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  • Mastering your own tracks?

    Hi guys, here is my opinion on mastering, please feel free to air your views...

    I treated myself recently and had Vincent Villuis @ Ultimae Records master one of my tracks. It cost 40 Euro's which wasn't bad but I had mixed feelings on the final result. His mastering is pretty darn good but I think my expectations were much higher. I asked him what processes he used which he was kind enough to explain. Okay, he had many expensive tools but part of me thought I could do this myself - not quite to the same standard. I am a self taught producer spending hours upon hours pouring over tutorials and armed with my new mastering tips I set to work mastering my last few tracks. If I every set out to produce an album I would no doubt seek somebody else to master them. This leads me onto another issue....

    Allowing a third party to master your work is great, they have an unbiased view on your music and they get the best from it - but do they? In my view, the only person in touch with their productions is the producer and therefore they will have that vision of how they want the final outcome to sound. Can somebody else really achieve this?

  • #2
    Wow!!! Fascinating story.

    Ironically enough, I've got Vincent's newest album in my car right now...AES DANA's "Pollen." Oh my goodness does it sound GOOD! I've been reveling in how good it sounds for the past week or so...then THIS thread comes along!

    First of all, I'm really sorry to hear you have mixed feelings about it. Care to elaborate on what you don't like about it? You could even upload both the unmastered and mastered version to AO so we could hear it. I'd love to do a cross comparison.

    Mastering is an artform...it's not meant to be taken lightly. Everyone's ears are different...room treatments are different, speaker setups...it's a totally unique experience any which way you look at it. Personally, I'm totally in awe of the "old school" mastering engineers who have been doing it for decades...they're like the mad scientists of the audio realm.

    I was debating this awhile back and decided that the only way I would get what I really wanted was to invest in some tools, do my homework, and do it myself. I've been on your end before (not knowing, passing it off to someone else, mixed feelings when it comes back to me) so I took the risk and invested the time. I have to say I'm much happier now that it's under my control...that way, not only do I get to experiment with the final outcome, but I can control it...and if anything goes wrong, it's all on me.

    Just my 2 cents. Upload those tracks and let's have a listen. Hope that helps!!!!

    -S1gns
    Synphaera Records
    Space | Time | Matter

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    • #3
      Mixing and mastering are both things I am learning how to do, but I do all my own stuff by ear on crappy speakers & headphones so I can't really say much ..

      However a properly treated room is pretty important! Speaker placement is important, so you can get a good idea on your stereo imaging! Also what kind of Monitors you use is important, yet very subjective! The thing with monitors is that if you use crappy ones *Like me* you are missing a ton of audible information that could be mixed differently.

      It is good I found to use a pair of different types of monitors. You want a high end system & good headphones for doing your mixing on, then when you get to the end of your mix during the mastering stage.. you will want to try and mix them on a "Grotbox" set of speakers. Basically a small shitty speaker for making it sound the best on consumer systems.

      Room acoustics is probably the most important, because audio is a physical process so you can bet that how your room is setup will affect your sound perception. Acoustic paneling and dampeners are a must! It is expensive but worth it..

      A good DAC is also important, since not all Digital to analog converters are the same quality. Many people try to find the cleanest DAC possible for mastering, and this can become very very expensive! You want something that will transmit your digital audio information into the analog realm with very little noise into your monitors. At least this is what I understand from my various internet research expeditions..

      I mean if you wanted noise cleaned up in your track during mastering, you could do it ITB using something like Izotope RX2 and do it all visually. But still you wanna be able to hear what you see too, so investing in a good soundcard and monitor system is good.

      Again this all comes down to price.. and it can add up very fast. It is possible to get by without spending an arm and a leg though! IMO though a good high end set of monitors like the Focal Twin 2 BE speakers + Sub is an essential purchase. Also a high end soundcard for reproducing your sound properly is also kind of a must buy, I personally have been looking at the Prism Audio lyra-1. Everything else can be made instead of buying, like your acoustic panels, etc etc.

      One thing that will help a person in learning a bit on mastering is to educate themselves in acoustics. You can learn quite a bit of neat information that can come in handy!

      AGAIN this all IMO. Again I have never mixed a professional album, and I am still learning TONS.
      -=| (Youtube)|(Bandcamp)|(Ambient Online Forums)|=-

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      • #4
        You should check out the KVR mastering challenge that was held last August. That was a real eye-opener.

        http://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=356997

        Some of this stuff is just starting to make sense to me (6 months after the event)
        Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | Orfium | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

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        • #5
          For the record, artists like Steve Roach and Robert Rich have been doing their own mastering as well for the past few years. I know they both do mastering for others as well... but my point is that this is also the direction that they themselves had at one point decided to take. One of the concerns I would have with non ambient mastering engineers is the tendency to want to push the signal as hot as if they were mastering a pop album, which especially for ambient totally kills the air space. So you want to make sure to work with someone who is familiar with the genre. Then there are those people who hit the "normalize" button as part of their process. I didn't follow the kvr topic so I may very well be full of beans... and I'm still learning as well. But hopefully I'm on the right track and closer rather than farther!

          What Vortex says is true about having really good tools. A while back I was reading about Bob Ludwig and how his speakers cost basically about as much as my entire house! I can assure you that SR and RR do not have speakers that are as expensive as that. So while it's true that you do need to get good tools... and probably the best quality tools that you can afford (at least tools that are at a certain level)... it's also true that you don't need to go quite as crazy as someone like Bob Ludwig.

          Signs, whatever it is that you did for Language... especially if you mastered the album yourself: keep doing what you're doing because imo, the quality of your productions sounds stellar!!! I'll probably be more qualified to say this once I have heard it properly off the cd... hopefully soon. But even the mp3s sound really good.


          EDIT: Guess what the Postal Carrier carried in today? :biggrin:
          Last edited by Nemo; 02-09-2013, 03:53 PM.
          My Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/sequent7

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          • #6
            Originally posted by S1gnsOfL1fe View Post

            Just my 2 cents. Upload those tracks and let's have a listen. Hope that helps!!!!

            -S1gns
            Here goes:

            https://soundcloud.com/conscientiousobjector/conscientious-objector-the


            versus...

            https://soundcloud.com/conscientiousobjector/exceptionalsleeper-the-moon

            Comment


            • #7
              So, I'm not so sure that I don't like your original version better. On the one hand, Vincent's version is a little "airier"; on the other hand, your version feels like it has a little more depth. Although the difference is not as far apart as one would have thought. Well, that's just first gut feeling after one listen each and then switching back and forth between the two. I might have to come back to this a little later. The track itself is top notch!
              My Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/sequent7

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Nemo View Post
                Signs, whatever it is that you did for Language... especially if you mastered the album yourself: keep doing what you're doing because imo, the quality of your productions sounds stellar!!! I'll probably be more qualified to say this once I have heard it properly off the cd... hopefully soon. But even the mp3s sound really good.
                EDIT: Guess what the Postal Carrier carried in today? :biggrin:
                You know I was going to email you about those CD's! If they hadn't had showed up yesterday I swear I would have overnighted you a couple discs on Monday just to make up for it!!! Glad they finally arrived safe and sound.

                Back on topic, dude, you are too kind!!! Language of The Ancients was my first true album I mastered 100% on my own in house. I appreciate your compliments! I figured out about 1/3 the way through the album production that most of the problems with mastering can be solved in the MIXING stage.

                This is no joke.

                Mastering doesn't solve the problems you might have with the mix. It only adds to what you've already done and doesn't undo what you did during the mixing of it. I found that even on some of the tracks I did for (Language) that the more I worked on the mixing that mastering wasn't even needed!!! If at all!!!!! I think I mentioned this somewhere else on AO. It sounds crazy...like produce a track and let it go out the door without mastering it but that's exactly what I did. Not for all of them...but only a few. Most of them I found that minimal mastering was needed. I spent the most time making sure I got the level right so it wouldn't distort AFTER I mastered it. That was crucial and a big part of mastering is making sure you get the best volume without ruining the mix.

                @conscientiousobjector So I listened to the tracks, extensively...and I pretty much came to the same conclusion that Nemo did. Vincent's master sounds waaaaay more airy. Which to ME personally, I like that stuff. He accentuated what you already did and brought out frequencies what were not there before. However...yours sounds like it has more...how do I say this...soul? Not to say that Vincent's doesn't...but even though you have all these amazing new frequencies and highs...as well as CLARITY in Vincent's mix, mastering to me is like a flavor. Everyone interprets if they like that flavor or not. So what he's done is put his own flavor on top of your sound. Maybe it sounds good to you, maybe it doesn't. But that's what that is. There is no ultimate way to solve this. True audio-philes know this...that there will never be a completed mix, only a version in which you stop trying to fix things. It can always be better. If I were you, I'd take this as a learning experience to realize what CAN be done and then try and build your arsenal and recreate the same result, if not better. I know you can do it...you are a talented musician who can create beautiful pieces of music. If you can do that, I'm pretty sure you can get yourself in front of some good speakers and mastering software and sort things out.
                Synphaera Records
                Space | Time | Matter

                Comment


                • #9
                  A bump for this thread with an offer from Izotope: Free Ozone mastering guide!



                  PDF download

                  eBook via iTunes
                  Last edited by aoVI; 03-01-2013, 11:43 PM. Reason: pointing out it is for Ozone

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I think IK have a Mixing/Mastering book to go with the T-Racks suite as well. I'm sure I saw it on their website.
                    Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | Orfium | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

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                    • #11
                      I recently got T racks on a recommendation but to be honest i've never mastered any of my own stuff before so im a little hesitant. Any advice would be much appreciated
                      https://soundcloud.com/negativespectrum

                      My record label
                      http://xenomorphrecords.bandcamp.com/

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                      • #12
                        T-Racks is great. I use it on all my tracks. I've had it for about 15 months. In the last 6 months I've started tweaking things in there and am starting to become comfortable with it. I use Master#1 Global preset and tweak settings on the individual modules from there. That Linear Phase EQ is wonderful. I use it to shape the overall frequency spectrum. Occasioanlly I tweak the EQP-1A settings although it sounds great using the Global preset. With the Opto compressor I can usually go with the defaults in the Global preset, but occasionally I have had some joy messing with the attack and release settings. these can be particularly critical with rhythmic/percussive pieces. If your mix is a little hot, you can cut the Output level in the compressor. I tend to use the Limiter as a QC of my levels these days, and don't let it actually perform any limiting during the mastering process. My last track had a DR of 12 both pre and post master. I was very pleased with that.
                        Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | Orfium | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

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                        • #13
                          So you will use compression then? i've been reading some folk saying not to add compression to ambient sounds
                          https://soundcloud.com/negativespectrum

                          My record label
                          http://xenomorphrecords.bandcamp.com/

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            For ambient music there is probably no need for compression. I was describing my workflow, which is less ambient in nature, although not always.
                            Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | Orfium | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

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                            • #15
                              ah ok. my mistake. i think i just really need to get some advice re mixing and mastering ambient. with the other genres i worked in, i knew the rules, so far i've just been going with what i think sounds right as i cant seem to find any definitive list of what ambient requires



                              PS should i start a thread asking for mixing help?
                              Last edited by Negative Spectrum; 06-09-2013, 09:43 AM.
                              https://soundcloud.com/negativespectrum

                              My record label
                              http://xenomorphrecords.bandcamp.com/

                              Comment

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