Mastering today vs 15 years ago.....

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by therecordingart, Jun 19, 2005.

  1. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    I was just wondering if I could master my own album with a cassette tape, my audigy card, and a 1/4 to xlr mic cable? I don't have a cassette player, and my computer is broken....what should I do in this situation?

    Just kidding guys!

    I've seen some posts comparing mastering 15 years ago to mastering today. From what I understand, 15 years ago you'd polish up and boost the volume compared to now-a-days everything seems to be a deep sea rescue mission.

    Now is this all just inexperience on the recording engineer? (if you could even call him/her that). Or does if have to do mainly with consumer gear?

    What are a some of your biggest pet peeves in the mixes you recieve?
  2. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    Montreal, Qc, CANADA
    Home Page:
    That is an easy one. Make sure your cassette tape is in good shape, if not, then you could put it in a bowl filled with 1/3 cup of Tide, 1/3 cold water but if you are not cheap on electricity then put hot water, hotter the better and 1/3 of Jigaloo. Let it in there for 38 minutes, let the cassette dry for 3 1/2 weeks in the dark. While it is drying, take your tape deck head and clean it softly with #3 size steel wool....very softly because you don't want to scratch the head (reading head only will be just fine). When your cassette is finally dry, to make sure, remove the screws from the cassettte tape but if you have a genuine RS tape (Radio-Shack) then, take a screw driver and try to open the glued cassette tape case. Once the tape is open, inverse the tape inside the cassette and glue it back with dock tape. Now you're ready to plug your gear and press Play. If it does not play good then I would suspect your 1/4 to XLR cable.

  3. JerryTubb

    JerryTubb Guest

    Marinate the Cassette tape in Guinness for three days, then leave it on the dashboard, in direct sunlight, or optionally in the trunk, till the Fall Equinox, then take it to your local professional for mastering, preferably TurtleTone, it will make his day! :p

    "deep sea rescue" mission, now that's funny...

    I dunno, mix quality probably hasn't changed -all- that much, I heard plenty of crappy mixes 15 years ago too, when many analog mixes tended to sound a little murky.

    The home project studio revolution and the abundance of amatuer engineers probably has skewed the results lately, but not nearly as bad as the original "blackface" ADAT mix days...

    It's a lot easier to make a good sounding record with a DAW and hoards of plugs than an ADAT and a cheap pro-sumer mixer. It all depends on the engineer and the monitors.

    On one recent mastering sesssion, with really good sounding mixes, I asked the artist, "who did these", and he replied... "Oh I did it on my MOTU rig at home, it's my first project, how'd I do?" Man, I was surprised... I guess it depends on the ears and talent of the newbie engineer... sometimes they'll suprise you! 8)
  4. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    Montreal, Qc, CANADA
    Home Page:
    I don't know from the ME point of view 15 years ago since i'm doing it it since 8 years but I used to go to Mastering facilities since the last 20 years and it seems that the requests were like: make it well balanced, songs even volumewise and make all the songs pretty homogenius if there not to your ears. Well, I do not remember to ask for these requests, they already knew and that was there job for what I remember.

    I used to go there mostly as the mix engineer or as the producer. I also remember that a couple of pretty big facility, they were doing the job straight ie; well balanced, not too compressed, most of the time almost never compressed, just safe limiting and corrective eq's. That was fine but sometimes...kind of dull but correct.

    Today, I find, including myself, that there are more ME's with some artistics approach and adding some creativity in conjuncture with the producer / Mix engineer. Maybe because a lot of gear and surely the venue of PC's, Plugins and all this kind of stuff, the demand from the artist or mixing engineer have changed. That is fine with me but the focus is more on volume then it was than 15 years ago.

  5. JerryTubb

    JerryTubb Guest

    I will give you this,

    10-15 years ago we weren't being asked to slam the level like today !

    We could concentrate more on improving the overall basic quality.

    10-15 years ago, not everybody and their dog thought they could do mastering, -and- it was before the infamous "Finalizer" was common in mixing.

    There are a zillion CD's being released today (thank you), and having a CD, is not a luxury, but a requirement for booking and promoting a band.

    I enjoy the work as much or more now, than I did back then! 8)
  6. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    Montreal, Qc, CANADA
    Home Page:
    Damn right Jerry!

    The mentality and approach from the clients changed a LOT! I remember some sessions 15-20 years ago at some Mastering facilities, the client did not have to say much, you were attendind a Mastering session and the ME knew what he had to do and sometimes make you feel like you don't know what that is all about.

    I have met a couple of ME's at that time that make you feel like you are a piece of s**t and you had to pay the big $$$. I find since he last 10 years, the interaction has been better for the better... except that smashing volume thing.

  7. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    Yup. 15 years ago it was all about "a little polish" and trying desperately to change as little as possible while polishing.

    Now, it's considerably different - Depending on the source, of course...

    Most of the really good sounding stuff that comes in here leaves sounding basically the same - Just tweaked - Possibly considerably louder (especially if that's on the "menu" for the job).

    A lot of the other stuff sounds completely different - Anywhere from "Wow! That's cool!" all the way down to "Wow! That's a lot less irritating!" :lol:
  8. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    NYC New York
    Home Page:
    I think it totally depends on the person mixing. 15 years ago if you were a "mixer", you were getting paid well and you were doing it full time in really nice studios and you tried to be the best you could because your gigs depended on it. Now "mixers" are working in spare bedrooms, mixing as fast as they can so they can still make some money and doing it on as cheap of gear that they can get away with.
  9. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    We have been a full time mastering facility for 10 years but I have been in the audio business for over 40 years. What I notice now is that more and more material seems to need "sonic surgery" before it can be mastered. When I started as a Mastering Engineer most of the projects brought in were well mixed and only needed some gentle compression and limiting and maybe some touch up eq. Now most of the projects we are getting in are mixed in someone's basement or bedroom and the quality is not good and the material needs a lot of work before I can master it.

    When I started in to mastering the major goal was to make the album sound cohesive and balanced and above all sound GOOD!. Now the most asked for "fix" is to "make it louder" I am hoping that this trend will abate in the not too distant future and some projects I am getting in are requesting "good sound" over "make it loud". So maybe their is still some hope left.

    I personally feel that the loudness wars are ruining the music business as we knew it and that many artist are so concerned with loudness of their material that it is the only thing on their mind in a mastering session. This is leading nowhere fast and CDs such as Californication by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers is the kind of material that mastering engineers should be ashamed of instead of profiting from by increased business.

  10. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    The volume wars are indeed out of hand, and I hope to see it change....someday.

    I work with a lot of classical and jazz clients who are pretty good about it, though. While most acoustic music clients don't want squashing or limiting, (esp on the radio) the "Purist" is getting a bit scarcer these days. It's not as zero-tolerant as it used to be, so there's another sign that things are changing, for better or worse, I'm not sure.

    Upon hearing a temp or near-final master, some naively want to know why other recordings are so loud compared to theirs, and after some explanation, you can see the light bulb go on over their heads, and they begin to understand. Most are willing to accept the difference, while occasionally a few ask for some minor adjustments. But you can see that even in the acoustic world, there's some tendencies to get it louder, or at least "Fuller" in their minds.

    Again, I don't know if this is a good or bad thing, or simply a result of more classical and Jazz people playing music in their cars, ipods, and as background music at home. Fortunately, there are a few things that can be done without seriously harming the music (taming the occasional level-robbing peaks, slight compression of things, etc.,without major audible smashing going on, at least for folk or jazz. Aside from spurious peaks, Classical stuff does NOT get compromised in any way...)

    I've been saying this for a while now, and maybe some day it'll catch on (and if it does, you can give ME the credit hehehe): Sooner or later (when they run out of reissues and Box set compilations), the overly squashed acts will rethink the volume-wars approach and Re-re-release their "Best of" Material WITHOUT the Finalizer processing, as "NEW" Product. (STING's last three or four releases would be my first suggestion....dude...someone is RUINING all your hard work at the mastering house....)

    Can't you just imagine the scenario??? Hahaha..... "All new remixes - Hear the details! Hear the band the way they sounded in the studio! Hear the dynamics! Hear bass drum and bass guitar as if it were TWO separate entities!"

    The Mastering industry (as a subset of the record industry) will expand or contract according to the market. If DVD-A's (or SACD or whatever) ever DO catch on, we'll have 24 bit remixes available even more than we see now, and perhaps the same for non-Finalized mixes. Who knows? Maybe they'll offer discs with a few choices of the mixes: Non-Crunch Version, Crunch Level 1, Crunch Level 2, and "Ludicrous Speed" Crunch Level 3.

    Since DAWs have become the tool/system of choice for mastering (as well as front-end tracking & mixing), the Mastering biz has indeed changed dramatically in the last 10-15 years. I see it as mostly for the better, esp in how much more (good) can be done for a recording. The GUI aspect of mastering has allowed a whole new level of expertise for Mastering - IN THE RIGHT HANDS, of course.

    As for max'd-out levels and what is happening in the last 10-15 years, read this article/link to a column by Rip Rowan. You may have seen it before; it's about RUSH, the band, but it could be any band that's been recording over the last two decades. I think it was run on one of the RO boards as well, but it's worth a read....pretty amazing to see what's happened sonically over the years, and what is now "Acceptable" for "hot" Levels. (The graphics alone tell the tale....)
  11. 0db

    0db Active Member

    Volume levels....

    I have to agree here with all of you when it comes to volume....

    what is noticeable from commercial recordings from 15 years ago is definitely the levels, and the low end. I was listening to a CD (RUSH, Vapor Trails) i was amazed by the overcompression and the crazy levels it had. Bass energy is so intense that i was scared to fry my woofers!. Sounded totally awful for me. In the other hand, you can listen to a CD like Tears for Fears The seeds of love (original issued, not remastered) and you can tell the difference. Altough there is a notorious gap between styles, you can really enjoy dynamics, and decent levels, not to mention the high quality of the mix and the performance.

    Seems like everything before had just one way to release a succesful record: record in analog or digital at a decent studio, then mix by a known engineer and then sent to a respected mastering house, keeping it simple. Now these days with all this thechnology in our hands, accesible "mastering processors" and DAWs, there are a lot of ways to achieve good quality recording as well as bad ones.

    The need to push the limits on levels at the point of frying is one things i still don´t understand. Maybe ME are trying to do it so people who like to rip into MP3 get frustrated by the results (try to rip Limp bizkit´s Nookie for example, no matter wich codec and bitrate you use and you´ll get the picture), or if is it a challenge between labels, or mastering facilities....i don´t know....

    In the low end issue, we have plenty of recordings that have a lot of information in the 50 to 90 Hz area. Yes, we know that comercially available boomboxes, car audio equipment and home audio gear now comes with "hyperbass" circuits, subwoofers and so on, giving you the chance to enjoy rumble, but not every recording sounds nice with too much of that bass. The generic 100 Hz Knob in the eq´s are now 85 Hz or so, this is because new equipment are capable to reproduce these frecuencies.... but then, some ME abuse from it.

    You can have a nice sounding CD, properly mastered, and if you can get the volume you want, then turn the volume knob!
  12. 0db

    0db Active Member

    I didn´t realized the fact that JoeH had that link to a critic from the same CD!!! I could not agree more with the reviewer with the wrong theory "the louder, the better", that´s exactly what´s happening with lots of recordings these days.

    Thanks JoeH!

  13. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    Glad to help, Juan! I don't know that Rip Rowan guy other than from reading his posts, but everything I've read from him has been dead-on.

    I also happen to have all of the RUSH CDs that he refers to in his article, and it also is dead on. (I'm a fan of Rush, but by no means a "completist" with their stuff... I simply got into them at a time when I was looking for 'power trio" stuff with a brain. (And Peart's lyrics, of course!)

    As he mentions about Vapor Trails, it's a great collection of powerful, terrific songs. But I honestly thought I'd severely screwed up my monitoring system when I first played it. (Wondering: In what UNIVERSE does this sound like good, normal, cohesive and well-recorded music? Surely not MY system....sigh....)

    And I too had to just stop listening to the CD, because it just makes me ill trying to enjoy it, with all the clipped peaks and squashed levels. Such a sad sad waste of a great CD from a great band, who really roared back after a fairly long absence with Vapor Trails....
  14. JerryTubb

    JerryTubb Guest

    15 years ago ...Sony 1630 reigned supreme... now it's an oversized paper weight !

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