- This topic has 17 replies, 9 voices, and was last updated 4 years ago by Arthur Labus.
January 28, 2016 at 2:35 am #3487Cris Sabater SabaterParticipant
Hi guys, any of you who do mastering out there how do you go about it? What do you use in the mastering chain and why do you use it?
I use Izotope ozone 5 and then to catch any peaks that come through I use a Waves L2 behind it. If know how these work and have used them on numerous mastering jobs I have done. I think understanding the tools you use cannot be underestimated! One little trick I picked up from a very experienced engineer in Ozone 5 for those who have it is when using the compressor section use only the two middle bands leaving all controls but bring the slider to the right down until you see 2.5 to 3 decibels of reduction. This will help to give your song the gloss you hear on professional recordings. Hope this helps some of you.
CrisJanuary 28, 2016 at 10:01 pm #3551nhamielParticipant
Hey Chris, mastering engineer here. I can certainly discuss my chain. I work hybrid but do quite a bit of my mastering in the analog domain. I have multiple sets of converters and an analog mastering backbone. It consists of the Dangerous Music Master and Dangerous Music Liaison. Using those devices I can use my hardware like plugins as well as do special processing tasks like mid/side, stereo widening, pushbutton bypass, and parallel processing.
My gear list has changed over the years and continues to change as I want to try new things and get rid of things that don't fit my sound. I typically stack 6 devices and have them available (not necessarily used) in the chain and set when I start. 3 EQs and 3 Compressors.
Compressors: Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor, Dangerous Music Compressor, Rupert Neve MBP.
EQs: Buzz Audio REQ 2.2 ME, Manley Massive Passive ME, Dangerous Music Bax, and sometimes I float in an API 5500.
I have more analog gear, but those are the devices I use for mastering.
I start by A/B'ing converters. I will with then insert a digital EQ before it goes out to my hardware and cut problem frequencies. I then use my hardware as necessary and see what works. I'll gain stage and hit the converters at an optimal level or hard. After it comes back I'll continue processing. Maybe with a multiband compressor, dynamic EQ or anything else I feel it needs. After all that it hits my limiter stack. I'm pretty picky about my limiters some just work better on certain material. If you are mastering loud then you need to do some multiband processing and possibly a multiband limiter.
If you are in to Ozone you really should upgrade to Ozone 7. It's a pretty big step forward and the IRCIV limiter is pretty impressive. I was one of the folks doing the testing for iZotope on Ozone 7 prior to launch, so I've been using it for a while. It justifies and upgrade from 5 for sure.
As a side note, I'm not a huge fan of the Waves limiters for mastering. I just feel that they do not treat transients well, with L316 being an exception, but you have to set your algorithm and detection curves properly to get the most out of it.
Not sure if that's what you were looking for or if it was too much. Someone got me sick at NAMM and I'm still recovering so I have more Internet time then usual 🙂
January 29, 2016 at 1:42 am #3568Cris Sabater SabaterParticipant
- This reply was modified 7 years ago by nhamiel.
Hi nhamiel, thanks for responding and taking the time to go through your process and chain. It is certainly impressive and I have heard the Dangerous gear is very good! I am an in the box guy so am plugin based both mixing and mastering. I have heard good things about Ozone 7 so I think when I have some spare cash I will look into purchasing that. I only use the L2 because I have Waves plugins and I found that there were times when there was still some peaks getting through, I could have used one of a number of Limiters that I have but went for the L2 and just stuck with it. I may dabble with trying some of the others that I have here. Many thanks for your insight and it gives food for thought.
CrisJanuary 29, 2016 at 8:04 am #3577nhamielParticipant
The Dangerous Music stuff is amazing. Top notch. As a matter of fact there is a video coming out soon of my studio and the Dangerous Compressor. I have to check back in with them and find out where that's at.
Another thing I'll mention about mastering that may not seem obvious and is certainly important if you are in the box mastering as well is do not use just one program to master. If you are doing real mastering work it's important that you make sure everything went well during a render. You always want to open the work in another program and check. Audio program DAWs have odd behaviors with plugins. Sometimes they won't render all or even some of the parts properly and it may be hard to just tell by ear alone.
Here is an example, I did a master on a single the other day. Got everything sounding how I wanted and rendered it. I opened it in another program to check it and what I found was that I was getting clipped samples due to overages. Even though the previous program was reporting all was well and that ISPs were getting caught, when it was rendered that did not appear to be the case. So something happened during the rendering process where the limiter was not catching those ISPs. Software is much more quirky than hardware so it's always important to test your assumptions.
This is something I don't see talked about very often but is hugely important.January 29, 2016 at 12:01 pm #3597Steve AParticipant
Hi guys, may I ask what each of you monitor with while mastering? Any details would be most helpful, and great to know..
ThanksJanuary 29, 2016 at 1:05 pm #3601nhamielParticipant
I think you mean what you asking is about studio monitors. It's important to step back and take the entire environment in to account though when talking about mastering. I use a Dangerous Music Monitor ST to handle routing from outputs of DACs to various sets of monitors I'm using. This device allows me to gain up or attenuate inputs as well as monitor outputs. This stuff is critical in mastering because you want to be able to reference the mix at the same volume as the master so you can ensure you are actually making an improvement.
For monitors I use Focal SM9s with a Dynaudio Sub, a pair of Avantone MixCubes, and a small Bose radio. All these are connected to the Monitor ST and I can call them at the push of a button, turn the sub on and off, mute the left and right channels etc. The Bose is a strange addition but they tend to exaggerate the bass and highs and they have no EQ capabilities. This means it's a consistent signal every time. I don't use it all the time but every now and then I'll flip over to it just to hear if the bass is a bit too much or maybe a crazy high hat is jumping out too much or something.
The final piece is the room. The room was acoustically designed and properly treated. All of these together make up the listening environment and all play their part. We mix here too which is one reason I didn't opt for high end more hi-fi speakers as monitors.January 29, 2016 at 6:13 pm #3619Steve AParticipant
Yes, that's correct, I was inquiring about studio monitors, but I certainly appreciate the additional information and your point about individual pieces making up the whole, and the importance of having things set up that way..
Many thanks nhamiel!January 30, 2016 at 9:46 am #3640Lee HawkinsParticipant
Mastering for me is different on every track. On my own tracks I always approach it with fresh ears. Sure I have an 'approach' but It follows a simple rule of thumb which, is to increase gain through multiple plugins (or hardware) a small amount at a time. I think my results are always more dynamic if I compress in small amounts with differs compressors. EQ'ing with small moves too.
Final limiting recently is being carried out by A.O.M Invisible Limiter which is fantastic.
Monitoring with my monitors, AKG 812's, Senheisser HD650's and a small stereo.
Reference tracks are also an important part of my workflow. Also the Perception Plugin for easy level matched bypass.
I now master in Studio One's dedicated mastering module as I can, if required, drop back into the main mix to make a major adjustments.
Any projects for commercial release will generally go through a professional mastering studio 99% of the time. Abbey Road, Sterling or an Independant.
January 31, 2016 at 3:20 am #3657Kaleb TreacyParticipant
- This reply was modified 7 years ago by Lee Hawkins.
Hey guys! I was going to ask this down the track but this topic seems like the perfect place to ask. How do you go about level matching when say you're doing an EP or album? I'm all for my tracks to go out to a proper engineer for commercial mastering when it happens but sometimes I get asked to do it as the budget isn't there. I tend to master the tracks individually from each other in there own session but when I bring the songs together, I can hear some of them are a little louder then others even though they're all hitting -4db. Would it be alright to do a basic mix at the end to level them up or is that a mistake? By basic mix, I mean 5 stereo tracks, a song on each and tweaking the faders.
KalebJanuary 31, 2016 at 7:15 pm #3690Steve AParticipant
I would love to hear an expertise answer on that question as well, Kaleb
Good one...February 1, 2016 at 9:28 am #3703nhamielParticipant
Okay, so here is how I will explain this and the process. If you think about it there is a difference between "level" and "volume". Level is something that can be measured like, "Hey all my tracks are hitting -6 dB RMS". Volume is the perception of that level (don't know if there is an official definition somewhere), so even though all tracks have the same relative level, since we all perceive frequencies differently and are more sensitive to others, some tracks will appear louder. Depending on the type of album you are doing there could be more or less of this.
So a rock album that was all recorded and mixed in the same place will probably be fairly balanced across all of the songs, a compilation album on the other hand could be a bit of a nightmare with balances that are all over the place. Ultimately, like just about everything in audio, you need to use your ears.
There are a few things you can do here. Start with choosing the song that seems the best to you and most well balanced and use that as a baseline to set your levels with. Or if a majority of the songs sound similarly, use one of those songs instead. After that go through the songs and master them how you would normally do that, referencing the first song to ensure you are in the ballpark. The problem here is if you have mixes that aren't balanced similarly it can get really odd if you try to make them fit, for example you may try to make the song brighter but you start getting odd reverb sounds or the high hat starts shearing your face off. You can only do what you can do with a mix.
When you want to make a song be perceived as being louder, make some slight adjustments in the most sensitive area of our hearing. You have to be careful here though as I mentioned, you could end up bringing something out of the mix or changing the position of an instrument in the mix that wasn't intended. You may also end up making things overly harsh and almost distorted sounding. Which would make the mix worse instead of better. You can also trying focused saturation that adds harmonics at certain frequencies, but you can end up with the same issue as previously mentioned. It's all about compromising at this stage and the right amount of compromise that makes a project a success.
I typically lay the songs out on different tracks in the same timeline. That way it makes it fairly easy to go back and reference a finished song or make any changes necessary.
In the end talk to the artist/producer and let them know the challenges and get their feedback. At the end of the day you work for them. If they say just do what works best for each song, keep your levels set where you want and do what you do. If they are happy then you should be happy 🙂February 15, 2016 at 9:21 am #4560camoe
I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the Rupert Neve MBP. I am very interested in this as I own a RPN Portico II channel strip for tracking and I love it. (DISCLAIMER: I am bit of a Rupert Neve fan boy from an engineering perspective. I'm an electrical engineer and our design philosophies match perfectly) I'd like to hear your thoughts and if you had to get a similar master bus processor, would it be the RPN?
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