What makes a good mastering "sound"

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MogwaiBoy
KVRAF
3071 posts since 26 Nov, 2015 from Way Downunder

Post Wed Mar 20, 2019 5:59 pm

A fundamental goal is to ensure a pleasurable experience for the listener.

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BONES
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7850 posts since 14 Jun, 2001 from Somewhere else, on principle

Re: What makes a good mastering "sound"

Post Wed Mar 20, 2019 6:29 pm

V0RT3X wrote:
Sat Mar 09, 2019 8:27 pm
I've been listening to a few CD rips that I have on my computer with my Sennheiser MDR-7506 and trying to really listen to the tonal characteristics between each album. I need recommendations.
Don't listen to mp3 rips from CD, listen to the actual CD. The difference will be considerable if it has been well mastered.
ATS wrote:
Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:39 am
I can tell you what isn't a good master. Where someone slaps a limiter on something, cranks it up, and calls that mastering.
You can say that but for my money that's still the most important part of mastering, the rest is just window dressing and fixing up problems with the mix. If we're not as loud as everyone else, we'll be at a disadvantage from the get-go but if the top end doesn't quite have the same sparkle as everyone else, nobody will care, especially these days with 99% of music being listened to in a compressed format like mp3. And, like it or not, louder is always better - it's why music systems have amplifiers.

To answer the original question, I'll say that it entirely depends on what kind of music you are making and what you want to achieve. I just finished mastering our new album on the weekend and what I wanted to achieve was loudness. All our WiP mp3s had been much quieter than the music I listen to at home and in the car, so I wanted to get our stuff up to the same levels (volume) as everyone else.

I spent 20 or 30 hours testing between the way I've done it in the past - using SoundForge or Audition and applying various mastering effects - and doing it in Ozone, which I got a few months ago when it was on sale. I let Ozone do it's "track assistant" magic and I also tried using it's tools myself without any help. What I discovered was that I could do as good a job on my own but it took a lot longer. What I couldn't do on my own was a better job so I decided to go with Ozone and let it do the hard work.

The workflow I ended up using involved saving a few presets, mostly to ensure I got the volume levels I wanted, then letting Track Assistant do it's magic. Once I accepted it's work, I added an exciter module and tweaked it to suit each track and another EQ, where necessary, to give the bottom end a subtle bit of extra oomph. Then I loaded the preset I'd made for loudness over what Ozone had set for the Maximiser, made sure the Maximiser was at the end of the chain and rendered.

During testing I realised how subtle everything except the Maximiser was. Honestly, if I'd just run it through a brick wall limiter and boosted the volume, it would probably be 98% as good as it is now. The other effects, which are easy to agonise over for hours, really don't do that much at the end of the day, but they definitely do enough to justify using them.

You should try Ozone. Use the Track Assistant to get an idea of what it can do for you, then adjust it to suit. Download the demo and try it out, then copy the settings into similar effects on your own to achieve the same results. It shouldn't' be too hard and you'll get mastering to suit your music.
NOVAkILL 3.0 : Acer Switch5 (Core i5, 8GB RAM, Win10), Yamaha AG06, Orion 64 bit, Roli Seaboard Rise 25, Ultranova, Rocket, Pulse 2, Analog Keys, MicroMonsta, Uno, Skulpt.

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Hermetech Mastering
KVRian
1029 posts since 30 May, 2003 from Paris

Re: What makes a good mastering "sound"

Post Sat Mar 23, 2019 2:59 am


Keith99
KVRian
1247 posts since 15 Mar, 2007 from Yorkshire, England

Re: What makes a good mastering "sound"

Post Sat Mar 23, 2019 4:22 am

Louder is not always better any more since streaming sites are processing audio to a standard LUFS. YouTube is -12, Spotify -13 etc. So in those cases if your track is louder it will be turned down meaning not only have you lost dynamics but you have also lost the percieved gain of being louder

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Hermetech Mastering
KVRian
1029 posts since 30 May, 2003 from Paris

Re: What makes a good mastering "sound"

Post Sat Mar 23, 2019 6:18 am

Just make it sound GOOD/BETTER. Every mix and master has it's own loudness potential, beyond which things will start to fall apart and sound shitty. The skill lies in knowing/hearing where that point lies, and not going beyond it, unless the client specifically asks you to.

Really, forget figures/standards. This is music we are talking about, with an emotional response required from the listener. Just Make It Sound Good. :)

imrae
KVRian
627 posts since 2 Jul, 2010

Re: What makes a good mastering "sound"

Post Sat Mar 23, 2019 6:27 am

:clap: Probably the most sensible comment I've seen in these mastering loudness threads.

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Hermetech Mastering
KVRian
1029 posts since 30 May, 2003 from Paris

Re: What makes a good mastering "sound"

Post Sat Mar 23, 2019 6:28 am

10 years Mon-Fri 9-5 mastering will do that to you. :)

And seriously, all this nonsense about watching oscilloscopes, WTF? Get a good pair of full range monitors in a treated room, calibrate the system to known reference levels, and then use your ears. And if that's not an option, find an experienced mastering engineer who does have that, and pay them to master your release. It's what most of the pros have been doing for the last 60 years.

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DJ Warmonger
KVRAF
3020 posts since 7 Jun, 2012 from Warsaw

Re: What makes a good mastering "sound"

Post Sat Mar 23, 2019 12:16 pm

Hermetech Mastering wrote:
Sat Mar 23, 2019 6:18 am
Just make it sound GOOD/BETTER. Every mix and master has it's own loudness potential, beyond which things will start to fall apart and sound shitty.
But you can invert this reasoning - how to make mix that eventually will have maximum loudness potential?

That's another topic, however.
find an experienced mastering engineer who does have that, and pay them to master your release.
Dude, I don't want to pay anyone else to master my release. I want to be the guy who others are willing to pay :borg: Flip the stick.
http://djwarmonger.wordpress.com/
Tricky-Loops wrote: (...)someone like Armin van Buuren who claims to make a track in half an hour and all his songs sound somewhat boring(...)

V0RT3X
KVRAF
7630 posts since 4 Jul, 2012 from Alesia

Re: What makes a good mastering "sound"

Post Sat Mar 23, 2019 12:23 pm

After a bit of research, it turns out I'd rather have someone master my stuff. I'll still have a go at it for fun, but if i make anything serious that i want to release for money i'll get it mastered by a pro like Hermetech.

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Hermetech Mastering
KVRian
1029 posts since 30 May, 2003 from Paris

Re: What makes a good mastering "sound"

Post Sat Mar 23, 2019 12:36 pm

Wise man!

ramseysounds
KVRist
225 posts since 9 Jul, 2014 from UK

Re: What makes a good mastering "sound"

Post Sun Mar 24, 2019 2:35 pm

For a Pro release, leave it to the Pro's.
They are pro for a reason :tu:
I wonder what happens if I press this button...

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BONES
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7850 posts since 14 Jun, 2001 from Somewhere else, on principle

Re: What makes a good mastering "sound"

Post Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:27 pm

That's what we thought, too. Our label paid some guy with a lot of credits and excellent credentials 1000 euros to master our first album and he did a really bad job of it. We even gave him stems, as he requested, but the vocals are hard to hear and the top end is horribly brittle. Since then the label has been more than happy for me to do it.
Keith99 wrote:
Sat Mar 23, 2019 4:22 am
Louder is not always better any more since streaming sites are processing audio to a standard LUFS. YouTube is -12, Spotify -13 etc. So in those cases if your track is louder it will be turned down meaning not only have you lost dynamics but you have also lost the percieved gain of being louder
Do you realise those two things are unrelated? The second certainly doesn't negate the first. i.e. Just because Spotify has loudness limits doesn't mean louder isn't always better. In any event, to reach those limits you will need to master pretty damned loud and, if you don't, your songs will sound lame compared to those before and after them.
NOVAkILL 3.0 : Acer Switch5 (Core i5, 8GB RAM, Win10), Yamaha AG06, Orion 64 bit, Roli Seaboard Rise 25, Ultranova, Rocket, Pulse 2, Analog Keys, MicroMonsta, Uno, Skulpt.

imrae
KVRian
627 posts since 2 Jul, 2010

Re: What makes a good mastering "sound"

Post Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:56 pm

I don't find it too hard to reach -14 without obvious artefacts. -12 may need a few compromises here and there but doesn't destroy the material.

After level-matching, "louder" is usually worse because it eats transients and constrains arrangement/mix decisions that could have been serving an artistic purpose.

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ATS
KVRAF
6367 posts since 21 Dec, 2002 from MD USA

Re: What makes a good mastering "sound"

Post Sun Mar 24, 2019 11:04 pm

Let the pros ruin their mixes by over limiting OP. It is much better not to overdo it.
my music: http://www.alexcooperusa.com
The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls ~ Pablo Picasso

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Hermetech Mastering
KVRian
1029 posts since 30 May, 2003 from Paris

Re: What makes a good mastering "sound"

Post Sun Mar 24, 2019 11:14 pm

Not all pros! I generally shoot for around -14 LUFS here, unless the client requests otherwise. This album is all around -14.5 LUFS, loads of dynamics:

https://interchill.bandcamp.com/album/zero-gravity

Have been known to hit much louder though, IF THE CLIENT REQUESTS IT. Just wanted to reiterate that. In my experience these over crushed masters are usually client or label driven, it's just that we get the blame... :phones:

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