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Is It Possible with pluggins in the digital realm

Can a Mastering Engineer,
Using nothing but plug-inson a computer, with no outboard mastering gear,
Do a mastering job and end up with competitive song, quality wise, volume wise. .to be placed on CD?

No cheating, straight up plugins. For instance using the Waves Bundle, or UAD-1.

I ask this cause as of now I dont have access to the hi tech outboard gear, Im booked for school(electronics engineering), and would like to learn on my own with the aid of books and other resources.

I know the mastering job would never compare to the hi tech outboard gear used in mastering houses. I know the speaker setup for monitoring is very important. I know the mix sitting in pocket is of upmost imortance.

But really, has anyone ever had good competitive results useing only plugins.

Now Im talking for Demo CD purposes, not full blown million dollar sales Project.
Just to play at the Club and see what people think. Or other places.
And if people respond well and like the song.
Then thats when I will of course, no doubt, send it to the professionals.

(Mostly me rambling on below :lol: )
I just want to be able to learn this art. So I could invest in some equipment that would do a hell of a mastering job,(if you knew how to use it correctly, I know I know). Im looking at spendin no more than $15,000 dollars for a mastering setup. I know these mastering engineers got rooms built for the job, well I can get that. Monitors, I can get those, but outboard gear, 1 all around good peice for each section of the mastering chain. And I aint even gonna buy till I got a good foundation of the ART anyway.

It just seems hard to find good learning resources for mastering. And I'm always hearing "leave it to the professionals", well I understand that. But I want to learn.

Mainly so I can have good Demo Material, see how it does, then be in good understanding of the ART of Mastering to send good material to the Mastering Engineer.

If you havent already, it will happen, Ive seen it elsewhere. People get fed up cause they think there is a secret setting or answer to all this. And lash out at the Engineers on forums cause they believe they are Hiding information. haha,
From what I am seeing, its more of Experience than anything else.
I was an Automotive Tech for awhile, before I got back from the war in Iraq. Now you can read all the books and pass all the tests, without ever even worked on a single car, but, once it would be time to get your hands dirty, I bet you would only sit there with a wrench in your hand scratching your head. Experience and Technique(learned from experience) are the driving forces for mastering also.

Ok anyway, Ill be queit now :roll:


Michael Fossenkemper Wed, 11/29/2006 - 21:57
of coarse it's possible to master with only plugin's and do a respectable job. You just have to understand that you are working with limited tools in a sense. mistake one is buy cheap stuff, you'll just end up replacing it in a year etc... If you have a budget of 15g's, I'd spend 10 on monitoring and room treatment and the the rest on stuff like plug's and burners. Then do the same thing each year.

If you are serious about learning mastering, then this is just the beginning of a long haul. If all you want is to make demos sound better, then 15g's can get you many years of making demos. by the time you learn how to get the most out of software, it'll be out and new stuff will be in and.... well you get the point. I spend at least that much every year just updating software, maybe a new piece of gear, upgrading computers, maybe a new amp every few years. As you'll find out, 15g's just scrapes the surface.

Massive Mastering Wed, 11/29/2006 - 23:14
I'm with Mike for the most part here (no surprise). No matter *what* you're doing, it all comes down to how well you can hear it.

I've done some of the "shootouts" myself (plugs vs. hardware) with plenty decent results. Of course, if I'm looking for "that something" (that normally only myself and a few others with really kick-a$$ loudspeakers are going to hear) I might have to go to certain pieces of hardware (which is fine, as I prefer hardware most of the time anyway).

But no matter what - You will only ever be as good as your monitoring. And your monitoring will only ever be as good as the room their in (tracking, mixing, mastering or otherwise). $10k on monitoring and room treatment can get you a lot on the used market.

I'd rather have freakin' great loudspeakers and a bunch of freeware than the greatest hardware in the world and a pair of cheesy nearfields. And again, that goes for *any* stage - Not just mastering.

Reggie Thu, 11/30/2006 - 11:31
dpd wrote: ^^^ Why is it a waste of time and money? What if ALL the current ME's decided the same thing before they got into the business?

Because you want to make music, right? Or am I misunderstanding your main goal? Are you wanting to drop music as your main focus so you can venture into semi-pro mastering? Otherwise, yes; you will be wasting a large amount of time and money, and your music will suffer for it.

RemyRAD Thu, 11/30/2006 - 13:27
I, as a good engineer, know that my mixes are so good, very little mastering is required. And so, I do my own mastering and I don't screw around with it much. If my clients want to have an outside mastering engineer, they are perfectly welcome to do it.

Besides, I don't need Michael, especially because he is so cruel to little baby turtles and turns them on their back for them to struggle and die...... Poor little turtle.....

And since my clients are generally cheap ass, low-budget folks, they couldn't afford that Obese Mastering guy?

Besides it's always fun to destroy your own music.
Ms. Remy Ann David

JoeH Thu, 11/30/2006 - 16:08
I'm of the same (albiet slightly tongue-in-cheek) mindset as Remy; most of my work is already done in terms of mastering, because I know what I'm doing ahead of time, and I understand the place where it's ending up. (And quite honestly there's few I would trust touching my work after the fact anyway.)

Most of the time, I don't have to fight the subjective volume wars that many others have to deal with, as I don't generally work in those genres. I am very grateful for that, and I don't envy those that do. Sadly, all too often modern Mastering has de-volved into this preconception that it must always somehow involve EQ changes to fix a mediocre mix and maximum volume crunching per track.....and call it good.

Hard to believe, but there are some great recordings out there that were engineered properly in the first place and simply cued up and timed out when sent to the pressing plant.

To address the original poster; about 90% of the time I am inside the box: NO external, non-digital processing once it's been captured, A to D converted, and mixed/edited/mastered. I like it that way, thank you verymuchindeed. The rare times one of my DSP plug ins can't give me something, I may have to go out to an analog box, but it's rare, and getting rarer all the time.

Full disclosure: I do mostly acoustic music these days: Classical, Jazz, Folk, and Choral/vocal music, so I'm not looking for "Phat" or other flavors of the day. (Even so, IMHO those things should happen in the front side of mix). I like my compression/limiting & EQ clean and pristine, as transparant as possible, and I get all my gain the old fashioned way, with good mics & instruments with very talented clients.

So, all this blather aside, :roll: it's completely possible and downright desirable for those who want to "Master" inside the box, with no analog hardware at all.

Plenty of good folks doing it with analog and hybrid systems of course, but it doesn't HAVE to go that route all the time, either. Lots of ways to get there.

Dozer Thu, 11/30/2006 - 16:34
Reggie wrote: [quote=dpd]^^^ Why is it a waste of time and money? What if ALL the current ME's decided the same thing before they got into the business?

Because you want to make music, right? Or am I misunderstanding your main goal? Are you wanting to drop music as your main focus so you can venture into semi-pro mastering? Otherwise, yes; you will be wasting a large amount of time and money, and your music will suffer for it.
Tell me about it, Ive been so wrapped up in learning this mastering stuff, and Ive gotten real far than from where Ive started, but my time makeing music has suffered. Thanks everyone for your help. I have decided to first invest in a better studio enviroment/room. Study more on mixing. I have thus far gotten pretty good at mastering with plugins. I am gonna go back and remix/ remaster all my songs. See how they do, then send it to the professionals. Also in my spare time study mastering.
Im gonna be getting that book Mastering Audio The Art and The Science.
Also my local library will let you suggest some books for the library, and they are weak on the Music side.
Again thanks.