DIY Mastering

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by audiokid, Jan 2, 2011.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

    Mar 20, 2000
    BC, Canada
    Home Page:
    Does DIY Mastering work?

    Topic sparked from the increase of DIY Mastering discussions.

    • Are all the steps to mastering music the same as it was 20 years ago?

    • What steps of a professional Mastering Engineer have now become DIY mainstream and/or are in the process of elimination and/or are being missed by DIY and does it matter?

    • How long will it be before the majority of DAW studios use a single processor that does all the finalizing for us, that works for today's "market".
    I believe is is just around the corner.
    I predict by the end of 2011 there will be a new processor that will DIY Master to a point that it changes the industry soundscape once again.
    I think this plugin will be 100% welcomed and will sound "good enough". It will be the next AutoTune type craze.

    At first we will be amazed and welcome the DIY mastering plugin but overtime begin to accept or question how perfectly uniform our masters all sounds. Like Pro Tools and/or perfect digital audio, this DIY Master plug-in will impress the general public and push ME even further away. DIY DAW studios will buy into it and bring us all closer to the complete package.

    I think we (definitely the public) are in the end days of noticing subtle differences in audio and even live performances. If you listen to most modern music (hit list) everything but the vocals are washed together in their perfect boring place. There is little acknowledgment to musicians and no need to highlight it. The public isn't paying attention to individual parts of the music. Less is more and its all about the overall generic sound and the vocal. Two things really. And those two parts are pasted together like a formula made for cell phones.

    It will be interesting to see what happens this next year. I personally am running as fast as I can, the other way.
    The music industry "sound" is turning into a one stop, drive in drive out to fit this economy driven music venue. Its a DIY fast food quagmire targeted towards a completely different meaning of listening and marketing music.

    I think full spacious sound is becoming less important and focusing more and more on fashion and speed on of how it fits precisely into the electronic app of the day. This will easily be performed by a DIY plug-in and I could even see it as a feature for music distribution systems like SoundCloud etc.

    I think youtube is where its all going and until youtube audio sounds as good as the studio using VOVOX cable, professional mastering is one more step joining the Dodo bird.

    Is this good or bad...? it just doesn't matter because its the way our industry is evolving. Music doesn't do the same thing to people like it once did. I think it will return, but sound quality has to be important to the public and I'm not seeing this an important part of music these days.

    Who would ever imagine the guitar would be completely removed in pop music like it has been today.
    Who would ever imagined loops would become mainstream.
    Who would ever imagine an SPL Passeq would be replaced by a 200 plugin?.
    Does it sound as good... you cares as long as its close and doesn't have wires!
    Who would ever imagine you don't need drummers to make hit songs?
    I could go on and on.

    We aren't even appreciating people who have talent anymore. We are so easy to criticize people if they show any sigh of life. This totally disgusted me, but, its just the way it is.

    All this being said, I am running as fast as I can the other way but keeping my eyes open to where the industry is marketing music. I am totally convinced that all ITB isn't helping my quest for stellar sound but it is much easier, less money and definitely helping our ability to DIY for DAW music.

    Something to think about while I shop for a new set of monitors, read about speaker measurement software and see more and more people learn about room treatment...

  2. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    Nov 23, 2008
    Rainy Roads WA USA
    I agree with everything you're saying.
    I don't have any mastering experience, but I understand it.
    On a commercial level it seems like there will still be business and true mastering houses and individuals will still be called upon by the major labels and record companies.
    This "DIY mastering" from what I can see and understand appears to be a plugin craze for the semi-pro or hobbyist with PT. Granted as the plugins get better and better this becomes more and more attractive to these groups to buy into and use. But don't forget this is all a targeted hobby industry and not necessarily a commercial direction.
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    Aren't we already there? Aren't there plenty of plugins out there to do exactly what you are talking about? Yeah, I guess you have to put three or four plugs in a row. But if your goal is a smiley-face EQ and solid bricks of sound at all frequencies "just like the pros" then it's not hard to do. The DIY crowd did not start the volume wars, but you don't need $250K worth of equipment to make sonic bricks.

    I think the irreducible things you can't get around in mastering are (1) the room (2) the monitors and (3) the ME. Other than that, the difference between "real" mastering equipment and ITB weekend warrior equipment gets smaller all the time.
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

    Mar 20, 2000
    BC, Canada
    Home Page:
    I think the commercial end and technology is driving it. I think its beyond the record companies now. They don't own the internet like they did the airways and DJ's. :tongue:
    I think the traditional record company's profile (who demanded top ME skills) are following the Dodo bird path along with the traditional ME. But, I think they are evolving into something geared towards itunes, or something online savvy:confused: (hybrid studios)
    I think record companies don't care what it sounds like as long as it fits the flat line volume exactly and is mainstream with the market toy of choice.
    I think its the indie world separating here because we are able to hear OTB . I think we are evolving and figuring something out. The question will be, will this extra high end make us any more money? Will it push Pro Audio manufacturers to continue making high end gear and/or keep the elite buying into it. Will it make any difference with the bottom line. I wonder if all boutique manufacturers will be able to hang on, will they thrive better than ever.
    I have a feeling, djmukilteo, you are right and that the two worlds will begin to expose themselves as plug-in sounding or open as I prefer to promote and call "analog sounding" with space.

    I also think the hybrid studios are the new Mastering studios of the future. But I'm still not quite there to prove it to myself. A few more thousand spent and I will have the final core operating.

    After writing this, I surfed around and found this link on audiofanzine (the new owner(s) ) that suites this discussion. I skimmed through it and even though I don't put any value on this company's hands on credibility, I saw the StudioOne mentioned and took notice.

    Mastering: The DIY Guide - Audiofanzine

    I have a StudioLive 24.4.2 and the StudioOne software combo myself. I have to say, look out to whomever is spending 15 to 20 thousand on a new and IMHO dated protools HD system or comparable DAW . The SL is a monster and eats anything in its path from financial investment, logical on what you get for your money and hands on a "all in one" live, tracking and editing package for $3300 bucks. You don't need anything more than this for making most commercial music and definitely any project studio. I haven't played with the mastering software but will after I read this article.

    I favour Sequoia for its stellar mastering and editing software which is another indication about DIY mastering software and where I think the mainstream is headed. The difference between Pro Tools and Sequoia in the mastering department is night and day... and it is all software. Mind you, PT or Sequoia, you still need the DAC to get audio into the box but... Without adding my hardware, it sounds great as is and most people would be doing cart wheels hearing how great Sequoia is.

    (edit, just read your post Bob after I pressed save.)
    Totally agree and why I mention it can all be acquired for little money. Only thing left is skill. And this is where I think the final plugin will do it adequately. Its not where I am going, but its where I think Mastering is headed without question.
  5. AToE

    AToE Active Member

    Apr 19, 2009
    Calgary Alberta Canada
    This is what I thought when I first read this thread's OP - we're essentially there already. If something comes out that's even easier to use to get a "reasonable" result (not that I personally would consider it reasonable...) then sure, it'll take off like crazy, but I don't see this as being much of a difference. Pro recordings will still be mastered by MEs, because they can't afford for it to not be that good, but this might take a chunk out of the independant market for Mastering pros.

    Many people doing budget recordings right now are already mastering it themselves (or by their buddies) already, this won't change that at all - but hey, if it improves the quality of that "make-loudering" (I hate to call it mastering) then I guess that's an up-side. Even people in my "level" of recording (not just recording themselves but not charging much either) usually just do whatever they can on their own for mastering, because pro mastering might cost more per song than what the whole rest of the process did (I don't do this myself, part of my deal with bands that is non-negotiable is them paying for proper mastering by an ME that I approve).

    Then there's those who have big budgets and are going to use an ME one way or another. I sincerely doubt that presets in a plugin will come that close to making up for a great room, monitors, and the ME's experience/skill.

    So in my personal opinion I think the main risk for ME's here is losing customers like myself who currently refuse to butcher their own recordings with make-loudering-plugins, but also have serious budget problems. A lot of people who were on the cusp of deciding to skip the ME might go over to doing it themselves if software came out that would make all the decisions for them and deliver a half-decent product.

    I don't know if that's the meat and potatoes for ME's though (I honestly don't know, I'm not an ME and cannot see where the money is mostly coming from, indy stuff or stuff from labels), so I don't personaly see this as a death knell for pro mastering, just one more step in the DIY road leading to whoknowswhere.
  6. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    Mar 31, 2007
    North Vancouver
    Plus now People have much lower standards of what is acceptable sound quality.
  7. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    Jul 29, 2004
    Montreal, Qc, CANADA
    Home Page:
    I can't wait to see that pluggin, which knows how to shape or tame the transients (if it also needed and wanted), what EQ settings will be applied to attenuate or enhance certain things on a mix on the client's expectations. Can't wait to see that pluggin to make objective decisions :).

    I have seen many sh&tty mixes that LOOK so good on a Spectrum Analyser that you would have nothing to DO to make it sound better (so, why bother). Whatever, when the Marketing is good, it will sell just like anything else. Anyway, each new plug or product that comes out, they are THE best thing ever and all of them, time after time, are revolutionizing the worlds of "Audio", "mixing", "recording", "producing", "mastering", "composing", "arranging", "calibrating". It is a revolution every day. I think the best plug-insthat must show up before this one are: "Making you a great composer", "a good player", "amazing arranger", "boosting your talent" (even if you don't have and don't want), microphone positioner" (even if you don't have a clue about microphones).

    It would also be interesting to see that pluggin burn the Red Book Master CD, making spacings between songs, fades, w/CD-Text, UPC, ISRC, PQ sheet, & testing the physical media OR even create the DDP image/file with all the codings I just mentioned.

    Now I have to go back trying to figure out how to push the volume at insane level without killing the kick and snare...
  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Distinguished Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    A couple of thoughts...

    1. This was suppose to be what the T.C. Finalizer was all about when it came out. IMHO it never did what everyone wanted it to do.

    2. There are already DAW plug-ins like Ozone and T-Racks that are suppose to be the go to plug-ins for one size fits all mastering that everyone seems to want.

    3. You still cannot take the room and the monitoring system out of the mastering equation. Bad monitoring plus bad acoustics = bad masters.

    4. You still have to have some intelligence and experience to use any plug in or piece of equipment unless you want to let the software or machine do it all for you and that would create all kinds of other problems.

    5. Why does everything have to be DIY??? What happened to collaboration and team work???

    6. If your prediction comes to pass and by using the software or hardware you no longer need a mastering engineer then I think this further degrades the whole making music process into a bedroom/basement ONLY operation.

    Only time will tell!!! Please see my thoughts here
  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Jul 21, 2009
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Home Page:
    I recently labored over a mix for ten hours, trying my best to correct the horribly mixed/overcompressed backing track, as well has nicely balance/lineup/cleanup the 24 vocal tracks in the song that my client insisted on recording, in my place, at least time is money in my studio (sigh). i threw a bus compressor when i was done to control a couple runaway peaks, and proudly and tiredly hand over the mix. i get a call a couple hours later 'it sounds really good man, much better than when the vocals were raw, but, can you make it louder? It's not really as loud as i want it'! My heart sank, thinking here we go again. My boss said "you know what trick is to making it louder? Turn up the volume knob!" lol
    The client has no budget for mastering or masterizing has he called it, and so out goes and waves L2'ed brick of audio with none of the impact the mix had that i labored w/ automation for. (they have a pluggin for that now too) When they make the 'talent' pluggin, however, i'll be first in line!
    There will always be a need i think for ME's, i think it will just shrink to only the highest budgets, and a few smart hobbyists, indie guys.
    How great is it to listen to someone brag about his 192/24 system, and watch them export it as an MP3?
    It's disappointing to me as an up and coming professional engineer that alot of my training is being a computer tech. heck, even my sm57 isn't needed anymore, just DI it right?
    Luckily the main producer at the studio had most of his hits in the 80's, and loves room mics, and loud guitars! so i can learn through his wisdom, about all the techniques/equipment, that will be just topics of conversation in the next few years.

    "The SL is a monster and eats anything in its path from financial investment, logical on what you get for your money and hands on a "all in one" live, tracking and editing package for $3300 bucks. You don't need anything more than this for making most commercial music and definitely any project studio."

    I would pay an extra $1,500 for this unit if it had motorized faders. Otherwise i would have purchased the unit myself already. After using the Mackie HDR/D8B recording system at the studio, instead of my alpha track/DAW home setup, I am in love w/ using my ears again. Instead of my eyes. It brought back memories of my four track, and mixing down to my dads stereo:cool:. However, The SL, with no automation, would feel like a step down from the aging D8B, that lives it the studio.
    Perhaps with enough requests, presonus will make a 32 channel, fully automatable edition. I will surely get one if they do!
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

    Mar 20, 2000
    BC, Canada
    Home Page:
    Good point on the moto faders. Its something a lot of people are asking. It would boost the price by a good chunk ($1000 maybe?) But you can do automation (ITB) in StudioOne. Personally, I don't want that stuff much anymore. I had that for my ProTools TDM rig back in 2002 and ending up always using the mouse. Its so much more acute when it comes to detailed editing. So the faders only become a fashion hog. But, I haven't had the opportunity to use anything better since then.
    But I wouldn't toss it out if it was added to the SL as long as they used top 100m faders. If they were just average, IMHO it only adds more junk to something pretty clean.

    I think the StudioLive is so perfect as is. The things I want "hands On" are everything they have now. Its really a gem. I can't believe it only costs $3300 bucks. There you go... Chinese assembly hmm...

    My Highly Recommended list!
  11. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    The one major advantage that I see to self mastering is time. One can experiment with a certain leisure that cannot be afforded if one is using a top end mastering facility. Another is to be able to go back to the mix for any reason at the drop of a hat.

    I recently said in another thread that I had no interest in becoming a mastering engineer, but I have changed my mind at least to the extent that I now want to explore the limits of self mastering within the domain of tools and resources available to me ITB, even though I still anticipate taking my mixes to a mastering facility. I mean why not do both? I have the Katz and Owsinski books on the way.

    I can understand some concern about encroachment from bona fide mastering houses, but I liken the situation to violin making. For hundreds of years, there have been amateur violin makers (in the other sense of word, i.e., distinct from "professional" makers in terms of sheer output and sales volume) some of them even having success and garnering appreciation for their instruments, but the core of professional and fully trained violin makers -with fast work habits and high output- has never been at risk from amateur makers. And there are probably more amateur violin makers today -relatively speaking- than there has ever been, due in part to much better access to making information (internet and new books) and a growth of violin making schools. But I think the career of better professional violin makers remains secure.

    As far as available ITB mastering tools go, I am now working with demo versions of plug-ins and suites from T racks 3 and Brainworx, although I finished and submitted my contest demo with the most rudimentary of free plug ins. I am learning that each companies products function in unique ways, at least in the GUI and how one operates the controls, which in turn affects the way one manipulates the audio. I have already identified my need for greater control over variables that are not afforded by free or stock Cubase Plug-ins, so a purchase is in the very near future once I have identified the best product for me.
  12. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    The desire to do-it-yourself (regardless of what the task may be) is apparently written into the human DNA, and is merely manifested by the ever increasing ease of access to the requisite tools, at falling prices. The regulating factor is that not everyone can possess the skills and refined senses necessary for success. And I am certain that it is impossible to create a machine and/or software that can ultimately master better than a highly skilled human, for this domain is fundamentally an art. One does not even have to be an expert in recording to know this. :smile:
  13. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Sep 12, 2002
    NYC New York
    Home Page:
    No question that technology will eliminate jobs, history has proven this and the music industry isn't immune. I also believe the economy plays a big part in how much DIY one is willing to do. When money is tight, one finds ways to get it done "good enough". but when money if flowing, people aren't afraid to farm out the work. I don't ever think the mastering industry will disappear though. It will change and morph, but busy people just don't have the time to figure it out. The cost benefit of farming it out vs DIY eventually hits a point where it's just doesn't make sense to spend time and money figuring something out when you can hire someone to do a better job for less.

    I'll fix stuff on my truck, but I still need to take it to a shop to change the tires, have it painted etc... A ton of work is going to the DIY market, but the truth is almost all of this work would have never ended up in a mastering house back when. A whole new industry has opened up that couldn't have existed 10 years ago. This is music that never saw the light of day, but it was still there, it was just behind a garage door. Now it's been given a chance to shine a little better and be a little louder with technology.

    I liken it to photography. If you own a Kodak Kiosk on the corner, you're screwed. But that doesn't mean photography died, or photographers went away. There's even more now making money at it. It also allows people that would never have taken pictures, to now take pictures. The demand for high end cameras is through the roof, the bottom didn't fall out. And the stuff you see in mainstream media isn't done by some kid in his bedroom with his camera phone, it's still done by pros... but with different tools.
  14. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Distinguished Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    I have a couple of commercial photographers friends that would disagree with you. One had to take a part time job at the local airport parking rental cars because his business fell off precipitously when the advertising agencies he worked for put in their own "photo studios" which consisted of a digital camera, two lights, a backdrop and an intern to take the pictures. Not exactly a commercial "photo studio". They paid the intern $8.00 per hour and my friend the photographer was charging $85.00 per hour but of course he had to own all his own equipment, have space to work in and pay for his lights, water and heat. He also had to do a professional level job, which is NOT what the intern is doing. The other photographer lost out when the college he was working for equipped all of their "reporters" in the information office with cameras and made them all "photo journalists" so he was no longer needed. Recently I saw some of their work and I can tell you just having a camera does not make you a photographer.

    I am all for the DIYer who understands when he or she is in their own comfort zone but I have problems with people who want to do EVERYTHING themselves just for the reasons you stated in your second paragraph.

    I think the one thing that is missing from a lot of DIY enthusiast is that they do not know how to self critique their work and simply think that EVERYTHING they do is GREAT!

    One thing that slapped me up the side of my head (a dope slap if you will), early in my career as an audio engineer, is the idea that just because I think the choir, the orchestra or the solo artist sounds GREAT in the recording I just did for them does not make it so.

    Good topic!
  15. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    The situation with photography has a lot of parallels to mastering. The commercial photographer has equipment and skills that will show up well in a high quality glossy magazine. Their overhead isn't really much different if they are taking pictures for newsprint reproduction or 75 pixels per inch on the internet. But in those situations the quality is overkill. There is no business necessity for it.

    I have to agree about the amount of self delusion. How many times do we hear, "I have a $1,500 budget and I want this to be THE BEST!" I always have the stifle the urge to say, "then let's start by firing you and getting someone good."
  16. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    I sat in on the mastering of my last project. I wanted to be the guide-dog to the blind as I had nursed this throughout its entirety. I would suggest things here and there and Rick, my patient friend and experienced ME would allow these things. I'd listen through a couple of times, at first really excited because it was begining to take shape and then on the second or third pass, we would, EVERY TIME, revert to where he had originally set it up.

    My ear is very good. My sense of dimension, and space superb. I can hear balances in micro amounts....I love truly dynamic mixes and can create them... and there I was with a very good mastering room at my disposal and I was in NO WAY able to create at his level. Of my own work as a producer and mixer and tracking engineer.

    I'm with Mr. Bethel on this one. No matter what technology can produce, there is an element that cannot be dialed up. Or simulated with written code ...
  17. studiosound

    studiosound Guest

    Here a run-down of what good mastering should do for you.
    • Correct Improperly Mixed Frequencies
    • Balance the Left and Right Stereo Channels
    • Equalize the Sound of Each Track
    • Compress and Limit The Overall Sound Level
    • Automate Compression and/or Equalization Settings
    • Add Dithering
    • Add or Correct Improper Fades
    • Set Spacing Between Tracks
    • Noise Reduction and Sound Restoration
    • Add IRSC Codes for Digital Distribution
    • Add CD-Text Information (Artist, Title, Track Names)
    • Create DDP, BIN, or CUE files for CD Replication
    • Create a Master Disk For CD Duplication or Replication
  18. SASman

    SASman Active Member

    Jan 16, 2008
    London UK
    Home Page:
    There is a single flaw with DIY "mastering".

    If you cannot hear a problem you cannot correct it.

    This applies to monitoring, DAC, room and listening experience.
    it might only be a single flaw but my word it's a big one.
  • AT5047

    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

Share This Page