Mastering Advice Requested

This is why we :wub: kaneel - he knows how to read !

Care to submit this global info on the User Wiki?

I wouldn’t denounce much of what foo? said except for the “digital is always worse than analog” sentiment.

Keep in mind, this is what was once said in the photography world, but now the technology has advanced far enough that digital photography is actually better quality than film, and the majority of professional photographers have switched over to digital. The movie world is slowly starting to go digital as well. In the music world, there is little you can’t preserve in the way of sound quality with high enough digital resolution, and the intricacies of analog mixing equipment will eventually all be reproduced in software.

I was recently talking to a coworker at the university where I work. He specializes in optimizing multiprocessor code for the purposes of research simulation. Many of the projects that he aides people with include include things as complex as chemistry synthesis, genetics, and analog electrical simulations. I brought up the concept of using such software for synthesis of analog sound processes, and he assured me that such things are possible in realtime environments already… it’s simply a matter of developing techniques to accurately model their behaviour.

That all said, there are already VSTs that model analog behaviour fairly well, and as time goes on, these simulatons will only become more faithful to the originals. Sound is simply waveforms, and as long as you understand how the analog equipment is affecting those waveforms, you can recreate what they’re doing digitally.

If you have ‘infinite’ resolution and samplerate and infinite parameters for this emulation that is :rolleyes:
The discussion about analog vs digital is endless. Most ppl however that know both worlds very well will agree that there really is a difference. But what is best is always a matter of taste.
For instance when comparing the best analog synths with vsti emulations I find the latter to sound OK at best. But others will disagree and call me names like snob and liar because they cant hear the nuances and differences themselves, or simply have another taste.
Well… that’s just the way it is… :huh:

In some instances, I’m sure that’s the case… there are many crappy analog simulations out there. That said, I’d love to see the results of a blind test between some of the more sophisticated analog modeled VST instruments and their analog counterparts. I’m sure the results would be surprising. The main problem with simply saying “analog ALWAYS sounds better… I can hear the difference!” is that you enter into the listening experience with a predisposition.

That said, I’m tempted to put up a website with some blind listening tests to see what results I get. Anyone got some analog gear they can throw my way? :P

Not really… you can’t hear anything above a certain frequency anyway… those infinites you speak of are out of the range of human senses. There’s no need to model ultrasound if it doesn’t affect the range of audible sound. That said, my coworker, the one who works with huge physics and chemistry simulations, just laughed at your post.

I’m sure he did. So does this guy use supercomputers or what? Or perhaps he code vsti’s that use 5% cpu for his experiments :P And I’m not going into this anymore. Because I know where it ends :)

I never said better. I said different/taste. And I also said ‘infinite’ and a :rolleyes: when talking about resolution/samplerate, as you would indeed not need infinite to make it ‘good enough’. But much better then most ppl use now to avoid aliasing and other nasty stuff.
In fact I thought I was very modest in my ‘claims’.
Will virtual instruments ever sound the same as analog instruments? Most likely it will get so close that nobody cares anymore. For me, we are not there yet.

I repair and sell some analog stuff. So I can provide you with quite many analog sounds if you need :)
Right now I have Oberheim Xpander/matrix1000 , Roland vp330/jupiter4/mks-80/mks-70, chroma polaris, Poly evolver… and some other things laying around.

Can I just sample a simple short sound from any these and tweak a vsti to sound the same so that I will fail in a blind test? Sure I probably can. The cool thing however about the old analog synths are they unstable behavior. All the errors and poor electronics that either way make a nice character to the sound. Especially the analog filters have their sweet spots that I find very hard to emulate.
I’m an open minded person. So I would be glad someone would open my eyes and prove me wrong ;)

I doubt it was sentiment… if we speak about the fact than Foo will always pull the longest stroke simply because a digital concept is always pulse based no matter how great the interpolation will be, as much steps as can be taken the same amount of steps cannot be sampled and this means that if the frequency doubles and the interpolation doubles the inaccuracy doubles as well:

Relatively that last statement was bullshit, but as a fact it is the truth, because the value between the two pulses a computer cannot measure or supply the real value that is the part where most folks say “Why is my sound so chilly and canned?”
I back up Foo’s sentiment completely in that manner, i never was able to achieve warm sound using digital processes.
It is up to the developer to know which exact velocities to sample a pulse to at least get in the neighbourhood of warm sound because that is the trick how to get at least somewhere regarding digitized audio.
For images this is a lot easier because the eye is tricked more easily than the ear.

Let’s not get bogged down in yet another internet debate. Preferences and opinions: we’re all allowed to have 'em. People know what sort of sound I like and my means is appropriate to my ends. The main point of this thread is to help people who are really struggling with the basics, not quibble over the academic stuff. In a way, all my points are debatable, but that still hasn’t prevented me from giving them as advice to beginners.

I’m just not sure how “you need expensive equipment” is good advice for beginners ;)

Yet there is it, I said it. Wonder why I said it? Gee I hope I’m not wrong!

That stuff is gold foo?, thanks for taking the time to summarise your years of experience :D

I have an old Revox reel-reel at work - obviously I would still need to get my mixing / mastering skills somewhat more polished, but if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that if I make everything in 24bit/96KHz, record it to tape, then record back at 16bit/44.1KHz to my PC, I’ll avoid some of the nastiness involved with downsampling & aliasing?

If so, then that’s damn interesting, and something I’m sorely tempted to fiddle about with :)

(although I feel it’s more because I want a reel-reel in my setup :D)

Right on In-Fluence, correct. I have a Tascam BR-20T in my set up and I’m using it for that purpose. It’s no easy job to do correctly though. Some things to consider: Head Calibration; Tape Quality; Tape Baking (to stop the coating from coming off; Head Cleaning; De-magnetizing; Levels; Jitter - probably best if you do some research on this stuff first. Not easy.

Another simpler point I’d like to add to this thread is monitoring volume levels. A simple tip is to generally monitor louder than your normal listening levels to mastered music. That way, you avoid clipping your mix and allow more head room in the mix stage for general work and transient management. For example, I monitor my mixes at 0dB (setting on the soundcard) but when I listen to my CDs or mp3s then my monitor is usually set way down at -18dB. Sometimes I can go up to -12dB, but some really overdriven nasty stuff I go as low as -24dB.

Yet another point: The home music production revolution has made it easier than ever before to do music at home that’s superficially like people’s favourite big name artists. But the catch with this is that it’s simply impossible to reach that level of magic with just a normal PC, an installation of Renoise, a little bedroom to do it all in and nothing much more than a passing interest to ‘mess around with some beats’ and hope somehow to accidentally sound as good as Burial or Brian Eno. I’m sorry if this bursts any little bubbles, but it’s the annoying reality of the situation > you don’t get something for nothing. Composing some great little songs on your computer is one thing and entirely possible, having them sound like sonic gold is another matter.

Now, you’ve got all this advice flying around online that tries to convince you of the contrary - that you can do it all on your wee little own. Well, all my industry experience leads me the think otherwise. Just check the production credits on our your favorite artist’s records: A-list producer, A-list engineers, A-list mastering, and so on. Since when did David Bowie bung out a classic record he whipped up on his laptop on the bus to Berlin? Are Autechre or AFX doing this with an old Windows 98 machine with a copy of Goldwave and a Soundblaster 16?

There are horses for courses. Take any underground niche artist with oodles of cool factor but with no lucky big breaks: there’s a rough unpolished edge to a lot of this music, in all genres. For some noisy acts this underproduction is actually regarded with pride! This goes for Renoise music too: a lot of people here are just cutting their teeth on the basics of song writing as well as basic handling of software and hardware. Why waste a lot of time on knowing which filter curve should be used and when while you should be making MORE MUSIC to become a better composer? I advise: write LOTS and share LOTS. Get it out there! Remember my point: soul first, presentation later.

There’s a vague choice in front of you, and it goes something like this: Either you trust your heart and emotions to your journey of becoming a better music composer, or you start getting REALLY geeky and putting music on the sideline and become a sound engineer. A lot of us oldies have become quasi engineers by default, but there aren’t many of us who are really making music as good as Burial or Bowie. There are a few here that have such great music (say like Hunz for example) who knows they can’t waste their time engineer stuff - so they get other people to do that part for them. It makes sense, everyone sticks to their strengths.

I spend more time in front of the computer tweaking tone settings than I do actually writing and recording music. Despite being good at what I do, I find that somewhat sad.

Very well articulated. Thanks for taking the time to gather your thoughts.

The Samurai and The Swordsmith
The Boxer and The Trainer
The Driver and The Pit Team
The President and The Conspirators

It’s not impossible to make sonic gold with a PC in your bedroom. It sure is hard as hell, but simply impossible? Not by a long shot. All it takes is maybe some experience, some vision, some talent and some deeper understanding of the fundamentals of music and sound and the rest is all about the starter sounds, the composition, the mixing and the finalizing. Naturally high-end gear helps to reach this “sonic gold” state. But I will refuse to say it would be impossible for a home studio hobbyist. This is, naturally, a very genre related matter (e.g. making live music without live sound is… well, you get the idea.)

About analog versus digital then, it’s a big pile of nonsense for one simple reason: analog and digital are both different ways to approach sound. Yes, it’s commonly known that people tend to like the “warmth” of the analog, but when you flip the coin you’ll see a bunch of people who like the “coldness” of digital. Once again, I refuse to use any frequency tables and watch at a ton of curves trying to prove me wrong because I think that analog and digital shouldn’t be compared, because they’re too different. And once again it’s your ears that are doing the actual work. Whatever sounds best to your liking is the best option for you.

In the end it’s just music, not a mathematical study (or at least I really, really, really hope so). If a song is good and the sound quality is good, that’s all anyone could possibly want. Unless of course you’re a high fidelity hobbyist who demands the best even if it doesn’t do any noticeable change in the outcome.

Quite the rant I just did. No offense whatsoever Foo?, your words and guidelines are more than handy for anyone, like me. I just want people to use the words “quality”, “impossible” and such with extra care when discussing music. It’s a very tender issue for me.

I’m glad I’m in a community that could probably start their own company, seeing that almost everyone here has their own time spent specialty.

There’s multiple disciplines involved. Some are easy and some require quite a bit of time to fully wield.

Sooner or later there’s going to be a fork in the road. What is music to you ? What will you master ? How long will it take ? Will you need the assistance of others ? Cost ?

That doesn’t mean stop learning other material but where and what do you see yourself doing in the next five years ?

If anything, questions will help you find the kind of gear/samples/etc you want to work with, the music you want to compose with it, the techniques and disciplines, whether it all be for you and a few buddies or for the world to hear, profit or no profit.

Personally, I’d like to take as many walks in the rain, with a pocket recorder of course and blah blah blah. Not doing the job of 10 people.

Ask and you will receive. I guess you just have to ask the right question… This is excellent advice!

You cant compare analog and digital. Its two different worlds. None of them is better than the other. Its a matter of taste.

Maybe alot of photographers have changed to digital, but the really good analog pictures is just a hundred times more beautiful and exiting, in my eyes.

Also, the korg ms-10 VSTi sounds good, but it doesnt sound half as good as my analog korg ms-10, and i dont think that it ever will.

but its an interesting topic.
Do you think that we will be able to make perfect digital versions of you and me some day? will they be “better”?

That’s good news for those of us whose favorite records are ones that were home-produced and home-mastered. :yeah:

…than what? Than really good digital photographs? Analog photography to me just seems insanely time consuming. A friend of mine swears by analog, large formats preferably - yet after developing a photo she usually needs to scan and process it further - DOH!

So I wonder, if she had a medium format digital back for a few ten thousand euros, if that would change her opinion in the least. I’m also very positive that any decent DSLR with a good lens beats any 10€ euro analog throwaway cam.

And hey, film isn’t even analog. (this one always cracks me up) It’s molecules, and there is a limit to grain size. Right now hi-res analog film is cheap compared to (really) hi-res (and non-noisy) digital sensors - that is all. And that is melting as we speak. So it’s really nothing to speak about anymore already, to me. When that photographer is lauding analog, I just nod and smile. And wait.

Back on sidetrack: You can emulate analog gear, surpass it even, easily… if you have a bunch of supercomputers. At the same time, you can easily surpass the sound of a crappy synth connected with a broken cable to crappy fx machines with any decent sound card and free VST’s.

“what is better” is not just undecided, it’s a faulty question. How much resolution does your brain have, anyway? Maybe there are discrete steps (electrons, molecules) involved somewhere down the line? How can you decide anything before you even know that??