Mastering? What is it?

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by rush_boy2112, Apr 13, 2007.

  1. rush_boy2112

    rush_boy2112 Guest

    What exactly is mastering? And how is it done?
  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Mastering used to be a process of taking your 1/4" analog master tape to transfer to a lacquer disk. That process required a considerable amount of knowledge, expertise and experience along with a great technical understanding of the equipment being used.

    Mastering has taken on a different definition, since we are not dealing with constraints and associated problems with vinyl.

    I believe mastering has now become the final "turd polishing" step toward a final CD Master. So many home/basement/Project studio recordings that are quite substandard sonically, can greatly be improved by an experienced engineer with the proper tools. And so, that is what we now call mastering.

    For those of us who are truly good engineers, most of us really don't need much of any "mastering" for our CD release product since our mixes are true masters, by the masters, for the masters, so help me God!

    But then there is this issue of " well that XYZ CD sounded much louder than my CD....". This is part of the loudness wars that all started back with FM radio. Mastering engineers frankly can and do manage to pump up the level on a CD, so as to make the apparent loudness level as high/thick/dense as you wish, until the product turns into loud distorted slop, which nobody will want to listen to then.

    So again, a good mix translates into less "mastering" needed, unless you just want loud without regard to quality.

    I'm always loud but my CDs aren't as loud as I am!
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  4. TVPostSound

    TVPostSound Guest

    I tell you Remy, you dont mince words, do you? :lol:
  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Well, I can be quiet and demure. But only when I'm eating.......FOOD!

    Chomp chomp
    Ms. Remy Ann David (burp)
  6. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    hmmmm, well I suppose then you should be getting paid a lot more if you're that good and have a room that good and everything else that goes along with it. But in the real world, even the "best" engineers have their stuff mastered and there is a reason for it. In every industry there are stages to making and delivering something. Each stage has it's production tools geared towards completing the task at hand. Mastering is like the color correction technician on a film, at least that's how I like to look at it. It has nothing to do with how good or how bad an engineer is, it's a process that has specific tools to accomplish an end result in a particular environment with someone that has a lot of experience doing that task. Some engineers feel threatened that if a mix has to be touched, then they didn't do their job. But that's like saying that if a band knew how to play well, they wouldn't need an engineer to record them.
  7. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Michael - I hear versions of this type of remark about mastering, and I really don't understand them. Maybe, in fact, I really don't understand the answer to the original question. The way I understand mastering is in analogy to production of a book. If the mastering engineer were in the book publishing world he would play two roles: he would edit copy and prepare the galleys for printing. In the old days there was a lot of interaction between the two stages. But I don't understand the interaction today. The way I see it, in the stage analogous to copy editing the ME takes a stereo, say, 24 bit 96kHz track and tweaks it - turns it into a better 24 bit, 96kHz stereo track. Isn't that now completely independent of preparing the track for pressing?

    If the two stages are independent then I don't see anything that inherently would lead a mastering studio to have different or even better tools. At the stages that a mix engineer and a mastering engineer are each trying to get a good 24 stereo bit track - why would they be different.

    Two points before I end. First, these aren't rhetorical questions or challenges. I really don't understand the answer. Second, I know very well the value of a good copy editor (and what a pain it is to work with a bad one).
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Bob, I think I could answer that for you? It seems most obvious to me, here in the early 21st-century that many of us old-timers grew up to the earliest of recording technologies. Mastering, really has taken on a completely new definition. I still see the necessity, for a major label, to make sure there are last stage of quality control is it in the hands of established professionals.

    Conversely, with the proliferation of the "project studio" and the "anybody can do it audio" mindset, produces a final product, from inexpensive higher definition equipment, in the hands of inexperienced lower definition engineers, producing a highly and technically intricate mediocre product, fraught with problems and excessive dynamic range (because they could) that is then put into the hands of a knowledgeable, talented and hopefully creative individual, who can now take those, 24-bit, 192kHz products from these otherwise clueless, green beginner engineers and try to polish their turds, into something louder than they have heard from somebody else.

    I don't need it no stinking Mastering Engineer. I need a psychiatrist.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  9. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    Among the plethora, a few examples...

    Mixers need quantities of eq's that work well on problems associated with individual instrument signals.
    ME's need a stereo EQ useful for correcting complex program information and which disturbs stereophonic relationships as little as possible.

    Mixers need a control room which will accommodate a large console and a quantity of gear, as well as the asst. engs, producers, the band, band's friends, record label types. The monitoring accuracy of such a space cannot usually be maintained reliably.
    ME's (hopefully) have rooms which have calibrated monitoring environments. Therefore better judgments can be made about the stereo mix than can be done in the mix environment.

    (out of time, gotta go, could give you more examples later)

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