Mastering With Mastering Software


COO of me, inc.
When using mastering software that points out elements which you may want to adjust, do you simply use that software to point these things out, revisiting the mix to make the suggested adjustments? Do you make the adjustments in the mastering software and go with that? Or is this all on a case-by-case basis, take it as it comes?
Mostly, "it depends."

I use iZotope's Ozone for my "pseudo-mastering" and I rarely change the mix based on what I see the "assistant" do, but I do change what it has come up with fairly often, especially if I don't like the mix of limiting/compression, or if the final EQ has really been skewed from a Tonal Balance (custom curve) I checked against in mixing. Only if I can't adjust things to where the EQ and dynamic range suit would I go back and tinker with the mix.

Tinkering with the mix is what I do a week after I say "I'm done" and something has started to stick out to the point it's all I can hear ;).
Thanks Keith.

I've been looking at Ozone, actually. I haven't done mastering in the past and am wanting to see how I might take advantage of some of this AI software to help me along. Doing everything ITB. I'd be jumping in over my head, twiddling knobs to familiarize myself. Doing singles - no albums.

I prefer to just dive into something and muck about, then go back and begin reading from Page 1, this way I have a better idea of what I'm reading about - able to visualize it.
I enjoyed this video with Mitch Gallagher from Sweetwater at iZotope's HQ. I think I could use this while mixing, at the end of the chain. Then a little bit of sophomore mastering after.

So, not having a clue about mastering, I'm reading articles and watching videos in no particular order. My earlier impression was.. mastering involved more detailed, "magical" if you will, work at the end of mixing before rendering to stereo files. Now I'm seeing that a lot of mastering is done after the mixes are rendered to stereo files, and then a lot more "other stuff" is involved as it moves toward the final product. I have no idea as yet what this "other stuff" is but it looks like a lot more business end as opposed to music creativity end.

It seems mastering software is being utilized at any and all points in the chain, as the previous video point out. I'm wondering how it can improve the mixing process prior to rendering to stereo mixdown. Then what it can do to further enhance that stereo mixdown. So far, I'm not even thinking beyond that point.

I'm fascinated by newer AI software's ability to reach into a stereo mix and virtually single out instruments for processing. It's like remixing, yet the improvements in sound seem to be more easily arrived at as opposed to obtaining similar results in the original mix.
Now I'm seeing that a lot of mastering is done after the mixes are rendered to stereo files, and then a lot more "other stuff" is involved as it moves toward the final product. I have no idea as yet what this "other stuff" is but it looks like a lot more business end as opposed to music creativity end.
Mastering is the creation of the master. It's taking a collection of completed mixes and creating a reasonably cohesive collection from thost mixes. It used to be about changing those mixes as little as humanly possible to work within the physical limitations of the target media. Over the past 30-ish years of so, the mastering engineer is almost expected to dive in creatively to some extent (typically - not always). Sometimes that's an insane difference - sometimes it's reasonably subtle changes to massage a collection of mixes to sound like the all belong together - sometimes it's an absolutely crazy amount of effort to make a bunch of mixes sounds like I didn't do anything to them.

I'll save my thoughts on Ozone except for the fact that I've never seen a plugin that makes it as ridiculously simple to completely wreck an otherwise perfectly decent recording than Ozone. Important to note that I don't find it evil on its own - it's only as evil as the person using it. But in 30-some years of mastering, I can tell you precisely how many times I needed to use a frequency-dependent Haas filter on the low frequencies (something that Ozone seems to think of as a "mastering process"). And that number is zero. Maul-the-band (multi-band) compression - Yeah, before I use that, I call the mix engineer to see if he can fix whatever it is that would make me want to use a multi-band compressor (again, one of the "mastering engineer's secret weapons" on Ozone).
I completely agree with you Massive. The mastering process was and still is best done by someone outside of the original tracking and creating.....especially if you're looking to form some sort of "collection" / album with a cohesive character sound. I think the original creator so often gets too close to "see" what can or needs to be done to finish the production.

I can say....however....using Ozone 8 has helped me in some ways. Using the mastering "assistant" to check my mixes has actually helped me to get my mixes closer to being similar as regards being cohesive...or at least "mine". Don't get me wrong......I don't use the "assistant" to make the actual changes in overall EQ or level...etc. I go back to the mix to do that.....and therein lies the benefit I've gained. Suggestions from OzoneI have gotten me better at having my mixes be more consistent.....sound wise and level wise. I do think the limiter used in Ozone 8 is fairly transparent as long as you're close in the mix.

Again however......we're no where near using AI to create a finished product. Maybe someday....but not today.

My 2 cents worth of Sunday morning waking up thoughts.

I can certainly see the destructive power of such software at the mastering stage. I'm curious to know how it may be used in the mixing process, as @ Mickster has commented. Using it to produce better mixes so mastering would be more like, well, mastering and not remixing or mangling.
There are a lot of presets in Ozone - and in 5, when I got the first copy, using those could really alter the sound. It was educational to see what was going on "behind the curtain" but I always treated those like the presets in multi-FX guitar pedal, i.e., a "proof of concept" kind exhibitionism, and not something you'd likely use in real life.

Anyway, that's why I call what I do "pseudo-mastering" - it's all fake :). And, there's never a concept of making a bunch of independent tracks sound consistent, i.e., for an "album" - I know my limits!

I use Ozone pretty exclusively for getting the limiting where it delivers the LUFS target consistently. When they add in the compressor (not always), if it's a bunch, then I almost always go back to my mix and see whether I can make the change in my mixbus compressor (Logic's ITB "Red" emulation), or maybe something else to tinker with. Any kind of compression and limiting is going to change the EQ, and like I said, I'm generally skeptical of any EQ they apply, but if it still sounds good and compares to a reference curve, I don't get too excited about it. (I still don't understand the low shelf boost they stick on there, though, when often there simply isn't any bass content in the mix, e.g., for just a guitar/vocal mix. They could integrate the custom Tonal Balance into that bit of AI and probably do a "smarter" job there. Maybe some future version.)
^^^^ makes a good point about Ozone. It does seem to want to add a bit more sub-bass than needed.........and for sure.....unless you're doing a fairly busy mix with a fairly wide overall frequency range......the "assistant" gets the EQ wrong. But....I always know that going in. I use Ozone 8 and there's no apparent preset for just vocal or just vocal and acoustic. As I mentioned previously.......IMO it's good VST for seeing where you're at....and like all things in mixing / mastering.....them more you get used to using it and how it performs.....the more it helps you.

2 cents worth of.......ok.....I'll never be famous or rich via music......but it totally makes me happy!!

So it can help by showing you possible problem areas and pointing in the general direction of what's needed to clean them up. Then you can go back, make some mix adjustments and learn what should have been done the first time around in the mix. I'm in this category.

After looking at mastering software other than Ozone, Ozone has a lot of eye candy in the form of graphs, waves and other "moving objects" that are very entertaining. I have to say though, that stuff is very appealing to a newbie and actually, may be more useful to those who may have trouble visualizing what all the knobs do. Then there's many of the other software packages with nothing but large component faceplates with lots of those knobs and a few dials and/or bouncing needles and level meters for entertainment. This stuff seems to be geared toward users who know what their doing and whose ears are maybe more attuned to small adjustments.
So my usual pseudo-mastering is to just get the volume up to an acceptable level for all my tracks, so I throw a master limiter on the rendered stereo track - with it set so it barely compresses the very loudest parts of the sound, and then a compressor after to just boost it up 0.1dB (a trick someone here posted). Generally happy with the results - I try to get the mixes right, so no correction is really needed. Once I've done this to all the tracks for an album release, I listen to them all on different systems to adjust any volume or tone inconsistencies.

I had downloaded the free Ozone 8 Elements ages ago, and thought I'd give it a go for the fun of it. A song I had just used my mastering on, and was happy with the results - mostly acoustic guitars, bass, violin and vocals. I disabled the plug-ins I had on it, put Ozone 8 on, and clicked the 'assistance' thing. OMG! Horrible clipping/distortion. I don't even know how it could do that! I disabled that, tried a few of the presets, none of which boosted the volume up, they may have changed the overall EQ or stereo image a bit.
I'm going to try it on an electric/band-type mix to see what happens.
As for me it's a great reason to make your own software for this with The ability to implement strategic business plans and long-term business projections are essential to a company's profitability and leadership position in an industry. Having an individual with specialized skills in business analysis that combines theoretical knowledge with practical application is necessary for obtaining and maintaining a competitive advantage. A business analyst with a bachelor's degree in business intelligence analyst will usually have strong analytical skills, marketing and management skills and computer applications knowledge. Business analysts with a master's degree in business analysis will have increased analytical skill but typically no business system or network expertise.
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I downloaded one of the free Ozone packages that Sweetwater offered a while back. I've tried it on a few things, but I didn't care for what it did. Even using the presets weren't a big help. Eventually, I figured I would get back to playing with it, but so far its just sitting on the hard drive.
I tried a few more of the Ozone 8 presets. Once volume-matched to my 'mastered' mixes, the difference was negligible. There was some 'stereo imaging' changes, but I don't think they really were anything I wanted. And a few times the output clipped too.
I haven't released any tracks for mass consumption yet. I played around with a mix down to another DAW, it was another stand-alone DAW from my recording DAW, also stand alone, and I cranked up the levels. It has been a while since I attempted any kind of post mix messing around. There are people posting all kinds of different tracks on soundcloud, where you can upload without any digital distributor, and I wonder how many of them are mastered. And how many of the DJ "mixes" are mastered. Then there's the question of who is actually listening on audiophile equipment any more or just PC speakers, laptop speakers, tablet speakers, ear buds, headphones - prolly the best, then cars with road noise, engine noise, Tesla humming and how much diff would mastering make in these circumstances. Loudness is actually important to overcome road noise I noticed and classical music with the most dynamic range is the hardest to hear in the car.
I tried a few more of the Ozone 8 presets. Once volume-matched to my 'mastered' mixes, the difference was negligible. There was some 'stereo imaging' changes, but I don't think they really were anything I wanted. And a few times the output clipped too.
Well, kind of repeating myself, but don't use the presets, except as a starting point, perhaps, or to learn what/how Ozone is doing/working.

You can use the Mastering Assistant to get in the ballpark for output level, but it is highly dependent on the selection played, and it really only "listens" for a short while, i.e., if it hits your LUFS target, you picked a really good sample, or it was a bit of luck. If you measure the bounced output and see clipping, you can adjust the amount of gain in the Maximizer module, starting with a +/- change. If the LUFS is right, but it's clipping, you'll have to tinker a bit, but you start by setting the "True Limit" option, and then maybe go back and look at any compression on the stereo buss, either in Ozone or in your mix (my usual option). You can also click on "Learn" in the Maximizer and just let it run over your entire song. That should put you really close - just remember to turn it off at the end, before you bounce!