where does all this gain come from...in final mastered..

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by shezan, Dec 4, 2005.

  1. shezan

    shezan Guest

    hi guys...well i have been musician for years and just started engineering for past two years... now i m taking a bit intrest in knowing abt the mastering too so where does all this gain come from man... i mean if i say that i have a budget of US$15,000... wht should i buy and which will be the bst equipment possible in this price... i little help n advice needed...

  2. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Nov 25, 2005
    Are you seeking to open a commercial studio or are you seeking to setup a personal studio?
  3. shezan

    shezan Guest

    well i already have a project studio

    well i already have a project studio...now i m planning to extend it...i m gonna put pro tools HD|3.... get some nice mic pre amps... i already have Genelecs in my studio... i m getting genelec 5.1 setup pretty soon too... so i just wanted to know 15K for the mastering equipment is it fine for a medium level project studio or do i have to put some more... and wht kind of equipment i can buy with this money
  4. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Nov 25, 2005
    So you're going to be offering mastering services to people? I'm no expert but from what I know, if you really want to do it right, $15K won't be enough. Just depends what level of quality you want to offer. For example a single Massenburg Mastering EQ is $11,000. On the other hand there's tons of lower priced high quality gear around and you can certainly put together a respectable system for $15K if you shop smart and learn your gear well. I wish I had some specific gear recommendations for you but I don't have any experience with mastering setups. Good luck! :cool:
  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Distinguished Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    $15,000 is about 10% of what most mastering engineers have invested in their equipment and room and about 2% of what the top rooms have invested.

    The one thing you need right off is a good room to monitor in. One that is acoustically treated and setup properly by an acoustical engineer. Just having Genelecs is meaningless unless they are properly setup in the room. This is especially true for surround mixing and mastering.

    Are you going to use the same room for mastering as for recording? If so you may not hear all of the problems in the recording since you will be using the same equipment for listening to your recordings and mastering. This is especially true if your room is not acoustically setup.

    The one good thing about going to a mastering engineer and not trying to do it yourself is that you have another set of trained ears listening to your material. Someone who is not tied to the project and does not know the history. He or she will be unbiased and will not be influenced by problems that you have encountered while doing the recording. They also will have the experience to do the mastering efficiently using the best equipment available.

    If you want to do your own mastering then I would start with the room, get a good computer with dual monitors, lot of ram, fast hard disks and a fast processor and a good DAW program like Wavelab. I would work with plug ins and when you can afford it get a good equalizer and a good limiter/compressor to use as outboard equipment.

    Honestly I would take the $15,000 and invest it in recording equipment and leave the mastering to someone else but I maybe biased since I am a Mastering Engineer.

    Best of luck!
  6. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Nov 25, 2005
    Thomas is giving good advice, you can outsource your mastering to someone highly skilled for a very fair price, and then it's their worry to keep up with all the gear, etc. :)

    Anyhow, this might be a controversial thing to say, but if you are recording the entire album yourself and you know what you're doing, you may very well not need to have it mastered. Depends on the material, but certainly for the average garage band if your mixes/levels are all in line and the album tells a story, that may be enough... :cool:

    Thomas, just curious if you could give a very loose ballpark figure on a project. 12 songs, all acoustic guitar with voice. 12 different singers, 12 different guitars, all well recorded in the same room using the same setup. How much approx. would it cost to have that mastered into a really top notch album? If you don't want to put a figure on it, that's cool, I understand. :cool:
  7. headchem

    headchem Guest

    I know this will open a can worms for all the professionals out there, but I master with a $300 program called Reason. I have consumer speakers my friend gave me when he got surround sound and two pairs of cheap headphones. I know all three sets very well. Not a single person who I've shown my masters to, compared to the professional version, have ever noticed a difference. Sure, about 1000 mastering engineers out of a world of 6 billion would notice something, but no one has a mode-treated car with Genelec speakers in the doors. No one turns on their iPod and listens with mastering headphones...

    Sorry if that came out a bit harsh - I really just wanted to put some perspective on the amount of money that is spent on mastering. If someone can convince me that I am wrong, feel free to let me have it! :)
  8. jdsdj98

    jdsdj98 Active Member

    Jun 8, 2002
    Denver, CO
    Wow. Your rates must be great since your investment has been so minimal.

    Doesn't mean a thing. My girlfriend can't hear the difference between a 24 bit/192kHz recording and an MP3, and I bet the people that you've shown your masters to have similar credibility, or lack therof. Have you ever asked a good mastering engineer to evaluate your work? Are you willing to state that your work is of the same caliber as theirs? Apparently you are.

    And rather than offer that as an excuse for calling yourself a mastering engineer (something I am not) and butchering your work calling it "mastering", I say that just demonstrates the problems in pro audio today. Everyone calls themselves an engineer. Everyone thinks they can skimp on the cash outlay and just do it themselves. It reminds me of the cover of Mix a few months ago: "Who cares about quality?" Obviously you don't.

    I, however, will not try to talk you out of what you're doing. I'm able to admit my inadequacies and work harder to get better. I nearly melted down mixing football for TV yesterday, but came out ahead because I took the time to reevaluate my working methods and realize where they needed to be improved. You obviously don't have that capacity. That's my competitive advantage over people like you in the job market.

    Keep it up. It creates opportunity for those of us that care about audio quality.

    Shezan, please don't listen to this guy if you're interested in doing things the right way. Listen to others here who can give you far better advice than I can.
  9. aztec

    aztec Guest

    Hey guys, well imho if you have the budget, there are loads of stuff you need to buy to open up/extend a mastering studio.

    ("Quality-Premium") AD/DA, EQ, Compression, Dejitter, Denoiser ( for restoration ) and probably better monitors ... I think its better to have a minimal signal flow with some good ad/da, eq/compress and some decent monitors for starters.

    Weiss is well known to produce quality equipment and their gear is being used in most "top-notch" mastering houses. Their stuff is quite expensive though and out of reach for my budget.

    Link : http://www.weiss.ch/gambit.html

    If you add acoustic treatment to the budget as well, the budget is getting a bit higher than estimated.

    Take care
  10. GregP

    GregP Guest

    There's a huge difference between mastering and creating an acceptable "final mix".
  11. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Distinguished Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    Sorry to disagree and this is not a FLAME but

    What you are doing is not in any sense of the word "MASTERING" but you and everyone else who does cheap "insert what ever word you want to call it" can do a lot of damage to the reputation of the whole mastering community.

    If you ever get the chance to go to a real mastering studio and listen to what they are doing on their equipment with their monitoring system you will start to understand that what you are doing with a $300 program and a non treated room with some consumer speakers is not mastering. I'm sorry to say but you can't even properly judge what you are listening to let alone make improvement that will make the material sound better.

    You may be able to do some of the things that a mastering engineer can do like fades and spacing of songs but to call what you are doing mastering is ludicrous and if your clients can't tell that what you are doing is not mastering then they deserve exactly what you are providing for them.

    If you are happy doing what you are doing then do it. But if you are providing this as a service and charging for it then your clients are not getting a true mastering job on top quality equipment in a really great monitoring environment and you are calling yourself something that you are not - a mastering engineer.

    Sorry to be harsh but those are the fact of life.
  12. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Sep 12, 2002
    NYC New York
    Home Page:
    For $15k, you can build a bedroom mastering studio and master no budget projects, but they'll probably do it themselves anyway, so there's no market there. If I only had $15k and had to make a decission about what to spend it on, I'd look at plunking it into what you are already doing instead of doing a lot of things badly. I always felt that doing one thing better than others rather than doing a lot of things not as good as others is the way to go. When I look around at the people in this biz that last and make money, they do one thing and they do it well. The others come and go like interns who want to hang out with warrant. I'm not saying you can't do it, but who in their right mind would pay you for it? This isn't a dis, just approaching it like a client might.

    Mastering with reason isn't mastering. I'm sorry. That's like saying i'm a composer and I use garage band, my grandma can't tell the difference. Or, i'm a filmaker because I shot a video of my nephew on my camcorder.
  13. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Feb 10, 2001

    Listen to Michael. If you've only been engineering for two years and you have 15k then just upgrade your studio tracking and mixing wise. Unless you are really focused on mastering. Back in the day studios used to start people out mastering b.c if they screwed it up it wouldn't be the end of the world, they could go again. Now it seems that it is the most misunderstood part of the process. Mastering is as complex a process as mixing and/or recording. Here's what I tell my clients who are new to the recording process: "Not everyone can afford great tracking and mixing, but everyone can afford great mastering." The going rates for the big guys is about $10 a linear minute in my town, or some might charge a flat $100 bucks a song. I've been a tracking engineer full-time for 4 years, mixing for about 2, and about 8 years working part time and I have never and most likely will attempt to master.
  14. headchem

    headchem Guest

    To start out, I have the feeling that some people think that I was only talking about a good final mix, and not about mastering. To clarify, these are the devices and processes I use when mastering within Reason 3.0:

    multi-band compressors, stereo imagers, high frequency harmonic enhancers, master reverb, dynamic filtering, upward expanders, plus all the usual devices: compression with side chain input, EQ, limiter, volume maximizer with soft clip. I'm currently working on a Reason patch to emulate the sound of the Vitalizer hardware.

    Now, on to the debate. :) I know experts are passionate, and I really do appreciate your input.

    Yes, they are! Business 101: If you want higher profits, don't raise prices, rather cut your costs.

    My girlfriend can't either, despite my attempts at teaching her... :) For that matter, neither can 99% of my target audience. If I marketed my CDs to mastering engineers, sure, my masters are horrible. Luckily, I've decided that a target demographic of mastering engineers is too limiting and too demanding an audience.

    No one but mastering engineers cares about that level of quality. No one but mastering engineers can even hear that level of quality. Mastering the business of subtlety, and subtlety isn't noticed by the average ear. I'd bet $15,000 that your masters beat the socks off of my masters, but I'd also bet that people like our girlfriends wouldn't be able to tell the difference. People like our girlfriends are the consumers. The cost of improving a master from 'good enough' to 'professional grade' increases exponentially. $15,000 just so some professional mastering engineers will say, "that's a good master!"? I have better ways to spend my money.
  15. headchem

    headchem Guest

    I feel like this is a bit of an old school vs new school issue. It's not that I settle for crappy quality, I just have some relatively new technology (Reason 3.0) that allows me to get 'good enough' masters when previously I couldn't dream of having the cash for pro mastering gear. I think the devices and processes listed in my previous post is a decent list of gear. All I lack is a treated room and expensive monitors. But if I listen to reference material on my consumer speakers, and try to emulate the sound, will the result be close enough? I know answers to that question in this forum might be biased since if it is close enough, your jobs are suddenly threatened.
  16. headchem

    headchem Guest

    The same way musicians in the early part of the twentieth century felt when recording became possible. Their unions banned members from recording thinking it would put live musicians out of jobs.

    I’ve always wondered if there’s been any research on whether or not there is a significant psychological advantage to professionally mastered music when compared to ‘good enough’ mastered music to justify the costs of pro mastering. I haven’t charged anyone yet for my ‘good enough’ mastering services, but I feel like this cost-effective-for-the-quality method could fill a consumer demand in semi-professional recording.

    I really don't mean for this to be a flame or an attack on the usefulness of mastering engineers. The way technology is going, I think this is an important topic for everyone interested in mastering to discuss. I am perfectly willing to be convinced that my $300 methods really stand between me and a sucessful career. Let's hear the evidence! :)
  17. headchem

    headchem Guest

    Sorry for the split up posts, but there was some special character in one paragraph that wouldn't let me post, so I split it up to try and find the problem.
  18. aztec

    aztec Guest

    headchem . . . if you are happy with the results you are getting fine.

    This threads topic although is , how can this guy spend his 15k efficiently and there is no such process as side chaining in mastering.

    Move over "limiter/volume maximizer/compressor/expander" in which you are referring as separate things are the same piece of gear used in different settings !

    If you want to do a new vs old and cheap vs expensive or even software vs hardware talk i suggest you do it in another thread maybe ? :>

    You may also consider that most people here are not trying to flame you to death but instead, help out based on the years of experience they have from working in the field.

  19. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Nov 25, 2005
    Headchem-- Depends on your market. Do you really think "So" would have sold as much as it did if it hadn't been mastered to that level of quality? This is just my opinion but I say there's no chance.

    To me there's absolutely no question whatsoever that a motivated mastering engineer with masterful skills can *always* make a project better than it was. Whether or not your specific audience will notice is dependent on your audience, but if you want to make albums that other producers rave about then there's no question that a good mastering engineer is one key component.

    On the other side of the coin, if you are making indy albums on a tight budget then you will obviously derive more dollar value by just doing a really good mix and using your mastering budget for marketing instead. There's no question about that. It all comes down to what you're trying to achieve. :cool:
  20. headchem

    headchem Guest

    You're right Aztec, this probably should have been a separate thread... It was one of the spur-of-the-moment $15,000?! That's crazy, so I'll see what these people think if I suggest $300... I think it is good, though, to try to put this $15,000 into perspective for the more philosohhpical thinkers out there.

    If the admins don't mind, I'm going to copy my long posts and put them in a new thread, if anyone wants to continue this discussion. So everyone responding to me, please use the new thread I'm about to make...

    Sorry to distract all the big spenderz! ;-)
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