Mastering - why does so much of it suck?

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sublemon
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Mastering - why does so much of it suck?

Post by sublemon » Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:46 pm

I buy a lot of indie rock type music. Why is it mastered so poorly with terrible dynamics, especially on CD? I assume many Tapeop readers are professionals and are responsible for many of the records i like to buy. Do you mastering folks listen to this stuff? Brickwalled, over compressed, etc is the norm. Many CDs current commercial CDs with pathetic DR rating of 7 or less. Vinyl versions are somewhat better, usually.

As a "musician" and amateur recordist, I am easily able to get nice dynamic mixes from my modest setup, even using some mixbus compression. I still get my stuff as redbook CD with DR ratings in the 12-14 range, better than even the vinyl editions of many things. Yeah, some "pro" stuff may have more detail or frequency range, but my self done mixes/masters sound great, are definitely way less fatiguing, sound better when cranked up, and have better soundstage and imaging (which suffer when the material is over compressed or brickwalled IMO). Why would I ever user a professional mastering service? Why do you pros continue to damage the music you are working on??

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I am actually not trolling

Post by sublemon » Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:03 pm

Seriously want to know what many mastering engineers are thinking and why anyone who cared about the sound quality of their music would want to use mastering engineers, at least for digital releases...

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Post by kslight » Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:18 pm

Because like you, the mastering engineer needs to pay bills at the end of the day and when the client wants to compete volume-wise with the latest Muse/Red Hot Chili Peppers/Foo Fighters/whatever record, you just have to let go of caring about dynamics and make it compressed as hell. Been there, done that.

I doubt many mastering engineers got into it because they want to destroy the mix and to assume that is ignorant.

Nobody buys music anyway and they listen to it on their iDevice so does it even matter? (sarcasm)

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Post by dfuruta » Thu Apr 04, 2013 5:04 pm

most likely because the people paying the ME's bill don't know their asses from their faces. every mastering engineer i've worked with has been happy to hear i want dynamic range.

you should use a professional mastering service because you likely don't realize the flaws in your own work, and someone else will be better able to point them out and fix them for you.

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Post by fossiltooth » Thu Apr 04, 2013 5:05 pm

Attempting to answer this question properly would take me about 2500 words.....













......So here you go: http://trustmeimascientist.com/2012/04/ ... dness-war/

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Post by chris harris » Thu Apr 04, 2013 5:15 pm

dfuruta wrote:you should use a professional mastering service because you likely don't realize the flaws in your own work, and someone else will be better able to point them out and fix them for you.
Yep. Perspective. You could use some.

Good luck!

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Post by GlowSounds » Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:14 pm

Ugh. Brickwalling is so early 2000s. Personally I like to great-wall-of-china my mixes

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Re: Mastering - why does so much of it suck?

Post by Nick Sevilla » Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:51 pm

sublemon wrote:I buy a lot of indie rock type music. Why is it mastered so poorly with terrible dynamics, especially on CD? I assume many Tapeop readers are professionals and are responsible for many of the records i like to buy. Do you mastering folks listen to this stuff? Brickwalled, over compressed, etc is the norm. Many CDs current commercial CDs with pathetic DR rating of 7 or less. Vinyl versions are somewhat better, usually.

As a "musician" and amateur recordist, I am easily able to get nice dynamic mixes from my modest setup, even using some mixbus compression. I still get my stuff as redbook CD with DR ratings in the 12-14 range, better than even the vinyl editions of many things. Yeah, some "pro" stuff may have more detail or frequency range, but my self done mixes/masters sound great, are definitely way less fatiguing, sound better when cranked up, and have better soundstage and imaging (which suffer when the material is over compressed or brickwalled IMO). Why would I ever user a professional mastering service? Why do you pros continue to damage the music you are working on??
And that is part of the problem. The ignorance of the definition of a term is partly to blame for why people get their mixes squished to heck and back again.
You cannot have fully dynamic mixes when you are compressing them.
You do NOT use a compressor to get e more dynamic mix, but to get a LESS dynamic mix.
I am talking about dynamic RANGE. As in, a compressor will reduce the size of this dynamic range.

Next time you say you used a compressor on a mix, please refer to it as a less dynamic mix, because that is the truth of it.

Cheers
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

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Post by Gregg Juke » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:57 pm

Jeff? Jeff is that you?

Seriously-- There's good and bad ME's, just like there's good and bad anything/everything. And, "the state of the art" is what it is, and in the end, what the client wants is what they get. Assuming you really weren't trolling, the reason you'd want a good ME should be obvious; don't just trust anyone because they hang a shingle that says "Mastering Engineer."

One thing I did learn about vinyl though (new vinyl, that is)-- when a new project comes in, many mixers are not doing vinyl-specific mixes, and are also insisting on hot-as-possible vinyl masters, so a lot of the time, there is no "special mix" or "special master" created for each specific medium now days (which is the way it really should be done)-- the CD mix/master is the vinyl mix/master is the Mp3 mix/master.

GJ

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Post by Marc Alan Goodman » Fri Apr 05, 2013 7:42 am

So wait, you have copies of the unmastered records to compare?

What makes you think it's not the mix engineer? Or the tracking engineer? Or the band?

I'd say, as a group, mastering engineers are probably more concerned with maintaining dynamic range than anyone else in the world, track and mix engineers included. However they're still mastering records for clients who have their own opinions. Almost every time I work with a band that doesn't have a lot of studio experience they send me the masters and ask if I think it's loud enough. They're probably calling the mastering engineer twenty times and asking the same question. It's only the bands that are made up of engineers or part time engineers or home recording enthusiasts who care about the dynamic range at all.

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Post by drumsound » Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:10 am

I've got to agree with my esteemed colleagues and put the a BIG part of the blame in the client's laps. Keep in mind "client" doesn't always mean "artist." If there's a label, or even a band manager involved things can go south, REALLY easily. The suits are about sales, numbers and trends. Music is FAR from their top priority. Add to that misinformed musicians, girlfriends, roadies (i.e, buddies who want to go to the shows for so they schlep gear) and the like and you end up with Mastering Engineers who often have their hands tied.

I use 2 Mastering Engineers, mainly. They know what I want out of a master, and I've usually had a discussion with the artist about mastering. It's rare that I have them do more than 1 or 2 simple tweaks in revision. Though one of them often forgets to keep me in the reference copy loop, (cough cough) I still don't worry about his masters.

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Post by Jeff White » Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:45 am

I have to agree with folks on here regarding it's what the clients want. They want to compete with everything else. They want the end listener to not raise a red flag over loud = good = professional= whatever.

I am definitely getting mixes that are squished beforehand. I am definitely asked about loudness vs. other records. I've had the conversation a zillion times. It's the way modern digital recording/mixing/mastering is, hate to say it. It's not just a trendy indie rock thing.

Most of the stuff that I buy and listen to is vinyl, and I have an undying love for the 1960s and 1970s. Talk about dynamic range. Unfortunately, I just don't see things going back to that "sound" unless there is a serious shift in attitude in the buying/listening public. I don't imagine that is going to ever happen. Digital is the playback medium of choice due to convenience. Loudness, or rather, everything being just as loud as everything else, is also convenient. So there you go.

Jeff
I record, mix, and master in my Philly-based home studio, the Spacement. http://jeffwhiteaudio.com/

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Re: Mastering - why does so much of it suck?

Post by sublemon » Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:15 am

Nick Sevilla wrote:
And that is part of the problem. The ignorance of the definition of a term is partly to blame for why people get their mixes squished to heck and back again.
You cannot have fully dynamic mixes when you are compressing them.
You do NOT use a compressor to get e more dynamic mix, but to get a LESS dynamic mix.
I am talking about dynamic RANGE. As in, a compressor will reduce the size of this dynamic range.

Next time you say you used a compressor on a mix, please refer to it as a less dynamic mix, because that is the truth of it.

Cheers
I said, I can still get better dynamics, even (depite) using some compression on the mix. Not to get more dynamics.

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Post by chris harris » Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:21 am

Gregg Juke wrote:One thing I did learn about vinyl though (new vinyl, that is)-- when a new project comes in, many mixers are not doing vinyl-specific mixes, and are also insisting on hot-as-possible vinyl masters, so a lot of the time, there is no "special mix" or "special master" created for each specific medium now days (which is the way it really should be done)-- the CD mix/master is the vinyl mix/master is the Mp3 mix/master.
That's true. So many people just send the CD master to the plant to have someone who doesn't give a shit cut a lacquer from the CD master. Ooof.

In the end, sending the cutting engineer a loud master is useless anyway. The person cutting the lacquer has the ultimate control over how loud your master is cut into the lacquer. Sending them a super hot CD master just means that they'll likely turn it down when cutting the lacquer. To me, that's the best thing about mastering for a vinyl release. It has nothing to do with LOUDNESS, and everything to do with the overall sound and sequence. I LOVE prepping masters for "flat cut" lacquer transfers.

FWIW, the mastering on the new My Bloody Valentine album is absolutely gloriously beautiful. Particularly the (separate) vinyl master! It's so wonderful sounding!

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Post by sublemon » Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:25 am

Jeff White wrote:I have to agree with folks on here regarding it's what the clients want. They want to compete with everything else. They want the end listener to not raise a red flag over loud = good = professional= whatever.

I am definitely getting mixes that are squished beforehand. I am definitely asked about loudness vs. other records. I've had the conversation a zillion times. It's the way modern digital recording/mixing/mastering is, hate to say it. It's not just a trendy indie rock thing.

Most of the stuff that I buy and listen to is vinyl, and I have an undying love for the 1960s and 1970s. Talk about dynamic range. Unfortunately, I just don't see things going back to that "sound" unless there is a serious shift in attitude in the buying/listening public. I don't imagine that is going to ever happen. Digital is the playback medium of choice due to convenience. Loudness, or rather, everything being just as loud as everything else, is also convenient. So there you go.

Jeff
It's just sad because dynamics still sound good. Even on more current or "modern" sounding music. And, you can hace dynamics and still get the postivie characteristics of compression IMO. I't also sad because at least with digital, there is simple software to make everything just as loud, if that's what you want (replaygain, etc).

I understand what people are saying about the ME needs to make money, and it is often the not their fault. But maybe there is an opportunity here. Some people care about the SQ still. Maybe MEs/Studios could sell a service where clients get a *good* master and a crushed one. Then they could use the good o9ne on the physical release, and the crushed one on the download/radio version, etc. I mean, people who are still buying physical media a more likely to care about sound quality. And it probably wouldn't have to cost that much. Do a good dynamic master, then just run it through the brickwall/loudness plugin or whatever you all use for making these masters that get released these days...

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