242 thoughts on “Mastering

  1. Noticed this hasn’t been updated in a while and wanted to chime in…

    Mastering is not nearly as complicated or scary as people often make it out to be. The mix process is where you should be spending all of your engineering energy.

    Mastering is simply some final sweetening or spectral balancing, imaging correction, and leveling. Assuming it’s supposed to be more indicates that the mix needs attention, not your mastering chops.

    For any of you guys subscribed to MacProVideo this is a great course I recommend checking out. It should help dispel some of the apprehension newer composers have when mastering their own tracks… Although it’s centered around EDM, the same principles he teaches are useful for any genre.

    https://www.macprovideo.com/tutorial/ozone-7-12-essential-mastering-tips

    I’d also recommend using Magic AB if you’re not already. It’s incredibly useful at both mixing and mastering stages as a point of reference. It’s also useful to get you in the habit of re-referencing every so often as a means to “cleanse the aural palette” and to guage what RMS level you should be aiming for in your mix…

    https://www.samplemagic.com/details/184/magic-ab

  2. @angopop. I was on the L.A. sessions.

  3. I can’t thank you guys enough for the advice and also the positive feedback on my rookie mixing/mastering skills haha. It’s really encouraging to know that I don’t necessarily have to spend the extra money on a separate outsourced mastering service. I’ll try to hone my skills with the adaptive limiter and study as much as I can regarding compression in Logic Pro in the meantime. Thanks again guys.

  4. Dont worry too much about about the mastering. Play around with Logics Adaptive Limiter for a while and you’ll get the hang of it. It will work fine for your needs.
    The mix can be harder to figure out on your own and it sure aint fun if you feel like you can’t get the tracks to sound the way you want. When I started some years ago I used to take some of my tracks to a friend who is a pro Logic user. I paid him to mix my tracks but I would hang around his studio and take notes of everything he did. That’s the best school I’ve ever went to 😉

    • Not to claim that the adaptive limiter is the best option out there, but if you don`t have anything else than stock Logic plugs, it will get the job done.

  5. Really nice Weston. I thought the mixes were great, but a few of the acoustic songs, like We Who Dance in the Rain, could have benefited from being run through some light compression / maximization. I really like Down Into the City, which doesn’t seem to need any further polish.

  6. I will master your tracks for £5 a track – it will involve only putting a limiter on it – but I would prefer you learnt a limiter yourself dude , it takes two mins – you basically set the loudness and make sure it won’t go into the red

  7. Hi Dude
    My advice , take it or leave it , is you are making a wrong turn doing that – your in library music – I do non exc and have over a thousand tracks un ex – each one I just mainly banged a sonnox limiter on – if I wanna get fussy I will add a compressor but for the most part I honestly just wack the limiter on – if you go to an exclusive library like universal etc they will have their own mastering service which they employ – but for doing library tracks which often dont even sell you may not see a return on your $99 – my advice is get a good mixdown then add a limiter and if you need to a compressor – a pro limiter like sonnox should surfice- and mate realise that these people who are buying your track off a site…its often in 64 bit audio – if you get together 100 tracks how much is that gonna end up costing you – a sonnox limiter or similar is cheaper – it has v few controls to learn – learn it in about 2 mins

  8. I didn’t see a forum topic specifically for mastering related questions so hopefully my question won’t go under the radar as I’d love any input/advice anyone may have. I’m in the foundational stages of exploring and educating myself on licensing, library composing, and writing and recording from home and need to build my song catalog at a much faster pace. What has been holding me up is the mixing/mastering process after tracking due to inexperience. Rather than decide to become a wearer of too many hats, I’m considering submitting my next song to StudioPros.com as their fees start at $99-$199 per song for mixing and mastering services. I’ve listened to before and after tracks they’ve done and it sounds a lot better than what I could do which I translate into a more polished and professional song for me to pitch while also giving me more time to spend on writing & tracking. The company seems to have lots of solid reviews, testimonials and endorsements from magazines, etc but I just wanted to see if anyone on MLR uses them or a similar service to be more efficient in building their catalogs time-wise from the A-Z process of creating a song.

    • If you are going to pay that for every library track you make, you`re going to have a hard time making some decent money out if it, unless you`re writing for the big exclusives with good up front payments.
      My advice would rather be to pay someone to teach you how to do these things yourself. I`m sure there is a lot of good engineers who will gladly show you some tips and tricks for $199 per song 😉

    • Hi
      You will never make money with paying out for mixing and mastering. Its a skill set that modern composers have to master IMHO. A 500 song catalogue is going cosy 50-100 k. Its simply economics really, if you are guaranteed 1k a track then maybe its viable, if you are waiting on license fees and backend with no upfront fee then no, it makes no sense.

    • I appreciate the feedback a lot guys. I am familiar with limiters and compression and have made my own attempts at mastering in Logic Pro on all my songs thus far with okay results. I’ve read here and there that with Licensing for Film/TV/Advertising that you present your songs as pro/polished/refined as possible, ready to broadcast so to speak. Would you guys consider the mix/master job I did on these acceptable to pitch then? https://soundcloud.com/weston-boucher

      • Sounds good to me. I wouldn’t waste your money on getting them mastered as everyone else has said. The production is very clean and the tunes sound very nice!! I have heard songs with much less production on TV, including some of mine, he he. Keep it up.

  9. haha Good one, Unfortunately too like reality.

  10. Hello.

    I have been composing instrumental production music,
    and have a problem about mixing(or mastering) that isn’t solved for a long time so I tried to post here.
    (I only use software plug-ins and VSTi.)

    When I compare my tracks with commercial tracks,
    my tracks’ mid-high frequency range(1000~16000 hz) is always lower(-5~-10db) than commercial tracks.
    I just tried to give 2~4 gain to that large frequency range when mastering, then my track’s sound became similar with commercial tracks but also became too sharp, and individual instrument’s balance was ruined(especially the instruments like hihat, shaker, etc became too clear, loud and close.).

    And I found that it is not only a mastering problem but also mixing problem.
    I also compared my tracks with UNmastered commercial proquality tracks and just found that my tracks’ mid-high frequency range is still lower than UNmastered commercial tracks.

    Honestly I don’t know where I should begin first and what instrument need to be boosted.
    I know it is not a simple problem but really want to know some useful tips.

    If I compose a song with instruments like below –

    Piano(main instrument)
    Bass
    Drum
    Acoustic guitar
    Background pad
    (genre = background music, easy listening, new age, relaxing and ballad)

    What is the most suitable instrument to have mid-high frequency range boosted?

    In short, How should I do for track to dominate enough mid-high frequency range like commercial tracks?

    I’m sorry if my English is not good.
    Please give me some advice.

    Thanks
    JunL

    • If it sounds good, I wouldn’t worry about how low or high your mids are. If you’re sacrificing quality for loudness then maybe you’re approaching it wrong.

      Commercial tracks were more than likely mastered at a high-end facility, with high end gear & more importantly a Mastering engineer whose sole job is touching up things that weren’t addressed in the mix or couldn’t be.

    • Hello JunL, a few thoughts come to mind. One is that maybe your VST instruments don’t have the same high quality sound as the instruments used in commercial tracks so it is difficult for you to match the sound.

      If using eq to boost frequencies isn’t giving you the sound you are looking for, try other ways like a multi-band compressor. Start by looking for a pre-set that may have come with the plug-in. If a pre-set created to enhance the highs doesn’t exist, search the internet for how to use a multi-band compressor as a “dynamic eq”. Another plug-in to try instead of eq is an expander. This will take lower level signals and compress them upwards. Finally try an enhancer like the BBE sonic-maximizer or other “aural exciter” type of plug-in.

      Good luck,

      Michael
      http://www.guidetopricingmusic.com

      • Thanks Musicman and Michael Nickolas.

        Actually I tried to analyze wav form of VSTi track and session recorded wav track(from mixing practice examples, etc). Result was that session recorded wav track’s high range(4K~16K) was much higher(4db+ at 4K and 15db+ at 16K) than VSTi and I just surprised how much difference was already there before starting mixing.

        Moreover I also found that session recorded track had very clear low-cut(ex: bass or kick). I just tried to use highpass or low-shelf to my VSTi and just had to use 5+ overlapped same highpass filters to reach that quality. (but it also changed sound too light while session recorded tracks isn’t.)

        I just assumed that it is because that session recorded track is influenced by ‘analogue’ recording system or something engineering is already applied when session recording.

        Thanks to your detailed reply I learned about it more clearly.
        So I would try ‘pre-mix’ for basic sound quality.
        I’m finding suitable plugins like seamingless EQ or exciter or dynamic, etc.

        Thanks
        JunL

  11. Im getting tired of spending 4-6 hours (usually over 2 days) mastering some of my tracks to get them as close to commercial release quality as I can. They sound great when im finished but im not sure if its nesseary for me to put so much effort into this part of the production process. Do libraries need tracks to be mastered to such a high standard or am I just wasting my time? I dont want to spend so much time mastering anymore but im worried that if I stop trying to reach such a high standard that my tracks might not be accepted so readily into some of the libraries im with. Is there a real/any need to produce commercial quality masters?

    • Hi Hysteria,
      I dont know what kinda music you produce, but this sounds like a long time you need for mastering.
      Maybe you should put more effort in the actual mixing of the song (and also the selection of instruments), so that you dont have to fix so much in the mastering process.

      I’m usually aiming at a clean, well balanced, moderatly compressed song, that gives the editors some room to play around with it too.

      Try to find out what it is that you do while mastering, maybe you can streamline/organise that a bit and find out what you have to do while producing/mixing the song.

      • hysteria, you’re not wasting your time. Libraries usually want “broadcast quality masters”. To me this means make your track sound the best possible. You can knock some time off your 4-6 hours I’m sure. Like Ulla says, it all starts with your mix, the better the mix the less time spent polishing it later. Start your comparison to a commercial release as you are mixing, and make up for deficiencies (excluding loudness) then.

        Setup an FX chain in your mastering software so it is ready to go ahead of time. Mine goes – eq set to remove rumble (frequencies less that 30Hz), tube pre-amp simulator, eq, compression, exciter, stereo-imager and maximizer. Each has starting settings loaded, but are bypassed. From there I can start enabling effects, listen and tweak. If I enable one of the plug-ins and it does not improve the sound I don’t use it! Just because it’s in the chain doesn’t mean it must be used (most likely the exciter or stereo-imager). On the other hand if none of those can solve a problem I will add a plug-in, like multi-band compression.

        Eventually you could get your time down to 20minutes a song, I’m sure.

        Michael
        http://www.guidetopricingmusic.com

    • 1. Do my tracks need to be mastered to a high level. ? I think so, you are competing and being compared to other tracks which have been.

      2. You shouldn’t really be spending that long mastering a track. I have my mastering plugins on my mix bus. I by pass them and mix until I am satisfied . I will then turn them on and usually adjust mastering settings and elements in the mix until finished.

      3. Bounce down a mix and DON’T listen to it for a couple of days. I usually find on this second listen I will tweak on or two things and it’s done. I can get over consumed in just one thing and miss the overall picture if I spend too long on it.

      4. This is a rolling process where in one day I will compose, mix or review. Stops anyone track or project getting boring or over analysed.

      Just my 2cents.

      • Thanks for the tips Ulla, Michael and Denis. Yeah maybe its cos i dont spend enough time mixing before I master. I kind of end up mixing and eqing as I go along and then when the songs done I master it and adjust bits of the mix that need adjusting. just seems to take me ages getting my finished songs to commercial release standard. Probably doesn’t help using a £40 set of desktop speakers to mix/master on! To get a better idea of how my masters are sitting i check them on my stereo and my TV set. certain elements seem to stand out more when heard on different speaker sets. I then go back and adjust the mix again! Cant afford to upgrade yet. For a good set of speakers and an audio interface will set me back about 500 or 600, which i dont have at the mo. Cmon Music dealers! put one of my tunes in an ad campaign!

        • But your tracks do sound great in the end, it’s about streamlining your workflow I suppose.
          http://www.focalprofessional.com/en/cms-line/
          These are brilliant monitors at any price. Put it on top of your list when the first cheque comes in. They aren’t expensive and will sound good in any room.

          • I do all of my mastering from stereo mixes in a separate file rather than on the mix bus so that I can do all of my 15, 30, 60 sec cutdowns there as well. Much easier to quickly edit one stereo file than 15-20 tracks!

            • This is the way that I work as well. I guess it’s more like traditional record production.

              It’s what I’m familiar with.

              • Exactly. Some may view it as adding an extra step, but I feel like my end result is better because I try to make the mix sound as good as possible without any sweetening on the mix bus and THEN move on to mastering with fresh perspective. I think it’s good to assume that you are two different people doing two different jobs, again, like in record production, there’s the recording/mixing engineer and then the mastering engineer.

            • I actually do my edits while still in the midi tracks. Seems to be quick for me. I just cut out sections to fit the time and boom. It’s also easier for me to take out individual notes when needed.

              • Correction: I edit to length from midi files. I master from a single stereo file for each edit.

                There is a way that I can do that in DP without having to remix each of the edits.

          • nice. ill keep those in mind for the future. thanks.

  12. Im mastering a track now where I want to keep the volume at a good level whilst avoiding low end distortion from kik drum. I can stick a limiter in after my EQ to keep the track at a higher vol but it effects the dynamics very slightly and in a way i dont like for the song. Is there another way of keeping dynamics 100% intact and maintaining volume? Or is it just a case of sacrificing vol for dynamics or vise versa.

    • Hey Hysteria,
      If you have a compressor that you can control the mix percentage, you could try upward compression. It keeps the dynamics of the track and is more natural sounding than downward compression.

      I usually find the peaks of the track, set my threshold to that, then set attack around 125ms, release at about 250-350ms (where it does not pump) Output set according to threshold. The output mix of the compressor I usually set around 50%. Ratio between 1.1-2.5

      Theses are only rough guidelines as each track is different of course. It’s comparable to parallel compression.

      This way works good for louder music, there is also another way to set up this style for acoustic/orchestral music.

      Hope this helps.

      • Okay thanks again euca. I dont hav mix percentage option on my compressor but ill have a look at the attk and rel settns and see if I can help things there. I really dont understand what im doing when compressing i just kind of mess with it until i think it sounds right. i shud prob just avoid compressn altogether. Thanks.

        • No problem. If you want to avoid comp. you could try and ride the gain through the song and automate it. That works too. Sometimes no comp. is a good thing. I think comp. is actually abused too much. An over compressed song gives me ear fatigue.

    • Multi band compressor of which McDSP/Waves all make one. Divides the frequencies into 3/4 bands and then lets you compress each one differently, so lets say in your case you could compress the whole mix bar the bass/kick drum end or vice versa.

  13. This couldn’t have come at a better time. Just yesterday, i was really struggling with a new piece. Somehow the freq. of a pad were battling with the freq. of the bass, and i wasnt able to get it right. I think the topics listed are going to be a big help.

    So far i think its well written, and the links to free mastering tools are fantastic. I havent used them yet, but my intuition tells me this going to help. Much thanks…

  14. Just wanted to pass on a new mastering tutorial site that just opened today that I was waiting for.
    I’m checking it out now but looks pretty good and user friendly. I also like the idea of mastering being the main subject matter.
    Don’t know much about the owners though but info looks good and helpful for those of us who master their own work.
    Please post what you think about it.

    http://www.masteringtuition.com

  15. Okay thanks for all those great mixn tips! Ill Eq the mix as best I can b4 sending. no compression, no limiting and leave plenty of headroom. 24bit 48k is highest I can go.

  16. Asking the mastering engineer before you do the final mix is always best. Having said that, I have mastered entire CDs beside Bernie Grundman and Doug Sax, so I can speak with some authority. It is always best to get as close as you can to what you want it to sound like before sending it off. This means that if you are mixing in the box only, the tracks you lay down should sound 90% close to what you are trying to achieve. Otherwise the digital EQs will not sound that good as you boost the highs to achieve ‘air.’ There is a tendency to over compress, especially in these days where artists want the dynamic range to be 3 to 6 db and be as loud as possible. For library music for film and TV I think the dynamic range should be 10 to 15 db for a more transparent , open sound. On a stereo bus compressor be gentle with a 2:1 ratio or less with no more that 3 db reduction for the whole mix. Remember that the mastering engineer is treating only the entire stereo mix. He cannot go in and subtract the woofy 200 to 300 hz range on a vocal without subtracting it from other instruments that may be EQed perfectly.

  17. More of a mixing question but, when producing a mix for to be mastered by someone else what is the best way to leave the mix? Should I try brightening the mix up with EQ before sending it or should I send the mix when i know its sounding a bit dull and needs brought out? When mastering myself im constanly returning to the mix to fix individual parts so im not sure what way to leave it when its someone elses job to master. Im a bit worried about turning in a dull mix.

    • Eq is ok. They can adjust that but they can’t undo a bunch of buss compression. Definitely don’t put any limiting on the mix buss either. Those things can limit what a mastering engineer can do.Also use the highest bit possible. If your using 32bit float in Cubase, send them that or 24 bit.
      Just my opinion of what I do when I sometimes send something out for mastering.

    • I took a really good mastering course through Berklee online. Jonathan Wyner, the instructor, addressed that. They prefer a mix that is so good it doesn’t need any EQ. If they are EQing your final mix, that means there were problems with your mix (or monitoring environment).
      He also said DO NOT try to get loudness with maximizers and multi band comps in the mixing stage. Let them do that. This is presuming that the mastering house has top of the line gear, not the plug INS we have.

      • I totally agree. I have been doing my own mastering for years and have (through trial and error) found the following.
        I do not put any compression or limiting, or EQ on my mix buss, and mix leaving about 3bd of headroom on the mix.
        Then I bounce it down to 2-track, and import it into my mastering suite in Logic Then I use Ozone 4 to bring it up to -0.3db through a pre-set. I very rarely add EQ during mastering.
        I’ve found if your mix is good, all you need to do in mastering is to bring the levels up sand do some minor tweaking.

    • I think it’s a good idea to check with the mastering engineer to find out what he prefers. Different engineers have their preferences so it makes sense to ask him how you can best set him up for success on your project.

  18. For those who may be looking for a decent plug-in (this is considerably better than decent actually) for “maximizing” your music, check out this plug-in called “VeeMax”. I would say it is comparable to the Waves Maximizer plugin. It is also free (but Windows only). I have used it a few times with very good results.

    http://www.g200kg.com/en/software/veemax.html

  19. I just upgraded to iZotope’s Ozone 5 (from v4). Haven’t dug into it yet, just a glance so far. The first thing I noticed was they added a preset menu dropdown for each individual effect. That’s a nice touch. I’ll report more on my thoughts about it after my next cue (what ever that will be)
    Cheers!

  20. I thought I share this quote from Sherman Keene about mixing, I found it very helpful:

    “A good mix includes: powerful and solid lows, proper use of mid range, clear and clean highs, proper, but not overburdening effects, real acoustic information, not just electronic reverbs and delays, dimension with a sense of depth, motion and movement of the instruments, and one true stereo track, preferably up front.”

  21. anyone here know how to use compression in mastering very well/properly? Its something I dont do when mastering because Im afraid of ruining a master with it cos i dont know how to use compression properly. Im trying to train myself by ear, but i still dont understand it fully.

    • This is from an article I wrote for the Berklee Alumni magazine. The full article is here – http://www.berklee.edu/bt/162/mastering.html It is dated, but maybe still helpful…

      “Once again, there are no standard settings, everything depends on the source signal, musical style, and so forth. If your compressor plug-in includes presets, you could use one of them as a starting point. If you don’t have presets, try a 1.50:1 ratio at -12 dB with a fast attack time and a release time of around 100 ms. Tweak this until it sounds good and you are achieving 2 dB or so of gain reduction. Concentrate on the attack setting if you want more or less punch. Most compressors will have a makeup gain setting, and/or a volume output fader. Use them to get the overall volume of the song up while remaining below clipping level. For the warmth factor, many compressor plug-ins have an “analog simulation” or “warm” button you can use. Enable it and see if it has a desirable effect on your song.”

  22. @Hysteria

    Ha, I actually plan to set up a bunch of mics in my backyard for the airshow in September. I usually get flyovers less than 200 feet by the Navy Blue Angels. It rattles the bones! Look for some battle cues from me in the fall, ;~)

  23. trailer composer says:

    very controversial subject

    theirs this guy we do just started sending some trailors to – just started this libary operation up in the south of england – well he is apparently a top composer and was a co righter on a minor hit in the uk charts in the 80s and did some theme tunes and so forth – so now hes like setting up a libary to exploit his contacts

    he has given us some very good advise along the way but it was only this week we mentioned mastering and he has a very interesting perspctive which is bascially if you mix the track right then mastering isnt necessary – they never would of mastered in to 60’s and phil spector never masterd so basically why do it now? its just pandering to fashions but really who cares if you’re track isnt as loud as that other guys? worst case scenario? well some dude at the other end has to tuirn it up using a remote control but anyway if your going to get used on a tv production volume isnt important anyway as its all done by the tape op post prod

    well its one way of looking at it – but yeeah why master? just get the mix right and u shouldnt have to!

    • John (the other John) says:

      I agree! Most everything should be done already in the mix.

      • Makes sense to me and would make things a lot easier also! But the fear of being rejected due to sound/volume levels is too strong for me to stop mastering.

        • Sometimes the goal of mastering isn’t just for a single song but to work on a group of songs, like for a ten song CD release. In this case even if everything is already done in the mix there are going to be differences in eq and perceived loudness from song to song that need to be addressed for the project as a whole. Also, as a part of mastering there is sequencing, spacing and creating a red book compliant master for duplication. Also noise reduction and click and noise removal (if necessary), fades and etc.

          But even for a single song, the libraries are always asking for “broadcast ready” music, which probably means “loud”. Like Hysteria says, it’s too easy to be rejected because yours doesn’t stand up volume wise to the competition.

          • Very good points brought up here indeed! I always master to make my tracks “broadcast ready” as well. But I make sure my mixes can stand-alone without that extra push that mastering gives.

    • Mastering is much more than just volume. I have had the chance to work with some world class mastering engineers and it is amazing the “finished” sound they can bring to a track. I am sure Phil and many of the producers of his era would have loved to had the opportunity to master their work.

    • @trailer composer: I’m not sure where you are getting your info and also what your definition of “mastering” is.

      Once we had the advent of tape there was always a “mastering” process to convert from tape to vinyl, if for no other reason than to make sure the needle would stay in the groove. If you had too much bottom end the needle would actually jump out. One of the reasons disco singles came along in the 70s was to allow for wider grooves so you could get more bass on the vinyl.

      I did work for Spector on more than a few occasions and started producing in the 60s. Mastering at that time afford you the opportunity to “tweak” the mix with EQ, compression, etc. There were generally two sets of hardware so you could have different settings for different parts of a song. A real hands on process and could be nerve wracking cutting the vinyl master. If you blew it you had to start all over!

      • Your showing your age again Art. Most of the kids now a days can’t grasp the concept of having had to use tape and vinyl.

        Are you talking about working for Phil Spector?

        • Yeah, I use to be concerned about the age thing but thing about age is you get to a point where you don’t really care!

          Have a few Phil Spector stories. I first met him when I was playing guitar for the Righteous Brothers. Phil walked in with his entourage at the old Red Velvet on Sunset in L.A. scouting the Brothers, quite a scene. That’s when Phil was at his peak. I played on most of the RB’s records. Missed Lovin’ Feelin’ as the band I was in (soon to become the RB’s band) was out of town. In the 70s I got a call from Spector’s office to play on the John Lennon “Rock and Roll” album and the Leonard Cohen album, “Ladies Man”. The last time I saw Phil was just before he was sent to jail. He was at the Hamburger Hamlet on Sunset seeing Nino Tempo play (we both have known Nino for years). Phil was pretty mellow at that point but the stories of his antics in recording sessions are all true!

          • thats awesome art ! @trailercomposer – i totally agree with what your saying a good track doesnt need any mastering at all, i mean if you had spent 10 weeks going over and over that one track truly you really wont need to master it, you’ve soloed each part and come back to it over and over and yep u will get it right. But Ive only ever done that about twice, and really they sound so great and i’m so pleased when i hear them. But in general in doing this lib stuff, when speed is pretty important, for me i wanna get it done and then make it sound loud and stuff. I think for the average person the effect of loudness is so instant, if u were cruisin a load of tracks and came accross some guy who has it sounding loud mastered to the untrained ear its just like ‘this sounds pro’ , its a cheap nasty trick, and i personally am a big fan of the debate of the loudness wars etc and take the side of less is more, i love being relaxed by music and dynamics, but im not going to try and push treacle up a hill, i think a lot of people are instantly impressed by the impact of a loud mix, if i made say a dance track and it was not as good as the next but mine sounds very loud and fat then i think even if its a rubbish track its kind of got more appeal to a lot people. i totally totally think this is wrong but i think its just untrained eye getting spoiled by ‘bright lights’. i was recently putting online some pro mastered stuff, stuff from old record label i had couple year ago and man, the guy that mastered that just made it sound so good, i bet it took him 5-10 mins to do it, im sure it did, i think his turn around for 4 tracks is about half an hour, i dont know if its his outboard which somehow put a natural amplifier sonics thro the music but its just so much greater than anything i can ever do, i say ‘ever’ maybe in 10yrs time ! – my mastering these days is very basic, all i ever do is cut it from 30below, put a sony sonnox limiter on it and limit to a normal level then sometimes add the enhance effect on the sonnox, i never really do anything else to it, whenever i do it just kind of messes it up, occasionally i might knock of a bit of the high but dont really ever boost it, i wish i could spend 2 weeks hanging out in one of those mastering rooms with someone friendly telling me all their secrets openly, but meanwhile ive experimented with eq’in whole mixes or multiband or aural exciters and so far after several years i really dont like any of them. The only side of mastering i like for me is a loud mix – in the sense i think a lot of people think ‘oh wow’ i know its a cheap trick and dont experiment with the rest of the processes that are possible but continue to make it loud.

            • @adam: paragraphs please! I got lost trying to read all that:-)

            • “i mean if you had spent 10 weeks going over and over that one track truly you really wont need to master it, you’ve soloed each part and come back to it over and over and yep u will get it right.”

              😆 If you spend 10 weeks on one track you wan’t make a living in this business!

              I master everything.

              • How long does anyone here spend on average on a track from start to finish? I typically take 1-2 weeks composing and mixing and then mastering on and off for around 4 hrs and then an extra hr or 2 producing 30-60 sec edits and different file versions. usually adds up to about 2 weeks. (working arond 4hrs a day)
                (one cup of tea per hour)

                • I usually do a track from inception to final production in about 10-12 hours, average. Sometimes less, sometimes more. This is also, like you, working about 4 hours per day. These are 2-3 minute full length tracks. I have done complete tracks in one day, but that is very rare. It works differently for all composers.

                  • My pace is pretty much the same as yours – 12 hours spread over 1-3 days.

                    • Same as Gary and Matt. One cue in about 12 hours, but for me that is 1 to 1.5 days.

                      Sometimes long (12 hour) days, and weekends, when I’m working on a deadline (for television), like now.

                      Library tracks, I can spend several days if I’m doing an orchestral mock-up.

                    • About the same here also.

                  • Wow, we are all pretty much on the same page. That’s about my pace and feels very natural, at least to me.

                • That’s actually a good question. I’ve recently finished putting together a couple of cues in 1 1/2 to 2 days then go back and color it in. By time I’m completely done could be a week, week and a half or two.

                  • I generally try to use real instruments for my songs. I’m a horn player (alto sax, tenor sax and trumpet) so I really like to layer my parts!! Do three or four part harmony, double it, then double it with the three instruments. I do have a trombone, and can make a noise out of it, but there’s only so much time to learn new instruments!! I usually play all the parts except for drumming. Just could never really do that!! So, for the bigger productions, I’d say about 20 hours, but for the smaller stuff, I’d say it takes me about 6 or 7 hours. Bouncing everything down to all the formats takes such a long time too. I own a commercial recording studio, so I’m busy producing and engineering other people, but on my off days I’m doing my own stuff!

                    • I can get a tune together in around 2-3 days. For me thats the easier part. Then song structuring, mixing, mastering and exporting dif versions takes up the next week and a half!

                    • talking about putting tracks together in 2/3 days, i normally take at least that, if i come back to it longer, but something thats really made me think is i have been say making a track and then thinkin i will just bang out a couple more using same sounds, ie. stick stylus beats on ( takes 2 mins ) change the bass and slap a loop on it and it honestly takes 15-20 mins for the track to be finnished, now heres the funny part , these ones are just as popular if not more than things i have put thought into.

                      just bizare and i cant ignore it, but at same time cant live 365 days a year doing it as it would drive me nuts, what i have ‘made’ of it is that engaging my brain and thought process so heavily is perhaps not always a good thing when the same product is just as popular if not more. may only apply to me, maybe my ”good” stuff can be over intricate and people couldnt care less.

                    • This is nice to see how long it takes you all to put together a cue. My library is still pretty small, but I would guess I’m typically at the 8-12 hour for an in-the-box cue, spaced over a few days. My last few are taking me a lot longer because I’m recording real instruments. I play trombone and really bad guitar. This really slows down the process, but IMHO makes for better cues.

                      I also live very close to a military air base and have significant traffic noise in my studio. This makes recording acoustic guitar very difficult. Between my lousy chops, the occasional Harley, and the FA18 Hornets, I sometimes need 30 minutes to get a usable take, LOL!

                      I think my next few will be in the box, I need to build my library.
                      Cheers!

                    • @ AlanF

                      I would find that incredibly annoying with all the backround noise. Ive just got kids outside my window to contend with nevermind an army!
                      Maybe you should start sellin sound effects instead. Alan F Mega Miliraty SFX! sampled from a real military airbase! Most authentic sounds on the market 🙂

                • I’m in the same ballpark as most with about 12 hours for a short track. I keep things real simple and play all live instruments. I’m also about 5 years or more behind in technology so I don’t have the equipment to be fancy or as particular as I’d like. I just record a good clean take and make sure everything in the mix has a purpose. I do almost no mastering other than a secondary stereo file process to give it some volume. I’m just starting to get into some decent libraries and no one complains about my production so it must be okay.

                  • a secondry stereo file process? whats that?

                    • “Secondary” was a general term that just meant that it followed the PRIMARY process of recording and mixing… But it is just taking the stereo wav file after mixdown and amplifing it using SoundForge or other similar programs. I found it gives me the volume I’m looking for that I can’t seem to get in Sonar, without changing the dynamics or coloring the mix… It’s simple and it works for me.

          • Great stories Art. Phil was quite the eclectic person for sure, but what a innovator. I know he used The Wrecking Crew for most of his sessions back then, but maybe not. Must have been a real thrill to work with him and Lennon, although John was not at his best in those days. I believe that album was done during his “lost year” in LA. BTW have you seen The Wrecking Crew film yet done by Denny Tedesco, Tommy’s son. I have not had the chance, but I helped Denny on his original Facebook and Twitter pages to promote the film, and got a chance to have lunch with him at the NAMM show back in January…well guess we are getting off point of the mastering thing here!

            • I was never a member of the Wrecking Crew but played with pretty much all of them at one point. For the RB sessions they would use the band or a mixture of the Wrecking Crew guys (and one gal). Haven’t seen the movie yet but would love to. And yes John’s “lost” period. I remember him walking into one session with a magnum of Vodka under his arm. Now we are really off topic!. If it continues I’ll move this thread somewhere else.

      • As Art said ” mastering” has been with us since the advent of the LP as a listening medium, for the reasons he has stated.

        The problem with the Internet is that misconceptions can become truths with repitition. The idea that in the modern age that a track does not need to be mastered but just mixed properly is misleading in the extreme. Every top mix engineer will master to an extent by at least putting a compressor on the master bus if not eq/saturation aswell. This is a form of mastering in itself.

        “Mastering” in 2011 to most people means getting you trackr to sound the loudest it possibly can. Although this can be a part of it mastering is more complex than that depending on what you are after.

        As an example, if you are doing Film/Tv work, you don’t deliver your tracks/ stems maxed out to 0dbfs.
        Why? If the mixer is using an analog desk it will pin is meters to + 20 and even if it a ProTools/Icon only session you need to give the mixer enough headroom to work, he would straight away gain reduce your tracks by 5-10 db.

        Now if you are submitting tracks to libraries either for review or submission they should match commercial release levels as all the other tracks in the library will be at that level.

        So there is no absolutes here as we are talking about delivering to many different formats, but the bottom line is if your mix benefits from compression/eq/limiting on your master bus or after the fact just do it. Only you can be the judge of that, not an outside opinion from someone who has never heard your track.

        Finally if you feel your mix is slightly dull ibut otherwise well balanced it’s much easier to add a bit of top to the master than to remix it and possibly ruin what you have already done. Anything for an easy life.

        • Thanks Denis. Well put. The tracks I submit to libraries are all maxed at -0.3 db. And I leave about 3-4 db of heardroom in my mix before bouncing to the 2 track master. That way less chance for distortion. It’s an ongoing learning process for sure with no hard and fast rules, because every track if different depending on instrumentation, etc.

        • +1 Denis, great comment!

  24. Michael MacDonald says:

    why even bother using 24 bit when you’re just going to convert back to 16 anyways.
    I’d rather avoid the bitcrushing personally.

    That’s what I was taught in my music technology course anyways.
    they told us that it can be useful,
    but there really isn’t much of a point until the medium becomes better than mp3’s and cd’s seeing as we’re already converting down.

    I’ve never had a problem using 16 bit.
    my only issue is that I have no mastering plugins what-so-ever.
    pro tools plugins are too expensive.

    • “why even bother using 24 bit when you’re just going to convert back to 16 anyways.I’d rather avoid the bitcrushing personally.”

      True, if you don’t dither you’re just chopping off the top eight bits. But recording at 24 bit and then using dither to get to 16 should yeild a sound better than recording scrictly at 16. You might not need to spend money to accomplish the dither, most DAW software programs can appy dither on mixdown. I know SONAR does.

    • http://www.voxengo.com/product/r8brain/

      heres a link to a free audio ditherer. Not sure if its compatible with protools tho. Theres bound to be a few decent freeware mastering plugins available if u do a bit of searchin.

      • Been using r8brain for years. My hearing isn’t what it use to be but it takes 3 passes to convert a file so that must be a good thing:)

        • Ha! You and me both Art! But I am still a huge fan of iZotope Ozone 4. I use Logic Pro 9, and they also have some great mastering plug-ins built in.

          • Hi Gary I use Ozone 4 also. r8brain is more for converting wav files. I use it to convert my 48k 24 bit to 44.1 16 bit.

            Now, if I only had some of that high end back that I left on the stage of so many beer bars long ago!

            • Audacity for Mac is a freebie sound editor which does loads of things.

            • Right Art, I too left a lot of high end in those bars over the years. Especially my years as a bass player standing next to the drummers crash cymbals…. With Ozone 4 do you pretty much use the presets, or tweak the individual settings?

              • Oh yeah, those crash cymbals. That and standing in front of amps at ear level. If my ears weren’t ringing at the end of the evening I figured I didn’t have a good enough time!

                With Ozone I start with a preset and tweak from there.

  25. rob…omg ! ha ha ha, thats so good, ha ha ha

    thats just too good…

    robs link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nlzwDfxVSg

    yeah i totally love music thats older and sounds natural, but i see lots of top sellers that have smashed it on a limiter, i ‘hate’ that sound and really love soft stuff that lets your ears respond, to me it feels like the diaphram or whatever is in my ear actually gets pushed to the front, as if its erect, ( pardon sorry ) and it starts to ache because without the dynamics the bit in my ear is not getting to rest or move, it just stays tight like a muscle standing at the outermost of my ear or something, i would never wanna listen at home to stuff like that, in the car i love listening to old stuff thats just so wonderful….having said all that, seeing that other succesful people do it i dont have a problem doing it also, smashing it, ive so often heard people ‘ not in the know ‘ always saying in their first sentance ‘ great production man ‘ when its smashed thro a limiter, i know its wrong, but hey.

  26. There really are some products that to my mind, push things to the limit, go the extra mile…

    Sony Sonnox Fraunhofer Pro-Codec

    This is new – just out – strap it on the master bus…and get some amazing sounding files, esp when you need mp3s. I imagine it makes some really great mp3s, some sites need them. unusual product but I bet 1st class.

    I loved it, but I then went to look at the price, unfortunately its a lot of money, but what a great product from sony.

    Heres the you tube video if interested

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aRjOxvjY1k&feature=player_embedded#at=194

    • Thanks Adam, that does look very interesting…

      • I am not sure I would def need it, but it just struck me as wow, i bet it makes a dam good mp3 ! I rem haveing some music proff mastered and they made mp3s for me additionally and I thought wow these mp3s sound amazing, perhaps they used some these kinds of tricks.

        • I also suggest IZoptope Ozone 4. Very reasonably priced, and has quite a large choice of presets to work with. Great sounding plug-in for mastering.

          • im not sure why but im not a fan of ozone yet i do totally hear a lot of people praising it, i used it about a year ago but it just wasnt making me happy, just me , my current two finalisers are the sony sonnox limiter which i hear so much praise on, and after a year now i still think its the best one going, so many people praise it and more recently the waves L316 limiter / eq thing, i like that lots too. I do hazzard a guess though, it will totally change, every year theres new ones, but for the moment they are my personal faves, i dont like really complex ones with many menus, just want to put it on be impressed i guess.

            • Ozone is very good but it doesn’t do itself any favors. Its presets(which everyone tries first) are way to extreme. I use McDSP MC2000 4 band multiband comp and Massey Limiter and sometimes Phoenix first in the chain. Ozone is the best all in one solution out there BUT you need to know what you are doing with it or you will destroy things. It really does some very clever things. There is a very good online course about using it.

              • yeah i did watch the video, its really good and at first i thought its going to be great as the video is ace, but i just didnt gel with it, maybe i need to revisit it and have another go, ive not checked the mcdsp stuff, i hear great things about massey but is that some kind of outboard billion pound thing mear mortals can dream of or is it software now ? cheers

                • http://www.masseyplugins.com/

                  Really good value and amazing plugins, only Protools though.

                  • cool, im a logic person tho, if i won the lottery i have a dream , i would get all that kind of stuff as hardware and a little dwarf bloke who would operate the machines like a sort of upah lumpah, honestly if i won the lottery i would still make music in some mansion house with a slave type tech head doing it, hey anyway, dude, is pro tools great, better than logic sound ? i swear i cant get a conclusive opinion on it, if i google it , people always say the same thing, oh all these daws sound identical, like forums say ableton.logic,pro tools are the same etc except for plugs, i dont buy into that, is it better sounding dude ? i guess only applicable if u use both.

                    • I do use both and the difference is subtle to say the least. 2 major differences, the price and
                      PT is better for audio and below par for midi, while Logic is the opposite. I used to use DP years ago and it was great, anybody use it now?

              • You are right. It’s a very powerful plug-in, and not all of the presets are great. There is a learning curve with it, and I had to learn it as well believe me!

            • Rob (Cruciform) says:

              FWIW, I was introduced to Flux Plugins by a very good mastering engineer. I’m finding more and more that all I need at the mastering stage are the Flux PureCompressor and PureLimiter. (Any good quality, transparent comp/limiter will do the job though.) Everything else can be achieved in the mix.

              • I would love to have a mastering engineer as a friend – someone who popped round to hang out, have a cup of tea, i think they keep their skills closely guarded so the world does not put them out of business, kind of like with magicians, they abide by the magic group law of not giving their secrets away, ive read books and downloaded stuff, but i recon if you knew one who was open and into sharing you would learn so much, i would love to see what a mastering engineer could do on my equipment without anything extra, i recon they could get things great even without so many fancy things i have, just the basics. looked at that flux, looks great interface. in the short time ive been doing library and this ‘bulk’ production i recon ive learn a lot, but its kind of like theres only so far with books and mags that i can get my head round, i would love a mastering mate, i know theres a lot of talk about its all in their pro ears and i expect thats very true and their enviroment, but i bet they got some simple tricks , its like parellel compression over the mix, i only read about it this year, ive not done it but i must try at some point as app its a good thing sometimes to try. ok enough from me, bedtime ! day off tommorow and seeing a maritime museum with the mrs.

                • Rob (Cruciform) says:

                  Adam,

                  I collected some of his wisdom into a set of links here:
                  http://forums.taxi.com/topic25567.html

                  And here is a great PDF article by Bob Katz on level metering and the K-system. Learning this stuff improved my mixes dramatically. http://www.aes.org/technical/documentDownloads.cfm?docID=65

                  • thanks rob, thats kind – i will have a look tonight , i did read a bit of bob before, i liked the way he wrote but he referred a lot to outboard stuff – i may be wrong but with bob i did wonder that because his book was made in the 70s i thought his style would be from then – and nowadays the technology is different and people tend to smash the mix hard, i so so dont like listening to the loudness wars music and so much prefer listening to the radio when something soft comes on rather than the latest rhianna suddenly blasting out but i think its gotta be loud like that cause thats what the average person will say, wow that sounds great ( loud ) . cheers dude

                    • Rob (Cruciform) says:

                      Hey Adam,

                      Then you’ll like Bob’s POV. Most mastering engineers are against the loudness wars. The only reason they go along with it is because if they don’t do it, they lose the job to someone who will. Plus they have to put with these clowns: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nlzwDfxVSg

  27. Okay a bit of a technical one this. I just completed and mastered a song. The 24 bit file sounds great but when i play back the 16bit file there is a strange chinky electric noise everytime the kik drum hits. The file has been dithered and there is no clipping so i dnt know why the noise is occuring. But strangely when i play the exact same file in windows media player at the same voume and through the same speakers the chinky noise dissappears? so i played it then thru soundforge and the noise is back. This is really weird cos i can hear it in Cubase and in Soundforge but not in windows media player or thru my television. Whats going on? Its never happened to me b4.

    • Maybe it has something to do with the audio driver? Like SoundForge and Cubase are using ASIO and media player WDM or something like that? Or seeing it’s never happened before just a glitch that will correct itself after a power down and restart? Don’t know, just thinking out loud…

      • Sill there after a power down. Theres a lot of low energy in the track. Maybe it has sumthin to do with the combo of big subby bassline and subby kik. But then i guess the 24bit file would be affected also. Im stumpted. I dont want to send a dodgy master to any library, im just not sure if the noise will show up on other systems saying as its not apparrent in windows media player or on my tv

        • Denis Woods says:

          @Hysteria

          1. Are you sure your master is a 24 bit file. I have seen 32 bit files getting exported out of Cubase.

          2. Reduce the level of your Master before doing the 16 bit version. You may be clipping. It may show on some programs and not others.

          3. If you dither down a maxed out 32 bit file to 16 bit it will clip.

          Up the Dubs !!!! (in joke for Irish sports fans)

        • It is very important to leave enough headroom in your mix before mastering. I usually try to leave about 3db of headroom in the mix and bounce it down to 2-track before mastering it. When mastering (I use Ozone 4) I usually get my master to peak at about -0.3 db. You should check Ozone out it’s a great mastering plug-in with great pre-sets to start with.

          • OK thanks guys for the help. Got it sussed now. It was to do with the sample rate playback settings. my soundcard is set at 48000khz and file is 44.1khz. I dont know why my DAW doesnt automatically adjust to suit each project. I think its supposed to but it wont. at least i can keep writing now. And Denis, I think you meant up Down!
            @ Gary thanks for the mastering tips and yeah ozone is great. im using v.3 at moment. 4 looks even better.

    • You Might check out http://www.solid-state-logic.com/music/X-ISM/index.asp. It’s a free SSL plugin. From their site:

      X-ISM is a state of the art VST/AU plug-in which can interpret inter-sample peaks, allowing engineers to make informed judgements about the resultant sound quality of the mix.

      Could help.

  28. John (the other John) says:

    This analogy from “PCRecording.com” explains dithering well:

    Imagine that you have a bathtub full of bubble bath. The bubbles represent the upper 16-bits of your 24-bit audio information and tower above the underlying water which represents the lower 8-bits of your signal. However, in the lower water portion there resides some audio information. You agitate that water which causes that audio information to form into bubbles which raise up into the same level as the upper 16-bits. The new bubbles bring with them some of the water that was in the lower portion but join the upper echelon nonetheless. The agitation is analogous to adding dither noise. The bubbles that form bring with it some of the noise caused by the agitation but contain primarily audio information. When you convert to 16-bit, you simply cut (drain) out the lower 8-bit (the water) and the remaining 16-bits represent your final signal. This analogy works well because as you cut out the lower 8-bits of information the overall level of the bubbles lowers significantly which is analogous to the change in dynamic range between 24-bit and 16-bit. However, all the audio information is retained within the new dynamic range.

  29. Is dithering really important? Does anybody think that dithering or not dithering a track will actually make a difference to wheater its accepted into a music library?

    • I finally dithered for the first time and compared it with the same track undithered the other day after years of notreally caring about it. I still don’t care about it. Didn’t make any difference to me except one dither setting (can’t remember which it was) created a sound I didn’t like.
      The libraries that accepted my music never commented that they sensed a missing dither.
      I think it’s more of an issue if you’re making a commercial cds.
      Try it. Maybe it works for you if you can notice the difference.
      I worry more about does my music suck. If it does, dithering won’t save it.
      Just my untechy opinion.

    • I’m in a mastering class through Berklee online and the last week was all about dither. No one in the class (including me) was able to hear dither, let alone differences in different types of dither in project and even pro studio environments.
      I will attempt to regurgitate what I’ve learned for anyone who may be interested. Disclaimer, I just learned about this stuff and I’m writing off the top of my head. I think my facts are correct, but I could be wrong:
      What is dither?
      Very low level noise added to a mix
      When to do it?
      When converting from higher to lower bit rates, (e.g. 24bit to 16bit) for your final 44.1/16 master
      Why do it?
      Any information between 24bits and 16 bits (-144dBFS to -96dBFS) will be truncated and can create low level noise. Convert a 16bit file to 8 bit for an exaggerated example. Dither adds a noise floor to fill the areas that would be truncated to silence for a smoother sound.
      What is noise shaping?
      Since the noise is just to “fill the holes” it can be at any frequency. Flat pink noise is one type, shaped concentrates the noise above 15kHz so it is much less audible, if at all.

      Note: I was not able to hear any difference between dither and non-dither because the noise floor in my system, mainly the headphone amp hiss, was louder than any dither or truncation noise.

      If you want to hear it, do this:
      -Take a very low level 24bit signal like a reverb tail or LONG fade out that fades to nothing
      -Normalize it
      -Convert a copy to 16bit with dither, one with no dither, and a few more to compare different dither algorithms. Listen to the difference
      -After you know what to listen for see if you can hear the difference on a normal audio file. If you can, you da man!

      I did notice that many plug ins default to adding dither as though you are mastering. Since I didn’t know about it, I left it alone. I imagine all that dither across many channels/busses can start to add up.

      What I’ve changed since taking this class:
      I now do every aspect of my production at 48/24
      I stopped using mastering plug ins within my multi-track projects, only on the completed stereo mixes (mixing is mixing, mastering is mastering, stupid lazy me tried to do them at once)
      I only add dither to the final 44.1/16 master
      I bounce to mp3 from the 24bit master

      Sorry this is so long winded, but writing it helps me solidify it in my little brain.
      Cheers!

      • @Alan

        Yes, dither is additive, so you don’t want to add it to all of your tracks.

        Save it for the master.

        • John (the other John) says:

          If you’re over 50 you won’t hear any difference. In fact, if you’re over 50 you probably won’t hear any difference between a wav file and a mp3 file. Our ears take a beating through the years. 😀

          • Boy, I can attest to that! Fortunately my wife and a spectrum analyzer help but it is frustrating.

            • What..huh..eh?????

              • HELLO !!!!! Yes you should dither. Definitely noticeable on quieter acoustic tracks rather than maxed out rock stuff.

                • John (the other John) says:

                  My understanding of dithering is to use it only when you need to reduce the bit-rate (such as 24 bit to 16 bit). No need to go to 16 bit till you’re ready to make a CD master (which I don’t make).

                  • John, what about when you send 16 bit files to Libraries via upload or FTP? You need to dither then.

                    • John (the other John) says:

                      I send my libraries 24 bit wavs.

                      When mp3’s are needed for submitting, then trust you ears whether to dither or not. If you can’t hear the difference, they probably can’t either (unless they’re young whippersnappers).

          • Love it John!! How true..

    • As far as I know (and more knowledgable people please correct me if I’m wrong), dithering is essentially adding a very small amount of noise under a track. You do this to avoid even more noise actually showing up in your track, especially when your music is fading out, reverb tails etc. My basic understanding is that it’s to do with the nature of digital recording – zeroes and ones getting messed up as a track fades out.

      There are various types of dithering and I’m not sure which is the best.

      You only do this to your full mix – if you add dithering to individual stems or instruments, that are to be mixed together later, the combined dithering of all those stems will likely add audible dithering noise.

      • Matt,

        You’re correct. That’s why I said above that it’s additive. If you dither all of your stems you will actually add layers of noise to your finished track.

        Save it for the master.

        _Michael

  30. What is the best way of converting audio 24bit 48k track to 16bit 44.1k? I use my DAW cubase SX1 but im thinking this might not be the best option. I have a problem when converting bit rates. I produce my music in 24bit 48k and then when im finished mastering I export as 24bit 48k and as 16bit 44.1k cd quality. I think my soundcard might be causing this problem but when I export a mastered and limited 24bit file it its fine and wont be clipping. it will be reading -0.0Db. But once i export this same file as a 16bit 44.1k file and replay it through my DAW it will be clipping? at 0.1db or 0.2db. So i turn the volume down by 0.5 db so its not clipping and re-export! surely i shouln’t hav to do this? Should I take my 24bit mastered files into another program to do the bitrate change? Also I want to dither my files when im converting them to keep the sound quality as high as i can, i thought when i was converting/exporting my files in cubase from 24 to 16 that Cubase was dithering the file automatically when exporting but i dont think it is.

    • What is the output on your limiter set at? 0? I like to set mine at -0.2 as a little insurance (some prefer -0.1 or -0.5). There shouldn’t be any problems converting from 24/48 to 16/44.1. That shouldn’t make anything clip that wouldn’t normally. Also some will argue that bouncing/rendering in real time is a safer bet than offline bouncing, especially b/c you can monitor the process to make sure nothing clipped or got hung up. Lastly do you use dither when converting? It’s always recommended.

      • @music man and dennis woods

        I have tried setting my limiter to -0.5db before exporting to 16bit mode. But the clipping still happens when i playback the exported file. I think it must be my souncard. when i try to write music in 16bit 44.1k all samples and synths crackle and pop. For that reason i think it must be my souncard causing the clipping problem when converting from 24bit to 16. @musicman no i dont dither my mixes. What program do you guys reccomend for bit rate changes and dithering? soundforge?

        • @hsyteria. I’ve been using Voxengo r8brain http://www.voxengo.com/product/r8brain/. It’s free and takes 3 passes to convert 48k/24 to 44.1/16 (supposedly better). It only converts wav files though. I also use Switch for wav to aif or mp3.

        • I work in Logic now, PT before that. I work in 24/48 sessions and convert to 16/441 all the time. Honestly though, I can’t see the workstation making a difference. Maybe something in your settings if anything. I’d definitely try using dither when you bounce to see if that makes a difference…..still just seems odd though.

          As for it being your sound card. Are you going out through a summing box or anything and coming back in? Or are you bouncing strictly in the box?

        • I use Pro-tools inbuilt thing for all different formats.

          1. When you say 16/44 clips is something you see in Cubase or hear or both.
          2. I never record at 48k I really dont think there is a difference. 24 bit absolutely, much more headroom. I always use 24/44. Your issue may be Sample rate conversion?
          3. You might try Cubase forums for your issues with clipping etc. It might be a common bug with a workaround.

          • thanks art for the link

            @musicman and dennis. iv never heard of a summing box? i just have an onboard soundcard. I just hit file/export as 16/44.1k . Yeah maybe the issue is sample rate conversion? Now that i think about it, it probably is the sample rate. I remember setting up the soundcard and having big problems trying to compose at 44.1k. Do i need a new card? Or will a program such as soundforge or r8brain do the conversion hassle free even on a troublesome soundcard?

            sorry for all the bother on this issue.

            Iv been getting in trouble at home for sittn in front of this wonderful website. (apparently all the time?). It seems to make my other half rather irritable. (hee hee).

            • @Hysteria It would seem the two issues may be linked. Unfortunately my knowledge of the PC is non existent. I only have experience of Mac sorry.

            • I was asking about a summing box to see if there were any other variables to your problem. I like Denis’ advice of checking out some cubase forums. You’re sound card should not cause any problems if you’re bouncing in the box.

    • Denis Woods says:

      http://www.gearslutz.com/board/mastering-forum/434188-digital-clipping-16-24-32-64bit.html

      @Hysteria without getting into fixed point and floating point theory the simplest workaround is to set you limiter to -0.5 when doing 24 bit masters. This means that it wont clip when you go 16 bit or down sample. Also when you do mp3 of the mixs they will actually sound better. Try and do a 64 or 128 mp3 of a full scale 24/48 mix and you will hear the what I mean.

      Remember we are not making records here. Sending 24 bit 0 dbfs mixs to mastering engineers is a separate subject. We need to provide files that will play on all systems without clipping. That – 0.5 limit when mixing is a fail safe. You could push it to -0.2. I like to play it safe. .3 db is irrelevant in what we are doing.

      Edit @Musicman Spot on didnt see your post

  31. For those of you who master their own work, how long do you tend to spend on mastering a piece of music? I takes me on average 4 days (2-3hrs a day) to get my pieces sounding pretty much as good as a commercial release. Never as good, but pretty close. But iv come to the point now where I dread the mastering process. continuosly checking and referencing my music on different systems and against professional masters, I find it very tiresome, time consuming and extremely monotonous and find myself rather fed up with the song at the end of the process. Iv just begun to master my most recent tune and I really dont want to spend so much time on mastering it. I’m thinking is it really worth all that extra effort and time spent on getting it uber polished to 90-95% pro quality or should I get it done in a day to a point where it sounds good and im happy enuf with it but it might only shape up to be around 80-85% pro quality. Theres a dillema now where I’m not getting paid enuf to warrant spending so much time on mastering a song but if i dont spend the extra time mastering it i might by chance miss out on a big deal cos of lower quality master.

    • I use Izotope Ozone 3 to Master. I always start from scratch and never use presets.

    • What type of music are you doing?

      I can’t imagine spending 12 hours mastering one track.

      • Kind of all sorts. Mostly electronic, but some orchestral and world.

        • It just tends to take me that long to get it as good as i can get it on my setup.

          • Are you confusing mastering with mixing? Two separate things. After I’ve mixed a song, the mastering takes about 5 minutes!!! I don’t leave mastering at the end to fix problems, I mix so mastering is easy. Bouncing down to all the different formats, well, that’s another story!!

    • I would say I dread the Mixing Phase over the Mastering..It usually takes me days to mix it perfectly if I not going for just a good rough mix. I then tweak with mastering. Im now basically just doing good rough mixes cause I dont make enought money nor have enough time to do super pro mixes

      • I usually mix as im wirting the song and then export when im ready to begin mastering. It seems to take me a while to masrter. sometimes bad frequencies or volumes in instruments dont really come to light until i begin pushing things in the master. so ill find myself going back to the mixing file to adjust that freq or volume and then rexporting the adjusted file. Maybe im not spending enuf time in the mixing stage. im really trying to cut down on time spent mastering. recently iv been doing them in 3-5 hrs instead of 8-12.

        • @Hysteria. Why dont you just stick your mastering plugin on your master bus. First mix without until you are happy, then pop it on and then adjust mix if necessary. It save going to and fro and remixing if you mix through the Mastering plug at the end.

          • Amen to that Denis. That’s what I’ve been doing for years. It’s easy to get sucked into overthinking this stuff.

            • Absolutely Art. It also makes the track self contained in one session. There is but one master of the track, not unmastered and mastered ones etc.

          • Doh! i guess thats a better idea. ill try it that way with my next mix. Iv just always treated mixing and mastering as two separate processes. mix, export, master.

            • @Hysteria. If you need some perspective on a mix.

              Sometimes I will load a similar commercial release track into the project I’m working on. I will balance the levels and make SURE the commercial release is not being processed by my mastering software. It’s helped me many times when I’ve gotten “lost”.

              Let me explain that better. In my DAW program (Sonar), I buss all the project tracks to a master buss. The commercial release track I buss to a separate buss, in my case straight to the monitors. The master buss has the mastering software on it but the monitor buss does not. I can mute or solo at will to compare the two.

              I also use a spectrum analyzer (Voxengo SPAN – Free) on both busses for comparison.

              • Some people use “Match EQ” to do what Art is suggesting. I’ve never tried it.

                This is Ozone. http://www.izotope.com/support/help/ozone/pages/modules_matching_eq.htm

                Logic has it too.

              • @Arts comment on perspective on a mix.
                yeah i use that technique too only ill have the commercial release running on my windows media player. That way you can even flick through multiple commercial tracks and get a broader perspective on what is acceptable in a mix/master instead of just comparing it to one track.I find that if your only using one ref track then you focus too much on getting your sound to fit the master of that one ref track even though your master might be sitting great when compared to other similar commercial tracks.

  32. I also use Ozone 4 for mastering. The presets are great, and I always get a good end product without a lot of tweaking. I work in Logic Pro 9. Once I have my track mixed I bounce it down to 2-track, and bring it into the Mastering template in Logic, and master it with Ozone.

  33. Just wanted to add something here, not strictly mastering plug ins, i personally like the sonnox range a lot, and choose a diff compressor for the busses dep on how i feeling.

    My input on mastering is something i discovered recently, getting a great pair of laptop speakers. I know it sounds crazy but my thoughts were, well the listener is going to listen to these before buying it so they should sound good on them. i bought a pair of creative t12 for £50 and love them.

    I also have some other speakers including some pmc tb2a’s which nearly cost 2k. but sometimes ive done music on these and then listened on the small speakers and it does not ref very well. for instance i may spend ages working bass on pair of great speakers for that to be totaly lost on mini speakers where someone will make their choice purchase. so at the moment i use them to reference a lot. i guess other people all do this and ive just woken up to it, its a simple cheap purchase but i think a great one.

    cheers.

    oh plug in wise for me…
    slates fx ok for compression, limiter sucks tho ! use sonnox limiter. waves compression great, eq sonnox

    • Yep, that’s why back in the day every studio in town had 5″ Auratones sitting on the mixing desk.

    • Adam said:
      “My input on mastering is something i discovered recently, getting a great pair of laptop speakers. I know it sounds crazy but my thoughts were, well the listener is going to listen to these before buying it so they should sound good on them.”

      @ Adam, not as crazy as you think. A friend of mine is a Grammy winning engineer. Years ago, pre iPod, he used to run a line out of his 200K Euphonix console into a boom box, to check out the mix on what listeners were likely to use. He always tells me to listen on a variety of speakers — even in the car.

      • John (the other John) says:

        Yes, always a good idea to check the mix out on several audio systems.

      • yes i ve always had problems getting my mixdown right. i think ive prob got something fundamentally not as good with my ears as some people. ! I rem watching a great documentary about the making of MJ’s thriller album and quincy jones was in his studio where they made it and he said everything goes thro this mini little radio – if i doesnt sound good on this then whats the point, well thrillers one of my fave albums as its so catchy, so i was chatting with my friend about ns10s and was saying i was thinking about getting them – but he came up with the very good point that ns10s are meant to benchmark the average pair of bookshelf speakers but no one really has bookshelf speakers anymore, take my sister, my girlfriend, my mate, they have ipod docking stations or mini speakers. so it was such an obvious idea to get a nice pair of laptop speakers, the ones i got were creative t12 and they really do sound lovely. for years there was this battle of the monitors for a flat ref pair and ns10 have done really well at winning it for a long time and it would be funny ( tho highyly unlikely and i am only playing here ! ) that one day there would be a battle for a great pair of mini speakers that translated accross the most pairs of laptop speakers. i do ref with a couple of others anyway but i really do suffer from putting too much bass in them , because they can comfortably handle them , the laptop speakers make me put the bass way further up the freq range all the time because u can hear them then. it may not work in the long term i dont know but a cheap purchase has been a lot of fun, and when ive got really hung up on my main speakers not being right ive switched it and gone u know what it sounds really fine, which is the way the end listener is going to hear it , never on a massive pair of speakers

    • @ adam Im sure you already know this but the clap/snare should 98 % of the time be highest point in the instrumental when mixing.. That way drums and inevitably bass will sound punchier

      Also make the bass to where it combines with the kick. Try to get them where they almost become one

      You probably already know this but if you dont

      • @Smith….

        assuming that you’re doing the kind of cue that has a snare, bass and kick in it.

        For those of us who are studio rat / software junkies, writing orchestral cues, there’s not a lot of that going on. Plenty of strings, brass and massive hits though. 🙂

        • or if you are mixing nu metal where the kick drum is the loudest thing in the mix !!!! LOL

          • Another really great trick is this.

            Turn down your music so it really is a whisper, i mean you can only just hear it…

            start at silence and bring it up so you can really barely hear it.

            when your ears become acostomed to it you should be able to hear the whole song playing,

            NOW if there is an instrument which is completely dominating your mix , or say a kick drum or a vocal thats so prevelant that you cant hear anything else then there is a problem which you are ignoring when you turn it up , you will hear it jump out at this level.

            then go back to mix and ajust it.

            its an old trick that people use. i dont know how common it is, but i use it. sometimes it can be helpful.

            • @ adam yea thats how I mix..using when Im making a track I have it up loud just to vibe off the energy

              I then take a break to let my ears rest then come back a mix at low volumes

        • When I’m producing and mixing my orch stuff, I still think of the mix in terms of a band – like what’s doing the job of the kick, the snare, the toms, and then whats the lead, rhythm guitar. I’ll mix and EQ accordingly, and also remove stuff altogether if there are competing tracks for the same job.

          Maybe this analogy applies more to trailer type orch tracks, that are a little closer to rock and pop music than other orchestral music.

          • @Matt said:

            “When I’m producing and mixing my orch stuff, I still think of the mix in terms of a band – like what’s doing the job of the kick, the snare, the toms, and then whats the lead, rhythm guitar. I’ll mix and EQ accordingly…”

            That’s a good analogy. You’re still basically balancing lows, mids and highs. You are correct, though, that trailer style music is somewhat of a different animal. The percussive elements are far more dominant, and there aren’t too many soft woodwind passages.

            Those of us doing traditional orchestral mock-ups are generally striving to make the instruments sound as real as possible. So, there’s a lot of attention to nuance and detail in the choice of articulations and sonority. In an percussive trailer piece, I’m not sure that the vibrato speed of the first violins, or bowing direction matters (except to avoid the machine gun effect).

            Where do you lay FX (if you use them), like hits (I’m thinking Evolve etc) in the mix?

            • Going to back to that analogy, I’ll think of effects as doing the job of either a kick (low sub hits), snare (slams) or cymbals (hi freq effects).

              It’s a bit tricky to mix in with orch stuff, especially with legato notes. I think the key is making room for them, maybe creating a gap in orchestration so that the effect can be heard in its entirety, not muffled by a thick bed of orchestra.

              The other mixing issue I always seem to spend ages on is when I have orchestra, electric guitars and/or synths together. They blend almost too well – cellos, horns, low violins etc share the same register/frequencies as a chugging electric guitar, or nice edgy synth. To avoid that notorious pipe organ sound of everything blending to mud, I think you have to decide which element will be in the forefront. Like synths with orch in the background, or orch with a subtle blend of synth. Carefully choosing the synths to make sure they don’t compete for all the frequencies the orchestra is taking up is important, as is panning the parts to create more space for everything to sit in. I’ll also carve out the ‘unneeded’ frequencies with EQ, for example if I’m using a particular synth or effect as a ‘snare’, I’ll carve out most of the lows and some of the low mids (especially around 250hz – mud seems to settle there!)

              I’m always refining my mixing, as I never formally learned this stuff. I just try to improve on the last mix, always doing an A/B against the tracks by the big guys like Two Steps From Hell.

              • John (the other John) says:

                The best piece of equipment for mixing is a good set of ears. If you don’t have them available then borrow someone else’s.

                • I wrote an article once about mastering for the Berklee alumni magazine. It’s a bit dated now but maybe a useful tip or two is still valid…

                  http://www.berklee.edu/bt/162/mastering.html

                • I’ve a friend whos got to become a really famous dj, front page of lots mags etc and its hilarious to hear people ask him, your a pioneer and such an amazing producer etc, all his life he has only ever used other peoples talents, from me very early on to now really great producers, he uses ears / techniques and all their skills, just sits their tells them its how he likes it etc…! so i am all up for borrowing ears, hands, piano skills the lot if i could !! lol. this chap has managed to do it for 10 years without ever breaking the public that he cant produce, i heard his album before someone produced it up, and it was like a childs effort. but yes borrowing others input is great, sorry to go slightly off topic there !

  34. Hey Rob, this is really great stuff. I’m checking it out now. Bookmarked everything.
    Never even heard of k-metering either. Speaking of which, I was looking at this. http://www.gearwire.com/audiopluggers-kmeter-beta.html Ever hear of it? Take a peak and tell me what you think. I was thinking about getting a cheap radio shack spl gizmo for calibrating my monitors once I figure out how but I’m in a condo so can’t really crank it up anyway so I’m not sure there would be much point for me. Most of what I do is using my sennheiser 650 headphones to keep the cops away.

    • Rob (Cruciform) says:

      Hey dblock – I hadn’t heard of that particular plugin. It looks like it will do the job but you might want to check some reviews on it to ensure it’s accurate. If it is, that’s all you’ll need. The radio shack SPL meter will also be sufficient for calibrating monitors. Apparently there is an SPL app for iphone/ipad whatevers if you have one of them. Of course, if you do all your mixing on headphones, then monitor calibration is a moot point.

      • Yeah, I seem to get pretty good mixes on these headphones. I ran across that plugin by accident. I was looking for a k system vst plugin that might be good.

        • Rob (Cruciform) says:

          Don’t bother buying a plugin. The Voxengo Span spectrum analyser includes K-metering and it’s free! http://www.voxengo.com/product/span/features/

          • Thanks Rob. You might have saved me some bucksFunny thing is until this whole subject came up I’d completely forgotten that I’ve actually had the span plugin for quite awhile and even updated it not too long ago but I’ve never really spent time with it. Didn’t realize it had the k metering. Maybe I have too many plugins. They’re getting buried. Now would be a good time to see what’s happening with it now that my interest is peaked.
            Ater a very quick scan of the k metering, seems at first glance k-12 would probably be most suitable for library music (I don’t do orchestral) like atmospheric, up tempo synth stuff, urban or trance etc.

  35. @dblock Ive had just mostly web videos etc Ive had some libraries I just got accepted to say they were submitting to MTV etc but I have to wait to see if anything shows on my BMI statement…Takes Forever

  36. Rob (Cruciform) says:

    I know a mastering engineer who knows what he’s doing. He’s written some very informative posts for the GMC that I collected as links in a thread on the Taxi forum. This really is worth reading.
    http://forums.taxi.com/topic25567.html

    Here is a great paper by Bob Katz (AES) on level metering and the K-system. Some of you may have his book on mastering, so this won’t be new to you. Using the K-system approach has given immediate improvements in my mixes. Thankfully my DAW has K metering built in.
    http://www.aes.org/technical/documentDownloads.cfm?docID=65

    Here’s a professional organisation agitating against the loudness wars with the aim of restoring dynamics to recorded music. They have a tool for measuring dynamic range in a work, but you have to be a paid member to access it (which I’m not).
    http://www.dynamicrange.de/en/our-aim

    • Thanks Rob,
      Useful links. I’ll check them out.

      • Rob (Cruciform) says:

        @ dblock – absorb the Tony Miro info that I collected into the first link. It really is gold!

        FWIW, taking onboard all the info from Tony and Bob Katz, I now understand the mastering process and have completely changed the way I operate. I spend way more time in the mixing phase, and then at mastering all I use is a spectrum analyzer, parametric EQ and Flux PureLimiter II. Get the mix right and mastering is little more than polish.

        @ Art – thanks, I’m glad this didn’t disappear into the aether. 🙂

        • Rob (Cruciform) says:

          Ps. I should have said that now I have a *better* understanding of mastering. A bit of learning and practice does not make one proficient at mastering..

  37. I Use Ozone Izotope 4. I usually try to get it mixed as best I can for home studio then I select CD mastering preset in Ozone 4. With a few tweaks for each different track it usally sounds pretty good, although of course nothing like a professional mixed/mastered track. Still it is clear in the end

    • Hi Smith,
      Have you had any success getting your music licensed even not having it professionally mastered?

      • John (the other John) says:

        What does “professionally mastered” mean? There are as many “quality” levels of mastering as there are mastering engineers. Sometimes tracks don’t really need the extra clarity, depth, punch, volume, etc… Some of these mastering services use the same tools as the home recordist.

        You may have an initial “wow” affect from one of these mastering jobs until you realize they squeezed the life out of your track.

        • Exactly, it’s all in the ear of the beholder. I “master” all of my own. Which to me means paying attention to detail on individual tracks as to sculpting EQ, placement, delay/reverb, etc and touching up on the stereo buss. Just my way of doing things. That being said, many things I’ve done that in retrospect do not sound that great still get used a lot. The less then perfect “mastering” becomes the “sound” of that piece and is just right for the client.

          One thing I have done on occasion is to load in to my DAW, on a separate track, a similar style of a song from a commercial CD and try to match it. A spectrum analyzer comes in handy for that.

          • “The less then perfect “mastering” becomes the “sound” of that piece and is just right for the client.”
            I like that. Makes a whole lot of sense.
            Every use harbal? Heard it’s good for translation to different systems.

          • As has been mentioned, pro mastering for library pieces is not necessary. I use UAD plug ins in my setup, having switched over from Waves. I have a friend who does all his mastering using the Logic plug ins. He gets just as many high end network placements as I do for a hell of a lot less money spent. If the tune is produced well, mixed well and feels good, it will stand on its own with a little tweaking in the final stage.

            I can also say that, over the years, I have had tracks mastered in pro mastering houses in NYC that had stellar reputations, only to be disappointed at times in the results. If you have a great mastering engineer with sharp ears, the results can be stunning. If you have a less talented engineer it won’t necessarily come out better than doing it yourself. Don’t think that just because a studio calls itself a “mastering house”, it means that they know what they’re doing. A lot of those guys will screw up your tracks more than you will……

            • Thanks Frank. Your post hit home. Propably the most welcomed post of the day for me. I’m not interested in the does music sound better professionally mastered than not argument. I wanted to hear from people who don’t have an endless supply of cash beyond the outlay for his home studio who are making who are still getting their music licensed.

  38. MichaelL said: “I’ve used Waves products. Lately I’ve been working with Izotope products.
    Anyone use those?”

    I’ve been using Izotope 3 and now 4. A very deep program but Izotope has written a really great booklet on mastering and it’s free here: http://www.izotope.com/products/audio/ozone/guides.html.

    I also us a spectrum analyzer on the stereo output buss to see where I’m at. Especially because my high end is less than it should be. I also load in CDs into my DAW and use the analyzer to get a sense of what the real world is doing. I use one from Voxengo. It’s free as well as a lot of other plugins. I also have some of their mastering plugins. http://www.voxengo.com/group/free-vst-plugins/

    • Hi Art,

      I use Izotope’s Ozone Ozone 4. Izotope’s Alloy is also very cool.

      I’ll check out voxengo. Thanks.

      Michael

      • Thanks Michael, I’ll check Alloy out.

      • Ozone is about the best all in one mastering solution out there, you get multiband comp.eq, limiter etc all in one package. However I prefer to I use The Glue bus comp. a McDsp MC2000 multi comp and a Massey Limiter on my master bus. I will mix through the Glue and when I am happy bang on the MC2000 and Massey, adjust to taste and print. It means that every session is a self contained master if you like. There are many other combos out there, the days of paying crazy money for Waves plugs (which are very good) is long gone.

        The Slate stuff is meant to be very good also, havn’t tried it , but a few of my colleagues here have and rave about it. The all in one plugs all have very good starting presets so you dont have to know all of the intricacies of mastering to use them.

    • I just started a 12 week mastering course at Berklee Online
      http://www.berkleemusic.com/school/course?course_item_id=2251864&program=music_production

      Izotope 4 is the required software, Katz book is the text.

      I messed around with it before the course started and even the presets for dummies were great. I too found the CD Master preset a great starting point. I had been using Waves mastering plug ins (L2, Linear Broadband, Linear Lowband etc) but the Ozone seems to be a step up by my old, fried, destroyed ears LOL

      Side note for production challenged composers (like me). Berklee online has help me immensely. Expensive, but really good stuff.

      • Rob (Cruciform) says:

        Alan, if a good chunk of money comes my way soon I’ll be signing up for some Berklee Online courses. 🙂

      • Half way through Berklee’s online Mastering course. Just when I thought I was getting competent at mixing and producing music, I discover I am deaf.
        BIG slice of humble pie
        Cheers and good luck to all of us ;~)

        • Just as an aside…

          I wonder what people are trying to achieve with mastering? What do they think this process is supposed to do?

          I think the general perception is it’s the ‘make-things-really-loud-so-they-match-the-volume-of-commercial-trax’ phase.

          If you get the mixing right, ‘mastering’ should merely be a little tweak.

          IMO

  39. John (the other John) says:

    “People who can afford it will invest as much as they can in buying better equipment, better sounds, and stretching the capacities of those tools to create unique sounding, high quality music that stands out” – MichaelL

    But then… the average TV viewer probably can’t differentiate between cutting edge samples and old ones. Not to mention the poor sound quality of most (guessing) TV’s.

    Movie theatre films are another story. The audience expects to be blown away by the awesome soundtracks.

    • @ John (the other John)

      I respectfully disagree. It’s dangerous to think that you can get away with poor quality because the audience won’t know, or hear the difference. With the proliferation of HD TV, 50+ inch screens and home theater, tracks have to sound good. The sound on high end video games is theater quality too. And, it’s only going to get better. Libraries and music that sound cheap will only sound more so in the future. In broadcast media and entertainment, you don’t want to sound like a transistor radio in a high def world (oops dated myself). Non-broadcast stuff is another ball of wax.

      I recall a thread where someone asked “does my music need to be mastered?” The answer was yes — “better sounding music has a better chance of selling.”

      In another thread, when asked why music gets rejected, someone from Audiosocket advised that composers should “buy the best sounds that they can afford.”

      I believe that people can tell a cheap production from a professional sound, on a gut level. And, even if the public can’t, you better believe that the libraries, which are becoming more selective, probably can. Therefore, if you’re knocking on doors and you want to be competitive, it is to your benefit to sound the best that you possibly can.

      I’m not taking anything for granted, and leaving as little to chance as possible.

      • John (the other John) says:

        Good points MichaelL. However, so far the tracks of mine that have been the most successful, aren’t the ones with the cutting-edge samples. In fact, some of the samples are a decade old (but decent).

        I wasn’t referring to poor samples verses great samples, but rather that good samples are often good enough. The composer should think more in terms of what they can do with what they have, rather than thinking the bureaucratic way of throwing more money at the state of affairs.

        For orchestra instruments I use EWQLO. Are there better samples? Sure, but EWQLO does the job for me, so I’m not going to spend, spend, spend, for the newest chic sounds.

        Great music and arrangements will triumph over poorly, non-musical tracks using cutting edge samples. And if they don’t, it’s a sad state of affairs.

        It’s not so much the tool, but what one does with it.

        • Hey John (the other John),

          I think that we’re on the same page. I use EWQLSO, which is fine. At that level, a lot of it is how one uses the tool. Spending a lot on the next thing will not improve your writing, and it’s a fool’s game if you don’t know how to write in the first place.

          I was referring to the people, and you know that they’re out there, who make music with the stock sounds that come in some all-in-one keyboard, or a $99 orchestral library, AND they’re flooding the Royalty Free market. I’m not saying that they’re tracks are selling, but they make it harder and more tedious for buyers to find the good stuff — buyers who may judge the whole library by the bad cuts.

          I know that I’m going to get hammered for sounding elitist, but the market is flooded and that’s why you have to give 110% to really distance yourself from the herd, just to be heard.

          • John (the other John) says:

            Yes, we’re definitely on the same page MichaelL.

            • Being this is a numbers game as they say, more power to those who can afford to have 500 or 1000 or more cues professionally mastered. That leaves those of us without an endless supply of cash out. In some ways it really is turning into an elitist game. On the other hand, I’ve heard of people being quite successful in the library/tv/film biz who have gotten a good handle on mastering software themselves. That leaves hope anyway for the home studio musician.

              • Forget about professional mastering – the cost in terms of time and money isn’t really worth it in the library world. Go for the easy fix – a finishing plugin like Waves’ L3-LL. There are other (cheaper) plugins too. Logic Pro has its own mastering settings, but I’d advise against using those for professional projects – they’re just not as ‘clean’ as better plugins like the L3.

                • I started having each cue mastered than I started seeing all this money I was spending while the cues weren’t getting picked up. I have a slew of waves plugins including ssl, L2,L3. Also have t-racks 3, fab filter’s pro-L limiter and on and on. I’m just going to have to learn how to master what I’ve got. I can’t constantly throw anymore money at each submission. If I was that rich, I wouldn’t be trying this.

                  • Hi DBlock,

                    You should check out FG-X mastering processor from Slate Digital:
                    http://www.slatedigital.com/fgx.php
                    Amazing tool to give your tracks that little extra (which is volume in most cases..

                    I master 90% of my tracks myself and this plug is really great! The other 10% i send off to get mastered by a pro… I have all the Waves stuff but don’t touch it anymore since i have FG-X

                    Cheers, Erwin

                    • Hi Erin
                      I’ve actually demoed the FG-X and thought it was a great plugin. My decision was to go with the Fab Filter Pro-L which, to my ears, was a little more transparent and I was able to push the music a little louder while while still being pretty transparent. Both are excellent plugins and up to the job imo. The main thing now for me is I think I have enough high end plugins to do the job and they are some of the most popular eq’s compressors and limiters I could ask for for now. I also have a dbx 160sl compressor. If I can’t do anything with that then I think I have another problem.
                      I don’t rule out professional mastering but I found I was spending money hand over fist and I can’t keep doing that.
                      If it’s a numbers game as they say, I’ll try and come up with numbers but if it turns out to be a money soaking game and I’m the only one constantly shelling it out, then maybe it’s not for me but I’m not going to go broke finding out that’s for sure. The whole idea of a home studio for me was to become self sufficient. I don’t know yet that that’s unrealistic so I’m going with that for now.

                    • I’ve used Waves products. Lately I’ve been working with Izotope products.

                      Anyone use those?

                    • John (the other John) says:

                      “Amazing tool to give your tracks that little extra (which is volume in most cases…” – 50Styles

                      Year, the audio loudness wars. As if louder is better.

          • I totally agree. Over the past couple of years I’ve shifted away from the down and dirty way I used to work – basically writing stuff as quickly as possible – which entailed cutting corners and using a lot of loops (especially drums). These days I try to focus more on quality rather than quantity. It’s been paying off with better paying clients and higher profile licenses.

            • John (the other John) says:

              “Logic Pro has its own mastering settings, but I’d advise against using those for professional projects – they’re just not as ‘clean’ as better” – Matt

              I disagree, Logic PRO does a good mastering job for me.

              • Logic pro mastering in some instances really works. In general I have done mainly electronic stuff with it and its been great. But it doesn’t work well for everything. There is so much really good stuff out there (Ozone Slate McDsp) for AU that isnt outrageously expensive, that its really worth looking into.

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