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mix help - distorted master, particularly on cheaper systems
Old 1 week ago
  #1
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mix help - distorted master, particularly on cheaper systems

hey guys,

i recently mixed my band's 2nd EP, and we went to local mastering place. after the session, i noticed the masters were quiet compared to big commercial releases in the same genre (folk/alt country). the mastering engineer said it wouldn't be a problem to do a louder version, but the files he sent (although now in the commercial volume ball park), sound very distorted to me in places.

on my monitors it's not so bad, but on earbuds and headphones it's very noticeable. even the band member whose mantra is "it sounds fine, let's just release it" is pulling faces. i rang the mastering engineer, who told me it was my mixes that were the issue. for now i think we're just going to get him to lower the level and go with it, but i wanted to use this as a learning opportunity for my mixing.

while my surname isn't lord alge, this ain't my first rodeo; i've spent most of the last 10 years running my own project studio, and i've not had a problem like this with mastering before. even when i've mastered my mixes myself (i would never call myself a mastering engineer, but i've done it on lower budget projects), i haven't had trouble getting masters of my mixes to match commercial levels without audible distortion.

i asked the mastering engineer what i could change in the mixes, but his reply was pretty vague - he was probably busy with other stuff at the time. i've got some theories about what could make these mixes different, but i'd love to hear from some knowledgable mastering engineers about what they think i got wrong this time round, and what i should be doing next time.

here's a link to one of my mixes:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/vr7rnkh09b...10.17.wav?dl=0

and to the master as well, in case it helps:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/twf53g6jz5...20Way.wav?dl=0

cheers
Old 1 week ago
  #2
DAH
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Listening in ****ty cans, not distorted, but vocals a little bit edgy/abrasive in the 2-3 k. The master seems to be rebalancing the whole mix.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
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how do you mean "rebalancing the whole mix"? heavy eq going on?
Old 1 week ago
  #4
DAH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimbo_baby84 View Post
how do you mean "rebalancing the whole mix"? heavy eq going on?
This might be any kind including but not limited to EQing, but it sounds like the whole picture of the mix was attempted to be rebuilt.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
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hmmm. haven't had a chance to AB the mixes and masters, but i was fairly happy with the mixes, as were the rest of the band. we definitely didn't ask for anything drastic to be done.
Old 6 days ago
  #6
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just did an AB between the master and the mix. can't hear massive changes, other than the distortion. doesn't sound like the mix has been "rebuilt" to my ears. can you be more specific about what you're hearing? perhaps my ears aren't trained enough to notice
Old 6 days ago
  #7
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Sounds like the bass drum and bass get's crushed in the master
Old 6 days ago
  #8
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The amount of energy around 30Hz is probably causing trouble for small amps like the ones that drive earbuds.
Old 6 days ago
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Reierson View Post
The amount of energy around 30Hz is probably causing trouble for small amps like the ones that drive earbuds.
Thanks for the reply. Would that not be something that could be fixed with a HPF or low shelf on the master?
Old 5 days ago
  #10
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First things first: I am no ME!

Now, a rule of thumb from my own experience is that, if you want to have a loud master, you need a loud mix. Part of having a loud mix is of course to have a well balanced frequency response, but also to have well balanced dynamics. For my taste, I found your mix had too much of a dynamic range, both within and between instruments. If you just make it loud without balancing the dynamics, then the limiter/maximizer/etc has to really quench the loudest parts in order to get the softest parts up which it needs to do to increase average loudness. I believe it is important to do enough limting/compression inside the mix on individual tracks and/or busses to be able to get it louder without side effects later on. That said, I played around with your mix briefly. I tried to get the dynamics in check with a series of compressors and a tube saturator, cleaned up some more lows and low mids with a couple of dynamic EQs, did a couple other few little things (sorry, couldn't help myself ), and then the limiter at the end (all ITB). Here it is, roughly level matched with the others (RMS). My version should be as loud as the original master, which is around -8 short term LUFS in the louder parts. I wouldn't expect any distortion from my version, but who knows? I couldn't check on earbuds because I don't have any. My mantra here is that if somebody is listening to music on cheap earbuds, and hears distortion, then that is exactly what he/she deserves!
Attached Files

master.mp3 (1.60 MB, 876 views)

master_BY.mp3 (1.60 MB, 865 views)

mix.mp3 (1.60 MB, 879 views)

Old 5 days ago
  #11
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Greg Reierson's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimbo_baby84 View Post
Thanks for the reply. Would that not be something that could be fixed with a HPF or low shelf on the master?
That would be part of the the solution. This sort of thing is very common now. Lots of songs are tracked, mixed and mastered on band limited speakers.
Old 5 days ago
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BadYodeler View Post
if you want to have a loud master, you need a loud mix.

For my taste, I found your mix had too much of a dynamic range, both within and between instruments. If you just make it loud without balancing the dynamics, then the limiter/maximizer/etc has to really quench the loudest parts in order to get the softest parts up which it needs to do to increase average loudness. I believe it is important to do enough limting/compression inside the mix on individual tracks and/or busses to be able to get it louder without side effects later on.
For this genre I would disagree with most of that...
Old 5 days ago
  #13
DAH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimbo_baby84 View Post
just did an AB between the master and the mix. can't hear massive changes, other than the distortion. doesn't sound like the mix has been "rebuilt" to my ears. can you be more specific about what you're hearing? perhaps my ears aren't trained enough to notice
Listened at home in my workhorse HD580s, I can say the master is not rebuilding the mix, but the focus is more on the midrange in master, it souns more drastic in the ****ty cans, and yes, the distortion is probably to the sub-bass content of the kick. You see, the kick is short so "spikey", combine that with the sub-bass content and you have a problem listening via bad chains.
The ME assumed you are happy with the mix and did not cut the subs, which you as a mixer simply did not hear.
Old 3 days ago
  #14
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thanks for your thoughts, guys. BadYodeler, i like your version in some ways, it's nice and bright, but the compression is probably a bit noticeable for the genre, for my taste. Greg, I actually like yours better than the one we paid for. did you spend long on it?

as a learning exercise, i had a go as well:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/s0cj27hw8y...0V3.1.aif?dl=0
Old 2 days ago
  #15
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Great Song, reminds me of 16 Horsepower...

I tried a master too, and used a very long chain to push into a soft saturated loudness and keep the nice low end:
- Sugar Audio Filtrator (little cut at 1,1khz)
- Acustica Audio Ebony Preamp
- T-Racks CS Saturator (Side Saturation)
- Prime Audio Curve (16 Hz Presence)
- TDR Nova (Dynamic Compression at 1,2 khz)
- Acustica Audio Cobalt Dynamic Tube EQ (Boost 20kHz, 0,6 kHz, Mantis Compressor levelling)
- AlexB Elysia XComp
- Coral Bandaxall Master EQ (50Hz Boost, 25kHz Boost, 20Hz Highpass)
- PSP E27 28Khz Boost
- SIR Audio StandardCLIP (Soft Saturation Pro)
- T-Racks CS Quad-Image (Stereo lifting)
- Newfangled Elevate (1st Limiter)
- Tonboosters Barricade4 (2nd Limiter TruePeak)

Master -12LUFS (healthy loudness for this track):
https://profi-satz.box.com/s/axxetjz...8z7cki500cy9fw

Master -9LUFS (max. loudness for this track):
https://profi-satz.box.com/s/5yjsx7s...npgknsv7s2q0ae
Old 2 days ago
  #16
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Attached Files

Lost My Way_bcgood master.m4a (7.84 MB, 153 views)


Last edited by bcgood; 1 day ago at 12:35 AM.. Reason: fixed dowload link
Old 2 days ago
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimbo_baby84 View Post
Greg, I actually like yours better than the one we paid for. did you spend long on it?
Thanks. No, not long. IIRC, two or three bands of EQ and a limiter.

I'll check yours out on Monday.
Old 2 days ago
  #18
Gear Head
 

I like it
Attached Files

Lost My Way.mp3 (9.56 MB, 412 views)

Old 1 day ago
  #19
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ha, was expecting constructive criticism of my mix from some mastering engineers, wasn't expecting so many folk to have a go themselves! will listen to the other ones tomorrow
Old 19 hours ago
  #20
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I thought yours sounded better than the one you paid for.
Old 19 hours ago
  #21
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yeah, great song

_sh
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