Mastering- The Horror

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

  1. QReuCk

    QReuCk Senior Member

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    Wow, thanks again for the solid explanation. As far as loudness is concerned, I actually listen and relisten routinely to raw band pratice material, so I'm pretty used to play with the level knobs of my playing devices to compensate. I think I was the author of the comment about close to 0db. In fact, the key. Word was "consistantly" meaning it's'just not a hanfull of peaks in dramatic moments when the drummer gives all he's'got to put an exclamation mark at the end of a chorus or to launch a solo, it's'not even almost all kick drum hit. Sometimes the whole song seems located between 0 (even higher than that) and -6, which I think sounds pretty uninteresting once you adjust levels so that you don't get headhache. And yes, I do realise this is driven more by an "if this is what sells, then do that" approach than by any artistic consideration. I also understand that the one who pays for it might want to maximise profit and that the sound engineer doing the work needs to do what he is asked for rather what he would enjoy himself. Pretty much the same in every job I believe, but when that's'too much of it, it just becomes that: a job. I hope you guys manage to keep the passion alive.
     
  2. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    All we can do is educate people. When I'm mixing a project if I do my own mastering I am very much on the conservative side of today's average loudness. Most of the time the musicians will complain that it's not as loud as their favorite band. And I always have to go through the same speil.....tell them about the loudness war, explain how more dynamic range is more musical than less dynamic range and then sometimes even fire off two test mixes for them.....one with good dynamic range and one limited and pushed to modern hot standards. But I bring the level of the hot master down to match the level of the conservative master....that opens their eyes!

    Actually I had to laugh the other day.....I was listening to some mixes I did of a heavy rock band. When I switched CDs a new country/folkie CD started playing and it was way louder than my mixes/masters. Shocking. The country /folkie cd souded extremely aggressive because of the super loud mastering...yeah sure it grabbed my attention right away, but I didn't listen long before I could hear that it was grating and very unatural for a genre with a lot of acoustic instruments.
     
  3. John Scrip

    John Scrip Senior Member

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    (Possibly going back a few posts)

    Well wait a minute here -- There's a big difference between "some compression" and brick-wall limiting...

    When I'm compressing, it's usually somewhere between 1.1:1 and 1.5:1. Once in a blue moon maybe something as drastic as 2 or 3:1 with 1.5 or 2dB of gain reduction. My old mastering limiter had a maximum setting of 4:1 (which when you think about it, is an incredibly drastic setting, short of actually trying to "stop" the signal cold).

    Actually limiting the dynamics (a brick-wall limiter, converter clipping, etc.) is a completely different story. I was normally a fan of hardware limiters combined with incredibly tastefully designed converters (I have no idea what's going on in the A-D of my HEDD 192 and I don't really care as long as it keeps doing what it's doing). I captured at final level and that was that.

    Lately, with the resurgence of vinyl and MFiT type stuff (thank goodness for that kind of stuff), I've gone to -- well, to what many others have been a more 'typical' scenario of capturing at [x-volume] and then using a limiter to bring the captured material to its final volume. It took me forever to find digital limiters I actually liked - and the ones that I like are unbelievably picky about their settings - but now I'm back to capturing at the levels the mixes want (and those would be used 'as-is' for vinyl or high-res lossless versions, more or less 'as-is' for MFiT, etc.) and then using a (sometimes more than one) limiter to establish "client" volume (because again, it's the clients and labels that want 'war' volume - the listening public doesn't care).
     
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  4. martin H

    martin H Senior Member

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    There are no bad questions (well hardly any), and IMO You can never go wrong taking advice from John and Freddy

    I use individual compression on instruments to make them a bit easier to place that particular instrument in a mix. A good example is the class of drummer who like to hit one kick drum beat louder than normal every few bars, and reduces volume when hitting two kick beats in quick succession. if you mix to the average level of the kick, some beats are too loud, and some can't be heard. Compression helps reduce that problem.

    Compression on an overall mix for artistic purposes (as opposed to straight volume) is more about the relationship of various instruments to one another. Imagine a mix with the vocalist well to the fore. if you're using a single band compressor, the compressor is going to reduce the gain of everything a little bit when the vocalist is singing. In the gaps between lines, the compressor will stop reducing gain. The instruments are actually a bit louder when the vocalist isn't singing than when the vocalist is.

    The result is that that the two sound more integrated together, as the musicians seem to be backing off a little when the singer is singing, and coming forward a little when he/she isn't.
     
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  5. Static

    Static Senior Member

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    So true, so sad...

    Then you go to Best Buy and schooled on high fidelity by a 21 year old kid. I just nod and smile and say 'is that right?' over and over. Then I think at least this kid has a clue.
     
  6. Static

    Static Senior Member

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    Funny.
    This phenomenon definitely creeped up on us. A few years back I picked up an old Doobie Brothers CD 'Captain an Me' and was so pleased to hear a crisp, clear and wonderfully mastered album - in every respect a masterpiece. Popped in a John Mayer CD without adjusting anything and it about knocked off the chair. It wasn't just so freaking loud in general but every instrument, every voice was recorded on verge of clipping/distortion and was so unpleasant.

    Here's the thing prior to this inadvertent A-B session I thought the John Mayer album sounded great!!! Now I can't even enjoy it.
     
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