Mastering and the final product

Discussion in 'Production' started by Quotec, Oct 11, 2014.

  1. Quotec

    Quotec Active Member

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    Wasup?

    It seems every day I understand more and more how to mix and structure my tune to get a clean and neat result. Now that I follow the "touch your master faders to balance track" strategy I avoid clipping and can have a fairly decent result, everything sits pretty well. One thing though is worrying me. So I can get my track balanced with approx 3-6dB headroom for mastering(yes, my next track will be sent off to mastering engineer, want to see what magic these guys can work) but this way my track loses the energy and excitement, turning up the volume on speakers does not prove very effective to tackle this issue. On the other hand when I mix near clipping zone I get a little bit more pleasant result although there can be some distortion. As I have never used ME to master my tracks I am not really sure whether ME can make my track louder and fill it up with that initial energy or am I doing something wrong when mixing? Because even if I dont have equipment and knowledge in mastering, simply raising the gain on master is not working for me.
     
  2. IV4

    IV4 Currently a newt.

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    Bounce the track out and load it back in to a new song profile. Use the gain to turn it down. I base this on nothing but it is an idea.
     
  3. SafeandSound

    SafeandSound Mastering Engineer

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    Unless your sound card is very low quality or broken there should not be excessive distortion with a few peaks at -1dBFS relative to -12dBFS (for argument sake) Distortion can rise when a signal approaches 0dBFS and this is dependent on the voltage the analogue output op amps are seeing, this would be on a very low budget sound card. Even so it should not be audible distortion to the ear. A good sound card manufacturer will consider not overloading the op amps with a near full scale reconstructed analogue signal.

    The distortion you are hearing is possibly caused in your monitoring chain onwards from the sound card. Typically a pro TRS 1/4 output output on a sound card will be reference to +4dBu (sometimes switchable to -10dBV) Close to digital zero (0dBFS) is a hot signal voltage wise and could potentially be sending too high a level for the inputs on a hi fi amplifier or set of budget powered/active monitors (irrelevant of any volume controls). So look for switches (sometimes in your sound card software applet) and make sure they are all set to +4 dBu.

    cheers
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2014
  4. miszt

    miszt BASSFACE Royale

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    loudness is a deceptive beast, our brains are wired to respond more to loud sounds that quiet ones, that's why loud sounds better, even when it isn't; same goes for distortion, for some reason, we perceive distorted sounds as louder than undistorted ones, even when they might be mathematically the same level


    if you need to distort the sound by pushing it too loud, to get it to sound right, to sound energetic, then the mix probably isn't as well balanced as you perceive it to be


    If you are finding you cant get the volume level you are aiming for, recheck the mixdown, load up a spectral analyser on the master buss to help you, are there any big spikes, or big troughs and peaks? or is it a nice smooth curve from 20hz to 20khz? generally when you cant get enough volume, its because there are frequency bands which are not balanced with one another, perhaps the sub is too loud and causing your compressor/limiter to clamp down to hard? or maybe there are midrange sounds which are pushing your bass and highs into the background? it could be a wide range of freqs, or it could be just a couple of big spikes at very specific frequencies...impossible to say without hearing it, and it takes allot of practice to be able to spot all the things that need to be tweeked


    getting the mix clean is the hardest part, great job if you have nailed that aspect...now just work on the balance of the mix, you can get a big fat mix just by mixing down, its all about learning to balance each sound


    also worth thinking about the room you are mixing in, without good treatment, mixdowns can be very very difficult to perfect, you might have standing waves that mean you cannot hear certain low freqz (or they could be being amplified), or you may have so many mid/high reflections that you cannot accurately judge what volume level each sound should be at - if you don't have access to a treated room, then the best thing to do is reference the track on as many speakers as you can, crappy PC speakers, car stereos, hifi's, headphones, club systems, whatever you have access to, compare what you hear in your studio, to what you hear on each different speaker, and keep tweeking the mix until it sounds as good as it can on all of them
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2014
  5. Quotec

    Quotec Active Member

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    Cheers guys. I understand that it´s the most vital thing to have a good, detailed and balanced mix and that loudness is secondary thing to aim for. But damn, this loudness phenomena is just too disturbing to totally neglect it. If you have heard of Joe Ford you will know what I mean. Beast production but lack of loudness is not making his tunes stand out in the best way.
     
  6. miszt

    miszt BASSFACE Royale

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    once you have figured out how to get it loud by mixing down, you will realize that you already know how to process the master buss to get it even louder; but you cant master a track to get it louder, without first having properly figured out the mixdown....mastering for loudness is not as mystical as it might seem, its not a complicated process, all the tools used are the same as those used for writing the music and mixing down, what you pay for with a mastering service, is the experience of the engineer, and their detached/objective perspective on the music while processing it...but not everyone enjoys heavily compressed/limited music, and sometimes its just not appropriate
     
  7. CNoize

    CNoize New Member

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    miszt - couldn't have said it better

    I sometimes master tracks myself and I can achieve a good quality balanced loudness...
    However, like you said, a mastering service can provide you with a different sound with that same volume, with more space in the master.

    I always get my tracks mastered through online mastering services, call me lazy, but I actually prefer the outcome a lot better.