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What exactly is "headroom"?

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SoulofT
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What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 12:01 PM Reply

I always hear about it in mixing/mastering but never really grasped the concept.
Does it involve cutting frequencies for certain instruments (e.g. cutting high ends from a kick drum)?

DylnMatrix
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 12:47 PM Reply

At 12/21/12 12:01 PM, SoulofT wrote: I always hear about it in mixing/mastering but never really grasped the concept.
Does it involve cutting frequencies for certain instruments (e.g. cutting high ends from a kick drum)?

From what I know, which isn't much, it involves sidechaining the drums to the melodic elements.

DJM4C
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 12:48 PM Reply

At 12/21/12 12:01 PM, SoulofT wrote: I always hear about it in mixing/mastering but never really grasped the concept.
Does it involve cutting frequencies for certain instruments (e.g. cutting high ends from a kick drum)?

Headroom means your sounds have enough room in the mix so you can properly hear them and so they do not get muffled. Usually you only need to cut lower frequencies so you can hear the bass in certain situations, and if you use kick samples like me they are already EQed so you can leave them alone. However, depending on your mix, you might need to compress your drums to give them more headroom, which includes lowering the threshold, and increasing the ratio and gain. You need to mess around a lot to see what is good for you, but what I do is I send the drums to one channel and compress it with a preset that came with my DAW.

Hope this helps!

CorrosiveEye
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 12:50 PM Reply

At 12/21/12 12:01 PM, SoulofT wrote: I always hear about it in mixing/mastering but never really grasped the concept.
Does it involve cutting frequencies for certain instruments (e.g. cutting high ends from a kick drum)?

Leaving headroom means allowing the song to be atleast 6db below 0 in the master channel of your mixer when you're mixing (and arranging and all that).

They talk about gain structure in this thread and they also touch on leaving headroom. I think you should also learn about gain structure.

SoulofT
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 01:01 PM Reply

Ok, thanks for the responses and the link. Very helpful!! =)

GACBassPlayer
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 01:02 PM Reply

Leaving headroom means allowing the song to be atleast 6db below 0 in the master channel of your mixer when you're mixing (and arranging and all that).

They talk about gain structure in this thread and they also touch on leaving headroom. I think you should also learn about gain structure.

/\ This

Step
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 01:29 PM Reply

Pic related.

What exactly is "headroom"?


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SoulofT
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 01:38 PM Reply

At 12/21/12 01:29 PM, Step wrote: Pic related.

Well, looking at that picture it seems that headroom is not constant throughout the song, and depends solely on volume and compression.

Step
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 01:57 PM Reply

At 12/21/12 01:38 PM, SoulofT wrote: Well, looking at that picture it seems that headroom is not constant throughout the song, and depends solely on volume and compression.

A waveform will never have constant headroom throughout the song (unless it's brickwalled beyond imagination). Generally, when people refer to headroom in a track, they refer to how much "room" there is from the loudest point in the song (i.e. the part in the waveform with the highest amplitude) till the 0 dB limit. Like in the picture below, when you refer to the headroom of the track, you'll be referring to the red distance not the black distance, for example.

Someone please correct me if I'm saying a load of bollocks :3.

What exactly is "headroom"?


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MetalRenard
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 02:13 PM Reply

Nope, you're spot on, Step, as usual.


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Step
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 02:14 PM Reply

At 12/21/12 02:13 PM, MetalRenard wrote: Nope, you're spot on, Step, as usual.

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jpbear
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 03:16 PM Reply

the void between good and evil within the aural realm of existence

SineRider
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 03:24 PM Reply

At 12/21/12 03:16 PM, jpbear wrote: the void between good and evil within the aural realm of existence

wrong! it's the amount of room between your head and the ceiling of the room you're mixing in, duh

BrokenDeck
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 03:33 PM Reply

At 12/21/12 01:29 PM, Step wrote: Pic related.

That's how a well mixed track can look, if one isn't caught up in the "loudness wars"

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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 03:44 PM Reply

At 12/21/12 03:33 PM, BrokenDeck wrote: That's how a well mixed track can look, if one isn't caught up in the "loudness wars"

Indeed! I've had a complaint saying "your tracks are annoying because I have to turn up my speakers a touch when I listen to them". I just face-palmed and sent them to a site that explains it.
n_n
Dynamics ftw!


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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 03:59 PM Reply

At 12/21/12 03:33 PM, BrokenDeck wrote: That's how a well mixed track can look, if one isn't caught up in the "loudness wars"

That track in particular is ridiculously quiet though. To be honest, my idea of a well-mixed track is one like in the pic below. Lots of dynamics, even though it doesn't have any headroom in the loud parts.

What exactly is "headroom"?


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Buoy
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 04:13 PM Reply

At 12/21/12 03:44 PM, MetalRenard wrote: Indeed! I've had a complaint saying "your tracks are annoying because I have to turn up my speakers a touch when I listen to them".

Regardless of what you think of today's audio trends, there's rarely any good reason not to at least normalize a finished track.

As for the original post, headroom is usually more relevant when it comes to recording and hardware. Having too much headroom usually isn't much of a problem since you can adjust the volume later, though you might get a low signal-to-noise ratio. If you have too little headroom you risk getting clipping or other kinds of distortion in your recording.

Step's explanation of headroom is fine but I don't think headroom really is a well defined term at all. For example, in Step's pic #2 the track seem to be clipping, so is there really any headroom to speak of? Depends on the context I guess.

At 12/21/12 03:59 PM, Step wrote: To be honest, my idea of a well-mixed track is one like in the pic below.

yeah, mono. ;)

The-iMortal
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Response to What exactly is "headroom"? Dec. 21st, 2012 @ 04:40 PM Reply

As the term has already been defined in this topic, headroom is supposed to exist within a mixdown pre-master. In today's day in age of audio, all mastered tracks should be limited around 0db to -2db.