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Client Mandates Use of MP3s for Mastering New CDs

I have a valued client that is mandating I use mp3s to "remaster" CDs for replication. Those new production CDs are then converted back to mp3s for posting on their website. I need more info to convince them this is a BAD idea. Suggestions? Links to professional data on the web? Personal experience? Thanks!

Comments

audiokid Mon, 09/26/2016 - 16:07

yikes. I'm not an official Mastering Engineer but I will give you my two cents.

I suppose if it was a do or die, I would do what they want and keep my name off the credits lol. I've done all sorts of work using MP3's, but never enjoyed it much.
Load into your DAW, do your best and export them back out to what they want. Take the money and hide. :cool:

But, if you can get your hands on the 16/44.1, that without doubt would be better.

DCH Mon, 09/26/2016 - 16:18

audiokid, post: 441594, member: 1 wrote: yikes. I'm not an official Mastering Engineer but I will give you my two cents.

I suppose if it was a do or die, I would do what they want and keep my name off the credits lol. I've done all sorts of work using MP3's, but never enjoyed it much.
Load into your DAW, do your best and export them back out to what they want. Take the money and hide. :cool:

But, if you can get your hands on the 16/44.1, that without doubt would be better.

Thank you. I'm trying to get them to revert to the .wav files but their position is unique. Thank you!

DCH Mon, 09/26/2016 - 16:44

audiokid, post: 441597, member: 1 wrote: I'm thinking your mastering options should be the same regardless of the file. I mean, if there is an obvious problem, you can still improve it. The before after should be how you gauge the improvement.

Other than the basic ME tools, I have great results simply passing audio through a Bricasti.

Thank you! I don't know what you mean by "ME tools". Can you elaborate? Many thanks! And the Bricasti only adds reverb, right?

Sean G Mon, 09/26/2016 - 17:01

Personally, as Chris advises above I would try to convince them to go the wav. file route.

Why not offer them the option to have the files going to CD at the higher wav .file Lossless format then give them the same files converted to lossy Mp3 for their website?

Thats the way I would go if in the same position. ;)

DCH Mon, 09/26/2016 - 17:36

Sean G, post: 441600, member: 49362 wrote: Personally, as Chris advises above I would try to convince them to go the wav. file route.

Why not offer them the option to have the files going to CD at the higher wav .file Lossless format then give them the same files converted to lossy Mp3 for their website?

Thats the way I would go if in the same position. ;)

THANKS!

bouldersound Mon, 09/26/2016 - 17:56

My calendar would suddenly and mysteriously fill up with other stuff. Using mp3 files would be like using a scan of a bubble jet printout of a jpeg of a piece of art to represent that piece of art in a high end art magazine.

Actually, I'd just say there's no way I'd let my name be attached to the project and that if he's okay with crap there's a million online "mastering" services he can choose from.

audiokid Mon, 09/26/2016 - 17:58

DCH, post: 441598, member: 50007 wrote: Thank you! I don't know what you mean by "ME tools". Can you elaborate? Many thanks! And the Bricasti only adds reverb, right?

ME tools = Mastering Engineer tools.

The Bricasti is a reverb but what most people don't realize (until you own one) ... they will emulate space. Once I bought a few of those, I started selling off thousands of dollars in world class gear lol. It changed how I think about editing.

In a very broad statement.... Music and improving a mix or "master" is all about improving or focusing in on the "correct" space of a song.
I have countless times simply passed a track in realtime through a Bricasti and it comes out sounding better, more open and natural sounding. All of which none of my mastering equipment did. But they also cost money and you also need to have the ability to know what space a track needs or doesn't need.

Basically though, I would try and get the wave files first.

Hope that helps some.

PS
Welcome to RO (recording.org) (y)

dvdhawk Tue, 09/27/2016 - 00:39

bouldersound, post: 441605, member: 38959 wrote: Using mp3 files would be like using a scan of a bubble jet printout of a jpeg of a piece of art to represent that piece of art in a high end art magazine.

I think bouldersound gives you a very good analogy. Why would they want a poor copy of something that's already been stripped of detail and pixelated to a lower resolution?

Boswell Tue, 09/27/2016 - 03:10

It's what happens when you get people who haven't got the necessary technical background setting themselves up as a "mastering house".

I've met several young people recently who have the idea in their head that MP3 "is the future" and so everything in the chain up to that point should be MP3 in order to be up-to-date. In one case I was able to convince the client of the need to retain 24-bit .wav files through to the output of the mastering stage and then convert to MP3. It's interesting that what he wanted to avoid was the 44.1/16 CD audio neck, which in itself is laudable, but to assume the way to do it was to use MP3 format right through the production process illustrates a lack of knowledge.

The others I was unable to convince or educate, since they were so sure of themselves and would not be told. I supplied them with 320kpbs MP3 mixes, which, I have to say, were very difficult to tell from CD audio versions, but were nothing like the 24-bit wavs that they should have had. One of the groups showed me a print-out from the intended streaming site destination that said the site can only accept MP3s and would perform "mastering" on them prior to rendering them in streaming format. It could be it's sites like these that are fuelling the spread of wrong ideas.

pcrecord Fri, 09/30/2016 - 11:34

Have one of you thought that maybe they don't have wave files because they screwed the recording studio some how or they are in some conflict ?
I would ask for the mixing engineer contacts and deal with him directly unless they did the production themself and if so, this is some project I would not want to be part of.
If they did the job not knowing the differences between wave and mp3.. I'm sure they sabotaged other aspects of their production..

Be carefull, your name on a crappy CD will kill your business fast...

I once had a band came in.. Good songs good players ! I did the recording mixing and mastering. Few weeks after they wanted me as their live soundman for the presenting night for the album. Did the soundtest, they were ready. At this point they ask me to play their CD which they duplicated themself. Guess what ? IT WAS A MESS. It was like they had converted it at 128kb mp3 then burned at 48x. The HF was all screwed, I couldn't believe how bad it sounded. I was ashamed of having my name on this piece of sh...

Give them the right info before they put you to hell.. I often give free time at the end of sessions to explain things like this. To this day it served me well ;)

Sean G Fri, 09/30/2016 - 15:51

Boswell, post: 441617, member: 29034 wrote: One of the groups showed me a print-out from the intended streaming site destination that said the site can only accept MP3s and would perform "mastering" on them prior to rendering them in streaming format. It could be it's sites like these that are fuelling the spread of wrong ideas.

I agree...and I have coined a term for it too...

McMastering ;)

DonnyThompson Sat, 10/01/2016 - 04:08

DCH, post: 441592, member: 50007 wrote: I have a valued client that is mandating I use mp3s to "remaster" CDs for replication. Those new production CDs are then converted back to mp3s for posting on their website. I need more info to convince them this is a BAD idea. Suggestions? Links to professional data on the web? Personal experience? Thanks!

You could tell them that multiple conversions are a bad idea, that every time this is done, the sonics degrade, and that their best bet is to use the original wav files of the 2-mixes for mastering to Red Book standards for CD, and then convert those down to whatever MP3 rate they need for their website.

pcrecord, post: 441767, member: 46460 wrote: Have one of you thought that maybe they don't have wave files because they screwed the recording studio some how or they are in some conflict ?

This. As Marco mentioned, this popped into my head as well. It's quite possible that these mixes they have, and want to give you, are the only ones they have... that they are rough mixes - also known as "rushes" - that the engineer released to them for temporary use (performance proofing, mix critique, etc) but when the time came to pay the cooker for the real wav mixes, they either came up shy on dough, or decided to not pay the studio for the services rendered. This could explain why they only have the MP3's to work with.

You might be able to contact the original engineer; tell your client that you have a few questions for him... even if you don't, make some up... tell the client you need to talk to the mix engineer because you want to know about "the use of previous limiting", or "phase alignment", or "2 Bus processing", or something. It doesn't have to be valid, it's just a way for you to get the contact info for the mix engineer, so that you can get the true skinny on the situation. It may turn out that everything is valid, that the original engineer just did what the client wanted. But... if they have a history of screwing studios or engineers, this would be a good thing for you to know, right?

DCH, post: 441595, member: 50007 wrote: I'm trying to get them to revert to the .wav files but their position is unique.

Their situation is not "unique". They are bypassing the common practice and industry accepted method of using hi-res wav files for mastering, and for press and hard copy distro, and then converting those wavs to MP3's for internet use.
Like Marco, I'm suspicious, because it sounds to me as if you aren't being told the whole story. Now, whether you take the gig or not is all up to you. Plenty of us here have done recording/mixing/mastering jobs that we weren't crazy about... after all, we all gotta eat and keep the lights burning. But... if this project will end up effecting you negatively in the eyes of future clients, then you need to weigh-out the pros and cons; the money you'd make now, vs. the money you might lose in the future, as well as a potential black mark attached to your name.

One other thing to think about... if these MP3's have already been processed with heavy limiting, or EQ, then there's not a whole lot you're gonna be able to do. M.E.'s are known as final polishers, giving good mixes a beautiful coat of "glue and sheen" that makes good or great mixes sound even better.... but M.E.'s aren't God. They can only work with what they have been given. It's entirely possible that no matter what you do, or how much you know, or what gear you have, or what your experience level is with Mastering, that you won't be able to help them, or to satisfy them to the degree of their expectations. Don't start out behind the 8 ball, is what I'm sayin' ... know when to walk away. Consider the amount of BS you'll have to deal with vs the amount money you'll make, and the amount of time you'll spend doing it.

If you do decide to take the job, I would advise that - under no circumstances - should you release fully mastered files to the client until you have been paid in full. Go ahead and send them 30 second snippets or something for proof purposes, but I certainly wouldn't be sending them full-finished versions until you are paid up to date for the work you've done.

IMO, of course.
-d.

kmetal Mon, 10/03/2016 - 17:55

One thing I learned/was taught is always treat every mix like the final. You never know where it's gonna end up. I had someone release a 'rough' out to the world. I've also had Roughs come out better than the finals, and the cleint used the rough instead.

Either way, from a money making perspective this online mastering sounds like something I need to get involved in. People are spending cash on these things, I'd like some of that cash! Perhaps this is a new uprise from the fall of the brick and mortar studio, a place where people are willing to spend money on audio services again.

McMastering lol @Sean G ill have a number 3 please.

paulears Tue, 10/04/2016 - 22:51

Why not ake the mo3 mix, stick it onto cd and then convert back to MP3 and simple send them the two files labelled a and b and tel them you have some reservations but the choice is up to them. Tell them that this will be what their listeners hear and give them the option. If they like the MP3 after multiple conversions, then take the money. And don't do any of the remove credit stuff because it tags you as awkward, and they'll drop you.

Let's be honest, so much so called recording quality is thrown away in the actual processing before the record engineer gets to it, that the great listening unwashed don't care. They hear mix and tone but they rarely notice a 320 MP3 is not a wav. How many people have their music collection on their pads, pods and PCs as full res high bandwidth files?

My current. Idea client wants the HD project squashing down because the file size is too great, and my attempts to get him to change his mind have failed, so squashed it is. It doesn't matter. Just keep the original so in the future you can provide v2 on another invoice. No point getting stressed. Keep the email trail. Do what they ask. They probably got the same advice from the peoplel who will receive the file, and ignored that too.

kmetal Wed, 10/05/2016 - 14:42

My worst fear is that they wouldn't be able to tell the differnce. Lol. I think a lot of younger people have grown up accustomed to the 'crunch' in MP3 files. Similar to tape saturation or tube distortions of previous generations like mine.

I belive they feel something is missing in files that are too clean or hifi.

I read a recent SOS article and the mixer was doing a comercial pop song and he said he mixes above 0db on his master bus. Intentionally clips it! He said that's what the kids want, and also says your mix still has to be the loudest or you won't get the job.

He knows better than I do in that world.

pcrecord Thu, 10/06/2016 - 06:52

kmetal, post: 441891, member: 37533 wrote: My worst fear is that they wouldn't be able to tell the differnce. Lol. I think a lot of younger people have grown up accustomed to the 'crunch' in MP3 files. Similar to tape saturation or tube distortions of previous generations like mine.

I belive they feel something is missing in files that are too clean or hifi.

That's an aspect I didn't think of.. Nice one K..

kmetal Thu, 10/06/2016 - 17:50

pcrecord, post: 441915, member: 46460 wrote: That's an aspect I didn't think of.. Nice one K..

I've spent years trying to get big full clear mixes, and a few times I've had clients make me do some digital damage to them. So I had to learn this notion from experience. Even when the cleints wrong, the clients always right.

Sean G Fri, 10/07/2016 - 00:19

kmetal, post: 441891, member: 37533 wrote: My worst fear is that they wouldn't be able to tell the differnce.

I think thats the norm with a generation that has grown up and been spoon-fed on the Mp3...it has lent itself to a distorted view of audio quality and anything that sounds better probably sounds foreign and therefore "not normal" to their ears.

The cost of accessibility and portability has been quality of audio...there's a price for everything and the trade off while disconcerting to those that know better is completely acceptible to those that grew up on it.

IMO.

bouldersound Fri, 10/07/2016 - 08:28

It's like people who think LPs sound good. It's only because people grew up with the sound, they're used to it and they associate it with certain memories and feelings. But by any objective measure properly mastered CDs sounds better. A CD can come much closer to the sound of "being there" than an LP, but if you've never "been there" your frame of reference was the LP, so CDs sounded "sterile". The new frame of reference is the 128kbps MP3 of a mix slammed into 0dBFS. If the audio isn't clipped and doesn't have compression artifacts it doesn't sound right to the modern listener.

Kurt Foster Fri, 10/07/2016 - 08:59

bouldersound, post: 441963, member: 38959 wrote: It's like people who think LPs sound good. It's only because people grew up with the sound, they're used to it and they associate it with certain memories and feelings. But by any objective measure properly mastered CDs sounds better. A CD can come much closer to the sound of "being there" than an LP, but if you've never "been there" your frame of reference was the LP, so CDs sounded "sterile". The new frame of reference is the 128kbps MP3 of a mix slammed into 0dBFS. If the audio isn't clipped and doesn't have compression artifacts it doesn't sound right to the modern listener.

bullshit. take a 2" tape and play it back through a console. record that to a digital file. the digital file will sound different than the playback. digital sucks.

just because something looks good on paper doesn't mean it will sound musical or even good ........ :sick:

sh*t, , RNP or Mackie pre amps spec out pretty well but they sound like ass.

on the other hand, just try to sell any piece of digital gear from 2000. lol. ADATs? HA. digital door stops. DAT recorders? any 24/48 converters? all worthless now.

an MCI JH 24 in 2000 worth from $5000 to $10,000. then the prices plummeted. but try to buy one now. prices are going up. know why? because a lot of folks out there are finally realizing that digital sucks on so many levels and they are running back to analog. there's loads of guys out there like Chris Mara / SPITZ who are maintaining and nursing older analog machines in to the future. i wouldn't be surprised at all if sometime soon a smart manufacturer begins to make new machines. i don't think the demand for them will wane.

bouldersound Fri, 10/07/2016 - 09:20

Kurt Foster, post: 441964, member: 7836 wrote: BS. take a 2" tape and play it back through a console. record that to a digital file. the digital file will sound different than the playback. digital sucks.

just because something looks good on paper doesn't mean it will sound musical or even good. $*^t, RNP or Mackie pre amps spec out pretty well but they sound like ass.

Put it on LP and it will suck more, as in it will sound less like the original 2" tape sound than the CD.

Kurt Foster Fri, 10/07/2016 - 09:37

imo, nonsense. pure and simple. i rarely disagree with you Boulder but on this i will. i have numerous different versions of Beatle pressings. Parlaphone, Capitol, vinyl and on CDs. the CDs (even the ones George Martin re mastered) sound like ass compared to the Parliphone pressings from the 70's that i own.

any re recording will degrade a mix be it analog or digital. even direct to disk. the goal is to do the least damage. imo, digital does the most, vinyl less so. i'm not the only one who thinks this. i can't help thinking there must be something to it.

as far as the o/p, give them what they want. mp3 crappy for sure but imo, 44.1/24, 48/24, 44.1/16, 48/16 all are compromised as well. the difference is the degree of "sucks". i say go for the money, make the clients happy.

as in all instances, be sure to protect yourself and don't give them complete files until you are paid in full.

dvdhawk Fri, 10/07/2016 - 11:16

It's all very subjective, it's art.

Big picture; let's not ignore the changes in the entire playback system. What has been marketed as "improvements" in audio equipment has stretched the upper and lower frequency response about an octave each way since the heyday of vinyl. A lot of the state of the art speakers of the 70's and barely did 10kHz - 12kHz on the top end.

All I'm saying is, much like the dynamic vs. condenser discussion, there is more presence of detailed audio in modern monitoring systems, especially in the higher frequencies. And above (pick a number)kHz some older recordings may sound dull in the way we perceive them, and sometimes hearing hf detail on a CD shines a bright light on something better left in the shadows. I think the attribute we often describe as "warm", involves a 12dB/oct, or more, slope off the high-end.

That'll be 2¢, please.

bouldersound Fri, 10/07/2016 - 12:04

dvdhawk, post: 441968, member: 36047 wrote: It's all very subjective, it's art.

Big picture; let's not ignore the changes in the entire playback system. What has been marketed as "improvements" in audio equipment has stretched the upper and lower frequency response about an octave each way since the heyday of vinyl. A lot of the state of the art speakers of the 70's and barely did 10kHz - 12kHz on the top end.

All I'm saying is, much like the dynamic vs. condenser discussion, there is more presence of detailed audio in modern monitoring systems, especially in the higher frequencies. And above (pick a number)kHz some older recordings may sound dull in the way we perceive them, and sometimes hearing hf detail on a CD shines a bright light on something better left in the shadows. I think the attribute we often describe as "warm", involves a 12dB/oct, or more, slope off the high-end.

That'll be 2¢, please.

Right, more accurate, which the CD is compared to LP, doesn't always sound subjectively better. But if we can quantify what it is that people like about something that's not accurate, like tube saturation, tape saturation or LP distortions, we may be able to replicate that on a more accurate medium.

Kurt, we would probably agree on what Beatles releases sound good or bad. Just because something is on CD doesn't make it sound better than any vinyl version. For example, I thought Beatles 1 was horrible, harsh sounding and pointlessly loud, as if they were trying to prove Beatles music could fit in to some sort of modern standard of harsh and loud. That stuff was recorded with vinyl as the delivery format in mind and it works unbelievable well that way.

In the latter days of LP dominance I was starting to collect British and Japanese virgin vinyl pressings. They were drastically better than the usual record store fare, and don't get me started on those nasty Columbia House pieces of crap. So I found that LPs could sound pretty darn good if done right, but even the virgin vinyl discs started out with audible surface noise and other imperfections.

Kurt Foster Fri, 10/07/2016 - 12:53

bouldersound, post: 441971, member: 38959 wrote: I found that LPs could sound pretty darn good if done right, but even the virgin vinyl discs started out with audible surface noise and other imperfections.

agreed. not only if they are done right but played back right. and then there's the issue of different masters. in many cases multiple masters were cut at the same session and each on was a little different. the article on Chris Mara from SOS that was recently posted in these pages was a real eye opener for me.

Sean G Fri, 10/07/2016 - 16:14

IMO it comes down to the quality of many things...the performance, the engineering and production and also the quality of the mastering / transfer.

I have heard many LP's that sound great...and in Kurts' words I have heard many that "sound like ass"...the same can be said for CD's as well, there are those that truly capture an amazing performance and those that "sound like ass" as well...( I love that saying Kurt...it cracks me up & I think I'm going to adopt it ;))

I'll give you an example...I recently met one of our leading male rock performers here in Australia (I won't mention his name here, but he was front man for one of our most loved rock outfits for close to 30 years and has a credible solo career as well...and to top it off he also fronted one of Australia's top music exports for some time after their lead singer died in unusual circumstances (think beyond excessive...the band name...not his death...well, maybe a little when it came to his death ;)).

After discussing what he has been doing during his recent hiatus he very proudly gave me a copy of his latest CD which he co-produced.
When I got home I listened to it...it is so overly compressed and loud that it would make Andrew Scheps circa Death Magnetic blush...to the point that I cannot listen to it without being overly critical of the production aspects.

Talk about loudness wars...this thing would be leading a death squad on the front line of the battle...:eek:

Actually, I don't think I have listened to it in its entirety...its way too fatiguing to do so...yet I have played live for years and have always prefered my music to be on the hard & heavy side of things.

More than once I have thought if it was pressed to vinyl and given vinyls' limitations how different and dare I say it, in this instance, how much better and more dynamic it would sound.

Now I'm not saying this could not be achieved with CD either...but.

IMHO of course.

kmetal Fri, 10/07/2016 - 20:34

My minor threat (late 80's hardcore/punk) albums sound 'better' than their cd counterparts. The way the guitars and vocals crunch is just more fitting.

I think a high quality tape recording sounds best so far hands down, in general. There's a realism to it. A typical set of decent speakers from the 70's sound better then a typical set of today's. Limited response or not there's a certain intimacy to them, a 'your there' quality.

Now when it comes to pounding tracks at the club modern speakers and digital just do it better. The tightness of the low end. There's also some stuff that just sounds absolutely huge, like tools 10k days, or heaven and hells last cd. The digital precision contributed to this no doubt.

Digital is good at controlled sound, tape is good at the seat of your pants sound.

Just imho.

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