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level for mastering
Old 30th June 2005
  #1
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goldphinga's Avatar
 

level for mastering

how many db's of space are generally left on your pre-mastered cd tracks to give the mastering engineer room to do his thing? Never really been sure on this. Are we talking a 1db or more?
Old 30th June 2005
  #2
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Jules's Avatar
Avoiding clipping / digital overs...

Those are my only criteria

I am not 'looking' at the meters and trying to make it 'always near zero' with a compressor or limiter.

Back in the 80's when DAT recorders came out - 'watching the meters' and trying to get it as "close to zero" as possible was a engineering practice, but now... tutt

Mastering Engineers will appreciate the dynamic range ... dont worry so much about it.

DON'T normalise
DON'T do any 'pre mastering'
DON'T attempt to supply the mastering engineer with 'hot level' tutt tutt tutt tutt

Just give the mastering engineer - the mix

Old 30th June 2005
  #3
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audiomastermind's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jules
Avoiding clipping / digital overs...

Those are my only criteria

I am not 'looking' at the meters and trying to make it 'always near zero' with a compressor or limiter.

Back in the 80's when DAT recorders came out - 'watching the meters' and trying to get it as "close to zero" as possible was a engineering practice, but now... tutt

Mastering Engineers will appreciate the dynamic range ... dont worry so much about it.

DON'T normalise
DON'T do any 'pre mastering'
DON'T attempt to supply the mastering engineer with 'hot level' tutt tutt tutt tutt

Just give the mastering engineer - the mix




i agree !

brgds
philip
Old 30th June 2005
  #4
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Thanks, maybe ive been worrying a little too much about this, but i've got my first tracks coming out soon and so just wanted to double check for when i go to the mastering house. many thanks.
Old 30th June 2005
  #5
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My guy asked for me to leave it peaking at -6 ish, -4 is max. Call your guy and just ask...they'll love you even more for not sending them the Destro mix already at 0!
Old 30th June 2005
  #6
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I'm a -6dBfs person myself - give or take. Tracking, mixing - Nothing over -6dBfs in 24-bit.
Old 30th June 2005
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goldphinga
how many db's of space are generally left on your pre-mastered cd tracks to give the mastering engineer room to do his thing? Never really been sure on this. Are we talking a 1db or more?
With today's typical music and converters, you really don't gain anything by pushing it right up to the limit and, as they used to say in the digital dark ages, "using all the bits," so leaving a little room won't hurt anything. Some people suggest 6dB which I think is more than necessary, but if it makes everyone happy, it's certainly workable. Anywhere from 1-3dB will probably satisfy the majority of mastering houses.

Ultimately, I'm happy as long as you don't clip or use any limiting purely for level. Even if you get within a few tenths of 0dBFS, I'll just adjust my gain staging however I need it for processing.
Old 30th June 2005
  #8
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Billster's Avatar
 

dito.

It´s definately more of a problem to revitalize squashed mixes than pushing a shy mix up to a loudness level that´s associated with contemporary cds. At mastering houses people also have more transparent compressor / limiters than in most mixing environments. And don´t L2 too much - it gives you transient-pie if overdone.

Cheers,
Bill
Old 30th June 2005
  #9
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It's amazing how many people over-limit or clip without realizing it.....maybe down to the distortion in crummy monitoring masking the damage being done....damage which may reer it's ugly head later...oh yes.
Old 1st July 2005
  #10
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It can be really hard to hear digital clipping until you process the sound some more. By that time, your imagination is often filling in the blanks. I believe that much better monitoring is required than was acceptable for analog work.
Old 1st July 2005
  #11
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To play devils advocate here, I know what I'm doing when I compress and EQ the mix prior to mastering and it's actually part of the sound I work towards. I don't end up with a square wave at the end, but even if I did it would be because that's what I wanted, not because I don't know what I'm doing.

I think the 'don't compress/limit/eq the mix' opinion must have originated from mastering engineers in fear of being found out and made to feel like frauds for charging for not a lot.
What pisses me off now is the fact that 'once it's mastered it'll sound great' has become the new 'we'll fix it in the mix'.
This wrong definition/term for 'mastering' has even got into the A&R man's extremely ****ing limited vocabulary...

When I send tracks to be mastered I only want a touch of EQ applied (which is usually a bit of 400hz dipped and a bit of air added, to sound modern and contemporary (whoop-de-****in-whoo...)) and it just generally rounding off (phase checks/touch of limiting, etc).
I certainly don't need my mixes sculpting/altering.
AFAIK, it's the mastering engineers job to make the client realise how ****ing good I am at my job, not vice versa.

Having said this, I seem to now work with ME's who are cool with my approach, because they're also ****ing good at their jobs and I respect and trust them.

Personally, I would be sceptical of any ME who me asked for mixes with no comp/EQ and 6dB of headroom though.
Old 1st July 2005
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Messiah
To play devils advocate here, I know what I'm doing when I compress and EQ the mix prior to mastering and it's actually part of the sound I work towards.
The thing to leave off is the final peak limiting because there is no way to know how to set it outside the context of the song's final position within the album or any future compilations.
Old 1st July 2005
  #13
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jayfrigo's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Messiah
To play devils advocate here, I know what I'm doing when I compress and EQ the mix prior to mastering and it's actually part of the sound I work towards.
I must have missed the Devil's advocate argument here. I see no contradiction. Perhaps you are playing devil's advocate to something you saw somewhere else? Compressing the mix is a completely different thing from limiting purely for level or allowing lots of clipping (unless intentionally distorting for effect, but that's the exception, not the norm). Though I may caution a novice mixer to be conservative with early attempts at mix bus compression, for a mixer with some experience, obviously, do whatever fits your and the artist's vision. It's often a big part of the inteded sound of a mix and its balances and I can't imagine ever telling somebody not to do it. Heavy limiting or clipping at the mix stage just to make it sound loud, however, is definitely something to avoid. Clearly a different animal from mix bus compression.
Old 1st July 2005
  #14
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ultimately, the ME can both increase and reduce the volume before processing, so as long as you avoid hitting 0, you'll be fine

as people are saying, do NOT attempt to do the ME's job for him, unless you feel confident in your mastering skills
Old 1st July 2005
  #15
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I normally get asked to deliver a master on a good old audio format CD-R (so only 16bit/44.1k). In this situation leaving 6db seems a bit much so I just try to retain as much level without clipping!
Old 1st July 2005
  #16
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... Also, when I have to deliver a 16bit mix for mastering I'm never sure if I should be dithering or not as you're meant to leave dither until last - but what about the resolutionI'm losing by going down to 16bit before it even gets to the ME?
Old 1st July 2005
  #17
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There's no reason to deliver your material at 16 bit (other then as a back-up)....24bit is better.
Old 1st July 2005
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by explorer
... Also, when I have to deliver a 16bit mix for mastering I'm never sure if I should be dithering or not as you're meant to leave dither until last - but what about the resolutionI'm losing by going down to 16bit before it even gets to the ME?
I can't imagine any mastering engineer asking for 16 bit source material. It's so easy to deliver 24 bits these days, there's no reason not to. If it happens to be a budget limited DAW-less project studio still mixing to DAT or a standalone CD recorder (increasingly rare), that's fine, but if you're using a DAW, it's best to preserve those extra bits.

As for dither, if you have 24 bit files in the DAW and are using a 16 bit delivery format (CD audio), then you must use dither. Any wordlength reduction requires it. In mastering, after processing at longer wordlengths, the engineer will again dither when returning to 16 bit to deliver the master.
Old 1st July 2005
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maxim
... do NOT attempt to do the ME's job for him, unless you feel confident in your mastering skills
It isn't as much a matter of "mastering skills" as it is a matter of not being able to predict where the volume level ought to be set in the future.

One of the most important mastering skills is knowing when to do nothing but tweak the volume a little!
Old 1st July 2005
  #20
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trident fan's Avatar
 

i called a few mastering houses last week and one of them seemed impressive , with a big client list and expensive rate, until they told me to send a 16 bit audio cd and , mentioned they like to run it through a tc finalizer
tf
Old 1st July 2005
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trident fan
i called a few mastering houses last week and one of them seemed impressive , with a big client list and expensive rate, until they told me to send a 16 bit audio cd and , mentioned they like to run it through a tc finalizer
tf
Sad, but not a shock ...

Any level is fine, unlimited, with peaks over -15 and under -0.1 dbfs. ... and other answer is personal preference. One if the biggest names in mixing was at -10dbfs peak ...

Level doesn't matter ... focus on the content!
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