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Mastering do's and don't

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myszka1266 +

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Mastering do's and don't
Hey guys so im getting to the stage where my mixdown is almost complete and im starting to look at mastering. I don't know a great deal about this subject so i've come here looking for the gurus to shed some like on the topic. Thanks
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That should help!

Google "the mixplant" otherwise.
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proably should have titled that differently . i think im going to look into ozone 5. is it something i will regret buying?
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Mastering don't: do it yourself.

For the purposes of a hack job / volume boost any free limiter (W1?) should suffice.
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You should be doing it yourself every time...

For tracks that you want to be 100%, ofc send them to a professional...

But IMO you should be attempting to master every track, I have learned so much about my mix down through going to the master, identifying the problem and going back...

I know a lot of my friends who 'never master' would benefit a lot....
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Quote:

Originally Posted by slackas View Post

I have learned so much about my mix down through going to the master, identifying the problem and going back.

This is fine, and actually you can learn a lot about how compression works by experimenting with it on a full mix, but just as long as people don't rely on 'mastering' as a necessary fix.
opiate +

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What you gotta do is make it loud enough so the red light goes cos that means its adding warmth.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by opiate View Post

What you gotta do is make it loud enough so the red light goes cos that means its adding warmth.

These days with digital gear another good trick is to take your heat sink off your cpu so it gets all hot and then when the cpu is hot do your final mix and it will sound way warmer*





















*This may or may not work as may your computer
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slackas +

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ooooooh, i haven't tried that one!
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I'd be really interested to hear pre-mastering versions of tracks so that mixdown references were available.

Pretty tough to test your mixdowns when there's not a reference around.
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Before taking to a professional mastering studio which will cost you a fortune , listen to your mixdown on many speakers as possible , your studio monitors , your hi-fi stereo , cheap computer speakers or even laptop speakers , iPad , iPhone etc compare your track to your favorite professionally mastered track (WAV format) doe's anything need to be turned up or down again? Then send a email to a mastering suite ask if they can give you feedback, my view is 90% is done in mixdown using the right sounds to begin with, 10% mastering were the pro's add a touch of shine to the stereo mix with eq , compression , limiting.
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Yup, referencing your track on many speakers/rooms/environments is a really good idea.

Mastering costing a fortune is a bit of a stretch however
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I get all my tracks professionally mastered by an audio engineer in the UK. We have developed a really good working relationship - I think he offers a great value service - I think its about 60 pounds per track (stem mastering) with discounts for quantities, and he will do as many reworks as necessary until I'm happy with it. He's mastered 16 tracks for me over the past 12 or so months. He's also worked to tight deadlines when necessary.

I know that my strengths lie in composition, not the technical stuff and this is what I enjoy. When everything is working I can compose a track in a weekend. Some people really enjoy the mastering process and everyone values their time differently but I am very, very happy for a professional to give my tracks their magical touch rather than me spending hours and hours trying to work out how the hell to master something.

Hearing my tracks for the first time when they come back from mastering is like opening a christmas present. Everything just sounds so much better.

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Ben Royal View Post

I get all my tracks professionally mastered by an audio engineer in the UK. We have developed a really good working relationship - I think he offers a great value service - I think its about 60 pounds per track (stem mastering) with discounts for quantities, and he will do as many reworks as necessary until I'm happy with it. He's mastered 16 tracks for me over the past 12 or so months. He's also worked to tight deadlines when necessary.

How does a stem-master differ from a mixdown?
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Fewsion View Post

How does a stem-master differ from a mixdown?

Some audio engineers just take a rough edit of the whole track as one file and master it. Others take each stem individually and make a final mastered version of the whole track.

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Right, but does that differ from a mixdown?
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Fewsion View Post

Right, but does that differ from a mixdown?


Well... it essentially is a mixdown in the sense that you are combining tracks... just not on such an in depth scale. One of the most common "stem" mastering techniques is using a vocal stem + instrumental stem. The stem is a mixdown itself... Just mute the instrumental tracks and bounce down a vocal stem, then reverse the process, mute you vocals and bounce down an instrumental. It just provides more possibilities come mastering.
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Sweet, not trying to be difficult, but it sounded like a pretty good price for what essentially is a mixdown.
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its different from a mixdown, when you pull the farers up to unity in a stems session the track will play back as it was mixed. however if the ME decideds the vocals needs more highs then thay can be added to the vocal stem without adding the highs to the entire mix
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Yeah, granted that if you're working with stems that adjustments on one wouldn't affect the entire mix, that's pretty straightforward.

So Jude and others who agree, are you of the opinion that a mixing engineer will use effects like reverbs, delays and volume automation in a mixdown but a mastering engineer will (stem or stereo mastering) would only make the fine tune adjustments?

TA, if you're watching, you advertise your services as a mixdown which is what people are saying is stem mastering, what's your take? Or have I got it totes wrong?
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My take on it is that stem mastering is usually only a few wav files. I don't offer a full raw mixdown, i.e. 100+ tracks, adding major creative effects etc. For the price I charge, there's no way I could. I'm kind of half way between I guess. You can still make a drastic change to a mix with 10+ stemmed tracks, a good room, proper tools and many years of experience Also, if there's something mixed in that I need separated, I ask for it.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Fewsion View Post

Yeah, granted that if you're working with stems that adjustments on one wouldn't affect the entire mix, that's pretty straightforward.

So Jude and others who agree, are you of the opinion that a mixing engineer will use effects like reverbs, delays and volume automation in a mixdown but a mastering engineer will (stem or stereo mastering) would only make the fine tune adjustments?

TA, if you're watching, you advertise your services as a mixdown which is what people are saying is stem mastering, what's your take? Or have I got it totes wrong?


If we roll back the clock, a mastering engineers job was to prepare the audio for production and ultimately create the master disk itself. Back in the day that involved the engineer gearing up the lathe and cutting the vinyl master that went to the manufacturing plant... after a bunch of elaborate processes a negative of that vinyl master is created and used to press the records.

Today, its still the same process for vinyl mastering... and still the mastering engineers job to create the master disk for cd production... DDP images, redbook standard audio Cds, etc.

I would consider any form of mastering a similar process. The final stage of audio preparation prior to release. It is worth noting that reverb can still be used in mastering as well as volume automation (fancy crossfades between tracks on a disk, etc).

I always imply the term "mixdown" with the same context that I first heard it. Reel to reel machines! It was more of a necessity thing... but when you start running out of channels on the reel to reel machine you would "mixdown" the drums and print them to a stereo track to free up some channels for other instruments.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by BasketCase View Post

If we roll back the clock, a mastering engineers job was to prepare the audio for production and ultimately create the master disk itself.

This was certainly true in years gone by. The main emphasis was to compile the songs in the right order, splice some blank tape in between songs to set the gaps, output the audio onto the right format (mostly 1/4 inch tape) and apply sparing amounts of eq or volume adjustment only if necessary. When mastering for cassette you had to apply the obligatory compensation EQ for different tape stock, and for vinyl mastering you had to do the basics like phase correction and the like.(which still needs to be done btw).

These days there's certainly a different expectation clients have from the mastering process. It's not a case of just simply assembling a production master. Hell, most of my clients don't even want a production master anymore. It's all sold online as wavs. What they're paying for is the mastering engineer's EQ judgement. Plain and simple. They're relying on the M.E to set the perfect playback tone for the album and to sonically adjust each song to it's best potential.
I was asked this question recently in a channel 31 interview on mastering. Anyone interested can see it via the following link;

http://www.youtube.com/user/crystalmastering
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Quote:

Originally Posted by soundroid View Post

These days there's certainly a different expectation clients have from the mastering process.

No there isn't. The expectations remain exactly the same...
The fact that your clients want a production master in the form of a .wav file for digital distribution doesn't change your roll. You are still preparing the audio for release.

You... like someone creating a vinyl master, or a tape master or a CD master... are still applying EQ, compression and other forms of processing with the aim of creating the best sonic quality for the final target medium.

That has historically always been a mastering engineers job, and continues to be. The only thing that has changed is the preferred medium.

Last edited by BasketCase: 23-Jul-12 at 11:35am

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Ok, maybe you're right. But from my 20 years in the mastering chair, the 'emphasis' has certainly shifted over the past 20 years.
When CD's came in the late 80's, you had to provide the plant with a '1630 U-matic tape'. This was a specialzed format only found in mastering studios.There was a lot of high tech, expensive digital gear involved to simply make the production master.
To me as I recall, the emphasis was on creating the production master. Doing all the appropriate house keeping duties like fading out tracks, putting the songs in the right order, doing tape error checks etc.

These days, with DAWS there's a lot less fan-fare in creating a master. It has to be done right, however there's far less dramatics. Engineers and producers that walk into my studio don't even mention the physical production master. Their main drive is about the sound. This is where it's changed. most of them simply want the mastered wavs uploaded to them and bypass the production master. Even if we look at the basic concept of current day level on a master, it's a clear contrast to what was important in years gone by.
so respectfully, I disagree & I believe expectations have changed.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by soundroid View Post

Ok, maybe you're right. But from my 20 years in the mastering chair, the 'emphasis' has certainly shifted over the past 20 years.
When CD's came in the late 80's, you had to provide the plant with a '1630 U-matic tape'. This was a specialzed format only found in mastering studios.There was a lot of high tech, expensive digital gear involved to simply make the production master.
To me as I recall, the emphasis was on creating the production master. Doing all the appropriate house keeping duties like fading out tracks, putting the songs in the right order, doing tape error checks etc.

If the current trend in the industry to to release single tracks via digital delivery, what are you still creating? Your role hasn't mysteriously been repurposed because of technological changes. It still remains the same. It is kind of like saying the role of a mix engineer has been repurposed because digital technology has done away with the need to slice tape while editing.

Quote:

These days, with DAWS there's a lot less fan-fare in creating a master. It has to be done right, however there's far less dramatics. Engineers and producers that walk into my studio don't even mention the physical production master. Their main drive is about the sound. This is where it's changed. most of them simply want the mastered wavs uploaded to them and bypass the production master. Even if we look at the basic concept of current day level on a master, it's a clear contrast to what was important in years gone by.
so respectfully, I disagree & I believe expectations have changed.

So... you have been in the chair for 20 years and at some point your job wasn't about the sound?? That doesn't sound right. It has always been about the sound. The high end esoteric gear found in vinyl mastering isn't there for anything but the sound! Getting the groove depth perfect, examining for flaws... just because digital distribution has created a file format where something physically tangible is no longer needed in terms of a production master, and the actual creation and error checking is largely software automated doesn't make your role any different than it ever has been.

The fact that customers want a different final medium and that software have slim-lined the process of creating that final production master hasn't changed a mastering engineers purpose. Whether the final medium is physical or not is a bit of a moot point. Do you at any stage speak to your clients about final file formats?


But anyway... no sweat in disagreeing. I won't take any offense to it.
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I hear you brother. No offence taken at all. Lively debate is cool by me.
And yes the job has always been, and will always be about the sound. All I was trying to say, and obviously not doing a good job at it, was there was a time when the physical production master was why many flocked to mastering. The mastering house was the only gateway to the production plant. The sonic enhancement was certainly part of it, but not given anywhere near as much emphasis as today. I remember loads of sessions where the producers walked in with a DAT tape and simply wanted it transferred digitally to a U-matic master. That was the magic in their eyes.

I just don't think people see mastering as simply the place to get a master anymore.....as weird as that sounds! they see it as a stage to get the their tunes enhanced and sounding as good as possible. they don't leave gasping..."holy crap, we've got our music as A DDP file" Producers are at the session for the processing aspect of mastering and not really focused on final file format as once before.
But all you're point make sense to me. I think we're just coming at it from different points of view.

all the best,

Joe
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1) before sending to master, or doing it yourself, hear it everywhere.. ear buds, car, shit pc speakers, club system. When you have it 90%, you're ready.
2) get it loud. How? well, for starters don't have one compressor or limiter carry all the reduction, have each take a task. one to grab the quick attacks, another for the slow stuff, another for brickwall or freq. based. doing this with hardware gear works nice too, 'cause the different gear adds it's own character to the track.
3) brickwall it to less then 0db threshold. I use a threshold of -0.2db. Most digital playbacks these days are decent, however if you find the track playing on an older shitty system you'll notice it may clip at even -0.5db.
4) mess around with Mid-Side,,.. I find for EDM sometimes needs a little low shelving on the low sides to give the bass more up the middle definition. Notice I said shelf, NOT cut.

...T-racks 3 is good for an in the box approach.. or you could send it to a mastering guy. It doesn't cost as much as people make it sound.. I mean, depends who you send it to. But there decent guys mastering at a fair rate. cheers.
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prettttty cool thread

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Mastering is sometimes correction of problems that the produce and engineer are not even aware of and may never be aware of. Could be the focus for mixing that means certain issues are missed as you are listening for certain things and not others, acoustics, monitoring quality, listening ability and experience.

So what to listen for, well mainly does your mix sound incredible and does it translate well and did you catch all possible problems relating to quality control ?

Other issues, specific enhancements that you cannot perform yourself due to equipment/skill limitations, mix advice, stereo image, perceived volume, how the track works with others on the same release, sub code information. It covers a lot of scope and means different thing to different people depending on experience and goals.

cheers

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Ive only ever sent the one 24bit file off, im liking the idea of up to 10 stems with some fresh ears in a pro studio/engineer/set up
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