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Mastering engineer expectations- what to bring

I am working on my own mixes, and plan to bring them to a mastering studio. Ideally, what is he/she looking for? Would it be a stereo mix on a wav. file? What kind of levels are the best for the mastering engineer to work from? Do most mastering engineers mind if the client is present while the mastering is done, say on a three song demo?

Comments

Michael Fossenkemper Tue, 11/16/2010 - 13:27
I think it's best to talk with the engineer you're planning on working with to get their preferences. Generally 24 bit files in whatever sample rate you've been working in. wav files should be fine for anyone. On the question of sitting in, that depends on the engineer, schedule, budget etc... I would pick a place that you want to work at and pose these questions to them.

Big K Tue, 11/16/2010 - 15:50
There is nothing to add but the advice to keep a healthy dynamic in the otherwise balanced mix.
Be cautious with compression and limiting on the master channel... and let them hear the mix a day or two before the session starts.
If he sees a problem you might be able to correct it with an alternative mix.

TheJackAttack Tue, 11/16/2010 - 16:21
No instrument should be crushed by a comp period. Also, compressing doesn't mean you get to make something as loud as your fader goes and think that is mixing. Mixing involves balancing each element to provide cohesion. After there is cohesion then let the Mastering Engineer do his job cleaning up, tweaking, balancing the songs with each other, and finally making the whole CD as loud as requested/payed for despite the best judgment of the ME ;-)

Big K Tue, 11/16/2010 - 16:48
Lol..right, Jack, despite of what we say...

jmm, yes, in the beginning it is a bit strange to mix to a sound that can be louder or fuller by adding compression and things, but once you have seen and heard the work of an ME on your productions
it becomes more and more clear what is best for the mix and what is better done by the ME. You should try to attend a session, as well... you learn a lot and it makes it less painfull to tame your instincts...
;-)

kmetal Fri, 11/26/2010 - 21:51
I've read basically everywhere that bus compression is a no-no for the mix you give the ME. I've read that slight broadband eq on the bus is acceptable tho. J/W how you guys feel about mild EQ setings on the stereo bus. If i hired a ME i would think his eq, is leagues above my project studio room/equipment capabilities.

Big K Sat, 11/27/2010 - 04:45
All that is true, but... m2c...
I mix to a certain sound that I want to achieve before I call it ready for mastering.
If I think, I can work that certain sound out and give it the flavour and musical direction I want it
to go, I will give it the necessary compression and what ever else it takes.

Being confronted with the occasional mastering nightmares, myself, I know how much FX can be applied to still keep the track "liquid" enough for decent mastering. Now, that is an advantage not too many have, but with the above advices and some common sense, as well as asking the ME you get there for sure.

A big role plays, as mentioned by you and Jack, that at a decent ME studio you should have the most appropriate tools and room for best results. Not to forget the expertise of the ME... 'cause the rest is just ...cables, boxes, ones and zeros...
;-)

TrilliumSound Sun, 11/28/2010 - 05:49
TheJackAttack, post: 357627 wrote: Probably better outboard, but more importantly, a better room in which to make good aural decisions.

I would add also that the objectivity (listening) of the ME followed by good communication with the clients.

Compression on mix bus? I say why not if it is for an artistic /expression goal.
Compression on anything for sake of volume? I say no.

Big K Wed, 12/29/2010 - 02:50
Issa da dishital world..
I have never cared about peak levels as long as there is a healthy dynamic and it is not going over. So - 1 dB is ok for me.
In another thread about normalizing, I abused a cd track real bad by normalizing down by 15 dB and render, normalizing up by 15 dB and render ..
for about 3 or 4 times and it nulled out compared with the original to zip nada nix in the reverse phase test. So, there is no sound degradation, at all ( at least with my audio engine Nuendo 5.1). If I think that a file is too hot I simply lower it a few dBs.
If there is one thing a PC can do well, it is calculating a few numbers up and down...
Sure, in the "old" days we had to watch out for headroom when tapeing and mixing AND still wanted to record as hot as still safe to overcome noise, etc. Now, if the quality of the recording or mix is good the level can be -15 dB or -1 dB in a studio standart DAW world... still bad craftsmanship, but no real problem.

TrilliumSound Wed, 12/29/2010 - 06:57
Good post. I agree with all. I am often asking for a + or - -3dB peak mix myself and this is for the less experienced clients just to avoid clippings all over. Frankly, I don't care if it is -3 or -6 or -15dB. A good balnced mix sounds good at any level.


Big K, post: 359963 wrote: Issa da dishital world..
I have never cared about peak levels as long as there is a healthy dynamic and it is not going over. So - 1 dB is ok for me.
In another thread about normalizing, I abused a cd track real bad by normalizing down by 15 dB and render, normalizing up by 15 dB and render ..
for about 3 or 4 times and it nulled out compared with the original to zip nada nix in the reverse phase test. So, there is no sound degradation, at all ( at least with my audio engine Nuendo 5.1). If I think that a file is too hot I simply lower it a few dBs.
If there is one thing a PC can do well, it is calculating a few numbers up and down...
Sure, in the "old" days we had to watch out for headroom when tapeing and mixing AND still wanted to record as hot as still safe to overcome noise, etc. Now, if the quality of the recording or mix is good the level can be -15 dB or -1 dB in a studio standart DAW world... still bad craftsmanship, but no real problem.

TheJackAttack Wed, 12/29/2010 - 16:03
In digital domain, too high is only too high if there is not enough dynamic contrast within the material itself. Otherwise you normalize down instead of up.

Too low is not as bad as it was in the analog days when every piece of equipment added noise to audio track too. Nowadays, provided a track has peaks between -22dB and -12dB (not even RMS), that will be sufficient to bring up without issue.

SASman Thu, 02/24/2011 - 12:30
24bit file .wav of .aiff is perfect.

No clipping

With and without limiter versions.

If you like your bus compression keep it, not our job to tell you otherwise.
(unless of course you have seriously squeezed the life out with badly chosen time constants...
that may prevoke a "heads up" email, lol)

Headroom is largely irrelevant (as long as it's not clipping) except for analog chain gain staging
which any ME can sort out transparently anyway.

cheers

Herbeck Thu, 02/24/2011 - 21:14
Big K, post: 359963 wrote: Issa da dishital world..
I have never cared about peak levels as long as there is a healthy dynamic and it is not going over. So - 1 dB is ok for me.
In another thread about normalizing, I abused a cd track real bad by normalizing down by 15 dB and render, normalizing up by 15 dB and render ..
for about 3 or 4 times and it nulled out compared with the original to zip nada nix in the reverse phase test. So, there is no sound degradation, at all ( at least with my audio engine Nuendo 5.1).


I have never experienced digital gain or normalizing do a perfect null test in this way.
It doesn't work in Samplitude. It's not a big difference but if you listen closely you can hear it.
Could you post the files of your test ?


Cheers,

Herbeck

Big K Fri, 02/25/2011 - 00:32
No, I can't. The project and files have been deleted, the test was performed 6 months ago on Nuendo 5.
There was no point in keeping empty wavs.
Nobody was more amazed by the result than I was. I expected artefacts after the 3 rd run, at latest, but there was nothing.

There are differences in Audio Engines but not in Math. If a DAW is not accurate enough in multiplication and division for those simple
calculations, you've got a problem. With Samplitude, being a respectable product, I rather suspect other influences.

Herbeck Fri, 02/25/2011 - 10:15
Big K, post: 365147 wrote: lol... What extra gain?
If you have audio degradation with high levels it is not the DAW.
I think, you see the digital domain with its possibilities and laws in a different way than I do.

:-)


lol.... not extra gain, one extra gain change.
I only use my own developed plugs, so we probably view digital audio in a different way.
I also have perfect pitch so we probably perceive music and sound in a different way to.


Cheers,

Herbeck

Big K Fri, 02/25/2011 - 20:22
I got you on this...( as in I understood)
How do you expect a production to be mixed or mastered when you don't change or add gain?
I have not yet heard or meassured any difference in sound from my DAW when I adjust gain at any stage ..and there are many, even if not used ny me...

Congrat on your perfect pitch. Not many have that. I don't, ..I only hear when something is wrong to a painful degree, but I learned to
switch that off when I leave my place. What is your opinion on MP3 sound?

Herbeck Sat, 02/26/2011 - 23:07
If you mastering in the box and get a loud mix, you first have to reduce the gain a bit.
After the eq you add some compressor and add some gain compensation.
then you add some gain into the limiter, set the out put to 0.2db.
That's 4 gain changes. only 2 is needed.
As I said, not a big issue but noticeable, if you are picky.

Learning perfect pitch is a very good way to sharpen your ears, since it's all about sound.
Many ME's have very expensive room and gear, many claim to have "golden ears" but very few practice ear training.
I find this a little bit old fashioned and odd.


About mp3, I bought an audio book on-line just the other day, it down loaded fast and sounds ok.
Every tool has it's place.

PS. Here is a good pdf on the topic written by Holger Lagerfeldt.
http://www.onlinemastering.dk/pdf/mixdown-for-mastering-tips.pdf

Cheers,

Herbeck

Big K Sun, 02/27/2011 - 04:30
I do not think, that absolute pitch has much to do with golden ears.
Pitch is about recognizing a note without a reference tone.... I usually don't care if the mix I receive is in Kammerton A at 440 Hz or de-tuned to 448 Hz, as long as they all are in tune to each other.

Golden Ears (for MEs) I define as being able to notice and correctly tweak frequency levels and compressions, to recognize natural sound or to adjust to the sound the customer or music style demands, being able to detect and correct differences in sound and various other elements between songs within a production and finish the lot to a well-sounding whole with all necessary improvements and up to the best possible technical standart.
Can't be one well without proper room acoustic and monitors, but can be done without absolute pitch.
I constantly train my ears through the work I do, but I always want to get better. Therefore, I would like to ask, what training you are suggesting. Pitch detection and intervals would not be too important...recording and mixing have been done, already...Melodyne is, not yet, as far.. ;-)

Gain correction starts with the first alternation and if this changes the sound it is doing it to something I want, because I mix it and I say how I want it to sound, But i.t.b. it does not. It might do in your D/A stage, though.
I absolutely agree that any unnecessary moves, whatever kind, should be avoided during the whole process of production. This is part of good craftsmanship and shows knowledge about the rig and correct workflow. Changing the gain at four stages during mastering is not what I call excessive, not in digital nor in analog.
In absolute honesty, I have never heard any degradation because of pure gain changes in my DAW. That is, of course, leaving out fx and compressors in the signal path.
Because!! some plugs are already engineered to follow the exact curves of their hardware counterparts and some have always done, like compressors. So, changing the gain before or after an effect (Comp, EQ, Lim,, ...) is, in fact, necessary and often wanted to get the desired result when sculpturing the sound.



The remark I found in the pdf you posted says that
Normalizing would raise the level of the signal "in an unnecessary fashion" ( what ever that is), and would, therefore,change the amount of headroom left in the mix. He then writes that the final level of the mix would be optimized by him...

Not really an impressive disclosure... Maybe it is different with Logic and Sonic Sound software he uses. If you know what normalizing does, you should know, how to use it. If the DAW is so badly engineered that you can mess up the sound with that, better get a more appropriate tool.

Herbeck Sun, 02/27/2011 - 05:32
Two good links on Perfect Pitch.

[="http://www.pitchtrain.com/"]Pitch Train 2011 - Absolute Pitch music ear trainer[/]="http://www.pitchtra…"]Pitch Train 2011 - Absolute Pitch music ear trainer[/]

[[url=http://="http://www.perfectp…"]Perfect Pitch Ear Training SuperCourse: Name Notes & Chords by EAR.[/]="http://www.perfectp…"]Perfect Pitch Ear Training SuperCourse: Name Notes & Chords by EAR.[/]


You don't need perfect pitch to be a good ME or musician.
But the reason I think perfect pitch is more relevant than relative pitch for a ME
is not that you can hear the pitch of a tune, melody or note, it's why you can hear it.
Perfect pitch is the ability to hear the slight difference of the "sound" of the tones.
Every note has it's own sound, you don't try to hear if the note is high or low you hear it's sound.
And to be able to hear such small differences in sound is an advantage in mastering,
And music actually gets more beautiful and interesting to listen to.

You don't have to be a new Mozart, the feeling when you begin to hear the sound of each note is really cool.


Cheers,

Herbeck

Big K Sun, 02/27/2011 - 05:46
Then we are just using different terms for the same thing.
Hearing the notes and the character of their sound and discover the interaction and influence to the whole is
part of the art and I consider it as basis for the job. I know, not all do and some don't even know what it means..
Those should be training their ears for sure.
x

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