Many music producers are struggling with how to maximize the loudness of their music without clipping or distorting it. Well, If your knowledge limits you, you are in the right place.
But how can I make my sound louder without distorting it?
Mixing in mono, using various compressors like multiband, Opto, Vari-Mu, VCA can also help you maximize loudness without clipping or distorting. Also, The parallel compression technique is great for achieving louder mixes.
Also worth mentioning is a limiter. This tool allows you to set the peak loudness. You would set it, of course, in a way that your peak loudness does not make your signal clip. The cool thing about a limiter is that you can set your peak loudness of the whole mix while still increasing the volume of the separate instruments.
11 Tips To Maximize The Loudness Without Clipping Or Distorting
1. Use Limiter On Bass, Kick & Snare
Use the limiter on your bass to remove unwanted peaks by limiting them. It will fix the volume of your bass at a certain level, avoid potential clipping and bring consistency to your mix.
You can use it on your kick as well with the correct settings. For example, when using FabFilter’s Pro L2, your main goal is to play with 3 settings – Style, Transients (Under Channel Linking), and Volume. Transient could potentially cause clipping/distortion under certain conditions. Also, you can customize Lookahead, Attack and Release.
For a kick, you can quickly compare and hear how your kick sounds when playing with Attack/Release and Lookahead. Usually, keep these settings on the default rates. For Lookahead, just turn it off and keep it at 0ms. This way, the limiter will make the kick fast and punchy while preventing them from clipping/distorting.
This is the most essential way to make your drums LOUDER naturally while you keep their natural character. This way works for all – buses and single inserts (kick, snare, and so on.) To have an even more natural sound/character of your drums, you can consider using the Clipper plugin, but you should use it wisely along with other plugins, as there is a high chance that your drums will sound distorted.
Note that using only this one technique/plugin will make 70% of the work when your goal is to add loudness to your drum bus. You just need to know how loud you can afford to boost the volume to preserve the space, yet, have louder and punchier drums. For drums/drumbus you can go as loud as you want as long as it sounds well with the rest of the mix.
2. Produce On Medium Levels
If you are producing music on high levels, you can overlook the actual distortions and clipping.
3. Stick To One Plugin
Use the one plugin for a long time that you know will increase the loudness naturally. For instance:
4. Use Xfer OTT Plugin
A completely free plugin will make your music clearer, louder, and more dynamic without distorting or clipping. It’s excellent almost for anything like drums, bass, vocals, guitars, synth, and mastering. It will add life to your sound after a few tweaks. It’s very light on CPU and RAM. This tool is a similar version of Ableton’s Multiband Dynamics plugin. It has fewer features, but it’s still great, and it’s free. Get this badman here.
5. Use Dynamic EQ
If you have felt that your track is empty, lifeless, and flat, try to use dynamic EQ. It’s a great tool for mastering, but you also will find versatility when mixing your music. It will create the headroom that you are looking for to create a louder and fresher mix. It won’t increase the chance that it will distort or clip if you use it correctly. Here is a video that describes Dynamic EQ more in-depth:
6. Order Your Plugins Properly In Your Signal Chain (Mixer)
It’s not a secret that how your plugins are ordered will dramatically change the way how it sounds. And you have to give it a direction. This is a significant way how to achieve loudness.
7. Use Sidechain In Your Mix
Use the sidechain, especially when it comes to kick and bass, which may sound obvious to you, but there are so many options on how to use the sidechain. With a sidechain, your sounds will sound more clear, and your mixdown will not only sound better and will have more pressure, but you will be able to make it louder, especially in the low-end section.
8. Hype The Limiter To Hear The Loudest Instrument
This is more tip on how to analyze the loudness rather than fixing the problem. Put the maximizer or limiter on the master channel add a few dBs more to hear the loudest sound to detect that. The reason is if you are composing at the same volume for a long time, then you might overlook this and have an imbalanced mix that can cause distortion.
Or you can just add master volume, but this can harm your ears.
9. Transients In Mastering Can Ruin Your Track
Plugins like FabFilter Pro L2 or iZotope Ozone Maximizer offer a transient emphasis function. The more amount you will add, the higher is chance that it will cause clipping as it increases the level of the peaks. In other words, the bigger the peak is, the louder it will sound. Yes, it’s modern to have the sharp sound of your track but use it wisely to avoid potential distortion, especially on the low-end section of your track, as a kick can start distorting very easily.
10. Producing Music Consistently
Shape your ears by composing music consistently. It will create almost something like matching EQ in your ears that will become more sensitive for sound adjustments, and you will detect even small clipping or distortion, which is crucial for you. Don’t stop producing – it could be even an hour a day, but the results would be astounding.
11. Stick To One Pair Of Headphones / Monitors For A Long Time
I believe this is a big one. You can train your ears to detect even small distortions when using the same phones/monitors for the long term.
How do you master without creating distortion?
A common factor that contributes to clipping is incorrect gain staging. Go through each section of your signal chain and determine if any areas have their gain or output level set too high. Sometimes in a mix, we can cause clipping from an insert or group buss that boosts the gain level of an instrument or element.
Also, volume automation is a great technique to make a mix feel natural and organic while still controlling volume and gain levels. Use automation to lower any excessive peaks in your mix during playback or boost any soft areas of a track so that you don’t have to push its overall gain level.
The reason is that bass and low-mid frequencies tend to feel heavier than higher ones and generally take up more space in a mix. Intense bass frequencies can cause your overall mix to warp or distort. Solo each of your bass-heavy tracks and measure how much low-end you can shave off without compromising punch or dynamics.
Along with EQ, a compression is a powerful tool that can make or break a mix. There are no definite rules for applying compression other than to never over-compress. Overcompression will cause your waveforms to sound muddy and squashed, and will probably cause you to turn them louder, which can reduce signal quality.
Here is a very general template of mastering signal chain:
Started as a rapper and songwriter back in 2015 then quickly and gradually developed his skills to become a beatmaker, music producer, sound designer and an audio engineer.