December 10, 2007

Finalizing Open Thread...

by Chris Randall

I'm just finishing up work (for the second time, natch) on my latest Micronaut album, Callisto, which once again brings us to the somewhat painful subject of home mastering. I can, of course, afford to send my albums out to be mastered. The issue at hand is that I can't afford Bernie Grundman like I could in the past (when Wax Trax! was footing the bill), and the mastering houses I can afford generally don't do any better a job than I can do myself.

So, that being the case, I'd really just be paying for a second opinion. And as you all know, I have plenty of opinions to go around, so that's kind of pointless.

In mastering my own records, I find that I'm best served by loading everything in to CD Architect, moving everything about until I'm happy with the transitions and flow, then setting it aside for a week or so. I then go back and do the EQing and compression necessary, then set it aside again for a week. If, when I finally come back to finish it, nothing jumps out at me, it's off to the pressing plant.

This will be an L3-free album, as I'm seriously against square-waving my music. I don't get a lot of club play, no radio play to speak of, and the TV shows that use my stuff are gonna squish the fuck out of it on their own, so I usually leave that to them.

So, that's my method. What's yours? I know that this is a black art to a lot of people, and the Direct-To-MP3 rendering that is common in the non-commercial music creation world precludes any sort of actual mastering. Obviously, great benefits can be gained with even simple mastering, but you can also fuck your music up beyond recognition or usefulness pretty quickly. Tips and hints time.



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Dec.11.2007 @ 1:17 AM
L3? I'd pick the Flux Pure Limiter or McDSP ML4000 over it any day :P

For albums, I hand them over to a mastering engineer. For other things I do something rather quick. I use almost no compression when mixing and never anything recording so I often have a pretty dynamic piece that can survive a fair amount of compression and limiting when it's time for the master. Not that I squash when it get to that point either. I like dynamics.


Dec.11.2007 @ 1:41 AM
Just buy the three volume dvd set that Friedemann Tischmeyer ( did for Steinberg called "Audio Mastering with PC Workstations" and you probably won't ever ask that question again.

And no, he doesn't only use Steinberg products.


Dec.11.2007 @ 1:46 AM
I second MCDsp ML4000. ...just got!

The funny thing for me is that I find messing around with the eq in itunes is a really helpful thing...(let the flames begin..) Gives me a pretty clear idea of what I am going to do (eq wise) when i listen against other commercial wavs. and even aacs and mp3s

I have mastered several commercial cds and radio mixes - i am not what I consider a mastering engineer, but I have done it and it has apparently been good enough to use. Regardless of the gear I have or analog...I am constantly surprised at how much the sound changes once it is manufactured and playing through an average cd player. No amount of bit-truncated, uv encoded reference discs tested through various players will ever sound the same as that final manufactured disc in my opinion. It isn't necessary worse, just different.


Dec.11.2007 @ 2:10 AM
I wish McDSP would do VSTs dammit.

Dec.11.2007 @ 2:52 AM
Positive Education
I'm using here the MD3 multiband compressor, for Tc Powercore, with great results. Imho, the best multiband compressor, very clean and efficient, and the brickwall limiter is outstanding. Also, another feature is the M/S encoding, I couldn't live without.

Dec.11.2007 @ 4:01 AM
ML4000 is one of my favourite too...
I like also TC System 6000 MD4 & DXP algos, for the lucky owners... and also its Brickwall limiter 2.

Dec.11.2007 @ 6:39 AM
I use Ozone 3 inside sound forge, eschewing most of the cornier stuff and concentrating on the EQ and limiting (with a little tiny bit of the harmonic enhancer thingy on the vocal frequencies, sometimes). Then I usually polish it off with a little Voxengo Elephant. I probably like a bit more limiting than you do, but I don't squash. Ozone has a prosumer reputation but it is honestly a superb piece of software, and the downloadable manual/guide is an absolute must for anyone who wants to faux-master themselves. Here's the link:

link []">link []

If you're really good at mixing, home mastering can get you a very presentable product. If your mix sucks, though, only a pro can save you. I think you'll have no trouble!


Dec.11.2007 @ 7:36 AM
"If you're really good at mixing, home mastering can get you a very presentable product. If your mix sucks, though, only a pro can save you."

I'd dare put that as: if you're really good at mixing, you won't really need any processing at mastering stage (unless you want to crush and clip the shit out of everything for some reason or another), just checking out sequencing & levels and putting the master CD together. And if your mix sucks, not even a mastering engineer can save you. Anything in between would be the best ground for Ye Olde Final Polish in my mind.

I mean, I know more than one example where a skilled mastering engineer has just basically said "well, I didn't basically need to do anything to the songs since the mixes rocked and the songs fit together, I just put the master together for you". And some of the end results do sound really hard to improve without re-mixing to achieve different vibe from ground up.

I guess you can call slapping mild buss compression to master bus to be either mixing or mastering though, depending on at which point you decide to do that...


Dec.11.2007 @ 8:08 AM
Jeremy Cox
NO L3? Thats not mastering.

Dec.11.2007 @ 9:50 AM
My secret weapon is Robert Hadley at the Mastering Lab in Hollywood. He's right around the corner from Bernie Grundman's (which, imho, is quite a lot of coin to run one's music through Stienberg plugins). He was trained by the venerable master, Doug Sax (Pink Floyd the Wall, anyone?), and runs his masters through the same, hand build console. He has indie rates that I find more than reasonable for the living room producers out there, and is by no means a technophobe (ftp transfers for out of towners are never an issue). He's also a genius to boot (did I mention the grammys?). Get ahold of him asap at:

link []">link []

and tell him Mike sent you.


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