mastering, limiter, diy.

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gathernogloss
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mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by gathernogloss » Tue Mar 09, 2021 5:34 pm

mastering, no matter how much I read or watch, has been the most mysterious part of this journey of self recording.
constantly putting out stuff that is so noticeabley quiet is a reoccurring nightmare. I've tried outsourcing, either comes back about the same volume and a bit more compressed or just soulesslysmashed in a blob of a wave form.

once I was talking to a musical hero of mine- attic abasement- about his cult classic bedroom album "dancing is depressing" and the process of mastering. he gave me a somewhat cryptic answer,of course, that I've been unable to shake
"a super diy way to master is to just run it through a limiter"

it's stuck with me because it was a good sounding lo fi project that you could really crank in a car when the mood struck.
I experimented fairly tirelessly with a limiter in a very old version of protools and ended up with nothing worth writing mom about.

what I ask is- is there an easy everymans way to master, some general settings, some attainable piece of outboard gear(computer is ancient not sure if can add plugins) in hopes of just smoothin things out and gettin perceived volume up a bit or does a guy have to spend his whole stimulus check at a fancy brooklyn studio in order for his friends to be able to crank the next album in their Toyota Camry ?

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A.David.MacKinnon
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Re: mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Tue Mar 09, 2021 5:59 pm

See if you can find an old demo of the Massey L2001 limiter. It's exactly what youre discribing. It's made for pro tools and is easy to use and transparent. Not sure what version your running but I've used it in version 6 and it was fine.. The demo is full featured. You just can't save your settings with the session. Write them in the track notes and dial them in when you open the session again.

Beyond that, I'd suggest finding the "right" mastering engineer for your work. It costs some money but it doesn't have to be unreasonable. A good ME will talk over your project before starting. What you think are strengths and want to keep intact. What you're unsure about. What you aren't happy with in the mix. It doesn't have to be adversarial or mysterious. They're there to help you finalize your vision as you envisioned it.

I've used a bunch of folks over the years but I currently send most of my work to Andy Magoffin at the House of Miracles. We have a similar aesthetic and have worked together long enough that we know what to expect from each other. He's also good about requesting a mix revisions if there's somewhere he's trying to get in the master but the mix is holding it back (like say the vocal is a touch too dark but fixing it in mastering has a detrimental effect on the rest of the mix). It's a relationship I value and his is an option I value. Our back and forth has made me a better engineer and mixer.

Theres someone like that out the for you. You just have to find them.

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Re: mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by numberthirty » Tue Mar 09, 2021 7:29 pm

Just gonna take a couple of seconds to point out that...

- MoreSpaceEcho post on here.

- I believe that MoreSpaceEcho may just be in the "Mastering..." game.

- Also seems like he was just mentioning SketchCassette a little while back.

https://aberrantdsp.com/plugins/sketchcassette/

Might just be a sympathetic option.

Just sayin'.

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Re: mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by losthighway » Tue Mar 09, 2021 8:39 pm

I self mastered everything for years, even my own band's albums that we spent hundreds of hours on. The way I did it was to use whatever limiter plugin to make it 'pretty loud'.

Old bandmates and label dudes have been getting nostalgic while everyone's cooped up and they've been passing around old music, or discussing it and getting me excited to take a trip down memory lane.

I really wish I'd gotten all of that stuff properly mastered.

When I pay someone to master something I'm getting a room that is tuned better than my control room, a pair of ears that hasn't been listening to the recording forever (and has a more scientific feel for the frequency spectrum/balance), and a person with a mastery of a variety of tools to subtly enhance and correct issues in my mix.

But yeah, you can make shit loud with a limiter.

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Re: mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Wed Mar 10, 2021 8:07 am

gathernogloss wrote:
Tue Mar 09, 2021 5:34 pm
is there an easy everymans way to master, some general settings, some attainable piece of outboard gear(computer is ancient not sure if can add plugins) in hopes of just smoothin things out and gettin perceived volume up a bit or does a guy have to spend his whole stimulus check at a fancy brooklyn studio in order for his friends to be able to crank the next album in their Toyota Camry ?
Nope. Sorry.

The everymans way to master is indeed to just run it through a limiter. You can pick up the TDR Limiter #6 for like $50, which will still leave you $1350 in your stimulus check to spend on weed, a new computer, or getting your Camry fixed. (I had a 1986 Camry when I was in college. Great car, cranked many an album in that thing. Sold it back in the mid 90s and bought a Mackie 24x8 with the proceeds. True story.)

Anything outboard worth getting is gonna cost 2x your stimulus check so forget that. You don't need it, you can do great work with just plugins.

There's no general settings at all. If all your mixes sound exactly the same then yeah, what works on one will work on another, but obviously this is never the case. Some mixes are really boomy, some are really thin and shrill, some are all bloated in the midrange, some are all scooped out.

Anyway. A limiter will bring the level up, but the real key to mastering is eq, and you really need a good room/monitors to accurately hear what you're doing. A fresh perspective on the mixes is just as important if not more but we'll leave that aside for now.

Why's eq so important? Easy example: say your mix has way too much sub, which you can't hear because you're mixing on little monitors, like most people. When you slap a limiter on that mix to bring the level up, the subs are gonna be what trigger the limiter first. So you have these out-of-proportion frequencies setting off the limiter when they shouldn't be, and you're basically working against yourself.

I dunno if I explained that very well but you want to fix the eq before hitting the limiter (or anything else, really), or you'll never really get the perceived level you want. It'll look loud on the meters and the waveform will be a brick but it won't sound as loud as other things.

There's so, so much more to mastering than just making shit loud. De-essing can be super important. Peaky, painful high mids are a very common problem. You gotta fix that shit if you want your record to sound nice. No one's going to care how loud your record is if they're getting stabbed with 2.7k icepicks.

But you gotta start somewhere so start with an eq and a limiter. Bypass buttons are your friend. As are level-matched comparisons with the original mix.

Also, sketch cassette is a great plugin, but definitely not for mastering!

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Re: mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by digitaldrummer » Wed Mar 10, 2021 8:30 am

Massey plugins is still around -- https://masseyplugins.com/plugins -- even some Windows AAX support now for people like me.

I typically use the Slate Digital VBC (virtual bus compressors) and FG-X (mastering limiter). I've used the Massey L2001 (I own it) and I've used the Brainworx BX_masterdesk (although I have the UAD "classic" version which is sort of a "light" version). and some EQ. Way back when used to use Izotope Ozone and Waves L2 (which definitely makes it louder, but...).

I typically do my own mastering, or do it for others, because nobody budgets for more than that. And I may be weird but I find after basic tracking, I start mixing and "mastering" at the same time because the plugins are part of the overall sound (mix).
Last edited by digitaldrummer on Wed Mar 10, 2021 11:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by Recycled_Brains » Wed Mar 10, 2021 8:52 am

I'm going to be the guy that says, find a real mastering engineer (like morespaceecho, not your friend who "masters") and pay them to do the work. It is very worth it and there are a handful of great engineers that won't empty your bank account or fuck with your stuff and make it a solid block of loud shit. There is good reason to send your stuff to someone who has meticulously curated their equipment and have dedicated acoustic spaces for this stuff. It's also invaluable to get that outside perspective. Mastering engineers listen to things differently than we do. They hear the forest. We hear the trees.

Also, the whole competitively loud thing, as an indy artist.... fuck all that. They put volume knobs on stereos for a reason.
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Re: mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by gathernogloss » Wed Mar 10, 2021 9:54 am

Recycled_Brains wrote:
Wed Mar 10, 2021 8:52 am
I'm going to be the guy that says, find a real mastering engineer (like morespaceecho, not your friend who "masters") and pay them to do the work. It is very worth it and there are a handful of great engineers that won't empty your bank account or fuck with your stuff and make it a solid block of loud shit. There is good reason to send your stuff to someone who has meticulously curated their equipment and have dedicated acoustic spaces for this stuff. It's also invaluable to get that outside perspective. Mastering engineers listen to things differently than we do. They hear the forest. We hear the trees.

Also, the whole competitively loud thing, as an indy artist.... fuck all that. They put volume knobs on stereos for a reason.
I hear you on branching out,after looking at morespaceecho's website it looks like he's that dude.
and I never said anything about being competitively loud, I'm talking about how the volume knob is turned all the way up and you can't have the windows down and still have it cranking because it's so quiet from not trying to peak in your mix.
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Re: mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by Magnetic Services » Wed Mar 10, 2021 10:33 am

After doing the stuff everyone's described above, and easy way to hit a target loudness level is with Ozone's Maximizer module: https://www.izotope.com/en/products/ozo ... mizer.html

Enter a target level in LUFS (like the Spotify standard of -14), click "learn threshold," let your song play all the way through and then turn off learn threshold.

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Re: mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by Magnetic Services » Wed Mar 10, 2021 12:08 pm

Recycled_Brains wrote:
Wed Mar 10, 2021 8:52 am
I'm going to be the guy that says, find a real mastering engineer (like morespaceecho, not your friend who "masters") and pay them to do the work.
I've been that "friend who masters," and let me tell ya, I wish they'd gone with a pro instead.
Recycled_Brains wrote:
Wed Mar 10, 2021 8:52 am
They put volume knobs on stereos for a reason.
Also, this!!!!

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Re: mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by Recycled_Brains » Wed Mar 10, 2021 1:13 pm

Magnetic Services wrote:
Wed Mar 10, 2021 12:08 pm
I've been that "friend who masters," and let me tell ya, I wish they'd gone with a pro instead.
Me too. haha.

I get asked now and then. If it's a really close friend of mine and I know they're not going to pony up for a real mastering job either way, I will sweeten it up a bit, but I'd never call it mastering in any official way.
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Re: mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by Scodiddly » Wed Mar 10, 2021 2:12 pm

Magnetic Services wrote:
Wed Mar 10, 2021 10:33 am
After doing the stuff everyone's described above, and easy way to hit a target loudness level is with Ozone's Maximizer module: https://www.izotope.com/en/products/ozo ... mizer.html

Enter a target level in LUFS (like the Spotify standard of -14), click "learn threshold," let your song play all the way through and then turn off learn threshold.
See now, that's where an old live sound hack like myself starts getting glassy-eyed. But I have to occasionally gin up a track for use on a Zoom session and once or twice I've even mixed an empty-hall live show for streaming.

What are the current target specs for a "mastered" recording, and how does one figure that out using standard tools? I'm using Reaper on Linux and watched a 10-minute video about mastering practices, which did help a bit.

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Re: mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by Magnetic Services » Wed Mar 10, 2021 3:24 pm

Scodiddly wrote:
Wed Mar 10, 2021 2:12 pm
What are the current target specs for a "mastered" recording, and how does one figure that out using standard tools? I'm using Reaper on Linux and watched a 10-minute video about mastering practices, which did help a bit.
There's no one standard, but I mention the Spotify thing because that's the level that they normalize tracks to (I think that number is still current, but double check). So if your song is mastered super loud and someone puts it in a playlist with quieter songs, Spotify will turn your track down (and quieter tracks up) to hit an average loudness of -14 dB LUFS. That essentially undoes the "making it louder" you did with the limiter, so in the end all you've done is lost transients, if that makes sense. But, if you master your song at -14 in the first place, Spotify won't have to turn it up or down at all, so you can preserve the maximum amount of dynamics and know that it'll still sound loud enough. However, there's no normalization on platforms like Bandcamp, so -14 might sound a bit quiet there. But, like someone else said, that's why there's a volume control!

Here's a free loudness meter plugin (I haven't tried it, but I'm sure it does the job): https://youlean.co/youlean-loudness-meter/

Just remember that LUFS is average loudness over the course of the entire song, so you have to let it play through to get an accurate reading. The nice thing about the Ozone maximizer is you can just tell it how loud you want it and it will ride the limiter for you automatically.

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Re: mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by winky dinglehoffer » Wed Mar 10, 2021 8:49 pm

One more key, whether you're sending a track to an ME or using plugins, is to make your track sound as good as possible before mastering. Maybe that's getting rid of extraneous low end on certain tracks, or adjusting panning/levels/fx/whatever--dealing with all of that first is going to make the mastering job easier. It's certainly instructive (for me, at least) to listen to a mastered mix and ask myself how I could have made my mix better in order to make the final master sound better. One nice thing about mastering with plugins is that you can experiment repeateadly without annoying the shit out of another human being.

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Re: mastering, limiter, diy.

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Thu Mar 11, 2021 9:15 am

Scodiddly wrote:
Wed Mar 10, 2021 2:12 pm
What are the current target specs for a "mastered" recording, and how does one figure that out using standard tools?
There aren't any. It's whatever the client wants.

Regarding Spotify and the -14LUFS thing....just realize that -14LUFS is actually pretty quiet, like a Shellac record or your cds from the 80s. I have one or two regular clients who ask me to master their stuff to that level, and I do, but for most clients that would be way too quiet.

I'm in no way saying "you gotta smash your shit to be competitive" because ew, gross. I'm saying that even nice sounding mid 90s pre loudness war levels are louder than -14LUFS.

That Youlean meter is good. I have it, but never really use it. What most ME's do is work at a fixed monitoring level, meaning my volume knob is parked in one place. I know if I make it "loud enough" to me at that level in the room, it's going to be loud enough to make most clients happy, but not stupidly bricked and squashed. I have a variety of meters but I don't pay too much attention to them because I can just listen to things and decide.

There's a big thread on GS about this if you want to read more:
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/masteri ... ot-do.html

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