|bblackwood wrote on Fri, 23 June 2006 06:37|
So, what's your typical chain?
I have mastered for years with a patch bay and like Brad, discovered that I don't change up the order my analog gear that much. Therefore, I recently I had all my analog gear wired up point to point with Requisite cable. The cable runs are very short and no more hunks of metal and extra runs of wire get in the way of the sound. The audio sounds noticeably better. Of course the abandoned PB is a long-frame bantam so not like some of the high-end mastering PB that some of you have.
We have researched and tested the analog gear and they all appear to have true bypasses, ie, the equivalent of XLR to XLR when in bypass so if I don't need a unit, I just bypass it.
Because the access to the space behind/under my desk is limited, I had a rotating desk designed and built. The left side holds most of my analog units, flips up like a car hood so that cables can be easily changed without lying on one's back. I think its very well implemented and is easily accessible. I will be posting pictures of my new studio and this unusual desk in a couple of weeks when I finally anounce the completion of my two year upgrade plan!
Now to the analog chain:
* PTs HD 192 -->Lavry Gold DAC-->ATR 102 Custom 1/2" w/ Aria or Vintage electronics-->Tube-Tech SMC 2B-->Maselec MEA-2-->EQ3-D-->Manley MP EQ-->Manley Vari-Mu Comp(w/Side Chain Mod and T-Bar on its way)-->Requisite L2M Mastering Comp-->Pendulum PL-2-->Lavry Gold ADC-->Digital Limiter-->POW-R dither-->PTs (back in via insert). (See last paragraph for alternate route that we are working on)
* Digital Limiter choices:
L2 (outboard), L3, Sony Inflator or TC 6000 Brick Wall Limiter.
* The other digital gear consists of a Digital Domain K-Unit, Weiss EQ1 LP/Dyn, Weiss DS1 MK 2 and TC 6000. TC 6000 has 4 engines and use one for M/S work (MD4 starting point), one for Multi-band (MD4) leaving the last one for Ad Hoc tasks like the occasional use of reverb. I rarely use more than one or two bands of the MD4 in stereo mode.
Mostly, the digital gear is inserted before the analog chain. The exceptions are if I need the Weiss compressor for heavy compressing in which case it goes after the ADC and before one of the limiters. Same for the Weiss EQ. It goes after the ADC if the compression has darkened the audio too much.
Plug-ins: Waves Restoration Tool Kit and very occasional use of MDW EQ.
We assemble and burn DACs masters in WaveBurner and use a Dangerous ST with Weiss DAC for the room monitor setup.
* Lavry Gold DAC: The Lavry, or one of the best, DACs on the market. I previously used an Apogee PSX-100 and of course, the Lavry is noticeably more transparent with a beautiful soundstage.
* ATR 102 Custom 1/2" w/Aria or Vintage electronics: Since I rarely get a tape to master from, this is used right after the digitally copied mix, as if it was recorded to tape. Just got it 3 months ago and am probably overusing it but like the sound of it for close to 50% of my masters. Rarely used for heavy compression but it has a sound that my clients and I love. I have a three way switch which allows me to flip from Aria to bypass (true) to Vintage in order to quickly audition whether the tape will be useful and if so, which electronics work for the track. We put the machine in record and run the o/p to the DAW piece of gear (called lay-back mastering by some). The amount of tape compression is controlled by changing the gain in the DAW just before the DAC.
* Tube-Tech SMC 2B (multi-band): used mostly as a gain stager for the analog chain (after the tape) and for the sound of the unit but sometimes helpful to raise or lower the volume of one or two of the three bands. Also, is sometime handy for mild deesing and/or compressing the bottom end.
* Maselec MEA-2: Have finished testing the SPL PQ EQ and am sending it back. I will post a full review when I have a chance. In short, a brilliantly designed, great sounding unit but has a fatal flaw which limits its use for corrective work. My Maselec arrives next week. I tested one two months ago and it is nice sounding analog eq capable of broad strokes and reasonable precise corrective work. This unit will be a work horse for me. I had the budget for the PQ EQ and the Maselec is much less expensive so now I have enough for something else! Hmmm...
* Night Pro EQ3-D: This is a crazy little eq unit that probably has no place a mastering rack but it has an amazing air band and a useful sub. The unit is not notched and has to be calibrated side to side with tones. I use it 25 to 50% of the time. It just has a sound that works with a lot of material. I like this unit so much that I spent almost $1,000. to have it modified to be more accurate side to side and to have the headroom increased. Only the latter mod was successful but worth it as it doesn't bottle-neck my chain any more. The unit is so hard to match sides on that I just bypass if it doesn't work for the track with my standard settings.
* Manley Massive Passive EQ: More than enough has been said about this unit. Suffice to say, I use it on many of my masters. A great colour eq. This unit is very rarely bypassed but is often used very subtly.
* Manley Vari-Mu Comp(w/Side Chain Mod and T-Bar on its way): Again, much has been written about this unit on the boards but I use it to get more gain, sometimes with compression but often not. It has a clear open sound that seems to give most masters a little extra subtle depth and width. The SC Mode lets more bottom end through and I'm hoping the T-Bar mod will cut down on transient distortion, which is usually the only reason I bypass this unit. I master a lot of hip hop, reggae and blues and don't understand when I read comments about "soft bottom" in this unit or the Tube-Tech, for that matter. This is not what I hear or maybe I'm compensating elsewhere (?). My bottom is not soft , mon, unless I want it to be!
* Requisite L2M Mastering Comp: My final place to get some more analog gain and use some more, or different compression, if needed. This unit is based on the LA-2a but has 4 times the headroom. It sounds amazing.
* Pendulum PL-2: This is a transparent sounding (if you don't drive it too hard) peak limiter. It works somewhat like the Apogee Soft-Limit but sounds better and has much more user control.
* Lavry Gold ADC: see DAC comments plus this unit has digital limiter soft-limit that is useful once in a while.
* Digital Domain K-Unit: This unit is designed by Bob Katz and is marketed as an "Ambient Recovery Unit". It has 4 stereo algorithms, which are bandwidth controllable and also can be equalized, plus a full-band M/S control. I use this very subtly on 90% of my masters. It is always inserted before the analog chain. I pretend that the ambience it provides was part of the mix (or maybe should have been!).
* Weiss EQ 1 LP/Dyn:This is usually inserted before the analog chain. I use this very transparent eq mostly in dynamics mode to tame harsh frequencies. It can also be used in the lower bass or sub frequency to subtly control the bottom end. When I need an eq after the ADC, this one does the trick.
* Weiss DS 1 MK 2: extremely useful as a compressor (full or parallel), ranging from subtle (before analog chain, to heavy (after ADC and before limiter). For heavy deessing, it is the best.
* TC 6000 Mastering & Reverb: what a great sounding, versatile unit. I use a modified MD4 for M/S eqing, compression & steroizing. Great for corrective work, especially with vocals that are out of whack. I almost always check out the sides of specific frequencies to see if the sound stage could use a little more width. Since I got this, I rarely widen the entire mix anymore. This is sooo much more subtle. The MD4 in regular mode is useful for raising or lowering specific frequencing. Once in a while I'll use the compression but am not a fan of the eq unless I want to notch out a very specific frequency. This is the very best notch eq I have. The Brickwall Limiter works great for me if I am not trying to make a typically loud pop master. I use it more for jazz and blues.
* Limiters: They all sound different, work differently and the variety I now have over the old L2-only days is just great.
My normal technique is use much of my gear most of the time. A lot of times I'm just using the tube gear to get some dbs and not for their functionality. Everything has a purpose in my chain but it I don't need it, it is bypassed!
Maybe I'll add a solid state compressor. I'm inspired by my Lacquer Channel colleague, Phil Demetro, who doesn't use any tubes but does good work anyway!
How often do you change it up?
More often the digital outboard gear than the analog, depending on the job.
Are you looking to change any part of it?
I own a Lavry Digital Optimizer, which I want to use for real time SRC and dither. Since we use Pro Tools to record and playback (limitation is one sample rate per session only), we have been stymied as to how to set up to do this without investing in a second computer to record to and sequence in.
However, we own Logic and a second sound card being used for SpectraFoo (in the same Mac). My tech guy is working out a system where we will be able to output PTs to the Lavry Digital Optimizer and into the second sound card and record into Logic Audio (which I own). I'll then be able monitor the 16b/44.1 dithered masters as I'm mastering a high rez session. He says it works fine but wants to make sure there is little or no lag time when playing back Logic controlled by Pro Tools.
If that doesn't work smoothly enough, I'll probably go for a second computer or maybe even explore changing the entire mastering setup to PC and Sequoia. The latter idea doesn't really interest me except when I hear about all the neat sounding mastering plug-ins PC users have access to. However, I rarely use the neat plug-ins that Pro Tools offers so I probably wouldn't in Sequoia either. I hear it's a great editor but I've used PTs for 10 years and haven't been frustrated too often. However, I don't master much classical music and am guessing that pop music is less challenging to edit(?).