How Loud is Too Loud?
Wow. We're opening a can of worms here. These days the ability to make a CD LOUD has gotten easier and easier. We're not too far off base if we said that every guy with a computer in his basement thinks he can master a CD these days. More often than not the resulting CD is loud, maybe even very loud, but loudness is not the measure of a quality mastering job, by any means. Yes, the level of your CD should be solid, loud, strong... but not at the expense of the quality of your music. Very often inexpensive mastering setups result in a brutalizing of the nuances, textures and dynamics of your recording and of the song itself. Remember, just being loud does not by itself mean you have finally made a quality record.
One delusion that has become common is that you should make a CD sound like it is "on the radio". Well, if you never expect to hear it on the radio then maybe you can make a case for compressing the signal as far as you have to to simulate that effect on CD players, but if it does get on the radio watch out! Radio stations routinely add 5 band multi compression and 35 db of dynamic reduction to squeeze as much music as they can out over the airwaves but they can't take into account that you have already compressed your signal way too far. The result will sound far too crushed and lifeless, with an inherent distortion that may turn listeners off to your music... exactly the opposite of what you hope to accomplish!
It takes great care to master a record. The most important aspect of mastering is to convey the music and it's emotion as well as can be. It is important that you choose a mastering engineer based on trust in his or her ability to present your music as vividly as possible at every stage of the process, whether it be your car stereo, boombox, audiophile system or the holy grail of music - the radio. Yes, music can be a good thing loud. We politely and humbly suggest that the volume control on the stereo is the most appropriate place for this decision. In only one case does actual relative volume between CD's come into play and that is in the home or car stereo multi-disc changer. Even commercial jukeboxes are already taking into account the volume disparity between CD's and squashing the loud ones DOWN even more to with compressors to make them play consistently alongside many huge hit records with more traditional levels.
The mastering engineers at Mr. Toad's feel confident that we can deliver you the sound you're looking for, that will sound great everywhere. But the bottom line is you're the one who's got to be happy with the sound of your record. If you're concerned that the record should be as loud as possible, just discuss this with us, we can and will make a record as hot as you like.
For more investigation of the subject of volume on CDs, be sure to check out the What is Hot? page.