Mastering in the era of earbuds

notCardio

I walk the line
I'm assuming mastering has changed in the era of mp3s through earbuds.

Used to be, there were basically 2 masters, one for radio (assuming the car) and one for the home.

Now everything's either mp3, usually through earbuds, or cable TV, possibly through a soundbar.

So, how has this changed the game?
 

bouldersoundguy

<div><p>&nbsp;</p></div>
I don't recall radio-specific masters being a widespread phenomenon. Radio stations did their own processing on top of whatever was done to the LP to make their broadcasts consistent and loud.

Nowadays there might be a streaming master and a CD master, with the streaming one being about -14dBLUFS and the CD one being about -11 to -9dBLUFS. I tend to just make the streaming one and not bother with a CD master since I haven't made a CD in a while (other than one for a Celtic group for merch use).

One thing I do that does take earbuds into consideration is make the LF mono. In real life you never hear LF with just one ear. If it's in the air both ears hear it about the same. You don't have cross bleed in earbuds or headphones like you do on speakers so if there's panned LF it sounds weird. At around 300Hz and below there shouldn't be any panning. Coincidentally, LPs were mastered that way to keep the stylus from being launched laterally out of the groove, so vinyl would never have that LF problem in headphones.
 

Mickster

Well-known member
A lot of people I know play much of their music on their phone (mono of course) and devices like Amazon Echo......mono too. Single blue tooth mono speakers are common as well. The days where many people play their music over decent stereos of any sort are pretty much gone. Probably 90% of all people I know don't have a "stereo" system in their home. Too bad huh? So.......when I'm spending hour after hour trying to mix and master.........and listen back on my JBL's and my home Denon system......it's sobering to realize what my music is likely to actually be played on.
 

keith.rogers

Bobby'); DROP TABLE USER
Vinyl was also RIAA equalized so there really wasn't much [relative] LF content in the groove itself. I have heard a couple old recordings that were really unbalanced with bass on one side, drums on the other.

If you're mastering these days, it probably doesn't hurt to listen to it on earbuds or even a phone to make sure it travels well to those kinds of devices.
 

bouldersoundguy

<div><p>&nbsp;</p></div>
I'm definitely all for mono compatibility. It's just a good idea since you never know what your mix is going to get played on, and I happen to think it generally sounds better.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
I'm definitely all for mono compatibility. It's just a good idea since you never know what your mix is going to get played on, and I happen to think it generally sounds better.

:thumbs up:

People don't really think about mono these days, but if you are listening on an Alexa, or any number of little bluetooth monitors, you are getting a mono signal.

A mildly amusing story... back when I was working at the college AM radio station, I would often pull out some Hendrix. One night I put on Come On from Electric Ladyland. On the turntables, we had stereo cartridges but wired to mono. Did you know that solo for that song was out of phase? In stereo it doesn't matter, but depending on which turntable I used (one was apparently wired backwards), you either got a muted solo, or a really LOUD solo.

It sounded like this... 1st 15 seconds the normal mono , second 15 is reversed phased.

Moral of the story... listen to your mix in mono before you commit to CD or Spotify (unless you really want to mess with people!)
 

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CoolCat

Well-known member
Isnt it all about LUFS now for uploading to Spotify and Apple, YouTube, etc...etc..?

The wide stereo is fun but the mono probably covers more playback systems these days.

Yeah Alexa playing music, I saw someone demonstrate that and it was pretty cool. Said play "Beatles, " then play Hollies" and it was a pretty fast load and music was playing. It wasn't a hiend audio setup, but sounded ok.
 

bouldersoundguy

<div><p>&nbsp;</p></div>
So are the days of LCR mixing really done?

LCR mixing can be mono compatible. Wide mixes can be mono compatible. What's not mono compatible is when you make something out of phase or inverted polarity between left and right channels. The copy/pan/delay method of creating a stereo guitar track is an example of something that's not very mono compatible.
 

mjbphotos

What?!?
I was thinking more along the lines of "why" do LCR panning.... And how many people are listening to just one earbud from a stereo pair?
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
I don't think its a case of using only one earbud. Anyone using earbuds or headphones, should be hearing stereo. The problem is that a lot of the external bluetooth speakers are not stereo. Likewise Alexa style units hooked to streaming services have only one speaker.

The majority of people using those devices aren't concerned necessarily with high fidelity. They want convenience. They want their tunes for background music. They are glorified clock-radios, like you would have seen on any kitchen counter in 1960. You won't be seeing people sitting down in their favorite chair and listening to high fidelity music through a little 2" speaker. Still, you don't want your precious guitar solo to disappear because it's out of phase between channels.

There will be some people who will assemble a proper surround sound system for their TV, and this might also serve their music needs.
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
The music industry is now making a big push with Atmos/immersive audio...stuff beyond the 5.1 and 7.1...with Dolby Atmos and a couple of other companies, already doing mixes and pushing new player technology...so mastering for Atmos will be yet another change.
I think part of that will include live music and music for headphones...or maybe special headphones...that is supposed to have a bigger user impact than previous surround technology...that way they can tap into the earbud wearing listeners with new mixes etc...and I'm sure this will also be about repackaging existing releases with the new format...yet again.
 

CoolCat

Well-known member
All the Beatles singles were Mono. They sounded fine.
The mono years before still have a lot of vibe and some sound great. All the Beatle albums, up to White Album, were released in Mono. The engineer of Sgt Pepper says the Mono version is actually better than the stereo-version, in many ways. So it isn't like mono cant be "ok".

Environment driven theres a market for a great mono version isnt there?
In restaurants/bars speakers over a table or small areas throughout the bar/patio restaurants.
Sitting in a live environment of symphony's and orchestras, is all mono.
Actually TV Soundbars are popular and they are in reality, more mono than stereo it seems...at least the one I have is in the TV room sitting 12-14ft away. (my surround sits collecting dust, beside my pile of 1980-90's hifi even dustier stuff....with minidisc player!!)

Showing my age, I always had the impression stereo and the surround sounds were all part of the "effects family", a novelty that took over the world. Atmos sounds like another "new" version of that. I wonder what the age group target , sales and marketing shoot for with new- 7.1 or ATMOS? Are the baby boomers still a cash cow ?

Im not falling for the "new format re-release crap" again....lol
I didnt upgrade the Beatles collection for Surround sound....the vinyls replaced, then cassettes, then CD's then the better CD re-release....then the sourround sound, was more than I could stomache.
 

Mickster

Well-known member
Yeah......mono was fine for me too. That 9 volt AM transistor radio.......the single speaker on your car dashboard......etc. And to add to all that.......the speakers used were terrible. My transistor radio had a single ear bud. That was how I heard so much of my early music. The first stereo I used was a suitcase style record player........you know....where the two speakers swung out. Not sure it it even had any tone controls.....maybe. Unless you stood right in front of it.......the stereo effect was not noteworthy.

And if you've ever been to Carnegie Hall......(I have).....mono sounds awesome there!
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
So it isn't like mono cant be "ok".

Yeah...a lot of great mono mixes back in the '60s.
I still get blown away by some of the songs Phil Spector did..."Be My Baby" to this day sends chills down my spine...that drum, the reverb...and it all sits together really well.

That said...I don't mix in mono, and am totally a stereo guy when it comes to mixing. Don't care about surround or "immersive" either.
Yes, stereo is about a sweet spot, and all that...but that's what I like.
 

ecc83

Well-known member
Tiny point. A lot of gear now, guitar amps, podding kit, has a 3.5mm "AUX" input to take a feed from a phone most commonly. This is invariably summed to mono.

Dave.
 
"NOTHING" sounds better in mono. Us and almost every creature on this planet has two eyes and ears for a reason. Not looking for an argument , just my opinion .. ms
 

miroslav

Cosmic Cowboy
"NOTHING" sounds better in mono. Us and almost every creature on this planet has two eyes and ears for a reason. Not looking for an argument , just my opinion .. ms

I have to agree.
Yeah...back in the day when all we had was mono...some audio engineers and producers were able to milk the format for some really great mixes...and if we grew up with those mixes, they will only sound "right" to us in mono...but overall, there is nothing superior about mono. The biggest argument for it is that you don't deal with a centered sweet spot, but IMO...that's not much of an argument. You can listen to a stereo mix while walking around a room, and your ears will still pick up the differences of the Left/Right image...just in different, changing amounts. With mono...it's too directional and 2-dimensional.
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
"NOTHING" sounds better in mono
While I am one that prefers stereo almost any day of the week, I have to say, it depends on the stereo mix. For me some stereo mixes of some songs and albums do not sound better in stereo ! The mono wins hands down. There's not many that I've come across, but there are some.
 

audiomixing

New member
Literally don't worry about it. Compromising for a single format means compromising for all other formats. Make a great mix and master and it will work on earbuds and everything else.

Adam
 
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