You know that CD
mastering is the
final step before
replication. You know that the order of the songs can be changed
easily. Maybe some highs, mids, lows, or compression is used. Or we'll
leave it flat, limit it a little, and bring up the level. You've
checked out some mastering
and you know that your music deserves to be taken
seriously. But what the heck are these surprising
differences... with traditional stereo mastering or with HD Separation
began primarily as a transfer step from tape to master
lacquer - a required step toward pressing vinyl records. As more
sophisticated mastering techniques developed, compression, eq,
limiting, de-essing, filtering, editing all became commonplace, since
artists and labels are competitive for bigger, better sounding
traditional mastering can achieve better sound when the music is
played on a variety of systems - from boom boxes to 10,000 watt
nightclub systems, high-end mastering will soothe the savage beast (or
bring it out, depending on what the client wants!).
surprising Traditional Mastering differences are:
Reduced vocal sibilance allows over-all clarity to be added to the
entire track, without creating harsh jabs of high frequencies.
Sibilance was avoided in the days of vinyl and cassette tapes because
it easily distorted.
Careful sculpting of low frequencies can make bass notes more even
and help prevent speaker distortion
Vocals can be made to come forward or dip back into the mix,
depending on the processing
Enhanced width of instruments, room ambiance, reverb, tightness or
warmth of certain instruments can be achieved with Mid-Side processing,
as well as some phase correction of lower frequencies
More consistent song-to-song levels... but also
When we catch a slightly out-of-sync instruments on song beginnings
or phrase beginnings, we can make improvements with skilled
We can extend the sustain to the end of the song - for instance if
the reverb tail is too short, we can clone a portion of the tail and
make a graduated edit that seamlessly extends the ending. Our
refinements are non-destructive, and we don't have an ego around our
ideas -- we have pride
in supporting your
ideas and goals.
Traditional mastering usually take between 1/2 hour and 3/4 hour per
song -- but every project is different!
Some surprising Separation Mastering
Equalization and distinction of instruments is more noticeable and
• Everything has more of it's own "space" - the articulation is better
Certain musical sections
that need more precise compression, or expansion - vocal issues in
particular can be solved without compromising instruments
Multiband compression can be used for de-essing, removing harshness,
tightening bass response (even removing certain resonant "boomy nodes"
Flaws hidden by "masking" of poor acoustics in the recording studio
can be corrected
Copy-and-paste solutions, cross-fades, waveform redraws, de-clicking
only what's needed
Split tracks makes eq-by-section effortless. If the chorus
needs more muscle, it's easy!
On the average, Separations take 1/4 hour more per song - but every
project is different!
your budget, though, because these changes can take time. If you
come into the mastering session prepared,
your project will sound it's best, and you'll feel confident about it
when it hits the market!
Q) Is it better to bring in a stereo
mix or a multitrack recording? -Adam
We find Separations to be the best
format in most cases, but sometimes
you just don't want to fool with the magic in a particular 2-track
stereo still sounds great, particularly
with large budget mixing engineers at the helm.
If the vocal is too loud on the stereo mix
can this be changed in mastering stereo 2 channels?
some cases the blend can be evened out - mainly by
"teeter-tottering" up the support instruments or Eq'ing out some
presence in the middle of the mix. Not for the faint at heart. If
you have a song that you
know you're unhappy with the vocal blend, make Separations. Even
if you only separate the instruments from the vocals, it's a great way
to go and you have an instrumental mix already done! If you want
TV mixes (all tracks including the backup vocals included, just the
lead vocal removed) you'll need to separate the lead and backup vocals.
If the timing of kick and bass isn't tight,
can this be corrected in a stereo 2 channel mix?
in some cases. However, this isn't an
adjustment that is applied throughout the entire song (unless you've
brought in Separations). In traditional stereo mastering, it's more at
entrances to phrases or in certain areas of the song. It's an editing
technique and can work well, but if there are timing problems all over
the song, then it's time to go back to the studio and try Beat
Detective, or make Separations and we'll see what we can do.
We've even replaced drums in a very few cases to solve major drum
issues. In a very few cases, we have done so much work to the
Separation tracks that we were literally remixing. Again as an
example of not-standard practice, we have gone into the Separations and
changed drums, added instruments, edited in special efffects, tuned
vocals and more. Do not take this out of context, because it's
not the main goal of Separation Mastering. It's become a
by-product of the flexibility and potency of the format. We find
that if people have the technology and need serious revisions/
additions, they will ask us to step up and provide the extras they
desire. We have actually termed this "Separation Mixing" given
that it's far and above the procedures for mastering!
Is the mixdown of Cubase SX or Pro Tools
are getting better sounding all the time and somewhat more
difficult to gell apart - it will be interesting
to see how 64 bit computer processing sounds in the different
machines. If you are familiar with a particular DAW system, it
probably won't impact whether you cut a hit or not - it's always the
song, the singer, the performances, the production and the
professionalism of the artist that makes the ultimate difference!
making your final mix, I recommend making 24 or 32 bit files. Close all
windows, if possible, while you are bouncing tracks/mixes. Stay at the
rate of your system (44.1k, 48k, 88.2k, 96k) but always
make 24 bit stereo
files. Even more sonic improvement happens
when you have better power
chords going into your gear! Find that hard to believe?
Here's a white
on the matter!
1998 - Modified 09/07/09
Info about compression
10 CD and audio file