Trying to get a Commercial CD sound

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by mg456456, Jun 14, 2007.

  1. mg456456

    mg456456 Guest

    Hello everyone, I am pretty new to the recording game and have been a musician for some time. I have a Mac G5, Digi002(PTLE), and a decent amount of VST, RTAS, and other plugins. I like to record ideas and projects @ home, the only problem I have is when I attempt to mix down and burn an idea to mp3 it sounds way too bottom heavy, or to soft, etc...

    Being that I'm not very good with mixing and mastering I was curious if anyone had an good software they could recommend, which would help me get a good mix down.

    I have "ozone" but still trying to figure it out, is there anything that would get the overall mix or volume from a Commercial CD i like and adjust my mix to that sound and mix??? Sorry if the question is just left of retarded, but like I said I'm new to this. Thank you.
  2. Hey, this has been talked about up and down these forums and you can find a lot of helpful advice on here.

    If you're getting started (like me), I've found some awesome, free advice from John Vestman. His articles really push working with what you have for gear and getting great results by trusting your ears, comparing your mixes on a lot of different systems to commercial cd's and experimenting with mic placement, eq settings, compression, and all that.

    Hope this helps!
  3. sheet

    sheet Well-Known Member

    May 28, 2003
    Kansas City, KS
    Home Page:
    You don't need software. People made records on 2 and 4 tracks, no EQ and know-how. You need practice and a monitor chain and room that are honest. It takes time.
  4. In the end, the songs are what matters. I'd rather listen to a decent camcorder live track of a good band than a 1,000,000 dollar recording of the latest American Karaeoke winner.
  5. multoc

    multoc Active Member

    Jun 18, 2005
    It's all about ears, environment, speakers (monitors), mic technique, knowledge of the interface, and just all around sense, if it doesn't need bass, don't add it, in fact roll it off!
  6. mg456456

    mg456456 Guest

    Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to reply. I do appreciate it very much. Lucky for me I'm patient enough to learn the rights way. I think I just get so frustrated when I waist CD after CD trying to get a good sound.
  7. fourone3

    fourone3 Active Member

    Jan 17, 2007
    My first suggestion would be not to bounce down to MP3. You won't get an accurate representation of your song.
  8. multoc

    multoc Active Member

    Jun 18, 2005
    Good catch fourone3, i didnt' realize he wrote that.......mixing down to MP3 is not a good way to check your mix. Burn 44kHz/16bit Wave files, not MP3's
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    One of the most frequent mistakes I hear being made, is everybody trying to utilize their recording tools as some kind of musical instrument. Of course, us old-timers do exactly that. My equipment. My tools. Are my musical instrument. The difference is, I completed my advanced education, training, mentorship, apprenticeship many years ago. So now, I'm pretty good with it, having done it for over 37 years and have had my confidence in hands by my numerous major award nominations.

    So, you are in the throes of trying to discover " your sound", your " mix chops", your technique to that refined expert product. My advice is generally give all of your projects a KISS. As in keep it simple stupid and always remember, LESS IS MORE. The finest equipment does not yield the finest sound's in inexperienced hands.

    I have always relied on other world-class, world recognized product that I like to emulate. I use other recordings to provide my brain/ears with my baseline reference through whatever monitors/consoles I am presented with. My clients have frequently told me that my completed projects and mixes already sound mastered. They are confused by that. I tell them the best engineers rarely need much mastering because they know what they're doing. It takes years to get to that stage. I just have the ability to see/hear the mix in my head before I ever start playing with the equipment. The trick over the years has been a to train my hands to provide me with what my ears want to hear. Much of it is based on my emotional perception and not what the band tells me the song is supposed to be. So many of my clients have told me their songs have turned into something other than what they originally envisioned. And so again, everything is up to interpretation. I've been told by many people like yourself that they thought their mixes were not up to snuff. I tell them on the contrary! What they think sounds unprofessional or bad I frequently think, " I would've done that". And praise them for their engineering expertise. When I can provide them with examples of what I'm talking about, they are enlightened by what they have done and accomplished.

    Let's hear some stuff?
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  10. mg456456

    mg456456 Guest

    Wow, I really want to thank everyone for their help, and thanks RemyRAD for the advice, I will try to back off using a lot of the plugins (which I really have very little experience with), and keep it a little more simple. As for bouncing to .WAV, how does that differ from the .MP3, would it be better to bounce the project to .WAV, then convert it???
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    Yes, in any kind of quality oriented production, finances permitting, you want to try and say at a reasonable "uncompressed" level of your master tracking and mixing. So everything should be done in ".wav" (PC) or "AIFF" (Mac) type uncompressed files. Your final mix, which should be uncompressed, can then be converted down, to any other lower "digitally compressed" distribution format, such as MP3, MP 4, Windows media, Quick Time, Real Media, etc..

    Again, the issue will arise of whether to record at 16, 24, 32-bit float? 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 192kHz? Or "DSD"? This issue is much like whether you should use a regular or premium gas in your car (unless you have a high compression engine which has nothing to do with digital sound). Whether you get around in a 1978 Toyota Corolla or 2007 Bentley. If you have a $40,000 recording contract? Go for the Bentley! If you have a $400 recording budget? Go for the 1978 Toyota. It's not that I can't hear the difference. It's a matter of practicality. What is necessary to do the job. Quality recording and mixing has nothing to do with equipment. And, although I have the Bentley (Neve), Rolls (API), Porsche (Neumann), Cadillac (Shure), (figuratively speaking). I frequently find that the (small capsule) Toyota, does the trick more efficiently than my gas guzzling (large capsule) Chevy van, (literally speaking).

    That is to say, I still frequently record at 44.1kHz, 16-bit. Why? When my equipment is capable of 24/32-bit float, 96kHz sampling? Because it's good enough, with a full tank. If a client wants 24 for 32-bit float, at 88.2 or 96kHz? No problem (but not with a one quarter tank). That's great, if your recording, is going to be released again in 20 years. But you're hearing will be 20 years older and you probably won't be able to appreciate it any more, anyhow.

    Practical, beautiful and a great mixer. Who could want more?
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  12. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    We had a recent potential client and he want to master at 192 kHz and 32 bit. I asked him why and he told me "for the ultimate in quality". I do not have anything in house that will do 32 bits but I offered to listen to his stuff before he took it to someone with the requisite equipment. He brought the stuff over about two weeks ago and I listened to it. It was, to put it nicely, dreadful. It was distorted. over the top and a mess and it was some of the worst playing I have ever heard. Not wanting to dash this persons hopes I asked him why he wanted to get this mastered and his reply was "so the mastering engineer can make it sound good and LOUD" I wished him well and have not heard back from him as to how the mastering session went.

    I get calls all the time from people who want to master at 96 kHz and 24 bits but what they bring could have just as easily been done at 44.1 and 16 bits because it does not need the bandwidth or the dynamic range of what they recorded it at.

    I do a lot of classical recording and most times I try and record at the highest bit rate I can but I do it a 44.1 kHz because that is what it will be mastered at and sometimes the down converters add a component to the sound that I am not happy with.

    I guess what you are recording should dictate what you will use to record it and that includes the bit rate and sample rate.

    I agree with everything that RemyRAD has stated and as always is very good advice.
  13. jwillis79

    jwillis79 Active Member

    Jan 30, 2007
    st. louis, mo
    Home Page:
    It has been my experience that a lot of people feel that when we master we perform a miracle that will make the worst sounding track sound like a platinum hit. With a lot of artists i deal with, no offense to who they have record them but I'll tell them that I can come in and record, mix, and master in one process for them. I have found this to work best for the simple fact that a lot of people over do it when it come to mixing. Like Remy said KISS is very important, a lot of people feel that compressing a track is a good way to make it sound better, too much and you have ruined the track. Or like Thomas says people want higher bit or sample rates, doesn't really matter if you recorded at 44/16 and you want a finished product at 192/32.

    Mastering is an art just like playing piano, guitar, sax, etc. I know those that have been mastering for years will agree. Granted the best equipment does help, but plain and simple it a hit track can be done on fruity loops, then why can't a hit master be done on say CD Architect. I personally like to use wavelab and a few precise plugins. I like wavelab because I can use plugins that replicate the actual hardware that I would use. Now again you can have a full analog hardware set up and still your master not come out sounding good. So with all this being said, just as playing an instrument you have to find what you like to use and when you find that you have to figure out how you like to use it. I've mastered on a full console all the way down to a laptop. So I will say that you will determine what is best for you, but keep in mind that the best equipment is only as good as it's operator. If both of you are not seeing eye to eye then the master might sound good, but it's not what your looking for. Which is to me the hardest task of mastering. You can make a song sound a certain way, but if it's not what the artists likes then whats the point. All of these aspects need to be takin into consideration when mastering. You can make a track sound hot, but if it's not helping the feel of the song then.

    Yeah I know a lil long winded, but to conclude I've tried to hit a few points that I like to use to get a great sounding master out of a project. There is a lot more to mastering than just making a track sound good. You have to enhance the feeling of that track in the process. You can make it sound clear, but then you might lose some of the feeling to it. So things are ment to not be the cleanist part of a track. Play around with songs to get a feel for them. This will help you in mastering in the long run.
  14. BobRogers

    BobRogers Distinguished Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    I'll chime in with some advice from someone a little closer to the point you are on the learning curve than some of the experts who have already written.

    First - the EQ and the loudness problems are basically separate. Focus on the EQ problems first. The biggest problems with EQ may be the acoustics of the room you are recording in, so consider that. If you can get to the point where you can turn the volume up on your recordings and they sound just as good as recording you are trying to emulate, it is down hill from there.

    Once you have your recordings sounding better without worrying about "volume wars" it is actually pretty easy to learn to use a limiter or compressor to increase volume to the point where you are just squashing a few transients per song. I have Maxim bundled with my copy of PT and I've found it a very easy tool to use to increase the overall volume level. It's probably a crappy tool for really squashing the sound to the "clear channel ready" point. But I just use it to push down a few stray peaks and I get to the point where the difference in volume between my recordings and "commercial" recordings is not annoying (at least to me). No question the difference is still there. (The waveforms of my songs still look like sound waves. Many commercial recordings look like fresh cut grass.) I guess what I'm saying is that making songs a lot louder without making them sound like crap may be a complicated art form requiring lots of experience, but making them sound a fair bit louder while doing almost no damage just takes some practice and careful listening.
  15. remyrad i feel we are the same on the views on mixing. you put that in the very same way i have been doing things for years. until you work with clients and not just your personal band. thats when you start to hear complex sounds for the first time. Sessions and sessions of groups, artist, musicians or even just a bunch of editing. Hands on is the only way to test your ability to manipulate sound the way you want it. on top of a kiss to the poject like remyrad mentioned you also would like to get to know Trial and Error and be-careful with formating drives and deleting files.
  16. mmcfarlane

    mmcfarlane Guest

    mg45645, in case you missed this, it was an important point.

    The mp3 file formatted trades off music quality for file size. It's a compromise called 'compression' which selectively removes some audio quality in order to make the file smaller.

    Most mp3 compressors have a quality setting, typically listed as how many bit or bytes per second you want the file compressed to. For a given compression algorithm a higher bit rate will be a better quality.

    You should do this test yourself. Compress a commercial CD song at 64 Kbps and do it again at 192 Kbps and listen to the original CD and the two mp3 files. If you can't tell a huge difference between the 64 and 192Kbps files then something is wrong with your speakers, headphones, room acoustics, ears, something.

    Depending on the quality of the equipment you listen through, and your ears (you have been wearing hearing protection on stage, right?), at some Kbps setting you may say - I can't tell the difference between this and the original CD. Someone with a better listening environment will pick an even higher compression setting, or will stand for no compression at all.

    Apple has recently started offering higher Kbps downloads on iTunes to try to improve the quality, and to create a reason for people to repurchase music they already own. A brilliant marketing move, but also helpful for those of us who listen on something of higher quality than an iPod. Apple will probably push an even higher bit rate in 3-5 more years. They won't ever say 'the current mp3 format sucks', but as storage gets cheaper the compressed format will improve. mp3 will be replaced with something better.

    So save your orignal mix to an uncompressed .wav or aiff format and listen to that. If you are making a CD, don't make an mp3 CD, make a normal CD (44.1KHz, 16bit) if you want the highest quality that the current standard audio CD format can provide.

    If for some special reason you need an mp3 CD, select the highest bit rate you can when you compress the songs, like 192 or 256 or more.
  17. DrGonz

    DrGonz Active Member

    Jun 24, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    dont forget

    We call an MP3 a compressed file but yet it has no compression involved. Its really a Data Reduction (compression) Not the A-typical Compressor type. This a great point to be made about MP3 format, since our ears dont hear too much above 16khz and below 40hz.... then I wonder where most of the data reduction occurs? I really dont know but I will guess that it might be truncating parts of the frequency spectrum in these regions. I always laughed at friends that rely on the mp3 format for all their music and thought that they are degrading there listening pleasure...

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