A Very Interesting Read on Mastering

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by DonnyThompson, Apr 12, 2015.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    From a thread on Reddit... an engineer friend of mine turned me onto this... and while it's a long read - it's a very interesting one, with audio examples given between Volume War mastering practices and a recent high res re-mastering which substantially reduced gain reduction.

    This post is for those who are serious about mastering and audiophile resolutions.

    This is NOT another "how to" instructional article on making mixes louder!

    In fact, it's the opposite, where, instead of extreme volume as the desired outcome, retrieving the dynamics of the original recordings are the goal instead, preserving the musical sense of the audio as it was originally intended.

    Here is the source article: http://www.reddit.com/r/Music/comments/324ahz/green_days_american_idiot_and_21st_century/

    Here is an excerpt from that article:

    Mastering engineer and anti-loudness war advocate Ian Shepherd examines this, making the point that even heavy rock sounds good with more dynamics. In fact, everything sounds better with greater dynamics. He analyzes the new remaster of "American Idiot" here.

    A few years ago (2012 to be more specific), veteran mastering engineer Ted Jensen, who was responsible for the original 2004 CD version of Green Day's American Idiot and the original 2009 version of 21st Century Breakdown, remastered those albums from analog for the HDTracks music service. The remastered versions features less compression than the original that had been mastered for their initial release, meaning clearer audio, more separation, and punchier drums due to greater dynamic range.

    The guitar is also no longer distorted from the audio processing procedures. These are the definitive version of the two albums, and it attests to the fact that proper, without over-compressed mastering and quality mixing efforts result in better-sounding audio.

    While these albums were released in 24-bit with higher sampling rates than CD audio, allow me to clarify that the format is far less important than the mastering process. More important than the audio format is the actual remaster, the process of preparing the audio for release. What counts is the mastering process, much more so than the format. We could have far better-sounding music at the native resolution of CDs, 16 bit 44.1khz. That means CDs and digital downloads should, as a whole, sound far better if mixed and mastered properly!
    This is what we should have gotten in the first place in 2004 and 2009, respectively.

    Many will debate whether one can even hear the difference between 16-bit 44.1khz audio and any higher resolution. Mastering is what matters.



    For those who are familiar with the albums, you've never heard them like this before. To be played on YouTube, they needed to be downsampled to 16 bits, 44.1 khz audio (Redbook PCM standard (used for CDs)). YouTube, meanwhile, converts everything down to AAC audio. That said, they are completely new remasters, and the source audio (the FLAC files) sound far better than the original CDs. Their dynamic range doubles that of the originals, going from a DR5 rating to a DR10 on the Dynamic Range Database scale. You will hear the difference.

    These less compressed versions have received stellar reviews from those who have heard them, thus confirming that less compression means better-sounding music. Let's hope that the loudness wars are beginning to end.

    The best way to compare is to listen to other versions of the album on YouTube. Everything on YouTube has been encoded down to 320 kbps AAC audio. You're essentially listening to an MP3 on YouTube. This version stands out amongst all versions of the album on YouTube. The fact that it sounds better than the CD in this form is already a testament to the greater dynamic range and thus the greater sound quality. The lossless FLAC audio will sound even better. In fact, the FLAC audio will sound better to a significant degree, and you'll undoubtedly find that it's superior to the original 2004 CD. The dynamic range is double that of the original CD. You will hear the difference right away.

    "American Idiot"

    "21st Century Breakdown"

    You'll notice that these versions absolutely destroy all other versions of the albums on YouTube. That's proof that a well-mastered source will sound better when compressed down to MP3 than a poorly-mastered source. MP3s DO NOT sound better with DR compression! YouTube audio is 320 kbps AAC audio by default. The better the input, the better the output.

    Okay, no this is me typing again. I like that they used Green Day as an example, in that they aren't a band that would normally be considered to be the best example for dynamics, but, if you can hear the difference with content like this, then you can't help but to consider how much more you will be able to hear with audio content that is more dynamic by nature to begin with.


  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Other examples -

    and continued from the Reddit thread... The following section is not me speaking. I've copied and pasted the text here below.
    Good mastering means lifelike audio, livelier audio.
    Audiophile labels prefer to do minimalistic transfers from the original master tapes for analog-recorded music, resulting in incredible clarity and life in the music -- the way the music was meant to be heard.

    Have a listen to these. These are remastered versions of albums from other genres, all released in CD format (16-bit 44.1 khz Redbook PCM) originally for audiophile labels. They all possess high dynamic range scores.
    Again it's the mastering that makes the difference.

    Carpenters, "The Singles, 1969-1973"

    Eric Burdon & War, "Spill The Wine"

    Nat King Cole, "Unforgettable"

    The Alan Parsons Project, "Fall Of The House Of Usher IV. Pavane"

    Billy Idol, "Eyes Without A Face"

    America, "A Horse With No Name"


    Earth, Wind & Fire, "Africano"


    Dire Straits, "Dire Straits" ("Sultans of Swing" is on this album; check out "In The Gallery")


    Roxy Music, "Avalon" (listen to Track 2, "The Space Between"; it boasts a DR of 15)

  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Bump. 22 views, no comments. Hmmmm.

    (Yeah, I figured this would probably be too much to post here. I do understand the hesitancy in wanting to read something this deep and involved...)

    Although - I really do suggest that those who are looking at mastering as a potential learned skill and/or an occupational possibility should read this... especially considering the other mastering threads happening here on RO right now.

    Things are changing in this section of the audio industry, and, they aren't changing slowly, either. Some of these changes are even being mandated by law - there are new broadcasting standards in certain locations.

    There are new sets of criteria that will need to me adhered to if you want to broadcast music...and because of this, new audio-related businesses have emerged.

    Anyway, I just thought it was important enough for me to bring it to your attention one more time.

    It's up to you. ;)

  4. freightgod

    freightgod Active Member

    I guess I didn't comment because I'm already sold on the 'more dynamics is good' concept. Unfortunately, my hearing isn't good enough to bother listening to all the audio examples presented and tell the difference. I would like to read more about these new broadcasting standards and where you see them 'settling' say within the next 2-3 years. That might be worth paying attention to.
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    In the next 3 years, music is going to sound awesome! Those who don't learn how to keep music dynamic, will sound lower in volume.
    If you don't have a certain amount of dynamic content in your code, the encoder will put a space between the top of your highest peak value and the playback regardless of whether you like it or not. This is to protect us from being assaulted from flat lined audio for the sake of loudness war.

    The loudness war is soon to be a thing of the past.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Apparently, due to recent changes in the broadcasting standards of The U.K., any song that goes beyond the accepted volume criteria will now either be lowered in db by the offending amount, or, and in some cases, it won't be played at all.

    In the article above, Ian Sheppard mentions that, according to the new standards, if the original release of Green Day's American Idiot album was played on the BBC today, the volume would have to be lowered by a minimum of 5db to meet the new broadcast criteria.

    I don't understand why those who support and perpetuate the loudness wars can't (or simply won't) understand that their music will actually sound better... when you remove all the clips, squared off tops, distortion, and allow the dynamics to make loud and powerful sections sound that much more effective, instead of crushing everything to the point of total sonic destruction.

    I can only hope that the U.S. will eventually implement standards similar to what The U.K. has, for its broadcasting as well.

    One of the main events that got the ball rolling on the public's awareness of just how bad uber-limited recordings can sound, was Metallica's 2008 Death Magnetic album.

    Here is an excerpt from: http://kotaku.com/5051354/metallica-album-a-sonic-disaster-fans-turn-to-guitar-hero-for-better-sound where the album's mastering engineer (Ted Jensen) actually apologizes for the sound of the album:

    "Metallica fans are pissed. The release of the metal outfit's latest album, Death Magnetic, isn't quite what they were expecting, at least from a sound quality standpoint. Metallica fans contend that the album is overly distorted, and that the clipping and distortion that occurs prominently, from the album being mastered too loud, are making for bad impressions.

    Ted Jensen, head engineer at Sterling Sound, who mastered the album, allegedly responded to fan concerns, writing "I'm not proud to be associated with this one, and we can only hope that some good will come from this in some form of backlash against volume above all else."

    Oddly enough, the Guitar Hero versions of these tracks, released last Friday, are in one man's words, "perfect." Ian Shepherd of the Mastering Media Blog has compared both versions of the tracks, finding that the studio album versions on the CD and LP are no match for their Guitar Hero counterparts - and some fans are looking to rip the video game version for a better sounding version of the album.
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Anyone has an LCAST meter or something that can be tweaked to do the same has Ian Shepherd does ?
  8. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    For those who don't really know the difference between Peak, RMS and LUFS :
    DonnyThompson likes this.
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I think he's using a metering plug called Perception. But, I think that any good meter would work.
  10. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I found what he's using : http://www.meterplugs.com/lcast
    But I was looking for a cheaper alternative. I did a few searches after posting.
    I need to test it but I think Ozone Insight can be setup to show LUFS.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    What about this one? (I'm not telling, I'm asking... ;))

  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    More info from the site's compliance section:

    Multi-Platform, Multi-Channel
    Available as VST- and Audio Unit-plugin, in 32 and 64 bit. Ready to be compiled on Linux. Supports any sample rate. Processes up to 24 channels.

    The LUFS Meter is compliant to the ITU-R BS.1770-1/2/3 and EBU R128 specifications and enables you to deliver loudness calibrated content.

    Open Source
    The source code is freely available. This allows you to verify the correctness of the measurement. Furthermore you can customize the LUFS Meter such that it exactly fulfills your needs. Or ask for it.
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    It's free. It appears to require Winrar or another extraction program to unzip. I did so and the files come up as standard .dll's - there are 2 of them, one is labeled simply LUFSMeter64bit and the other isLUFSMeterMultiChannel64.
    There also appears to be two similar .dll files in VST3 format.

    I downloaded it and it extracted with no problem at all - although I haven't yet tried to open it in Samplitude.
  14. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I'm gonna test it.. Thanks Donny !!!
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Marco, I'm probably not gonna get a chance to try it today because I have other things on my plate for recording today....can you let me know if it's what we need? Thanks :)
  16. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Of course I will !
  17. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    @Boswell @audiokid

    I'm still in the learning stages of the whole LUFS/LKFS thing, and how it applies - in a practical sense - to how we mix and output source levels.

    I've learned that the "standard" for LUFS is "-23", ( based upon the EBU R128 standard) but... I don't know how that translates to db, or for that matter, if it even does translate.

    I'd like to get confirmation as to what the number actually means, and how it effects what we do - along with how we adhere to it ... or, is this more of a mastering thing?
    It can't just be a standard for mastering alone, right? I mean, you wouldn't want to send something to an M.E. that was potentially too hot and have him have to knock it back down in gain to meet the standard... right?

    And, along with that, there's also the "true peak" metering to factor in with this LUFS equation, too...

    I'm currently getting my info from here:



    There are still many questions I haven't yet found the answers to. ;)

  18. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    In the mixes I have done for which LUFS has been a final requirement (as opposed to trying it to see how it would sound), I was surprised that I did not have to do much different before passing it on to the ME. I have never (or very rarely) used compression on the 2-bus mix, as that's the ME's job, but if individual stems needed level control in the mix, then out came the compressor. At the track level, compression (or limiting) is pretty standard in most non-classical styles.

    Having said that, I do a lot of live gig recording, and it's much more difficult to compress anything on those tracks relative to those recorded under studio conditions. This is mainly because there is almost always bleed that you have to work with, and if you crank up the compression on any microphone channel, you very quickly hear a combination of bleed and ambient sound pumping up and down.

    I know we are talking mainly about working to LUFS standard, but I don't really see it affecting a good mix. Maybe that's the point. It would be even possible to argue that if you have to change your mixing procedures because of LUFS, they needed changing anyway.
    DonnyThompson likes this.
  19. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    @Boswell @audiokid @pcrecord

    I'm willing to come out and admit that there's a distinct possibility that I may in fact be one of these guys. There's no point in me not being honest about it, absolutely no benefit to it - how can I learn what I need to learn, if I lie about what I know or don't know, right? ;)

    An engineer who wants to continue to work needs to keep up with advances in the field. I fear I may have become lazy in this regard. It's far past time that I regroup, and take a serious look at what is happening out there, in terms of new standards, new methods, new technology, new research and new development. Part of our jobs as engineers - I think - is to stay current with advancements and changes in methods and technology, and I don't think I've been doing my job.

    So, I'm willing to admit that I need to learn more about this new LUFS standard. And, if it helps me to get better mixes, then so much the better. Hell... I'll take all the help I can get. ;)


  20. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Humm it actually doesn't look very good and doesn't do a very important thing is to give the LUFS for the whole song. It works for realtime measurement but doesn't compile information and sums it at the end, which I'd like to have ;)

Share This Page