The coffee cup analogy to audio headroom

Filed in Commentary; Rants and Jokes | Mastering 14 Comments

Today I was reading a post on a facebook group from a guy, let’s call him Jack, concerned with a master that was clean in the DAW and clipped when it played streaming from Soundcloud. He checked for intersample peaks and left some headroom (0.3dBFS) but still it clipped when streaming.

Then I went to get my afternoon coffee.

As I’m filling the cup I realized that I can use a cup of coffee to explain headroom. Bear with me a sec.

coffee cupHere’s the cup. It only holds so much. Pour the coffee in, leave some room for cream and sugar, and some extra room to stir and to walk from the kitchen to the studio. Don’t leave enough room in the cup and it spills.

The coffee is the mix, the cream and sugar is the mastering, and the walk from the kitchen to the studio is the SoundCloud encode (or any lossy format conversion) and streaming. There wasn’t enough wiggle room in Jack’s master for the conversion to mp3, so some coffee got spilled while the drink was being delivered.

When I’m mastering I set my limiter ceiling to -0.7dBFS which is pretty close to the recommended -1dBFS level for Mastered for iTunes albums. I’d much rather have slightly lower peak levels for a cleaner master without any crunchiness on various playback systems.

Makes sense right?


BTW, if you’re interested in having me master one of your projects I can be reached at, I do free test masters.


Mixing EDM tutorial series from Matthew Weiss

Filed in Mixing | New Product Announcement | Techniques | Video 1 Comment

Matthew Weiss just launched a new training series of videos on mixing EDM. It’s actually called Mixing EDM and it’s on sale for 30% off this week.


I’m told EDM stands for Excellent Disco Machine.

This series includes 14 videos totaling 4.5 hours, an interview with mastering engineer Chris Athens, and multitrack sessions for you to practice on.

50 Must-Read Pro Audio Articles from 2014

Filed in Mastering | Mixing | Producing | Recording | Techniques | Tutorial Leave a comment

Our friends at The Pro Audio Files have compiled a big list of the best audio articles, videos and podcast from 2014. I’ve been seriously slacking on reading my audio friends blogs but I’m going to save these links in Pocket and go through the list one by one.

Here’s the list – Best of 2014

From my own sites (Audio Geek Zine, The REAPER Blog, and The Home Recording Show Podcast) I have 8 links in the list.

BPB List of Top 40 Free VST Plugins

Filed in Free Plugin Of The Week | Plugins | Software 1 Comment

Bedroom Producers Blog have published a big list of the 40 best freeware synths and effects released in 2014. I picked up a few through the year but it turns out I missed a lot of great ones like Hysterisis by Glitchmachines. It’s been a great year for free plugins.

There’s also a list of the best from 2013


PS – the list doesn’t include limited time offers like Replika from NI. Man that’s a great delay. Get it before the end of the year.

Video: Analog Tape Feedback Regeneration

Filed in Mixing | Sound Design | Techniques | Tutorial | Video Leave a comment

Playing around with a feedback loop in reaper with my space echo. Take this routing and you can turn any analog recorder into a delay.

Video: Slate Digital VMR Demo with EDM loops and first impressions review

Filed in Plugins | Review | Software | Video | Virtual Effect 1 Comment

Slate Digital just released the Virtual Mix Rack plugin and while I was trying it out I made a quick demo video. I’m using presets from VMR on each channel, with free DEADMAU5 style loops from LoopPort.


My first impressions review:

Lots of fun. Really intuitive to use. Very useable presets. The modules sound great and have an authentic sound but not limited to the original set of controls. The constantly variable frequency for the EQs is great, so rare to see on a Neve emulation. On really nice little detail is that the wear on the modules, all the faded and chipped paint changes each time you load a module.

It’s well worth getting the demo now for the free Revival module. That’s going to get a lot of use in my mixing and maybe mastering too.

I’m not buying it yet, but I think the price ($149) is great. It’s not something I NEED but it’s something I definitely want.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what other modules will be coming out for this. In 6 months this could be incredible. Will VCC, VBC, and FG-X be integrated? Will more complex routing within the plugin be added (ie sidechaining)? I don’t know, but it would be nice.

My only feature request is for a volume trim in the top right corner. These sound great driven hard and it’s impossible to keep a good gain structure, or objectively A/B compare without balanced level at the output. Steven Slate has said a free trim module is coming soon, but I feel it should be integrated into the rack, rather than as a processor. You can’t argue with feelings.

Some Things Never Change

Filed in Commentary; Rants and Jokes 1 Comment

“Starting in the record business in my early twenties, I could count the number of real record producers on my fingers. Today, I believe that every third person I meet is either a record producer or trying to become one.”
– George Martin

I found this quote in the foreword of the book Home Recording for Musicians by Craig Anderton, the original 1978 edition. 36 years later the statement is still just as true.