Mastering at Gighouse
Recording/producing your own CD is very popular these days.
Whether you're a musician who enjoys working in your own project studio at home, or a band that have spent the last couple of months recording an album in a well equipped professional studio, you will both have something in common…your CD will need mastering.
If you have done some recording in the past, I'm sure you will have noticed that when you compare your CD with a ‘commercially' produced CD there are some major differences that you may find disturbing.
Here are some examples of what you might have found…
• Your CD isn't loud enough. It sounds wimpy next to other CDs. Turning it up or mixing down at a higher level doesn't solve the problem. It sounds louder, but not, well LOUDER.
• It sounds dull. Other CDs have a sparkle that cuts through with excitement. You try boosting the EQ at high frequencies, but now your song just sounds harsh and noisy. The instruments and vocals sound thin. Commercial songs have a fullness that you know comes from some sort of compression. So you patch in a compressor and turn some controls. Now the whole mix sounds squashed. The vocal might sound fuller but the mix has become full… and lifeless.
•The bass doesn't have punch. You boost it with some low end EQ, but that just sounds louder and muddier .Not punchier.
•You can hear all the instruments in your mix, and they all seem to have their own ‘place' in the stereo image, but the overall image sounds wrong. The ‘commercial' CD seems to have width and image that you just don't seem to get from panning the individual tracks.
•You had reverb on the individual tracks, but it just sounds like the instruments are in lots of different spaces. The commercial CD has a sort of cohesive space that brings all the parts together. Not like rooms within a room, but a ‘sheen' that works across the entire mix.
SO WHAT IS MASTERING?
There are many definitions of what “mastering” is, we refer to “mastering” as the process of taking a mix and preparing it for manufacture. In general, this involves the following steps and goals.
The “Commercial Sound”
The goal of this step is to take a good mix (usually in the form of a stereo file) and put the final touches on it. This can involve adjusting levels and in general “sweetening” the mix.
Think of it as the final coat of polish, or the difference between a good sounding mix and a professional sounding master. This process can involve adding ‘broad equalization', ‘multiband compression',' harmonic excitation', ‘loudness maximization', etc. This process is often actually referred to as ‘premastering' but we're going to refer to it as mastering for simplicity.
Consistency across the CD
Consideration has to be made for how the individual tracks of a CD work together when played one after another. Is there a consistent sound? Are the levels matched? Does the CD have a common “character”? This process is generally the same as the previous step, with the additional consideration of how individual tracks sound in sequence. The goal is to minimize the differences between tracks, which will most likely mean different settings for different tracks.
Preparation for Duplication
The final step usually involves preparing the song or sequence of songs for manufacturing and duplication. This step varies depending on the intended delivery format. In the case of a CD it can mean converting to 16 bit/44.1 kHz audio through resampling and dithering, and setting track indexes, track gaps etc…
Tools we use for analogue/digital mastering
When mastering is performed digitally, we use a combination of 3 Mac based programs, all of which use settings that are unique to ourselves.
The programs used are…
• Sony Oxford Inflator
When mastering is performed in the analogue domain we use the following hardware…
•Prismsound Dream D/A2 D/A converter.
•Apogee PX100 D/A converter.
•Apogee Rosetta 200 D/A converter.
•Avalon AD2055 Class A Equaliser
•Avalon VT747 sp Optical tube Compressor
Our preference is a combination of both analogue and digital mastering tools that gives us our unique fully professional sound, try us… you won't be disappointed!