Mastering- The Horror

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

  1. Lizzy4Life

    Lizzy4Life Senior Member

    Messages:
    469
    Likes Received:
    255
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2011
    Free antenna has been terminated a few years ago, so no chance of better audio I'm afraid.
    And yeah, it's pretty stupid how there's no more reason anymore to heavily compress audio, since most people nowadays have a good signal and decent equipment.
     
  2. LeftyF2003

    LeftyF2003 Premium Member

    Messages:
    7,091
    Likes Received:
    7,831
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2010
    Thank god the brick wall limiter style mastering has gone out of style. I have a few CDs from the late 90s I use as coffee coasters as they are so fatiguing to listen to it renders them useless. Sadly the material isn't bad, but it's too hard on the ears to listen to from end to end. This was the result of the "loudness wars" and the reason mastering has gone back to something resembling listenable content. Still way over limited and compressed, but it's better than it was...
     
  3. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,361
    Likes Received:
    3,173
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    gee, I must have missed that.:D

    seriously, the task of mastering for everything from CD/ uncompressed file to radio, Codecs, streaming to mobile devices, etc. to mono 75-volt speaker systems in your grocery-store bathroom (It has to sound great everywhere, right?) is no small feat. IMO most modern masters sound BETTER on computer speakers and other less-than-ideal playback devices and environments than ever before BUT on a decent monitoring system they've become more unbearable as time marches on.
     
  4. xeizo

    xeizo Senior Member

    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    5,827
    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2015
    Ive read that some engineers are nowadays mastering with iphone earbuds instead of monitor speakers, sort of says it all ... built in laptop speakers would be another low ...

    About the cable box discussion above, all boxes I've used sounds crap on their rca-outs, but using optical connection to a Home Theater-receiver renders a much more enjoyable sound. Especially when ALL sound processing of the receiver is totally turned off. With that setup the sound from "old" full range stereo speakers are quite good. Not that everyone can have full range speakers in their living room, but if you can it works ok.
     
  5. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,725
    Likes Received:
    18,546
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    instead of? maybe as well as but not earbuds exclusively! But you are right, I mean if most of the population listen to their music on earbuds and laptops then you've got to make sure it sounds presentable on those devices.
     
    2 people like this.
  6. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,361
    Likes Received:
    3,173
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Agreed and in many cases the unpleasantness of hyper-compressed music is not nearly as evident on those delivery systems. I can't tell you how many times I've listened to a great piece of recent music that sounded "good" streaming off youtube on my computer-speakers only to be utterly disappointed after listening to the uncompressed (as in "data compression") audio on a proper set of speakers. I'd imagine that todays Mastering Engineers must check their audio passing through the most lossy Codecs to ensure that the main content remains intact. That, in return might negatively affect the fidelity of the lossless audio. "Don't give the Codec too much detail to discard and it'll survive anything, right?" (Honest question, I'm only guessing here).
    Funny thing happened to me last week. Our acoustic Duo played another opening slot for a band called "HoneyHoney" who are touring in support of their recent album "3" (or the other way around, releasing their album to support the tour, I don't know:hmm:). During the days leading up to the gig I was checking out their album online and was very put-off by how it sounded, kind of a "wet-blanket over the speakers" type of sound, murky and lacking detail. Despite my misgivings I bought the CD at the show to show my support. I listened to it in my car and hated it, I listened to it in my living room on a 20 year old home stereo system I bought off egghead.com for pennys on the dollar in the mid 90's (Cambridge Audio integrated amp and Infinity speakers, I think I spent $300.00 total) and I hated it, the bass totally beat the amplifier into submission. Then I took it to work and listened on Genelec 1031A's and a A7070 Sub and it sounded wonderful, a bit too compressed, as usual but definitely a great sound (courtesy of producer Dave Cobb), very old-school and rich with very little sizzle and garbage riding on top, especially on the vocal. This has to be the first time in a very long time that I've heard an album that sounded better and better as the playback system improved, IME it's the opposite these days, for reasons discussed earlier. Now if I could only get my hands on the unmastered version for some better dynamics:D
     
  7. xeizo

    xeizo Senior Member

    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    5,827
    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2015
    Yes, unmastered is cool, I used to work in a HiFi-shop selling high end gear and one of the better demo recordings was of myself playing acoustic guitar in my bedroom. Totally live with mics direct to 2-track open reel and no compression whatsoever, sounded great on state of the art speakers(well, the sound, maybe not the playing hmm). Anyway, people noticed the lack of compression, and those where the vinyl-days with much less compression around. I guess for todays crowd the effect would be shocking :shock:
    (it would probably have sounded crap on earbuds though)
     
  8. QReuCk

    QReuCk Senior Member

    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    120
    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2013
    Please forgive that kind of noob question I'm about to ask, I'm just a noob trying to figure out part of the process with a goal of maybe one day participate in my band's effort to put some tracks on a drive.
    I understand the whole point of this thread is compression as applied to mastering. But wouldn't it make more sense to actually apply most of the compression only to individual tracks that actually need it before mix-down and using a fairly high threshold so that you only compress very high peaks? :hmm:
    Sorry if that looks like an evidence to most of you, it simply isn't that clear for me as of yet, even if my ears and my limited experience in what I wouldn't dare call my home studio tells me I don't see an actual point in compressing during mastering, at least for my needs. Probably is necessary when going for commercial distribution though.
     
  9. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,725
    Likes Received:
    18,546
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    There's different kinds of compression. When individual elements in a mix are compressed it's about managing how these elements sit in the mix in relation to each other. In other words it's about the sound....there are a lot of different types of compressors too, each with their own character and colour, so these tools can make a huge impact on a mix. The compression we're talking about here is about making the mix louder....it does have a sound as well though, mostly it makes the mix more in your face and relentless.
     
  10. QReuCk

    QReuCk Senior Member

    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    120
    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2013
    Thanks for the clarification.
    Just so i understand a bit better, would you kindly tell me what compression ratios and threshold we are talking about?
     
  11. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

    Messages:
    9,725
    Likes Received:
    18,546
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    If you are talking about the mastering compression it is what is known as a brick wall limiter, that means a ratio of infinity to 1. As the threshold is lowered the dynamic range is reduced thus allowing the mix to have a higher RMS value. Then they set the output at or just a hair below 0dbfs. This it where the loudness comes from.
     
  12. QReuCk

    QReuCk Senior Member

    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    120
    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2013
    Wow! I wouldn't have thought it was THAT bad.
     
  13. xeizo

    xeizo Senior Member

    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    5,827
    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2015
    It is, for those who care about "natural" fidelity in sound, the rest of the world may not agree. There is a generation grown up with lossy mp3:s, earbuds and laptop speakers as primary sound sources. Their perception of fidelity may not be the same as for those who regularly visits live perfomances using mainly acoustical instruments.

    The industry just goes after what is trending as most popular, whatever that may be.

    Personally I'm happy I have a lot of CD:s from before the loudness wars(80:ies), and plenty of vinyl too, lots of good recordings for myself to enjoy :)
     
  14. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,361
    Likes Received:
    3,173
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    I don't think it's necessarily about "natural" or "fidelity". A rock/ pop recording that sounds "natural" may be very disappointing after all. Heck, even a classical recordings can benefit from a little character and less "fidelity" added by the recording process.
    Microphones are not ears, we don't want a band to sound like they do playing in your living-room, unless the genre absolutely calls for it. That's because (among other things) we generally don't listen to recorded music at the same volume as a live performance. So the recording process must perform some trickery to make up for that (and many other) difference(s).
    BTW, electronic audio-signal compression isn't a bad thing per se, it has an equivalent in the physical world, both in instruments and in our hearing and it's a great artistic tool if used correctly.


    IMO it's about desperately trying to be noticed and trigger a response in a cluttered media landscape (loud hyped sonics) vs delivering a sonic palette that resembles what we humans might hear in the real world. It doesn't have to be real, it just has to be believable and provide a range of sounds and dynamics as opposed to everything flat out all at once. Just my 2 cents.
     
    1 person likes this.
  15. xeizo

    xeizo Senior Member

    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    5,827
    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2015
    That was insightful :applause: And I agree, while I also believe it has gone much too far with so many albums these days , I really pity the sound engineer in the midst of it ...
     
  16. QReuCk

    QReuCk Senior Member

    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    120
    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2013
    OK guys, again thanks for the insighfull answers.
    It still puzzles me a bit to be honnest. I think I can understant some limiting must be done, especially if you seek radio diffusion and all that and maybe this limitting is best done at mastering when you've got the whole picture, but although some remaining obstrusive peak can and probably should be removed so that the listening experience is better, pushing that too far looks like a sure receipe to end up messing with the overall tone. I would equate that to running the risk of deteriorating the work done during mixing. It seems that according to some of you some perfectly good mixes ARE detoriorated this way.
    Did I understood properly?
     
  17. xeizo

    xeizo Senior Member

    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    5,827
    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2015
    Yes it happens, even brutal clipping of the tops occur = destructive clipping, some Lady Gaga-material comes to mind. But it's easy to just import a song into a sound editor like Audition or Audacity and study the waveform for yourself. Some doesn't look nice at all!
     
  18. QReuCk

    QReuCk Senior Member

    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    120
    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2013
    Yes, already done that. And indeed these commercial records usually look like being consistantly dangerously close to the 0db line.
     
  19. ajay

    ajay Senior Member

    Messages:
    833
    Likes Received:
    525
    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    I don't know if the are reso shop thing has been covered fully. There is an online store called Listen Up. Awesome inventory quality and very helpful staff. If You order something, and You aren't happy with it, they urge You to return it for something that You WILL be happy with.
    They have brick and mortar stores in Colorado, Oregomn, and several other Western locations. Just a trip back to the old time stereo stores.
     
  20. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,361
    Likes Received:
    3,173
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    You did understand correctly BUT you also need to realize that this has happened not because the professionals involved are stupid. It has happened because it is a fact that listeners will equate "louder" with "better". If you compile an average group of music listeners and play them an obscure track from the 80's (with intact dynamics) and then, w/o touching the volume knob, follow up with an unknown current song they will exhibit a strong preference for the newer one. ONLY if you adjust the listening volume to match will there be a level (pun intended) playing field, revealing all the destructiveness of the loudness wars. That is what loudness normalization does, halleluja.
    One more thing: Someone said that they are getting dangerously close to 0dBFS. On true peak meters they are routinely over 0. Your average master contains a lot of distortion, but even if the file isn't, then at least at the D/A output stage. This can easily be proven by capturing the analog output a full level and then at reduced levels and comparing the 2 by gain-adjusting and nulling them (reverse phase on one of them). In theory there should be no difference and you would hear nothing but you will hear the distortion caused by clipping the output converter. Interestingly the older CD players can handle loud material the best due to lack of oversampling. Every time you monkey around with samplerate or datacompression (mp3, etc.) you run the risk of creating overs that weren't there. That's why a good master should include enough headroom (-2 dBFS max, maybe less) to be Codec-ready. I think John alluded to it in his post.
     

Share This Page