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 Post subject: Mastering question...
PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 7:52 pm 
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This has been bugging me a bit so i would ask the experts!
When do you use the mastering library?
I only ask because to me if everythings mixed and then you choose from the mastering menu it throws the levels and eq out?!
I was going to try adding the mastering i lik
e then mix it,or is that too radical/stupid? @|
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Les


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 8:22 pm 
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Good question. I never use the mastering tools. The only time I have is I believe the one called vital mix. I needed a boost in my yay! But for me, those things aren't necessary. For others . . . perhaps they'll come along and chime in.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 8:35 pm 
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Anyone please correct me if i'm wrong but if the material you want to release is provided digitally and your final mix is ok (tested on several playback systems) there is little need for Mastering. As i understand it was more important in the old 'vinyl' days because vinyl could not handle the dynamic range that is handled by the digital work of today. Specifically the low frequencies could destroy the cutting head that would carve out the master template for vinyl copies. So by mastering the dynamic range was reduced or adjusted to the media by which it would be provided to the audience.

I think that you can still master things recorded at 96000 kHz 24 or even 32 bit float and need to reduce it to 44100 kHz 16 Bit for a CD. In that respect your final stereo track would be recorded and 'scaled down' in dynamic range from the original tracks. Creating an MP3 from the uncompressed wave files is also mastering imo. This also reduces the dynamic range. I have noted often that it is perfectly possible to 'mismaster' an mp3 in such that the dynamics are really anoying to listen to on MP3 players like car stereo's even when they sound great on the recorder. I think compression and limiting on the stereo tracks are needed to help make things sound smooth. The art is in how much is enough and not too much.

Very interesting question for which i hope we get a lot of good input.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:04 pm 
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As Dirk indicated, the mastering technician used to be the low one on the totem pole, as they were assigned the "grunt work" of "mastering" to deal with the low frequencies on the masters, so that the rumble was eliminated and the needle would stay in the groove. With the advent of digitization, the mastering engineer is now at the top of the heap and performs the vital job of preparing and sequencing (ordering the individual mixes), so they feel as if they fit together seamlessly. While the mastering engineer may not have the final say as to what order songs are placed on an album, it is very important to make sure that transitions and the length of the silent portion between tracks "feels right" If a song ends with a bang, and the next is quiet, it is important to deal with perceived volume levels. Even though the quiet song may be well mixed, it may "feel" too quiet if silence before the second track is not long enough to let the listener's ears settle. And of course we all know that mixes done by different people and on different desks will have coloration differences. The mastering engineer would use EQ and multi band compression to adjust the final stereo mix. sometimes mastering engineers would work on 2 track stems (sub mixes) individually, and then combine them. but mostly mastering is considered to a final polishing of the 2 track.

as for the comment that mastering may not actually be necessary if your original mix was OK, there is some truth to this,. the better the mix, the less work for a mastering engineer, but most successful mixing is done under fairly rigid volume control so as to keep everything"under control", and free of digital clipping, leaving some headroom for the final mastering. this means that the primary mix is too quiet. A survey of Newbie questions will reveal that is the primary "why is this?" question from those discovering the great power of these desk upon which we work. When we monitor our tracks as we mix, the mixing engineer control how loud the monitors send us our ideas. but when all is mixed, said and done, the recording on the stereo track may be too quiet and us amateurs are very disappointed about the wimpy sound we seem to have gotten after all the hard work. the mastering processes, in today's industry, deal first and foremost with this issue. A well balanced mix will almost certainly require some digital volume boost to stand up against other commercial releases. this is the "volume war". If you google this you are probably going to find yourself reading articles or books written by or referring to Bob Katz. He is a writer who seems to be able to explain all this, more technically than I, but imparting a level of understanding.

Mastering is properly done by engineers who know the genre and so through their experience are able to deal with the mixes within a context. Mastering studios are acoustically treated to deliver flat responses, free of standing low-frequency waves. the rooms are generally free of all the recoding gear that creates combing and reflection issues. speaker choice for these rooms would be different than the near reference monitors we all use.

as to the use of the "mastering" library, you are right it does sometimes have radical effect on what you thought was a solid mix. If this happens, go to the DYN and EQ you have inserted to the stereo track's signal chain (when calling up one of the presets) and dialing things back. The presets threshold levels and EQ choices are just starting points.

The one thing the AW does not offer effectively is brickwall limiting. Depending on the genre, brickwall limiting is of the greatest importance to accomplishing a "commercial" sounding final product (Depending on what is the currently accepted "commercial"standard for that genre - ie. no limiting for orchestral to in your face all the time, loud metal mixes). for the type of work most of the people around here do, a gentle approach up to the threshold of the final "maximizing" limiter will give opportunity to get anywhere from 2 to 6 dB boost on the stereo mix, with absolutely no seeming effect (transparency) Push the wall and things seem to happen, but by today's standards this "push" is the glue that seems to hold mixes together. Depending on limiterr release times, mixes can be manipulated to "pump" and "breathe". However, such limiting might most effectively applied pre mastering during the mix, or to stems of say the bass end of the percussion mix, with the compressor on the bass being triggered by the kick drum for Eg. ( the KeyIn button on the DYN page- for the longest time I wonder who the heck is this Kevin guy!)

If you mix with DYN and EQ settings placed on the stereo track, you have to be very careful. the mix begins to sound too good, too soon, on our near field reference monitors. I am very guilty of doing this. Impatience is the culprit, as you have a strong desire to hear what it will/may/could sound like and thus steering your ship away from what it actually does sound like. If you produce mixes that, while not peaking or clipping, leave no headroom, the mastering engineer will have no room to manipulate files to make the final album sound right when listened to as a set, "together". In this age of itunes and downloading does anybody still listen to albums?? Of course they do, but for us guys who tend to produce "singles" the temptation is to have each piece stand on its own, leading to disappointment down the line when we get around to compiling.

Perhaps 60s guy will chime in, as he has compiled the multiple tracks of the Dijonstock Compilation discs on a couple of occasions. I am sure there was a lot of leveling work required to achieve those projects. He did a great job, but listening to the originals side by side would have revealed a daunting task.

Sorry for going on so long. these very questions were at the heart of my jumping upon the learning curve several years ago.

Over and out.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:16 pm 
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Sometimes i think its a case of if its there i'm gonna use it.
What i'm slowly coming to terms with is less is more...


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:51 pm 
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Less is more, unless of course you need more. Then more is more.

If you like your mix as it is, there's no real reason to throw a bunch of mastering bologna at it. As a Beatle once said: Let it be.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:42 pm 
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Less is more and more is more... more or less... :D


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:37 am 
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Ask this guy about mastering...

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:44 am 
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 5:01 am 
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import to your favorite software and have at it...I, like RZ, used the vital mix preset a couple of times, but it really doesn't compare to the flexibility you have with software... and there are plenty of "free" programs that do the job.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 6:16 pm 
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RZ wrote:
Less is more, unless of course you need more. Then more is more.

If you like your mix as it is, there's no real reason to throw a bunch of mastering bologna at it. As a Beatle once said: Let it be.




But one of the characteristics of a "good mix", often, is that it is "too quiet" when played back. So, volume boosts to the two-track, through limiting at the mastering stage, really help this. If the mix is solid, the boost required to will be small 2-3 dB and (essentially) transparent. Push a little and mixes sometime "tighten up" in a pleasing fashion.

But, gentle compression through to the "crunching" of tracks by more aggressively limiting selected tracks during the mixing process, or even during the actual tracking (if you are skilled at creating the sound you want from the floor and know how to capture it) is available and preferable to thinking that mastering will improve the product.

Agreed, if you make a good mix, there is not need to throw a bunch of effort into making it sound better through further manipulation at the mastering level. If your mixes sound a lot different after you or someone else has "mastered" them, then your mix was perhaps lacking in some frequency range, or the mastering engineer is trying too hard or wanting to impress through use of all the gear they may own. And mastering engineers do own a lot of expensive gear, digital and analogue.

as Bok said there is lots of free software for us hobbyists to use. You can step up to software versions for which you pay to get beyond the demo versions too. Sonar, cakewalk. Logic etc. ... If you get into the analogue mastering gear, especially "vintage" stuff you will need lots of $$$. Software works for me, though on some occasions I have experimented with send/return of the two track through some outboard preamps to get a bit of a final volume boost. IMHO you still need a brickwall at the end of whatever chain you develop, if you want to put your product up against what has come to be considered "commercial" in the mainstream. The perception of this standard has changed considerably since the days of vinyl being the main format for distribution. Many would say for the worse, with the tendency to crave volume and the willingness to sacrifice dynamic range to achieve it.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:03 pm 
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Occasionally one of my Beatles parodies come out a bit soft in volume. But because I have that old Adobe Audition program, I can load the file and adjust the volume level. It's times like that when I realize computer based recording is pretty cool. Actually computer based mastering is more like it. I'd say I was old school when it comes to that sorta stuff, but because I made the jump from analog recording to digital, I may be pretty old, but not totally old school.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:34 pm 
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I only have the G no software or computer aided wiardry :(


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:42 pm 
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RESROCKS wrote:
I only have the G no software or computer aided wiardry :(


You don't need the computer, unless you want to visit the forum.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 8:12 pm 
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There is a significant difference between a simple volume boost to get the highest peak to 0 dB and compression/limiting. In the former, a single spike will curb your ability to raise a file's overall average volume levels (RMS). Whereas in a limiting environment, quick attack and rapid Gain reduction is applied to very small segments of consecutive samples that approach or that actually peak, followed by quick release, all handled by the algorithm. Not being a computer code expert, I don't know why some algorithms are superior (and expensive as opposed to free??) But whatever one you use, this processing takes spikes out of the picture when it comes to how much volume boost you wish to apply. The more volume you ask for, the more you squash the peaks, reducing overall dynamic range, but boosting the overall RMS average volume of the file. This makes the whole thing sound louder, at the sacrifice of dynamic nuance.

We have probably all heard the effect of the the commercial volume war upon an artist's first "Indie" releases and subsequent releases after they get signed, or begin themselves to chase the "commercial" "radio play" sound that perhaps would generate more $$ in the marketplace.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 8:45 pm 
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There are some excellent replies to your question, but if you have`nt got the software to use, you can still use a compressor and a limiter on the stereo buss and tweak it to your hearts content, or burn it to disc and import it back in to two tracks and eq and compress it or whatever you need to do it.
Sorry if this has already been mentioned above I did`nt have time to read all the posts.
Good luck.

T.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:44 am 
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T.Mac. wrote:
There are some excellent replies to your question, but if you have`nt got the software to use, you can still use a compressor and a limiter on the stereo buss and tweak it to your hearts content, or burn it to disc and import it back in to two tracks and eq and compress it or whatever you need to do it.
Sorry if this has already been mentioned above I did`nt have time to read all the posts.
Good luck.

T.


Good suggestion. On the G with no USB, you could burn to disc and get the 2-track onto a computer that way ,for further processing with editing software, but if you are going to stay in the G, could you not move or copy the stereo track to a stereo pair, for further processing as you suggest? I've forgotten, are you able to move/copy a recorded stereo track, as you would tracks 1-16?

The comment I would have about the limiting capabilities of the AW utilities is that you can certainly do as Mac says to gain some volume, but the DYN limiter utilities on the AW seem to allow some stuff to sneak through, causing the meters to display "over" every now and again. while this is not the end of the world, as the machine has forgiveness in some headroom that seems to exist over the peak point (0dB), one doesn't like to have a finished product that displays "over" on the meters. This said, if you don't push too hard you won't peak, but then you won't get all the volume boost that a true brick-wall limiter can develop.

more than one way to skin a cat.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 8:31 pm 
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Hi RES - forgive me if this has been covered in this thread (I didn't read it in detail). As others mentioned, the mastering library applies EQ and dynamics to the stereo bus, which means (like any other parameter on the G) once you turn it on, it stays on until you turn it off. If you apply a mastering preset during a mix and then move on to another project, that EQ/dynamics stuff will still be on the stereo bus, affecting your perception of everything you do. Make sure you turn it off when done mixing. I think you can press the EQ/dynamics buttons and select the stereo bus by pressing the selection button above the master fader.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 8:41 pm 
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I have to say that I think Byron's initial explanation of the 'mystery' of mastering in this thread, is one of the best and most easy to understand that I have ever read! :)


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 8:57 pm 
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alexeltonwall wrote:
I have to say that I think Byron's initial explanation of the 'mystery' of mastering in this thread, is one of the best and most easy to understand that I have ever read! :)



I totally agree !!
I did`nt even understand my own explanation :)

T.

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