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What are the main components of mastering?

rob2001

Member
Messages
16,928
What are the basic components of mastering. Is it more than compression, equalization, the right gear and good ears?
 
Messages
1,092
What are the basic components of mastering. Is it more than compression, equalization, the right gear and good ears?
Throw the room in and that pretty much covers it. Contrary to what most people are told, there really aren't any "tricks" involved. All those maximizers, exciters, stereo imaging plugs, etc... usually do more to degrade the audio than help it. In order to hear that though, you need the gear, the room, and the ears. Most of that stuff sounds pretty bad in actuality.

Of course, there's the technical side regarding dithering, SRC, etc.. and the assembly process, the restoration including NR, spectral editing--preparing the actual disc to go to replication, but that's the boring stuff.

So "yes", it's all about EQ and Compression (and not multiband compression ;-) )
 

rob2001

Member
Messages
16,928
Throw the room in and that pretty much covers it. Contrary to what most people are told, there really aren't any "tricks" involved. All those maximizers, exciters, stereo imaging plugs, etc... usually do more to degrade the audio than help it. In order to hear that though, you need the gear, the room, and the ears. Most of that stuff sounds pretty bad in actuality.

Of course, there's the technical side regarding dithering, SRC, etc.. and the assembly process, the restoration including NR, spectral editing--preparing the actual disc to go to replication, but that's the boring stuff.

So "yes", it's all about EQ and Compression (and not multiband compression ;-) )

I guess the boring stuff is what i'm interested in! SRC, dithering, spectral editing and preparing for duplication are terms or processes I haven't heard.

I do my own now and it's just compression and EQ. Thats all i'm really working with.

My bands first CD is getting close to being finished and i'm weighing the pro's and cons of spending the money on outside mastering. I'm very sure a good M.E. would do wonders but this project has no goal other than to have it.

I have worked in a pro studio and that project was pro mastered. There is obviously a difference in sound quality but I wonder how much of that is mastering and how much was tracking with pro gear in a killer studio.

When I compare our work to the pro studio, there is a difference but thats not to say I think our stuff sounds bad. I guess i'm just looking for things to research so I can improve.
 

Baloney

Senior Member
Messages
1,674
Theres more to it than compression and EQ thats for sure. You have to set the songs levels to all be the same. You have to set the duration between the songs. A mastering room is small and really tuned well. You set which order the songs are in. Its not rocket science but its not that easy either. Its the one area of engineering that I wanted to do but you have intern and work free in the mastering houses and hope the top guy quits or dies before you get a shot. hahaha..
 
Messages
1,092
I guess the boring stuff is what i'm interested in! SRC, dithering, spectral editing and preparing for duplication are terms or processes I haven't heard.

I do my own now and it's just compression and EQ. Thats all i'm really working with.

My bands first CD is getting close to being finished and i'm weighing the pro's and cons of spending the money on outside mastering. I'm very sure a good M.E. would do wonders but this project has no goal other than to have it.

I have worked in a pro studio and that project was pro mastered. There is obviously a difference in sound quality but I wonder how much of that is mastering and how much was tracking with pro gear in a killer studio.

When I compare our work to the pro studio, there is a difference but thats not to say I think our stuff sounds bad. I guess i'm just looking for things to research so I can improve.
Well, I have an obvious bias, lol. But really, have had several clients who've said they wished they'd had previous projects mastered by a professional. It's not THAT expensive, and if you've put time and effort into it, I just can't see why you wouldn't. If you find someone you enjoy working with that knows what they're doing, you can expect a very positive experience and results.

I don't master things I mix, and I don't mix things I master. I really do think those worlds shouldn't meet (with only a few exceptions), and I practice what I preach--even if it takes $$ out of my pockets.
 

rob2001

Member
Messages
16,928
Thanks for the input guys. I think it is the little things that add up to be a ton of work that does indeed draw me away from the creative process of being a writer/player/mixer etc.... I worry about continuity between songs, time between songs, levels....the big picture.

Not to mention the frustration of a sometimes wayward drummer!

Seriously though, I post here often and hope to have examples of our work soon.

Thanks again, Rob
 

Fantom1

Senior Member
Messages
1,995
There is much more involved for a good sound engineer than just adding reverb, eq and compression. Just getting the levels right in relation to each other for anywhere from 12-60 tracks per song is a fairly time consuming task, and that's before you even get into effects. Then add in a few wrong notes, some background noise that accidentally occurs, a bassist playing slightly wrong time for 2 bars. Then add in solos, fills, interludes, etc. Then after you finally have all that going you'll probably want to tweak the EQ a little further bit for a better overall mix...and it keeps going.
 
Messages
1,092
There is much more involved for a good sound engineer than just adding reverb, eq and compression. Just getting the levels right in relation to each other for anywhere from 12-60 tracks per song is a fairly time consuming task, and that's before you even get into effects. Then add in a few wrong notes, some background noise that accidentally occurs, a bassist playing slightly wrong time for 2 bars. Then add in solos, fills, interludes, etc. Then after you finally have all that going you'll probably want to tweak the EQ a little further bit for a better overall mix...and it keeps going.
Ummm....that's not really mastering. :)
 

MichaelK

Member
Messages
6,476
There is much more involved for a good sound engineer than just adding reverb, eq and compression. Just getting the levels right in relation to each other for anywhere from 12-60 tracks per song is a fairly time consuming task, and that's before you even get into effects. Then add in a few wrong notes, some background noise that accidentally occurs, a bassist playing slightly wrong time for 2 bars. Then add in solos, fills, interludes, etc. Then after you finally have all that going you'll probably want to tweak the EQ a little further bit for a better overall mix...and it keeps going.
Most of what you describe falls under mixing, not mastering. Matching perceived loudness levels from song-to-song is usually one of the last steps in mastering.

Mastering is the art/science of preparing the master disk that will be used for replication. For CDs that usually means balancing the sound of the mixes so there is consistency from one to the other, mainly in frequency balance and perceived levels (i.e. EQ, compression and limiting). Normally (is there a "normally??") mastering should not entail "fixing" problematic mixes, but as Cass pointed out, sometimes you need the right gear and the right room to hear the problems. Sitting in on the mastering session of your work can be the best constructive critique of your recording & mixing skills that you will ever get.

My first CD had problems with the bass guitar due to how I recorded it. The ME was able to tell me exactly what I did wrong and how to do it better... but as skilled as he was, he could not create something in my mix that was not already there. He got it so it sounded great, but when I listen today I still hear how it could have been better.

It's important to remember that any change made in mastering is a global change (to coin a phrase from the graphic arts), meaning it affects the entire mix. E.g. if you bring up the treble for the sake of the vocal, you bring up whatever other instruments are in that frequency range. So if you hear something you want fixed, fix it BEFORE mastering.
 
Messages
1,092
It's important to remember that any change made in mastering is a global change (to coin a phrase from the graphic arts), meaning it affects the entire mix. E.g. if you bring up the treble for the sake of the vocal, you bring up whatever other instruments are in that frequency range. So if you hear something you want fixed, fix it BEFORE mastering.
Indeed. Otherwise you're sending something to mastering with a "ceiling" already in place.
 




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