• Welcome to the General Discussion forum for UAD users!

    Please note that this forum is user-run, although we're thrilled to have so much contribution from Drew, Will, and other UA folks!

    Feel free to discuss both UAD and non-UAD related subjects!

    1) Please do not post technical issues here. Please use our UAD Support Forums instead.

    2) Please do not post complaints here. Use the Unrest Forum instead. They have no place in the the General Discussion forum.

    Threads posted in the wrong forum will be moved, so if you don't see your thread here anymore, please look in the correct forum.

    Lastly, please be respectful.

How do you get heavy rock masters REALLY LOUD!?


New Member
Hey guys, long time lurker, first time post...

Due to pressures outside my control, I've got some heavy rock tracks that need to be mastered much, much louder. The musical style is saturated, dense, modern rock/pop, ala Chevelle, P.O.D., 311, Nikelback, etc...

So far I'm getting loudest results by using NO compression on any individual tracks (drums were done with BFD) and slapping an LA-2A + L3 on the master fader.

It sounds good, retaining some dynamics still, with little distortion. It's cranked to the point right before the drums go higher in pitch, but...it's just not near as loud when I A/B it to big pro studio recordings.

I need the volume on par with major label releases. Is this unrealistic just using UAD-1 and L3 plugins? Any special techniques anyone could share?

Please don't flame me.


Active Member
I'm probably not saying anything new or groundbreaking, but pay extra special attention to your low-end content. Chances are you'll get more volume and less distortion if you can thin it out a bit... Try some gradually decreasing tight Q dips every octave, ie -- 60hz, 120hz, 240hz, etc... Maybe not every octave, but choose a center point and work in multiples of octaves or 2/3 octaves off that... That'll let the compressor breath more so it's (hopefully) not always clamping down to the maxx... Also, spread your cuts across two eq's -- one before the La2a, one before the L3... So maybe you're cutting 60hz on the EQ before the La2a and 240hz before the L3. I dunno, it's worked ok for me once or twice and might be worth a shot.

Just don't cut too much, nothing past 3db otherwise you'd be better off remixing the individual elements... Also remember to thin out individual tracks where you can -- no need to have the kick drum and bass competing in the same areas of the frequency spectrum... Keep high transient tracks panned closer to center if you can...


Venerated Member
What you're trying to do is counterproductive you know, but I understand your problem.

As a prof. mastering engineer I've worked hard this year working on techniques that gives maximum loudness with minimal distorsion and I compete with the big-fish for work, and I'm stealing more and more clients from them 'cause I can now get it louder and cleaner than my competitors OR just as loud and clean at half the price... So you could say that I've gone through everything that has to do with getting percieved loud levels on a master without squashing.

Since I can't just give away my hard earned secrets, I can only give you a few pointers.

1. Digital limiting is NOT the way to get super hot levels...
2. Digital clipping is only one small PART of getting super hot levels
3. Super hot levels ALWAYS starts at arrangement level.
4. You're not getting near it by using simple compression and limiting on the mixbus.

If you're really aiming for EXTREEEEEME Loudness, you got to have loudness in mind the ENTIRE production process,, even when arranging the instruments and alla the way through every step of recording and mixing. I love the quote MASSIVE MASTERING came up with \"The loudness of your project is decided even before you hit the red button\", or something like that. With the right techniques I can often get a program that wasn't really designed for loudness to a level of about -9 to -8dBFS RMS with just about 2db of digital limiting. This is to the point where something can still be loud and sound massive 'cause you're not infliciting to much pain upon the transients of the material using my technique. Every 0.5db above this point will sound worse very quickly and the track will lose all it's punch and power. Now, if you have a program that was designed for super levels.. you could get it to a -7 to -6dBFS RMS with about as much degradation as the previous example, just a tad more.. it's going to sound better, but still sound like shit.

I know how to push it hard, but my clients are usually happy when I give them a massive sound that plays better than most other high-end masters even at a db or two below the extreme, once I show them that massive power isn't quite the same as loud levels, they're usually happy with just nudging up the volume control that extra millimeter.

Dan Duskin

Established Member
The answer is applying the right EQ before the L3 and/or adjusting the levels of the instruments. i.e., if it's not getting loud enough, it's because something is too loud in the mix... maybe it's the kick drum or the bass guitar (it's usually one of those... And if you like a loud kick, turn it down and bring up the highs on the kick instead). As for the EQ, mess with notching out the heavy bass frequencies that are making the L3 work too hard, then increase the midrange and treble frequencies that are lacking.

when you reduce all \"boominess\" and raise the level of the snare and guitars (make the guitars LOUD!!!, but roll of some of the lows on them) it can help make it sound louder and help the mastering compressors and limiters work better.


New Member
Oooohhhh, a difference between massive power and loudness?

C'mon, let's hear a few tips :) How do you track instruments or mix differently when your \"going for\" loudness in mind?


Dan Duskin

Established Member
One more thing.... since it's rock music with heavy guitars, try the SonicTimeWorks Mastering Compressor instead of the L3, it will help you get it louder than the L3 while keeping more punch and attack in the mix!

MASSIVE Mastering

Active Member
I'm with Plec on most of this - A monkey with T-Racks can make a recording \"loud\" easy enough. Making it good is almost completely up to the potential of the mix. And on that quote, I probably haven't said it twice the same way. But in essence, the \"optimum\" maximum potential level of a track is decided before the \"RECORD\" button is ever pressed.

Carefully, precisely tailored EQ at the track level with sounds that actually sound good to begin with. Judicious and precise limiting with just the right attack and release also at the track level. Careful attention to the arrangement - You can't stuff 10 pounds of sound into a 5 pound bag. Carving out room - Watching for and arranging or mixing out stacked frequencies.

Starting with reasonable recording and mixing levels is EXTREMELY important. -6dBfs PEAKS is my rule of thumb. NOTHING goes over at ANY time until the mastering phase. The distortion you avoid early is called \"headroom\" later (I know that this concept comes up against some amount of scrutiny, but if you haven't tried it, you should. I don't know anyone who has who doesn't follow it to the letter ever since). Especially digitally - Plugs don't have anywhere near the headroom and slammability that even \"sorta-pro\" analog gear does. The whole \"volume\" thing at this point is to crank it up until the distortion is too much. Less distortion tracking & mixing means more volume during mastering.

And as Dan mentioned, EQ'ing frequencies out of the mix can result in a louder master. But these frequencies should be EQ's out at the track level before the record button is pushed to be most effective and transparent. Afterward, it's all about compromise... Do you want big, full, airy at a \"nice\" volume? Or do you want thin, distorted and smeared but really loud?

That's a start... Other than that, can't we all just forget about this \"loud\" crap anyway?


Venerated Member
Yep.. I totally agree with MASSIVE!

You know... if you put all that other shit aside... If you like the fucking music/band you're going to buy the damn album. Consumers that are so \"stupid\" as to judge the quality of music by its percieved loudness isn't worth the hassle in my book. People that really like the music will by it, not caring about loudness.

Yeah.. I know what you're thinking... \"if it isn't loud they're never going to listen to it next to another hot track\". Well.. I think it's just their loss. These are not your long term fans or dedicated music lovers... these are your \"I like this song today\" consumer. We're heading back towards the small record label business, since the big ones really just fucks it all up. And in the long run I think it's good for everyone.. including the music.

I really long for the time when music will be enjoyed for what it is and not by how loud it is shouting into ones ear.

Mark Edmonds

Active Member
MASSIVE Mastering said:
Other than that, can't we all just forget about this "loud" crap anyway?
Absolutely. =D>

Music is conversation. Do you talk with your friends by sitting down and then shouting at each other at the top of your voice with no break, no one listening to each other and everyone competing to shout at the same time?


So why put it in your music?

Forced loudness is artifical bollocks and one of the best ways of condemning your tracks to the waste bucket. They wont take long to get there either if it is really bad.

Even the heaviest of music needs space, air and the chance to breath.



I agree. :)

Getting an airy clear sound in the mix is much fancier than a loud compact sound, that is hard to fix in the post work.

Leave the loudness to the mastering stage.


Active Member
i have come to learn that bitching about loud mastering would be like bitching about using compression to enhance an instrument in a mix. although my preference is to leave the dynamics of music intact, i am finding more and more use for \"loud\" masters.

a master that pumps can simulate the compression of the human hearing and bring a sound that can be either soothing or aggravating depending on your goal. sometimes you want your music to pump and have a rhythmic \"breathing\" and other times you may want just a searing mass of sound or even plain just left alone with a slight overall eq. as with all art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.



I second Dan's recommendation of the Sonic Timeworks Mastering Compressor. If you absolutetly have to drive a limiter into distortion to get things loud enough, that particular limiter distorts in a way that's complementary with the sound of heavy guitars.

I've used it for years as my main limiter to catch occasional overs (not for smashing). I do mostly acoustic music, so I've been careful not to bump it into that distortion mode. The Precision Limiter is now a much better limiter for what I do. But check out the Timeworks limiter if you mostly mix heavy rock music, and need to get it stupid loud.

Mike Barrs


Mark Edmonds said:
[quote="MASSIVE Mastering":1k81leke]
Other than that, can't we all just forget about this "loud" crap anyway?
Absolutely. =D>
Do you talk with your friends by sitting down and then shouting at each other at the top of your voice with no break, no one listening to each other and everyone competing to shout at the same time?


Maybe not my freinds, but when sitting with my Dad and his friends, oh boy look out!! :lol: :lol: :lol:
Good stuff from Massive and Plec.

One thing that really helps me get loud sounding mixes is that when I'm getting my sounds, I constantly check them with the control room volume really low. Kind of like staying on Fletcher-Munson's good side.

Also, when mixing, I constantly have the control room levels really, really low. I'm checking for ANYTHING sticking out in a weird way. I like to think of it as scale. A Norah Jones mix, to me, can be a little larger in scale, like the performers are maybe 18\" tall between the monitors. If I'm thinking of a Soundgarden or Corrosion of Conformity mix, I picture the band as being one or two inches tall. Then the mix can be huge. I don't know if that'll make sense to anyone, but it's always helped me to think of it that way.


i agree with the mixing low thing... seems to be a popular piece of advice however wouldnt the fletcher munson curve tell us to mix around 80-90 db for the most even curve? i have never used the low level mixing tip to see whats going on in the whole range (as the curve would show you) i mainly do that to make sure my vocals are still in front or to reference anything in the 300-6000 range give or take...my cheapo radio shack meter tells me that 80-90db is somewhere just above talking level... which is where i like to mix anyays... however im not a rock and roll guy so my bass is bigger than yours 8) j/k


The Originator
The sad thing about doing this is...i recently finally went to buy some descent home speakers...and i was shocked how horrible that kind of music sounds on really good speakers. Even my favorite band (Dream Theater) slams their music too hard and it sounds great in my car, but not so good on quality speakers.

I totally understand why you have to do it..everyone wants to fit in and say their CD is the LOUDEST :(
UAD Bundle Month