I know absolutely nothing about mastering, except what I've learned by dropping by here. Could someone please take the time to tell me what a Mastering Engineer might have in his room that a recording studio would not have, and what a recording studio might have that a Mastering Engineer would not need? In other words , what's in your tool cabinet? I imagine it's changed a lot during the digital revolution.
The two different rooms are designed for two different processes. A recording studio is designed for recording musicians, keyboards, samplers and such. The console is much bigger in order to accomodate all of these inputs and tracks. A recording studio is also designed to house more people and equipment and the big monitors are for pumping everyone up. The gear in a studio is designed for vibe and texture. certain pieces for certain elements. A mastering studio is designed for critical listening and evaluating. The monitors are more precise as well as the gear. Mastering gear is built to a higher specification and the price reflects that. The room is designed for accuracy rather than comfort or size. The console is much smaller and doesn't interfere with the room as much as a recording console. But it's not only the room and gear that make them different, it's also how the engineer approaches and listens to the material at hand. Their focus is different and their goals are different. This is brief and i'm sure others will add more.
As each engineer likes to approach their work differently, the gear found in quality mastering studios varies. It's like asking carpenters about their tools; they may all use a hammer, but the design and make will be chosen to fit their hand.
We will probably all say a well designed and built listening environment, accurate monitors, precision EQ and compression. I think the thing you'll find is that while our opinions may vary about what constitutes quality gear appropriate for mastering, we will all agree that the most important tool is a well trained engineer. You are the most important tool; the gear just helps you execute the process. It's not about buying a Finalizer and declaring yourself a mastering engineer.
That being said, some of the brands you find in a lot of mastering studios include SADiE, Sonic Solutions, Weiss EQ and Compression, Z Sys, Manley, Tube Tech, Apogee, Prism, dB Technologies, tc electronic.
Read Bob Katz' book "Mastering Audio"
Thanks guys! What form do you recieve your work in? CD? Tape? Dat? How many tracks is it?
What form does it go out in?
I receive songs on all of these formats as well as others. depends on budget and or preference. You can give splits which are passes of say the instrumental and a pass of the vocals. I usually only ask for this if something really needs fixin and they can't recall the mix. Different formats sound different and you can use this to your advantage with a little experimentation.
When the master is finished, it usually goes out in one of 3 formats. 1630, CD, DDP. 1630 is a umatic tape, and DDP is an 8mm exabyte tape.
Thanks Again! Moving along the signal path, lets say you get a CD in. What's the first device the signal will hit coming out of the CD player? Do you convert it to digital and manipulate it from there or does it stay in analog format til the end? Do most mastering rooms have digital and analog capabilities for sound treatment?
I get them in forms of DATS, CD's, actually received master 2 tracks (or 4) on ADAT, DA88, even VHS/HI-FI, and once, a fellow sent his hard drive!
From the CD, I do several things. The first thing I do is make 4 copies of that CD using EAC to have safetys. I cannot overstress the importance of it. Yes, it is time consuming but well worth it. EAC also lets me look at the error rate that is on the original CD and make a determination if the client needs to send the product in another "less errors" format.
I have other tools for error correction as well..just depends on what the project "needs"
I will take the CD and run it 3 ways and create 3 files and listen to each and determine which one has the most musical vibe and best sonics, the one I can do the best job with. This being, strait wave conversion, playback real time digital to hard drive, strait playback analog to hard drive. I then do the listening above.
This transfer is done at 24 bit/192K. I do a 16/44.1 also for a reference on the drive. Only once did a 16/44.1K actually sound "better" and this was due to the fact that the production was not up to par and the higher resolution extracted some unwanted things that I would just soon not have to deal with...that time.
Depending on material, levels, and desire, one of the 3 will win out as each has a signature. Next step is determined on the actual tune and what experience dictates is the next step.