Mastering- The Horror

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by martin H, Jul 7, 2015.

  1. martin H

    martin H Senior Member

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    I don't think I'm ever going to record for anyone under 40 again.

    Spent the last couple of weeks recording some college kids, as a "legacy" deal for an old friend. I was reasonably happy with the results, as far as I can control them. HOWEVER...

    I sent the band a couple of test mixes that I had mastered to what I consider to be a "normal" level of -9db Using Adobe Audition's normalizing capabilities. this was after a multi-band "pre-mastering" using Isotope Ozone. This is the level that most of my commercial "rock" CD recordings seem to be mastered to. However,as I was to discover, a normal level of 15 years ago is now no longer normal.

    I expected the usual teenage trauma, i.e., each member thinks that the mix is fine EXCEPT that his instrument is mixed too low. Instead, I got the same response from two band members " why is it so quiet compared to a commercial recording?"

    I was a bit taken aback as I don't normally get such complaints, but, then again, I work mostly with people of my own age. I asked them to send me a couple of examples of what they listen to.

    The recordings they sent average about -5db on Audition, and look like the profile of an Edison cylinder, i.e., a thick bar with a tiny bit of variation on the edges. I gritted my teeth and mastered their mixes to the same level. All the dynamics have gone. It's just a buzz saw from start to finish .

    They liked them, but asked if it was possible "to get it any louder?" It's their recording, but I'm staring to hate my own work listening to it. Is there no end to the "loudness wars?"
     
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  2. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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  3. 1FretLess

    1FretLess Senior Member

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    the tool you need is a 'compressor'

    screw the dynamic range squish the wave so you can amplify it more!!
     
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  4. michaelinokc

    michaelinokc Senior Member

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    Loudness - that's what stereo volume knobs are for.
     
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  5. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    screw the dynamic range? amplify it more?!

    funny guy :cool:
     
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  6. martin H

    martin H Senior Member

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    I think I'm beyond the range of a compressor already. Maybe one of those new "steamroller complete flattener thin-as-a-dime squashing" plug-ins is what's required.
     
  7. martin H

    martin H Senior Member

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    Ha. To quote the response I got from one band member to the original mix

    "I think I'm getting some distortion because I have to turn my stereo up way high because the recording is so low......."

    I'm still trying to get my head around that one.
     
  8. michaelinokc

    michaelinokc Senior Member

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    He needs a better stereo system, too. Not just any old volume knobs will do the trick. :)
     
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  9. DavidRamey

    DavidRamey Senior Member

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    Where would they buy a decent stereo today? All the old stereo stores are gone. Any that survived are now Home Theater Stores. A typical stereo today is an iPod or iPhone going through a bluetooth speaker.
     
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  10. KP11520

    KP11520 Senior Member

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    It would be a LONG drive for ya David, but here:
    Home Page

    There are still some around that focus on STEREO. Chris is an old friend. We worked together 20 years ago in Corporate America. He is quite experienced. Might as well stay a week or two, Manhattan is oinly 90 minutes away! :D LOL
     
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  11. DavidRamey

    DavidRamey Senior Member

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    While I am glad that there are a few stereo stores left, you are right about the long drive (4500 miles approx. and about a 9 day drive one way). Besides, I already have a good stereo.
     
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  12. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

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    I would STRONGLY suggest that anybody in Martin's situation (dealing with clients who aren't up to what happening) buy the NUGEN mastercheck plugin that'll allow the engineer to quickly demonstate how the hyperloud, dynamic-lacking squashed mess of a mix will compare very unfavorably to a master of the same material with proper dynamic and loudness (-15LKFS and a DN of 15 for example) , all listening-volume compensated, off course. That ought to put an end to silly arguments about loudness right there. Get with the program, folks.:D
     
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  13. John Scrip

    John Scrip Senior Member

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    Welcome to my daily world.

    At one point, I thought I had the best job in the world. Now, sometimes I absolutely hate it. And 90% of the hate is from the volume war.
     
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  14. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    Aaw hell....that's gotta be a real bummer. You mastering guys have the finest gear and the best listening environments. I can see how it's a blow to the pride when you're forced to churn out that kind of work.
     
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  15. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

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    Would you say that the recent developments (volume normalization on the internet and in computer operating systems) have had any appreciable effect on your work yet? Are there clients who "get it"?
     
  16. blues_n_cues

    blues_n_cues Senior Member

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    do they understand that when & if it gets radio play it will be the same "loudness" as the song before & after theirs no matter what you do to it?
     
  17. John Scrip

    John Scrip Senior Member

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    "Yes" to the above 3.

    And I actually think that's one of the huge NEGATIVES about the whole "internet delivery" thing... I'm probably 90% unattended. Which I couldn't' even imagine just 10 or 15 years ago. I get to clearly hear (and suffer through) the damage that the client is insisting on. I definitely notice that with attended sessions, that little extra push over the edge isn't quite as pushy. A lot of people don't get to hear their recordings on a system like / in a room like this. If they did, I have a feeling the 'war' would be a few dB more gentle.

    SOme clients "get it" - But many don't care enough. I think one of the coolest things to come about lately is Mastered for iTunes - I'm one of a relatively small but steadily growing number of facilities / engineers that are "certified" (or whatever Apple calls it) to crank out "Mastered for iTunes" files. It's more or less a set protocol of level and quality control where you use high-resolution files that aren't allowed intersample clipping on conversion. I'm using the same algorithm Apple is using to convert to AAC and running through an additional test that checks for intersample clipping post-conversion.

    I use MFiT as a chance to give the client the recording as it's "supposed to be" (for lack of a better term). "Vinyl volume" (for lack of another). The volume and limiting are rolled back to where the MUSIC wants to be. And it's wonderful. The part that pisses me off uncontrollably is that I actually know several engineers that do nothing more than lower the limiter by a dB or so to avoid that intersample clipping. Just as squashed, just as smashed, the exact same crest factor but with a (very) slightly lower level. "Technically" it passes the QC tests -- But it flies in the face of the spirit of the whole thing. And that sucks.

    Radio... I even go as far as to explain that the "more normal" the level, the better (and usually even slightly louder) it will be on-air. "Meh" is the usual reply.

    I really hope it turns around some day though.

    It still haunts me -- Back in '95 or so, I was being interviewed for some music magazine and they were asking about the current "state of volume" and asked if I thought there should be a "standard" on crest factors and apparent level. I said something like "Of course not -- No one is ever going to squash their recordings to death just to make it louder than the next guy..."

    I guess that's when I still had faith in humanity. :slash:
     
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  18. dmoss74

    dmoss74 Senior Member

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    modern day mastering isn't even worth the effort. just peg everything to -3db, and let the dust settle where it will.

    it's a shame. and any cross-fading, track arrangement is lost before it's discussed.

    i don't envy anyone who attempts to master a recording in this era. :)

    "dude...make me louder." oi
     
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  19. babatube

    babatube Senior Member

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    loudness war is over?
    new mastering proves not.
    the latest albums i hear sound like they are high passed in 50 Hz.
    they try to squish more "level".
    no wonder new albums sound like **** on big speakers.

    here some "nice" examples:

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kRWwxCPyjw[/ame]

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozOnJnLJcrU[/ame]

    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhhOU5FUPBE[/ame]
     
  20. martin H

    martin H Senior Member

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    Thanks for the comment John: That's what I was wondering about the new limitations on "broadcast"(for lack of a better word) volume. Taking a totally squashed master and reducing the "overall" volume of it to comply with a standard doesn't undo the harm caused by the processing - it renders the same ugly sound at a lower average level. Once the dynamics have been totally crushed from a master, I don't see any reliable way to recover them.

    I love the idea of calling a proper level of limiting/gain "Vinyl Volume." That ought to throw the young hipsters into confusion! "Well it's vinyl, so it must sound superior."
     

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