Monday, July 21, 2014
Artspace Studio Buys Prism Sound Titan Audio Interface
The boutique studio made its choice on the basis of the interface's high end clarity.
Artspace Studio, one of London’s premier boutique recording, has recently invested in a Prism Sound Titan USB multi-track audio interface for its Brixton-based facility.
“Titan was recommended to me by quite a few people, including mastering engineer Mandy Parnell at Black Saloon Studios and Kirk DeGiorgio (aka As One),” explains mixing and mastering engineer/producer, Tom Gillieron. “We thought we’d test one out, and we were amazed!
“I do a lot of mixdown work for people and they send me tracks that they’ve mixed down ‘in the box’ in Pro Tools, Ableton or Logic. When I compare the mixes I have done through the Titan and then summed on the SSL Matrix, the clarity in the high end is amazing and the stereo image is far clearer and more impressive.”
Studio owner Olsi Rama agrees that the Prism Sound Titan has been the best purchase Artspace has made this year.
“We have used the pre amps a lot because they are great, and we have also used it to clock from our Digidesign 192s,” Rama says. “We have an 8-track 3M tape machine at the studio and sometimes we like to record drums onto that. With the Titan’s fantastic conversion we can get back into the computer really easily without losing the warm analogue sound.”
Artspace is developing a strong reputation as the place to record in London. Artists who have recently worked in the facility include Jamie T, Marmozets, The Severed Limb and Martyn Ware (Human League). It is a mixed digital and analogue recording facility that offers three rooms, including a large live room, the Octagon, billed as a distinctive space ideal for laying down drums and group recordings.
Rama adds that another feature both he and Gillieron like is Titan’s versatile USB connection.
“This is great because it allows visiting engineers to just plug in their laptop with their preferred software and make an immediate connection to our vintage outboard processors without losing any of the detail,” he says.
Gillieron adds: “I have mixed down some tracks that I started elsewhere, on different speakers and on headphones and so on. The Prism Sound unit gave all the projects a bit of a boost – to my ears – which was exciting but also made me listen to them more carefully and mistakes became more obvious.”
For the future Gillieron is looking forward to using the Titan on multitrack field recordings of live musicians, but he’s already impressed with what it has revealed through his current and long-standing audio set-up.
“I have mastered a few tracks using the Titan and I find it’s easier for me to pinpoint unnecessary resonance than it was with what we were using before,” he says. “And I’ve been using the same speakers and amp for about 18 years.”
Gillieron recently remixed PHORIA:
Posted by Julie Clark on 07/21 at 01:20 PM
SAE Mexico Installs Allen & Heath QU-24 For Education
SAE offers audio education using Allen & Heath console.
SAE in Mexico recently opened a new live audio engineering degree course, installing Allen & Heath’s new Qu-24 compact digital mixer as the teaching console.
Supplied by Allen & Heath’s Mexican distributor, Audyson, students will learn to mix using Allen & Heath digital mixers, starting with the Qu-24 and progressing onto larger consoles, such as the GLD-80.
The course will also include practical sessions, placing students in real situations with live bands, where they will also mix using A&H consoles. One such session has already taken place with a Qu-24 at FOH, with additional IO provided by an AR2412 audio rack, and a ME personal monitoring system for the musicians.
“We are using the Qu-24 and GLD-80 with SAE students because we want the new generation of sound engineers to know about the excellent sound quality and ease of use, and way to mix of the Allen & Heath range,” comments Audyson’s audio specialist, Marco Acevedo Mena.
Allen & Heath
Posted by Julie Clark on 07/21 at 01:10 PM
Friday, July 18, 2014
Equator Reference Monitors Produce For David Kahne
Equator Audio studio reference monitors are integral to producer/composer/engineer David Kahne's recording efforts.
Manhattan-based Avatar Studios, formerly known as The Power Station, is one of New York’s legendary recording facilities. It is also home to producer / composer/ engineer David Kahne, who has a resume that reads like the music industry’s “Best of…” list.
Central to Kahne’s production efforts are studio reference monitors from Equator Audio.
For the uninitiated, David Kahne is a musician, composer, engineer, mixer, producer, A&R man, and music supervisor. In one or more of these capacities, he has worked with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Lana del Rey, James Brown, Stevie Nicks, Cher, The Bangles, Paul McCartney, and many more artists. He also received a Grammy Award for Tony Bennett’s MTV Unplugged, which was the Album of the Year in 1994.
Kahne, already a user of Equator Audio D8 studio monitors, recently added a pair of the company’s D5 monitors.
“I have a studio at Avatar Studios,” Kahne reports. “It’s a good size room, and I also have access to the big rooms when I need a large acoustic space for recording drums, orchestra, loud guitars, etc. I’ve been using Equator Audio’s D8 monitors for roughly a year and a half at this point and have been very impressed with their performance, which is why I recently added a pair of D5s.
“I use the D8s for both mixing and recording. I do have a bigger speaker set, but I spend a lot of time on the D8s because they’re so easy to listen to. With these speakers, there’s no listening fatigue and everything I mix on them translates really well to other playback mediums.”
Kahne continued, “Currently I’m working on a project for Motown Records that requires a very different kind of listening, which is staying true to what was recorded in the 60’s. Being coaxial design monitors, the D8s are great for this project, as most studios back then had coaxial monitors.
“I’m also using the D8s in my work with the rock band Walk off the Earth, a great group out of Toronto as well as Bad Rabbits from Boston, vocalist and instrumentalist Kate Davis from NYC, and vocalist Jena Rose from Dallas.”
Kahne notes that he particularly likes the way the midrange works with the D8s. It is clear and concise, and small changes are very audible.
“I must say that the bottom is really nice, too; it’s not hyped, so I’m not able to fool myself,” he adds. “As far as fatigue goes, I mentioned earlier that it’s very easy to listen to the Equator monitors for hours and not get tired. In my opinion, this is one of the great characteristics of coaxial speakers.”
Kahne made a point to add that they are not only great speakers with a unique character of their own, but they are also affordable.
“They not only sound good, but they’re sold at a price that makes sense for any professional or aspiring audio engineer,” he concludes. “With the Equator monitors, you get Cadillac performance at a price most anyone can manage. Thanks for making them!”
Posted by Julie Clark on 07/18 at 11:36 AM
Modern Grooves From Black Octopus: A New BreakTweaker Expansion Pack From iZotope
New expansion pack for BreakTweaker plugin.
iZotope, Inc. and Black Octopus have released Modern Grooves, a new expansion pack for iZotope’s acclaimed drum sculpting and beat sequencing plug-in, BreakTweaker.
Featuring modern, clean, and crisp sounds with a dash of retro throwback, the expansion includes more than 300 sounds with 40 presets—all designed to have a timeless feel and work well with a wide range of material.
In an interview with iZotope, Black Octopus founder Toby Emerson describes his approach to creating Modern Grooves: “I hope the pack will provide something for artists of all skill levels. Users can start with the presets and then tweak the sounds to create something original.
“For people wanting to sketch ideas in the studio, I tried to lay out the patterns in a musically logical way—someone could jam out full tracks on the fly just by switching between the patterns using a keyboard or MIDI controller.”
Modern Grooves is available now at iZotope.com for $39.00.
BreakTweaker is on sale now through July 31, 2014 for $199 (save $50) or BreakTweaker Expanded for $249 (save $50).
BreakTweaker is available with demo content as a free 10-day trial at iZotope.com/BreakTweaker.
Visit the iZotope blog for more on Modern Grooves, including a full Q&A with Toby Emerson of Black Octopus Sound.
Posted by Julie Clark on 07/18 at 10:31 AM
Thursday, July 17, 2014
North Boulevard Church Manages Live, Recording And More With Allen & Heath Mixers
M3 Technology Group of Nashville, TN implements comprehensive solution with GLD mixers
North Boulevard Church of Christ in Murfreesboro, TN provides high-quality live audio in its main auditorium, broadcasts its worship services over a local television station, records them for use in a satellite church and provides simultaneous translation into Spanish and Chinese, all managed using a new sound and video system equipped with a pair of Allen & Heath GLD-80 digital mixers.
“Our previous system was 17 to 18 years old, and it was designed for our needs at that time,” says Mike Jones, who oversees worship production for the church. “We wanted a system that sounded better and had better coverage. Also, we wanted a system that had the capability to handle everything we’ve been working into the worship service.”
Based on these goals, North Boulevard Church retained a consultant to do a survey and provide a basic system design. After a competitive bidding process, the church selected M3 Technology Group of Nashville, TN to provide additional design services, and to install its new systems. M3 provided the church’s live audio and video systems as well as its broadcast and recording systems.
M3’s CTO and project liaison, Chris Montini, says the system uses a high-speed Dante digital audio network to feed all of the church’s microphones from the stage to the studio for broadcast and recording. “We installed Dante cards in the Allen & Heath GLD-80 mixers,” he notes, “and chose a wireless microphone system and a DSP that are also equipped with Dante.”
One of the GLD-80s is utilized to mix live sound in the auditorium, while the second GLD-80, located in the studio, mixes audio for broadcast and recording. To simplify system operation, the two GLD-80s have the same setups for things like channel assignments, scenes and layers. This allows any of the church’s tech staff to mix the live auditorium sound or the broadcast and recording sound with no additional training on the hardware.
Wired microphones and other sources are connected to an Allen & Heath AR2412 AudioRack located behind the stage. The AR2412 links to the GLD-80 mixer in the auditorium via the GLD’s built-in digital snake and also feeds the Dante network.
North Boulevard Church has a choir-based music service with multiple wireless microphones, which take advantage of GLD’s digital signal processing capabilities. GLD is also the choice to mix stage monitors, assistive listening, simultaneous translation feeds, and a separate subwoofer mix on the aux buses.
Although the church had previously used an Allen & Heath analog mixer, Montini says he was pleasantly surprised at how quickly everyone picked up the new digital mixer. “GLD is intuitive and easy to learn,” he concludes. “Once you understand the basics, it’s fairly simple to operate.”
Paul Skidmore, who manages the church’s broadcast services, adds, “I was blown away by how clean and professional the system is. GLD is a monster board. The bottom line is we have total control.”
Allen & Heath
American Music & Sound
CAD Audio Headphones Contribute To Music Student Education In Cincinnati
Headphones assist them in learning how to play and record musical instruments and vocals
CAD Audio recently donated a number of sets of MH510 studio headphones to fledgling music students in Cincinnati to assist them in learning how to play and record musical instruments and vocals.
It’s a valuable contribution to their education, notes Aaron O’Keefe, a private music instructor and owner/co-owner of the Loveland, Maineville and Lebanon music academies.
“Carmen Mark ‘Squiggy’ DiGiacomo of the MAD Consulting Group contacted us about the manufacturer’s tent at the Rock On The Range Festival in Columbus where music product and audio manufacturers demonstrate their products,” O’Keefe notes. “CAD Audio was one of those companies and they were good enough to donate a number of their professional headphones to our music school programs.”
Students typically range from age six to 16, who he personally teaches piano, guitar, voice, drums, bass, double bass, vibraphone, mandolin and ukulele, to name a few. “We’ll usually take a song like ‘Heart Shaped Box’ by Nirvana or ‘Sober’ by Tool,” he explains. “I’ll teach the song individually to my drum, guitar, bass player and voice students, we’ll put them together in a band, rehearse the song, then actually record and videotape the final performance.
“These CAD headphones are going to be used in countless studio recordings,” he continues, “because too often, the kids have cheap, Walkman-style phones that don’t do the job. The Sessions MH510s are perfect for the studio because they have a closed-back design and there isn’t any bleed through into the microphones, which is really important. Plus the audio quality is exceptional. We’re using them extensively for tracking and overdubs, which is great because they’ll eventually appear in our videos. They’re the best headphones we’ve ever used.”
Knowing that his students’ version of Tool’s “46 and 2” on YouTube has had well over 6 million views to this point (view it here), appearing in their videos has added significance for supporting manufacturers such as Zildjian, Jackson, ESP, Dunlop, Kramer and CAD Audio.
Zona Recording Studios In NY Adds THE BOX From API
Recording engineer John Zona works with a lot of talent in the artistic-rich area of Huntington, NY through Zona Recording Studios.
While currently running the studio around his full-time gig of pin-striping motorcycles, he is transitioning his time mixing and recording from a hobby to a full-scale operation. As part of that transition, Zona has added THE BOX from API to help bring enthusiasm and quality to clients, working to insure they come back and refer others.
“I’m very pleased with my decision to purchase THE BOX,” Zona says. “After shopping around, doing research, and even demo-ing the board at the API headquarters in Maryland, it became clear API was the way to go.
“I’m also impressed with the quality of the EQs and mic preamps, as well as the reputation, construction, and warranty of the board.”
Zona, who is also an accomplished drummer, bass guitarist and composer, is presently taking the final steps in reconfiguring and wiring his updated studio space. While doing that, he’s using THE BOX to re-mix music he’s previously recorded.
“I’m getting results I had not even anticipated,” shares Zona. “I look forward to being an API customer for years to come.”
PreSonus Unveils AudioBox Recording Solutions For Mac, Windows, And iPad
New mobile interfaces include Studio One Artist DAW for Mac and Windows, new Capture Duo recording software for iPad, and a Nimbit Free account
PreSonus has announced the new USB 2.0 bus-powered AudioBox iOne audio interface and AudioBox iTwo audio/MIDI interface for Mac, Windows, and Apple iPad.
The mobile interfaces include PreSonus Studio One Artist DAW for Mac and Windows, new Capture Duo recording software for iPad, and a Nimbit Free account for online direct-to-fan distribution of music, merchandise, and more.
With Capture Duo or Capture for iPad and an AudioBox iOne or iTwo, users can record with an iPad and then wirelessly transfer recordings directly to Studio One Artist. The result is an integrated, end-to-end, mobile solution.
The AudioBox iOne sports one instrument input and one mic input, while AudioBox iTwo offers two combo mic and switchable line/instrument inputs. Both have high-performance Class A mic preamplifiers with phantom power and 24-bit, up to 96 kHz converters with 105 dB of dynamic range.
The DACs feed balanced 1/4-inch, line-level outputs and a loud, clear headphone output with independent level control. The AudioBox iTwo also includes MIDI In and Out. Each interface has an internal analog mixer with zero-latency monitoring, enabling monitoring recorded tracks and overdubs without audible delay.
USB bus-powered, the AudioBox iOne and iTwo can sit on a tabletop or fit in the pocket of a backpack or laptop bag. They’re built to travel, with a metal chassis and knobs and jacks secured directly to the enclosure to reduce strain on the internal circuit board.
Both interfaces work with any recording software that supports Core Audio (Mac) or ASIO (Windows).
Capture Duo two-track recording software for iPad, free from the Apple App Store, is based on PreSonus’ Capture live-recording software for StudioLive mixers. Capture Duo records and plays two tracks with 24-bit, 96 kHz fidelity and includes basic mixing and editing as well as an integrated metronome.
PreSonus also offers Capture for iPad, which can record up to 32 tracks with the same features and 24-bit, 96 kHz fidelity. Capture for iPad is available from the Apple App Store for an expected price of $9.99.
Further specific information PreSonus AudioBox i Series is here.
BBE Releases Sonic Sweet v3.0 “Optimised” And Mach 3 Bass Enhancer Plug-In Added
Completely re-worked from the ground up to be compatible with AAX and Pro Tools 11
BBE Sound announces the release of the Sonic Sweet v3.0 plug-in bundle that includes three newly “Optimised” plug-ins and a new bass enhancer (Mach 3 Bass).
Sonic Sweet Optimised has been completely re-worked from the ground up to be compatible with AAX and Pro Tools 11. The bundle has also been fully tested on the latest operating systems including Mac OS 10.10 (Yosemite) and Windows 8.
Optimised is a complete rewrite of the plug-ins included in the original Sonic Sweet plug-ins bundle. Designed to make mixes clearer and louder like its forerunner, it adds a new fourth plug-in to the collection, the Mach 3 Bass.
At the heart of the bundle there is still the software version of BBE’s Sonic Maximizer hardware range. Optimised will add clarity to the top end and fatness to the bottom, without the “fizz” or digital “sizzle” common to other sonic enhancers. The refinements brought by the new version extends to a new optimized GUI and improved controls for fine-tuning.
Note that because Optimised was completely rebuilt, it is not compatible with previous versions of BBE Sonic Sweet plug-ins. Any sessions with a previous version of Sonic Sweet loaded into it must continue to use the old versions of the plug-ins.
BBE has partnered with DontCrack.com to offer a special introductory price of $69 instead of the regular $149 for Optimised. Previous Sonic Sweet owners can upgrade to the new Sonic Sweet v3.0 with new Mach 3 Bass for only $29. The promo is available through the end of July, 2014.
In addition to Sonic Maximizer, Sonic Sweet Optimised includes:
—Harmonic Maximizer: Increases presence and clarity, restoring natural brightness and adding deeper and extended low frequencies
—Loudness Maximizer : A mixing and mastering multi-band limiter plug-in that can iincrease the overall level of a mix without audible pumping effects
—Mach 3 Bass: Takes low end deeper
—Windows 7 & 8
—Mac OS 10.6 and above (including 10.10 Yosemite)
—32- & 64-bit support
—Authorization for up to five computers
Go here to download and try the new BBE Sonic Sweet Optimised bundle from the Nomad Factory website.
In The Studio: A Time-Saving Pre-Production Tempo-Mapping Trick
Most (if not all) digital audio workstations (DAW) include functionality to automate the tempo of songs, which can prove to be a handy feature. But Joe uses the automated tempo in a unique way that you may not have seen or thought about.
A typical use, for example, is when a band playing a complex track wants to go from, say 85 bpm in the verse to 95 bpm in the chorus, and then back down again—and then there’s another section that slows way down. It all needs to be synced together, and that’s usually the type of thing automating the tempo is for, so that the click track follows that tempo as you go through the song.
But Joe has another use for this function, which he applies in preparation for new album projects. In this video he takes you through his thinking and approach, which has proven quite effective.
Joe Gilder is a Nashville-based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner.Note that Joe also offers highly effective training courses, including Understanding Compression and Understanding EQ.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Tim Valley & Christos Desalernos Join Shure U.S. Sales Team
Both will bolster efforts with customers in the western U.S.
Shure has hired two new associates to the sales team of the company’s Americas Business Unit. Tim Valley has been named regional sales manager for the Pro Systems Group for the western U.S., and Christos Desalernos has been named senior regional sales manager for the Retail Group for the western U.S.
In his new role, Valley is managing installed AV, conference and broadcast customers in the region. He joins Shure from Anew CT, where he served as executive vice president for the last eight years and as a sales director for two years before that. He has also worked as an account executive at Boxlight Corporation and an audio engineer at Fastrax. Valley has a degree from the Art Institute of Seattle and is a member of InfoComm and NSCA.
Desalernos is managing retail business for Shure in the region, including relationships with Guitar Center and Musician’s Friend. He has worked for the last 15 years at Furman Sound as an engineer technician, an account executive, and, for the past nine years, as director of division sales. He has an Electrical Engineering degree from IT Technical Institute Hayward.
“We are excited to add Christos and Tim to our team,” said Mark Humrichouser, vice president of the Americas Business Unit. “Not only will they help strengthen our presence in key markets in their region, but they also will bring their significant knowledge and industry experience to our sales team. We expect they will make great contributions to our continued growth and success.”
Free PreSonus StudioLive AI Mixer Training At SAE Institute
To be hosted at all seven SAE locations in the USA: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York, and San Francisco
PreSonus and SAE Institute have announced a series of free StudioLive AI digital mixer training sessions, hosted at all seven SAE locations in the USA: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York, and San Francisco.
Topics will range from beginner basics to advanced techniques; SAE will accommodate a wide range of skill levels.
The sessions are open to the public and will be held monthly on Saturdays from noon to 4 pm local time.
“StudioLive AI digital mixers have become hugely popular, so budding musicians, audio engineers, and producers will encounter them often in their future work,” says PreSonus education market manager John Mlynczak, “and SAE is world-famous for its top-quality audio training. This is just the beginning of a wonderful partnership.”
For more information, to see a schedule, and to sign up for a training session, visit www.presonus.com/sae.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Mackie Unveils Creative Reference Multimedia Monitor Series
Two models designed to provide deep, punchy low end and smooth highs with even dispersion
Mackie has introduced the Creative Reference Multimedia Monitor series, designed to deliver studio-quality sound and performance in desktop-friendly, compact designs that are affordable.
The series includes two models—the CR3 and CR4—with 3-inch or 4-inch woofers that are devised to provide deep, punchy low end and 3/4-inch silk-dome tweeters to supply smooth, articulate highs. CR monitors also are outfitted with a sleek, curved high-frequency waveguide for wide, even dispersion and a well-defined stereo image.
In addition, all-wood cabinets and custom-tuned rear ports provide a natural warmth to the sound.
“When mixing audio or creating media, it’s critical that your audio translate across all the various speakers and headphones listeners will use,” says Matt Redmon, Mackie senior product manager. “Even if you are just enjoying a video or music, our new Creative Reference monitors will let you hear every nuance and detail the producer intended.”
Creative Reference monitors offer convenient features that deliver flexibility. A left/right loudspeaker placement switch allows users to locate the volume control on the left or right of their workstation. The front panel includes a on/off/volume knob with a lit power indication ring that will also control the volume of headphones, which can be plugged directly into the front of the monitors. There’s also a front-panel aux input for simple connection of a media device.
“With smartphones always at our side, you can easily find yourself creating professional multimedia one minute and streaming a video the next,” notes Redmon. “With our new Creative Reference monitors, you get the best of both worlds…studio-quality performance, an extremely compact design ideal for smaller workstations and smart features perfect creativity on any level.”
Creative Reference monitors come with all the connecting cables needed for the user to get started immediately. A pair of acoustic isolation pads are also included that can be used to minimize unwanted bass buildup that can muddy a mix. In addition, the pads have an angled design that allows the user to tilt the monitors slightly up or down for more focused listening depending on their setup.
“Whether you’re a seasoned pro looking for a compact pair of accurate, articulate monitors for work or just looking for a pair of amazing-sounding speakers for entertainment, Mackie’s new Creative Reference monitors are an affordable solution that deliver professional results in our most compact form factor to date,” concludes Redmon.
The new Mackie CR3 and CR4 Creative Reference monitors will be available worldwide beginning August, 2014. Sold in pairs, CR3 monitors will have a U.S. MSRP of $129.99 and CR4 monitors will have a U.S. MSRP of $199.99.
Audio Mastering Basics: Taking Your Music That Extra Step
No one will argue that digital technology has done much to empower musicians to take control over their recordings. Today’s artists are far less dependent on high-priced recording professionals, with many great-sounding projects having never even seen the inside of a recording studio.
But while the average modern laptop rig can run circles around the Abbey Roads of yesteryear, the knowledge and expertise of those old-school engineers has yet to be bundled into a plug-in. Some jobs are best left to the pros, and many would argue that mastering is one of them.
Certainly, if your budget allows, a professional mastering engineer is worth his or her weight in gold. While I’ll try to offer some basic suggestions on the process of mastering, bear in mind that it’s a skill that takes many years and special talent to master (no pun intended).
What Is It?
Mastering can be loosely defined as the fine-tuning of levels and equalization of a track, preparing it for replication and broadcast. This includes optimizing the average and peak volume levels of a track, using compression and equalization to achieve a level that’s consistent with other recordings.
Other chores a mastering engineer typically handles include cleaning up unwanted noises (clicks, pops, etc), arranging tracks into a final sequence, placing the proper amount of space between the tracks and inserting track markers and other codes required for replication.
More Than Meets The Ear
Technical explanations aside, trying to explain exactly what it is a good mastering engineer does is right up there with trying to define the process of a talented songwriter or producer. In the same way that anyone can lay down some loops and create a track, it’s not hard to plug in a mastering compressor and tweak a track’s parameters. But mastering and mastering well are two different things.
Mastering is truly an art form: a blend of technology, psychoacoustics, educated ears and musical intuition. In the right hands, the smallest increments of compression or equalization can have a major impact on the entire track. A good mastering engineer will make subtle decisions about sonic balance, bringing out the most important frequency ranges of different aspects of a recording and achieving a blend between the bass and high frequencies that can give a mundane track some punch and make a good track even better.
If you visit a mastering studio, you might be surprised by just how Spartan most of them are. Unlike major recording studios with their walls full of vintage gear and blinking LEDs, the best mastering engineers’ setups are relatively modest-looking affairs. Part of this is down to simple room acoustics: Those racks of gear on the walls can actually have a negative impact on the room’s acoustics and the ability to create a sonically neutral environment in which to monitor the mix.
Although their studios don’t boast rack upon rack of gear, the gear you do see is typically not a lot of off-the-shelf equipment. Most mastering engineers are partial to custom or highly-customized signal processing gear: discrete, class A electronics, vacuum tube circuitry, and other components closer to the rarified, top-end audiophile equipment than to professional audio processing gear.
Doing It Yourself
With the advent of high-end software and mastering plug-ins, more and more project studio owners are dipping their toes into the waters and experimenting with mastering their own works.
The best mastering engineers have honed their craft over many years of practice, but if you’re realistic in your expectations you’ll probably find that a bit of experimentation will be a valuable learning experience. Even if you ultimately decide to go with a pro, you’ll be better prepared to know what to expect from them.
One of the first things to realize is that mastering is NOT mixing. While most mastering compressors can hone in on tight bands of frequencies, mastering does not deal with track levels, panning or other aspects of individual tracks in a mix.
So before you even consider the mastering phase, it’s important to put together a mix that’s as clean as possible. Keep everything in perspective, with good balance, panning, and no distortion. Use minimal compression on individual instruments, but even more importantly, don’t add compression to the final mix. The more you squash the mix, the less dynamic range you leave yourself for mastering.
One of the most common mistakes is creating a mix that doesn’t have enough headroom to allow for mastering. Less experienced mixers tend to try for as hot a level as possible, with peaks up to -1 dB or even 0 dB. But most mastering engineers will tell you that a minimum of 3 to 6 dB of available headroom is essential to performing good mastering. Ideally, your mix’s peak levels should not exceed -3 dBFSD.
Once you’ve got a mix you’re happy with, it’s time to start experimenting with mastering. Your main tools will be dynamics processing (compression and limiting) and equalization. With both, a little is more than enough.
Avoiding The Squeeze
Probably one of the most important things to pay attention to in mastering is dynamic range. It’s also the most common mistake, and one that even more experienced mastering engineers sometimes get wrong.
Dynamic range is defined as the difference between the softest and loudest sounds in a recording. As compression is added to a track, the louder sounds are attenuated. As those louder sounds are squashed, the difference between the softest and loudest sounds—your dynamic range—decreases, and along with it all of your music’s the subtlety and nuance. The softest sounds have been brought up, and the loudest sounds have been limited, and the result is a track where everything is at its loudest, all the time.
Ask any veteran engineer what their biggest complaint about today’s radio fodder is, and they’ll all lament the disappearance of dynamic range.
The past few years have seen an unfortunate trend toward pumping the overall level of music tracks higher and higher, adding more and more compression under the misguided assumption that louder is better.
The problem is, eventually you run into those darned laws of physics.
With a mastering compressor, you generally want to start with a fairly subtle compression ratio. With a multiband unit like the UAD Precision Multiband Compressor, start with a ratio of around 2:1 and slowly (repeat: slowly) bring it up. Rarely, if ever, should you end up with a ratio of more than 5:1.
Equalization goes hand in hand with compression in mastering. A very precise multiband graphic equalizer like the UAD Precision EQ can compensate for changes in frequency balance caused by the application of compression.
For example, adding compression might make the sound a bit muddy, in which case you’d use the EQ to cut a bit of lower midrange (around 300 Hz). Or maybe the compression has made the mix a bit dull sounding. Adding a tiny bit of high frequency EQ, around 12 kHz, can add some sheen and sparkle.
A bit of cut at around 5 kHz might get rid of some of the harsh aspects of the drums and guitar parts. Of course, these are all just ballpark figures; your mix will dictate what needs to be done, and your ears should be the determining factor.
UAD Precision Multiband Compressor
While you’re tweaking, it’s a good idea to compare your mix with a CD or two that sound good to your ears; preferably material that has a frequency balance and is somewhat musically close to what you’d like your tracks to sound like. This will help give you a point of reference, which is particularly useful after you’ve been making subtle changes for an hour or two.
UAD Precision EQ
Can you do your own mastering? You can try. Will it be as good as a real mastering engineer can do? Of course not.
But spending some time listening critically to how these tools affect your mix is a great way to familiarize yourself with what mastering can do for your music. And the same way that adding too much reverb or EQ to an instrument is great for learning what not to do, experimenting with mastering plug-ins will go a long way toward educating your ears about what to expect from mastering, and how to tell a good mastering engineer from a not-so-good one.
As always, it all comes down to using your ears.
Daniel Keller is a musician, engineer and producer. Since 2002 he has been president and CEO of Get It In Writing, a public relations and marketing firm focused on audio and multimedia professionals and their toys. Despite being immersed in professional audio his entire adult life, he still refuses to grow up. This article is courtesy of Universal Audio.
Genelec Now Shipping 8010 Compact Active Monitor
Smallest member of the 8000 product range that is widely used in pro audio, mastering, post-production and broadcast
Genelec is now shipping the 8010 compact active monitor, the smallest member of the 8000 product range that is widely used in professional audio, mastering, post-production and broadcast market sectors around the world.
Suitable for professional work in small studios, the new 8010 offers accurate monitoring capability with ease of installation. It’s sound quality makes it a choice for small editorial studios and OB vans, as well as a companion for portable recording devices and other mobile production work.
Outfitted with a balanced XLR input, 3-inch bass driver, 3/4-inch tweeter and Class D power amplifiers – one for each driver – the 8010 produces more sound pressure level than might be expected from a monitor of this size.
The Intelligent Signal Sensing ISS circuitry saves energy by automatically putting the monitor to sleep when the audio signal has been absent for a period of time. Once a signal is detected again, the monitor wakes up automatically. This circuitry can be bypassed when the automatic standby function is not desired.
A range of accessories is available for the 8010 to cover all mounting needs. For example, an L-shaped table stand can be used to optimize monitor orientation toward the listening position and to minimize undesired sound reflections.
The 8010 compact active monitor is now available at a U.S. MSRP of $440 each.