The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
Is mastering needed today? What's the point on this? Dynamics Plugins
Old 18th December 2016
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
just_manu's Avatar
 

Is mastering needed today? What's the point on this?

Since I started making music 8 years ago I've always been doing everything by my own, but this year I decided to give some mastering engineers a go and see if I could only focus on songwriting, producing and mixing, and leaving mastering to the pros. (It's how it's always been supossed to be).

Against all odds, 90% of the times labels and artists chose my master over the mastering engineer's one (some of them not cheap ones btw). It was weird, and I got really surprised, but after some thinking, I came to the conclusion that it's simply because I had the chance to retweak my mixes all I needed to make them even more mastering compatible, while slamming my limiter on it, something they simply couldn't do.

That results, far from empowering my ego, made me feel worried cause it meant I had to keep on doing everything by my own, something that can get really exhausting and time consuming.

So questions come to my mind...

- With so many tools and options we have nowadays at the mixing stage, how do we know what will be made at mastering that we are not able to do when mixing?

- What's the fine line that divides a very well crafted mix from it's mastered version?

- What's the line that tells you?... ok, this mix is ready for mastering.

- Is today mastering only a tool for those mixing engineers who are not able to print good enough mixes?

- Is mastering over rated or even useful in a "single song" music market, where albums are not common nowadays?

With this post I do not want to offend anyone. I have a deep respect for big mastering engineers which I've learnt a lot from. I only express something that as technology grows and music production stages get blured, brings a lot of confussion today.
1
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #2
Gear Maniac
It just means your ME isn't fit for the job or doesn't share your vision of sound.
I think the future of mastering will be to put some analog goodness back into sterile ITB mixes, fix loudness and consistency.
People are starting to get tired of clean clean clean and hyperloud, but maybe that's just me.
Also I think stem mastering will become more important than it already is.
5
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #3
I think this thread already happened....
6
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #4
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by just_manu View Post
Since I started making music 8 years ago I've always been doing everything by my own, but this year I decided to give some mastering engineers a go and see if I could only focus on songwriting, producing and mixing, and leaving mastering to the pros. (It's how it's always been supossed to be).

Against all odds, 90% of the times labels and artists chose my master over the mastering engineer's one (some of them not cheap ones btw). It was weird, and I got really surprised, but after some thinking, I came to the conclusion that it's simply because I had the chance to retweak my mixes all I needed to make them even more mastering compatible, while slamming my limiter on it, something they simply couldn't do.

That results, far from empowering my ego, made me feel worried cause it meant I had to keep on doing everything by my own, something that can get really exhausting and time consuming.

So questions come to my mind...

- With so many tools and options we have nowadays at the mixing stage, how do we know what will be made at mastering that we are not able to do when mixing?

- What's the fine line that divides a very well crafted mix from it's mastered version?

- What's the line that tells you?... ok, this mix is ready for mastering.

- Is today mastering only a tool for those mixing engineers who are not able to print good enough mixes?

- Is mastering over rated or even useful in a "single song" music market, where albums are not common nowadays?

With this post I do not want to offend anyone. I have a deep respect for big mastering engineers which I've learnt a lot from. I only express something that as technology grows and music production stages get blured, brings a lot of confussion today.
I'm curious and hoping to learn something. Please elaborate on how you did this?
Old 18th December 2016
  #5
Lives for gear
 
JP__'s Avatar
 

Verified Member
I think an overloaded ego is the biggest problem in our business, may it come from the ME or from the artist. This ego things often prevents great results.
I just finished a wonderful tracked and mixed album where my only contribution as an ME was to fine tune the levels of the tracks within the album context, add one band of digital EQ with only 0.05dB gain and choosing the right dither for that small finishing touch soundwise and provided a DDP. The mixing engineer and the musicians loved the result as it was exactly what they have expected and that tiny bit more.

The second biggest problem is the lack of communication. Clients often expected these "one right master" and totally forgot about the subjectivity of musical taste. Give them a chance to hit it with a revision (or two). And this is something that make shootouts that stupid. Its just luck (or loudness) when winning... Just that kind of ego thing a hole industry makes a living from.
5
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #6
Gear Maniac
 
just_manu's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by J_One View Post
I'm curious and hoping to learn something. Please elaborate on how you did this?
Eq, volume riding, compression, sidechain compression, SATURATION, limiting, and whatever was needed. No black magic here.
2
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #7
Gear Maniac
 
just_manu's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sameal View Post
I think this thread already happened....
Would be very interested in reading them. Could you please post the links?
1
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by just_manu View Post
Would be very interested in reading them. Could you please post the links?
A few of them i didn't even see! They grew.


https://www.gearslutz.com/board/search.php
1
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #9
Lives for gear
 
JP__'s Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by just_manu View Post
Eq, volume riding, compression, sidechain compression, SATURATION, limiting, and whatever was needed. No black magic here.
If theres so much retweaking necessary to make the tracks " compatible to mastering" (whatever this should meant), then there was something completly wrong before. No wonder that your retweaked mixes won over the masters from other MEs... We are engineers, no magicians.
Old 18th December 2016
  #10
Gear Maniac
 
just_manu's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JP__ View Post
If theres so much retweaking necessary to make the tracks " compatible to mastering" (whatever this should meant), then there was something completly wrong before. No wonder that your retweaked mixes won over the masters from other MEs... We are engineers, no magicians.
I never said "much retweaking". I said a retweaks that can make a master to be around -6 or -5 rms.
Old 18th December 2016
  #11
Lives for gear
 
JP__'s Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by just_manu View Post
... make a master to be around -6 or -5 rms.
Ok, Im out of this discussion....
7
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
just_manu's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sameal View Post
A few of them i didn't even see! They grew.


https://www.gearslutz.com/board/search.php
Oh, you report me to my own posts. Well, I never found a clear answer to all this.

I think the questions I've made are very interesting. If you are not ready or simply are not able to answer to them, I would ask u to stop reporting not useful words.

Thanks anyway
Old 18th December 2016
  #13
Gear Maniac
 
just_manu's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JP__ View Post
Ok, Im out of this discussion....
Don't get to understand this. Could you please explain why you laugh?
Old 18th December 2016
  #14
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JP__ View Post
I just finished a wonderful tracked and mixed album where my only contribution as an ME was to fine tune the levels of the tracks within the album context, add one band of digital EQ with only 0.05dB gain and choosing the right dither for that small finishing touch soundwise and provided a DDP. The mixing engineer and the musicians loved the result as it was exactly what they have expected and that tiny bit more.
A narrow band change of 0.05dB.. is that a typo?
3
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by just_manu View Post
Oh, you report me to my own posts. Well, I never found a clear answer to all this.

I think the questions I've made are very interesting. If you are not ready or simply are not able to answer to them, I would ask u to stop reporting not useful words.

Thanks anyway
Unless you posted all those threads under different alias.......

I wasn't taking stabs at you. I just remember this topic discussed multiple times and really just stirring up the mastering crowd.
Old 18th December 2016
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
just_manu's Avatar
 

It is sad to come to a place trying to start a healthy conversation about something that I don't know how to handle, and finding arrogant answers like the ones you guys are giving.

I'm that kind of guy that asks if he doesn't know something or simply needs help. You talked about "ego" in this profession, you are leading by example.
Old 18th December 2016
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
just_manu's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sameal View Post
Unless you posted all those threads under different alias.......

I wasn't taking stabs at you. I just remember this topic discussed multiple times and really just stirring up the mastering crowd.
I'm not native, but I think stirring up means something likeep disturbing, is it ok? Seeing how well you seem to know me, please let me know in which moment I've ever disturbed somebody at this forum. I can't believe how twisted can people be.
Old 18th December 2016
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by just_manu View Post
I'm not native, but I think stirring up means something likeep disturbing, is it ok? Seeing how well you seem to know me, please let me know in which moment I've ever disturbed somebody at this chat.
I don't know you. I never said i did. I also didn't say you personally were disturbing anybody. This particular topic does.

It's like asking a librarian what libraries are for anymore.
1
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #19
Gear Maniac
 
just_manu's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sameal View Post
I don't know you. I never said i did. I also didn't say you personally were disturbing anybody. This particular topic does.

It's like asking a librarian what libraries are for anymore.
I'm not assuming anything. I'm only asking. The experencies I've had with mastering engineers have been what I've said. If there's some engineer who is able to give an answer to this, I would be thankful, cause I really need it and knowing how to proceed. As I said I'm asking very interesting questions regarding mastering and mixing. If u don't think so, it is ok, but please don't deviate the original objective of the post.
Old 18th December 2016
  #20
Lives for gear
 
the unik's Avatar
I think this is a very interesting topic for everybody. "Everybody" beeing the composer, the mixer, the "masterizer" and the listener.

I believe Audio Mastering will always (or at least for a while) have its purpose and i'll try to explain my point of view on this :

Everything is in a constant evolution. It is true for the tools we use to work on the music we produce, or the way we listen to that music, or even the music itself.
As the primary goal of a Mastering engineer is (imo) to "transfer" the music he receives (the source) to a compatible format for the consumer (the destination), it has to be done "professionally" in order to maintain consistency. In other words the consumer expect to buy (or stream) a product of the best 'quality', no matter what was used to achieve that. Nowadays to acheive - 5db rms isn't really complicated in many cases, and with the new loudness standard I would even say it has no sense anymore.
Now in your case if your mastering was better sounding and translating than the other masters you received, for the same song, than this is a good news actually
Ego must not be part of the equation if we want to reach the best result for the music itself. Objectivity and maximum quality are, imo, what trully matters in that regards.
2
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #21
Deleted User
Guest
Mastering != processing

Quote:
Originally Posted by just_manu View Post
- With so many tools and options we have nowadays at the mixing stage, how do we know what will be made at mastering that we are not able to do when mixing?

- Is today mastering only a tool for those mixing engineers who are not able to print good enough mixes?
You've effectively pulled me in to a workflow discussion.

Mastering != processing.

It is always about presenting the source material in the best possible light to the intended audience, on the intended medium, and solving the inherent issues in the least destructive manner.
Mostly, that requires being on time (there usually isn't any), within budget (increasily non-existent) and to an even higher standard than expected. Pick two, usually all three are required.

Often, mastering involves something as simple as a track order adjustment, which can only realistically be performed at a point after the mixing stage.
e.g. Track 3 is a little brighter than Track 4 while Track 7 will fit more comfortably after Track 2, and perhaps Track 5 will offer a more impactful introduction. No signal processing is necessary in this case, to present a better flowing album that is more enjoyable to listen to and more immediate.

In the context of the entire album a decision was made to solve a problem that only became apparent once mixing was completed and all tracks were sequenced. I've seen lesser experienced engineers struggle with processing forcing a particular presentation, and simply wasting the client's time when none was required. Small changes can have a greater impact on how listener's first experience an album. That first listen is the most important.

Other times, it can be to fix issues not apparent during the tracking or mixing process. Issues such as clicks (perhaps a clocking issue) or other interference (such as fan noise or mic stand bumps) is captured and printed to tape.

Regularly, even experienced engineers in one area turn to a popular audio restoration software (but employ the wrong tool in that package) to solve the issue without the required experience in restoration, or the skill necessary, spending hours "fixing" a track for the worse. Or, they tackle the wrong issue looking for a solution. With the right tool, the associated experience, employing the appropriate skill set, issues are solved quickly, easily and transparently. Often times, the solution isn't immediately obvious and requires many small inter-related adjustments to offer an invisible solution.

Sometimes, it is about spacing. Many times I have mastered an album where the sequence wouldn't or couldn't change but the suggested track order resulted in a presentation exactly like two disparate albums squashed together. The source is a mix of live and studio material over the course of a year or two mixed by different engineers. To solve the disjointed listening experience, spacing and small crossfades were used to make the album more cohesive. No processing involved, just simple techniques used in radio broadcasting every single day, invisible to the listener.


Quote:
- What's the line that tells you?... ok, this mix is ready for mastering.
When the client is 100% happy with the mix and intends to make no further adjustment as it fulfills their intention for the song. If the mix engineer is 90% happy, but expects mastering to carry the last 10% and hide his shortcuts, the mixer has been lazy and simply hasn't done his job.

If you hire a cabinet maker to construct a solid cupboard with Imbuia but he uses wood glue to attach false MDF trimming and also uses MDF on the backing, has he done his job? It looks almost as good now but will it hold up over time, how long before the trimming and the backing pulls away? When the cabinet maker relies on the installer to cover up his shortcuts, he hasn't done his job. No one should be happy with that.


Quote:
- Is mastering over rated or even useful in a "single song" music market, where albums are not common nowadays?
I work almost exclusively with what I define as metadata defined immersive audio. i.e. the metadata specifies the reconstruction of the programme material and offers the listener a customisable experience.

I parallel this to the "choose your own adventure" game book concept or to adaptive and dynamic game soundtracks.

The concept of a fixed presentation is no longer valid in this scenario. On the fly the listener can select an alternate mix or channel configuration, choose the solo from the demo version, adjust the vocal level or isolate the drums and bass.

Effectively, the gearslutz-defined concept of mixing and mastering is no longer present as the presentation of the audio is constructed at the listener's end in real time, based on their playback system's capabilities and the choices they make during consumption of that media on the fly.

In this context, mastering becomes a complex QA job that requires more involved sessions than with traditional fixed channel configuration programme material. In fact, while I often say mastering is no longer required in this context, I mostly direct that at those that still think mastering is about processing gear and how much character they can add to a mix. That's processing, not mastering. Mastering suggests solutions, while processing can be a solution, it can also be hindrance to achieving the client's stated goals.

In the context of metadata defined immersive audio, mastering is even more important. So, for the rest, it's almost business as usual but with a very different skill set and frame of reference. Many of the techniques described above are no longer valid or as effective and new techniques will have to be developed tailored to this new form of consumption.

Again, mastering != processing.
1
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #22
Gear Guru
 
Muser's Avatar
If I hear someone like Jack Joseph Puig say he doesn't need mastering then I'd assume he's pretty sure he knows much of the mastering won't benefit his mix. but I also know that, that's because He's Jack Joseph Puig. He has multiple proofs to back up his assertions.

Problems arise when people take such statements and just run with them while wholly missing the reasons why someone like him can make such a statement.

anything which is considered highly crafted is very likely to alter when mastered. as soon as any slight difference is perceived it's considered deficient. I've heard a lot of people post mixes they think are highly crafted and often I think the mix is actually doing an injustice to the music, arrangement or song. personally I don't take for granted anything I make as being immune to being made better by someone else or some other process. by the same token I don't think anything immune to being made worse.
1
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #23
Gear Maniac
 
just_manu's Avatar
 

Muser, The unit, reynaud. Thanks for your comments!!! These are the kind of people I need

Last edited by just_manu; 18th December 2016 at 05:44 PM..
Old 18th December 2016
  #24
Lives for gear
 
Apostolos Siopis's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by JP__ View Post
If theres so much retweaking necessary to make the tracks " compatible to mastering" (whatever this should meant), then there was something completly wrong before. No wonder that your retweaked mixes won over the masters from other MEs... We are engineers, no magicians.
I actually think it is more likely that there is something completely wrong in the "mastering process"..which is not unlikely since in this case it is decided by the same person who mixed the track
1
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #25
Mastering Moderator
 
Riccardo's Avatar
 

Verified Member
There is nothing wrong if you achieve the desired results yourself without employing a mastering engineer.
There is however a single very relevant point to take into account. You had to go back and tweak. Purely as a mixer you should have been able to make the finished mix suitable for the aimed perceived loudness without going back.
This is not meant as criticism but just to put things into perspective. The mastering engineer works with the mix he or she is delivered. The greatest responsibility lies with the mixing engineer here.
Hope this puts things back into perspective.
5
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #26
Gear Maniac
 
just_manu's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Riccardo View Post
There is nothing wrong if you achieve the desired results yourself without employing a mastering engineer.
There is however a single very relevant point to take into account. You had to go back and tweak. Purely as a mixer you should have been able to make the finished mix suitable for the aimed perceived loudness without going back.
This is not meant as criticism but just to put things into perspective. The mastering engineer works with the mix he or she is delivered. The greatest responsibility lies with the mixing engineer here.
Hope this puts things back into perspective.
Totally agree with you Riccardo. And that's why I said I hate this situation, because my days of working are endless. I wish I found the way to make it work wih an engineer.

Achieving masters of around -8 or -9 rms are quite easy for me. The problem comes when it has to compete with songs that are around -6, but still sounding powerful. I find the only way to achieve this is by trial and error, slamming a limiter on the master bus and seeing where to tweak. So doing this working with a engineer is almost impossible.
Old 18th December 2016
  #27
Mastering Moderator
 
Riccardo's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by just_manu View Post
Totally agree with you Riccardo. And that's why I said I hate this situation, because my days of working are endless. I wish I found the way to make it work wih an engineer.

Achieving masters of around -8 or -9 rms are quite easy for me. The problem comes when it has to compete with songs that are around -6, but still sounding powerful. I find the only way to achieve this is by trial and error, slamming a limiter on the master bus and seeing where to tweak. So doing this working with a engineer is almost impossible.
It depends on the genre but -6 has to be planned from the beginning or you risk failure.......

I don't like those levels, absolutely hate it and would never release anything on our label but as a ME when asked I have my bag of tricks to make it "bearable" as most of us here on this board.
if you want to get somebody else involved (an outside engineer) with no surprises the only bet is to deliver professional mixes (i.e near perfect ones).....
Old 18th December 2016
  #28
Gear Maniac
 
just_manu's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Riccardo View Post
It depends on the genre but -6 has to be planned from the beginning or you risk failure.......

I don't like those levels, absolutely hate it and would never release anything on our label but as a ME when asked I have my bag of tricks to make it "bearable" as most of us here on this board.
if you want to get somebody else involved (an outside engineer) with no surprises the only bet is to deliver professional mixes (i.e near perfect ones).....
And when you have a perfect mix, what is then mastering suposse to be adding that the mixer not is able to? That's what I'm not able to understand. And PLEASE, don't misread me ! I know mastering is a very demanding and difficult craft to handle properly. I only have some doubts about it from a mix engineer and producer point of view.
Old 18th December 2016
  #29
Mastering Moderator
 
Riccardo's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by just_manu View Post
And when you have a perfect mix, what is then mastering suposse to be adding that the mixer not is able to? That's what I'm not able to understand. And PLEASE, don't misread me ! I know mastering is a very demanding and difficult craft to handle properly. I only have some doubts about it from a mix engineer and producer point of view.
Yes I understand that is why I always say it depends on the goals. What works for you may not work for others. The fact that you are the producer as well as the engineer already restrict most of your issues to a defined genre/genres. Nothing wrong with this, we all understand it but it is misleading for whoever reads the thread title......

back to your question.... a very good mixer providing a near perfect mix (within his/her vision ;-) would have the reassurance from the mastering engineer his work is good, it will translate and will be perceivably loud, even beyond human comprehension if the mixer and the producer wishes so without hurting too many human beings.....
1
Share
Old 18th December 2016
  #30
Lives for gear
 
JP__'s Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by Audiop View Post
A narrow band change of 0.05dB.. is that a typo?
No. But this was not meant as a general statement, but more like a very special approach with a well choosen tool which works in this special scenario.I just wantedto make clear that even a quite subtle process can lead to satisfying result, but the ego thing I mentioned forces quite some engineers to go for differences at all circumstances to justify their part of the process.

Last edited by JP__; 18th December 2016 at 07:27 PM..
Topic:
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump