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Is 'mastering' actually needed?

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Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Freuman » Tue Jul 21, 2009 12:35 am

I have a solution for the loudness wars that most people here wont like:

OK, mastering used to be a hugely important process, but nowadays it seems to be little more than crushing the life out of music to make it louder than the last thing that was released.

:protest:

With digital recording we have loads of headroom and ridiculous signal to noise ratios etc...

So do we actually need the mastering process? It'd put more pressure on mix engineers to actually get it right, but it is easy to learn dither and if the mix buss needs a limiter then why can't the engineer be trusted? They can cope with applying limiters to other things...

:?

(I'm gonna duck for cover now!)

:D
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jul 21, 2009 1:20 am

I realise there's a tongue stuck firmly in a cheek there somewhere.... but there is rather more to mastering than simply crushing the dynamic life out of tracks -- although that does seem to be the one thing that most people now associate with the role of a mastering engineer.

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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Mike Craig » Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:08 am

I am always delighted when I get my Mastered tracks back from the Mastering Engineer.
They come back sounding brighter and more polished with a wider overall stereo field.
The compression the ME uses seems to tighten things up and "glue" the mix together, as well as increasing the overall loudness.
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby CarlNorthcore » Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:54 am

There's nothing I love more than hearing our stuff come back from mastering, having been run through some mouth-watering class-a gear and attended to lovingly by a dude whose job it is to make my stereo bounces sound sweet.... a guy who finds it "fun" to listen for problem frequencies in the mix and notch them out (of the sides only, using a m/s EQ).

To be honest, I know that I can get a similar sound in my home studio (with my cousin's help who has some nice class-a gear), but it is a waste of my time, I don't really enjoy it and it simply isn't as confidence-inspiring and gratifying as paying somebody else to do it... read the above paragraph wrong, and it sounds quite naughty.

But there is something VERY satisfying about getting a track back and hearing what somebody has done with it.

In our genre (ambient) loudness usually is not an issue... but I still make ABSOLUTELY sure that the ME understands that I am NOT after an ambient track with average loudness of -9.0 dbFS.
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Syncratic » Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:44 am

Apologies for hijacking the thread a little, but can anyone recommend a good value for money (cheap) mastering service?

I'd like to send one my tracks off just out of interest really, to hear the differences they can make.

Thanks
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Tue Jul 21, 2009 12:34 pm

Here are some good reasons to get your audio mastered.

Bring a number of mixes together as one product (especially if mixed on various systems/studios)

Insertion of sub code data to receive your royalties.

Insertion of CD Text and Barcode information

Quality control check on your spectrum through an accurate
room and monitoring system.

To subjectively improve the sound quality of your mixes if necessary.

To correct common problems in frequency response.

To correct/advise on mix problems which may cause playback
problems.

To increase perceived punch and if desired loudness with
least amount of artifacts introduced.

If requested critique of existing mixes.

It can actually be inexpensive.

Increase likelyhood that your CD/DDP master duplicates/replicates at the plant correctly and has a technical contact.

To say your music has been mastered alludes to the fact that you take your musical output seriously.

To maximise compatibility across a variety of playback systems, such as nightclubs, radio broadcast.

cheers
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Guest » Wed Jul 22, 2009 6:56 pm

Mastering is not just about loudness and usually, unless there is client pressure on the mastering engineer (or the mix engineer as more and more this is where the problem really lies), heavily limited tracks is a non-issue.

Most reputable mastering engineers will avoid using limiters when possible, or use only a very small amount (1 to 2 db) to avoid harming the mix.
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Helmutcrab » Sat Jul 25, 2009 11:29 pm

I think the benefits would be great (experience, neutral room, fresh set of willing ears as pointed out above) but i just cant afford it unfortunately seen as though i pay out money to make and perform music and dont get an income (like most other folks ive came into contact with) but i do take my music very seriously. :frown:
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby John Reid » Sun Jul 26, 2009 2:33 am

Apologies in advance, SafeandSound123, as I play devil's advocate and take your response apart (while poking a bit of fun along the way!). Your response is informative and clearly based on experience.

SafeandSound123 wrote:Bring a number of mixes together as one product (especially if mixed on various systems/studios)
Very good point, not obvious at all to the uninitiated; nevertheless, an art that, given time, might be learned by the ambitious home studio owner. In the internet world where the "album" concept has all but disappeared, this is unfortunately becoming irrelevant.

SafeandSound123 wrote:Insertion of sub code data to receive your royalties.
Absolutely valid point, assuming you get airplay; in terms of MP3's and downloads, irrelevant; let's not even mention piracy.

SafeandSound123 wrote:Insertion of CD Text and Barcode information
It's nice when you're ripping a pirated CD to find out who it's attributed to, free of charge, before you put the pirated track on the internet; saves lots of typing. BTW, what's a barcode? A secret number that gets me free beer?

SafeandSound123 wrote:Quality control check on your spectrum through an accurate room and monitoring system.
This is important if your work is going to be played back in an "accurate" room, otherwise the live engineer/DJ/punter will twiddle bass & treble as they see fit. Again, to downloaders/MP3-players, room acoustics play no part in how earbuds sound.

SafeandSound123 wrote:To subjectively improve the sound quality of your mixes if necessary.
Let's face it, this usually means somehow creating something out of the God-awful mish-mash of uncleared samples, incompetently-played instrument track snippets and pre-school lyrics that masquerade as music these days.

SafeandSound123 wrote:To correct common problems in frequency response.
The majority of issues tend to reside in the 20Hz-20kHz frequency range.

SafeandSound123 wrote:To correct/advise on mix problems which may cause playback problems.
For example, 14 tracks on your CD have only one instrument, a bass drum being played 4/4 at 120BPM;


SafeandSound123 wrote:To increase perceived punch and if desired loudness with least amount of artifacts introduced.
"... and if desired, loudness" -- actually no, I'd much prefer if my track was way quieter that the others, so they would feel guilty when they get successful and I'm a wino.

SafeandSound123 wrote:If requested critique of existing mixes.
So we pay you to tell us we're shite?

SafeandSound123 wrote:It can actually be inexpensive.
... unless we want the truth, which will undoubtedly come with a lawyer and a retainer.

SafeandSound123 wrote:Increase likelyhood that your CD/DDP master duplicates/replicates at the plant correctly and has a technical contact.
Admit it ... you own the duplication plant as well!

SafeandSound123 wrote:To say your music has been mastered alludes to the fact that you take your musical output seriously.
One notes the fact that one can still maintain one's music was mastered whether or not one's music was actually mastered or not.

SafeandSound123 wrote:To maximise compatibility across a variety of playback systems, such as nightclubs, radio broadcast.
Admit it, you own the bloody nightclubs too!

SafeandSound123 wrote:cheers
How dare you! :D
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby GliderBoy » Sun Jul 26, 2009 4:08 am

John, taking this all tongue-in-cheek, of course, I loved your response. Seriously, so much of what you said is but true on many levels, and therefore good for a laugh at this time of night. (I wish it weren't so true)...
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby GliderBoy » Sun Jul 26, 2009 4:10 am

P.S., just so I'm not misunderstood, I do believe there is value in mastering, even in this day and age.
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby MadManDan » Sun Jul 26, 2009 4:27 am

John Reid wrote: (everything John Reid said)
:bouncy: :bouncy: :bouncy: :bouncy: :bouncy: :bouncy: :bouncy: :bouncy: :bouncy: :bouncy: Again, as GliderBoy said, Sad but true. Mastering is STILL the "right" thing to do in a world of music-gone-wrong :headbang:
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby skopje » Sun Jul 26, 2009 5:26 am

I have known some artists i love recently get their albums mastered in NAME HIGH END mastering houses....

The musical style is of an acoustic nature, and quite honestly i preferred the mixes before mastering...

Things have gotten too technical and not enough emphasis on music or emotion..

Someone i know went in to abbey road and had mastering done. It is almost pefect. Every frequency is in the right place, all the mids have been tames, along with all the rogue frequencies..

But when i listened to the mastered versions without prejudice, i no longer enjoyed the music..

I can't back this up with science, and i know its subjective, but i trust my heart and soul.

Do you want to make something for people to listen to flawed or perfect? Or do you want to make a product that is loud on an i-player that someone can shuffle through?

I don't know

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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Sun Jul 26, 2009 1:22 pm

I do not agree that mixes translate only when played back in a well treated room.

Bob Katz summed this up nicely in his book, though in a
more articulate way.... (with a drawing to boot)

It's about pleasing as many listeners as possible on the most amount of playback systems, as you veer from accuracy this goal diminishes.

I am a rather serious person (esp. where my profession is concerned) and did not find the responses funny, though neither condecending.When someone is ready in their career they know it needs to be mastered and labels tend to cause they want QC amongst other things.

Don't get me wrong I like a laugh but honestly did not find the comments useful or funny. YMMV.

cheers

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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby John Reid » Sun Jul 26, 2009 11:09 pm

Again, I apologise if my response offended, that was not the intention and that was clearly stated at the beginning of the piece. I absolutely believe that mastering is an art, that it is essential for many types of music, and that the skills are not easily acquired and cannot be learned from a book.

Nevertheless, we live in a world where, despite all the amazing advances in technology, music "as a product" has been denatured to the point where it is just another commodity, like white bread or fried chicken, consumed by generations who have no idea how it came to be, and no desire to find out; as such, we either accept the situation as it is, or risk self-delusion. For such an audience, there is as little point in mastering the stuff they opt to consume as there would be in hiring Pulitzer prizewinners to write for tabloid newspapers.

To some degree I may have hijacked this topic, but only in the spirit of good clean weekend fun; it may provoke some thought as well. To return to the OP's question, "is mastering actually needed?", I would say, yes, but ... it depends ....
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