Masterlink - Dithering comments by Bob Katz

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by woods, May 14, 2003.

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  1. woods

    woods Guest

    Updated with added comments by Bob Katz about dithering.

    I would like to ask a question about the interaction of your Masterlink with the Manley Vari Mu and the massive Passive (or any other brands)- in the mixdown phase and then (home) mastering phase.

    When you are doing a mix down:

    1. Do you mix down to the Masterlink? If so, does that mean that the program material ends up on the Masterlink's Hard Drive at this point?
    2. Also, during that mix down do you go through the Vari Mu and/or the massive Passi ve?

    Notwithstanding the above answers:

    3. What would the mastering chain be under the above circumstances? Do you begin with the already mixed down material on the Masterlink hard drive and then ad mastering comp/eq and record the mastered material onto the Masterlink CD burner?

    Or do you burn a CD of the unmastered mixed down material that is on the Masterlink hard drive from the mixdown phase?

    Then, take that CD and then master from it? If so, how is this done, ie. Do you use a separate CD player to play that CD and then run through the Manley gear and back into the Masterlink, or something else?

    Alternatively, can already mixed down material on the Masterlink hard drive - be cabled out of the Masterlink and into the comp/eq - then cabled back into the Masterlink for burning to CD.


  2. woods

    woods Guest

    I'll frame the question this way.

    I had gotten some other comments back as well and you all have eased my concern. I was unsure about the mastering moniker tagged to the Vari Mu.

    Also, i am wondering - you don't by any chance use it in conjunction with a Masterlink? That is what I will be mixing and mastering to. But I wonder a few things. For instance - if you mix to the Masterlink's hard drive - can you then come out of the masterlink and into the Vari Mu - and then come back into the Masterlink for burning the master onto the Masterlink's CD burner?

    If that routing is not possible then how do you do mastering with the Masterlink - using dedicated mastering compressor and EQ?

    Thanks again,

  3. lowdbrent

    lowdbrent Guest

    The hard drive is the only device in Masterlink that you can record to. It is not configured to record to the CD-R drive.

    What happens is that you can record on the hard drive (s), edit, apply DSP, copy, etc., then you transfer to the CD-R.

    I own a Masterlink. I have talked to many people about the Masterlink, and they confirm my experiences. There are too many issues for it to be used as a serious mastering machine. It collapses the stereo image, there are pops and clicks in the audio path when buttons are pushed. The sound is not at all high-end to my ear.

    I don't master to mine anymore. I use mine for forensic audio work, and maybe a live, low-end 2-track recording.
  4. woods

    woods Guest


    What do you master to now, if you do mastering now?

    Have you ever determined at what stage in the Masterlink that the stereo image is collapsed?
    The hard drive or the CDR? (I guess that would be difficult to determine considering that the only way to get anything out of the Masterlink is to burn a CD.) Maybe I should reconsider my purchase plans.

    What would be a good machine to mix and master to? Or would you need two machines - One to mix to. Then playback from the one you mixed to and go through Vari Mu and EQ and then record to a second machine?


    Is there any other machine that allows the song shuffling and the fade functions that the Masterlink offers? (Besides a computer-based DAW system)
  5. lowdbrent

    lowdbrent Guest

    Ampex 1/2" or 1/4" for analog. I bounce to disc from Pro Tools HD, and use various software to burn on my Mac's Superdrive (Pioneer)- mostly for low-ball stuff. I have a friend who has the big Sony toys and HDCD if I need them.

    The collapse is on the digital input. I hate the converter's sound, so that did it for me. Alsesis knows about the problem.
  6. woods

    woods Guest

    Ohhh OK.....

    So if a guy had the Cranesong HEDD on the way into the Masterlink he could maintain the stereo separation?

    And also, as I will not be using a computer, DAW, or Protools, etc. -- would the following scenario cut it? And have you ever heard of this signal chain in any hi end pro mastering suites - or any other for that matter?

    1. Mix down to Masterlink (do song shuffle and fades, etc.
    2. Burn CD in Masterlink.
    3. Play CD in Masterlink.
    4. Come out of Masterlink
    5. Into Vari Mu and Massive Passive
    6. Record mastered material onto separate CD burner.
  7. lowdbrent

    lowdbrent Guest

    1. You can play off of the hard drive, so you do not need to burn a disc. Plus doing it this way eliminates another stage of error correction and conversion.

    2. The DSP in Masterlink blows chud. Most of the people that I know, that are power users, do not do anything with the internal DSP.

    3. Shuffling and stuff is ok. You better make safety copies on CD-R, incase you need to restore a playlist.
  8. woods

    woods Guest

    When you say "you can play off the Masterlink's hard drive what do you mean?

    Does that mean you can mix to the Masterlink's hard drive and then record to an external CD recorder?

    Also, what about your comments about the Masterlink's converters being the culprit of the collapsing of the stereo image?

    YOu said that it was because of the digital converters on the way in to the Masterlink.

    What if you went throught the HEDD on your way into the Masterlink -- would that eliminate the problem with the collapsing of the stereo image?
  9. lowdbrent

    lowdbrent Guest

    When you record to the masterlink, it must go to the hard drive. You can play "playlists" from the drive, like you would play "tracks" from the CD-R drive.

    Yes, you could output digital and analog signal to another machine, or you could burn a CD24 format disc, and open it up in a Mac.

    The collapse happens using the digital inputs. So, you would be screwed as well. I know that the converters inside are crap, that is why I never used the analog inputs. I bought the machine, not knowing that I could not use an outboard A/D converter, without it jacking with the signal. It should be the analog inputs that get jacked with, since they are using such low grade converters.

    You just need to experience one. Evidently they are tanking. They are below $750 street price.
  10. woods

    woods Guest

    Could you expand a little on your comments about not able to use outboard A/D converter, without it jacking with the signal. (What do you mean by JACKING?)

    So does that mean that using a Cranesong HEDD on the way in would not help the collapsing image?


    The collapse happens using the digital inputs. So, you would be screwed as well. I know that the converters inside are crap, that is why I never used the analog inputs. I bought the machine, not knowing that I could not use an outboard A/D converter, without it jacking with the signal. It should be the analog inputs that get jacked with, since they are using such low grade converters.
  11. lowdbrent

    lowdbrent Guest

    I think that you are confused about "digital" and "analog" input terminology.

    An analog input on a digital device means that you can plug an analog source into it, and it will be converted to digital. The Masterlink's converters are not master quality. So this for me was not an option.

    A Digital input on a digital device means that you can only plug in a source that is digital already. In this case you can plug in an AES/EBU or S/PDIF cable. It is coming in digitally that should be the purest way to go, but, to my ear (and other's) the stereo field collapses. It sounds as if there is a phase problem. I can't nail down the specifics. All that I know is that I don't use it any more.

    Any input source, digital or analog, will be tainted if you stick it in this thing.

    If you have the money to own or rent the Crane Song and the Manley, then you have the money to rent a great master recorder. The Masterlink would be the weak link in your chain.
  12. lowdbrent

    lowdbrent Guest

    I can take a CD, like Dream Theater's Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, play it on a Tascam CD-R, and then play it on the Masterlink. The Masterlink will show overs, the Tascam will not.

    With both machines connected via AES/EBU to my Pro Tools 192 I/O's, the Masterlink will send overs/clips to Pro Tools, the Tascam will not. Quite odd. There is no calibration for the digital level in the Utilities menu, nor should there be one. This should not happen.
  13. cjogo

    cjogo Guest

    We go directly from the VS 2480 to Manley DVC and then to the Masterlink.....the VS allows us a complete "master system" on-board but much prefer the Manley. We actually compress each individual channel within the Roland. At the Manley we generally apply a little roll-off of 40 hz and add the limiter slightly into the process. We watch the meters on the Masterlink and correct the overall gain/limiter with the Manley. But I would not introduce another CDR. Master directly to the Alesis. After we surgically add the above process,,,we then use the normalizer in the DSp of the Masterlink to bring the levels to their quality max. After burning a CD and listening in several enviroments (car, boom box,etc ) We determine whether to subtract or add EQ to the mix, by simply entering the recorded tune on the harddrive and accessing the DSP------amazingly simple and great quality..... And very affordable (quick)for our clients

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  14. omegaarts

    omegaarts Active Member

    May 12, 2003
    well I've had just the opposite experience with my Masterlink.
    If I burn a digital mix to my HHB CD recorder and burn the same mix to the Masterlink and play them back digitally on my Sony console the Masterlink mix is much more open and wider than the mix I burned on my CD recorder. This is especially true if I burn a CD 24. I never use the DSP in Masterlink unless I'm just experimenting.
    Have your thoughts been tested in anyway or is this just a perception? Lowbrent who are the many people you have confirmed this with? I'm not trying to start a confrotation just don't have the same experience here.
    In fact when I just play a CD through my console (DMX R-100) my CD player of choice is the Masterlink. When I take a project to mastering I take it in CD 24 format then they can either go all dig or analog. I've never used the analog inputs so I don't know about that, but what could happen technically that would cause a stereo image to collaspe if it is all digital?
    Maybe I'm missing somthing here.
  15. lowdbrent

    lowdbrent Guest

    Grammy award winning engineers and studio owners in LA, Mastering engineers in Nashville, and a couple of former Alesis people themselves.
  16. lowdbrent

    lowdbrent Guest

    Also Omega, just because it is "digital" coming in doesn't mean squat. So it is 24-bit/96kHz on the AES/EBU input. It still needs to be dithered. It still goes through their DSP. It is converted to a Redbook format. There is a ton of things that can go wrong.
  17. omegaarts

    omegaarts Active Member

    May 12, 2003
    So maybe I'm badly mistaken and I do prefer to master to analog.
    Almost every major mastering room I know has one or more Masterlinks.
    Now this doesn't mean they are any good it just means they use them.
    Can I ask a question?
    If I send a 24/96 dig signal to the Masterlink and record a 24/96 CD24 does it get dithered somewhere in the unit?
    I'm being serious because I don't know how this thing really works.
    I agree that listening back to a 16/44.1 Redbook burned on the Mastelink sounds nothing like listening to the 24/96 CD24.
    I listened to a Dat mix and a CD24 mix at a major mastering facility in N'Ville and there was no comparision. The CD24 won hands down.
    Of course DAT that's a whole different story.

    By the way when I die would you like to have it?
  18. woods

    woods Guest

    Somebody said: "My personal experience was that there was a most definite collapse of the stereo field (though subtle) but not from the HD but after I rendered and burned a CD, as well as the reverb tails getting chopped off. Even when played back from the Masterlink itself."

    After what you are saying about the difference in quality between the 24/96 and the redbook version and the detected collapse of the stereo field on - I wonder what is causing it?

    If it is the 16 bit CD do you suppose that it may have something to do with the dithering down to 16 bit? If so How might this be avoided?

    Is it possible that could a person come out of the MAsterlink before the CD burner via digital and go into the HEDD for better dithering and then burn to a higher quality external CD burner?
  19. omegaarts

    omegaarts Active Member

    May 12, 2003
    I really don't know!
    I still haven't experienced the collapsing lowbrent mention even in the Redbook format.
    But understand I'm 53 and been standing in front of loud amps all my life, I've also been sitting behind mixing console's since 1967.
    I just fired off an email to several nationally recognized mastering labs to see if any of them can confirm this anomaly.
  20. woods

    woods Guest


    You did say this: "I agree that listening back to a 16/44.1 Redbook burned on the Mastelink sounds nothing like listening to the 24/96 CD24."

    Would you mind trying to describe the difference between the two listening experiences?

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    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

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