Originally Posted by Hypnotic
What are these whole different skill sets that you speak of?
Originally Posted by Audio X
Mostly about subjectivity vs. objectivity - comprehending and learning a way of listening differently for the different processes and then being able to execute that sound. Different mind sets ..then there are the other technical aspects of preparing the master for CD and/or vinyl. So to me, different processes - different skills
Personally, from a mastering engineer I'd like the following:
- a trusted 2nd opinion - if my mix has serious problems, I'd like them to tell me rather than "try to fix it in mastering". I'd much rather go back to the multitrack, turn the snare down a hair and the vocals up rather than supply stems, or have some sort of EQ/mid-side processing happening.
- someone who's going to finetune the sound of the whole project, and not make drastic changes to the sound overall. My most recent project was mastered by the excellent Leon Zervos @ 301, Sydney (not someone I'd used before but the engineer of choice for the label). I spoke to him after the mastering - he was very flattering about my mixes, and said that the main thing he did was balance the project as a whole, with respect to EQ - the darkest tracks got brighter, the brightest tracks got fuller - and the ones in the middle barely changed at all. That's what I'm aiming for, and what a good ME does. Someone less skilled might well have tried to stamp "their" sound on the whole project.
- the best possible listening environment. To me that means a quiet, well designed room. NO large mixing console. A truthful loudspeaker system. Most mixing rooms are NOT suitable for critical mastering work - as soon as you put a large desk in there, you're working around an acoustical problem. Much worse is when you're mastering in the same room you mixed in - as many "we record/mix/master/video edit/etc" places do.
- the tools required for the job at hand. A mastering guy doesn't necessarily need hardware, but they do need the right tools for the job. If it is hardware based, it needs to be easily and repeatedly recallable. Many studios can't do this (and some outboard isn't suitable for mastering - eg highly sensitive controls).
- expertise. Someone who masters full time is a mastering engineer. Someone who records, mixes, masters, video edits, does live sound and so on is not a specialist. Personally, I record, mix and produce (all of which are very much parts of the same job IMO). I CAN sort of master...but I'd much rather hire a specialist. Would you rather take a flight with a pilot who logs 20hrs flying time a week, and has done for 5-10 years, or would you like to fly with a guy who flies every so often, but also pilots a helicopter, hang glides, drives the odd motor race, windsurfs, skis and so on? who do you think is likely to do a better job, the specialist or the jack of all trades?
Many mix engineers have the potential to be great mastering engineers. They're not, because they don't do it all the time. I can think of one guy who has mixed AND mastered projects at a high level - Andy Jackson (best known for his work with Pink Floyd) - and I don't even know if he's now moved full time into mastering. I don't know of anyone else.
That's before you get to all the technical stuff, the PQ coding, the ISRC embedding, the sequencing and DDP production that most "one stop shop" places wouldn't have a clue about.
I can see why people do it - it's great to get a few extra quid for a tiny bit more work, and why would you turn it away if it's only going to go to a kid up the road with a computer and a bedroom? In that circumstance, I'll always do a limited version, and tell the client if they're NOT going to go to a dedicated mastering guy (preferably someone I recommend) then just to use the limited version, and not to go near anyone that isn't a specialist. On the occasions this advice hasn't been followed...there's rarely an improvement via mastering.