Mastering, can I do it? Time, budget, limits, I need help!

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by hxckid88, Apr 15, 2006.

  1. hxckid88

    hxckid88 Active Member

    So yeah, I've been RECORDING my band for a few weeks now, putting in time here and there. We are finish up vocals, unfortunately, we wanted to have our CD release show on May 12th (They will be pressed at, 1000 copies). We couldnt afford to professionally record it, because the average listener won't complain about slight quality issues, if the music is good, it is good. We're more of a live band anyway, but we want our CD to be great.

    So we're running out of time, 1000 copies is already at least $1,500, we still need to buy a trailer for touring this summer, and we still need to buy our new set of merch.

    We're slowly progressin as far as a band, our music as evolved, our tastes, our professionalism on and off stage...

    What im getting at is...

    I have been recording my band using my Presonus Firebox w/Cubase LE, and a mixture of an SM57, SM58 and MXL990...doing instrument by instrument, track by track... I've taught myself how to use this, and I am by no means a professional, though I do seek to become that level.

    We're wondering, how much better can we get it if I send it to a mastering engineer? Is it worth sacrificing the time, not to mention $500+... Can I just tweak it by ear, and know that in my bands opinion, it sounds good (compared to other local bands with okay demo CDs). I have many layered guitar tracks, many EQ settings on certain guitars and many types of reverb on certain tracks to make a mixture of different sounds, we have everything the way we basically want it. What can a mastering engineer do ON TOP of that to make it better? Is there any way I can really do this in this short amount of time?

    Our band honestly thinks it is fine the way it is, but how will this compare?

    Also, another huge concern is the format, discmakers wants a CD-R of the music, but should I export this as 24bit 96k .wav files? Each song will then therefore be at least 100MB, meaning I could probably barely fit this on one CD. This is probably a question to ask the company, but I dont really know what to do after this. I hear about people running a certain chain of things for the final master, but with this version of Cubase am I limited? Im lost and I need help quick :(

  2. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    First, where are you located? Maybe someone on this forum can help you and at least give it a quick listen.

    Second, what you're asking is what everyone asks, all the time:

    Is mastering worth it? Do "I" (you) need it? Can I do it myself? Can I skip it?

    There's a saying that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. It's similar to the surgeon who tries to remove his own appendix, or cutting your own hair in the kitchen sink, making your own clothes, etc. You may succeed, you may not. it never hurts to at least get a second opinion.

    I have no idea what your monitoring situation is like, nor your "ear", nor your mixing skills, etc., so it's anyone's guess what your mix sounds like.
    You may be ok, you may not. I'm guessing you've got at least a few rookie mistakes on there that everyone in your situation makes. (Too much bass, too little bass, ticks and pops, sloppy fades, digital overs, etc. )

    It's commendable that you've got 24/96 files (which you could, in theory, deliver to discmakers), but at some point, (they or) you will STILL have to have someone prepare a final "Pre-Glass" master for you. (That's what goes to the replication plant before they make the big glass-plate "master" for the CD replication process. Not to be confused with your audio "master.")

    If you're at the point where you don't know about - or have the software for - proper bit and sample rate conversion, dithering, track assembly with good mastering software to CDr, then as they say: "If you gotta ask...." you're going to need SOME kind of mastering, even to put your raw tracks on a CDr correctly.

    Discmakers has a very good lab that will do this for you...for a fee. Or, you can do it yourself with a mastering engineer of your own choice.

    Be honest with're about to blow a small bundle on 1000 copies, sell them to your (new) public, buy a trailer, equipment, and jump start your career. Do you REALLY want to do a quick hustle and make a few bucks on possible JUNK that will come back to haunt you, should you DO make it big someday? Do you want your friends, peers and enemies laughing at your first CD? Don't you think your work is at least worth one more pass with a seasoned pro listening?

    "recording for a few weeks now" does not a great mastering engineer make, and although you may indeed have stumbled onto a great product, it's a huge risk just throwing it out there. It's like building a car yourself, and not testing it before entering a big race.

    I'm not far from Discmakers main facility in NJ. I use them for several projects a year. I can't tell you what to do, but I'd be willing to at least give one of your tracks a quick listen to at least see if you're in the ballpark. Several others here may be able to give you feedback as well. At that point, you can opt to have them finish it for you, pay someone else, or.......

    Got an MP3 to post?
  3. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Good thing.
    If you're *truly* satisfied with it, you've answered your own question. If you're not sure, you've also answered your own question. Either it matters, or it doesn't matter. Only your guys can really decide that. But if you're really satsified, then there's nothing illegal about going forward with it.

    Obviously, speed is an issue - But Discmakers' mastering facility seems reasonably equipped & priced, and it's in-house... Speed factor is good I would think. If they need to render your production master anyway, then it'd probably be worth it to work out some sort of "Hey - If something is pretty screwy, let's do something about it - Otherwise, leave it as-is" type of thing.

    If the project rate is 24/96, then yes. It doesn't matter if you have to send them several discs.

    If the project rate is the target rate (44.1) at 24-bit, you *still* might need to send multiple discs. Just make sure everything is named properly ("01-Song Name.wav, 02-Song Name.wav, etc.).

    In any case, I'd highly suggest having the ear of a specialist on the project.
  4. pingu

    pingu Guest

    Send me a song via at the smaple rate and bit depth you recorded at and ill see what i can do.
  5. mud5150

    mud5150 Guest

  6. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    Re: Mastering, can I do it? Time, budget, limits, I need hel

    It is impossible to know how much better this can be without hearing something.

    IMO it is worth to sacrifice the time as you said, Mastering does not takes weeks anyway, usually one day.

    Sure you can tweek it by ear, why don't you try? Don't loose your focus and the objectivity during doing this cause it will get worst in my opinion. Personally, I can't do this myself on some mixes that I mixed myself, I just can't do it, that does not mean you can't either. But dealing with an experience ME with fresh ears on your project will only be better.

    You said: Our band honestly thinks it is fine the way it is, but how will this compare?
    Well if they think it is fine, leave it this way and assume :) . Several Mastering places offers A free trial, song etc... this could be a godd way to compare if you want to take the time.

    If you send your 24/96 files to a plant, be sure to give them your well spelled titles (for cd text purpose), your fades-in and out, spacing recommandation (if you can't stand the default 2 seconds). Understand that the final product (CD) will probably sound different since this will be dithered down to 16 bit and SRC down to 44.1 ! If I do not know the plant, the guy, the equipment used etc... I would be personally concerned.

    Hope this help.
  7. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member


    I would not send any money to someone you dont even know there name.
  8. MDz

    MDz Guest

    edited by moderator
  9. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Good plan.

    There's another - $250 for a single can extrapolate to around $500 an hour. Does the $500 and hour guy have a name?
  10. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Please, no pimping. it's in bad taste. $250 for one song is crazy.
  11. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Holy CHRIST!!!

    $250 a song...Is this guy Mastering Royalty or something???? :lol:

    You're in Maryland?? Who the hell in MD charges that rate?!?!?

    Based on the original set of questions, I would say the following -

    If you and your band do in fact like the sounds you already have, then you are already 90% there. A Mastering Engineer (ME) may be able to sweeten it even further or might not be able to do too much to it.

    However, if you have the 96kHz files currently, here's where I see a ME could do wonders for you.

    1 - they could use high-quality equipment to get you a red book formatted disc (16bit / 44.1 kHz)

    2 -'s all about the fades. You'd be SO surprised how many discs have crappy fades...this is one of my pet peeves. I don't personally have a high resolution master console ($$$$$$$), thus, I am stuck using fade controls in Sequoia (which are admittedly as good as they get). But still, I like to use what I refer to as a complex fade - a fade on top of a fade. Most computer programs (Sequoia and Sonic included) lose resolution on their fades towards the bottom of the signal spectrum. This isn't really a noticable thing unless you turn it up. Then you'll hear a very smooth fade all the way up to a certain point, then you'll hear a sudden drop off to digital black. A complex fade eliminates this and can make a VERY smooth fade with no sudden drops.

    3 - Spacing...another pet peeve of mine. So many people simply put the standard 2 second gap between tracks. Sometimes you need MUCH more time and other times you could use much less. How one track flows into another and the silence used to do this is equally as important as the first note of the piece itself!

    4 - Common listening levels. Unless you've been using a carefully calibrated monitoring system with preset amplitude levels, the relative volume from track to track could be widely varied. This is NOT a good thing. Your potential clients (all 1000 of them - and that's a lot! Seriously! Mick Jagger's debut solo CD sold less than that on its first week of release...) will be reaching for the volume knob constantly. They will get annoyed and your disc will now be used to keep drink rings off of their furniture.

    So, even if an ME never touches an EQ or a compressor or a limiter while working your tracks into a PreMaster, at the very least, he/she will get it formatted correctly for both DiscMakers and your audience.

  12. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Well said, Jeremy.

    Btw: I'm guessing you've tried the cosine curve fadeouts in Samp/Sequoia? They're a lot more appealing sounding than the standard Log curves. Admittedly, they "fall off" rapidly at the tail end like everything else, but it's a LOT better when doing 10-15 second fades with cosine curves.

    Sorry for the hijack....

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