Mastering

Britishampfan

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3,034
I was hoping you masters of mastering could help with my plight. How does one get great sounding results across different playback mediums.

My test tracks sound great in the studio on monitors or even on the home stereo with good speakers but when I hear them on a I POD or especially Lap Top speakers or other playback devices it sounds like crap to me.

I am working on a test track it`s just a jam track trying to capture giant marshall sounds, in the studio is sounds pretty good, on Lap Top is sounds pretty small.

Figuring the playback of music these days is on small speaker devices I am hoping my fellow recording do it DIY `er can point me in a good direction.

Thanks, BAF


If you guys want to hear the track I can upload to sound cloud later.
 

LarryWallwart

Member
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340
I am no master, but I have been battling similar issues. I'll let someone else speak about different limiters, compressors, EQs, etc, but one thing I did the last time that helped was I turned my studio monitors down real low until I could barely hear the track. I listened to see what stood out and what was missing. Then I did the opposite, I cranked it to an almost uncomfortable volume. At this volume there were a couple of harsh tracks that needed to be tamed.

P.S.

Previewing your mix through a typical pair of PC speakers isn't a terrible idea either.
 

taez555

Member
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9,298
There's a reason people mix on NS10's and auratones and stuff. Like they say, If you can make it sound good on ****....
 

jmoose

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5,162
There's more or less two, maybe three different schools of thought on mastering in general. One is that if you have a really good source almost anyone can cut a master and its gonna sound really good. Do as little as possible. Second is that if the mixes are lacking "something" then maybe you look at mastering to pull it out of the ditch.
 

stevel

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15,614
My test tracks sound great in the studio on monitors or even on the home stereo with good speakers but when I hear them on a I POD or especially Lap Top speakers or other playback devices it sounds like crap to me.

I am working on a test track it`s just a jam track trying to capture giant marshall sounds, in the studio is sounds pretty good, on Lap Top is sounds pretty small.

Umm, laptop speakers are small :)

Seriously, most small speakers, especially in devices where audio quality is a peripheral consideration, aren't the highest quality. Small speakers, in general, are going to sound small. You don't play your guitar through a 2" speaker do you :)

The question is, does the mastered music you usually listen to sound significantly better on your laptop, etc. but still good on your monitors? Personally, I find anything I play on the laptop to sound cheesy, wimpy, etc. etc. So the first thing to do is a reality check: play something through your home stereo and drop the same mix into your computer. How's it sound? Now do the same with one of your mixes and see how it sounds.

There's a general trend in the market to master "more generic" where people are trying to get things to sound good on everything - and of course the result is they sound mediocre on everything as opposed to good on one thing and bad on the rest.

How many people are going to listen to your music on super high quality audiophile systems? If the answer is "not many" than you may want to mix for earbuds.

It's impossible to get something to sound "the same" on Studio Monitors (which are designed to be revealing) versus good Stereo Speakers versus a Home Theater Surround Sound versus a Car Stereo versus a Laptop. In order to get it to sound "good" on all of them, you have to settle for a "catch all mix".

To be honest, in the end most people are listening to MP3s so they don't give a damn about quality. You need a good hook and a catchy tune :)

Steve
 

Britishampfan

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3,034
Well, yeah it`s a given you should write good tunes and yes lap top speakers are not going to sound like studio monitors. I know this already.

Yes I believe that the majority of download buyers are buying MP3`s for either I-pod or a small speaker device. And yes I believe a majority of people just listen on their lap top or TV with small speaker surround.

To be honest I have high end audio equipment and I don`t even use it. My old Bose speakers, pioneer turntable and old sony stuff is packed away somewhere.
 
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Rex Anderson

Member
Messages
5,414
I always recommend the Bob Katz book, "Mastering Audio".

Lots of good reading on his web site too.

digido.com (Digital Domain)
 

jmoose

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Messages
5,162
Everything sounds like poo on a laptop speaker the size of your thumbnail. Nothing can be done about it, physical limits of science and all that.

However I can assure you that nobody at the top level of the craft is doing anything with "earbuds & iPods" as a forethought. That mindset simply doesn't exist.

Full freqency bandwith... otherwise audio would have to be chopped and channeled into something resembling the frequency response of a telephone, roughly 400-4kHz.
 

Britishampfan

Member
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3,034
Thanks Rex, I will check it out.

I played with my test track last night, I tried phase linear Eq `s of the guitar tracks on the mix before using a multi-presser and limiter and still ended up with a sound that I did`nt care for on small speakers.

Turning up the guitar tracks also changes the space as far as depth. The sound I`m trying to capture is a 100 watt marshall in a larger space.

If you ever have played cranked a superlead there is this attack and when you stop playing there is a decay time where you can still hear stuff rattling with the reflection.

Anyway, just trying to get preliminary stuff out of the way before actually recording the songs. I have a lot to learn.

Also I think there is absolutely no bass response on lap top speakers. :)
 

Britishampfan

Member
Messages
3,034
Everything sounds like poo on a laptop speaker the size of your thumbnail. Nothing can be done about it, physical limits of science and all that.

However I can assure you that nobody at the top level of the craft is doing anything with "earbuds & iPods" as a forethought. That mindset simply doesn't exist.

Full freqency bandwith... otherwise audio would have to be chopped and channeled into something resembling the frequency response of a telephone, roughly 400-4kHz.

Yes I know, I am not mastering just to sound good on earbuds.

Add:Heck i`m just looking for acceptable results that does`nt make me cringe on small speakers. I have`nt even attempted mixing and mastering in surround yet.
 

jmoose

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5,162
Traditionally mastering is largely a technical process... take a collection of songs and prepare a "master" for mass duplication. Sonic tweaks would be subtle at best.

Its only over the last, I dunno... maybe 10 years or so that "mastering" has taken on a new ethos of "creative input" in addition to the technical side. Probably not so incidentily, this coincides with the rise of budget gear "project studio" and "self-recorded" projects which, sometimes tend to be a bit under-recorded.

Hence the two camps of mastering I mentioned earlier;

a) If it sounds great almost anyone can cut a master, provided they know the technical limits of the medium its intended for.

b) If it sounds like poo then we need mastering as a form of reconstructive surgery to fix things up.
 

jmoose

Member
Messages
5,162
The sound I`m trying to capture is a 100 watt marshall in a larger space.

If you ever have played cranked a superlead there is this attack and when you stop playing there is a decay time where you can still hear stuff rattling with the reflection.


So what you're REALLY saying/asking is that you need to get better at recording... not mastering.
 

Britishampfan

Member
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3,034
Well, yeah I want to get better at everything, I like my test recording raw in my studio on monitors as I said it`s the final result I`m having trouble with.
 

Snap

Member
Messages
390
The elements that normally make a pro-level recording are (in order of importance):

1. A good song
2. Good players
3. Good gear to record the performance.

If these three elements are in place a track virtually mixes itself, and mastering is much easier also.

That being said, there are a lot of tools available at the home studio level to help compete when one doesn't have access to all three elements.

As far as "pro-sumer" plug-ins go for mastering, I would recommend izotope's Ozone. It's an all-in-one mastering plug that (like many Waves plug-ins) takes some of the science and/or extra parameters out of the equation for less experienced engineers.

As for mastering for small speakers, you want to make sure your recording sounds good in mono and that everything in your mid-range frequency area blends very well.
 

Britishampfan

Member
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3,034
You know I`m probably doing lots of stuff wrong, so I`m kinda chasing my tail, in circles around and around.

1-Good song- well nope test track I can screw around with.
2-Good player- well, no i`ve never considered myself "good".
3-Good Gear- I have some ok mics and a computer.

I think I am going wrong in the mixing department and that is why the mastering process is going bad, well how much I know about it.

I`ll keep playing around.
 

cap217

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,408
You say its the mastering that is making it sound bad? I would think its the mix itself. Post a clip of pre master and mastered. It is not going to sound all that different. For mastering I use a miltiband compressor in an opto setting and hit 1-3 db, I use an SSL buss comp (I use one for mixing at 4:1 and hit it kind of hard if needed) and at mastering 2:1 and 3db comp, I use an eq (2 band is enough for me, the mix should be good enough to not have to tweek specific ranges) to take away 400-800 range a little and maybe boost 8-12K, and I always end with an L2 and genera dependent on how much limiting.
 

Rex Anderson

Member
Messages
5,414
Mastering should be minor, if anything, to polish a mix. If your mixes don't translate from one playback system to another, mastering tools may not be the solution.

Get some good reference CD's. I use Donald Fagen "Morph the Cat". Play it on all your different systems and see how it translates. Get to know your monitors and room.

Keep using the reference CD and work with your mixes, playing them back on all your different systems. Pretty soon you should start to find compromises that have to take place to get it to sound good everywhere.

Because you are doing everything yourself (recording, mixing and "mastering"), you have complete control. Get good sounding tracks recorded, work your mix until it is good (using the reference CD for comparison) and the only thing you will need in mastering is maybe a touch of high end and/or low end EQ and a touch of "making it louder" limiting.

Roger Nichols (Steely Dan engineer) said mastering guys rarely touched his mixes. That is the goal to me-just make a CD out of it-don't mess with my work if I did a good job.
 
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SideBMusic

Member
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1,552
I like to listen on a quality system and my iPod. I try to get my mix as close to the finished product as possible and use the mastering to "pull all the sound together." There's something in the mastering that seems to do that for me. I try not to have to use the mastering to fix things.

What is working best for me is 1) placing the sounds in the stereo space so they don't overlap (unless that is what I am going for) and 2) EQ'ing the sounds so they don't duplicate. For the latter, I recently learned to EQ the bass and the kick drum. I found the sweet spot for each, boosted them slightly, then subtracted them in the same range for the opposite instrument. Did it work? I thought so, but when I shared it with my recording partner, he noticed it without my even mentioning it.

Although converting to MP3 does take away some of the frequencies in the recording, I find that it is retaining the distinction.
 

LSchefman

Member
Messages
13,432
If your mixes sound vastly different on different systems, then it's possible that room anomalies (these can change the frequency response by as much as 20 db in various notches caused by doubling and frequency cancellations) are the problem. Alternatively, if the room is fine (and most aren't) it's possible that the monitors are giving you a false picture. Or it could be a combination. Also, great monitors in the wrong location in a room can give you all kinds of problems.

In other words, the whole thing is a can of worms that can't really be solved by simple internet advice.

Well, there are a few things you can do:

First, is compare your mixes to commercial mixes that you like, and listen for problems. This can help a little. In fact, most DAWs have frequency analyzers that you can compare your mix to your favorite commercial releases with, to get a visual representation of where problem frequencies might be.

Second, you can use headphones to check your frequency balances. No, you don't want to mix on them, but you can often hear what room effects are causing problems by comparing your speaker mix to the same mix on cans. Well, if they're reasonably accurate cans.

Third, send your files to your iPod and computer. Check the balances on these devices. Again, it's a trial and error process until you learn where your monitors or room are a problem.

It's true that everything sounds like poo on computer speakers, etc. But you'll notice that some poo sounds better than other poo. ;)
 

Britishampfan

Member
Messages
3,034
I played around with the mix last night and one of the problems is that I was over doing the Eq and probably over compressing the master and just about everything.

I did`nt realize how much eq effects the mix on other devices vs studio monitors.

I wanted a warmer fatter mix on small speakers so naturally I boosted the low mids a bit and tried to resolve the mid conflict between two guitar tracks, Snap was right. The bass track almost entirely disappeared on playback on other devices.:bonk

So I have been chasing my tail on eq`ing changing one thing to have it effect another.

What style of eq should I be using during mix down?

I have figured out I am not used to the wide range in the studio vs playback on other devices. Almost like oversteering driving on ice with a car, that might be a bad analogy.

I`m learning, What I can do is mix it and you guys if you want to- listen and give some advice.

Yes I have been mixing badly and trying to use mastering as a fix.

Ok, this is what I came up with. Please excuse my playing it was just a one shot one each track totally IMPROV and I am so not a bass player.
Taking your advice it sounds much better, but it`s a work in progress.
http://soundcloud.com/britishampfan/marshall-test-mix-unmastered
 
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