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I'd Hate to Trash a Mastering Engineer's Work But...
Old 19th October 2013
  #1
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doom64's Avatar
I'd Hate to Trash a Mastering Engineer's Work But...

One of my favorite local bands just put out the "mastered" version of one of their songs. It sounds awful compared to the original unmastered version. No I did not have a hand in recording or mixing their music.

First...it sounds like all the tracks are panned up or near the center. Mono-ized.

Second...the song is now lifeless. Whereas the unmastered version breathes and kicks me in the chest/sounds pretty awesome this newly "refined" mastered track is garbage. It also sounds like the mastering engineer threw a blanket over the track. What cymbals? Why do the guitars sound squashed now?

Sounds like someone had too much fun with the brickwall limiter and have too much treble on their monitors.

I felt weird about sending a message to the band leader (because they may think I have ulterior motives to bad mouth an engineer's work) but I have been looking forward to their full LP release for awhile. If their songs are going to sound like this on the final album then I will not buy it. The lead singer replied back that they had a "pro studio" master it and said she'd check on if it was uploaded in mono by mistake.

See the attached clips. Is it my ears or does the new master suck? I won't reveal which version is which until I get a few days of feedback from the fellow slutz on this board. :-) Unfortunately the source tracks are 128 kbps mp3 files...so it has that fizzy high end roll off sound but yeah...

You may need to rename the file extensions to ".flac" after download.

"Why don't you master the tracks then?" you may ask. Because the band and I cut professional ties. I heard through the grapevine that I "worked too slowly" for their tastes. Mind you it was for a free recording/mix but I digress. Priority goes to paying clients and I was kinda swamped with other non-music related work at the time.


*files removed, thanks for everyone's feedback*
Old 19th October 2013
  #2
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doom64's Avatar
**********SPOILER ALERT: Download the files/listen to them and comment before reading the following*********





FYI posting clips was an after thought. I wrote the post before loading up the tracks in my DAW. The track in question was posted on a web site where I couldn't see meters/waveforms/phase cancel the tracks. In other words at least one of my obeservations has been objectively verified.

I won't say anymore because I want to hear some other opinions on this "mastered" track.
Old 19th October 2013
  #3
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It's pretty obvious which is which based on your description. Parts of it I like better, parts of it I don't. Theirs is certainly angrier sounding, and I like their treatment of the vocals better.

Did they only master the track or did they remix it, too? Because the effects on the vocals are different in theirs and theirs is missing a lead guitar part from the edit at 00:36 through 00:44.
Old 19th October 2013
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by doom64 View Post
... I "worked too slowly" for their tastes. Mind you it was for a free recording/mix but....
(Geez, what's not to hate?)
Old 19th October 2013
  #5
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doom64's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by iluvatar View Post
It's pretty obvious which is which based on your description. Parts of it I like better, parts of it I don't. Theirs is certainly angrier sounding, and I like their treatment of the vocals better.

Did they only master the track or did they remix it, too? Because the effects on the vocals are different in theirs and theirs is missing a lead guitar part from the edit at 00:36 through 00:44.
I get the feeling the "pro studio" (their words because to me "pro" doesn't mean anything. I think their "non pro studio" mixer did a fine job on the unmastered tracks) got stems and did his own thing to them.

I will get to the bottom of this. If they plan on getting all the "mastering" done this way then I'll just buy their current CD which has a few unmastered tracks on it.
Old 19th October 2013
  #6
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doom64's Avatar
I just heard back from the lead singer:

Quote:
No its the right one its on purpose compilation cd from [redacted] Im not hearing what you hear sorry. Maybe something is wrong with your speakers
My reply:

Quote:
Nothing is wrong with my speakers.

If I phase reverse the channels they sum to negative infinite decibels which means they're mono. If they were purposely mastered in mono then that's cool.

The other front page [redacted] tracks are stereo.
It may be a lost cause at this point. And by the way I think a mono metal/hard rock mix sounds bad. I'm just trying to be nice with her by saying "that's cool".
Old 19th October 2013
  #7
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jinksdingo's Avatar
I'm unable to dl as my usage is up.

But I thought I'd give you a few words of support.

While you are trying to help, you have a history with said band and while your work was for free and got what they paid for. Lousy, unpaid, when you can . no or little service.

When you cut professional ties, you disconnect as a professional and usually as a friend too. There is no maybe about it.Stick to your decision.

There is a liability is doing free service. It isn't appreciated. Anything you say is met with a distrust like a secret agenda. No one trusts free service.
It doesn't give you any control for being a "good" guy.

Send an invoice. Even if it is a "no charge Invoice"

Leave off making them uncomfortable with your absolutely free service.

Get some respect and send the invoice if there is a connection there and you want to keep it.
Old 19th October 2013
  #8
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doom64's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jinksdingo View Post
I'm unable to dl as my usage is up.

But I thought I'd give you a few words of support.

While you are trying to help, you have a history with said band and while your work was for free and got what they paid for. Lousy, unpaid, when you can . no or little service.

When you cut professional ties, you disconnect as a professional and usually as a friend too. There is no maybe about it.Stick to your decision.

There is a liability is doing free service. It isn't appreciated. Anything you say is met with a distrust like a secret agenda. No one trusts free service.
It doesn't give you any control for being a "good" guy.

Send an invoice. Even if it is a "no charge Invoice"

Leave off making them uncomfortable with your absolutely free service.

Get some respect and send the invoice if there is a connection there and you want to keep it.
Thanks for the advice...it's all good stuff but not all applicable to my situation. Most of it is though so I appreciate your feedback. :-)

The last time I worked with them in the studio was 3 years ago. I'm still a fan of their music and occasionally go to their shows.

The compromise, since they think this is a good master and it'll probably be how their full length album sounds, is to buy their current EP and skip the LP. It's unfortunate but I've done the same to major bands who put out albums with sonic compromises. I refuse to knowingly buy inferior products.
Old 24th October 2013
  #9
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OK...

This is just weird.
Old 24th October 2013
  #10
Here for the gear
 

Version 1 sounds really bad, like a demo recorded with one microphone. Is it mono and a reverb preset on the master? .
Version 2 is quite good, could use some reverb/delay on the lead vocals and maybe a bit limiting.

But as long as they are happy...
Old 25th October 2013
  #11
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Brento's Avatar
 

Darn, files removed already? I wanted a listen!
Old 25th October 2013
  #12
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doom64's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brento View Post
Darn, files removed already? I wanted a listen!
The thread was getting buried and after I took them down three replies LOL!

There is no convincing the lead singer that there is a problem with the track (I've verified that it is indeed mono with an inverse polarity check) so I just won't be buying it if their LP (which I have been looking forward to for 3 years) is mastered the same way. So when I see them at their next show I'll be buying their EP which has all the "unmastered" songs and that will be that.
Old 27th October 2013
  #13
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Seriously - I would say nothing, not a single word about this project as you will only come out looking like the bad dude - you don't want that, more so for a Band you dig, the error will come to realisation in time, and you might get the call - otherwise - they've made their bed! Don't you make the mistake of laying in it!

Good luck!
Old 27th October 2013
  #14
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doom64's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheLastByte View Post
Seriously - I would say nothing, not a single word about this project as you will only come out looking like the bad dude - you don't want that, more so for a Band you dig, the error will come to realisation in time, and you might get the call - otherwise - they've made their bed! Don't you make the mistake of laying in it!

Good luck!
I haven't said anything else to the band except I'd like to buy a copy of the current CD release with the unmastered tracks. My message will be sent when I don't buy a copy of the LP and if they ask I'll tell them why.

I wouldn't buy a new car that didn't have a properly done paint job and I am not going to buy a CD with an improperly done mastering job.
Old 30th October 2013
  #15
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Joe Haze's Avatar
 

This just in....>> We deal with "musicians". "No dude I don't hear it, it sounds great and we are going to be famous soon... Now i have to go buy weed and meth.
Old 30th October 2013
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doom64 View Post
I haven't said anything else to the band except I'd like to buy a copy of the current CD release with the unmastered tracks. My message will be sent when I don't buy a copy of the LP and if they ask I'll tell them why.

I wouldn't buy a new car that didn't have a properly done paint job and I am not going to buy a CD with an improperly done mastering job.
I just hope they don't say......what? You didn't buy the iTunes Download! Man, we were sitting a regionally number 3 after selling 499 copies! Glad you have principles, often the worst war can be between the Producer/Engineer and the Artists they actually really DO care about! Almost a shame they will never know it! (Even when it comes to the Paint job - same analogy etc!)

Good Luck!
- TLB -
Old 31st October 2013
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheLastByte View Post
I just hope they don't say......what? You didn't buy the iTunes Download! Man, we were sitting a regionally number 3 after selling 499 copies! Glad you have principles, often the worst war can be between the Producer/Engineer and the Artists they actually really DO care about! Almost a shame they will never know it! (Even when it comes to the Paint job - same analogy etc!)

Good Luck!
- TLB -
I do have a concern whether the CD copies used linear PCM files for the burn process or mp3 files. Not even going to ask...as far as I'm concerned this is a donation to a cool band LOL.
Old 31st October 2013
  #18
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Similar story:

A friend of mine was doing a folk/roots CD, it was recorded a tad lo-fi, but not in a bad way, it sounded quite good.

Then he got it mastered at some 'super' place in Nashville. I was shocked when I heard the master, why would anyone nuke a folksy album featuring acoustic guitars, violins, and so forth? I mean, it was really limited.

My friend in question has no grasp on production pitfalls and critical listening, but I mostly stopped giving him my honest opinions about sound, I'd rather keep the friendship...

Anyways, there was audible distortion on the master, and I told him that the master was slammed and had audible distortion, and that he should ask to get it re-mastered for free. He responded that he had noticed something distorting, and had already asked for and gotten a re-master, so the one I heard was the re-master with the distortion supposedly removed!

I told him, well, it's still there, and I hinted that slamming a folksy album just didn't seem to help the sound. But I didn't pursue it, I had to shrug my shoulders, he didn't notice the remaining distortion - or the fact that the recording simply didn't breathe anymore. And he wasn't interested. He doesn't like to go over things again and again.

I'm still professionally sickened by that, his album got more or less ruined. It's just a tasteless and idiotic approach to mastering any album, but especially folksy, acoustic stuff.

People should have respect for the music, or get another job.
Old 31st October 2013
  #19
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It's always Interesting to see certain Artists Bicker and Fight over bandwidth and Bass/Drum Kit Levels and Panning Laws!
The
Shoulda
Woulda
Coulda

always seems to come out in the wash in certain band scenarios. Heavy Metal/Throat Wrenching Rock Bands are brilliant at Fluffing each other over levels after spending 3 months mixing in a Residential Studio Facility!

"Oh.....Man, Why didn't you Say something at the Time?" We agreed you'd take care of that part" etc add-nauseam"
Old 31st October 2013
  #20
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doom64's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeHayduke View Post
I'm still professionally sickened by that, his album got more or less ruined. It's just a tasteless and idiotic approach to mastering any album, but especially folksy, acoustic stuff.

People should have respect for the music, or get another job.
I sympathize so much with you on all your points. After mixing a "modern folk" album I was out at a club to watch the musician perform a few months after the CD release. Another band's lead singer asked how I got his album to sound good even though I recorded it "in a basement".

I told him the two biggest tricks are patience (with mic placement, mainly) and not slamming the master. "But, then it's not loud." "If you want it loud you can use the volume knob." I replied. The singer thought that was funny, saw my point but said, "It could be just a little louder."

I suppose it could but then you'd get distortion. You can only push those brickwall limiters so much until they start sounding nasty. Period. There's no way around it even with the best of the best brickwall limiters and buss compressors. Guns N' Roses' "Chinese Democracy" is my reference album for a lot of stuff for a reason!
Old 31st October 2013
  #21
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doom64's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheLastByte View Post
It's always Interesting to see certain Artists Bicker and Fight over bandwidth and Bass/Drum Kit Levels and Panning Laws!
Musicians fighting over pan laws! Put a big smile on my face thanks man!
Old 31st October 2013
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doom64 View Post
Musicians fighting over pan laws! Put a big smile on my face thanks man!
Amazing isn't it, Drummers whom can't tell the F*cken Time with a Watch on their wrist though whom think that certain 1970's band inspired Panning Laws should be restricted to 10.00:AM to -2.00:PM......Ahhh, and all on GP9 2".....

Audio Has to Be,
True Love!
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