what's wrong with ITB producers nowadays
Analogue Mastering
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6th July 2009
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what's wrong with ITB producers nowadays

After a few brilliant mixes from customers, today I had 2 mixes which sounded like driven too hard into a limiter (limiter treshold on -10db) with a lot of ITB "Tube warmth" and way too much 500hz and 80hz area.

After cleaning these tracks up and trying to get them towards around -8 on K12 you will just hear all the damage already done by Ozone, Elephant and whatever other stuff that has been abused during mixdown.

Once on level the whole sounded like a car stereo driven too hard.

so the files were not too hot (-10DB rms) and 32bits

but both sounded like it was just a redo of a finished "mastered during mixdown" effort. recoded from 16bits to 32bits.

I've provided some tips and requested for new mixdowns.
Am i being too critical or do some people just don't hear what the're doing?
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True, that's my approach as well. I mean GIGO helps no one.

And when building relationships time v/s money is not (yet) a leading factor, however you hope that this also then becomes a learning curve and subsequent tracks get better and better.

But overall it can be a time consuming activity if you take the quality of your output seriously. (and who of us doesn't)
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Mastering is also to be able to accept the state of the incoming audio.

There's nothing wrong with ITB producers.

I hate the idea of mastering engineers teaching mix engineers mixing. Any mix engineer with a little spine should hate that idea too.


Best Regards
Patrik
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I don't think there is something wrong with "ITB" producers and/or Mixers...but I do think you bring up a very good point....

There are alot of ITB producers/Mixers, that aren't as skilled as others and sometimes do not posses the skill level required to create a commercial sounding mix that works well with mastering.

While I don't think Mastering Engineers should tell mixers what to do, they do know and understand how to do certian things in the mix to make the master optimal.

For instance, I had that whole thread about how I can get my Mixes to stand out way up front (if that's what is desired of me) after mastering no problem...but I find that when I Master some other mixes, its not always the case. Mainly becuase of the way it was mixed. This is when I just have to accpet the incomming audio and treat it to the best of my ability. The clients are happy so i can't complain...but there is definitly room for the Mastering engineer to *suggest* (not tell) certian techniques to help the mix sound better in the long run.
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we're not talking about artistic skills like depth or imaging, were talking about not proper gainstaging and distorted mxes. Which is clearly beyond repair.
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One of the best mixes I've recently heard was done in Ableton Live with headphones.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Virtalahde View Post
One of the best mixes I've recently heard was done in Ableton Live with headphones.
Real instruments or pretend?

Mychal
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Real instruments or pretend?
Very much real. Drums, bass, guitars, some organs + two lead singers.
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I'm a work-in-progress mix.eng/producer and starting to believe in ITB mixing thanks to things like Nebula and the Acousticas IRs. From what i learned, ITB Producers tend to be irresponsible with their "sonic toys" and having the necessity of gettings things done a.s.a.p no matter the cost (or no cost at all..)

@ Raphie: Thank god there are people like you out there, i pledge that whenever possible and if time/money permits, try to educate your clients towards a harshless, warmer, dynamical, spatial and depthful world

Warm Vibes from South Brazil!
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why does 'ITB' instantly equate to smashing your tracks with too much limiting?
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A massive problem for me is the Fruity Loops and Reason default mastering set up in the output chain.

It seems to be teaching producers to not even notice they are effecting the dynamics, and training their ears to think that squish as you go louder is right!

I might write an article about it and put it on my site to help producers understand how their software is acting before the export stage.
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2 very interesting observations, let me put in my perspective

- ITB mixing is not neccecarilly "better" or "worse" than outboard mixing.

- people can as easily trash an ITB mix as an outboard mix.
And yes i regularly receive VERY high quality ITB productions, which are a real pleasure to work with.

The "problem" with ITB is that it's available for free all over the net, so the threshold for becoming an ITB producer is very low. download reaper and strawl KVR and 2 hours later your up and running with all the tools one needs in a lifetime and more. But tools don't make the artist and hence it's quite easy to get unskilled mixdowns. This is not the way we want to work, but especially with (pre) up and coming EDM artists this has become a reality. Once more advanced a lot of them do invest, but that's where the skillset than already has become higher with more releases under the belt.
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It's things like this that led me to begin a blog.

"How to make a better master." It's not live yet.

And it starts with the songwriting and ends with the mixing and communication with the mastering engineer.

I don't think the Mastering Engineer has any place telling a Mix Eng what to do but I always request an uncompressed 2 bus if possible. If there's issues, I point them out.

The whole thing with being an engineer is that it's part science and part art. The thing is to stay out of the art and point out issues with the science (frequencies sticking out, phase issues, flamming etc)

I think a lot of young engineers miss the fact that there's actual science involved and they focus entirely on the art. I often wind up with some serious issues regarding low end for example. I think the ME in this case can really help them understand the science which maybe they haven't been taught. Nowhere should this affect your art per se. The Mix engineers that I work with are all very appreciative to learn about things like proper gain staging and phase interference.

There's an art to mixing though. You never want to step into that territory.
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ITB is generally far less of a problem than bad monitoring.

The problem with ITB is that a lot more signal processing is available which dramatically increases the importance of being able to hear exactly what you are doing.
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Spoken for Truth.

I think Monitoring though falls into my category of the science of this all.

You can't exactly tune a room completely by ear. There's quite a bit of math involved.
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... Monitoring and room acoustics are the Nr 1 Problem of our time, defining 95% of the sound quality.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HomeProducer View Post
... Monitoring and room acoustics are the Nr 1 Problem of our time, defining 95% of the sound quality.
I'll second that. The computer, converter, pre and mic are plenty good for professional, although maybe not stellar, results with the cheap stuff. The tracking room an the monitoring room are far more of an issue. Even the skilled would be blind in a carpeted, squarish bedroom for tracking and mixing.
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There's a lot to be said for simply not using very much signal processing when you know you're flying blind.

We did it for decades and the records from the '50s -'70s don't really sound all that bad.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
There's a lot to be said for simply not using very much signal processing when you know you're flying blind.

We did it for decades and the records from the '50s -'70s don't really sound all that bad.
There's probably a lot to be said for not using very much processing as a general rule of thumb. As far as the records from the 50s - 70s, many of those sound way better than a lot of what's being recorded now.

Mychal
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being a fresh beginner from the year (beginner at everything and using fruity loops, yeah it's gross)... I have a few questions :

I am not trying to master my tracks professionally, but after mixing at a very low average rms (at least I think it is low)... I usually put a limiter with often a very low treshold (-10dB or even more)..

I thought the limiting is quite transparent and helps sometimes glueing things together... (when it's not overdone to the point it's noticeable for the pulsing sound it makes)

Is that the way to go, letting a maximum of headroom... ???
Is limiting really "transparent" ??
I noticed with a max of headroom, I can make the limited track quite loud, but yeah, at some point, there isn't much dynamic range left...(i think)


Sorry for the beginners questions
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Quote:
Originally Posted by B.A.S.E View Post
I am not trying to master my tracks professionally, but after mixing at a very low average rms (at least I think it is low)... I usually put a limiter with often a very low treshold (-10dB or even more)..
If I understand you correctly, you select a threshold of -10 dBFS. This makes no sence to me. A normal setting would be -0.3 to -1 dB to prevent clipping. If your pop song has enough headroom of let's say an rms level equal to -16 dBFS, limiter action typically happens only rarely and dynamics are preserved. If you leave more headroom, no limiter is required for a pop mix.

I dont see any need to put a limiter at the output stage, if the mix goes to a mastering studio anyway. Just ensure enough bit depth of 24 bit and leave a headroom of -20 dBFS (dB "full-scale") rms.
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I mean, I usually let the master track peaking at -10dB

When I want to show it around without having it mastered professionally (soundclick, zshare), I try to make it louder... So I usually add a limiter on the master with quite a low threshold...

I noticed that the less loud my mix was initially, the louder I could bring the track level after limiting...

So, my exact question would be : if I want to have a track mastered professionally, the less loud the mix is (the more headroom), the better ?


edit : -20dBFS rms, oww ok, I wasn't even leaving enough headroom I think then...

2nd and last question : How do people have loud final tracks after mastering ? through limiting as well ?

Thanks for your time answering,

Last edited by B.A.S.E; 7th July 2009 at 07:26 PM.. Reason: forgot to say thank you lol
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Quote:
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2nd and last question : How do people have loud final tracks after mastering ? through limiting as well ?
yes. But the mix must be prepared to allow "good limiting".
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Quote:
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I 2nd and last question : How do people have loud final tracks after mastering ? through limiting as well ?
Through frequencies.


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Patrik
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More and more label A&R reps are asking for loud mixes ...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hipass View Post
More and more label A&R reps are asking for loud mixes ...
... but not the mastering engineer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PatrikT View Post
Through frequencies.


Best Regards
Patrik
Could you be a lil more explicit please ?? I don't quite understand what you mean... I think this one might be subtle...


Quote:
yes. But the mix must be prepared to allow "good limiting".
Yeah sure, I have read enough posts around here to realize that :D
That's why I am on the mastering forum trying to learn mixing tips
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Quote:
Originally Posted by B.A.S.E View Post
Could you be a lil more explicit please ?? I don't quite understand what you mean... I think this one might be subtle...
He probably means balancing all the various frequencies so they fit together well. That way levels can be brought up in a musical way.

Mychal
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raphie View Post

The "problem" with ITB is that it's available for free all over the net, so the threshold for becoming an ITB producer is very low. download reaper and strawl KVR and 2 hours later your up and running with all the tools one needs in a lifetime and more. But tools don't make the artist and hence it's quite easy to get unskilled mixdowns.
Sooner or later ITB only user will show his/her inexperience to those that either use outboard gear only or a combination of the two.

Cheers!
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