What’s the Best Volume for a Hip Hop Mastered Song?

What’s the Best Volume for a Hip Hop Mastered Song?

How well do you understand mastering? For something that’s needed on every track, there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding it.

The last step before releasing a track, mastering takes place after all the production and post-production has wrapped-up. Once all the levels are properly mixed and balanced, mastering adds that final polish and brings things up to the proper volume.

But what is the right volume for a hip hop mastered song? How do you get the right amount of low-end without things sounding too cluttered?

Keep reading for all you need to know before mastering a hip hop track.

Know the Genre

Every genre of music has its own characteristics that need to come through. For hip hop, it’s a thumping low-end with a crisp high end. Think of the combination of an 808 kick and the chainsaw hi-hats found in modern hip hop and trap.

The challenge here is getting the right amount of bass without losing energy to compression and limiters. Luckily, you can balance that out by boosting the highs.

Get a Reference

Use reference tracks to help guide you through the mastering process. Having professionally produced tracks to compare your track against will reveal what areas you need to focus on to get the right sound.

There are different plugins that will allow you to easily A/B between your track and your reference tracks. These tools make it really convenient for you to compare and contrast your work.

Know Your Targets

Once upon a time, all mastered tracks were targeted toward radio broadcast levels. In today’s marketplace, you need to consider the target levels of all the different platforms the track will be released on.

Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and the other streaming platforms provide their target LUFS (Loudness Levels relative to Full-Scale.) Produce a master at the target level for each platform.

Use Your Tools

By the time the track is ready for mastering, the tonality and shape of the track should be set. What’s left for you is to make sure that things are balanced and set to the proper level.

Remember to dither the track if you’re working at a lower rate than the session was recorded in. This will eliminate unwanted noise.

There are three primary tools to set your master. They are as follows.

EQ – Use an equalizer tool to boost the right frequencies for the genre. In hip hop, you’ll want to make sure that the low-end and high-end come through the strongest. This should leave plenty of room to boost the vocals in the mids if needed.

Compression – A compressor keeps the loud parts from getting too loud and the quiet parts from being too quiet. A multi-band compressor lets you compress specific frequencies without affecting the overall track. This way you can tame wild frequencies without squashing the entire track.

Limiting – A limiter does exactly what it says. It limits the volume of the track. Putting a limiter at the end of your signal chain helps you control the loudness of the track, ensuring that it doesn’t peak higher than your target level.

Hip Hop Mastered Song

Mastering hip hop isn’t that different than mastering any other genre of music. The difference is that a hip hop mastered song is going to feature fewer mids than guitar-oriented music.

Instead, you’ll want to boost your low-end and set a nice and crisp high-end, using compression to keep things from getting out of control.

For more articles on mastering, visit our blog.

What Is Dithering and Why Use It in Audio Mastering?

What Is Dithering and Why Use It in Audio Mastering?

During audio mastering, it’s possible to introduce unwanted distortion effects into the audio. One of the processes a mastering engineer might use to remove this kind of distortion is known as dithering.

But what exactly is dither and dithering? I’ll explain in this article.

What Is Dither?

Analog studio sound mixer closeup with laptop and sound wave form in the background

Dither is one of the more complicated concepts to understand in audio mastering. Essentially, dither is low-volume noise that’s mixed into a digital audio file when it’s converted from a higher bit resolution and into a lower one.

When you do this kind of conversion, it can introduce what’s known as truncation distortion. If this kind of distortion isn’t prevented, it can lead to a digital audio file that’s downright unpleasant to listen to.

What Is Bit Depth?

In the world of digital audio, the bit depth refers to the number of values available to represent the amplitude of a single audio sample. The higher the bitrate, the more DBs of dynamic range each sample will have.

When you export a file to a lower bitrate, there are effectively now fewer values available for the file to depict the dynamic range of the audio. This results in a “rounding off” of the audio; since the bitrate has been reduced, the amplitude of each sample can no longer be measured in as much detail.

This “rounding off” affects the shape of the waveform, resulting in distortion.

So How Does Dithering Prevent This?

Truncation distortion creates harmonics that are correlated to the initial source; these harmonics make it quite obvious to hear. With dithering, you introduce a noise that’s random, which effectively covers up the truncation distortion.

So why not just keep your files at 24-bit and remove the need of experiencing any truncation distortion? Unfortunately, the vast majority of playback devices are going to be 16-bit. If you try to play a 24-bit audio file on one of these devices, it isn’t going to sound good.

When to Dither in Audio Mastering

Essentially, you need to use dithering when you’re mastering the file at a lower bitrate than you worked at during the production stage. Say you recorded in 24-bit and you’re mastering the audio file in 16-bit; you need to use dithering. On the other hand, if you were recording and producing in 16-bit and you bounce it at 16-bit, you don’t need to dither.

If you’re sending a track to a mastering engineer, you should never export it at a lower bitrate than the one you were working at, as this will mean the audio is already damaged before the engineer even starts working on it.

Work with a Professional Mastering Engineer

So now you understand a little more about what dithering is. If you’re a music producer, consider working with a professional mastering engineer instead of trying to master your own music. This can help your tracks sound more refined and high quality.

Need a professional mastering engineer? Then get in touch with me today.