Topic: Mastering - hardware or software

I'd like to improve my mastering skills, especially "loudness mastering" to be able to compete and win the loudness war  cool  No seriously, at least I'd like to get an average level of -12 dB, so that my music is at least somewhat competitive to electronic music records from 1999...  big_smile

So far, I did all the loudness stuff with (rather simple) audio software, but now I'm thinking about buying a hardware compressor in order to achieve my goals. Do you think this is generally a good idea (i.e. using a hardware compressor for audio sum) or do you think it might be better to use software for sum compression?

At the moment, I'm using a hardware-only studio, only recording is done on a computer (I record the whole sum into my Terratec PHASE26). Now my dream solution would be to use a hardware sum compressor behind the mixer, achieve the "perfect sound" and then record that signal (and finally maximize it). Is this even possible, theoretically? Or are there some features that only software + already recorded wave files can do (because the software has the whole audio file at once and can look ahead, etc)?

Any suggestions? How do you work?

Re: Mastering - hardware or software

I run some hardware compressors as inserts on the computer main mix. So I will multi-track record in the 'puter, but then treat the final mixdown with hardware in realtime.

Re: Mastering - hardware or software

I think you can stay in the software realm and get decent results nowadays.  I don't recommend going OTB for such a critical step unless you have high-end gear.

Mastering is an art, but if you want it quick and dirty, use a maximiser (L2,L3,Elephant, etc) and set it until it catches the crest of your waves without doing much limiting (less than 3db). If you have a properly mixed track, it should get you close to other tracks in terms of perceived loudness.

Re: Mastering - hardware or software

Alden Tyrell does a lot of mastering for RBR related music, I'm pretty sure he uses a lot of software but gets very good results.

Re: Mastering - hardware or software

what i've found as someone who also does quite a lot of mastering bthese days is this simple rule:

-if something is mostly made with software, it really benefits from mastering witrh hardware
-if something is made with mostly hardware, it needs good hardware for mastering, or software

most only-computer stuff sounds thin and too split-up compared to real hardware recordings. even a lofi hardware limiter or compressor or tape recorder can act as the glue between tracks (mastering is not only about volume!) and give it some punch and grit.

since most hardware recordings already have this, you need really good hardware mastering tools to get it to the next level. and in a lot of cases, the close to surgical precision of software eq's or a gentle nudge on something like the oxford limiter will really focus your sound.

for example, i did some of baz rznik's dyfr records and they really benefitted from a pass through the low speed setting on the studer a80. the same treatment totally didn't work for things like the agent side grinder lp's on enfant terrible which were already totally analog recordings..

Re: Mastering - hardware or software

Thanks for the helpful hints so far! I hope I'll be able to dive a bit deeper into that topic smile

Re: Mastering - hardware or software

I like the UAD card and plug ins.  I agree with Tony and the main thing I've learned is not to over compress/limit/eq (unless it's a specific effect you're looking for).  This is only my opinion as I've never used any high end hardware to compare against the software.

Re: Mastering - hardware or software

rude66 wrote:

what i've found as someone who also does quite a lot of mastering bthese days is this simple rule:

-if something is mostly made with software, it really benefits from mastering witrh hardware
-if something is made with mostly hardware, it needs good hardware for mastering, or software

Out of curiosity what would you say for something that is half and half? For example, I have lots of tracks I wrote where I didn't have a drum machine, so I used the logic EXS for all my drums. Then I would use the EXS (and still do) for other samples which I'd record myself. I'd use as much outboard stuff for pads / leads / noises. But I was really lacking a decent outboard bass synth (or at least one that satisfied the sound I was looking for), so I'd use a softsynth.

Then I realised I got nice sounds by running softsynths through low gain guitar pedals.

what say you mighty squire?

Re: Mastering - hardware or software

I use Izotope Ozone for mastering, it has all the effects you need, even more than that. Some presets can serve as a basis for further tweaking. Especially the multiband compressor is useful for getting the sound right.

It doesn't sound analogue at all though, I'm experimenting with a nagra tape recorder to add some fuzzyness to the end result but I'm starting to think it's too accurate for adding that tape "warmth" ;-)

Just record it already!

Re: Mastering - hardware or software

Rude66's advice sounds wise. If you're looking for software, a lot of people seem to enjoy Slate Digital's FG-X for getting things "louder". I haven't used it so I can't comment but it may be worth researching it yourself.

Ozone sounds like a good all in one solution, and I've seen it used with nice results.

I personally really love some of the EQs available for Nebula. This one is worth trying for getting things like vocals to pop in the mix. http://www.analoginthebox.de/product.php?id=4469

I like to always try and work on getting a balanced and clear mix, so then I don't try to make things louder to hear a distinction between sounds. When music has come back from professional mastering engineers I've always noticed a slight improvement, but always a reflection of the mix. Usually I'll take what I sent and what I got back and try to recreate it on my own. This may be a helpful exercise for you. I've noticed an improvement in my critical listening ability over the years and I hope this improves even more in the future. There is definitely a serious skill to mastering.

Re: Mastering - hardware or software

jerklin wrote:

I've noticed an improvement in my critical listening ability over the years and I hope this improves even more in the future. There is definitely a serious skill to mastering.

Yep, nothing is more important than listening! I do have the feeling that this isn't a skill you can grow quickly though, it takes time :-)

Just record it already!

Re: Mastering - hardware or software


What a brilliant guy!

Re: Mastering - hardware or software

take a look at the fab filter stuff.. i really like that they are k-system centric

CRACKED BY MR. Z...

Re: Mastering - hardware or software

also, fabfilter q is such a super nice eq surgery wise

CRACKED BY MR. Z...

Re: Mastering - hardware or software

http://soundcloud.com/monolake/masterin … step-guide  big_smile

Re: Mastering - hardware or software

lol

Re: Mastering - hardware or software