What is the ultimate goal of "Mastering"?
Nonlinear
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#1
26th February 2012
Old 26th February 2012
  #1
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What is the ultimate goal of "Mastering"?

If I send my mix to several different mastering houses it's likely that I would get several different products in return. There would be variations in dynamics, EQ, etc. as the particular ME at each house applies their style.

Now, if these houses were mastering to some universal reference standard it would make sense to me but the process seems a matter of opinion. What makes the mastered version more "right" than the original mix that I thought sounded "right"?

I guess what I am trying to understand is, what is the ultimate goal of mastering?
#2
26th February 2012
Old 26th February 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nonlinear View Post
what is the ultimate goal of mastering?
It's different today than it was 20 years ago.

But ultimately? A very wide explanation:
An ME is a final set of finely tuned ears to put on the music to identify issues if there are any...(sometimes that means not doing anything)
Then process all the audio to maximize the sound quality for whatever release format is the end product - these days that could be iTunes, CD's, Amazon, Spotify, Vinyl and so on.
Then transfer the audio to the master format - be that again Digital (Harddrive for distribution/uploading) CD etc...
dcollins
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#3
26th February 2012
Old 26th February 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nonlinear;7609005
I guess what I am trying to understand is, what is the ultimate goal of mastering?
Same as it ever was. To present the mix in the best possible light.

Of course it's a matter of personal opinion and individual taste.


DC
#4
26th February 2012
Old 26th February 2012
  #4
1. Get coherence amongst all tracks of the album. Some tracks might have been recorded/mixed/produced in different studios by different engineers/producers etc... Ii is therefore important to avoid the album sounding like a compilation.
2. Removing all possible cause of bad reproduction on several systems/ tuning the track to be played in clubs/radio/TV
3. Every engineer deals with these issues in different ways. It is just a matter of taste.

AB
#5
26th February 2012
Old 26th February 2012
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You guys are all giving the definition of mastering as it was over a decade ago. Everybody knows the purpose of mastering now is to get the levels as hot as possible so that nothing but square waves are visible on monitors regardless of how it sounds or what the destination medium is.
Red Mastering
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#6
27th February 2012
Old 27th February 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post
You guys are all giving the definition of mastering as it was over a decade ago. Everybody knows the purpose of mastering now is to get the levels as hot as possible so that nothing but square waves are visible on monitors regardless of how it sounds or what the destination medium is.
not to mention to clip this square in ad and da
to make it even more louder
#7
27th February 2012
Old 27th February 2012
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These days, I'd say unless the recording in question already has a certain level of quality to it, the ultimate goal of mastering would be to make the music listenable to as many listeners as possible. Then again, anything could work at any level depending on the originality of the initial sound or style involved.
#8
27th February 2012
Old 27th February 2012
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The goal? Simply to adjust or alter the stereo image, frequency content, acoustic resonance and dynamic range of an individual composition in a way that is most pleasurable to the human ear and harmonious with modern reproduction systems, in my very humble opinion.
OKB
#9
27th February 2012
Old 27th February 2012
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OKB
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Possibly another "best thread evah" in the making here. One to watch. : )
#10
27th February 2012
Old 27th February 2012
  #10
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Maybe give comfort to the listener hear what the artist wants to display.
#11
27th February 2012
Old 27th February 2012
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Hi Nonlinear,
You are understandably confused, since the terminology has migrated in usage to the point of incorrectness. The word, "mastering," means making the disc-shaped object which will directly be used in the creation of parts for pressing copies. The lacquer master and the glass master are such discs. The CD-R, DDPi, or .zip of Cue Wavs are premasters.

The process of processing the audio signals that go on a master is called, mastering, only when cutting grooves into a lacquer master disc and using the eq or limiting or whatever in real time as the disc is cut. If the lacquer master program is prepared in an earlier session - even by the same chick - this, too, would be premastering. By the way, to make a quadrophonic master, the clerk would want to use 16 channels of the identical EQ and limiters, since she would need one for each channel, times 2, for the preview path, and, times 2, again, for A and B switching (during banding). Even a stereo monogroove signal should be mastered with 8 channels of eq and such, unless a manually adjusted feed is used, and/or Global EQ settings. The "hit" to the lacquer cutting studio's acoustic footprint that is presented by an 8-channel console is enough to warrant considering doing premastering, even for lacquer. Compatibility processing can be applied in a more svelte setup.

Finally, since the glass master is used to make the parts for compact disc manufacture, the session before it, which is the one where these guys used their Foote compressors and their Inward Connections EQ, etc..., therefore, is called premastering. In premastering, anything goes. Ok. If making CD, you must put at least 4 seconds between tracks - even if the song is 3 seconds long. You must not exceed 79 minutes program. Etc... Artistically, you are free to explore... But to do it well, you would probably do as little as possible to make the song sound the way you can tell that it's trying to , in the luxury of a revealing sound stage. Then again, if the mix is really sketchy, you might have to do quite a lot - provided no remix would be available...

Mastering, on the other hand, has a lot of requirements that are not subject to opinion. Is there just too much out of phase low frequency content to cut at 0 ref and not risk liftout of the pickup? Does the record have cutover grooves? Did the starting groove and lead-in happen well enough inside the outer diameter to leave room for holding with tongs (during metal mastering), but far enough towards the outer edge to allow an automatic tone arm deployer to drop the repro stylus in the correct spot (on the pressing)? Is the radius of curvature of the highest recorded frequency small enough that, at its recorded level, it risks that a playback stylus on a bent tone arm might skate across? Does the tracing distortion become objectionable by song 4? etc... Yes, there are real guidelines for this and a little bit of "wiggle room." For premastering, it's all opinion, man. Apparently, there is a good amount of consensus over what sounds really good, so, stay thirsty, my friend.



Cheersø,
Laarsø
#12
27th February 2012
Old 27th February 2012
  #12
To make my record louder than yours.
#13
27th February 2012
Old 27th February 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
To make my record louder than yours.
In regards to mastering, I would partially agree with this statement, however, if you're referring to after the fact, personally I disagree with that form of mastering. Meaning, for optimal loudness with less distortion, I believe the music should be as loud as the client can get the initial mix (with minimal distortion) before attempting or having someone master it.

This give it the mastering engineer at -3db nonsense is just not logical in allot of circumstances IMO because it simply doesn't allow the musicians to get their music as loud as they initially want it before the fact.

3db is just too much 'polishing' room and actually just leaves the ME more room to mold to their own specifications or likings, as opposed to the musicians involved.
#14
27th February 2012
Old 27th February 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jp22 View Post
In regards to mastering, I would partially agree with this statement, however, if you're referring to after the fact, personally I disagree with that form of mastering. Meaning, for optimal loudness with less distortion, I believe the music should be as loud as the client can get the initial mix (with minimal distortion) before attempting or having someone master it.

This give it the mastering engineer at -3db nonsense is just not logical in allot of circumstances IMO because it simply doesn't allow the musicians to get their music as loud as they initially want it before the fact.

3db is just too much 'polishing' room and actually just leaves the ME more room to mold to their own specifications or likings, as opposed to the musicians involved.
The mix, before premastering, doesn't have to compete with any other recording's loudness. The way to make a mix play back loud as you please, even though the peak level is, say, -6.02 dBFSD, is to crank up the control room monitor gain knob. By allowing for louder peak levels, the mixist introduces more and more inharmonic distortion - not at all like the practice of slamming into tape for harmonic saturation-distortion. If the mix sounds fantastic as-is, all the premastering clerk has to do is apply clean gain. If the mix which peaks at -6.02 dBFSD doesn't sound quite fantastic (when played at a potentially-exciting monitor gain level), the clerk will be able to alter spectra without having needlessly to alter the SNR before hand (by attenuating) or risk more inharmonic distortion from being objectionably audible (by clippink).



Cheersø,
Laarsø
#15
27th February 2012
Old 27th February 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laarsø View Post
The mix, before premastering, doesn't have to compete with any other recording's loudness. The way to make a mix play back loud as you please, even though the peak level is, say, -6.02 dBFSD, is to crank up the control room monitor gain knob.
The only thing you're saying here is to use a physical volume knob instead of doing it in an actual ITB mix. This practice clearly defeats the purpose of wanting an initial mix volume to be louder.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laarsø View Post
- not at all like the practice of slamming into tape for harmonic saturation-distortion.
True.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laarsø View Post
If the mix sounds fantastic as-is, all the premastering clerk has to do is apply clean gain. If the mix which peaks at -6.02 dBFSD doesn't sound quite fantastic (when played at a potentially-exciting monitor gain level), the clerk will be able to alter spectra without having needlessly to alter the SNR before hand (by attenuating) or risk more inharmonic distortion from being objectionably audible (by clippink).
Again, personally I disagree with this practice and you can use any technical terminology to call it whatever you want, but I still firmly believe it's a convoluted practice to raise peaks from -6.02 to unity, after the fact, since primarily, the audio file that's going to be mastered has already been saved and adding gain (clean or not) after the fact only essentially just raises all the peaks 6db, which will surely introduce a certain amount of distortion.

Point being: It's not the mastering engineer's job to dictate prior volume levels or how loud musicians wanted a mix to initially sound, nor is it an ME's job to mold things after the fact however they want. So I say again, the clients should decipher their own levels beforehand in the mix.. and if the client even inadvertently creates unwanted distortion from levels being too loud, then who's fault is it? The client's.

Jp²²
#16
27th February 2012
Old 27th February 2012
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I guess what I am trying to understand is, what is the ultimate goal of mastering?

To make $$$$

but then again, that could be said for ANYONE'S goals.....
masteringhouse
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#17
2nd March 2012
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Other than QA of media before duplication I feel that the main goal of mastering is to add clarity, balance, and "musicality" to a project. All of which are subjective, but that's why it's a good idea to get another objective perspective from a professional.
#18
2nd March 2012
Old 2nd March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryan k View Post
I guess what I am trying to understand is, what is the ultimate goal of mastering?

To make $$$$

but then again, that could be said for ANYONE'S goals.....
Only if you want to survive on this earth!

I use this on my posters (it's also on the front page of my website I'm currently working on)...

"Mastering is the end of the artistic process and the beginning of the manufacturing process. It is truly the end of the recording chain—the last chance to affect your music in any way, shape or form artistically."
- Larry DeVivo

Hope the above statement makes sense to you... because that's "what it is".
#19
2nd March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jp22 View Post
In regards to mastering, I would partially agree with this statement, however, if you're referring to after the fact, personally I disagree with that form of mastering. Meaning, for optimal loudness with less distortion, I believe the music should be as loud as the client can get the initial mix (with minimal distortion) before attempting or having someone master it.

This give it the mastering engineer at -3db nonsense is just not logical in allot of circumstances IMO because it simply doesn't allow the musicians to get their music as loud as they initially want it before the fact.

3db is just too much 'polishing' room and actually just leaves the ME more room to mold to their own specifications or likings, as opposed to the musicians involved.
3dB ? Try over 40 dB of usable headroom with 24 bit audio. So if we ask for 3dB to have "room" to do our processing we are asking for a lot???

Here is a good chart that might help some of you understand levels better...
Attached Thumbnails
What is the ultimate goal of "Mastering"?-analog-digital-calibration-scale.jpg  
Thomas W. Bethe
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#20
2nd March 2012
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Mastering does for the client what the CLIENT asks the mastering engineer to do for him or her. It is NOT, IMHO, up to the mastering engineer to make decisions on how the music ultimately sounds by imparting their particular ideas or "set of normal presets" on the musician's music. Every song is different, ever genre different, every person's ideas on what their music should sound like to them is different. A GREAT mastering engineer takes into account all of these factors as he or she masters the clients music while seeking guidance from the person who brought in the mastering job.

I think DC summed it up when he said "Same as it ever was. To present the mix in the best possible light. Of course it's a matter of personal opinion and individual taste."

The ultimate question is of course who's taste and who's opinion??? <GRIN>
#21
2nd March 2012
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To take the mixes and sequence them for CD duplication, for MP3 download etc. This might involve slight adjustments to level, tonality etc to get the tracks sounding like an album. To produce a finished CD master.
Old 2nd March 2012
  #22
You have to remember mastering is an art as well as a science. So each ME will have a different take on the final outcome.
The main goal of mastering is to get a fresh set of highly trained ears to check over your mix and to make adjustments (if needed) to enhance the mix and also to make the mix play well on a wide variety of sound systems.

G
IIIrd
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2nd March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavieB View Post
To take the mixes and sequence them for CD duplication, for MP3 download etc. This might involve slight adjustments to level, tonality etc to get the tracks sounding like an album. To produce a finished CD master.
"To produce a finished master"

Thats the goal, one thats free from defects and delivered on time. This applied to all formats.

Thats the basis of it, in a nutshell, candy coat it as you wish, all of it is valid. All different roads arriving at the same end. Master...hence the title..

And the result = happy clients
#24
2nd March 2012
Old 2nd March 2012
  #24
Great thread, keep it up!
#25
2nd March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post
Everybody knows the purpose of mastering now is to get the levels as hot as possible so that nothing but square waves are visible on monitors regardless of how it sounds or what the destination medium is.
I was gonna' say it if you didn't.
#26
2nd March 2012
Old 2nd March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jp22 View Post
This give it the mastering engineer at -3db nonsense is just not logical in allot of circumstances IMO because it simply doesn't allow the musicians to get their music as loud as they initially want it before the fact.

3db is just too much 'polishing' room and actually just leaves the ME more room to mold to their own specifications or likings, as opposed to the musicians involved.
If you don't want the mastering guy to dick with your sound AT ALL, don't send it to a mastering guy. Fade and dither it yourself and be done.

If you want the mastering guy to dick with your sound, even a little, even just to do some EQ, they need headroom or the signal will clip as soon as they turn a knob.
#27
2nd March 2012
Old 2nd March 2012
  #27
Ultimate goal of mastering? To work on a project that attracts more projects to master.

Technically? To create an error-free, reproducible product that conforms to multiple media formats; CD audio, MP3 being the most important right now.

Aesthetically? To preserve the artist's vision while crafting a coherent sonic signature spanning 2 seconds before the listener hears a single sound until 2 seconds after it ends. To pay attention to the overall picture of an album as a single work through an attention to the minutest details including the use of silence between tracks, pacing, length and style of fades or swells, to preserve dynamic range while conforming to current standards of depth, width, volume and response.
Ged
#28
2nd March 2012
Old 2nd March 2012
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Ged
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcollins View Post
Same as it ever was. To present the mix in the best possible light

DC
What? Dave are you feeling ok? load up that 8 band multiband cut that CD and quit spreading these audio myths........jeeez......
#29
3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
To make my record louder than yours.

The mastering engineering can improve the understanding between the artists and listeners... Shouting is really not the way.. But vitality sounds good and make people pay attention. Same as a good coffee effect... Energy...Purity...Naturalism... or any other desirable effect for your client.. Someone here in GS said before: - If you pass the signal thru a dead fish and sounds like he would.. do it..

Thats what the goal of mastering is in my opinion. Experience to know what to do or not to do between tools and ideas.
#30
3rd March 2012
Old 3rd March 2012
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Total awareness, and achieving the Zen concept of the oneness of all things............
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