mastering

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by ewell, Apr 24, 2004.

  1. ewell

    ewell Guest

    I would like to start to master my mix,
    could i have some help or a site where i can learn,how to start.
    i dont work with computer ,i use a behringer desk mx8000 and an alesis hard disk recorder,
    i would also like to diy all the pre etc
    Thanks
    Ewell.
     
  2. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    there are many places on the internet to find some information. I would start by reading as many of the posts and threads in this forum.

    what is diy pre?
     
  3. ewell

    ewell Guest

    by( diy pre)i meant that i would like to build the electronics,as i `am everyday on the Techtalk & diy audio forum
    Thanks
    Ewell
     
  4. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Couple of good sites http://www.digido.com

    and

    http://www.drtmastering.com/faq2.htm

    Also from the web....

    What Is Mastering?

    Mastering is the part of the recording chain that is often times shrouded in mystery. A few comments I have overheard are: "What goes on in there anyway?" "My record already sounds good, it doesn't need to be mastered...", "Mastering is where they sprinkle magic Pixie Dust on the mix." I'm sure you've heard of mastering, seen the words "mastered by:" on dozens of CDs, and although you've logged your fair share of studio time, you may still have never been introduced to the actual process and purpose of mastering.

    The easiest way to describe the mastering process is taking a collection of songs and making a record out of it. Mastering is the use of post-production processes including editing, sweetening, EQ matching, level matching, limiting, song sequencing and dozens other tools to create the finished album. Mastering engineers can optimize the material for different formats too! Subtle changes in EQ and compression can make a master more suitable for pressed on CD, vinyl or cassette.

    Often when starting a mastering job, the source material may be uneven in level from song to song. One song might have too much low end while another may have to much high end and yet another song might need to have the end faded. While you might believe these are jobs for the mixing engineer in the studio, just remember that while you're mixing a record that may include a dozen or more songs, it is very hard to remember how the low mids on the first song sounded while you're mixing song number fourteen. Also, editing technique such as fade-in's and fade-outs are much easier to execute perfectly in the mastering stage as oppose to doing so at the mixing console.

    It's best to think of mastering as the postproduction step of recording, because that is exactly what it is. All of the above mentioned processes take place after the final mix down is completed, so real adjustments individual instruments are not really available. I have added instruments and vocals to final mixes during mastering on occasion, so many things are still possible, it's best to consult your mastering engineer about what tricks he/she recommend.

    Because the mastering process deals with the final two-track mix, only the best equipment can be used. This enables the mastering engineer to affect the program material in a most positive way without introducing unwanted sonic coloration (subtle changes in the audio fidelity). If the mix is going to pass through analog gear, you will want to know if your engineer uses quality converters, as poor converters can wreak absolute havoc on a mix.

    Editing?
    Digital Editing is the process in which the songs are, well, edited. Sometimes after having the chance to listen to a mix for a period of time, you may decide that the song has one too many choruses, in most cases, this can be fixed in editing. Many bands release shorter, more condensed versions of their songs for radio play, which is also handled in editing. Certain timing problems within the performance can also be fixed. Also within the editing process, song sequencing and fading are handled. Most mastering engineers prefer to do the song fades as opposed to having them done in the studio during mixdown. Fades can be extremely smooth and exact when done in editing.

    It should mention that some mastering engineers do not like to deal with editing issues. Some prefer to receive the mix master in the exact sequenced order with the appropriate amount of spacing between each cut. This is something you should discuss with your mastering engineer, as some charge exorbitant fees for editing.

    How come our CD isn't as loud as theirs?
    Have you ever listened to one CD then put another in only to find the second seemed significantly lower in volume? Chances are that the second CD wasn't digitally limited. Limiting is a process, performed in the mastering stage, that allows the overall mix to be brought up by several db in most cases. Limiting basically makes the volume differences between the loud parts and the quiet parts much smaller. Although the limiting process can add some overall volume to your project- keep in mind that it also begins to eliminate those dynamics inherent to music.

    What about the equipment used?

    What is unfortunate is that with the advent of 24 bit DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations, like Pro Tools) and 16 bit CDs we have all become caught up in the loudness game. We have the best headroom ever, and what do we do? We eliminate the dynamics by squishing as much of the material as close to the maximum as possible. A mastering engineer can make CDs loud everyday, it is part of what they do, but most look forward to the day when they can get back to having some dynamics in our pre-recorded format of the day. If the limiting is done really well, it should not be noticeable. Some CDs give people ear fatigue after just a few minutes of listening, while other CDs one can listen (enjoyably) to the whole disc. (A side note to mixdown engineers with TC Finalizers, you know who you are, please use them sparingly. It is hard to rescue a mix that has been "mastered" while it was mixed.)

    When considering the mastering process- try to find an engineer who does mastering at the 24 bit level, it maintains higher resolution and the end product will sound better because of it. It should also be mention that some mastering houses don't use DAWs at all, they master from the source tape straight to 1630. 1630 is an older format that is accepted by the replication houses. In a Dec. '97 Mix magazine interview, Bernie Grundman (world renowned mastering engineer) said "They [mastering engineers] are the last creative step of the process and the first step of manufacturing." The finished product created in a mastering session is used as the master for mass replication. There are several formats that can be sent to pressing houses, including: CD-R, DAT, DDP and 1630. My experience has been that replicators prefer CD-R or DDP. I've seen some charge as much as $250.00 extra for sending a DAT! Ouch!

    Do I really NEED mastering?
    You can skip the mastering process, but most people don't recommend it, but it is possible. Chances are that your CD will not have the polish, nor the presence and sheen to stand up to the majors. When you've put hundreds of pre-production and studio hours and seemingly countless dollars into your project why settle for second rate? The personal satisfaction along with avoiding that "local CD sound" are worth the price of having your album professionally mastered. It will make your project stand with the best as well as give people a good first impression of your music. Remember that when an A&R rep is finally listening to your CD amongst a pile of 50 others you need a sound that will keep them from tossing it in the trash.


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    Why should someone else master my material

    Take a few minutes and grab a dozen of your favorite CDs and/or records and look for the mastering engineer credits. All your favorite, great sounding albums may have a few names in common: Bob Ludwig, Bernie Grundman, Bob Katz, John Golden and George Marino... just to name a few. The fact that these same names pop up on many of the best sounding albums you own has got to make you realize that the mastering engineer has a big hand in how great that record sounds! The recording process is a system of checks, and personally I feel it is wise to use a separate engineer for mastering and the recording and mixing. It keeps the project from becoming one-dimensional.


    Dollars and sense.
    If your band is releasing it's first CD, chances are that you will not be able to afford some of the aforementioned names. But, with the advent of the DAW, the price of mastering has come down to a more realistic level for the average band. You could go out and spend $10 per hour to $500 per hour; maybe less, maybe more. Word of mouth is still the best form of screening when looking into a mastering house. Ask around and find out what others say about the person and/or facility that you are thinking about using? And remember, you get what you pay for!

    If you still want to do it yourself I suggest that you go to a mastering studio and have one song done by a professional. Ask questions and watch the process. This maybe what you need to get started and/or you can read an excellent book on mastering by Bob Katz called Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science.


    Best of luck.....
    Hope this helps

    -TOM-
     
  5. odog

    odog Guest

    thansk a lot tom.. my buddy is going to school for 'mastering' and i have never really thought of what it was ... your explanation was sweet...


    p.s how long did that take you..

    thanks..
     

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