Mastering

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
gjm
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Mastering

Post by gjm » Fri Nov 27, 2009 9:47 pm

Here is a quote from another forum where I asked a question about recording, mixing and mastering. In respect to mastering ...
... there is nothing really in the digital realm that can compare to hardware mastering gear run by professionals whose sole function is mastering audio.
Please discuss...



BTW, I am exploring how 'low' or minimal I can go with the software and hardware I have available in order to complete an independent multi song project for digital and CD release (think UKRuss and Pasha and their current/latest efforts).

Thanks.
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shatzer
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Re: Mastering

Post by shatzer » Fri Nov 27, 2009 10:04 pm

Places like Capitol, Sterling, Bernie Grundman and Lurssen Mastering have been doing this for many years. If you throw an L2 on the track and called it "Mastered" I would have to laugh at you. I would agree with the statement.

Tarekith
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Re: Mastering

Post by Tarekith » Fri Nov 27, 2009 10:09 pm

Seems like two different ideas to me. "Professionals whose sole function is mastering audio" is of course always going to be true, who would disupute that part? As for things in the digital realm comparing to hardware mastering gear, I guess it depends on the gear. Most mastering people I know use a little of both software and hardware, and there's some very successful people using only one or the other. It's not like there's a "right" way once you get into the high end gear (soft or hard), then it's down to preference.

That said, I think for people who are doing their own mastering, there's really not much to it. I have a guide on the Misc page of my website that goes into the idea in more detail, but basically I think if you're doing it yourself, you should do as little as possible when 'mastering' your own music. A little limiting to get the level up some, dither and truncate to 16bit, that's it. For everything else, just go back and fix the issues in the mixdown.
Tarekith
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Inner Portal Studio - Professional Audio Mastering

shatzer
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Re: Mastering

Post by shatzer » Fri Nov 27, 2009 10:24 pm

Tarekith wrote:Seems like two different ideas to me. "Professionals whose sole function is mastering audio" is of course always going to be true, who would disupute that part? As for things in the digital realm comparing to hardware mastering gear, I guess it depends on the gear. Most mastering people I know use a little of both software and hardware, and there's some very successful people using only one or the other. It's not like there's a "right" way once you get into the high end gear (soft or hard), then it's down to preference.

That said, I think for people who are doing their own mastering, there's really not much to it. I have a guide on the Misc page of my website that goes into the idea in more detail, but basically I think if you're doing it yourself, you should do as little as possible when 'mastering' your own music. A little limiting to get the level up some, dither and truncate to 16bit, that's it. For everything else, just go back and fix the issues in the mixdown.
Reading the statement again, I agree with you. If you have someone who doesn't know what they are doing on a complete hardware only mastering facility opposed to a pro whose been doing it for years on a digital system then acourse the digital will sound better. It is two different ideas.

Da hand
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Re: Mastering

Post by Da hand » Fri Nov 27, 2009 10:32 pm

Tarekith wrote:Seems like two different ideas to me.
Yup, my thoughts exactly when I read that statement.

shuutobi
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Re: Mastering

Post by shuutobi » Sat Nov 28, 2009 12:06 am

It's all about the ears, the experience, the monitoring chain, and the room...
Any professional mastering engineer can do what they do in sound forge and get the results they want.

Would they want to? Probably not, but they could.

Khazul
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Re: Mastering

Post by Khazul » Sat Nov 28, 2009 12:36 pm

The most important tool for DIY mastering IMHO is a good quality brick wall limiter (Waves limiters, UAD precision limiter for eg) and perhaps an good EQ to apply an EQ curve appropriate to the target medium. For everything else - go back the mix as you can fix the specicfic element that needs fixing far more easily and without distroying something else.

Live's built in limiter is at best useful for limiting individual tracks pre mix, maybe a stem limiter etc IMHO.
Nothing to see here - move along!

leedsquietman
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Re: Mastering

Post by leedsquietman » Sat Nov 28, 2009 1:51 pm

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.
http://soundcloud.com/umbriel-rising http://www.myspace.com/leedsquietmandemos Live 7.0.18 SUITE, Cubase 5.5.2], Soundforge 9, Dell XPS M1530, 2.2 Ghz C2D, 4GB, Vista Ult SP2, legit plugins a plenty, Alesis IO14.

penfolder
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Re: Mastering

Post by penfolder » Sat Nov 28, 2009 2:33 pm

write the material let the experts master, just find someone who understands what you want to achieve, let them add creativity to the process.
P[P]
2010

Pasha
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Re: Mastering

Post by Pasha » Sat Nov 28, 2009 2:40 pm

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. :D
.. 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.

- Best
- Pasha
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Live 10 Suite,Zebra ,Guitar, Bass, VG99, JV1010 and some controllers
______________________________________
Music : http://alonetone.com/pasha

SubFunk
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Re: Mastering

Post by SubFunk » Sat Nov 28, 2009 2:47 pm

Tarekith wrote:Seems like two different ideas to me. "Professionals whose sole function is mastering audio" is of course always going to be true, who would disupute that part? As for things in the digital realm comparing to hardware mastering gear, I guess it depends on the gear. Most mastering people I know use a little of both software and hardware, and there's some very successful people using only one or the other. It's not like there's a "right" way once you get into the high end gear (soft or hard), then it's down to preference.

That said, I think for people who are doing their own mastering, there's really not much to it. I have a guide on the Misc page of my website that goes into the idea in more detail, but basically I think if you're doing it yourself, you should do as little as possible when 'mastering' your own music. A little limiting to get the level up some, dither and truncate to 16bit, that's it. For everything else, just go back and fix the issues in the mixdown.
i agree with most and to add, a bunch of high end mastering tools (hardware) is no more then software with dedicated knobs, like the Weiss EQs, state of the art uber- sounding EQs that cost a fortune... but they are essentially pure software in nothing but a dedicated box with knobs, yet the quality of the software, therefor the sound is so good that i don't know any plug you can run on a computer that can compare / match with it... it's about the quality and not soft vs hard-ware...

why there are no such good pure software devices as plugs for computers around yet, i don't know!, maybe because a plug would cost 3000-5000 euro a piece, and for that money they can and do throw the box in for free? i really don't know!, all i know, is that the stuff (even there is some incredible good quality available for computers!!! as leedsquiteman stated) is still not up to par with what you get in a box... if we speak dedicated mastering tools.

the experience needed for a good job, no matter what tools, is a different story, thou...

i just wanted to add to the quote:
... there is nothing really in the digital realm that can compare to hardware mastering gear run by professionals whose sole function is mastering audio.
which is in that sense not entirely true.
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Pyramid Audio
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Re: Mastering

Post by Pyramid Audio » Sat Nov 28, 2009 2:59 pm

Tips for self-mastering from a mastering engineer: (these things have been said before but bear repeating...)

-Easy on the compression and limiting! Squashed dynamics is the most common problem with self mastered tracks (and tracks being sent to pro-mastering).

-Level match and A/B compare your changes. Compressed the mix? Now adjust the compressed mix so it is the same volume as the uncompressed mix. Then A/B them and hear which sounds better. The ear usually hears louder as better, so it's vital that you level match changes so that you can really determine which is better--not just louder. Most mastering consoles have this A/B function built in as it is an important tool. It is easy enough to do in a DAW. This is really important and will help you make the right decisions!!!

-As mentioned (wisely) in this thread, when in doubt, do less.


A couple points I would like to make about pro-mastering:

-The most important element in mastering is the monitors and the room (and of course the ears). (This also has been said before but it bears repeating.)

A wrong boost at 150hz is going to sound crap whether it's with a GML8200 or a free plugin EQ. You've got to be able to identify weak/problem areas in the frequency spectrum and correct those. The only way you're going to be able to identify those on a consistent basis is with a full range system (down to at least 30hz) in a well treated room. Anything else is estimation. Same goes for compression/limiting.

-There many well respected mastering engineers using plugins by choice. You can get a great sounding master with plugins, provided they are used correctly. Rack gear has its place too, but only after the room and monitoring are in order.

-Fix any problems at the mix stage. Need more 80hz? Turn up the kick or eq it.



Hope this helps.

leedsquietman
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Re: Mastering

Post by leedsquietman » Sat Nov 28, 2009 3:01 pm

Sure, well written :)
http://soundcloud.com/umbriel-rising http://www.myspace.com/leedsquietmandemos Live 7.0.18 SUITE, Cubase 5.5.2], Soundforge 9, Dell XPS M1530, 2.2 Ghz C2D, 4GB, Vista Ult SP2, legit plugins a plenty, Alesis IO14.

SubFunk
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Re: Mastering

Post by SubFunk » Sat Nov 28, 2009 3:19 pm

yup, true points.

and it's very good to repeat that over and over again... it's a question coming up regularly.
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Tarekith
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Re: Mastering

Post by Tarekith » Sat Nov 28, 2009 3:27 pm

Tarekith
Ableton Forum Administrator
Inner Portal Studio - Professional Audio Mastering

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