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Mastering Destroys "Balance?"
Old 2 weeks ago
  #1
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Mastering Destroys "Balance?"

PLEASE help me out!

I put heart and soul into recording and mixing a project that has "personal" written ALL over it!

A very good friend (drums/percussion) asked me to record and mix his project (based upon his late Bro-in-law's songs). He said it would NOT be "mastered," and that I should mix for, and as a final product.

THEN, another of his friends, who claims to be in the BIZ, says he'd master it... Well, I mixed to [-6], leaving little for a mastering engineer... And of course the "master" sounded awful compared to my original! Says me...

So, I'm given an opportunity to re-mix for the purpose of mastering, and I use [-12] to "leave room." And, it turns out, this master (and the last) was simply run through a software program. Unfortunately, the dynamics still aren't right... the subtle nuances of various instruments (like the attack of a Conga/Tumba, or cymbal) that were apparent in "MY" mix, are still missing... Plus the "mid range scoop" heard (from the master) left it sounding kinda hollow... My wife said, "...like it was in a big empty room." It is "missing the "intimacy" of the original (my) mix."

Anyways... I feel cheated, because the "mastering" was accomplished via software, which might cost upwards of $200, and sounds like crap, after mixing in a VERY expensive studio (of course that IS relevant!).

Should I FIGHT for a better master??? Or let it go?

Part of my "paycheck" was to have my name in the credits, as bassist, acoustic guitar, vocal, Hammond, recording/mixing engineer... Etc...

I'm inclined to have my name removed from the credits, and chalk it up to experience... That's how bad the "master" made my mix sound! And how bad I feel, after all...

The results of "our" endeavors are very depressing, rather than the excitement we felt before mastering. The biggest problem for me is, the other 2 involved in the project don't hear the destructive effect of the mastering. Even when I point it out...

MEH!!!


My question, again (and I have examples I can post) is: should I demand a better master? Or, remove my name from mix engineer status, and call it a loss??
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottTunes View Post
PLEASE help me out!
My question, again (and I have examples I can post) is: should I demand a better master? Or, remove my name from mix engineer status, and call it a loss??
Where are you listening to the masters? Have you listened on systems other than the room you mixed it in? (Which is the worst possible place to audition a master)

Also, forget the fact that your gear is $$$ and this was mastered using $200 software. $200 is all that's needed in the hands of a pro, and a billion dollar room will not help an amateur.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #3
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Get another master/engineer. Nine out of ten so called professionals suck.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #4
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Give it to a real mastering engineer, not a friend to the creator who claims to know his stuff!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timesaver800W View Post
Get another master/engineer. Nine out of ten so called professionals suck.
I agree! Although my experience is more like 7 outta 10 haven't a clue.

I know a lot of so-called pros that think they know! Hell, I think I know! And I have good ears! Lotsa practice... decent gear... I can make an SM57 sound great! AND I think I can master better...

I was hoping to use this project to fetch more work, especially since the producer knows where to place the material to sell, and attract tv/film attention...

I'm not the producer, and the one who mastered is friends with the producer... He also doesn't seem to use his ears...

I wish I could post this stuff to demonstrate...

Unfortunately, all I'm doing is digging the hole deeper...

I should prolly stop digging, and move on...
Old 2 weeks ago
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruairi View Post
Where are you listening to the masters? Have you listened on systems other than the room you mixed it in? (Which is the worst possible place to audition a master)

Also, forget the fact that your gear is $$$ and this was mastered using $200 software. $200 is all that's needed in the hands of a pro, and a billion dollar room will not help an amateur.

Why would a "tuned room" with good gear be a bad place to listen to the master? If it won't fly here, it won't translate anywhere but the mastering "office."

I also listened through the usual systems - ear buds, living room stereo, late model car (with killer classical setup), etc...

Of course, just because I can hear it, doesn't mean anyone else can, or will...
Old 2 weeks ago
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by melopie View Post
Give it to a real mastering engineer, not a friend to the creator who claims to know his stuff!
I would if I could!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #8
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Regardless, if you are not happy and can determine that after listening to the result in several places then try to prove your point to the others as much as you can. Make A/B examples for them to listen.

A real mastering engineer respects the original music always!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #9
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Well, if you KNOW that your mix environment is OK and you KNOW that it sounds like it should sound, in other words you know for fact what you are hearing is OK both here and there, then ditch this so-called 'master'. If it's commercial and names and credits are here for real, not just for gigs and laughs, ditch that guy and send material to any proven mastering place. Here or anywhere.

As someone already said, 100$ or 1.000.000$ - it all comes down to one thing. Quality.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #10
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You're entitled to more than one revision of a master. Make your notes and submit them to the whoever did the master. It sounds like you are so far away from what you want that you might not be able to get fully there but you can get closer.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #11
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I don’t think we know whether the OP can “demand”, “ditch”, or is “entitled” to anything regarding the use of his mixes. I think melopie is correct about what he can TRY to get those in control of the project to do. Asking to have your mix credit removed might give others the idea of how seriously you take this.
The OP might also play the before/after versions for some person or people outside the project to see if they share your impression that the mastering ruins the mixes. Yes, mastering is a step that is certainly capable of altering product in a way that misrepresents the original. But also, yes to the idea that some engineers are prone to think that any and all changes during mastering turn their da Vinci into a bad cartoon. Get some other perspectives, and don’t tell them in advance what they SHOULD hear. Let them tell you what they DO hear.

Last edited by Bushman; 2 weeks ago at 08:05 PM.. Reason: pelling
Old 2 weeks ago
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
Get some other perspectives, and don’t tell them in advance what hey SHOULD hear. Let them tell you what they DO hear.
This is very wise advice. I call it the "Wife and kids" test. Never tell them which one is which, 100% level match the results before playing.. then listen to the opinions.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #13
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Any mastering engineer that doesn't allow for even one revision is not a reputable one.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by profvonsok View Post
Any mastering engineer that doesn't allow for even one revision is not a reputable one.
It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the quality or ethics of the mastering business. If the OP didn’t pay for the mastering, he’s not entitled to anything. If the person or entity paying for the mastering is happy with it and doesn’t want it redone, then the mastering is done.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottTunes View Post
PLEASE help me out!

I put heart and soul into recording and mixing a project that has "personal" written ALL over it!

A very good friend (drums/percussion) asked me to record and mix his project (based upon his late Bro-in-law's songs). He said it would NOT be "mastered," and that I should mix for, and as a final product.

THEN, another of his friends, who claims to be in the BIZ, says he'd master it... Well, I mixed to [-6], leaving little for a mastering engineer... And of course the "master" sounded awful compared to my original! Says me...

So, I'm given an opportunity to re-mix for the purpose of mastering, and I use [-12] to "leave room." And, it turns out, this master (and the last) was simply run through a software program. Unfortunately, the dynamics still aren't right... the subtle nuances of various instruments (like the attack of a Conga/Tumba, or cymbal) that were apparent in "MY" mix, are still missing... Plus the "mid range scoop" heard (from the master) left it sounding kinda hollow... My wife said, "...like it was in a big empty room." It is "missing the "intimacy" of the original (my) mix."

Anyways... I feel cheated, because the "mastering" was accomplished via software, which might cost upwards of $200, and sounds like crap, after mixing in a VERY expensive studio (of course that IS relevant!).

Should I FIGHT for a better master??? Or let it go?

Part of my "paycheck" was to have my name in the credits, as bassist, acoustic guitar, vocal, Hammond, recording/mixing engineer... Etc...

I'm inclined to have my name removed from the credits, and chalk it up to experience... That's how bad the "master" made my mix sound! And how bad I feel, after all...

The results of "our" endeavors are very depressing, rather than the excitement we felt before mastering. The biggest problem for me is, the other 2 involved in the project don't hear the destructive effect of the mastering. Even when I point it out...

MEH!!!


My question, again (and I have examples I can post) is: should I demand a better master? Or, remove my name from mix engineer status, and call it a loss??
Out of interest, what were you hoping "mastering" was going to do for the sound of your mixes?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottTunes View Post
Why would a "tuned room" with good gear be a bad place to listen to the master? If it won't fly here, it won't translate anywhere but the mastering "office."

I also listened through the usual systems - ear buds, living room stereo, late model car (with killer classical setup), etc...
I've been in thousands of "tuned" rooms in 25 years of doing this and most of them are very poor. Often a good mastering engineer will correct for imbalances caused by poor monitoring in the mix room, of course when these corrected mixes are played in said mix room they sound wrong (but better everywhere else).

Of course that may not be the case, the guy/gal who mastered the tracks may not be very good. Bushman nailed it, you are not the client so you'll need to make your case to the client.
Old 1 week ago
  #17
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Thank you all for your attention and comments.

Unfortunately, it is not my project, and I am not the producer. Also, unfortunately, this is a group of friends. I was invited to participate in this project, and I enjoyed the creation of most of it, including being the recording and mixing engineer. All good up to this point.


The producer told me to mix as a final product since mastering was not in the budget. So I did.

His friend, who will be placing this music (and participating in the profits) with Apple, CDBaby, and other sites, who is NOT a mastering or mix engineer is the one who ran the original mix through software, and doesn't know how to use his ears. He added a "smile" EQ, as you might on your home stereo (I prefer flat), then claimed he added a limiter for some reason he couldn't explain... Most of the problem I have is from the comp/limiter... The balance between vocals/drums and the reverb used for each is off - too much. And, the highs and lows display distortion that wasn't heard prior to mastering, and the most of the music lost clarity (as mentioned).

This masterer claimed he mastered using decent (Senn) headphones! You cannot "hear" bass energy in most headphones! After I complained he first time, and remixed with lower output level and reduced reverb, he said he didn't want to re-master the whole project. BUT!!! Isn't that what mastering is??? He only has stereo tracks, and the first rendering was supposedly already mastered!

This is the reason I'm being a friggin crybaby! I'm complaining because there is nothing I can do! And... I'm still complaining...

I will request that my credit for mixing be removed, lick my wounds, and move on. I've still done a decent job playing, arranging, and recording this project. Had a great time doing it, AND was paid! Not very much, but cash in hand. So, that's my "silver lining."

I thank you all for your responses, and allowing me to blow off steam for my perceived slight.
Old 1 week ago
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottTunes View Post
You cannot "hear" bass energy in most headphones!
Yes, you can.

Since you seem quite personally attached to this project, have you considered doing a demo master of one song?
I suspect you could've done that in the time it's taken to write all these posts.

You'd then have a presentable alternative to what's been done elsewhere, instead of just complaining that it's not right.

Have you listened on anything other than good monitor speakers?
Sometimes mastering is about making sure it'll sound good for Average Joe with his Average Speakers.

Chris
Old 1 week ago
  #19
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@ ScottTunes - oh man, from what you're saying in previous post or two it sure sounds like whoever did 'mastering' didn't have a clue what is doing. Used some tool(s) but don't know why. Come on?! Really?!

Hahahaha, you really made me laugh. And worried!

This is clearly situation we all are facing more and more these days. So someone buys some computer and download a few plugins. OK. And then or during watch some YT 'tutorials' like '5 steps for perfect master'!

Anyone has a comment on this ridiculous situation? Or is it just me in disbelief here?
Old 1 week ago
  #20
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We are only hearing about this from one point of view, and we are not hearing before/after examples of the “ruined” mixes. So at best this is an interesting story and cautionary tale about what might pass for mastering in 2020. But without audio evidence it is entertaining fiction.
I don’t take on faith that the original masters were perfect any more than I believe that someone who has no mastering experience bought some plugs or paid for a cookie-cutter automastering service and by some miracle nailed the perfect master. I may need to get a new Care Meter. My old VU-style Care Meter is barely coming off the left stop on this thread.
Old 1 week ago
  #21
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Sabovic Adis's Avatar
The mastering engineer gets credited as well? If yes, I'd say take the money and move on.
Oh, and don't look back, like, ever.
Old 1 week ago
  #22
ccg
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Pretty much three options here.

1. Master a track yourself to show your friends. They can compare against the version you don't like. Make sure it's as loud (or louder) than what they have.

2. Make your concerns known, but let it go. If it's really bad ask that your name is removed and chalk it up to experience. There's probably a way to do this without making your friends into enemies. "Guys/gals, I love this music and I loved working on it, but this master really butchered my work." Perhaps take a lesser role if you don't want to be associated with the mix. You did record it.

3. Talk your friends into letting a real mastering engineer take a crack at a single song. There are a few excellent mastering engineers on this forum. I'd be happy to refer you to a few I've had personal experience with. Send me a direct message if you like. Others will be happy to chime in on this as well I'm sure.

This is a bummer situation and I get it. I wouldn't assume you can't make improvements just because you're getting some pushback.
Old 1 week ago
  #23
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Yeah, I have pushed all I can. What I gave them initially was a master, which is what I was paid for (record/mix/master) at their request. But the Producer and the one marketing (the latter is who ruined my mix) are long time friends. Even comparing what I did to the master falls on deaf ears... I think my last move is to remove mixing credit.

If I could post an example I would. Once it has been released, I'll post the before and after tastes... At this point there's nothing left for me to do. I've basically been paid, and released... Done.

By the way, Bushman, if you don't care, why are you posting? Go rock someone else's boat.

Thank you to the rest of you for letting me grouse!
Old 1 week ago
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottTunes View Post
Bushman, if you don't care, why are you posting?
1. If you read carefully, you see that my Care Meter IS coming off the left stop. I do care...a little.
2. As a mastering engineer from the vinyl era, it is interesting to observe your thread. None of the parties involved are really mastering engineers. You aren’t, the other parties aren’t.
3. There have been some good and interesting comments from others. One of the best is the observation about you listening to and judging mastering in your room. While your room may be good, it isn’t unusual that a good room will still have anomalies that can be dealt with in mastering. By definition, correcting mix problems caused by your room won’t be heard as improvements IN YOUR ROOM, even if they do improve the presentation of the music on other systems. That was true for mixes coming from Sound City, it isn’t less true for your room.
4. I may not care greatly about your specific situation, but I do have an interest in how mastering is represented and perceived here.
Old 1 week ago
  #25
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Put a 45 second clip of a song up on here as a wav file - I bet there are plenty on here (including me) who would happily do a quick master to see how it compares with what you've got, plus there are people on here that actually know what they're doing mastering-wise (I certainly would not count myself in that bunch!)

Also what's the target medum? Spotify? Apple? CD? It's not uncommon to create specific masters for intended distribution platforms.
Old 1 week ago
  #26
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Sabovic Adis's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
1. If you read carefully, you see that my Care Meter IS coming off the left stop. I do care...a little.
2. As a mastering engineer from the vinyl era, it is interesting to observe your thread. None of the parties involved are really mastering engineers. You aren’t, the other parties aren’t.
3. There have been some good and interesting comments from others. One of the best is the observation about you listening to and judging mastering in your room. While your room may be good, it isn’t unusual that a good room will still have anomalies that can be dealt with in mastering. By definition, correcting mix problems caused by your room won’t be heard as improvements IN YOUR ROOM, even if they do improve the presentation of the music on other systems. That was true for mixes coming from Sound City, it isn’t less true for your room.
4. I may not care greatly about your specific situation, but I do have an interest in how mastering is represented and perceived here.
1) Why master at all if you're not gonna cut the vinyl, it's all digital nowdays.
2) What's wrong with the mix, and who says?
3) Making it sound good in reference room makes it sound not good in not refference rooms.

This is how mastering is percieved here.
Old 1 week ago
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabovic Adis View Post
1) Why master at all if you're not gonna cut the vinyl, it's all digital nowdays.
2) What's wrong with the mix, and who says?
3) Making it sound good in reference room makes it sound not good in not refference rooms.

This is how mastering is percieved here.
You are either very clever or dumb as a brick. In my room you seem clever, but in the OP’s room, who knows?
Old 1 week ago
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabovic Adis View Post
3) Making it sound good in reference room makes it sound not good in not refference rooms.
I stick to what I've done for 35 years - if it sounds good in my car - then it'll work anywhere! I've had crap cars with crap stereos up to luxury cars with 20 speakers and multiple amps. it seems to work regardless!
Old 1 week ago
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
You are either very clever or dumb as a brick. In my room you seem clever, but in the OP’s room, who knows?



How about now? Clever or dumb?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scragend View Post
I stick to what I've done for 35 years - if it sounds good in my car - then it'll work anywhere! I've had crap cars with crap stereos up to luxury cars with 20 speakers and multiple amps. it seems to work regardless!
Lucky B...
Old 1 week ago
  #30
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Clever.
Topic:
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