Client Mandates Use of MP3s for Mastering New CDs

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by DCH, Sep 26, 2016.

  1. DCH

    DCH Active Member

    I have a valued client that is mandating I use mp3s to "remaster" CDs for replication. Those new production CDs are then converted back to mp3s for posting on their website. I need more info to convince them this is a BAD idea. Suggestions? Links to professional data on the web? Personal experience? Thanks!
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    yikes. I'm not an official Mastering Engineer but I will give you my two cents.

    I suppose if it was a do or die, I would do what they want and keep my name off the credits lol. I've done all sorts of work using MP3's, but never enjoyed it much.
    Load into your DAW, do your best and export them back out to what they want. Take the money and hide. :cool:

    But, if you can get your hands on the 16/44.1, that without doubt would be better.
  3. DCH

    DCH Active Member

    Thank you. I'm trying to get them to revert to the .wav files but their position is unique. Thank you!
  4. DCH

    DCH Active Member

    I'm just wondering what I can do with plugins or EQ to improve the quality of CDs mastered with mp3s!
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I'm thinking your mastering options should be the same regardless of the file. I mean, if there is an obvious problem, you can still improve it. The before after should be how you gauge the improvement.

    Other than the basic ME tools, I have great results simply passing audio through a Bricasti.
  6. DCH

    DCH Active Member

    Thank you! I don't know what you mean by "ME tools". Can you elaborate? Many thanks! And the Bricasti only adds reverb, right?
  7. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Personally, as Chris advises above I would try to convince them to go the wav. file route.

    Why not offer them the option to have the files going to CD at the higher wav .file Lossless format then give them the same files converted to lossy Mp3 for their website?

    Thats the way I would go if in the same position. ;)
  8. DCH

    DCH Active Member

  9. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    My calendar would suddenly and mysteriously fill up with other stuff. Using mp3 files would be like using a scan of a bubble jet printout of a jpeg of a piece of art to represent that piece of art in a high end art magazine.

    Actually, I'd just say there's no way I'd let my name be attached to the project and that if he's okay with crap there's a million online "mastering" services he can choose from.
    pcrecord and dvdhawk like this.
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    ME tools = Mastering Engineer tools.

    The Bricasti is a reverb but what most people don't realize (until you own one) ... they will emulate space. Once I bought a few of those, I started selling off thousands of dollars in world class gear lol. It changed how I think about editing.

    In a very broad statement.... Music and improving a mix or "master" is all about improving or focusing in on the "correct" space of a song.
    I have countless times simply passed a track in realtime through a Bricasti and it comes out sounding better, more open and natural sounding. All of which none of my mastering equipment did. But they also cost money and you also need to have the ability to know what space a track needs or doesn't need.

    Basically though, I would try and get the wave files first.

    Hope that helps some.

    Welcome to RO ( (y)
    kmetal likes this.
  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

  12. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I think bouldersound gives you a very good analogy. Why would they want a poor copy of something that's already been stripped of detail and pixelated to a lower resolution?
  13. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    It's what happens when you get people who haven't got the necessary technical background setting themselves up as a "mastering house".

    I've met several young people recently who have the idea in their head that MP3 "is the future" and so everything in the chain up to that point should be MP3 in order to be up-to-date. In one case I was able to convince the client of the need to retain 24-bit .wav files through to the output of the mastering stage and then convert to MP3. It's interesting that what he wanted to avoid was the 44.1/16 CD audio neck, which in itself is laudable, but to assume the way to do it was to use MP3 format right through the production process illustrates a lack of knowledge.

    The others I was unable to convince or educate, since they were so sure of themselves and would not be told. I supplied them with 320kpbs MP3 mixes, which, I have to say, were very difficult to tell from CD audio versions, but were nothing like the 24-bit wavs that they should have had. One of the groups showed me a print-out from the intended streaming site destination that said the site can only accept MP3s and would perform "mastering" on them prior to rendering them in streaming format. It could be it's sites like these that are fuelling the spread of wrong ideas.
    kmetal likes this.
  14. pcrecord

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

    Have one of you thought that maybe they don't have wave files because they screwed the recording studio some how or they are in some conflict ?
    I would ask for the mixing engineer contacts and deal with him directly unless they did the production themself and if so, this is some project I would not want to be part of.
    If they did the job not knowing the differences between wave and mp3.. I'm sure they sabotaged other aspects of their production..

    Be carefull, your name on a crappy CD will kill your business fast...

    I once had a band came in.. Good songs good players ! I did the recording mixing and mastering. Few weeks after they wanted me as their live soundman for the presenting night for the album. Did the soundtest, they were ready. At this point they ask me to play their CD which they duplicated themself. Guess what ? IT WAS A MESS. It was like they had converted it at 128kb mp3 then burned at 48x. The HF was all screwed, I couldn't believe how bad it sounded. I was ashamed of having my name on this piece of sh...

    Give them the right info before they put you to hell.. I often give free time at the end of sessions to explain things like this. To this day it served me well ;)
    kmetal likes this.
  15. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I agree...and I have coined a term for it too...

    McMastering ;)
  16. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    You could tell them that multiple conversions are a bad idea, that every time this is done, the sonics degrade, and that their best bet is to use the original wav files of the 2-mixes for mastering to Red Book standards for CD, and then convert those down to whatever MP3 rate they need for their website.

    This. As Marco mentioned, this popped into my head as well. It's quite possible that these mixes they have, and want to give you, are the only ones they have... that they are rough mixes - also known as "rushes" - that the engineer released to them for temporary use (performance proofing, mix critique, etc) but when the time came to pay the cooker for the real wav mixes, they either came up shy on dough, or decided to not pay the studio for the services rendered. This could explain why they only have the MP3's to work with.

    You might be able to contact the original engineer; tell your client that you have a few questions for him... even if you don't, make some up... tell the client you need to talk to the mix engineer because you want to know about "the use of previous limiting", or "phase alignment", or "2 Bus processing", or something. It doesn't have to be valid, it's just a way for you to get the contact info for the mix engineer, so that you can get the true skinny on the situation. It may turn out that everything is valid, that the original engineer just did what the client wanted. But... if they have a history of screwing studios or engineers, this would be a good thing for you to know, right?

    Their situation is not "unique". They are bypassing the common practice and industry accepted method of using hi-res wav files for mastering, and for press and hard copy distro, and then converting those wavs to MP3's for internet use.
    Like Marco, I'm suspicious, because it sounds to me as if you aren't being told the whole story. Now, whether you take the gig or not is all up to you. Plenty of us here have done recording/mixing/mastering jobs that we weren't crazy about... after all, we all gotta eat and keep the lights burning. But... if this project will end up effecting you negatively in the eyes of future clients, then you need to weigh-out the pros and cons; the money you'd make now, vs. the money you might lose in the future, as well as a potential black mark attached to your name.

    One other thing to think about... if these MP3's have already been processed with heavy limiting, or EQ, then there's not a whole lot you're gonna be able to do. M.E.'s are known as final polishers, giving good mixes a beautiful coat of "glue and sheen" that makes good or great mixes sound even better.... but M.E.'s aren't God. They can only work with what they have been given. It's entirely possible that no matter what you do, or how much you know, or what gear you have, or what your experience level is with Mastering, that you won't be able to help them, or to satisfy them to the degree of their expectations. Don't start out behind the 8 ball, is what I'm sayin' ... know when to walk away. Consider the amount of BS you'll have to deal with vs the amount money you'll make, and the amount of time you'll spend doing it.

    If you do decide to take the job, I would advise that - under no circumstances - should you release fully mastered files to the client until you have been paid in full. Go ahead and send them 30 second snippets or something for proof purposes, but I certainly wouldn't be sending them full-finished versions until you are paid up to date for the work you've done.

    IMO, of course.
    kmetal likes this.
  17. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Never assume malice when it could be ignorance. It's most likely just that they don't know any better.
    pcrecord likes this.
  18. pcrecord

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

    I hope it is just that Bouldersound, I seriously do...
  19. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    One thing I learned/was taught is always treat every mix like the final. You never know where it's gonna end up. I had someone release a 'rough' out to the world. I've also had Roughs come out better than the finals, and the cleint used the rough instead.

    Either way, from a money making perspective this online mastering sounds like something I need to get involved in. People are spending cash on these things, I'd like some of that cash! Perhaps this is a new uprise from the fall of the brick and mortar studio, a place where people are willing to spend money on audio services again.

    McMastering lol @Sean G ill have a number 3 please.
  20. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Why not ake the mo3 mix, stick it onto cd and then convert back to MP3 and simple send them the two files labelled a and b and tel them you have some reservations but the choice is up to them. Tell them that this will be what their listeners hear and give them the option. If they like the MP3 after multiple conversions, then take the money. And don't do any of the remove credit stuff because it tags you as awkward, and they'll drop you.

    Let's be honest, so much so called recording quality is thrown away in the actual processing before the record engineer gets to it, that the great listening unwashed don't care. They hear mix and tone but they rarely notice a 320 MP3 is not a wav. How many people have their music collection on their pads, pods and PCs as full res high bandwidth files?

    My current. Idea client wants the HD project squashing down because the file size is too great, and my attempts to get him to change his mind have failed, so squashed it is. It doesn't matter. Just keep the original so in the future you can provide v2 on another invoice. No point getting stressed. Keep the email trail. Do what they ask. They probably got the same advice from the peoplel who will receive the file, and ignored that too.

Share This Page