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Critique my bands masters vs references (grammy engineer)
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
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Musickiks's Avatar
 

Critique my bands masters vs references (grammy engineer)

This is a sort of sister thread to my question thread in Mastering for Beginners

When my band gets our stuff mastered (we've used guys like Bob Ludwig, Sterling Sound guys, etc) and compare back to references, I don't understand how it always seems like they're quieter, yet the waveform for the references is smaller! And I obviously know it's not them but something on my end I'm not understanding or the way we're mixing the track.

They don't seem to be particularly brighter (such as perceived volume brought on by higher treble frequencies) and I feel like our stuff is even more squished and quieter, and we send in an unlimited very lightly processed mix.

Is waveform size not end-all-be-all? I don't currently have a way of measuring the levels, unless anyone knows of a cheap-easy program for Mac?

Is it because I'm missing a subwoofer? Headphones aren't pushing the subs enough? I guess in my car it seems to equal out more, like the drums come across much more overpowering and such.

Only thing I can think is our mix/master is pushing a lot of subs in the drums that my monitors (Adam A7x) and headphones (Senn HD800s + bass boost from ifi Black Label amp, cause HD800's are way too thin out of the box), aren't picking up.
And maybe I'm also comparing the intro portion of the track just with drums bass, keys and vocals and not the loudest parts of the track. Maybe we should mix those parts louder if we want them to be louder at the beginning?

Another question I'm wondering is, are several revisions normal for mastering? I just hope these mastering engineers don't hate us by doing 3-4 revisions...


Here are the files (they're mp3's as I'm referencing Spotify and AAC files) :

https://we.tl/t-FNHgdXeRoc

1 - first master
2 - second master (asked for bit brighter, louder, and more stereo-width, a new mix with a few vocal volume changes was used
3 - third most recent master (asked for it to hit a littler harder and felt we lost low end in the kick in previous master probably with the stereo-widening, and a new mix with a slightly deeper kick was used and vocal volume changes was used)


Songs we reference:

Tame Impala, Feels Like We Only Go Backwards - Elephant - New Person Same Old Mistakes
Cage the Elephant - Black Madonna - Social Cues
Radiohead - Bodysnatchers
St. Vincent - Los Ageless
The Growlers - Night Ride
Phantogram - You Don't Get Me High Anymore
King Krule - Dum Surfer

All of Tame Impala's stuff, but Elephant in particular is so weird because the waveform is super small yet that kick and the guitars seem massive and way louder than our master, or the master just simply sounds so much quieter than their tracks yet the waveform says they're nearly the same.

Last edited by Musickiks; 4 weeks ago at 06:17 PM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
First and foremost - the louder your master is, the more squashed it will be. This is because of the fact that you cannot push signals beyond 0 dbfs and the louder you push the signal up into that ceiling, the less room there is for your dynamic range. The first thing to go is the low end, which takes up the most room. All of this translates directly into a flatter-looking waveform, which I assume is what you mean when you say "smaller". I haven't listened yet, but I will. it will also help to have your original mix to reference, if you don't mind sending it me.

In a nutshell, it sounds like you asked for each successive master to be louder, and as a result you indirectly asked for a smaller-sounding mix. It also can explain why your second master sounded weaker in the low end (low end must be compensated to make room for the level you asked for). Louder = less room for transient detail, which means less punch and a flatter sound. Some genres, like metal, benefit from this but others don't. The issues could also be due to your mix. I'll take a listen.

Last edited by nverxion; 4 weeks ago at 02:00 AM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
A waveform display doesn't show frequency density (energy) and doesn't represent perceived loudness.

A spectrogram can provide you with a visual representation of the energy distribution within your mix/master.

What makes one mix sound louder than another, with the same waveform display height, is the distribution of energy, including harmonics, and transient detail.

Matching a mix to a reference track during mastering is constrained by the mix, not necessarily the skill of the mastering engineer.

Rather than focus on maximum loudness I recommend focusing on dynamic range: a quieter master with a healthy dynamic range will have more impact on the listener than a louder master with a low dynamic range.

Check the mix/master with a loudness meter that displays crest factor, PSR or PLR.

Continue to work with your mastering engineer(s) until you are happy with the final product.

I would also like to hear the pre-master - there may be opportunities to optimize the mix.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
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benewmusic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Musickiks View Post
Is waveform size not end-all-be-all? I don't currently have a way of measuring the levels, unless anyone knows of a cheap-easy program for Mac?
Nope. Waveform size merely measures the amplitude over time with no regard to perceived loudness or other factors. Some cheap / easy way's to measure loudness in its many forms include: HOFA 4U (plug-in), Voxengo's SPAN (plug-in), Orban Loudness Meter (app), Melda MAnalyzer (plug-in), or even Loudness Penalty (website). All of these CAN provide some insight, but may not provide a one step solution to monitoring your problem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Musickiks View Post
Is it because I'm missing a subwoofer?
No. Your tracks, recordings, mix, and production are fundamentally different than your references. While you can achieve similar results, you have to keep that in mind from the beginning. The balance of your mix includes many factors, including dynamic balance (from crest factor, peak to rms, and as your song plays on), frequency balance (brighter, more space around dense instruments taking up a certain register), and production balance (difference between instrumentation, overlapping sounds, and WHAT sounds you use). All of these factors added up have an effect on achieving a mix that is closer to the references that you choose. Only you can tell what your song needs in order to get it to a similar balance before it goes to mastering.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Musickiks View Post
And maybe I'm also comparing the intro portion of the track just with drums bass, keys and vocals and not the loudest parts of the track. Maybe we should mix those parts louder if we want them to be louder at the beginning?
Define louder. Maybe the fader doesn't need to be turned up, but rather, your drums need to come forward in the mix. Or need a little sculpting so they don't over lap with the guitars. Or need some parallel compression to bring up lower level details to add consistency. There are many ways to get "louder" but deciding which one is the right move may take some experimenting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Musickiks View Post
Another question I'm wondering is, are several revisions normal for mastering?
Absolutely. If a master is not what you have in mind, have that conversation with your Mastering Engineer. By listening to your 3 masters, it does sound like they addressed your concerns each time.

I hope this helps. If I missed the mark, or if there's something I could elaborate more on please let me know!
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