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Thread Why do my Burn CD mix masters play back less loud than pressed CDs?

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  • 6 participants
1 Why do my Burn CD mix masters play back less loud than pressed CDs?

I'm new to digital recording, coming from the dark ages of the portastudio, and now own a Yamaha AW12G digital recorder, with an onboard CD drive.

However, I am confused and concerned about the Mixdown tracks that I am burning to CD. I mix them down to a stereo WAV, stored in the internal memory, peaking at about -2dB, sometimes hitting 0dB momentarily. A bad habit from my days battling my old arch enemy tape hiss, I know, but, my question is; why do my cd's that I burn from my masters play back significantly quieter than all my favourite CDs? I expected to lose some ground because they have mastered in studios costing millions, but I wasn't expecting the quantuum plummet between pressed Cds and my pityful efforts. Is all the info I put onto the burn CD, like the level I mixed to still there, ready to jump out of the speakers when I get the CD professionaly pressed, or will it default to the level it plays back at on this burn CD? Do I need to record my mixes to some other less convenient format like DAT before I send them to the pressing plant?

Your help would be most appreciated,


Well here is the thing....I have very little portastudio experience but I dont see how one would possibly have the things most vst plugins can give u in the average DAW for mastering.  That bein said hopefully they give you some kind of end stage final limiter.   Many use waves L3 on the cd master preset.  But that will set .2 db as the wall.   However I think whatever your actually using you should set to zero decibals and then see if your not as loud as other disc.  This was my problem too years ago.


Hope this helps




You can use a compressor on the master section to grab a couple of dB. then set your limiter threshold to -0.3 dB Then you get 4 more dB as your usual level.

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Laurent Sevestre
Online Algorithmique Mastering

Technical Stuff



While there are many details to discuss on mastering…

Here’s what will get you closer than ever, and I’ll bet happy as ever, too.

At least for now…


Open up your .wav file in something that’ll have a Normalizing plug.

Then just normalize the AVERAGE level to something around -16db.

Lower db numbers (-15, -14,-13 db) will result in LOUDER mix.

Higher numbers (-17, -18, -19 will result in quieter mixes.


Please note: This is a quick fix for a noob. For there is much to learn, grasshopper…



This relates to digital audio, and not analog:   I've found that if my mix is not hot enough, I do need to make adjustments to the final bounce file, like normalizing, additional compression, etc...  How the limiter is set up is the most crucial step in a way, but if my individual tracks aren't hot enough, "fixing" it in the final pass sometimes isn't enough. The mix can sound artificial, even though it's technically "loud".

So I've learned to keep an eye on the loudness of each track, and make sure the mix (without limiting) is already pretty loud, like around -3db. Then I use the limiting to make up the rest, usually to -0.1db, or even 0 as long as there's no clipping, of course.



MACH 10 Music


Although you are comparing your mixes to commercially pressed discs, keep in mind all the compression that is routinely used. Don't be alarmed, as a good mastering engineer may be able to help you get that hard hitting sound. But it will be at the expense of dynamics being thrown out the window. It mainly depends on your music and the outcome of where you want to go with it. If you are considering radio play and your music is the type that won't suffer from compression, then what I have previously read from others should seriously be taken into consideration. I myself do not like compressed sound. It is very fatiguing in my opinion. The life is sucked right out of it and on some "aggressive" music it may not even affect it. But if you are into the realm of classical or new age, your music may sound lifeless. How does it sound to others who have heard it? An honest opinion from people who know your style and are honest is a great starting point. But do not let the thought of mastering scare you. It's one area that is key in attaining a viable album that is cohesive and marketable. Others that have any opinion on this? Please feel free to intervene.