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3 meaningless words which make you crazy... warm, punch and clarity:)
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Red Mastering
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11th August 2011
Old 11th August 2011
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3 meaningless words which make you crazy... warm, punch and clarity:)

Yep,
as in title,
when I get message from client saying I need to have my master or mix
warm, punchy and clear - I got allergic reaction...
I always have, but since reading last 'tape op' magazine,
I feel much better knowing, I am not alone on this planet

how do you feel and react for those 3 magical and meaningless words

warm
punchy
clear
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11th August 2011
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While not specific to 'Mastering', I have found the 'Waves: One Knob Series: an instant client pleaser as long as they don't realise what you're doing and you're confident with your mix or master.

I've been having fun with clients.
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11th August 2011
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They are only meaningless because nobody has defined their meaning thoroughly enough. For me and my colleagues they are definitely not meaningless. We have very clear understanding among us what 'punchy' means. For us it means "big transients", that the part of a sound that contains the 'punch' (the "thud!" of kick or snare, not to be confused with the initial "tick!").

So how to do more 'punchy'? Depends on the sound source of course. Usually on single tracks it is a combination of an EQ and compressor. EQ to boost whatever area contains the energy and a compressor to separate the main transient part from the sustain, thus enhancing the punch.

Warm? Well that one is a bit trickier but when talking to some of my friends and clients the definition has usually been "slightly bass heavy, scooped low-mids and mellow mids and highs.. with some sheen in the very top end".

This can be achieved in multiple ways but it usually means that one needs to tame harsh high frequency sounds like esses, spitty hihats and such (the Maselec MDS-2 being an excellent unit for this task!). Then one needs to keep the overall feeling of the track 'round' and relaxed (kind of a very gentle punch setting, meaning deep threshold, very small ratios, large attack, relatively short release.. so that the compressor 'breathes' with the music, relaxing it a bit). Then do the EQ magic that makes the track "warm".

'Clear' is pretty self explanatory to me.. just make it so that the instruments that have the most important melodies, rhythm parts and harmonies get separation enough from the rest of the mix (this can sometimes be completely impossible if the mix is squashed and all over the place).

YMMV but these are the definitions I've come to use with some of my clients and colleagues. They didn't come simply by themselves.. no, we actually discussed them and agreed on some middle ground so that we could avoid talking about fluffy-silly-things that have no real meaning. Isn't that how language works in general? A word pops up and we slowly get a true definition for it (or sometimes the opposite.. a word pops up and it's precise meaning is slowly but surely diluted).

Having said all that, without meaning, the words do indeed frustrate me. So I agree with you that if a client simply says the words and assumes we have the same translation for each word, then yeah.. it's damn irritating. You'll just have to ask these clients to be more specific.

Cheers!
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11th August 2011
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No problems being confronted with these words here. It's the usual jack of all trades device the client wants to get... To be honest I'm not unhappy about these words from a client as it means for me he has no detailed goals and references. "Make it sound like blabla" is the phrase I don't like much...
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11th August 2011
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I'll devil's advocate here and say those words are more emotionall than clinical. since the best music is emotionally felt and experienced, using emotional descriptions over clinical ones (Needs low mid bass, increase transient perception) sounds fine to me
yeah, that doesn't help the mixer or mastering, but knowing it needs SOMETHING is better than not finding out until it is too late.
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11th August 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by www.redmastering.co.uk View Post
how do you feel and react for those 3 magical and meaningless words

warm
punchy
clear
How good is your mix?
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12th August 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by www.redmastering.co.uk View Post
Yep,
as in title,
when I get message from client saying I need to have my master or mix
warm, punchy and clear - I got allergic reaction...
I always have, but since reading last 'tape op' magazine,
I feel much better knowing, I am not alone on this planet

how do you feel and react for those 3 magical and meaningless words

warm
punchy
clear
Are you offering a solution or just complaining?
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12th August 2011
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looking for a healthy solution,
and trying to have relaxing and funny discussion...
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12th August 2011
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every time someone ask me those 3 words in a same sentence, it means:

LOUD with less kick/snare loosing as possible...

But LOUUUUUUUUUUD in priority.

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12th August 2011
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Come on, sound is hard to describe.

Unfourntualey musicians can tend to be not the most articulate folk when it comes to Languages (talking) at least....hmmm maybe thats why they turn to music as a way of communicating???


Do you suggest we just stop trying to describe sound at all??

I mean I can halfway relate to what your saying.
But when you DO hear something that is:

PUNCHY
WARM
FULL

and all these other so called "meaningless" adjectives...it sure seems like a good way to describe it.

Do we need to start our own dictionary? Cause I think webster should have one kicking around...
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12th August 2011
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warm
  • moderate highs, cuts at midlows, boosted midrange sometime? smoothly equied/compressed high-mids
  • saturation with high quality plugins or hardware
  • analog high quality compression, API2500, Manley VariMu etc
  • less amount of harshness, also less amount of digital or instrument transients
  • instruments can have analogish synthesis or have natural synthesis. example:analog pads or analog bass.
punchy
  • bright radical boosts/cuts
  • preserving & adding more bite through use of compressor/eq (check UAD 33609)
  • increasing transients with exciters?
clear
  • mixed instruments are panned right
  • overall instruments sound clean, meaning they have less distortion
  • sometimes it can involve using good VST/Hardware Compressor that improves that sound wav form/sound (check UAD 33609)
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12th August 2011
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I am just listening to the new Symphony X album "Iconoclast" and as I read this thread feel that the words "warm, punchy and clear" describe it quite well. If you're into metal, check it out to give some meaning to these descriptive adjectives. It's also one of the best productions you will find in this genre of music.

Cheers
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12th August 2011
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Warm = Dull
Punchy = Kick too loud
Clear = Harsh

Fab
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12th August 2011
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"Punchy" drives me nuts because I found its the one that is most subjective. I associate punch with low end One time a drummer wanted me to add more punch to the kick. Judging from the style of band I felt I knew the solution. so I added a narrow boost in the high end and swept it across from 9 to 12K and he was like "That sounds awesome". Usually I hear people call it "clicky".
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12th August 2011
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The one that gets me is the statement "it sounds more musical".

I'm guessing "it sounds more musical" is attempting to describe when gear is adding harmonics.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sjhdez View Post
The one that gets me is the statement "it sounds more musical".
I find musical funny too.
So it is a quality piece of gear and doesn't sound like a badger raping whenever you turn one of the knobs out of unity? It works well on music? thats good to know.
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12th August 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fabmaster View Post
Warm = Dull
Punchy = Kick too loud
Clear = Harsh

Fab
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12th August 2011
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Real fun is when you got a message like this: I WANT LOUD MASTER ABOUT -5/-4 RMS BUT STILL PUNCHY AND NOT DISTORTED haha these guys are so funny this is mission imposible situation.
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Recently a client asked me to master a track to sound "deep and rich, like a glass of vintage port on a winter's evening". That same client also asked me to describe the textures created by different dithering modes.

At least it was a jazz tune, otherwise I might have laughed.
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12th August 2011
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If i want to listen to punchy, warm and clear music, i'll put a Lp recorded by Steve Albini and cut by Steve Rooke or Nick Web, for example.

If i want to listen to punchy, warm and clear sound, i'll just open the window and listen to the city soundscape.

It works just as fine if you replace music by sound in either the 2 sentences.
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Its simple -

Give the client a nice big cup of hot chocolat

punch him in the head

buy him new glasses .....
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Gotta love those clients that asks for a punchy master that's warm and clear...

Or, I want a very punchy master that slammed all to hell!
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Red Mastering
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13th August 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smackmastering View Post
Gotta love those clients that asks for a punchy master that's warm and clear...

Or, I want a very punchy master that slammed all to hell!
lol
have you noticed another interesting thing,
when they say they want 'dynamics', it means - 'smash the hell out of it'...
so no dynamics....

audio contradictions of sound engineer's everyday bread

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Bauer View Post
Recently a client asked me to master a track to sound "deep and rich, like a glass of vintage port on a winter's evening". That same client also asked me to describe the textures created by different dithering modes.

At least it was a jazz tune, otherwise I might have laughed.
Gold! That just made my day!
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16th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Bauer View Post
I am just listening to the new Symphony X album "Iconoclast" and as I read this thread feel that the words "warm, punchy and clear" describe it quite well. If you're into metal, check it out to give some meaning to these descriptive adjectives. It's also one of the best productions you will find in this genre of music.

Cheers
Listening to this album now, was sent to me as reference by a client, sounds amazing, certainly not loud, who gives a shit, just turn it up.
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18th January 2013
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Imho this is more vague: Mastering audio means adding an extra layer to the song, a ‘magic touch’ if you will.
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18th January 2013
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I like to add a bit of phat to my music. A little olive, some avocado, and if the mood is right some butter.
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18th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tubefreak View Post
Imho this is more vague: Mastering audio means adding an extra layer to the song, a ‘magic touch’ if you will.
Or perhaps removing a 'layer' from a song. By removing excesses of frequencies in parts of the spectrum or just being tasteful with EQ, for natural music (ie world/acoustic music) you can effectively remove a layer by making it sound more natural or less eq'd, fixing missing fundamentals (or body), removing harshness and removing some "mud"

Come to think of it, this is kind of the recipe for "warm" and "clear" if done well.

I don't really have a problem with the terms warm, clear and punchy. I figure this is generally what I'm aiming to do anyway...

And... To make what's there into the best version of what it already is. Being able to achieve that would be the definition of the magic touch!

Best,

Owen Gillett
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18th January 2013
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My general reply to those type of requests is "so you want it to sound good?" The answer is always "yes". Then I say "I can do that".

I much prefer vague expressive language to numeric requests. I thought "deep and rich, like a glass of vintage port on a winter's evening" is perfectly descriptive. If the cymbals were harsh they would be #1 on the list. Then add haze.
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#30
18th January 2013
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They are not really meaningless, when I communicate with the top engineers, we clearly understand what PUNCH and CLARITY means. It is very clear.

Warmth is more abstract though and we don't use this word.
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