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Trill Trax
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5th April 2013
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Fake Mastering Engineers Today

Why is everyone a mixing AND mastering engineer now?
Is it lack of education? Respect for the craft? Or just to cheat the consumer out of a dollar?

I've seen so many fake mastering engineers selling their services to people when they don't do anything. Adding an L2 to a master bus is NOT mastering.

Why do people assume that mixing and mastering are one thing as a whole. When in reality they are two seperate entities that work together in various stages. The funny thing is people actually pay for just an L2 as a mastering service.

Is it the lack of the songwriters not knowing fully what mastering is, or just these "mastering engineers" taking advantage of them?
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Originally Posted by Trill Trax View Post
Why is everyone a mixing AND mastering engineer now?
Is it lack of education? Respect for the craft? Or just to cheat the consumer out of a dollar?

I've seen so many fake mastering engineers selling their services to people when they don't do anything. Adding an L2 to a master bus is NOT mastering.

Why do people assume that mixing and mastering are one thing as a whole. When in reality they are two seperate entities that work together in various stages. The funny thing is people actually pay for just an L2 as a mastering service.

Is it the lack of the songwriters not knowing fully what mastering is, or just these "mastering engineers" taking advantage of them?
...says the guy who's advertising himself as a Mixing Engineer and Record Producer.
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...says the guy who's advertising himself as a Mixing Engineer and Record Producer.
And why can't that be acceptable? I don't make beats, I produce records.
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...says the guy who's advertising himself as a Mixing Engineer and Record Producer.
PLENTY of famous producers that also engineer. They go hand in hand. Like musicians that can arrange.

Can't think of too many really well known mastering guys that also are great at mixing.
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PLENTY of famous producers that also engineer. They go hand in hand. Like musicians that can arrange.

Can't think of too many really well known mastering guys that also are great at mixing.
EXACTLY. Thank you!
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I don't by any stretch of the imagination call myself a mastering engineer. Never have, never will. I know the tools and techniques used in the hands of good mastering engineers and I as well know when they are used and implemented correctly and what a good master sounds like.

Furthermore, I won't call what I do for my clients 'mastering'...because it's not. I use Ozone and I tweak presets till I get what I want. I'd rather use the phrase 'making a record/track compete'.

With all that said, I promote mastering by a pro as well as how important it is to the whole process constantly to my clients.(and I mean constantly) The fact of the matter is that my clients in general claim they either cannot afford it or don't see the value in it(mind you I'm a $35-$45/hr studio, so I'm not making anybody go broke any time soon!).

I used to think it was me explaining it wrong, so I then took to just telling the artist that they need to seriously consider good mastering and to do research and call a few of them and allow them to explain what they are able to do for their work/project. Some clients have take the time to send a section of a song and have the ME send back like a 30-45 second clip to compare next to what I do. When they hear it side by side, they tend to opt against it. Many times I've felt what the ME did was far beyond what I was able to do, especially since I hear and understand good mid-side work, but still, they don't hear that kind of stuff even though I'm explaining to them how much better the master they got from the pro is. They just want it loud, clear and balanced. Not one of my clients in 2-3 years has paid for mastering work outside of here.

I find it sad, but it is what it is...
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Originally Posted by Slikjmuzik View Post
I don't by any stretch of the imagination call myself a mastering engineer. Never have, never will. I know the tools and techniques used in the hands of good mastering engineers and I as well know when they are used and implemented correctly and what a good master sounds like.

Furthermore, I won't call what I do for my clients 'mastering'...because it's not. I use Ozone and I tweak presets till I get what I want. I'd rather use the phrase 'making a record/track compete'.

With all that said, I promote mastering by a pro as well as how important it is to the whole process constantly to my clients.(and I mean constantly) The fact of the matter is that my clients in general claim they either cannot afford it or don't see the value in it(mind you I'm a $35-$45/hr studio, so I'm not making anybody go broke any time soon!).

I used to think it was me explaining it wrong, so I then took to just telling the artist that they need to seriously consider good mastering and to do research and call a few of them and allow them to explain what they are able to do for their work/project. Some clients have take the time to send a section of a song and have the ME send back like a 30-45 second clip to compare next to what I do. When they hear it side by side, they tend to opt against it. Many times I've felt what the ME did was far beyond what I was able to do, especially since I hear and understand good mid-side work, but still, they don't hear that kind of stuff even though I'm explaining to them how much better the master they got from the pro is. They just want it loud, clear and balanced. Not one of my clients in 2-3 years has paid for mastering work outside of here.

I find it sad, but it is what it is...
That is great, with everything you just said. "Make a record complete" is much more respectable. Educating them on what mastering is and even referring them to a professional.

It is sad that many don't have a clue. The sadder part is that there to lazy to find out.
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Originally Posted by Camera View Post
PLENTY of famous producers that also engineer. They go hand in hand. Like musicians that can arrange.

Can't think of too many really well known mastering guys that also are great at mixing.
I'm aware, but why on earth wouldn't a good mixing engineer be a good mastering engineer? There's no reason that they can't be good at it.

Now would I want my mix engineer to master his own stuff? That's entirely different, but there's no reason why one can't excel at the other.
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@slikjmusik That's around where I'm at with it. I don't advertise as a mastering engineer, because I'm *not*. But I've found that talking to my clients most of them are unwilling or unable (unwilling because of money) to pay for a separate mastering job from a real professional. I'll do the limiter/highpass/etc treatment and call it mastered if refusing to is just going to send them to the hypothetical kid in the bedroom with cracked plugins. If they were going to use a real mastering engineer I would absolutely not stand in the way, or try to do it myself instead. I encourage every single client that is making anything beyond a demo to go to somebody that *just does mastering*.

I do think a lack of education is an issue, or understanding what really gets done in mastering. To me a lot of people are slowly but surely coming around.

I suppose you could argue that playback systems are more forgiving. We're not having to account for vinyl or tape... and you could argue that there's obviously a big increase in self-funded no-label records being made on the cheap. Those folks often won't go for separate mastering. They should. But they don't.

So if people are going to keep asking if I do mastering, I think they won't pay for a real ME, and I'd just be sending them away to some crappy online service or whatever......... then I'll say yes.
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Originally Posted by gravyface View Post
I'm aware, but why on earth wouldn't a good mixing engineer be a good mastering engineer? There's no reason that they can't be good at it.

Now would I want my mix engineer to master his own stuff? That's entirely different, but there's no reason why one can't excel at the other.
That isn't the point of this thread.
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I really don't think its an issue, unless its directly affecting you, besides just merely irritating you, if that's the case then idk what to tell ya, I used to let certain things in this industry irritate me until I just quit giving a shit, its that simple .....ppl will continue to do what they please no matter how ignorant it seems sadly, do I understand your frustration? Sure but this is just a mere side affect t of things processing to a point where everyone and their mom can record "mix" and attempt to "master" , on the other hand I get perfectly fine results from mixing and "mastering" ole finalizing my own stuff I should say, would an actual "ME" wield better results ? Sure, but I've had no complaints

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Originally Posted by rcb4t2 View Post
@slikjmusik That's around where I'm at with it. I don't advertise as a mastering engineer, because I'm *not*. But I've found that talking to my clients most of them are unwilling or unable (unwilling because of money) to pay for a separate mastering job from a real professional. I'll do the limiter/highpass/etc treatment and call it mastered if refusing to is just going to send them to the hypothetical kid in the bedroom with cracked plugins. If they were going to use a real mastering engineer I would absolutely not stand in the way, or try to do it myself instead. I encourage every single client that is making anything beyond a demo to go to somebody that *just does mastering*.

I do think a lack of education is an issue, or understanding what really gets done in mastering. To me some people are slowly but surely coming around to understanding it.

I suppose you could argue that playback systems are more forgiving. We're not having to account for vinyl or tape... and you could argue that there's obviously a big increase in self-funded no-label records being made on the cheap. Those folks often won't go for separate mastering. They should. But they don't.

So if people are going to keep asking if I do mastering, I think they won't pay for a real ME, and I'd just be sending them away to some crappy online service or whatever......... then I'll say yes.
Advertising was the word. I hear what you're saying. Instead of turning away a client you've already mixed to some other mastering service.

For me it's the fact that once people get certain plugins they instantly become a mixing AND mastering engineer. Offering services for menial prices and it isn't even good.

But I suppose this would be the same as when beatmakers sell tracks 10 for $20. The dollar comes first.
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Originally Posted by CannibalLecter View Post
I really don't think its an issue, unless its directly affecting you, besides just merely irritating you, if that's the case then idk what to tell ya, I used to let certain things in this industry irritate me until I just quit giving a shit, its that simple .....ppl will continue to do what they please no matter how ignorant it seems sadly, do I understand your frustration? Sure but this is just a mere side affect t of things processing to a point where everyone and their mom can record "mix" and attempt to "master" , on the other hand I get perfectly fine results from mixing and "mastering" ole finalizing my own stuff I should say, would an actual "ME" wield better results ? Sure, but I've had no complaints

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It isn't affecting me. Just something I thought to share and get feedback on. I'm not a ME nor do I claim or ever have to be one. Of course it will continue to be how it is and nothing will stop that.

I suppose I wanted views from more experienced engineers to see if they noticed it or has it affected their business.
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Originally Posted by Trill Trax View Post
Advertising was the word. I hear what you're saying. Instead of turning away a client you've already mixed to some other "mastering service"...
...if it would provide an equal or inferior service than I could provide. Yes.


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Originally Posted by Trill Trax View Post
For me it's the fact that once people get certain plugins they instantly become a mixing AND mastering engineer. Offering services for menial prices and it isn't even good.
Not radically different from what's happening to the rest of the industry. Sometimes people need to get a cheap service and realize how shitty it is first-hand.

Also I'll do my part to recommend but it's not my responsibility to get work for the mastering guys. And I'm *not* saying they're charging unfair rates, or that they deserve less, but is it true that if the pro mastering job would cost a third to a half again of what the whole project cost, it's not going to be very feasible to get clients to go for it.
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Originally Posted by Trill Trax View Post
That isn't the point of this thread.
Well, what is then? You're ranting about bad mastering engineers. Ok. Agreed. There's a lot of those around, and mixing engineers, producers, plumbers, electricians... but you seemed to imply that someone who's a good mix engineer couldn't be a good mastering engineer, as if the two disciplines were polar opposites, like oil and water.
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...if it would provide an equal or inferior service than I could provide. Yes.




Not radically different from what's happening to the rest of the industry. Sometimes people need to get a cheap service and realize how shitty it is first-hand.

Also I'll do my part to recommend but it's not my responsibility to get work for the mastering guys. And I'm *not* saying they're charging unfair rates, or that they deserve less, but is it true that if the pro mastering job would cost a third to a half again of what the whole project cost, it's not going to be very feasible to get clients to go for it.
Of course it isn't our job as mixing engineers to get gigs for the ME's. Its like if everyone offers a cheap service with very poor sound, then the quality as a whole never gets better.

ME's can be expensive yes. But if the client didn't already factor that into their budget then that is one issue there.
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I've got a client in right now that is having me do one of the songs on a 3 song release. I've been the producer, primary musician, and mixer for a song that she wrote. After doing all of that, and having two tracks done by another engineer, I suggested that she have all three songs mastered by a dedicated mastering engineer, and definitely not by me. I explained that it would help to make the songs done at different studios by different personnel have a more cohesive feel.

She looked into it and said it was too expensive, and asked if I could do it. I explained that it wouldn't be free, it wouldn't be wise, and that I am not a mastering engineer, I just happen to have Ozone5 and know how to use it reasonably well. She thought about it and said "Can you just make all three of the songs loud?"

It's these types of situations that create fake mastering engineers. She wasn't going to pay for anyone else to do it, and I wasn't going to turn down a relatively easy pay day. I did what I could with Ozone5 to not only make it loud, but also to TRY and get a similar vibe from song to song, match the loudness between songs, correct any technical issues with the mixes, and dither it down to the correct formats for the deliverables.

After all of that, which was indeed above and beyond the call of duty, she listened back and said "Oh wow, that is louder. Great. It's as loud as other CDs now. Thanks." She couldn't tell that I had done a lot of extra work beyond what she paid to have done.
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Originally Posted by Silky Smoove View Post
I've got a client in right now that is having me do one of the songs on a 3 song release. I've been the producer, primary musician, and mixer for a song that she wrote. After doing all of that, and having two tracks done by another engineer, I suggested that she have all three songs mastered by a dedicated mastering engineer, and definitely not by me. I explained that it would help to make the songs done at different studios by different personnel have a more cohesive feel.

She looked into it and said it was too expensive, and asked if I could do it. I explained that it wouldn't be free, it wouldn't be wise, and that I am not a mastering engineer, I just happen to have Ozone5 and know how to use it reasonably well. She thought about it and said "Can you just make all three of the songs loud?"

It's these types of situations that create fake mastering engineers. She wasn't going to pay for anyone else to do it, and I wasn't going to turn down a relatively easy pay day. I did what I could with Ozone5 to not only make it loud, but also to TRY and get a similar vibe from song to song, match the loudness between songs, correct any technical issues with the mixes, and dither it down to the correct formats for the deliverables.

After all of that, which was indeed above and beyond the call of duty, she listened back and said "Oh wow, that is louder. Great. It's as loud as other CDs now. Thanks." She couldn't tell that I had done a lot of extra work beyond what she paid to have done.
So from your expereince it is the client and the budget that creates these "MEs."

My next question is do you need mastering if A. you aren't selling, B. aren't performing it and C. not getting air play
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Originally Posted by Trill Trax View Post
Why is everyone a mixing AND mastering engineer now?
Is it lack of education? Respect for the craft? Or just to cheat the consumer out of a dollar?

I've seen so many fake mastering engineers selling their services to people when they don't do anything. Adding an L2 to a master bus is NOT mastering.

Why do people assume that mixing and mastering are one thing as a whole. When in reality they are two seperate entities that work together in various stages. The funny thing is people actually pay for just an L2 as a mastering service.

Is it the lack of the songwriters not knowing fully what mastering is, or just these "mastering engineers" taking advantage of them?
I have yet to understand what is the big deal about being a mastering engineer that sets it apart from someone who is a great mixer, except really expensive gear and a really well treated room, but a lot of great mixing engineers have that too. I've read all the selling points, fresh ears, years of knowledge, blah blah blah... even mastering engineers were young kids too, and they had to learn somehow. It's not like some voodoo black arts skill that only the initiated can understand, so who cares?
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So from your expereince it is the client and the budget that creates these "MEs."

My next question is do you need mastering if A. you aren't selling, B. aren't performing it and C. not getting air play
Yes, but admittedly that opinion has been formed from a relatively small amount of experience, so it should be taken with a grain of salt. Clients have continually shrinking to nonexistent budgets. That's a tangible hurdle between them and an ME. The intangible hurdle being that, as long as it's loud, they're happy. Both hurdles create a potentially serious problem to MEs, a potentially lucrative situation for fake MEs, myself included, although not when I can avoid it, and are a symptom, for better or worse, of the industry's overall state.
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The fact of the matter is that my clients in general claim they either cannot afford it or don't see the value in it(mind you I'm a $35-$45/hr studio, so I'm not making anybody go broke any time soon!).
Exactly. And I do not think this is limited to just lower budget projects. The fact is, as we all know, for the most part, bands don't have monster budgets for their projects like they did in the past. And at the mastering stage the paying client does not have the same sort of involvement as in tracking and mixing. I suspect that in the past, with larger budgets, when a band would have a producer guiding them through the process, the producer would make the mastering of the project part of the cost of the project.

The other thing is, mastering to vinyl has limitations that digital does not need to be concerned with. So there is one area that the music industry has stepped away from and it is natural some parts of the process then take a hit over time---like mastering. Does that make sense?
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Exactly. And I do not think this is limited to just lower budget projects. The fact is, as we all know, for the most part, bands don't have monster budgets for their projects like they did in the past. And at the mastering stage the paying client does not have the same sort of involvement as in tracking and mixing. I suspect that in the past, with larger budgets, when a band would have a producer guiding them through the process, the producer would make the mastering of the project part of the cost of the project.

The other thing is, mastering to vinyl has limitations that digital does not need to be concerned with. So there is one area that the music industry has stepped away from and it is natural some parts of the process then take a hit over time---like mastering. Does that make sense?
Absolutely. Hell, sometimes I wish they saw the value because I certainly would LOVE to hear my work taken to the next level! Sometimes I feel like I'm doing my own work a disservice by having to do it myself!! But again, whatever the client wants...
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they are.
Please explain.
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Originally Posted by Hoochie Mama View Post
apparently some of you guys just dont get it. sure anyone and everyone can be a mix and or mastering engineer, my dog can be one. so I can be president of Mars too and chief of police 1000 years ago or in 3009 once I get my time machine working again here (mix engineer, where the fuk are u?). the point is that some people are natural and or spend their entire lives learning sounds. some people have that gift (and the means). embrace it.
Good advice, stay away from the bad mastering engineers, and the bad plumbers too.
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How about have the person that's planning a wedding cook the food...??

Why would you want to hire someone to mix (and produce) your album, asking for all this creative input, to put on the mastering hat?

Mastering can be refined down to the presentation.

Why would you spend all this effort on creation and manipulation, and then think that you're not so involved that you know how to present it? The competent mastering engineer has many projects come over their desk weekly. They have a completely different perspective.

Successful ones also have a feel for how to complete your project (that you've spent months/YEARS on) and present it in the best possible way. Your success is their success, and anyone involved prior to them.

Eh, but that is the way of the world. You get what you pay for.

Experience is so hard to teach, and so difficult to comprehend.

"Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment." Rita Mae Brown
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6th April 2013
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Originally Posted by Trill Trax View Post
Why is everyone a mixing AND mastering engineer now?
Is it lack of education? Respect for the craft? Or just to cheat the consumer out of a dollar?

I've seen so many fake mastering engineers selling their services to people when they don't do anything. Adding an L2 to a master bus is NOT mastering.

Why do people assume that mixing and mastering are one thing as a whole. When in reality they are two separate entities that work together in various stages. The funny thing is people actually pay for just an L2 as a mastering service.

Is it the lack of the songwriters not knowing fully what mastering is, or just these "mastering engineers" taking advantage of them?
The reasons are probably all that you've mentioned. ..the biggest being, wanting to keep all the money in house.

The client usually suffers under this scenario because mixing is a different skill set, not to mention gear and room set up than mastering. Very few experienced engineers can pull both off with success.

There is rarely a commercial album that you'll find (excluding electronica) in radio rotation or on the charts that have been both mixed and mastered by the same person.. there's a reason for that..
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because mixing is a whole different skill set, not to mention gear and room set up than mastering.
What are these whole different skill sets that you speak of?
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What are these whole different skill sets that you speak of?
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
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6th April 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hypnotic View Post
What are these whole different skill sets that you speak of?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Audio X View Post
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.
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#30
6th April 2013
Old 6th April 2013
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post

- 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.

.
Can you go into a little more detail on the thought process of this? Aside from the idea that the console is probably causing some kind of reflection issue, what's would be crucially wrong with mastering in the same room it was mixed in? A good room is a good room, isn't it? If you take that good room and the relationship between the room and the speakers is also aligned with the idea of making the project the best it can be to compete with everything else it will be compared with, what's the harm? I have an incling that the times a client has brought back a sample to compare and has decided not to actually continue with them, that part of it was that I was actually close, meaning, something can't be crucially wrong with this idea that the room 'must' be different, otherwise I would have never 'won' the battle?? Can you elaborate a bit please? I'm thinking(hoping) there's another 'psychological'(possibly) portion to this thought process I may be missing...hoping to attain some new knowledge here...
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