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Unprofessionally Mastering a trend ?

Member for

21 years
Dear mastering folks.

I've read some time ago, about too loud audio mastering on CD's.

½ an hour ago I took my chances and had a look on Destiny's Child "Bootylicious".
I'm stunned. :shock:
It's clear that the bassdrum hits the digital roof every single time it's present.
The audiocurve is cut off, looking straight flat at + 0dB and - 0dB and it sounds like..."pluff-pluff".
I think that's deeply unprofessionally done.

The 16bit digital roof should only be reached by a couple of spikes.
Not every single time there's a hit on the bassdrum.

What has happened inside the mastering facility, with this CD ?

Now. I will have a look on my CD's to see when this awful and amateurish trend has started.

It's like they have been thinking: " Let's push as much sound as possible inside the 96 dB dynamic room"
I think that's is a very misunderstood platform of mastering audio.

What about you good folks.
Have you ever mastered sound in this way ?

Right now, I think this Destiny's Child "Survivor" from Sony Entertainment Inc. 2001 is a defect product.
I wonder if it's even possible to return it to Sony and search for another edition, which is better mastered.

Thank you for taking your time.


Member for

21 years

Member Sun, 12/09/2007 - 17:38
Hiding under a stone, I guess.

Is that the norm now ? Holy c***
That's really bad.

Playing this material on the TV-set, on a ghettoblaster and from the speaker on a cellphone, one cannot hear how bad it is.
But even on decent equipment, it's obviously an amateurs work.

I had a look on Dire Straits "Communique", the original edition from early 1980's.
Lots of headroom.
On a newer edition, it suffered from bad mastering with these awful cuts.

Like stuffing a birthday cake through a small pipe.
It's still cake, when it comes out, but the fine details is gone.

Perhaps these amateurs are mastering with their minds in a carstereo.

It's really bad.

Thanks for replying, Michael.

Member for

14 years 2 months

Space Sun, 12/09/2007 - 17:58
Personally,just my thinking here, it must be with the entire trend of making everything available to Joe Public.

If the equipment is made available, if the dollars are made available, if the standards are lowered enough, if enough TV shows the average singer/musician becoming the much sought after, then the current "hey, I really CAN be a star" trend continues en masse.

Opium for the masses has been replaced.

Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Sun, 12/09/2007 - 18:24
I've been known to use some " creative clipping" in some of my tracking and mixing. A slightly digital analogy to analog saturation. So this might not all be from the mastering process? A little clipping on a bass drum track can increase its odd order harmonic distortion which can give a little greater click to the thump. But I agree as it is all like the FM loudness wars of rock-and-roll stations gone by. Everything is overblown. Over-the-top. Taking it to the extreme. Everybody wants extremism.

I'm extremely disappointed
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Fri, 12/21/2007 - 05:12
Mastering engineers are people. They have likes and dislikes just like everyone else. I know of NO mastering engineer who "likes" making everything "extra loud". They are doing it because it is being asked for by their clientèle or the A&R/Marketing people from the record company or by the higher management of the record companies. Everyone today seems to want their material "louder than everything else on the planet" and since mastering engineers are also business people they do what people want them to do or will very soon find themselves out of business.

I, like most of my professional colleagues, suggest to our clientèle the obvious and that is "lets make this sound good and not just loud" and many clients listen and say sure...but those same clients come back a week later saying that they need their stuff louder because when they put it in the 5 disk CD changer and put it on random with other CDs their CD did "not sound as loud",

If you want to place the blame on the whole industry's need for maximum loudness don't blame the mastering engineer as we are only doing what we are told to do and cannot really do what we think is right or know is right since the clients are the ones paying the bills and without them there is no need for our services.

Member for

14 years 3 months

DrGonz Mon, 12/10/2007 - 03:19
It seems really easy to gravitate towards loudness and each time shave a lil more of the dynamics of the song. So it has no body or soul and our ears are just over-sensitized. When I listen to music that is recorded, mixed, or mastered in this manner it tickles my eardrums. There are so many new sonic imperfections that are present, even if it is clear. The low end is so compressed it gets numb. I am currently working on my bands project now, and am getting an average mastered volume around -14 to -16 RMS. I like to keep the dynamics of the performance and demand the listener to turn it up. I could'nt even imagine myself mastering a song to -10RMS. That is where the ZERO point is in my mind. -10RMS :lol:
The square wave syndrome

Member for

15 years 5 months

BobRogers Mon, 12/10/2007 - 04:28
I'm as much an opponent of the loudness wars as anyone, but I can't call the product "amateur" or "unprofessional." It takes real pros to make stuff that sounds like this. You can bet that your Destiny's Child CD was done in a professional mastering house with tons of hit records on the resume. When you are making crap like this it has to be done just right. Solid dense blocks of square waves made with a cheap plugin sound different than the solid, dense blocks of square waves made with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of outboard equipment.

Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Mon, 12/10/2007 - 06:41
Unless you have access to the unmastered tracks as well as the mastered tracks it is ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE to blame or commend the master engineer for what he did or did not do to the recording.

Much of the stuff I get in is already in pretty bad shape and all I can do is do some "sonic surgery" to try and get it ready for mastering. Things are already distorted, have weird frequency curves and lots and lots of effects, compression and reverb. All I can do, as most mastering engineers will tell you, is try and do my best with what is coming in the door. If it is at all good I can make it sound fantastic, if it is marginal I can make it sound a whole lot better, if it is really really bad all I can do is my best and hope that by showing the artist where the problems are he or she will do a better job the second time around,

Good topic :wink:

Member for

14 years 2 months

Space Fri, 12/21/2007 - 17:11

If you want to place the blame on the whole industry's need for maximum loudness don't blame the mastering engineer as we are only doing what we are told to do

It took someone that knew their way around the board in the first place, right? Brings ya back to the whole chicken and egg thing:0

I imagine at the beginning in the pre "loudness" war days, this was just another "effect". Loudness as an effect:)

Member for

21 years

Member Mon, 12/10/2007 - 14:21
When extremism is normal, then normal would be quite extreme.

Of course this ol' CD has been through a million dollar set-up.
I wouldn't be surprised if the engineers involved, have had a huge budget too.
But what are they thinking ? Where and when did their standards go ?
At 0dB, for milliseconds, the speaker or earphone membrane just sits quiet doing nothing at maxed out position. It's doing nothing.
How can I grow respect for that ?

BTW. If I have a " ready-to-square-wave" digital track in the digital domain, with the one and only spike hitting 0dB as it should be and I amplify it digitally in order to get square waves, the result in direct comparison, would be the same, if I do it on a notebook computer or in a Class-A equipped studio/mastering facility.

Good reply, Thomas.
Who is the winner, with this trend.
Not the public, nor the artists.
If any can do something about it, is the persons with the buttons and that's not the executives.
Of course, if the recording engineer has ahem sqreewed up, then the mastering engineer is left with bad material.
Sonic Surgery. I like the sound of it, if I may say so :lol:
I find that very interesting and I love intensive and forensic work like that.
If one could just draw the missing curves in a program of some sort.

I'm sorry guys and girls. I'm just not very fond of square waves.
It's bad style wherever you're talking about new issues or remastered tracks and I got a bit angry when I discovered it.
I'm sorry if the tone was a bit tense. No offense.

Pr0gr4m. The link doesn't work for me.

Member for

19 years 9 months

Thomas W. Bethel Thu, 12/13/2007 - 14:57
Musicians, Artist, Bands, what ever have lots of different reasons for wanting their stuff to sound good BUT and it is a big BUT
they have to compete in the market place and today that means LOUD and or LOUDEST. The problem is when everything is maxed out there is no place else to go. If your car would ever get to the top of the RPM curve and max out even if you could somehow put your pedal though the floor the car could not go any faster. You have reached the limits of the machine. Audio is the same way you cannot exceed 0 dBFS no matter how much you would like to. When everything is all "1s" it has reached its loudness potential. There are ways of psycho acoustically tricking the ear into thinking that things "sound" louder when it fact they have to obey the same laws of physics and the same 0 dBFS that everyone else is obliged to adhere to. This is where you get into clipping and downright distortion of the wave form to made it appear that it is louder.

If we take the same analogy that we used a minute ago, that of a car you could get a bigger engine, you could change the transmission ratios, you could do a host of other things but it would still have limits and those limits are the limits of the automobile as an entity. In audio we have a brick wall called 0 dBFS which we cannot raise or crash though (no bigger engine - no transmission rebuilds) it is what it is and that is all you have to work with.

I think we may eventually look back on this period of time and say "what were we thinking" but maybe the next big thing in music will make this period look like the "classical" period and we maybe in for other enhancements to awful to contemplate.

I do my part and inform my clients that we need to get back to sane levels but they are afraid that there stuff will not be a loud as the next guys and so they ask me to push the music until it has no dynamic range, no breathing room and it is overdone to the nth degree.

I hope this whole madness subsides but I have a sneaking hunch that it will not until everyone agrees to "STOP THE NOISE" which is what a lot of music that is over loud has become.

Best of luck and lets all do our part....

Member for

13 years 10 months

bent Mon, 12/10/2007 - 18:40
But what are they thinking ?

They were probably thinking "If I don't do this for them, next time they're going to go to the guys who will".

It's all about paying the bills.
Some folks can be talked out of the loudness war, others can't.
If you're business has overhead, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Member for

16 years 7 months

pr0gr4m Mon, 12/10/2007 - 23:40
Hmm....the link works for me from a couple different machines. You can go to prorec and do a search...or google search "Loudness Rush".

I'm curious, before you looked at the audio, what did you think of it. Did you think it was bad? Great? Ok? Did you hear it and think that the song was great but the recording totally sucked ass?

...and if you think that's amateur, you haven't heard too many amateurs. But then, I've heard some pretty damn good amateur stuff.