Mastering Of Commercial Songs

I dont know is it just me or maybe bad quality of mp3… :blink: …but 90% of all songs i am listening to with my monitors are awful at mastering/sound quality. Some have too harsh highs, some muddy mids, some are too thin sounding, some too boomy, some feel kinda distorted etc… Only few have the type of sound that i really enjoy listening. I thought that maybe its bad quality of mp3 encoding, but even CD-s are not that much better.

so im wondering, is it just me or have you guys experiencing the same? :unsure:

It could be one of two things:

  1. Your monitors/amp/soundcard.

  2. Indeed, the mastering of the material you’re listening to is an overdriven shambles.

Can you name some of the more well know commercial mixes that sound bad on your monitors? We might be able to narrow down the problem.

Usually commercial stuff is just mastered to be very very loud. Louder than anything else. I think, that is mentioned here :

Yeah I’m well away of this (as anyone should be who is interested in mastering their own stuff) -It depends when. Commercial 1983 sounds a lot different to 2003. But, there’s a handful of albums that are very new and have been mastered cleanly (e.g. Chosen Lords). And any decent classical label will have great test material on it.

yeah, i have to make some tests… try some other sound card or something… its strange though. it seems to me that recently something strange happened and music started to sound worse on my system… or maybe its just my bran or ears that started to notice things they didnt earlier…

will make some tests and post back…

Well either you’ve had an acute ear evolution, or…

Your tweeters are failing - they’re usually the culprits when it comes to harshness. Or the pres in your amp/soundcard are failing because of heat damage. Or you’ve just got very average gear and you’re starting to realise it. Or you’ve got hearing damage.

What’s your rig? (monitors/amp/soundcard)

I have tapco S8 active monitors, m-audio audiophile 192 soundcard and balanced cables with TRS connectors.

for example this bad company’s track I took it for you straight from original audio CD (mp3 encoded with highest possible settings) And the hihats sound to me very distorted and unpleasant…

Yeah - you’ve got a real problem there. The highs (on my Studio Tannoy LGM s) are strong, but not at all harsh. And the Audiophile 192 should be transparent enough for good listening - maybe your tweeters are sick? Have you got another set of speakers to test with?

Done any sweeping tone tests?

I think that sound is deliberate in this case. The whole track is supposed to sound unpleasant. :)
Also, the track was probably mastered for vinyl originally (fairly old tune isn’t it? 1999?) so the really high frequencies might’ve been lopped off a bit. Either that or Bad Company intended the top end to be crunchy on that track from the beginning.

(Classic tune btw)

The highs on that track are not that harsh but kinda distorted and upleasant to listen to… i dont know how to describe it :) I hope its not my monitors cause i dont think two monitors would fail at the same time and the same way. Maybe something happened to my soundcard?? :unsure:

I will try to get some 3.5mm Jack to RCA connectors and switch my monitors to audigy 2 that i have and see what happens…

The tone tests will reveal distortion, see if you can’t narrow it to a certain zone…

Heaphones will do as an alternative test pair of speakers.

if i understan you problem

i have the same problem but mustering isnt producer problem.
Producer problem is mixing)
if you dont want regiter on my forum see link to book Bobby Owsinski’s “The mixing Engineer’s Handbook”

Yeah commercial music mastered horribly BUT it is not a lack of skill by the engineers. Quite the opposite actually.

It is a case of horses for courses; Your average Pop listener is going to have a Bon-Tempi sound system in the kitchen with one speaker on the desktop and the other behind the f****ing fridge.

I am guessing the bass is sliced off very high, and boosted a bit further up to give the impression of power. The highs will be harsh to give the trick of loudness and clarity on the vocals etc etc etc etc.

It is shite, because the listeners are mostly scrubbers.

Think it a complement to yourself if you can hear the difference though. Means you will make much better mixdowns that they do and your stuff will sound good for the audience that matters!


@ wormjar: yeah, lets hope so :)

I made some sinewave sweeps and didnt find distortion but as my bedroom “studio” is not accoustically treated i experienced quite drastic resonances and cancellation due to room modes…

I was wondering… can someone who has access to real studio make some sweeps and tell how even is response to ear? just curious :)

mda make a nice tone plug too. Try it at all different volumes keeping in mind the curve. Resonance is one thing, while harshness is another. Have you tried some loud classical music through your speakers? Tried giving you speakers a different input rather than the 192?

Try listening to new Infected Mushroom and tell does it sound distorted. It’s supposed to be very well mixed and mastered. It’s not limited harshly (if at all?). Still it’s loud enough and with a punch.

Or you could listen to this song which has no limitation and still is loud and with a good mix:…ed_Edition).mp3
The file is kinda big and with a good bitrate.