How Can I Make My CDs Hotter?
What is meant by a "Hot" CD?
A "hot" audio CD is one with its peak levels close to 0dBFS (i.e. digital saturation). A lot of CDsmastered in a workstation have only .1 or .2dB of headroom with a highaverage level as well and a mortal without a digital limiter is unableto get the same result without generating 'overs' (i.e. clipping).The answer to the original question is to record the master at 20 bit resolution (or greater) and digitally limit and redither the signal to 16 bit.
The Waves L1 limiter is ideal for this use and sounds great to boot. I use it when mixing on my 16 bit ProTools 3 DAW; it sounds amazing for rock and roll and you get very good control over the density and final headroom of the master; I usually dial in .2dB of headroom so that no 'over' lights ever get set. It's pretty funny to see someone look at the meters on a DAT machine and scratch their head because all the segments are lit up occasionally but there's no distortion or clipping!
The whole point to doing this is so that you use the full resolution potential of the listener's converters and also so that the CD plays back louder. This technique can reportedly cause problems with el-cheapo CD players whose analog sections clip near 0dBFS, but a lot of those players sound bad anyways, so why worry.
© 1995 Monte McGuire