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Cubase SX3 and mastering...

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by GerryJ, Jan 29, 2005.

  1. GerryJ

    GerryJ Member

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    Can Cubase function fairly well for mastering.

    As even a newbie like me can tell, there are hundreds of hardware and software out there being hawked for "improving" mastering..........which, if any, are really necessary? thanks.
     
  2. dehughes

    dehughes Member

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    I'm curious about this one too...


    david
     
  3. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    If you are self-mastering then you should use a Wave editor like Wavelab, not cubase.

    Keep in mind the entire aim of mastering is to have mastering engineers with mastering tools in mastering rooms work on your final mixes.

    But DIY is cool, but use a good wave editor to do so.
     
  4. GuitslingerTim

    GuitslingerTim Member

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    The practical need for mastering is to ensure the volume levels and EQ levels of a group songs on a cd are close enough that no EQ and volume adjustments are needed as each new song starts playing. Waves, Ozone, and Soundforge are three of the best mastering packages.
     
  5. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    With all respect to SP (who knows his stuffs, shonuffs), I see no reason why one can't do some substantial DIY 'Mastering' in SX (or any other pro-level recording app) given the right plugins and, more importantly, the monitoring, ear, and know-how (there's the real rub, as usual). Also, there's a lot to be said for letting good, fresh ears have a go at your material.

    Would i wan't to do a lot of wave edits there? No. Are there powerful metering tools there? No. Will i lay out a fancy pants CD sequence, replete with crossfades, etc? No.

    Still, one can do some damage without a dedicated mastering app.
     
  6. tonefreak

    tonefreak Member

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    I totally understand the need for Mastering yourself... for me, I don't want to pay a Masterhouse for something I can do... or attempt to do.

    Given that, I've also learned that this breaks the first rule of Mastering... don't do it yourself! Mastering should be done with fresh ears, and since you do the mix, I found it very difficult to Master my own stuff.

    My goal is to get all my mixes done, then I'm going to see how much it would take to Master the whole lot at a semi-pro mastering house.
     
  7. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    If you define "Mastering" as nothing more than "preparing a master," and if whatever you end up with is the master, then by strict definition you need nothing more than what you already have.

    Mastering houses are for preparing commercial grade recordings for manufacturing. In addition to what Tim said, which is all correct, it's the engineer's job to prepare the final master CD with as few errors as possible, which is then used to make the glass master (not the same thing) for printing.

    If you plan to replicate a bunch of CD-Rs to sell at your own shows and you have no expectations of selling more than a few hundred copies tops, then IMO it makes no sense to go for the expense of a mastering house. Unless money is no object and you just enjoy the idea of making it sound as good as possible. But be aware that the best mastering engineer in the world probably can't make a very problematic mix sound like a professional recording – or if he can (depending on the nature of the problems), it might be a very expensive fix.

    There is a rule of thumb in the printing business that whatever it costs to make a change at any step, at the next step in production it costs six times as much. Not as a punitive thing, but because so much else has to be re-done. Although I have less experience in the audio biz, I would estimate that in the days of tape it used to be about the same, but in the digital age we have more flexibility. Just a thought... off topic a bit.

    I like the Waves mastering plugs but there are many others supposedly just as good. I'm unfamiliar with them. Your most important tool is your ears.

    Here's my suggestion for DIY mastering:

    Make the best mixes you can as if you were sending them to a mastering house. DO NOT mix them too loud or put final compression or limiting on the master buss. Keep them at a master level where there is no digital clipping (there should also be no digital clipping on any individual tracks). Ideally you should have 1 - 2 dB headroom. Since you're keeping everything in the digital realm I would also avoid EQ on the master buss. Allow a second or two of silence at the begining and end of each track. Bounce your final mixes down to split stereo files.

    Set up a mastering session in your DAW and import your stereo mixes. The reason I suggest one long session as opposed to individual sessions is so you can flip back and forth from one song to another quickly to compare sound and relative loudness. Set up your EQs, compressors and limiters, bring up your levels and do your mastering thing. Keep the same plugs on every song, but if you change levels and settings from one song to the next, automate the changes. I also recommend keeping a record of your levels and settings, either through saving the settings as presets or on paper.

    Make SMALL changes from one song to the next. Don't make drastic changes to your various gain stages to adjust levels; find the sweet spots and stick to them as much as possible, making your level changes at the begiinnings and ends. Your aim is consistency of sound. You don't want to be featuring the awesome performance of your plugs and you don't want one song heavy with EQ #1 and the next heavy with EQ #2.

    When you're done you can either bounce the tracks down individually and burn your CD-R with Red Book compatible software like Roxio Jam (my choice), or burn your CD-R direct as you play back, or bounce the whole thing down as a single uncompressed file (I think that's risky... not my choice). Whatever you want.

    And BACK UP YOUR STUFF to multiple destinations !!
     
  8. tonefreak

    tonefreak Member

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    Excellent post!

    Like I mentioned, if you're on a budget, DIY is the best way.

    I have a larger budget, so I'm going to take your advice in creating a Master, and then send it out to have it maximized for commercial play.
     
  9. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    By the way, here's how I'd tweak that advice for your mixes to prepare them for a mastering house:

    Make the best mixes you can. If you want one cut to have a more compressed sound than another, get the sound you want on the individual tracks or busses. Keep any final compression or EQ on the master buss very light and use the same master plugs and settings on every track. Do NOT use any "finalizer" or limiter.

    The master output should have no digital clipping and there should also be no digital clipping on any individual tracks. Ideally you should have 1 - 2 dB headroom. Allow a second or two of silence at the begining and end of each track. Bounce your final mixes down to split stereo files.

    Leave it up to the mastering engineer to bring up the final levels, add limiting and trim off the silence at the ends. If you want a 'loud" CD, tell him so. Tell the engineer which song is the loudest song, and also which song is most representative of the sound you want. If you have a CD by an artist whose sound you feel is close to yours, give it to him as a reference. The more accurate your communication, the happier you'll be with the results.

    The engineer should give you a final duplicate copy for approval before sending it off for duplication.
     
  10. Igneous

    Igneous Member

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    Cubase CAN be used as a mastering program. It has the same engine as wavelab. Go figure. Most of what you can do edit wise you can do it in cubase.

    For meters,montage, and a few more tools, wavelab has more. It also produces redbook -ready. (industy standard.)

    Adobe Audition is a usefull tool as well. (used to be cool edit pro)
    its easier to get going with.

    As a rule its usually good to let other people master. I dont always follow this rule however because of deadlines and such.
    However, using expensive outboard gear can make all the difference.

    cheers-IG
     
  11. Ed DeGenaro

    Ed DeGenaro Supporting Member

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    If I would look for a multitracker that does mastering apps well I'd lookk at www.samplitude.com
     
  12. straticus

    straticus Member

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    Bingo!

    Every time I read threads like this I think to myself, "Why do they need the different software? I do all of that stuff without ever leaving Samplitude". I admit, I don't have much experience with a lot of other apps. I've been using Samp pretty much from day one. But it seems odd to me that you can't do this stuff in all apps.

    For instance, I hear Wavelab mentioned a lot. Why do you need it? What does it do that you can't do in Cubase or "name your app here"? I'm not putting other apps down, just trying to learn something new.

    BC:)
     
  13. Screamer

    Screamer Member

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    In those words lies the value of Wavelab. The metering is great, especially across bands.


    MichaelK has the best practices nailed though.
     

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