leedsquietman wrote:Obviously pro mastering places such as Sterling Sound are the places to go if you can afford to spend 10k plus on a Mastering job for your album.
Many real pro MEs use top rate gear and usually a combination of analog and digital hardware and software, coupled with unbelievably expensive monitoring systems and top end converters such as Lavry Gold etc and most of them have years of experience. Of course this is the best option if you have budget for it.
Let's face it - the vast, vast majority of this community and most others are semi-pro or enthusiastic amateurs, who don't have facilities to compare to the real pro end stuff and very little, if any budget for mastering.
Digital mastering and plugins has come on such a huge amount that it is very possible to get a reasonable result if you know how to handle the tools and have at least a useable and a reasonable sounding room and monitoring. I have done mix finalizing/mastering jobs with Soundforge and CD Architect, and a bunch of good quality 3rd party plugins for bands and charged them very reasonable rates that are in line with what I can offer compared to a pro ME and everyone has been happy with how things worked out. There are some people with that super expensive gear who don't really have a clue. Every day I read about some noob with more money than sense splashing on a PTHD rig and expecting it to be a miracle. Then they have no cash left and end up buying budget mics and monitors and wonder why the guy who spent a fraction of this is getting better sounds. Getting the max out of certain tools can make you punch above your weight.
Everyone should put in the time and effort to learn about mastering, even if you hand off to someone else, knowing how the process works means you know exactly what you want and have realistic expectations of what can be achieved. Yes, mastering is not just throwing a brick wall limiter on, it's a whole process if done right with many things factored in. However, as shown by Russ and Pasha, the main thing is getting a good mix in the first place. The mix is king, bring a nice mix into the mastering process and you don't need to do too much, just a light touch is required for balancing levels, compression/limiting, EQing and working on any editing or fades. The biggest noob mistake is to process too heavily for the sake of it. Just like regular mixing - if you have an EQ with 10 bands, you don't have to use all 10 bands in a radical way if it sounds great in the mix without anything but a lo-cut, just for the sake of it. If your drums sound good as they are, you don't have to run them through another compressor just because you always compress drums, because compression=good. Or apply a Sonic Maximiser to something that already sounds fantastic just because you dropped money on a plugin, so feel obliged to use it.
I had the luck to win a prize made by 10h of recording studio so with the band we recorded in a top studio in my late twenties.
We spend 30% of the time (1 song) playing and rest of the time mixing.
We were not allowed to stay in the mastering phase.
At that time I didn't pay attention to what the engineer was doing but I remember that he was overstressed about having a good mix,
a good track EQ and the right amount of FX (including compression) so I totally agree with you about mixing the phase and its importance in overall results.
A part from that thank you for citing my mixing work in your post. It took time but I'm happy it was worth the effort.
.. However, I'm still learning...
As you said, the culprit was when I re-started from scratch, trashing all effects and concentrating only on balance and music.
When you have so many FX, temptation is to abuse them all.
Apple iMac 2013 / Macbook Late 2012
Live 10 Suite,Zebra ,Guitar, Bass, VG99, JV1010 and some controllers
Music : http://alonetone.com/pasha