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How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

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How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 3:46 am
by hobbyist
Once you get to the mid range of gear, then there is really no technical difference in quality that matters sonically. Of course there are features that are nice and reliability may be better along with other considerations but not anything that affects the sound to make it better.

Many people dispute that factoid.

I admit there is a difference but it is just that a difference.
What is better is totally subjective and cannot be proven logically with any objective method or measurements.

That can be proven with logic, and was done in my graduate classes in math at the uni.

So, since it is subjective, what is the fairest way to decide who is right?
Or is there anyway other than who yells loudest and longest that they are the ones who get to say what is good and bad.

Would majority vote be good? Millions of mp3 lovers would not make the pros very happy.

Should it be how much money can be made with a given kit?
That would ignore composition, performance, room, mikes, preamps, and many other factors.

So what is the best way or will this always just be an argument that has no resolution.

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 7:38 am
by IAA
I don’t think you can say there is a “right”. Art is subjective as I think you are saying. The mechanics of producing your art matter significantly less than the outcome. It’s always been true and will remain so. As everyone seems to be saying and I'm wholeheartedly agreeing with, a great song and great performance are what truly matters. Popularity (fashion and as such transient), in art is not the same as good either!
Right I’ll go and have a coffee now and put some Mozart on. :bouncy:

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 8:22 am
by blinddrew
How well does it meet the objective?
Are you aiming for a realistic capture of a classical ensemble? Ok, so is one mix better than the other in terms of its ability to immerse you in a credible environment? Is there realistic front-to-back depth as well as stereo imaging? Do the fff sections hit you with the power of the orchestra but you still find yourself hunching forward for the pp bits; not because you have to, but because you're captivated.
Does the mix achieve all that but still work well on a set of laptop speakers?
If you're dealing with pop music (of any form) where fidelity is not the main goal, then entertainment generally is. Does one mix keep people more engaged than another? Dynamics, sound-staging, ear-candy, but all in support of the melody and hook.
These are all subjective things but they could easily be objectively measured with listening groups. And mixers, producers, musicians, even composers do get dropped from projects if their work isn't good enough.

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 9:11 am
by CS70
Often, one doesn't. In abstract, it's a pointless discussion beyond the subjective. In practical terms, common scales are popularity and consensus. An both are driven by a mix of facts, individual preferences, social clues and habit.

The more technical the subject, the more facts have a place. In physics there's really no big place for feelings and individual experience (they certainly are an essential inspiration, but nobody who want to be taken seriously would use them as an argument); in art feeling and individual experience are all there is.

Most human fields are somewhere in the middle, and music making is certainly so.

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 9:47 am
by Mike Stranks
As has been said, it's all subjective...

I'll sometimes produce what I consider a good mix from recorded tracks and then send the mix plus the tracks to another 'mixer'. I then get sent a copy of their mix, which I'll often consider to be very poor. Who's to decide which is 'better'?

I think (controversially) that, whether we acknowledge it or not, there's a high degree of nerdiness/geekiness in our little corner of the world. People with that background want objectivity - right/wrong etc. This is sometimes reflected in 'Which is best?'; 'What settings do I need to use to...?' type questions and answers that concentrate on parameters rather than sound. Of course, technically good gear is important, but in the final analysis what makes a pleasing mix ain't the type of converters used! :)

(Incidentally; that's why I never comment hear on anyone's mix unless a very specific question has been asked about clipping, distortion, noise has been asked and a sample to illustrate the point has been uploaded.)

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 9:55 am
by CS70
blinddrew wrote: And mixers, producers, musicians, even composers do get dropped from projects if their work isn't good enough.

Also worth saying that "different" is often perceived as "bad".

I remember reading about "Hey ya", massive hit of the late 2000s - being initially deemed a failure because it was so different from the rest of the music that radio listeners were switching away after a few seconds. Only after explicitly sandwiching it between two more regular tracks, it got its chance.. and became super popular.

As of composers and people getting dropped, my $.10 is that often has to do with personal chemistry, impressions and trust rather than any evaluation of "good" or not. Nothing unusual, social perceptions are a key to commercial success or career from CEOs to pop stars. Making a good first impression is critical.

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 10:19 am
by John Egan
For me, mixing and mastering are about achieving a result which I think presents the song in the way I think is best. If I manage that, I am happy; if not I keep trying.
All totally subjective and, once I got reasonable equipment (not high end) not at all equipment dependent.
Regards, John

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 10:55 am
by Hugh Robjohns
it's a question without resolution -- not because it can't be answered, but because your premise is fatally flawed.

Consider the same question but related to fine-dining rather than music...
----------
Once you get to the mid range of restaurants, then there is really no difference in quality that can be tasted at a Michelin Restaurant ...nothing that affects the taste to make it better.

Would majority vote be good? Millions of Macdonald-lovers would not make the pros chefs very happy....

And so on!
-----------

:lol:

The OP's premise is based entirely on the fact that he either physically can't appreciate the 'fine-dining' aspect of high-end equipment, or hasn't had the opportunity to experience it for himself.

As a result, he opines that there's no better enjoyment to be found than scoffing a Big Mac and fries -- after all, it satisfies millions of happy customers all around the world!

However, all those who have dined in a 4* Michelin restaurant know that there are chefs who can bring so much more to food and cooking, and the pleasure of a good meal, given the means and resources.

H

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 11:38 am
by CS70
Hugh Robjohns wrote:However, all those who have dined in a 4* Michelin restaurant know that there are chefs who can bring so much more to food and cooking, and the pleasure of a good meal, given the means and resources.

H

There's only 3 stars, not 4. They're loads of fun to go, but 2 and 3 stars are often a little crazy if the objective is to actually eat. But may the thread should be moved to the lounge :)

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 11:40 am
by Hugh Robjohns
CS70 wrote:There's only 3 stars, not 4.

;)

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 3:46 pm
by Watchmaker
"Better" hmm, yes, no way to really engage with that. I think what's missing in this logic is a clear articulation of objectives and some delineation of context. MP3s as an example are a result of a compromise intended to increase distribution within the bandwidth constraints of the early internet. The codec is designed to achieve the minimum viable product for distribution purposes, not to maximize enjoyable listening. So it's better at one thing and worse at the other

If wide spread acceptance of that format is interpreted as better, then the criteria you're measuring against is not related to music production or technical decisions about tools to support that process and so there's a logical fallacy in there, yes?

Any form of program material can be presented in myriad ways and there' no argument about "better" in terms of artistic decision making. Mapplethorpe or Rembrandt are a matter of taste, not quality. A real Rembrandt is better than a painted copy is better than a photocopy, which is still better than a mimeograph, but the mimeograph may be best for a neighborhood flyer for a kids birthday party. Context is important.

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 3:48 pm
by Hugh Robjohns
:clap: Nicely argued case! :D

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 5:32 pm
by hobbyist
blinddrew wrote:How well does it meet the objective?
Are you aiming for a realistic capture of a classical ensemble? Ok, so is one mix better than the other in terms of its ability to immerse you in a credible environment? Is there realistic front-to-back depth as well as stereo imaging? Do the fff sections hit you with the power of the orchestra but you still find yourself hunching forward for the pp bits; not because you have to, but because you're captivated.
Does the mix achieve all that but still work well on a set of laptop speakers?
If you're dealing with pop music (of any form) where fidelity is not the main goal, then entertainment generally is. Does one mix keep people more engaged than another? Dynamics, sound-staging, ear-candy, but all in support of the melody and hook.
These are all subjective things but they could easily be objectively measured with listening groups. And mixers, producers, musicians, even composers do get dropped from projects if their work isn't good enough.


Who gets to say you failed for some reason like your A/D/A was not good enough? How can they prove their claims?

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 5:33 pm
by hobbyist
CS70 wrote:Often, one doesn't. In abstract, it's a pointless discussion beyond the subjective. In practical terms, common scales are popularity and consensus. An both are driven by a mix of facts, individual preferences, social clues and habit.

The more technical the subject, the more facts have a place. In physics there's really no big place for feelings and individual experience (they certainly are an essential inspiration, but nobody who want to be taken seriously would use them as an argument); in art feeling and individual experience are all there is.

Most human fields are somewhere in the middle, and music making is certainly so.

I agree yet I seem to see some folks claiming you have to have high end gear or somehow they can prove your results are bad.

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 5:34 pm
by hobbyist
Mike Stranks wrote:As has been said, it's all subjective...

I'll sometimes produce what I consider a good mix from recorded tracks and then send the mix plus the tracks to another 'mixer'. I then get sent a copy of their mix, which I'll often consider to be very poor. Who's to decide which is 'better'?

I think (controversially) that, whether we acknowledge it or not, there's a high degree of nerdiness/geekiness in our little corner of the world. People with that background want objectivity - right/wrong etc. This is sometimes reflected in 'Which is best?'; 'What settings do I need to use to...?' type questions and answers that concentrate on parameters rather than sound. Of course, technically good gear is important, but in the final analysis what makes a pleasing mix ain't the type of converters used! :)

(Incidentally; that's why I never comment hear on anyone's mix unless a very specific question has been asked about clipping, distortion, noise has been asked and a sample to illustrate the point has been uploaded.)

I sense a bit of arrogance and perhaps snobbishness when folks claim that top end gear is provably better than mid range.

I will grant that the low end stuff can be terrible by most anybodys standards.

But can anybody *prove* that high end gear is better and not merely different?

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 5:37 pm
by hobbyist
CS70 wrote:
blinddrew wrote: And mixers, producers, musicians, even composers do get dropped from projects if their work isn't good enough.

Also worth saying that "different" is often perceived as "bad".

I remember reading about "Hey ya", massive hit of the late 2000s - being initially deemed a failure because it was so different from the rest of the music that radio listeners were switching away after a few seconds. Only after explicitly sandwiching it between two more regular tracks, it got its chance.. and became super popular.

As of composers and people getting dropped, my $.10 is that often has to do with personal chemistry, impressions and trust rather than any evaluation of "good" or not. Nothing unusual, social perceptions are a key to commercial success or career from CEOs to pop stars. Making a good first impression is critical.

If you are doing something for money then the person paying will certainly get to say what is 'good'. But that does not mean it is any better than something else just that one person says so.

And as always, personalities and personal quirks always play a part in deciding as much as other technical factors.

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 5:39 pm
by hobbyist
John Egan wrote:For me, mixing and mastering are about achieving a result which I think presents the song in the way I think is best. If I manage that, I am happy; if not I keep trying.
All totally subjective and, once I got reasonable equipment (not high end) not at all equipment dependent.
Regards, John


Indeed. I please myself.
My nephew pleased himself.
I thought his CD productions were awful technically.

Others may have to please the guy paying for the project.

But none of that proves that someone using mid range gear is inferior to something done on high end kit. Only that they are different and somebody prefers one to the other.

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 5:42 pm
by hobbyist
Hugh Robjohns wrote:it's a question without resolution -- not because it can't be answered, but because your premise is fatally flawed.

Consider the same question but related to fine-dining rather than music...
----------
Once you get to the mid range of restaurants, then there is really no difference in quality that can be tasted at a Michelin Restaurant ...nothing that affects the taste to make it better.

Would majority vote be good? Millions of Macdonald-lovers would not make the pros chefs very happy....

And so on!
-----------

:lol:

The OP's premise is based entirely on the fact that he either physically can't appreciate the 'fine-dining' aspect of high-end equipment, or hasn't had the opportunity to experience it for himself.

As a result, he opines that there's no better enjoyment to be found than scoffing a Big Mac and fries -- after all, it satisfies millions of happy customers all around the world!

However, all those who have dined in a 4* Michelin restaurant know that there are chefs who can bring so much more to food and cooking, and the pleasure of a good meal, given the means and resources.

H

No.

I am saying the emperor is naked.

You could not pay me to eat some of the stuff so called high end fine dining places serve.

Who gets to say that so called allegedly fine dining is any finer than a typical mid range restaurant. How can you prove that claim??

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 5:44 pm
by hobbyist
Watchmaker wrote:"Better" hmm, yes, no way to really engage with that. I think what's missing in this logic is a clear articulation of objectives and some delineation of context. MP3s as an example are a result of a compromise intended to increase distribution within the bandwidth constraints of the early internet. The codec is designed to achieve the minimum viable product for distribution purposes, not to maximize enjoyable listening. So it's better at one thing and worse at the other

If wide spread acceptance of that format is interpreted as better, then the criteria you're measuring against is not related to music production or technical decisions about tools to support that process and so there's a logical fallacy in there, yes?

Any form of program material can be presented in myriad ways and there' no argument about "better" in terms of artistic decision making. Mapplethorpe or Rembrandt are a matter of taste, not quality. A real Rembrandt is better than a painted copy is better than a photocopy, which is still better than a mimeograph, but the mimeograph may be best for a neighborhood flyer for a kids birthday party. Context is important.


I agree that mp3 is terrible.

But how do you PROVE that a wav (or other file) made on high end A/D/A gear is any better than that made on mid range kit?

I agree that it is different but can you PROVE that it is better?

Re: How does one know that one mix/master is really better than another?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 5:50 pm
by Hugh Robjohns
hobbyist wrote:I agree yet I seem to see some folks claiming you have to have high end gear or somehow they can prove your results are bad.

You seem to have spent too much time on rather less reputable websites than this one! :P