MASTERING COMPRESSORS AND LIMITERS which while they remain in the DIGITAL WORLD give an impression of ANALOGUE signal levels, BUT what chance for those who cannot afford them - and in the end do you really need them ? - MAXTRAX can overcome the 0db limitation by utilising what is already in N to give the impression (the perceived loudness) of a track is greater than 0db yet the audio level stays safely within the constraints of the digital world -
RIGHT, lets start with a clean slate - go to FILE / NEW - now the slate is clean -
look through your tracks and find one that you have not messed about with, somewhere you will find one that has NO tweaked EQ / no effects and no compressor/limiter used on it - here we want to prove the capabilities of N track and N track alone -
when you have found that track, insert it into the timeline - DO NOT OPEN THE “TRACK” MIXER leave it set to default 0db in the background -
NOW RIGHT CLICK IN THE MAIN OUTPUT VU METER - select CLIP and do this - UNTICK everything EXCEPT “MAX LOAD” and “SOFT CLIPPING” these are the only two ticks on the panel - OK -
now open “MASTER” TRACK MIXER, move fader knob to the top and the numbers below will show +18db - now HOLD DOWN CTRL and CLICK ON THE FADER KNOB YOU HAVE JUST MOVED, this sets it back to 0db -
by setting the master track output to MAX LOAD you can take the output above 0db without those pesky red clip leds flashing all the time -
look carefully at the track you have inserted, where the waveform is the highest in the vertical position it is the loudest -
position the timeline before a LOUD part and start playback, now move the MASTER FADER UP SLOWLY until distortion is just heard and then back it off a little - depending on the original signal level the db reading on master fader could now be at +10db or higher - go through all the loud parts of the track and adjust master level accordingly, then play track all the way through if you have got it right, you should hear no distorted audio at all and the master fader should show numbers higher than 0db - when you are happy that there is no distortion present - MIX DOWN the track -
BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE - RESET the master fader back to 0db (hold down CTRL and click on fader knob) -
SOFT CLIP is still active which is OK it doesn’t affect playback till you start to exceed 0db - you can go back to the CLIP panel and untick it if you want - BUT YOU HAVE TO SET IT BACK TO “ON” before trying to “MAX OUT” another track -
now insert your HOT TRACK into the timeline below the original track and start playback, use the mute buttons to switch between tracks and see which one sounds the best - i think you will find the HOT ONE gives quite a marked increase in perceived loudness and will compare well against any track that has been put through a mastering compressor -
although it is so simple to use there has been a lot of testing done especially on audio COLOURATION, using a program called HAR-BAL which displays frequency graphs for a track - the MAXTRAX track showed only a very small deviation on its frequency graph from the original - this is the sign that a very good compressor had been used -
for this demo we used an untreated track - now you know the basics you can try it on already treated tracks and see if you can improve them -
REMEMBER YOU ARE IN “MAX MODE” - RESET MASTER FADER BACK TO “PEAK” BEFORE DOING ANYTHING ELSE -
if the original track has been prior set to 0db then you may only be able to get a couple of db increase out of it, but in the HOT TRACK wars every DB counts - and in case you are interested MAXTRAX does not involve NORMALISATION, that’s a different animal altogether -
Dr J -
DISCLAIMER - Although the above principle has been tested by the author and participating parties they cannot be held responsible for any damage or loss “howsoever” so caused to the user of the above principle and/or the system(s) that it is operated on. - ALTHOUGH IT IS BEYOND THE JURISDICTION of the author and Co to forbid you to do anything - you are reminded that a sudden increase in perceived loudness can damage your hearing so DO NOT USE HEADPHONES WHILE OPERATING THIS PRINCIPLE
now open "MASTER" TRACK MIXER, move fader knob to the top and the numbers below will show +18db - now HOLD DOWN CTRL and CLICK ON THE FADER KNOB YOU HAVE JUST MOVED, this sets it back to 0db -
What the heck is that supposed to do besides exercise my mouse finger?
it shows that db range goes up to +18db (many do not know what those numbers mean) and that ctrl click sets it back to 0db at once and in a repeatable manner -
Ah… gotcha. I was hopin’ there wasn’t any “Let’s tweak the scales to mean something other than what they mean…” kind of voo-doo going on. I have read many crazy ideas suggesting such in several forums. Shoulda known better…
I like Bob Katz’ K-Metering system but you have to have highly configurable meters to use it. You need to adjust the range, the “ballistics” and so forth… kind of a pain but once setup, it’s done. I don’t know if it can be setup in n-Track. Hmmm… maight investigate that later.
i have K meters on my studio setup, they came with my 24in 24out RME OPTICAL ADAT card -
If meters are accurate
0dbm (or v) = Odbm (or v)
DI’s go in usually hotter - say +10db
I believe this is for better S/N
My belief has been - in digital evvironment: above 0 db
and you clip (because the next digital value above 0 is negative)
i.e #77777 =0
#100000 = (negative number)
But no matter what your input level is, if you A/D and it
goes over 0db - your in for a bad sound.
If you monkey with what the meters are actually measuring,
you may end up with something that isn’t apples.
But then again, this would not be the first time my beliefs
have been shattered.
there is no monkeying around with the meter settings, as i stated in the text they are the default ones as set by Flavio - (technically there is no upper limit to the db range) - when SOFT CLIPPING is engaged the N track compressor/limiter is activated and this attempts to keep the audio level to 0db, however with all compressor/limiters there is a limit to haw much it can do before distortion occurs - if you open the compressor by clicking on the small icon next to the three dials on the master track fader you will see what is going on - i have not said this in the text as it can confuse a newcomer who is not used to working with such - in direct comparrison with my Voxengo Elephant2 (a well respected limiter) Ns soft clipping beats it hollow.
My bleeding ears thank you!
Next on “Loudness Wars”… Manley releases Mastering Limiter with only two selectable settings… LOUDEST and OH S$%T!! Industry insiders say it is an awesome piece of gear. Professor Luwid Von Deafenstin of the Berlin Industrial Music Conservatory said; “AT LAST our music can resemble an 150 dB SQUARE WAVE!”
I think it’s a case of crossed references
Scale: There are a number of scales that can be used in the level meter.
The standard scale shows the value against 0dbFS (FS means Full Scale)
The VU scale has 0dbFS as +14dB
The UK (BBC) scale has a custom numbering from 1 to 7
The EBU PPM scale has 0dbFS as +18dB
The DIN PPM scale has 0dBFS as +12dB
The Nordic PPM scale has 0dBFS as + 18dB
0dbFS = +18db for EBU (peak program meter)
the reasons for having different scales depends on
the equipment you are using
from your last post -
"The standard scale shows the value against 0dbFS (FS means Full Scale)"
Ns master output meter although we call it a VU meter it is not, 0db is as high as it goes -
by default all of N faders are set to 0db but the range of the meter extends to +18db, thats 18db above 0db, for that matter you can set the range to what you want - Bill tried his set to 1000db and thats what it went upto, he didnt attemp to playback anything it was just an exercise to see hoe the fader responded to that setting -
with the default setting (+16db), if the tracks signallevel is at -18db the fader can bring it up to 0db - but if one part of the track is at -18db and another is at -16db then bringing the -18db level to 0db would push the -16db signal above 0db and cause distortion - when soft clipping is engaged (as it is by default) Ns compresor limiter will attempt to keep the output signal level to 0db by reducing any signal that would go over 0db to 0db - but there is however a limit that this can be done before the limiting of the audio level causes distortion of the audio -
so when Ns soft clipping compressor/limiter is engaged (in theory) it will not allow the signal level to exceed 0db - with the faders maximum range set to +24db and ingreasing slowly upward from +18db i could just detect that the soft clipping was slightly rippeling the sudio at +22db - the rippeling effect was clearly audible at +24db, this was because Ns compressor/lmiter used in soft clipping was working very hard to keep the output level at 0db -
the db numbering and different types of metering that that you refer to are only relative when there is no compressor/limiter used, when a compressor/limiter is used on a track then the db numbers on that tracks faders are for reference only as the compressor/limiter combination is setting the output level -
the term “compressor/limiter” defines that a both a compressor and a limiter are used in combimation, not one or the other -
I’m struggling to understand so don’t quit
on me if I got this all wrong
Except that I can’t have a digital audio signal
greater than 0dbFS without distortion.
Well I can but…
If I were to change the scale of my ppm -
So now +18FS is 0db - that doesn’t change anything.
If I do that, I’m just changing a reference point.
(i.e so now ‘g’ is the reference for ‘a’ in the alphabet)
And if I set a compressor limit to 0db - that means
its going to compress everything above the threshhold (i.e -24db)
setting, by your compression ration (3to1 or whatever) without going over (clipping) the 0db limit you set.
From your previous post
… when a compressor/limiter is used on a track then the db numbers on that tracks faders are for reference only as the compressor/limiter combination is setting the output level
But if I meter the compressed output - it should not
go above the 0db limit - whatever ppm scale I am using.
Please feel free to slap me
LOL… just kiddin’… You have it 7 O’ 11. The only thing I will add is that some hosts, n-Track (if enabled), Sonar and Reaper to name a couple more, have 64 bit mix engines. It is darn near impossible to clip 64 bits internally. What you really need to worry about and where it gets scary (especially when people start talking about voo-doo metering and “soft” clipping) is when mixing down to 16/44.1 to burn your magnum opus to CD. The “industry” is currently embroiled in the “loudness wars” where they have succeeded in sucking all the dynamics and “life” out of most commercially released music. I think what Doc J Bunny is after in his “MAXX” post is to educate newbies on the “loudness wars” and demonstrate that having the latest SUPER SMASH COMPRESS-O-MATIC is not really necessary… IF one understands and uses the tools built-in their software already. A lot of hardware (and software!) compressor/limiters do add “color”. Depending on what you want, that may be good or bad.
Since I don’t use n-Track much anymore, I can’t speak for the merits of this new “soft-clipping” feature. Really, I think it’s a bad idea, but what do I know? I don’t want software making a decision for me I guess. I once mixed down projects to 32 bit wav files and did all my final EQ’ing, limiting/compressing and dithering in Adobe Audition. These days, there are great tools available within the DAW software I use most of the time and more often than not, I do the whole job there without having to use a second program.
My personal feelings on the matter? Screw the loudness freaks! Bring the dynamics and life back to the music!! That is THE reason I haven’t bought a commercial CD in months… probably a year or so… I can’t stand the “up front”, “in your face” sound. It makes my ears hurt and my nerves get jangled…
PS So now you know why I’ll never make a friggin’ DIME at this…
Thanks for the clarification.
Yes, the hyper-compressed sound has it’s place
and I like it when it’s done well.
But as stated other places, when the peak to
average level in a piece of music is say - 2 or 3 db
It had better be a really good composition.
Do you remember when Noriega was held up in some
church in Mexico (I think) and they went down there
and blasted him with loud R&R 'cus they knew he hated it?
I think I’d go crazy if they did that to me with Trance or House.
Anyway - you sound like you got your stuff together.
As far as making a dime - If it’s good - then it’s good.
Can you imagine listening to Little Feet comp’d to the max?
Or Greatful Dead? Don’t have to be TOO loud - just have to be good.
I am replying to this thread to clear some doubts I have with what the fader numbers read when pushing the Master fader to it’s limits…
As I write this post I have the output meter config’d as Doc J suggests in his text…
I was gonna do a print screen and post it so the sceptics can see…
but I think I’d rather just continue and complete this post and save me some moderm-and-dialup time to do it…
As I write this reply I have n-Track launched and have an “OPEN” timeline (blank timeline)…
I am pushing the fader by clicking on the fader knob and using the (UP) arrow to advance the fader…
as I reach (1000 db?)…
or +999.9 that’s what the number reads…
But when I push the fader past that number the reading shows…
- 1000.0 …
As I continue pushing the fader there appears to be “NO LIMITS” to the number that appears as a function of (Pushing-the-Fader)…
At this point I have no idea what code string Flavio has and used to create this value…
I am as spectacle as anyone can describe me…
I get that from being in the audio business for more than 50 years…
When you think you’ve heard/seen it all…
something else appears before your eyes/ears…
I’ve spent some time working and attempting to understand what I’m hearing from audio files I’ve placed on the timeline…
I’m not here to defend what I see-and-hear or any thought process of this idea…
I’m here to report what I’ve seen-and-heard so far with the use of n-Track’s meter config. and fader use… as suggested by Doc J…
as it applies to .wav files that I’ve placed on n-Track’s timeline…
I have posted a series of screen images to Doc J and Doc J has returned to me some screen images that he worked on and together we confirm/cooberate their repeatability on separate machines/computers/setups…
I’m searching my years of audio experience to come up with explanations that will satisfy my understanding of what I see-and-hear…
So far, the .npk images that I see on the timeline and what I hear are correct…
after config’ing n-track’s
repro meter according to Doc J’s text.
When the meters are config’d in that mode I am able to push the audio amplitude to a point that audio distortion as I know
understand and hear analogue distortion to sound like…
“NOT Digital THWACK”
As closely as I can determine… this meter config. defeats/bypasses the meter code’ing that Flavio has allowed the n-Track meters to reflect/show…
Maybe, there’s another way to word that, to explain the meter’s response in better context…
As this idea continues…
Thanks Bill -
in response to others “A” it is not a new feature it has been in N for well over 6 months - and “B” as soft clipping is always active (IE it is a default setting), in V5 it is active everytime you playback an audio track, it has no noticable effect below 0db but when the track level exceeds 0db and the CLIP leds light up then soft clipping is doing and has done for a long time now, exactly what i describe in the main text - it is making your track louder by keeping the ACTUAL AUDIO OUTPUT to 0db -
the main text is just exploiting this fact and using it to its fullest advantage - if you dont like the idea that N is making automatic corrections to your audio levels which give you a far cleaner sound SWITCH IT OFF and go back to DIGITAL BLATS that it seems you all prefer -
REPRISE, soft clipping has been active in N for 6 months (may be longe), NOBODY HAS EVER COMPLAINED ABOUT IT because it is very good at what it does -
to suddenly start complaining about something that you have not for one reason or another had cause to complain about before you realised it was there and doing all the things you are againt yet you where happy with untill you found it went against your principles is only to be expected as Ns documantation (lack of) and the way Flavio hides things away in hard to find places is of course a failing -
if you sent your tracks away to be MASTERED by an (expensive) pro recording engineer the results you had returned would 9/10 times would have been put through exactly the same process as is happening in N for free -
my studio setup is relatively up to date, i have a digital mixing desk with 16 inputs and 32 + 2 master output channels this gives me 32 independant compressors and a BUSS compressor on the master output - each compresor can give up to +24db signal gain, the best way to describe the desk is that it has an analogue heart and a digital output - when mixing down it is the levels that count, the numbers on the faders do not matter, they are meaningless before the output stage as so many veriables are involved, even on the output stage it is the visible indication given by the output maters that count not the numbers that make up that visualisation, unless you are complying to a standard used by others (*** see below)
*** the type of metering and the range of those meters is only important when audio is being transfered between different organisations or remote parts of the same organisation - here it is important that all audio information conforms to a commom standard as set by those organisations -
my personal choice is to use Bob Katz K metering system (
once mastered his principal can be easily be implemented on standard DAW output meters by mentally re-aranging the output scale, i have the full complement of K meters linked into N track through software that came with my optical output card - this shows ne exactly what N is doing but i have to rely on the standard 0db at the top digital metering on the desk and outboard rack based equipment that the desk feeds before ending up at the CD recorder - i would dearly love to have a dedicated hardware version of the K metering system available for use on the dssk master output, but i cant afford one -
if you wish to examine the output of commercial CDs - the RIP one in to N - look at the levels of the waveform, on most tracks the waveform has very little devaiation away from the max 0db level indicating that there is not only a demand for such but unless you are recording for a specialised genre it is now the standard - so to put it bluntly (regardless of your or my own personal oppinion) in the commercial world you have got to be loud to be heard, soft dont sell -
all i (and with Bills help) have done is to bring to the attention of those who did not know it was available a DEFAULT FEATURE that when exploited can give results that compare well against a range of third party additions - however i will admit it is easy to get confused with various standards when you have not spent the years behind a desk that Bill and myself have -
i personally would not go to another forum and flame the DAW that they are using if i did not use that DAW myself or unless i had a good reason to do so - the case in question being REAPER which for one reason or another (i have since found that it was the REWIRE.DLL supplied with REAPER that was not consistant with N or Ableton Live) when it was installed on an OS that it said was supported caused damage to my other DAWs and the loss of an early version of said Ableton Live -
last words - if you havnt tried MAXTRAX the try it - it you think it is beneficial to you. then great, if you dont so what, its no skin off my nose - at least you will have learnt something new about the capabilities on N - and thats all i am interested in is bring to the front features that can be beneficial to others without the added cost of buying something that may be of a lesser quality than is supplied for free - it is very common to discount components that are supplied free with a DAW as rubbish and to praise those that cost money, it seams to me that the more it costs the deafer people are to the results that their money has bought them -
OH, and by the way, project now under devlopment is the ability of N to automatically mixdown, change the sample rate and bits used to 16bits@44100hz (CD standard should they be different) add dither and noise shaping + boost output level to those as described in one operation + i have asked Flavio to alter the way the N Track pitch module works to make it more MELODYNE like, and how to maximise your track count on slow PCs by switching off all the hidden things that go on in the background and the correct use of Ns buffers, then there is the on-going conflict of MIDI and AUDIO tracks in the timeline at the same time to be resolved -
so keep those pencils sharp and the lighter fuel handy so that you can rubbish what i say and flame me when i post my findings -
yours sincerely (the flameproof) Dr J
Dang Doc… who’s flaming? Sheesh! Did I write anything that could be construed as “flaming”? Yes, I can turn off soft clipping. The thing is, if I want to process my audio in such a manner, I’ll decide what tool to use for the color (or lack of) that I want. It’s nice to have options although in this case, I personally would prefer the default to be OFF.
You can do a wonderful job of “mastering” in n-Track. The compressor and EQ built-in sound great to my ears. I prefer the other because of other reasons. There is a dithering plugin that comes standard with it that is just awesome. There is a non-Reaper version available, but it’s not free-ware.
Now… once and for all, I AM NOT BASHING n-Track!! I use what I need to get the job at hand done. When I get past a dozen tracks or so in n-Track, I can no longer playback and record with decent latency WITHOUT clicks, pops and farts. At that point n is not usable to me. It’s a shame, because I REALLY LIKE n-Track. Before you come back with arguments about my setup and my PC, NO OTHER AUDIO SOFTWARE I OWN with the same tracks, plugins and soundcard settings does this… Nor am I here to drag n fans off to the “dark side”. I could care less what anybody uses to record their art. If they are happy, who I am I to spoil their fun?
I drop by to check out new builds and make the occasional “I think it’s still broke.” comment Hoping Flavio can get to the bottom of the problem.
RE: Last words; Perhaps Flavio will look into the Elastique pitch shifting algorithms. There are three versions, Pro, Soloist and Efficient. All sound fabulous! LINK
Dither; HERE is the awesome dither I was speaking about earlier. Flavio might license this if he does not wish to create his own.
Peace out Dr. J… it’s all good!
PS When inexperienced people ask me to help with setting up a PC based rig for their church or school the FIRST software I have them evaluate is n-Track. The GUI is not alien looking to them, the program as a whole is VERY easy to use (once setup issues are sussed) and for throwing down two dozen tracks for a couple hours, I have found n to work pretty well!
The meter/fader bug? I get to see that one in other hosts too. Don’t sweat it Flavio will sort it out. I once loaded a test project in another DAW and went to adjust the settings on a ‘native’ plugin. “That’s weird…” I thought “How can the output be 1158.6 dB!” LOL!
I guess I’ll have to try this out first hand to see what you’re talking about. Sounds like you’re just using the Compressor on the Master Channel? I’m confused on how Peak and Max Mode differ from each other? I can see how RMS and Peak are different but it sounds like Peak and Max are sort of analogous…
How come I’ve never heard of MaxTrax before? Has this always been apart of N?