Take part in a discussion on Mastering...

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Kenny D, Apr 3, 2008.

  1. Kenny D

    Kenny D Member

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    Hey, fellow TGPers.

    I have been a member of ProRec.com for a long time prior to their rebuild. Rip Rowan has rebuilt the site from the ground up and I have found it (and Rip) very helpful in learning recording techniques and getting help.

    A while back, Rip Rowan published an article called Over the Limit which took those responsible for mastering Rush's Vapor Trails CD to task for turning out one of the worst sounding CDs in recent history. Note that this is not about the music, but about the mastering.

    The article was excellent in its exploration of the music industry's "Loudness Wars."

    Below, Rip is soliciting help in locating some examples of badly mastered CDs.

    I am reprinting his newsletter here for you to respond yourself, if you so choose.

    Again, I am not trying to SPAM TGP. ProRec, like TGP, is a resource for people interested in recording. I have received exceptional help from several people, including Rip Rowan, on ProRec.

    Cheers,

    Ken

    =====================================================
    Hello everyone,

    I'm preparing a follow-up to the popular "Over the Limit" article, and I need your help. I want to find new examples of the worst mastering to use in the article.

    So help me out. Give an example of what you consider to be the most overcompressed, overlimited CD in your collection, and document it herefor the world to see.

    Contributors whose examples are chosen will be credited in the article to be published later in the year! As you know, the "Over the Limit" article was the basis for the Wikipedia topic "Loudness War" and was reprinted in modified form in Wired, so we're sure that the follow-up will create a bigger splash.

    Be a part of audio history by participating! Find out more here.

    Thanks,
    Rip Rowan
    ProRec Editor-in-Chief

    =====================================================
     
  2. 3 Mile Stone

    3 Mile Stone Silver Supporting Member

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    I quite enjoy the material on Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's latest album and it's was produced by Brandon O'brien one of my favorites. I can barely listen to it. It's hard to actually hear anything particularly the guitars and after listening to O'brien's work with Stone Temple Pilots and many others I DOUBT he was responsible for that. Could poor mastering be a factor?
     
  3. Kenny D

    Kenny D Member

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    It could be. I have not heard it but you could always submit the CD to the link below and let Rip Rowan know about it.

    I have nothing to do with the process of reviewing the CDs - Rip will do that. I was just asked to bring it to everyone's attention.

    Thanks for the reply.
     
  4. Sunbreak Music

    Sunbreak Music Member

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    I remember the article, but to try and follow up by embarrasing professional mastering engineers is a little reckless and irresponsible, imo.

    Unless someone was there in the session, heard the mixes as presented to the ME, and also heard directions given as to what was expected as the final product, I don't see how blame can clearly be laid on the person performing their duties in an expected manner.

    .02
     
  5. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    Although it's one of my favorites of recent years, that Wolfmother CD probably would win the loudness war. :jo
     
  6. rah3

    rah3 Member

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    I agree with Sunbreak Music, as someone with Mastering Credits myself, no self-respecting mastering engineer ever intentionally forced the volume "over the limit". It was always at the instruction of the production staff at the labels, who they themselves had been ordered by tonedeaf executives to make sure their CD was louder than so-and-so's.

    -RAH3
     
  7. Kenny D

    Kenny D Member

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    It's been a while since I read the article. Perhaps my recollection of it in my description was poor. If so, I apologize. It probably was the label execs.

    In any case, if I were a mastering engineer, I'd have to think twice about having my name associated with such a crappy sounding product. Vapor Trails is in my CD case and Rip is right, the tone and overall sound of the CD is atrocious. I can only listen to it for a short period of time before my skin crawls.
     
  8. Sunbreak Music

    Sunbreak Music Member

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    No argument on "Vapor Trails"--it got one listen from me, and that was enough.

    The original article was fine--pointing out a problem and explaining a little about how we got there. No problem.

    A contest declaring "The Worst Mastering Engineer" isn't really helpful, and there's definitely a different tone this round, judging from the title of the thread.

    In reality, there are other ways to judge the quality of a master outside of the parameters listed.
     
  9. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    I don't think you can blame ME's for what they did to certain records. I think the lables did lots of research and declaired that louder is better based on studies, so they want loud.
     
  10. Kenny D

    Kenny D Member

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    I posted a note to Rip in the forum linked in the original post. I am sure that Rip will respond to the ideas put forth there.

    The recording business often makes decisions contrary to those of the musicians or the listeners who are expecting good recordings. The arguments presented here are good ones and I doubt that any seasoned, professional mastering engineer would want his name on a poor quality product.
     
  11. Sunbreak Music

    Sunbreak Music Member

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    Ken,
    You are a class act all the way.

    :AOK
     
  12. padavis

    padavis Supporting Member

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    I read that article awhile back and seeing this again made me think a little and Aerosmith's South of Sanity is so loud in particularly compared to Rocks. I was listening to each cd's version of Last Child to see what they do live as compared to what they did in the studio and it is amazing just how over powering the newest version is... not sure about other qualities though, as both sound decent to me.
     
  13. Kenny D

    Kenny D Member

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    Thanks. I try, sometimes not hard enough!

    Anyway, I went to your website. I visit Portland periodically and jam with some friends in Carlton (near McMinnville).

    At any given time whie in Portland, I can be found at Pho Hung on Powell.
     
  14. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    Let's say, for sake of argument, that you were a mastering engineer and major labels represented 75% of your annual revenues. If they all wanted you to overcompress their records and you refused every time, how many weeks do you think you could hold out with a 75% pay cut?

    Then, when you decide you might have been a bit hasty, how long do you think it would take you to win back the customers you lost forever when you turned them down?

    There was something about the Springsteen CD in the letters section of Tape Op this month or last, I think...

    Something about how it's absurd to simply blame mastering engineers for overcompressed CDs, as if a skilled professional would set out to ruin a good mix simply because they prefer it that way.
     
  15. elambo

    elambo Member

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    No way! You certainly can't cut off the hand that feeds you, that hand belonging to the labels. The MEs go loud because the record label wants it loud because the DJs want it loud because the station wants it loud because the listeners want it loud. Studies have shown that people tend to prefer louder radio stations. So who's to blame? It's so hard to get anyone's attention these days that if you're NOT loud you're silent.

    I don't understand the point of the inquisition.
     
  16. Greggy

    Greggy Member

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    Maybe the strategic target is the labels, but his target should be ordinary consumers. That's a broad audience target, no mastering article/blog/newsletter will change consumer tastes for loud music and mixes. So his plan/model is doomed to failure? Having said that, I really enjoyed Rip's original article. Read it when I was first entering the home studio game, and it helped me to understand some basic concepts.
     
  17. Kenny D

    Kenny D Member

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    It goes something like this: Over compressed mastering like that of Vapor Trails sounds like utter crap.

    I happen to like well mixed and mastered music. I think Rip is right to bring the issue out in the open.
     
  18. riprowan

    riprowan Member

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    Hello all,

    Thanks for the lively discussion about the article.

    After reading the comments, I've decided to remove the objectionable portion ("Worst Mastering Engineer") from the title of my discussion board post. The is no reason to make that post controversial.

    However, I will point out some of my experience here, as I think it's informative to this discussion.

    I produce a lot of local rock / pop CDs (in Dallas) as well as a handful of label artists. I produce perhaps 10-20 CDs a year. Most are unsigned and paid for by the artist, who also pays for mastering.

    About 80% of the artists who select a mastering facility and send off their CD receive the LOUDER IS BETTER treatment by default.

    No labels, no instruction, no nothing. Just brute-force loudness maximization.

    I have many theories about all of this, which will make it into my article, but in my opinion, some of these mastering engineers need to be publicly shamed, because they either don't understand their craft at all, or because they have become brainwashed. At any rate, they are electing to dramatically overlimit and distort their client's music without being asked to. On some level, they think it's their job to do that.

    Thanks for participating. Please submit your examples to ProRec.com.
     
  19. elambo

    elambo Member

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    What I meant was that I don't see how we have much control over this trend. I, for one, am extremely frustrated by what's happening. I listened to Vapor Trails for the first time last night and it is what everyone has said it is - a boring, static, awful listen, void of anything enjoyable. I'd call myself a Rush fan, but I literally couldn't take more than 10 seconds of any particular song. A great specimen of the over-mastering problem. Focusing on the mastering engineers isn't going to travel anywhere towards a solution and this was my point. But I see from Rip's post that he has taken that focus out of the title, so it should be a wider discussion and I think some relevant info will come from it.

    I hope MEs will one day (be allowed to) raise the threshold on their limiters so that all this audio goulash might become more palatable.
     
  20. Sunbreak Music

    Sunbreak Music Member

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    Greetings Rip,
    I think that's a great move in regard to your article. I enjoyed the first one when it made the rounds years ago.

    I agree that the default shouldn't be to return a product in that condition, I certainly don't encourage it all in my biz. Often times I think it's just a matter of consistently being asked to "make it louder".

    I make it a point of discussion before I even fly in the tracks, then attempt to do some education--"We can make it really loud, but here's the tradeoff....".

    There are some really bad mastering jobs out there, but there are plenty of good ones as well. Choose the ME wisely. :cool:

    Thanks,
    :BEER
     

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