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Frisbi
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11th July 2013
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A question to Mastering professionals

This is a serious question to all the mastering professionals of this forum:

Honestly, do you think that it's possible to make a good mastering using only the digital stuff we have today?

I put this question because I'm trying to have the control of my sound from the beginning to the end of it...
This because I want to be autonomous, it's a matter of character maybe, a kind of challenge with myself

I don't want to argue about that, I think it's just concerned to the way we live and we make choices after all
but the real fact is that I'm at the beginning of this way and still I don't understand if it's really possible to obtain a nice, warm, clean sound using only what I have
Monitor Speakers, Mac, Audio Card, Pro Tools, Plugins
that's it....
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Hiring a mastering engineer doesn't mean you've given up control of the sound. The client has final say on everything and all respectable engineers will work to achieve what their clients say they want. Plus, you get an extra set of ears to catch potential issues your room/monitor system/involvement don't allow you to hear.

That said, PT isn't very good for mastering, but a lot of people do it. What makes the most importance in the mastering process is #1, good monitors and room. If your monitors and room aren't good and well calibrated/treated, you can't make good judgements because you can't hear what's really there, end of story. #2, A fresh perspective. If you insist on mastering your own work, take a break from the project, like a week of not listening to it at all. It's good to listen to some other people's stuff you like on your system though. #3, good judgement. You can't approach mastering like you do mixing. Mastering is about subtlety in most cases and isn't the place to make big changes. Less processing is usually better.
That said, I have probably $40,000+ worth of hardware, a lot of which is custom made or modified in some way and I've done a few jobs using nothing but my editor and the plugins that came with it.
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Frisbi
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very nice answer
thanks a lot!!!
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by the way, which editor do you use?
I started with Adobe Audition 6, now I'm into Pro Tools...
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"A Question For Mastering Professionals"

Sorry, wrong forum.
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Quote:
I don't understand if it's really possible to obtain a nice, warm, clean sound using only what I have - Monitor Speakers, Mac, Audio Card, Pro Tools, Plugins
that's it....
If you can't get "95% of where you want" with what you've got, it isn't the fault of what you've got.

That said, wado1942 pretty much hit it.
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11th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post

PT isn't very good for mastering
Barring assembly, this would be a point of contention and preference.. There are a good number of high profile ME's who use PT to at least pitch,.. .. just about any daw will do..and they are pretty far down in the food chain as far as any aspect of the process that would prevent anyone from putting out a good sounding master.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post
PT isn't very good for mastering
care to elaborate?
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anyone has an opinion about softwares and Daw...
well that was not the question

the question is: are we arrived at the point where it is possible to have a good sound using just a Mac, an audio card, monitor speakers and plugins?
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It is probably more accurate to say that ProTools is sufficient for Pre-mastering or the actual tonal sculpting (and contingent on the itb tools available therein as well as the operator) and not so much the actual mastering/compiling stage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frisbi View Post
anyone has an opinion about softwares and Daw...
well that was not the question

the question is: are we arrived at the point where it is possible to have a good sound using just a Mac, an audio card, monitor speakers and plugins?
Yes absolutely. Is it probable? Most likely a low percentage by talented, knowledgeable individuals.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frisbi View Post
anyone has an opinion about softwares and Daw...
well that was not the question

the question is: are we arrived at the point where it is possible to have a good sound using just a Mac, an audio card, monitor speakers and plugins?
yes. there are even some "big names" who have ditched nearly all of their analog gear and are mastering fully ITB now
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ok, good...this was what I wanted to know...
of course, one thing is technique, another is skill and precision

for this we just need experience and love....
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I have been using PT to master like this:

Print final audio which is the whole CD, one big chunk of 44.1 24 bit audio. I then make region edits where track marks should be. I name each region with the song name for the CD and then use the export region definitions command. This means there is now one master audio file which contains everything.

Then open this file in Wave Editor and convert the region markers to track markers. Then just input ISRC codes for each track, and export a DDP. At this point dither to 16 bit.

I set my ruler in PT to CD frames so any track mark is exaclty on a CD frame edge.

I am wondering where this workflow falls short and what feature pro mastering houses are using in their software which is not doable in Pro Tools?

I would like to find a way to write the ISRC codes into the meta data for each region in PT, then make an AppleScript to right-click on that file in Finder and create DDP. Then the workflow would be pretty sweet i think.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimdrake View Post
I have been using PT to master like this:

Print final audio which is the whole CD, one big chunk of 44.1 24 bit audio. I then make region edits where track marks should be. I name each region with the song name for the CD and then use the export region definitions command. This means there is now one master audio file which contains everything.

Then open this file in Wave Editor and convert the region markers to track markers. Then just input ISRC codes for each track, and export a DDP. At this point dither to 16 bit.

I set my ruler in PT to CD frames so any track mark is exaclty on a CD frame edge.

I am wondering where this workflow falls short and what feature pro mastering houses are using in their software which is not doable in Pro Tools?

I would like to find a way to write the ISRC codes into the meta data for each region in PT, then make an AppleScript to right-click on that file in Finder and create DDP. Then the workflow would be pretty sweet i think.
Nothing's wrong with that, but you're (pre-)mastering with Wave Editor, not Pro Tools!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frisbi View Post
Honestly, do you think that it's possible to make a good mastering using only the digital stuff we have today?
Tools are only as good as the people who use them. If you know your way around your gear, whether it is software or hardware based, then you can do great work. I have no doubt that Bob Ludwig or Ted Jensen could turn out a better master using only stock DAW plug-ins than most people could using expensive gear. Why? Because they have more experience at mastering than most people.
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I like to ask a question back to the OP.....
What is your music worth? Do you plan to sell it? How much to do expect to make in return? And if your planning on making returns on it, do you feel your skill set is adequate enough in mastering to put your project at risk of failure because of lack of experience?

Or is this just a hobby, or a project done for exploration and learning, and you want to just get your feet wet in different aspects of audio?

The answer to your question hinges on your realistic expectations of your project.Regardless of the tools you use, your experience will dictate how your project will come out.

I don't mean to be the party pooper, I just wanted to answer that question not as an exercise in rhetoric, but to also give you some outlook on what some other people are thinking.
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well, first of all thanks for the questions

Mostly I compose music for theatre, that is my main occupation...
Now I'm making a collection of all the music I made since years and years but I don't want to make it as a Theatre Music collection
I would prefer to make it sound just like "normal" music, music to listen while you drive or travel or whatever

my goal is just to achieve a sound that I have in mind which is balanced and somehow brilliant, I mean with good distinction between bass and treble and a warm colour

it is electronic music but I want it to sound like a natural music, something the most natural I can...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haberdasher View Post
Nothing's wrong with that, but you're (pre-)mastering with Wave Editor, not Pro Tools!
What to you mean by pre-mastering?

I see Wave Editor a simply a tool to encode a DDP.

What stage are you actually calling 'mastering'?! When the DDP gets printed to master discs at the factory?!
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I've just finished a remaster for Sony that included tracks from the late 60s to early 70s. One of the things I had to do was invert an overly aggressive compressor that had been printed to the original mix. I used track automation to do that and I just don't see how that job could be done "out of the box".

The first time I tried to master something (25 years ago), I used an Aphex Studio Dominator, which is a nice bit of analog gear. Because I didn't know what I was doing, the Aphex just destroyed the mix.

But you know what, every "ITB" master includes an analog component - the speakers. Besides just plain old experience, I think most would agree that speakers are possibly the most important piece of gear. For the project I just finished, the master was checked on four different sets of speakers in three different studios, as well as headphones, my car speakers, and my living room system.

Dave

Last edited by magicd; 11th July 2013 at 10:54 PM.. Reason: spelling...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimdrake View Post
What to you mean by pre-mastering?

I see Wave Editor a simply a tool to encode a DDP.

What stage are you actually calling 'mastering'?! When the DDP gets printed to master discs at the factory?!
Pre-mastering is the actual tonal stage; the processing and the aesthetics. Mastering is more the compiling and assembly, codes, etc.
At the factory, we are at the duplication stage.
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12th July 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TranscendingM View Post
Pre-mastering is the actual tonal stage; the processing and the aesthetics. Mastering is more the compiling and assembly, codes, etc.
At the factory, we are at the duplication stage.
In which case I am mastering in Pro Tools. I print the whole CD as one audio file with track marks as region markers.
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Engineering mantra for the day:

"it's the engineer, not the gear"

Repeat as necessary.

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"Honestly, do you think that it's possible to make a good mastering using only the digital stuff we have today?"

Good?.... It's possible if you are competent and have competent monitoring arrangements. The best ? No. What is mastering all about ? It's the about the best possible result.

If you cannot make it the best it's not truly uncompromising mastering.

For the best results everything has to be in it's right place, if you do not have the monitoring you will not hear what the analogue can do, if you do not have the hearing acuity you will not hear what analogue can do.

Aim for "best" otherwise it's not pursuing the commonly required goal or offering something anyone will be inclined to wish to employ you for or bother with.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frisbi View Post
I'm trying to have the control of my sound from the beginning to the end of it...
I completely get this! and its core to you as an artist. It's your music that you've put everything into for a long period of time (and with serious sacrifice).

But - the best music is always a collaboration in some important ways. Having people involved who make some part of your music better is important (I'm sure you already have a good team involved) and a mastering engineer is just the last guy on your team.
It may take some effort to find the right guy to work with but its worth it.

You will keep total control of your music, your just working with hopefully one more genius collaborator in the final stage.

The right person, with the right gear (that he/she has acquired over a lifetime of working at their craft), working on speakers that are the choice after years of experience, a room that has been tweaking obsessively = the best possible result - IF you connect completely about your music.

On a practical level - the danger with self-mastering is that its amplifying your natural tendencies. If you like scooped mids, when you self master you'll likely scoop more. Same if your a bit bass heavy etc etc.
It's not addition, it ends up exponential. Made worse if your mixing and mastering in the same room on the same speakers. The room has a boost at 160hz that you cut in tracking and will likely cut again at mastering.

So if you find the right engineer, your still in control, guiding your vision but your in a great room, on great speakers sitting next to someone who has listened to and worked on a lot of music = getting the best possible result.
These digital records are going to last forever after all.

best of luck on the quest.
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ok, I get it...
i was thinking that maybe it could be a good idea to make a "mastering model" to give to some professionals, something like: "I would like to have this sound, but you can clean what i cannot clean"....
also I could give the project which is changeable...

this could be a good compromise...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frisbi View Post
i was thinking that maybe it could be a good idea to make a "mastering model" to give to some professionals, something like: "I would like to have this sound, but you can clean what i cannot clean"....
well thats exactly how the mastering process goes. you tell the engineer how you want your mix to sound. be it with words, a demo master, or reference tracks. however you want to get your point across.
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Of course you can do truly brilliant mastering with digital tools.

I use some pretty pimped out analogue gear, but if I didn't have it, could I not do my job? nah. Mastering is done by people, not by tools.

Thor got the mantra right.
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People tend to miss some of the key aspects of mastering, It's the decisions you make, not what gear you have available to make the decisions.You can do it ITB or use hardware just make sure what your listening to is accurate and that you don't **** it up.
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I think anything you replicate in the analog realm is going to sound better than any digital approach. You can run some mastering plugins while at the same time running through an analog chain in passive mode to pick up the warmth - 100% warmth seems to be what the digital realm lacks. I've heard some decent plugins, but when the same process is run via analog the result is much more natural and professional sounding.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frisbi View Post
I'm trying to have the control of my sound from the beginning to the end of it...
This because I want to be autonomous, it's a matter of character maybe, a kind of challenge with myself
Are you ready to design your own mic, electronics, DSP, monitors, acoustics ?
Having the total control of your production is a huge task which will take you away from music.
Because I've already performed a part of this task, I can affirm OTB vs ITB isn't the key question about mastering. Monitoring and acoustics are much more important.
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