• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Mastering Hall of Shame

Don Hills

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Mar 1, 2016
Messages
610
Likes
257
Location
Wellington, New Zealand
#21
Originally, the level was pushed to make tracks stand out on the radio. Then processors such as the Orban Optimod came along, levelling the playing field. However, compression was still required to get your music played on the radio in the first place. When you only had a few seconds of attention by the program director, who was flipping though a stack of 45s / cassettes / CDs, your track had to stand out to be noticed.
 

erikveach

New Member
Joined
Jul 8, 2019
Messages
1
Likes
7
#22
Stumbled on this forum discussion almost by accident. Enjoyed reading the comments and discussion.
There's a lot of different sides to the loudness vs dynamics story for sure.
Often times it gets blamed on the mastering. As a long time mastering engineer (nearly 20 years, over 50,000 tracks) I can tell you that I'm absolutely amazed at the number of times I receive mixes for mastering that are already overcompressed - in the mix! I blame presets in plugins. It's become way to easy for people working on mixes to simply pop in their favorite compressor onto the master channel plugin chain and choose a preset for "loud" or some crap like that. Then they send it to the mastering engineer, who obviously asks them to undo this but there isn't always a willingness or even ability to make that change. So, the mastering engineer is left to try to work around this overcompression and try to breath life back into a song with expanders and EQ tricks and the like, while also trying to keep the song "loud" since the artist or producer clearly wants it that way, otherwise why would they have dropped that heavy compression on the mix in the first place?
It can be quite frustrating, particularly for an experienced engineer who's been around long enough to appreciate dynamics and life in music but also understands that public opinion drives revenues, which is important to those in charge of the business aspects of a production.
Sorry for my rant.
https://www.crazymastering.com/audio-tips.html
 

L5730

Active Member
Joined
Oct 6, 2018
Messages
157
Likes
61
Location
East of England
#23
@erikveach above, yep absolutely.
I've read this so many times from engineers.
I think some of it is to do with the whole tutorial approach, whereby it's suggested to chunk up the master channel with some 'mastering' FX to get things into a ballpark of what it might sound like after mastering. The problem is that it's not well explained what the purpose is or why or how this should be done, if at all.
Typically, people are working in less than great spaces with low-end monitoring equipment to mix. Fudging things here to make it sound "loud" and "mastered" is just wrong.

I would think that experienced folks would work to create a particular sound in mixing and not a huge amount of work would be required in mastering. If all things are done right, what is there to fix or sweeten? But saying this kinda thing in a tutorial would lead to no one using a mastering service, assuming everything sounds great. Add in an inaccurate representation of what is being portrayed when mixing, and mastering is going to be quite necessary to bring things into the normal. Slap on some "mastering" fx on the master bus to make it sound more "mastered", then forget to turn that crap off before exporting and voila, a turd soup for the next guy to have the pleasure of nosing through ;)

It's funny because the DAW, Reaper, has the ability to shove on output FX which are not part of the rendering chain at all.
At such an acceptable price for such a fully capably DAW, I'd imagine folks could do a lot worse than to spend a good while learning how to do their mixing properly in that particular DAW.
I knocked the tutorials that float around online for this kind of thing, but there is a huge amount of content around Reaper, a lot is BS of course, but there is a good chunk which at least keeps things respectful to the sonics and to the next processes down the road.

...reaching for the "loudness" button on the amplifier - NOT!
 
Joined
Jul 4, 2019
Messages
41
Likes
32
#24
Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers is absolutely awful...
Sadly you are right, a lot of the stuff produced by Rick Rubin is absolutely terrible. Don't know if he is also responsible for what goes on in mastering, but I am angry every time. You just can't listen to that stuff on a resolving system. All produced to sound good on car speakers and what not, but definitely not on proper speakers or headphones...
 

L5730

Active Member
Joined
Oct 6, 2018
Messages
157
Likes
61
Location
East of England
#25
Sadly you are right, a lot of the stuff produced by Rick Rubin is absolutely terrible. Don't know if he is also responsible for what goes on in mastering, but I am angry every time. You just can't listen to that stuff on a resolving system. All produced to sound good on car speakers and what not, but definitely not on proper speakers or headphones...
Californication: Wasn't this a Vlado Meller mastered thing?

I think I differ in opinion from Rick Rubin. He can be seen in videos suggesting that people who like to listen to good sound and quality gear have Steely Dan - this was in reponse to criticism about how terrible Death Magnetic sounds. Well, yes, true. High quality acts, playing well with high quality engineering on a good setup in a good room sound f****ing awesome. But what about those who possess the funds (or rather did until they dropped them on some huge speakers and amps to drive 'em) who don't want to listen to a handful of album by one or two artists? They might not always want to listen to the latest orchestral rendition of some long-passed away composers work, or Steely Dan. They might fancy a bit of Metallica or RHCP which sounded just fine on the radio or when they walked into a shop the other day.
So, this good music sounds like s**t because no one cares about folks playing back on good equipment?

Well produced stuff sounds good across the board and just shows up the floors in cruddier equipment. There is an utter smorgasbord of plugins and tools to butcher the sound to be louder and punchier on crappy devices. I've bunged good quality music through this kind of one-click routine for chucking in a car, and the results work.
Just deliver albums on hybrid data CDs with a simple .exe to convert the ripped disc into the crap that they are baking, and instead, deliver a quality product from the off.

Dumb public: "It's too quiet and not punchy!"
Label/Band/Engineers: "Oh you like a turd sandwich? Just use the program on the back end of the disc"
Dumb public: "So to get that great sound we had before, we have to do more????!"
Label/Band/Engineers: "You never had a great sound, you heard s**t rolled in glitter! We created a glitter roller on the ass-end of the disc for your pleasure."
 

Blake Klondike

Member
Patreon Donor
Joined
Jan 20, 2019
Messages
93
Likes
55
#26
Wow, there are a few points to cover here:

1. It's not always about the mastering. A lot of the problems can come from the mixing stage. There are examples where the mastering stage did nothing to the audio, only the usual sorting out the fades, track order building the CD layout etc. I think Metallica's Death Magnetic is one example.

2. Here's the "but" to the above. It's not always about trying to make the loudest possible digital product. Sometimes, maybe more often than we want to accept, the production is done the way it is to sound a certain way. I suppose there is also a contradiction to that, which would ask how can the engineers determine what it will sound like when, for example, true peaks will be handled differently? Surely better to leave the headroom to maintain consistent playback on any DAC and actually bake in the sound of clipping distortion using plugins or play out of a DAC and re-digitize the analogue clippped sound.

3. It has been shown time and time again that when put through radio processing a cleaner, clearer and less processed version sounds closer to the intended and has less artefacts, whilst still ending up being a dynamically squashed radio-friendly sound. Using the same music, but hyper squashed already, just end up being mangled more by the radio processing.

4. Adding to point 3. I don't think digital releases are done so much for on-air radio play, but more to push little earbuds, cheap little stereos and lousy car audio. Grabbing a bunch of older material with Integrated LUFS around the -18 LUFS ballpark and putting on a phone, in a car etc. all seemed too weak, and like there wasn't enough I could do to make them sound fuller. Bunging the same audio through a few VST plugins including a limiter at the end, allowed me to bring up the loudness to around -12 LUFS which seemed to work better in these noisy scenarios.
When comparing my 're-mastered' version to the original at home, in a quieter room, it was louder and had some artefacts that weren't the most pleasant, and when level matched in this scenario it was clear that the quieter, fully dynamic and properly peaking audio sounded much better.

I guess my point is that in noisy situations and when not really relaxing and listening a lot of audio nasties disappear and we just want more level to get above background noise. Buying well isolated headphones would be a better option instead, but they aren't sold as standard.

5. Old specs for CD samples allowed for something like no more than 3 maximum value samples together. What this actually means in terms of the analogue waveform is something else, but interesting none the less. Quite a lot of boutique audiophile releases have 100% maximum value digital peaks and I wondered why they did this, especially when they had gone through so much effort in sourcing the cleanest tape source etc.
These aren't ISPs / true peaks, these are the sample values in the digital data. Presumably the ISP would be greater than digital 0 in these cases, but likely such fast transients I doubt they would be audible.

6. What about transients in analogue and (pre-)amplifier input sensitivity headroom? Could, say, vinyl with particularly high peak transient amplitude not be amplified with the phono pre-amp and overload the input of the headphone/speaker amplifier? I guess the frequency would likely be high and the RIAA roll off would fix the problem before it even was one, but technically would it be possible?
I doubt that anyone is going to start making some test vinyl for the sake of checking that out though.

7. I thought the loudness war was already over. A few folks have said this. Having a look here : TT DR Database I see an awful lot of DR5 material for this year. So much for that then.
I think this is a very good point-- it seems to me like the hyper-compressed sound on most of today's pop music is a production choice. I heard an NPR end-of-year show ca. 2002 where they were talking to mastering engineers (may have been Clearmountain) about the Aviril Lavigne record that had just come out. His take on the compression wars was that "Sonically, if this is where music is headed, all the work we have done for the past fifty years has been for nothing." The compression may have found its way into the sound to give songs an edge on the radio, but now there are two generations of people who have grown up thinking this is how music is supposed to sound.

It is the same issue with auto-tuning-- they auto-tune all of Michael Buble's stuff, and it is a guarantee that he can hit all the notes on his tunes. They aren't doing it to fix the notes, they are doing it to make it sound modern. It's too bad, because it makes them unlistenable to me.
 

Wombat

Major Contributor
Joined
Nov 5, 2017
Messages
3,681
Likes
1,938
Location
Australia
#27
I think this is a very good point-- it seems to me like the hyper-compressed sound on most of today's pop music is a production choice. I heard an NPR end-of-year show ca. 2002 where they were talking to mastering engineers (may have been Clearmountain) about the Aviril Lavigne record that had just come out. His take on the compression wars was that "Sonically, if this is where music is headed, all the work we have done for the past fifty years has been for nothing." The compression may have found its way into the sound to give songs an edge on the radio, but now there are two generations of people who have grown up thinking this is how music is supposed to sound.

It is the same issue with auto-tuning-- they auto-tune all of Michael Buble's stuff, and it is a guarantee that he can hit all the notes on his tunes. They aren't doing it to fix the notes, they are doing it to make it sound modern. It's too bad, because it makes them unlistenable to me.
Repeat after me. 'I am not the intended end-user, I am not the intended end-user, ................. ". Thank goodness that there is so much 'classic' product available. Grab it while you can. :cool:
 

Blake Klondike

Member
Patreon Donor
Joined
Jan 20, 2019
Messages
93
Likes
55
#28
Please. I have no idea what to listen for or to look for. So every reccomendation is welcome. :) I love to discover and to learn
Have people heard the ACDC/Hendrix/Ozzy , etc. reissues from the last few years? They have been remastered in a way that completely and absolutely changes the sound. The Hendrix reissues accentuate different instrumental parts, changes the tone of guitars, etc. But the ACDC reissues are done with brick wall compression, so that all the feel is gone from the performances. The old ACDC records allowed you to hear a really good band, and turn it up loud if you wanted. The new remasters have all the dynamic range compressed out, so that everything is red-lining and it makes the band sound like a joke.
 

Blake Klondike

Member
Patreon Donor
Joined
Jan 20, 2019
Messages
93
Likes
55
#29
Repeat after me. 'I am not the intended end-user, I am not the intended end-user, ................. ". Thank goodness that there is so much 'classic' product available. Grab it while you can. :cool:
You do make a good point about the products not being made for my ears. It is just too bad when people like Sarah Borales or Michael Buble, who use real players and have some sophistication to their writing, are given the 2017 audio treatment. It makes me wish they would release a second version with a more traditional sonic personality. I wonder if they would sound old-fashioned to the kids if they were mixed/mastered like Norah Jones or somebody who is straight ahead like that.
 

L5730

Active Member
Joined
Oct 6, 2018
Messages
157
Likes
61
Location
East of England
#30
There are platforms which would be perfect for high quality versions. Tidal, HDTracks, Qobuz, SACD, DVD-A, even a physical CD etc.
Shove the slammed and squished, over-processed, dirty and sonically ugly version on Spotify, YouTube, mp3 download etc.

Split the target audience. People who want and understand better quality sound can have their version. Those that want it loud and to "sound great in the car" (Mr. Ulrich) can have their version all done for mobile devices in handy lossy compressed mp3 or whatever.

But the industry refuses to admit there is a right way and wrong way of doing things. Look at just how many times some albums appear on CD in different mastering forms, not remixes. Tape sources, odd EQ choices, added dynamic processing it's just a mess. Just what is that album supposed to sound like??? A good example is Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of The Moon. Just look at plain regular CD-DA compatible versions, something like 14 or 15 different ones!
 
Joined
Jul 13, 2019
Messages
18
Likes
3
#31
Personally, the best mixing/mastering work I heard (in my personal completely unprofessional opinion, ofc) was from electronic artists, like Shpongle or Celldweller, while in rock/metal, old and new alike, the sound is mostly mediocre, and sometimes outright bad. Even though musicians themselves are phenomenally talented. I mean, for example, Dream Theater are absolute gods (personal opinion), but on their 2007 album they have clipping ffs, and generally the sound is kind of messy. And with many others the same story. What gives? Is it the label's fault (executives demanding a certain type of sound), are there some widespread misconceptions among sound engineers on how rock/metal "should" be mixed/mastered, or are most bands just too cheap to hire a good producer? :)
 

L5730

Active Member
Joined
Oct 6, 2018
Messages
157
Likes
61
Location
East of England
#32
OK, lets look at the musician.
I would have thought that this would be the break point on decisions. After all they are the artist and it is their art, why would they let someone ruin it? It's akin to a painter or sculptor letting a gallery frame their work badly, put on frosted murky glass or light it with the dodgiest strip lighting. Maybe that does actually happen!

Do the musicians really hear that well? Are they people driven by science and investigation - probably not. Even those who have some experience in engineering and experimenting with equipment to build their own stuff (eg. Robert Fripp's Frippertronics, Godley & Creme's Gizmotron) I don't think these people are hugely fussy about the absolute quality of sound, rather as long as something sounds good/cool. This is not to say that most musicians probably wouldn't pick up if someone cut their latest track to the poorest knock-off Soviet vinyl and then digitised that - that would be obvious. Most of the complaints that 'audiophiles'* have is that clipping distortion and dodgy production/mixing/mastering is quite obvious when it doesn't meat the usual high standards were prefer to hear.

If we look at orchestral musicians, these are people who are quite particular about their instrument - check out their playback system s at home. Pretty much regardless of their salary, they don't have high end HiFi or what we call anything like quality playback. Their general feeling is that the recording never sounds like the real thing, as long as they can hear the tone/pitch and timing, they are fine with that. These people do not typically listen to pop/rock/jazz etc. genres.

*By audiophile, I mean people who enjoy listening to music on high quality playback and can hear smaller intricacies in sound than just something to sing along with. In the modern world that term is seemingly used with negative connotations to describe middle aged men who talk about expensive equipment and switch it out every couple of weeks for the next thing. The same folks who buy expensive bottles of fools gold to stand on top of loudspeakers to improve 'timing' and reduce reflections, whilst they sit in a leather couch next to a whacking great window wall of plat glass! I digress.
 

anmpr1

Active Member
Patreon Donor
Joined
Oct 11, 2018
Messages
267
Likes
419
#33
Perhaps the main reason people purchase vinyl again as well? You can't over-compress music without the needle jumping out of the groove.
Reminds me of a record, from back in the day, when I was as rock 'n roller. Producer/artist Todd Rundgren. On one of his albums Todd cut about 25-30 minutes of material per record side. It was compressed, but at a low level. So, on the jacket somewhere Todd advised that you'd have to turn it up lound in order to really hear it. I've since read that the record has been re-released in digits, without compression, and that dynamics have been restored. Since it's not my kind of thing anymore, I'll take folk's word on it.
 
Top Bottom