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Mastering Get your stuff to sound right on your target medium

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Old 10th August 2008 , 03:53 PM
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Default what do you think of self mastering?

this question is mainly directed at producers,
as you can get a sound engineer, or you can buy the plugins and do it yourself

wat do you think would be more cost effective, and more useful from the prospective of the producer
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Old 10th August 2008 , 04:03 PM
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To be slightly pedantic, I'm going to assume you're talking about premastering - technically, the act of mastering is the physical cutting/replication of vinyl or CDs. Surely I wouldn't want to cut my own vinyl. There's no doubt I'd destroy several lathes in the process, and those things cost a fortune.

Anyway...

It's a necessary evil sometimes. It can be done, but virtually 100% of the time you'll get a better job done by a third-party. It's somewhat to do with the tools, but it's mostly to do with the fact that not only are you getting a fresh set of ears, but you're hopefully getting a very experienced set of ears too. They can make decisions that are neutral and not biased from hearing the track a zillion times over already.

The most important things a good mastering engineer will bring to the table are ears, monitors, and room. All their other kit is secondary - many use hardware, some use plug-ins, lots use both at some stage of the process.

It's pretty much a safe assumption that you don't have monitors that are good enough for mastering, either. Even if you have the best nearfields money can buy for mixing, they probably aren't adequate to be true mastering monitors, and all of your decisions will be compromised as a result.

If you have to do it yourself (I do rather often out of necessity) the best thing you can do is check, check, check your mix on as many systems as possible. Listen to it on as many sets of monitors as you have access to. Listen to it on an iPod or similar. Listen to it on a home stereo. Make sure that little top-end EQ boost you made doesn't sound awful on a small set of speakers. Make sure that your dynamics processing isn't compromising the bass. Et cetera.

Bottom line: if your mix is good enough, doing any sort of self-premastering might not even be necessary. But exercise due caution.
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Old 10th August 2008 , 05:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terminal3 View Post
If you have to do it yourself (I do rather often out of necessity) the best thing you can do is check, check, check your mix on as many systems as possible.
Good advice. Another thing I like to think of is the "will you still love me tomorrow?" approach. ie, if you have time try to leave your mix and come back to it with fresh ears the next day. Objectivity can be the most difficult thing to achieve when working with your own music.
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Old 10th August 2008 , 05:18 PM
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Good advice. Another thing I like to think of is the "will you still love me tomorrow?" approach. ie, if you have time try to leave your mix and come back to it with fresh ears the next day. Objectivity can be the most difficult thing to achieve when working with your own music.
Indeed! Taking that even further, get away from it "as long as you can." Go on holiday or something, then revisit it when you get back! The more time spent away from it the fresher it will seem, and the more objective you'll be.
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Old 21st August 2008 , 08:39 PM
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I agree with all of that said above. Always better to have another pair of ears.

In the home studio world, however, and if your material is not intended for commercial release and you don't plan to have it mastered, rather than try and 'self-master' your stereo file by processing it afterward you've bounced it I'd strongly recommend mixing through your 'self-mastering' chain from the word go by putting it on your mixbus early on. You are much less likely to get serious artifacts and over compress your material if you do so.
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Old 21st August 2008 , 09:11 PM
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A leading authority on self-mastering who has written several books on the matter is the Dalai Lama. Or is that mastering-of-self ?
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Old 9th September 2008 , 12:51 AM
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I'm a hobbiest, so I'm gonna get someone else to do it. I know there's plugins out there and some of them advertise saying "Create great masteres in miniutes." Well, I dont believe that, at all. Also, after reading this thread, I'm deffo gonna get someone else to do it...lol. It's a completely different ball game is mastering, so I've been told and found out for myself.
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Old 9th September 2008 , 06:23 PM
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I think if you want something new to learn, pre-mastering is one of the things that you aknowledge by practicing. Also people on a budget might find self-mastering an option. Well that's what i think at least
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Old 14th September 2008 , 07:34 PM
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If you are recording/creating the sounds/music, mixing it yourself then mastering for you own release if you choose to do it your self should be nothing more than gentle EQ, leveling, dynamic range control(mayybe) and limiting as appropriate for the target medium and to balance it with other material.

Anything more drastic and you have the original mix and original recording to work with and most issues are far easier to fix there - especially overall dynamic range and frequency balance etc..

The kind of mastering phase processing available to most of us is probably on the line s of bus compressor (pre-mastering and part of the mix IMHO), enhancers/saturators (again I tend to think more of a mix choice) and EQ, multi-band compression and limiting.

EQ and limiting is easy to do with a good mix - tweak to the high end and roll off the low end as required. And limiting - well again easy - just enough to catch the odd stray peak and have the rest hitting -0.1 to -0.3 dBFS.

Anything more and we have lots of easier options to go and sort it out. On the other hand, if you are mastering someone elses mix - then you need to know your way around the common tools.

Multi-band compression is something that I think takes a while to gain more than you loose from it. You need to develop a process for it I think otherwise you just end up in a continual cycle of trying to offset and balance the effects of the previous tweak and slo but surely sapping all life out of your mix.

I would be interested in hearing the aproaches people have to dealing with using a multi-band - for me I assuming I have decided I need to use one, and decide exactly what I want to acheive with it, then its a can of first of all working through the bands to isolate the ranges I want to tweak using band mutes to check and tweak them, then I can goto work on it like using a regular compressor on a part of a mix. Whatever you do - dont stick one in there and start playing unless you really know how to use them.

I use the UAD precision mastering suite plugins for this job - allways the EQ and limiter - for the EQ its often just a case of rolling off the low end a little and nothing more. With the limiter I'll set it on the K12 or K14 scales accoridng to the material and if nescessarily going back to my mix to get the average RMS level at around 0dB on whichever scale I am using thus peaks at +12dB (or +14dB) - ie 0dBFS. Good metering for this is essential - ie an peak meter and an RMS meter that you can see together and it helps if you have a spectrum analyser handy.

It also helps if when mixing you have you monitor rough calibrate for an absolute listening level of around 82dB (I use C weighted) with -18dBFS RMS pink noise, then it become alot easier to make consitent judgements about the sound from day to day. I basically spent some time with an SPL meter after sticking a bit of paper around the volume knob to write on - maked off the 82dB point, then also marked off +/- 6dB points as well - ie drop the level by 6dB on the SPL meter and mark the point again until I have a useful set of reference marks.

If you dont have a subwoofer - then simply roll off at at least 30Hz - maybe even 60Hz - nothing really drastic - just enough to get that wasted energy reduced a little so that it is no longer dominant. I dont mix/master with a sub on all the time - I dont have the thing balanced up properly, nor is the room adequately treated for it, so I just use it for spot checking and of course while jamming/recording/reviewing etc.

It also worth havign some cheap little speaker present as well - I actually use a tiny little ipod speaker called a 'Music Angel' - its just a little tube with speakers in it and cost about 20 quid. Sticking you music through that can be very revealing
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Old 14th September 2008 , 09:01 PM
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Quote:
I would be interested in hearing the aproaches people have to dealing with using a multi-band - for me I assuming I have decided I need to use one, and decide exactly what I want to acheive with it
Easy to explain my approach. I never put one on a mix buss.
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Old 14th September 2008 , 09:44 PM
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Odds are if I need multiband then there's a problem with the mix, which is preferably addressed there as opposed to in the premastering phase. YMMV.
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Old 15th September 2008 , 04:30 AM
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Quote:
Odds are if I need multiband then there's a problem with the mix, which is preferably addressed there as opposed to in the premastering phase. YMMV.
'May' being the operative word, but i doubt it.
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Old 25th January 2009 , 10:49 AM
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what do you think of self mastering?

Im not saying its a great thing for everybody but my friend Mastered his own album and i can't tell the difference between his album and an album that has been professionally mastered on any system i play it on (car/hi-fi/mobile phone etc).
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Old 25th January 2009 , 12:06 PM
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The key bit to mastering is having a second objective pair of ears listen to your mix in a great listening environment. It sounds like your friend has done a reasonable job and is happy with the outcome. There is however, a reason why the world's best mixers send their stuff on to a mastering engineer, because that second opinion is always worthwhile. The ME may say that nothing needs changing whatsoever but it's unusal not to pick up something (usualy that your imperfect room has lead you into doing).
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Old 25th January 2009 , 12:14 PM
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If you cant get a second expert pair of ears working on your material, then leave it for a while (week or more) and pair return to it later - ideally when you ears havnt been poluted by mixing for a day or two.
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