Looking for a simple mastering suite

revnice1

Member
I have no experience with mastering except one try. I found that mastering changes the mix!

I'd spent hours getting that mix just as I wanted it, constantly tweaking everything as I went. So do you mix, trying to anticipate how mastering will change it? I don't get it.

I've never understood why you can't use a multiband compressor to control the peaks and then simply raise the level for the destination media, thus preserving the mix.

Any words, links or really complicated and difficult articles that will only serve to baffle me further, will be much appreciated.

Thanks - rev
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
I think you're falling into the trap that cheap and easily available plugins have sprung.

Mastering, in the traditional sense was a necessary process to ensure that the distribution medium did not compromise the music - by looking at available dynamic range, frequency response and other features. They'd tweak the mix to try to retain the sound, when it needed to be squeezed onto media that would compromise it.

Now, mastering is another word for squeezing extra level onto the media, and in my humble opinion, if your mix sounds great, then what exactly will mastering be doing? making it better? I doubt it. Mastering can still sort out mixes that have been done badly, with band splitting and then multi band processing, to perhaps compensate for a bass heavy or bass light mix done in a studio with less good monitoring, but if you intend to master your own mixes, you've probably already have done it. My mix is complete when I'm happy. I then do NOT wish to change it. What I do do - is check the levels match, so if I have say, three loud tracks and one quiet one, or busy mixes with loads of sounds up against a vocal and piano track, I want to sort the levels out so people don't need to touch the volume control at their end. So a quiet track sandwiched between two loud ones must be at the right level, and that's difficult to do as a part of the mix - because at that point, I'm not listening to the others.

For me, this is 'mastering'. I won't be changing the dynamics and I won't be changing EQ or processing. If my mix is done, then why would I want to then change it?

Mastering is valid to get tracks at the right loudness for certain distribution pathways. I just don't see it as something separate for home produced mixes. I do see it work when the product is produced in studio A, but still needs work for distribution. My problem with current 'mastering' is that it is seen as a change in the sound process. People chasing LUFS, or wanting to add 'something'. Real mastering studios have really good acoustics that allow really detailed listening - only in this case would I want them changing the sound. If you sit down to master on the same speakers as you used for the mix, why didn't you just mix better?
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
I'm with Rob on this one.

When I grew up, the Mastering Engineer was the person that made sure the music would fit on the target media, which 99.9% of the time was a vinyl record. There were lots of things to be considered. Too strong of a bass level and the grooves would need to be too wide, which limited the amount of playback time of the record. It also risked having excursions which were so wild that the needle would be thrown from the groove. Next, the engineer would make sure the levels were high enough to overcome the inherent surface noise. The average LP has a dynamic range of 55-65dB. A studio tape probably had more range than that, so some compression would be applied to make it fit into the limitation.

The engineer applied the RIAA equalization curve, made sure the songs would fit in the bounds of the albums side, and probably ran the cutting lathe to make sure everything was done properly. There might be a couple of different versions, one for LP, one for a 7" single since the ability of each was slightly different. You really didn't have to worry about radio, since most stations would take a single, run it through an EQ, compressor and limiter to make sure it fit within that station's parameters, which was often geared to keep things louder than the road noise in your car!

Many of those limitations were removed when CD and hi resolution audio were introduced. However, a funny thing happened... the idea that louder is better became the target. You have a system which can hold 96dB or more of audio range, but the music has been squashed down to use a quarter of that. That led to the loudness wars, and when the various streaming services came into existence, the idea of mastering to optimize for each platform took hold. So now you need a version with -6LUFS for CD, -14 for Spotify, -16 for Apple, -11to15 for Youtube, etc.....

This became the target.

Master target.jpg

There's no reason that you can't have a CD with a -16 LUFS or even -20LUFS if you have a lot of dynamic range. It won't sound as loud as your typical AC/DC song, but for a singer songwriter track, or a classical piano/violin concerto or a symphony, it can be perfectly appropriate. Gustav Holst's The Planets wasn't written to fit into a -11 LUFS pigeon hole. Yeah, it probably won't be good for background music while you are running the vacuum, or cutting grass since half of the music will be buried in noise. But if you want to sit down and listen to MUSIC, it's perfectly valid.
 

Papanate

Active member
I have no experience with mastering except one try. I found that mastering changes the mix!

I'd spent hours getting that mix just as I wanted it, constantly tweaking everything as I went. So do you mix, trying to anticipate how mastering will change it? I don't get it.

I've never understood why you can't use a multiband compressor to control the peaks and then simply raise the level for the destination media, thus preserving the mix.

Any words, links or really complicated and difficult articles that will only serve to baffle me further, will be much appreciated.

Thanks - rev


You can kind of use a Multiband - but it won't get you there. Generally when a Mastering Engineer listens to your mix it's about corrections - fixing the sonics - then maybe enhancement. Different engineers will do different things - some you may love others you feel like it's a changed song.
 

Massive Master

www.massivemastering.com
I've never understood why you can't use a multiband compressor to control the peaks and then simply raise the level for the destination media, thus preserving the mix.
I don't think I've ever seen "maul-the-band (multi-band) compressor" and "preserving the mix" in the same paragraph.

If you're trying to preserve the mix, the last thing you want to do is run it through a multi-band compressor...
 
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