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Fluid Mastering - Interview with mastering engineers

Member for

21 years
For conversation I found this and thought it would generation discussion.

Comments

Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Mon, 08/13/2018 - 03:49
The place I learned to master in was located in Nashville, TN. Our speakers were custom and literally went from floor to ceiling and were located in the corners. They sounded awesome and were very easy to master on. Our mastering console was a Neumann that had been completely rebuilt. It was high so we had to use a tall office chair to do the mastering. There was lots of equipment in the room including an A-80 Studer, a Neumann cutting lathe and associated racks and a complete Sony PCM-1630 with two Sony Umatic decks. It was quite a cozy room but sounded GREAT. If the space is designed for what is in it the physical layout should work fine. FWIW

Member for

2 years 9 months

James Englund Tue, 12/18/2018 - 22:23
I thought that this was an interesting conversation that seems to be repeated time and time again. The first point of interest was the conversation surrounding the enhancement stage of mastering. That part where the mastering engineer believes he can make the mix sound better. The truth is that this stage is highly subjective and perilous for any mastering engineer. You're effectively saying to the mix engineer "good try, but I can make it sound better." In many cases this is true but the reality is that as soon as you start working on the mastering buss you have already begun the mastering enhancement stage, and NOW, the mix engineer is dreading on mastering toes. This is a battle that has been going on for a long time between mastering engineers and mix engineers. I worked on a record in NYC a few years ago. The mix engineer had some serious credits (Coldplay, John Mayer, Jeff Buckley etc) and the mastering engineer also had some huge credits (list too long to mention). I was able to sit in and speak to each guy about their approach and opinion of the others (without each knowing I was scoping out what they thought of each other's work). Very interesting Conversation! Basically the mastering engineer was like "well, when I get mixes from him there's pretty much nothing that I can do. They come in mastered, or, smashed to high heaven". The mix guy was like "Oh, I don't like anyone touching my mixes so I give them something they can't touch."


The area where a mastering engineer has undisputed value is the balancing stage between all the tracks and the production preparation stage. But hey, we seem to be living in a singles world now. Do kids really put on a vinyl or CD and let it run through from start to finish? NO! They song-surf on YouTube and don't really know the difference between a bad sounding MP3 and high resolution DSD. So the mastering role seems to be diminishing somewhat, which actually is a shame. It's a shame because the equipment that they bring to the table is super expensive and really does make the music sound so much better. Like that Maselec EQ that was racked up on the Fluid mastering Desk. Try finding a plugin that sounds that good! Nope! Defeated by the digital age again? Possibly so. But as people are beginning to rediscover the value of good quality analogue gear we are possibly seeing a turn around in this area. DIY gear building sites are more popular and vintage equipment is in vogue for a good reason.


I strongly agree with their attitude towards starting from scratch and not relying on presets. They definitely underestimate the intelligence and skill of the up and coming generations, kids who have access to digital emulations of gear that was only available to a select few twenty years ago. As a result there are a lot of very skilled home mixers and mastering engineers. Which brings me to my next point - education. There seems to be a lack of education for mastering. I'm sure, now that we have YouTube, more is available. But for a long time mastering was audio alchemy.


I thought that it was a good interview but a conversation that I have personally heard many many times. I felt that the concept of subjectivity was not touched on enough.


Thanks for sharing this video.

Cheers,
James Englund

Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Wed, 12/19/2018 - 02:36
James Englund, post: 459958, member: 51493 wrote: I thought that this was an interesting conversation that seems to be repeated time and time again. The first point of interest was the conversation surrounding the enhancement stage of mastering. That part where the mastering engineer believes he can make the mix sound better. The truth is that this stage is highly subjective and perilous for any mastering engineer. You're effectively saying to the mix engineer "good try, but I can make it sound better." In many cases this is true but the reality is that as soon as you start working on the mastering buss you have already begun the mastering enhancement stage, and NOW, the mix engineer is dreading on mastering toes. This is a battle that has been going on for a long time between mastering engineers and mix engineers. I worked on a record in NYC a few years ago. The mix engineer had some serious credits (Coldplay, John Mayer, Jeff Buckley etc) and the mastering engineer also had some huge credits (list too long to mention). I was able to sit in and speak to each guy about their approach and opinion of the others (without each knowing I was scoping out what they thought of each other's work). Very interesting Conversation! Basically the mastering engineer was like "well, when I get mixes from him there's pretty much nothing that I can do. They come in mastered, or, smashed to high heaven". The mix guy was like "Oh, I don't like anyone touching my mixes so I give them something they can't touch."


The area where a mastering engineer has undisputed value is the balancing stage between all the tracks and the production preparation stage. But hey, we seem to be living in a singles world now. Do kids really put on a vinyl or CD and let it run through from start to finish? NO! They song-surf on YouTube and don't really know the difference between a bad sounding MP3 and high resolution DSD. So the mastering role seems to be diminishing somewhat, which actually is a shame. It's a shame because the equipment that they bring to the table is super expensive and really does make the music sound so much better. Like that Maselec EQ that was racked up on the Fluid mastering Desk. Try finding a plugin that sounds that good! Nope! Defeated by the digital age again? Possibly so. But as people are beginning to rediscover the value of good quality analogue gear we are possibly seeing a turn around in this area. DIY gear building sites are more popular and vintage equipment is in vogue for a good reason.


I strongly agree with their attitude towards starting from scratch and not relying on presets. They definitely underestimate the intelligence and skill of the up and coming generations, kids who have access to digital emulations of gear that was only available to a select few twenty years ago. As a result there are a lot of very skilled home mixers and mastering engineers. Which brings me to my next point - education. There seems to be a lack of education for mastering. I'm sure, now that we have YouTube, more is available. But for a long time mastering was audio alchemy.


I thought that it was a good interview but a conversation that I have personally heard many many times. I felt that the concept of subjectivity was not touched on enough.


Thanks for sharing this video.

Cheers,
James Englund

All good observations. I have noticed that more and more mix engineers are trying to master as they mix. Sometimes mix engineers do not have the best acoustics or speakers and what they master is what they have been listening to all along which kinda defeats the idea of another pair of ears. This is especially true of DIY people who play, record, mix and master all in their own studio(s). Then they post their magnum opus on line and wonder why they get a lot of snarky comments about the quality of their mix or the sound of their mix. To me music is all about collaboration and working on things together to get the best product. Kinda like the Beatles and Sir George Martin. Things are changing and hopefully quality will make a comeback soon because right now a lot of what I hear on YouTube is poorly done, over eq'd and over compressed because people are trying to make things LOUD which is what many of them equate to GOOD. Keep listening and commenting. It is what this forum is all about.

Member for

12 years 2 months

kmetal Wed, 12/19/2018 - 16:10
I personally enjoy the times ive given my mix to someone else to master. Im never completely sataisfied with my work, and by the time i sign off a mix ive usually done all i can do. I believe handing it to an experienced engineer to master it allows me to let go of the mix mentally, and allows soneone else to improve what i cant.

if the mastering isnt an improvement theres no law that says it has to be released. Another attempt can be done by the ME or we can use the mix brought up to a stansard level.

Having not been sucessful yet as the mix guy in james' post, i cant critisize him for leaving no room for the ME. there are different recipes for sucess. However i do think its worth keeping an open mind throughout each process. I think sometimes ego and being set in one's own ways comes into play, and may not be in the artists best interests.

I think its a great thing that people dedicate themselves to what it takes to be a specialist. I know a co worker of mine is proud to this day that one time Bob Ludwig said that his mix was just right and Mr. L felt there was no reason to touch it. The experience, gear, and validation, as well as a sense of completion is hopefully what will keep mastering alive and well.

Perhaps having a seperate mastering room with the gear and acoustics would make self mastering a step closer to or better than a seperate mastering engineer in some cases, i think this is rarely the case however. There is no supplement to mastering level acoustics.

Member for

8 years 7 months

pcrecord Thu, 12/20/2018 - 05:03
kmetal, post: 459963, member: 37533 wrote: if the mastering isnt an improvement theres no law that says it has to be released. Another attempt can be done by the ME or we can use the mix brought up to a stansard level.

One thing that many miss is either having too much expectation or not explaining well what kind of end product they are aiming for..
One band I recorded many years ago had my mixes mastered in a renowned studio and they were very disapointed because the result was done like pop music instead of their folks style. It came out over compressed and the dynamics they carefully performed were lost.
My point is ; Talk to your ME, give him/her references of music styles and other similar album.
I try to brief my customer on what to ask and expect. They specially need to ask for many version, CD, Streaming, etc..

Member for

12 years 2 months

kmetal Mon, 08/06/2018 - 19:21
voices and interments tracked into controls rooms never sound good for some reason lol. they bring up some interesting points about pluggin quality. also its interesting they dont mind when theres bus compression on a mix.

one thing that irks me is the seemingly low ceilings, and all the crap in between the listening position and the speakers. also the mains are up to the ceiling, and stuffed in the corner of the room. those are typically no-no's. im guessing they've accounted for it but still, a bit surprising to see in a mastering room. you literally can't see the lower driver on the nearfield speakers. i know consoles and desks are sometimes necessary, and carry a certain look of wealth, but to me they are a hindrance. anything in the line between ears and speakers causes a distortion of the sound, one way or another. this is a problem with analog gear that cant be controlled digitally, and a [problem with a serious lack of tactile digital control surfaces. to me all that gear should be on the back wall or even better, in a closet somewhere, with a single controller that sits on your lap or chair. that seems grossly apparent to me, and im a nobody, with relatively limited experience, so i could be off the mark. some people like eric valantine have gone as far as having their mixing console made from a mesh, as to reduce the console reflections.

i dunno, i used to long for those huge racks full of gear, then i got to work in a room with a big ol rack and desk, and i realized what an acoustic hindrance, and logistical nightmare it was. really, how good are your settings when your 6ft out of the sweet spot, bent over, adjusting that eq? i dunno, a well treated empty room, with speakers and acoustically transparent projector/screen, is what i shoot for these days.