With all of today's technology why haven't DAW software developers come up with...

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by jmm22, Dec 26, 2010.

  1. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    a single stage recording system. I mean at it's most fundamental level, two stage recording (mix then master) contains one stage more than one might naively believe is necessary.

    What exactly prevents a company from making some kind of system that would integrate the step of mastering? The question does not even have to take the success of current methods into consideration. I mean such a system might well be of lesser quality than taking a mix to a fully equipped mastering house, but then such a product would appeal to hobbyists and home recording enthousiasts.
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    There is a lot more to it than what you are thinking. But the door is closing in. See Sequoia 11 as an example of great recording and mastering software, but then you still need a treated room and monitors that add up to another $20,000 or so plus ears and a bunch of goodies with knowledge. So, yes, there is software that has the core and then the rest follows as mentioned.

    Mastering is also having another set of ears not related to your project. Coming at it from an independent POV. This is extremely important. I am of course talking about professional mastering, not low end home studio mastering using plug-ins and a set of low end monitors in a poorly treated room.

    In one of our just recent topics about buying VOVOX cable for my hybrid studio (all in the name of getting a 2% better sound quality. The cable cost for that 2% injection was $11,000. That is just cable. So, you really are talking about a magical plug-in that runs the audio through some processing and spits it out the other side all shinny and loud yes? What you are thinking about isn't true mastering.
  3. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    Last week I had a band with a nice production in for mastering. Due to some tight budget I agreed on a flat rate and took my time to make it real good. In the background the dudes were rather silent, as usual. After, say, 5 hours they slowly began to snore away and the 2, still awake, began a whispered discussion like "what is he doing the last 40 minutes? I don't hear what he is doing, at all??" Finally, I turned round and explaned to them what I was doing for hours to the sound and songs. Well, I guess I could have better spent the time for a coffee. My deliberations did not get that gloom of understanding in their eyes. But at least they now knew I was actually working..lol..
    Late afternoon the CD was finished and sounded big, proud and shiny, like they wanted it. I could bet, some had tears in their eyes. They were absolutely happy, payed cash and left for some celebration or rather party..lol..

    It took me watching at least 3 Mastering sessions at a good mastering house to roughly understand what they do there, as well. And soon I found out that it takes different tools, rooms, monitors and another approach to the matter. The extra costs for a good mastering gear are immense and even harder to cough up since, as audiokid said, it is only to get the last 2 %. Or rather the last 0.5 % when we talk about the difference between a ok-working and a good mastering setup. Bob Ludwig payed about 25 grand for his speaker cables..lol.. but I don't need that... But maybe I begin some experiments with super conductors...
    Integrating mastering into a studio complex is possible but it does not come for free. If you want survive commercially you must deliver best quality that justifies the price it costs. Even if you get the gear and room, it still takes the ears and experience. The air is thin up there...
  4. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    There is no rubber-stamp, cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solution. Are you doing bluegrass or deathcore? Classical or country? There are as many different approaches to the recording, mixing, and mastering as there are songs.

    You could buy the Finalizer Plug-ins or the hardware version TC Electronics Finalizer for well over $2k and find that the tool can't exceed the abilities of the user. The Finalizers are probably magnificent tools to have in your arsenal, but I don't think they ever caught the world on fire because they can't account for the human element and personal taste. No matter how useful they might be as a tool, presets and 'wizards' aren't likely to ever equal the craftsmanship of a great mastering engineer making each adjustment by ear. And even if you stumbled across the perfect settings, unless your monitors and listening environment are essentially lab-spec - you won't know it when you hear it.

    Hobbyists and home recording enthusiasts are just kidding themselves if they believe they are well and truly mastering their project. Your job is to get the best tracks and best mix you can. Mastering should be the icing on what is already a damn fine cake.

    I think if you could give an ME a magic slider it would be able to balance between the raw artistic quality of the work and the adjustments needed to make the work broadcast-ready and commercially viable.

    I've noticed a lot of the topics you are so inquisitive about, it seems like you're looking for a nice neat numerical answer. But that doesn't account for the reality that the "Recording Arts and Sciences", are just that... Art and Science. And that is before you factor in the art of songwriting and playing the music. Drum machines are boring, but Kenny Aronoff doing a simple 4/4 is not.

    I could go the art supply store and buy brushes, paint, canvas and Da Vinci for Dummies. And if I live to be 1000, I might learn to mimic Leonardo's brush strokes, but could never mimic his creative process.
  5. FlyBass

    FlyBass Active Member

    Well said, dvdhawk. The Science is the technical knowhow (objective) and the Art is executing the task (subjective). Bravo.
  6. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    I think I have been misunderstood. I am not remotely trying to minimize the importance of mastering in any way, or diminishing the importance of an innate creative process of the artist. However, In a certain scientific or technical sense, it seems redundant to have two distinct processes, first creating a mix, and then mastering that mix. My question was/is, what prevents a software company from creating a program that allows all final levels to be established during one single stage. It is a valid question, and has no relation to how I work, or think. If you try to explain to a layman that it requires two distinct processes to create a recording he/she is apt to wonder why. Apparently, there are good reasons why the process must be in two stages, such as the need for fresh ears, new room, better gear etc., and I wanted to better understand if there were technical reasons beyond these, which I already knew and appreciated.

    I may be inquisitive, but hardly for any of the reasons you have erroneously attributed to me.

    Leonardo mixed his own paints, so he had two important steps do in executing a painting. But then if Leonardo were alive today, he might buy his paints from Old Holland. It's also worth remembering that Leonardo was a fine painter, but he was just a mediocre helicopter engineer. :smile:

    Of necessity, my ADL 600 submission will be mastered "in house" with all of the requisite struggling this entails, and thus the struggle was the genesis of my question. :tongue: The scientist in me asks why I need to do again what I just did, and in the same place.
  7. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    The shortest answer is that you perform mastering on a final 2-bus mixdown/bounce/render. You can't provide any mastering whatsoever on a multitrack project as it isn't summed down to a final mix.

    Once you have your final stereo mix then you begin the process of tweaking it to "mastering" standards whatever those might be in the limited setting you have. I suggest saving a backup copy of your mixdown prior to this stage.

    In an actual professional mastering facility, if they had the original session and tracks they might tweak the main mix further and re-sum the mix down to a new stereo mix to work with to get a better beginning point. Otherwise they are limited to manipulating a stereo mix/breaking it apart/reassembling etc.
  8. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    Thanks. Something in that answer clicked. I also lost sight of the fact that mastering almost always involves multiple songs, where they must be also balanced one to another, as well as to themselves. I have been thinking purely in a singular manner.
  9. FlyBass

    FlyBass Active Member

    As part of the Logic Studio, there is a mastering application (Waveburner) which uses nothing more than the same plugins that Logic Pro 9 uses (the main DAW application). Waveburner has unique plugin presets and it puts them into sets for different music styles, but otherwise the same plugins.
  10. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Correct. A compressor is a compressor is a compressor. An eq is and eq is an eq. It's all about the settings and the quality of that device/plugin.
  11. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I think I understood just fine, you've posted 6 questions this month specifically involving the mastering stage. My reply today was generally at this body of questions that indicate you need some clarification on what mastering is. Your question poses the notion that mixing and mastering in two stages, "contains one stage more than one might naively believe is necessary", and that there's a shortage of mastering hardware and software available to the DIY recordist. Neither is true.

    You continue by saying,"...such a system might well be of lesser quality than taking a mix to a fully equipped mastering house, but then such a product would appeal to hobbyists and home recording enthousiasts.".

    The systems exist. If shoddy (lesser quality) results are OK there are hundreds (if not thousands) of products available. In the professional realm (where shoddy results are not acceptable) there are scores of mastering plug-ins and enough hardware to sink a battleship - but there are no shortcuts in mastering audio. The point of mastering is to add polish and consistency, so your tracks sound good on shuffle and played on the radio in between mega-budget offerings.

    Certainly your questions are valid questions, and my answer today was in no way a dig at you, just my observation that there are precious few people equipped to properly master to major-label / major network standards. There is a good reason they use the same people over and over again. (Such as Mr. Ludwig in the States)

    Someone like Big K can mix 200+ tracks down to stereo with the mastered finished product in mind - but real mastering is still a separate process.

    I love science. In science you have to start with the fundamentals. Asking questions is an important part of the learning process, but hands-on experimenting (button-pushing / knob twiddling) beats it by a mile. You're learning that there is more to the flow of how things mix together than meets the eye. That's why I would encourage you to get great at mixing before you "get swamped with the literally infinite permutations of such settings."

    Write good songs, track them well, and make great mixes, then let your record company deal with choosing someone to master it.
  12. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    Since I am new to recording, I need clarification on everything, sometimes more than once. But it would be a mistake to attribute my lack of knowledge of recording as a lack of determination, and I appreciate all replies.
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    This is a very good topic.

    It took me years to fully understand the difference between the true meaning and process of mastering music. I have been reading these forums for 12 years and I think I'm finally catching on lol. My problem is I'm coming at this from a musicians POV and also live music. Although I have been recording for 35 years, I wasn't doing it like a pro. I never knew the secrets of the pro's until I starting reading what they were doing here. There really has not been this kind of information available until the internet. We are now getting G.A.S. ed by it all. Somewhere there is a balance. And this is why I say I am finally getting it.

    Mastering is a lot more than just running something through a box. But you are on the right track.
  14. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Nobody doubts your drive or determination. You have passion and persistence - both traits are common of successful people in any field.
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Dave used to hang here alot. He talks about his gear a bit; If he could use a simply in/out I think he would.
  16. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    Make no mistake gentlemen, I have full appreciation for the high skill and necessity of the mastering engineer. No doubt, some of my questions are born out of frustration with the steep learning curve. Ironically, I think I have made acceptable headway in my "learn to pseudo-master for a contest in less time than it takes paint to dry" program, and now I am down to a single chord change which has brought my production to a virtual stand still. Endings are my achilles heel, a product of never having played in a band or having to have the discipline (until now) to do much more than vamp in solitude. I actually finished my master this evening, but had to go back to the mix to try to resolve the problem.

    That's a nice looking rack of gear Dave. Do you have any QRD's in your room?
  17. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Good for you. You've hit a sensitive section in the recording area where there are so many people posing as mastering engineers so we do take the time to talk about it in detail. I'm very excited to hear your song. GOOD LUCK!
  18. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    As mentioned earlier Samplitude comes about as close as you can get in a DAW to a recording AND mastering software all in one application.

    Part of what made music GREAT back in the Golden Era was collaboration. Now with the current DIY mentality it is something that most people don't even think about and try to do everything themselves in their bedrooms or basements without another living soul hearing or commenting on their endeavors. When they finally post their magnum opus on line or make CDs and sell them and people start to pick it apart they get upset. I have learned, the hard way, that just because I like something does not necessarily mean that everyone else will as well. It is too bad that a lot of the DIYer have not learned that lesson yet.

    My point is that as part of the musical "experience" one should involve other people in the music before it is released. A good professional mastering engineer is one person who can make informed judgments and really help you make the best of what you have done up until the time you have contacted them. To try and do everything yourself with an all in one DAW in your basement or bedroom is probably not a good idea.

    Best of luck!
  19. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Well what you are missing is that you aren't doing 'the same thing again' when mastering.

    When mastering you are performing a lot of yes, very scientific procedures - bear in mind that in the truly pro realm you are not just taking a 16-bit 44.1 wav file as your input source - you may be receiving a digital master, a DAT, true tape, or god knows what, and you need to firstly convert this (to perform a digital mastering process) at an incredibly high level, and then process it at the same level in terms of both quality and accurate feedback. You may then be correcting incorrect bits, re-clocking, or performing other correctional functions that I do not wot of, simply to create a seemingly identical digital file that actually works in terms of providing correct bit information to high-end hi-fis. None of that is DAW material.

    When explaining to clients why I cannot master for them I explain that there are two ways to spend your money. Either on 16 tracks, or on 2. The latter is a mastering house with the two tracks and all processing being the focus, whereas in the multitrack studio the focus is spreading the quality over 16 tracks. This slightly disingenuous example ignores the fact that in the multitrack studio there will be a focus in financial spend on the tracking rooms themselves whereas in the mastering studio the focus would be on the monitoring stage. Technically there is a situation where both of these can be set up by a single person but in hard reality its financially impossible to do both to a world-class level.

    Without being facetious, the question involving performing all of this in the DAW domain shows that you don't truly understand what can be done to 2 tracks or 16 outwith the digital domain that makes the two disciplines completely seperate and divisible. You could have a mastering studio and a recording studio in the same building, but not in the same room. The two people operating them would need to be different as well - as a bad generalization I would say that a mastering engineer cannot hope to have the same knowledge in-depth of microphone usage and placement that a recording engineer can, and vice versa - the recording engineer cannot hope to excel at his job and also know everything the mastering engineer does. At a world-class level you would not keep the two in the same head, its not practical.

    Its as much a question of what is possible within a business catering to real paying clients as it is of what is possible within a DAW. And the numbers don't add up in either situation.
  20. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    And I would argue that for the home recordist ALL DAWs contain the functionality to 'master' to an acceptable level for them. Just strap some finalizing plugins over the two-bus and mix into them?!

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