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Mixing & Mastering Blog

By chaneujin8 13 Jul, 2016
You’ve taken all the steps to ensure your CD presentation package look professional, attractive and irresistible enough for an A&R person to give your music a listen. In most cases, you only have one shot at this. Is there anything else that you might be overlooking? What about the sonic quality of your music or CD? Even if the songs were well written, arranged and recorded, it may not sound its best if they were not professionally mixed and mastered. Again, pros will always judge your professionalism before they take you seriously. If your package feels great, SO SHOULD YOUR SOUND!

Read our published article on OnlineRock.com 
READ FULL ARTICLE
By chaneujin8 13 Jul, 2016

With the birth of the compact discs more than 2 decades ago, it has transformed the way we consume music and audio. Although there is speculation that the CD (Compact Disc) maybe on its way out with the arrival of new alternatives, such as the digital downloads and the Ipod, the compact disc (CD) revolutionized the way we have consumed music and sound since the vinyl / tape age.  

As we are constantly evolving with new innovative digital distribution platforms such as Spotify, Itunes, Soundcloud, Pandora, the compact discs (CDs) have come under threat to near extinction with the demise of Tower Records together with many mom & pop music stores.

In 1979, Phillips had developed the laserdisc technology while Sony had pioneered in digital recording research. Both companies came to terms in an agreement to form a single industry standard digital audio technology. In 1980, both companies announced the CD-DA standard otherwise known as the Red Book standard (because the cover of the published document was red). Once this was established, Phillips and Sony raced to develop the first CD audio drive. Sony eventually won the race by 1 month to market.

The red-book specifications describe:

  1.           Maximum time of recordings in a compact disc including pauses should not exceed 74 minutes.  
  2.           Minimum or shortest time for a track is 4 minutes.
  3.         Maximum number of tracks or ID cannot exceed 99.    
  4.         Maximum number of index points is 99 with no maximum time limit.5
  5.         International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) should be included.

The Red-Book also specifies the format of digital audio encoding which is 2-channel signed 16 bit-PCM sampled at 44.100 kHz sample rate. On the contrary, some major labels and publishers chose to violate and deviate away from the Red Book standard so as to implement copy prevention systems such as Copy Control.

In the CD duplication or replication world, there is entirely a different definition to the term, ‘CD Master’. For CD replicators, mastering is the process of creating a glass master disc that will be used to make stampers. These stampers are then used to press CDs. Almost every CD duplication plant produce their own glass master for quality control purposes. The glass master is a mirror image of the CD-R master disc produced by the audio mastering facility.

By chaneujin8 13 Jul, 2016

Once you are done with the mixing phase and satisfied with the way they have been mixed, it’s time to send it off to the mastering specialist. Before sending off your mixes in CD-R format or through a web upload, below is a list of things you should pay attention to so as to not give your assigned mastering engineer a headache.

  1. Do not normalize your mixes.
  2. Do not add compression to your stereo mixes.
  3. Do not add limiting to your stereo mixes.
  4. Do not attempt to make your mixes louder than they are. Leave this to the mastering engineer.
  5. Do not attempt to master your own recordings before sending them off to a mastering engineer.
  6. Make sure there is no clipping in any of your audio tracks within your song mix.
  7. Make sure there is no clipping on the master volume for all your mixes.
  8. Make sure it has been mixed well – a poorly mixed recording will not translate to good mastering results. Read about mixing and mastering.
  9. Provide your mastering engineer a song-order listing if you are requesting for a Red Book CD Master.
By chaneujin8 13 Jul, 2016

If your mixes are compromised or not mixed well, stem mastering maybe a better solution to the conventional mastering process. Although stem mastering is not offered by many mastering engineers, this service is relatively new and can be slightly more costly.

Relative to the conventional mastering process, your mastering engineer will normally request you to provide him a stereo mix of your song(s). However, if you are going ahead with stem mastering for one of your songs, then you will need to provide your mix in separate groups such as drums, bass/synth guitar, vocals, guitars or keyboards. Stem mastering can require up to 4-5 groups of the above mentioned groups depending on the scale of problems identified by your mastering engineer.

Stem mastering corrects relationship errors between instruments and vocals which includes volume and panning relationships.

For example, if the mastering engineer feels that the lead vocal are too buried in the mix, he may have the option of boosting the levels of the vocals. On another problematic scenario, the mastering engineer may have the need to alter the relationship between the kick and the bass guitar/synth bass. Perhaps there is current problem in the mix where the bass guitar is too prominent and the kick is too faint. As a result, there is a need for the mastering engineer to fix this relationship. In another problematic scenario, the guitars or keyboards are panned too centered thus narrowing the width of the mix. Through stem mastering, the mastering engineer has the ability to fix this problem via adjusting the pan on the guitars/keyboards. Through stem mastering, the mastering engineer gets to dip is feet just a little in the mixing domain.

There are limitations to what stem mastering can achieve relative to having your song professionally mixed thus addressing many potential problems that will be encountered by the mastering engineer. It is advisable to take your mixes to a professional mixer so as to avoid any potential errors down the road.

Below is a list of what Stem Mastering cannot fix:

  1. EQ error for instrument(s) or vocal(s) – Though is an optional fix on the discretion of the mastering engineer.
  2. Over-application of effects on a particular instrument – Cannot be reversed
  3. Over-compression – Cannot be reversed

Below is a list of what Stem Mastering can fix:

  1. Volume relationship errors within instrument groups.
  2. Pan relationship errors within instrument groups.

While some mastering engineers offer stem mastering, other few mastering engineers offer consultation and advice to your mixes. This applies to a select few mastering engineers who understand the integrity of mixing and simply care about their client’s project thus making an additional effort to collaborate with you in order to achieve better mastering results. With good communication, a mastering engineer can translate vital moves where you can personally make adjustments to your own mixes so as to enhance favorable mastering results to your song(s).

But above it all, having your song mixed professionally is a far better superior solution to stem mastering as more than half battle would have been won. With stem mastering, it can only fix up to 25% of the problems relative to what a great mixing job can achieve.

By chaneujin8 13 Jul, 2016

With the proliferation of affordable DAWs (Digital Audio Worstations / Recording Software), high resolution recording have never been more affordable.

  If you are recording a new project for the first time, it is important to know that you should always record at the highest resolution possible. Most DAWs will allow you to record in either 16 bit or 24 bit. If you are concerned about quality, polish and clarity yield in your recordings, you should choose 24 bit. However, there is a trade off.

24 bit recording will take up more data space in your hard drive. In technical terms, bit depth refers to the number of bits you can capture audio energy. For example, in 16 bit audio, there is about 65,536 levels of audio. In 24 bit audio, we have about 16,777,216 levels of audio.

  However, depending on how much data you can store on your hard-drives, not everyone may have the luxury of recording at the highest bit depth due to limited storage space.

If you choose to record in 16 bit in a home studio environment given the limitations of disc drive space, doing this is not a detriment to your recordings as your mastering engineer may have alternative options of adding a dithering polish to your 16 bit recording. Technically, it will be a difference of 8 bit in resolution but almost un-noticeable to the faint human ear. With all that being said, there are more possible benefits to record at 24 bit if at all possible.

  Sampling Rate

The standard sampling rate for the compact disc is 44.1 khz. Sampling rate is the number of times the audio is measured or sampled in a second. In the case of the compact disc with a standard of 44.1 khz, the audio comprise of 44100 slices every second which translates to around 65,536 levels of audio. In the case of 96 khz recording, it translates to 96,000 slices with close to 17 million levels per slice.

  If you have the luxury of recording at 96 khz which will take up more disc space, by all means do so. You will also need a lot more processing power and a faster drive to do this if you are mixing and editing these files since it will work your computer harder in performing the intense math calculations on these very large files.

Most major recording artists take advantage of either or a combination of 96 khz and 192 khz recording. Bear in mind that although 96 khz is almost available to a lot of DAWs, the rare option of 192 khz recording will depend if you have the hardware and storage space to support it. One may not be prepared by the additional disk space needed to support recording this project including playback performance.

192 khz recording although a rare luxury is well preferred for recording acoustic instruments as it captures the tails of instruments such as the piano and guitar with exceptional detail. It is also possible to combine the audio files recorded at 192 khz together with the ones recorded at 96 khz. However, for many recording professionals, 96 khz recording have delivered well.

In technical view:

·         24 bit / 96 khz recording will yield an audio resolution of 250 times more than 16 bit / 44.1 khz.

·         24bit / 96 khz recording will consume around 3.25 more space than a 16 bit / 44.1 khz recording.

  In the real world, a 24 bit / 96 khz recording does not mean it will sound 250 times better. Some may not even notice the difference. Different people have different ways of hearing which result in different sets of preferences. This gives rise to a lot of debate.

At higher sampling rates, you will need a faster drive in order to communicate with the host computer. 7200 rpm drives coupled with a firewire 400 or 800 is highly recommended. Speed is absolutely necessary if you are doing a lot of editing and mixing in 96 khz because the processing power will be needed for more intense math calculations.

To give you a rough idea, in the professional world of recording major label artists, recording 1 song in 96 khz which includes a whole bunch of takes, can amount to a whopping 40 GB alone. This does not include backing up files.

More Posts

Mixing & Mastering Blog

By chaneujin8 13 Jul, 2016
You’ve taken all the steps to ensure your CD presentation package look professional, attractive and irresistible enough for an A&R person to give your music a listen. In most cases, you only have one shot at this. Is there anything else that you might be overlooking? What about the sonic quality of your music or CD? Even if the songs were well written, arranged and recorded, it may not sound its best if they were not professionally mixed and mastered. Again, pros will always judge your professionalism before they take you seriously. If your package feels great, SO SHOULD YOUR SOUND!

Read our published article on OnlineRock.com 
READ FULL ARTICLE
By chaneujin8 13 Jul, 2016

With the birth of the compact discs more than 2 decades ago, it has transformed the way we consume music and audio. Although there is speculation that the CD (Compact Disc) maybe on its way out with the arrival of new alternatives, such as the digital downloads and the Ipod, the compact disc (CD) revolutionized the way we have consumed music and sound since the vinyl / tape age.  

As we are constantly evolving with new innovative digital distribution platforms such as Spotify, Itunes, Soundcloud, Pandora, the compact discs (CDs) have come under threat to near extinction with the demise of Tower Records together with many mom & pop music stores.

In 1979, Phillips had developed the laserdisc technology while Sony had pioneered in digital recording research. Both companies came to terms in an agreement to form a single industry standard digital audio technology. In 1980, both companies announced the CD-DA standard otherwise known as the Red Book standard (because the cover of the published document was red). Once this was established, Phillips and Sony raced to develop the first CD audio drive. Sony eventually won the race by 1 month to market.

The red-book specifications describe:

  1.           Maximum time of recordings in a compact disc including pauses should not exceed 74 minutes.  
  2.           Minimum or shortest time for a track is 4 minutes.
  3.         Maximum number of tracks or ID cannot exceed 99.    
  4.         Maximum number of index points is 99 with no maximum time limit.5
  5.         International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) should be included.

The Red-Book also specifies the format of digital audio encoding which is 2-channel signed 16 bit-PCM sampled at 44.100 kHz sample rate. On the contrary, some major labels and publishers chose to violate and deviate away from the Red Book standard so as to implement copy prevention systems such as Copy Control.

In the CD duplication or replication world, there is entirely a different definition to the term, ‘CD Master’. For CD replicators, mastering is the process of creating a glass master disc that will be used to make stampers. These stampers are then used to press CDs. Almost every CD duplication plant produce their own glass master for quality control purposes. The glass master is a mirror image of the CD-R master disc produced by the audio mastering facility.

By chaneujin8 13 Jul, 2016

Once you are done with the mixing phase and satisfied with the way they have been mixed, it’s time to send it off to the mastering specialist. Before sending off your mixes in CD-R format or through a web upload, below is a list of things you should pay attention to so as to not give your assigned mastering engineer a headache.

  1. Do not normalize your mixes.
  2. Do not add compression to your stereo mixes.
  3. Do not add limiting to your stereo mixes.
  4. Do not attempt to make your mixes louder than they are. Leave this to the mastering engineer.
  5. Do not attempt to master your own recordings before sending them off to a mastering engineer.
  6. Make sure there is no clipping in any of your audio tracks within your song mix.
  7. Make sure there is no clipping on the master volume for all your mixes.
  8. Make sure it has been mixed well – a poorly mixed recording will not translate to good mastering results. Read about mixing and mastering.
  9. Provide your mastering engineer a song-order listing if you are requesting for a Red Book CD Master.
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