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Author Topic: Mastering in a tuned, treated room versus not  (Read 1291 times)

Felixx

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Mastering in a tuned, treated room versus not
« on: February 04, 2005, 12:16:00 pm »

Thrilled to have found this forum.  Thank you very much, George.
I'll try to be brief.

I have a project ready to master which is very important to me. Adult contemporary/some cuts pseudo-orchestral.  Real strong singers, bg's, etc. I'm very very happy with the mixes I've got.

I've tried mastering once with a real pro... a great guy.  The problem is that what I hear outside of the studio just seems to sound a little too much different than what I heard in the room.  I came to find out that this engineer... once again, a real pro and a wonderful man... has obviously come to learn his room, but the room is not professionally tuned.  When you walk a few steps one way or the other, the sound changes... you can also hear some traffic outside.

I've talked to pro friends and gotten varied opinions.  I know lots of people master - especially in project studios - in non-tuned circumstances and get great results. However, I'm not an engineer... I'm a composer/producer/arranger.

I fully realize that the most important components - bar none - are the engineer, his equipment, and my being able to adequately verbalize what I want.

But isn't it important that at this last bastion of the process, if financially possible, you're in a setting that's as well acousticized (sp?) and tuned to some kind of established standard as possible?  Don't you stand the best chance of the mixes sounding the same on a multitude of systems outside of the studio that way?

I'm scheduled to fly to a big time, recognized-name place which I'm sure is the definition of tuned and treated, to try again.
I understand this isn't a mastering forum (looked at that one for a while already... seems a little hostile sometimes), but I would sure appreciate some input from you pros.  

FYI, I'm looking for ridiculously hot levels - I WANT the dynamics to stay in place... I just want these mixes aligned appropriately and cohesively so the listener doesn't have to keep adjusting the volume knob, brightened-up collectively a hair, and that's it.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.
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TotalSonic

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Re: Mastering in a tuned, treated room versus not
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2005, 01:16:21 pm »

An accurate monitor chain is one of the most essentials in mastering - and the room is definitely an important part in this chain.  fwiw - There are indeed a number of people doing great work in rooms that are less optimal than others though.  There's so many options to go to now and places which have spent well into the high 6 figures to get there rooms to be amazing sounding that it seems if you look around that it should be easy to find a room near you in which you feel comfortable and get results that you really like.

btw - I highly recommend posting this at Brad Blackwood's forum here at prosoundweb.com - http://recforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/f/31/0
- a great place to lurk if you want to read opinions from a large number of working ME's.

Best regards,
Steve Brson

stevieeastend

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Re: Mastering in a tuned, treated room versus not
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2005, 04:49:12 pm »

Well, I would say that the situation you describe is kind of well known for every producer. To find the right mastering engineer, the guy you trust, you want to give your money and from which you get back exactly what you want can turn into long journey.

I personally tried five different mastering studios until I was satisfied.

What you can do, and what I did, is to send one or two songs to different engineers, enclose a letter or send a mail where you state what you want and let you send RefCD. More often than not, they will charge you less, when it?s not a big name. And it doesn?t HAS to be a big name.
More often than not, upcoming engineer will be more motivated as they are not that busy and want to prove their ability, I got the best results from somebody, which is not that well known and as a side effect I saved money as well.

Besides that I found it unbelievable and frightening how different a mix could sound when mastered from different engineers.

cheers
steveeastend

jfrigo

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Re: Mastering in a tuned, treated room versus not
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2005, 12:04:17 am »

Felixx wrote on Fri, 04 February 2005 09:16

The problem is that what I hear outside of the studio just seems to sound a little too much different than what I heard in the room.  I came to find out that this engineer... once again, a real pro and a wonderful man... has obviously come to learn his room, but the room is not professionally tuned.  When you walk a few steps one way or the other, the sound changes...


Understand that even in well designed rooms, the sound changes when you move, even if you simply tilt your head. Also understand that every playback system sounds different, so when you leave, it won't sound the same in the car, or at home, or at your friend's house etc.

That being said, one goal of mastering is to make the recording able to be played effectively in a wide variety of settings. In other words, it may not sound the same, but hopefully it still conveys the intent and isn't plagued by flaws so great as to distract from the song. To this end, a mastering engineer is familiar with his room and monitors and their translation so that he can process a song accordingly. You, not being intimately familiar with the monitoring, may not respond exactly the same way, but the better rooms shouldn't be so far off that you, as the client, have no clue what's going on. So yes, the monitoring chain, including the room, is very important, and "knowing" a bad room is not a good substitue. You can't fix what you can't hear.

While having a good room is important, they can come in many shapes and sizes without costing $100k. There are some common denominators to be sure, but workable rooms don't always look the way you expect.
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Lee Tyler

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Re: Mastering in a tuned, treated room versus not
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2005, 12:14:57 am »

Quote:

Besides that I found it unbelievable and frightening how different a mix could sound when mastered from different engineers.



God, I hope those mastering houses were not top-shelf dudes. Shouldn't be that radical as you describe. However,this may be similar to the variation in cuisine from establishment to establishment. Just the difference in tiramisu is frightening in itself!  Shocked  ---Lee
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jfrigo

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Re: Mastering in a tuned, treated room versus not
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2005, 12:32:37 am »

Lee Tyler wrote on Fri, 04 February 2005 21:14

Quote:

Besides that I found it unbelievable and frightening how different a mix could sound when mastered from different engineers.


God, I hope those mastering houses were not top-shelf dudes. Shouldn't be that radical as you describe. However,this may be similar to the variation in cuisine from establishment to establishment. Just the difference in tiramisu is frightening in itself!  Shocked  ---Lee


There can be several varied "right ways" to do something. If a few were different but all sounded good in their own way, then it's a matter of taste - the client's taste as they are the one to decide what best suits their creative vision. However, the ones that are too radically different may indicate an engineer who is not sensitive to the direction the artist was taking, or an actual technical problem (bad room, bad gear, bad day, bad engineer...) Same with a mix, but more so. Two people can take radically different approaches and both can be very cool. That's what maxi-singles are for!

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bblackwood

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Re: Mastering in a tuned, treated room versus not
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2005, 12:47:24 am »

Lee Tyler wrote on Fri, 04 February 2005 23:14

I hope those mastering houses were not top-shelf dudes. Shouldn't be that radical as you describe.

Then I guess you'd be surprised, they will be that different...

About the mastering rooms themselves, if the engineer is new to the room, sure, the quality of the design and build will be paramount. But the real strength an experienced engineer brings is having cut records every day for years in the same environment. No room is perfect, no matter how much money is spent on it, so the engineer always has to learn the translation...

That being said, I think that the room has to allow the engineer to hear relatively accurately in his listening position, but worrying about the room is the same as worrying about the EQ or compressor the engineers chooses, imo. If the engineer is experienced (and good), his masters will translate without issue, ime.
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Brad Blackwood
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Felixx

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Re: Mastering in a tuned, treated room versus not
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2005, 01:28:29 am »

Thanks so much for the responses so far.  Looking forward to maybe some others?

BTW, I meant to say I'm NOT looking for very very loud mixes, but that I DO want to keep the dynamics intact.

Sorry for the typo.

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JamSync

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Re: Mastering in a tuned, treated room versus not
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2005, 03:29:51 am »

Felixx wrote on Sat, 05 February 2005 06:28

Thanks so much for the responses so far.  Looking forward to maybe some others?

BTW, I meant to say I'm NOT looking for very very loud mixes, but that I DO want to keep the dynamics intact.

Sorry for the typo.




There are some basics that any decent mastering engineer should fix. For example, I just mastered a project where the drums were obviously cut in a room that had a standing wave at 55 Hz and the floor tom resonated with that frequency whenever the song even briefly touched A or D. The trick was to pull out enough of the mud without affecting the bottom end drive of the tune.

Another tricky situation happens when the snare drum masks the female vocal.

After the basics, it's really a matter of taste. If the client wants less dynamic range, then you either give it to them or they walk and don't bring you any more projects. I try to give clients as close to the original master as I can while fixing some errors that will cause problems down the line (flat line overs, etc). I may suggest something, but if it doesn't make the client happy, then I bite my tongue. I also prefer to master the disc and then have the client come in, sit and listen to it at mix (calibrated) position. Then, if they like it, they sign off on it and they are told the usual caveats about things sounding different and that if they break the seal on the master and play it before it goes to replication we can't be held responsible for errors.

Since I work in surround a lot these days, I have to break it to clients that a wonderful surround mix will NOT downmix to mono gracefully and that it's preferable to create a great stereo mix as well as a great surround mix.

I try to explain to people that I am just as disappointed when I bring home a DVD-V that I've listened to at JamSync, where we have 18" subs and then I hear it in my living room on a consumer 5.1 system. The bottom end sounds totally different because the sub at home is some dreadful Panasonic thing...but this is how I test stuff. If I can stand it at home and the mix holds together, and I can hear decent separation of the parts in the music, I think it's OK.  If I can listen to it on my notebook without blowing the speakers, I also think it's OK. Boomboxes are horrible, but they're a great way to suss out bottom end problems!

stevieeastend

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Re: Mastering in a tuned, treated room versus not
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2005, 05:11:40 am »

Lee,

I got good news for you. The quality in terms of deessing, reducing the dynamics the right way and overall sound was proportional to the reputation of the engineer. In fact I worked my way up. I thought I give some guys from my area at try, then I tried two guys in america as the costs where within the frame and the manager friendly Wink. And I wanted to see the limits of my mixes anyway.... bottom line .... both of them were dramatically better than the others. One of them was a real big name and the other an unpcoming guy from this studio as I couldn?t afford to having mastered the whole album by the "big master" Wink.
But I liked the stuff of the other guy a little better. It think he did an incredible job. It sounds good everywhere, on small systems, big hifis and on the radio.  For me it was also a great experience as I could see how the mixes translate to the finished CD when having it mastered the right way. I am much more convinced now how much stereo compression is good for mastering and how much it should be finished from my side as I think this is one of the big questions in mixing.

Felixx,

I would also be careful when the material you get back from the mastering engineer sounds cleary better than CDs that you know on a CERTAIN system. Because it is then almost impossible that the same  stuff sounds good on EVERY system. For example, when it is jumping in your face and nails like hell on a small system, more like any other CD, than it could be that it sounds smashed on big systems and dull on the radio. When it sounds far better on the radio then the rest, then it could be that it cannot sound good on small system, because there are too much dynamics going on, the radio works than as kind of a "online-mastering". (Had this experience when an unmastered mix I did was played on the radio).
When it sounds loud AND got the wrong control in dynamic/compression (for example when there has been no limiting) then it will extremly pump on the radio, but it could be easily sound nice on a big system....

What I want to say is, mastering is ALWAYS a compromise. The best master sounds good on all systems and drives the attention of the listener to the music, IMO...

cheers
steveeastend

lucey

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Re: Mastering in a tuned, treated room versus not
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2005, 10:55:55 am »


recorded music is only real in a room an in time.  nothing ever sounds the same, sometimes even in the same room with pressure and temperature changes!

the thing with mastering is that you want to find someone who does what you want. yes there are many ways to cut a master, all potentially acceptable.

getting what you want for the music can happen 'naturally' with a guy in his bedroom or through prolonged communications with a engineer in a 'near perfect' room or anywhere in between. but the idea that your record will sound the same after you leave is not the thing to go by.

does the record have emotional and sonic appeal on all systems and radio?
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Brian Lucey
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