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Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites
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kingtoad
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 7:37 pm    Post subject: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

Hi all,

Over the past year or so my primary focus has become mastering. I have been, thankfully, relatively busy, but still need to get around to including some A/B samples on my website. Having listened to simlar sections of other mastering studio/engineer's websites, they seem to never be level matched.

As any mastering engineer knows, this basically makes the A/B comparison completely useless in terms of evaluating the quality of the job. The problem is, I don't feel like I can level match the A/B comparisons on my website while (it seems) no one else is doing it. It makes my work seem inferior to the untrained ear.

What are the community's thoughts on this? I considered posting this on the Mastering forum at Gearslutz but decided against it as I am sure I would have ended up infuriated in some way.
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Nick Sevilla
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

Hi,

In order to make it accurate, you do need to have the before as you got it, and the after as you did it.

Even if the levels are different.

After all, some of what you do is precisely making the mixes louder, or am I incorrect?

Cheers
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chris harris
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 11:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

Most of the time, how you make it loud, and how the mix translates beyond this process is what the client is interested in. Level matching is fine for scientific or academic analysis. If you want to show clients what you can do, give them a true before and after.
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Z-Plane
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 11:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

No. In a mastering house the ME will always try to match levels when providing you with an A/B.

Ever notice how this whole before and after thing seems inversely proportional to how successful the mastering facility really is?
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Nick Sevilla
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 2:53 am    Post subject: Re: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

Z-Plane wrote:
No. In a mastering house the ME will always try to match levels when providing you with an A/B.

Ever notice how this whole before and after thing seems inversely proportional to how successful the mastering facility really is?


Hi,
I have never been presented with an "A/B"option.
And I would also add I would never ask for one either.
Trust is important. If you work with someone, you should be able to trust them,or else go somewhere else.
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cgarges
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 3:25 am    Post subject: Re: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

I wish more mastering engineers WOULD A/B stuff level-matched. Then they might realize what a shitty job most of them are doing.

By the way, every session I've ever attended with a truly great mastering engineer involved some attempt at a level-matched comparison while working. And yes, sometimes it DOES sound worse and they start over. The good ones do.

Why not provide an A/B/C comparison? Be a trend-setter. If I ran across that on a mastering engineer's site, I'd be psyched that the guy thought of it.

Chris Garges
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kingtoad
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 6:58 am    Post subject: Re: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

Thanks for all the replies. I find it amazing that there are MEs out there not level matching while working!

Perhaps an A/B/C comparison could be the way to go. I would have to consider the best way to do it, though.

Keep the replies coming if anyone has any more thoughts.
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Gregg Juke
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 7:11 am    Post subject: Re: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

I would do exactly what you initially wanted to (volume-matched A/B), _along_ with wording describing the dilemma and why you chose to post the A/B as such. If you think showing-off volume boosting is important (which most anyone can do with Sound-Forge or a Steinberg plug-in), make it an A/B/C as you mentioned. But I think a simple volume-matched A/B, with an explanantion that you can also add an appropriate amount of overall level increase would be sufficient.

GJ
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kingtoad
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 8:23 am    Post subject: Re: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

You see, Gregg, that's kind of what I wanted to do, but sad as it may be I'm not sure that a lot of people will either read or understand the explanation. It's a horrible thing to say but I feel like I would be giving my "competitors" (which is what they are despite us getting along famously and hoping that each others businesses do well) a big advantage.
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joelpatterson
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 8:45 am    Post subject: Re: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

Well then, go the other route: take the original and run it through a telephone, post that, and then post the final mastered mix.

(You can explain what you did, in some extremely fine print... uh-oh, here I go again, joking around and risking my very existence on the board... actually, I don't see the difference between pre- and post- as being so crucial, and in that I may depart from the vast majority of my peers... as long as the post- is dynamic and exciting and enthralling and thrilling. The differences could be-- maybe should be-- kind of subtle, as long as the post- has that indefinable something that makes you want to hear it again and again.)
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chris harris
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 9:33 am    Post subject: Re: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

Do the "truly great mastering engineers" and "successful mastering facilities" even post any samples on their websites? Depending on your definition, I'm probably not "truly great" or even "successful". But, my clients are always happy. And, that makes me feel pretty "successful". I OBVIOUSLY (no shit....) do level-matched A/B comparisons as part of my mastering process. But, I've never had a client ask for this kind of comparison, and I've just never felt inclined to share it with them. I think it kind of implies that you lack confidence about whether or not the work you just did is worth the money, and you're making an attempt to prove your value to the client.

If every client has the mindset that "oh, I can just make it loud in SoundForge" or some other such bullshit, then I guess I can see needing to prove myself to the clients. I know that mastering is about so much more than just making things loud. But, the brutal reality is that the vast majority of mastering clients ONLY CARE about how loud you can make it, and whether or not you fuck up their audio in the process.

I don't post "samples"... I find that they're usually always irrelevant to the very specific, individual nature of every single project. If clients contact me with confusion or skepticism about what mastering is, I offer to do a song for free to show them the difference between a mastered and unmastered track. And, I explain that the mastering is really about taking their individual mixes and making sure they all sound like they belong on the same album.

Again, level-matched A/B comparisons are obviously an important part of achieving a good master. But, most clients don't care about them or even understand why they would be presented with something other than an accurate before/after comparison. I should note that most of my mastering clients are artists and not other engineers.

Then again, as an engineer, I've never asked for or received a level-matched A/B comparison of work that I've paid for. When I receive a master, I just listen to it. If I like it, I like it. I don't need proof that they did more than just limiting. I feel like asking for it would be an accusation that they didn't do enough.

You guys would all prefer the level matched master to sound almost exactly like your mix, right? If not, maybe your mix isn't finished....

If the level matched master sounded almost exactly like your mix, would you feel cheated?
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cgarges
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 11:12 am    Post subject: Re: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

chris harris wrote:
Do the "truly great mastering engineers" and "successful mastering facilities" even post any samples on their websites?


Well, that's a good point, too. I do think, however, that more and more mastering places are having more involved websites, just because more people are starting to get a grip on the process. It used to just be this black magic voodoo thing that happened when you sent it off to some guy. To a lot of people, it still is.

chris harris wrote:
But, I've never had a client ask for this kind of comparison, and I've just never felt inclined to share it with them.


I've certainly asked to hear it when I've attended a session. I don't ask for it if I'm sending something off because if I really want to hear it like that, I can do it myself.

I don't think that's what we're talking about here, though. I think (and corerect me if I'm wrong, kingtoad) that kingtoad just wants to post the samples as a basic example of the process, probbaly as how it relates to the explanations on his site.

chris harris wrote:
I don't post "samples"... I find that they're usually always irrelevant to the very specific, individual nature of every single project.


Agreed, although they can be helpful if the explanations are thorough enough.

chris harris wrote:
You guys would all prefer the level matched master to sound almost exactly like your mix, right? If not, maybe your mix isn't finished....

If the level matched master sounded almost exactly like your mix, would you feel cheated?


Not me! I usually want it to sound a bit different. I'm not THAT good and the rooms I mix in all have their quirks. The tricky part is finding someone who knows how much different it needs to be.

Chris Garges
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kingtoad
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 11:22 am    Post subject: Re: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

cgarges wrote:
chris harris wrote:
Do the "truly great mastering engineers" and "successful mastering facilities" even post any samples on their websites?


chris harris wrote:
But, I've never had a client ask for this kind of comparison, and I've just never felt inclined to share it with them.


I've certainly asked to hear it when I've attended a session. I don't ask for it if I'm sending something off because if I really want to hear it like that, I can do it myself.

I don't think that's what we're talking about here, though. I think (and corerect me if I'm wrong, kingtoad) that kingtoad just wants to post the samples as a basic example of the process, probbaly as how it relates to the explanations on his site.



That's correct, Chris. I am not providing A/B samples of every song I am mastering to clients, I am merely aiming to give a basic overview of the difference the process can make. As I said before, I am getting a decent amount of work, but a couple of A/B examples on the website is something that enough people have suggested for me to consider having them.
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chris harris
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 11:32 am    Post subject: Re: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

if it's just to give a little explanation about what mastering is, then I'd suggest posting all three samples... before, after, and level-matched after.

I'm hosting a discussion with local home-recordists about what mastering is at my studio in a couple of weeks. And, I'm sure that I'll show all three samples.
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cgarges
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2011 11:44 am    Post subject: Re: Level matching of A/B samples on mastering websites Reply with quote

chris harris wrote:
if it's just to give a little explanation about what mastering is, then I'd suggest posting all three samples... before, after, and level-matched after.


Yeah, I really do think that's the best bet. Although I'd post them in an order where you get the original mix, the level-matched master (to make a point about what's actually going on sonically), then the master at full volume, to illustrate loudness after the other changes have been demonstrated.

Chris Garges
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