Audio normalization is an idea that comes up fairly typically for new producers.
It’s a music production process that’s been around because of the earliest days of digital audio, however, is it still relevant?
It’s not all the time simple to tell whether to apply normalization or to keep away from it completely—and getting it wrong could cause issues in your mix.
In this article, I’ll break down what audio normalization is, when to use it, and when to steer clear.
Let’s get began.
What’s an audio normalization?
Audio normalization is a process that increases the extent of a recording by a constant quantity so that it reaches a goal—or norm.
Normalization applies the identical level enhance to all the duration of an audio file.
Normalization is often used to scale the level of track or file to simply within its available maximum.
If that sounds sophisticated, all it means is that normalization brings up the quantity of a file to the maximum quantity based on the loudest point.
When to use audio normalization
Audio normalization might seem a bit quaint by modern standards. With all of the less invasive methods to extend a track’s acquire out there, why would you select to use normalization?
Some purposes come from the early days of digital audio.
Back then many parts had restricted efficiency when it came to dynamic vary and signal-to-noise ratio.
Normalizing the audio generally helped get the most effective results from primitive AD/DA converters.
Normalization is still a typical feature on hardware samplers that helps equalize the volume of various samples within the reminiscence.
It’s helpful in this situation as a result of the dynamic range and signal-to-noise ratio remain the same as they had been before.
You should utilize your sampler normalize to operate where needed as you construct patches and presets.
Why not use audio normalization
Normalization isn’t generally utilized in many music manufacturing situations outside of sampling.
It would seem like a convenient approach to bring tracks up to a great volume, however, there are many reasons why different strategies are a better choice.
1. Normalization is commonly destructive
DAWs revolutionized music manufacturing with their non-destructive workflow.
What does that imply? Consider a strip of reel-to-reel tape—to perform an edit you want to physically slice it with a razor!
After that, you couldn’t simply return to the unique. However, in your DAW you can simply drag the corners of the area out to restore the file.
Sadly some operations within the digital domain are still technically destructive.
Any time you create a new audio file, you commit to the adjustments you make. Normalization generally requires you to create a new version of the file with the gain change utilized.
In case you do that and discard the unique, you’re stuck with the normalized version!
2. Other strategies are better
Modern DAWs have many choices for changing the level of audio signals.
Since normalization is a continuing gain change, it works the same method as many different kinds of level adjustments.
Before you attain the normalized operation, ensure there isn’t another method better suited to the job. There are few situations where automation, clip acquire or a utility plugin can’t repair your volume issues.
These operations are non-destructive and more versatile than normalizing whole tracks.
3. Normalization can create inter-sample peaks
Many new producers are looking for the best approach to make their songs loud. It’s a common mistake to assume that normalization performs a role.
When it comes to raising the level of a whole track, normalizing is among the worst choices. Actually, normalizing a whole track to 0 dB is a recipe for disaster.
The normalized function finds the highest peak in the entire waveform and raises it to the target. With this peak touching the 0 dB maximum, issues get unpredictable.
When digital audio gets converted to analog to play via your speakers, the filters that reconstruct the signal smooth out the curve between individual samples within the file.
Generally, the arc between two points close to the ceiling can exceed the maximum! The result’s clipping from inter-sample peaks. It comes out as distracting harshness and distortion in your music.
Gain staging—the better choice
Correctly controlling the levels inside your DAW is known as gain staging.
It means checking the volume of each element you record and ensuring to not exceed a healthy level all through your mix.
The final rule is to maintain your tracks’ peaks around 9-10 dBFS and the body of your waveform at around -18 dbFS.
Gain staging is most essential at your DAW session’s master bus. In case you’ve left good headroom all through your mix, you’ll have loads of space on the master fader to ensure nothing will clip.
With all this extra room left over, turning your tracks up utilizing the fader or any of the other strategies I’ve mentioned ought to provide loads of level control without resorting to normalization.
Mastering your mix
In case you observe these guidelines for gain staging you could be surprised to hear how quiet your completed bounce appears compared to tracks in your streaming platform of selection.
It’s because completed tracks want mastering to get the proper levels for consumer playback.
Mastering brings up the general loudness of a completed mix to precisely the right volume—no intersample peaks, no wasted headroom.
Not like normalization, mastering turns up the quantity dynamically so that even quiet passages might be heard clearly.
It takes careful processing and plenty of expertise to get a great master.
The best approach to do it properly is to hire a professional or try AI-powered mastering online.
Get your levels right
Normalization has its place in music manufacturing, however, you want to be careful where you utilize it.
Headroom, acquire staging, and signal level all affect one another. Understanding that relationship is the way you get the most out of your mix and master.
In case you’ve made it via this article, you’ll have an awesome place to begin managing your levels and making the right decisions about normalization.