SH Spotlight "Recording and Mastering Questions---Answered here. Cont'd."

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Aug 10, 2006.

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  1. Greatest Hits

    Greatest Hits Just Another Compilation

    Hello Steve!

    I know you've surely mastered some songs more than once. Is there one you've mastered more than any other? If so, do you try and keep it sounding the same every time, or do you experiment a little?
     
  2. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Second guessing your mix or a mastering is a weakness in this business. I try not to do it too much but many albums I've mastered, lived with and then did it all over again.

    The first DCC Gold CD I ever worked on, Cream/Fresh Cream was hell. I must have done it 10 times before I could live with it. After the studio bill came in I tried not to do that again. The last mastering attempt I did sounded much like the first! I went in a full circle..
     
  3. Greatest Hits

    Greatest Hits Just Another Compilation

    Thanks for the answer (and insight). Haha, yeah I've done that (come full circle) before, mix-wise but that actually wasn't what I was asking. Or maybe it was looking back at my post. Maybe I should've been a bit more clear with my question. I wanted to know about certain songs that you've mastered for different comps or albums.

    Like for instance, Donovan's "Mellow Yellow" (this is off the top of my head, so excuse me if I'm wrong). You mastered that for the "Storyteller" comp but I believe you've also mastered it for a various artists comp some years back. That's just one example, and I've only heard the "Storyteller" set version (which is fab, by the way), but when such "repetition" occurs, do you approach it as if you've never worked on it before, or do you just go by your memory of how you mastered it before??
    A bit of a complex question. Sorry for any confusion.
     
  4. Grant

    Grant In holiday HELL

    Location:
    United States
    Hope Steve doesn't mind my jumping in here, but I read an article interviewing Bill Inglot, in which he said almost verbatum, that even he couldn't master the same song twice and have it come out sounding the same. I'm sure it is possible to do that, because Steve just said he went in a circle with the Creem tapes.

    I have done the same thing, gone in a circle, only to find that my first try was the best. That is also when I find that less is more.
     
  5. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter


    Other than the Beach Boys tracks that I used on the Razor & Tle greatest hits comp which were clones of the DCC Gold CD versions, I approach each song "fresh" every time. They usually come out sounding similar to the earlier versions but still a bit unique. Also, if I'm working on a complete album of one artist I would have the master tape with me. If I am just using a single song off of that album it would probably come to me in the form of a flat tape copy and I would approach it a bit differently..
     
  6. Another Side

    Another Side Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    I assume that you take notes of what your EQ moves were, though. Or do you try to do it completely fresh every time?
     
  7. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    I have notes of everything I do but for misc. artist comps I start from scratch.
     
  8. When you "remade" your Zombies DCC comp on AF as an SACD, I know that you had one or two "new" tapes to work with, but the whole comp sounded wildly different than before. I chalked it up to the new mastering hardware and tapes, but (here's the question) did you rethink the matter using your 10 more years' experience with sound restoration? Also: was the choice of slightly different track sequence affected by "new" tapes available, a desire to create a wholly unique singles comp, what were the decisions made here?

    (btw, I love both Zombies comps and consider each "definitive" albeit different)
     
  9. Larry Mc

    Larry Mc Forum Dude

    Joe,
    Thank you for taking the time to answer, I don't know what a "sicky thread" is, but I really was curious. I'll shut up now, and see what I can learn from you pros. Most of the time I have to get a book to understand it..... lol :)
     
  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter


    The "new" version programming was done by several members of the band. The sound was a new approach by me..
     
  11. Simon A

    Simon A Arrr!

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for allowing us to ask you some questions!

    Is compression necessary at any time during recording/mixing/mastering?

    Is it a matter of taste in as far as the type of sound you want the recording to have, or is it used so all the components (different instruments/vocals) can be heard?

    The reason I am asking is that I have recorded some songs recently (16 tracks/DAW) and I never used compression because I did not know how to use it and did not want to mess up that work that I had done. I recorded everything flat and made only minute eq adjustments during mixing/mastering especially with the bass where I cut a bit of the bottom.

    Mics used were a pair of Rode NT-5's and a Neumann TLM-103 and were used to record a grand piano, electric and acoustic guitars, an upright bass (i did also record the output of the preamp on another track) and vocals. Synths were plugged in straight.

    Thanks for your answer (or anybody else's)!

    P.S. - Did you receive your Jackie Gleason 12 track mono LP? How is it?
    :shh:

    Cheers!

    Simon
     
  12. Joe Nino-Hernes

    Joe Nino-Hernes Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    No problem.

    About the sticky thread, I was asking a Gort to make this thread "sticky" which it is now. A sticky thread is one that always stays at the top of the page regardless of new posts.
     
  13. Joe Nino-Hernes

    Joe Nino-Hernes Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Wether or not you use compression is dependant on the musical and the asthetic you are trying to acheive. For acousitc music (classical, jazz, bluegrass etc.) I would never use compression. However for rock, it can help especially if you have poor musicians. For instance, if you have a lousy bass player who can't seem to play two notes at the same volume, you might consider using a compressor to even out his playing. Compression might also be necessary on the vocal track of a rock ballad to help get his voice over screaming guitars!
     
  14. Joe Nino-Hernes

    Joe Nino-Hernes Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Another note on compression in the 21'st century...

    Many engineers feel that they need to use compressors while tracking on digital systems to approximate the type of compression you get naturally by slamming analog tape. I know some engineers who compress every track when recording in ProTools. I think this is crazy! Analog tape compression is a whole different anamal, and it can not be imitated by any outboard compressor! Sure, LA-2A's on every channel sounds great in theroy, but in practice, you end up with mush. The degree of compression you get naturally with analog tape depends not only the recording level, but frequency and how much of a given frequency. To make it even more confusing, the set of variables is different for every tape formulation. To me, analog tape is like a living breathing thing, and just like a living thing, it is impossible to acuratly imitate. Think of robots! To me, ProTools with LA-2A's on every channel is just a robot gone horribly wrong!!

    (NOTE- The LA-2A I speak of above is a tube compressor/limiter. It is in my opinion one of the best compressors ever made. Any time I need a compressor, I always use it. It compresses very much like the human ear does when you expose it to loud levels.)
     
  15. Simon A

    Simon A Arrr!

    Thanks Joe for your input! Could you give me an example of a situation when you feel you need compression? Recording, mixing or mastering?

    Thanks again!

    Cheers!

    :righton:

    Simon
     
  16. Joe Nino-Hernes

    Joe Nino-Hernes Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    I have never used compression in mastering, but I do in the mixing process.

    I like to minimize the use of compression, but sometimes it is necessary. For instance, if I am mixing a tune with a lousy bass player who can't seem to play two notes the same level, I will use a compressor to even them out. I don't like to do this, but it is better than having a barley audible note and then one that blows you into the next county picking woofer voice coil out of your teeth!
     
  17. prof. stoned

    prof. stoned Forum Member

    Location:
    profstoned.com
    Your favourite compressor is the analog LA2, right ?
    With the above first sentence you meant a analog or digital (from the UAD pack ) version of this comp ?

    Just curious. Thanks.
     
  18. Joe Nino-Hernes

    Joe Nino-Hernes Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL

    Analog!

    I really detest plugin versions of pieces of hardware.
     
  19. jon9091

    jon9091 Master Of Reality

    Location:
    Midwest
    Hi Steve,

    I'm wondering how much of what a mastering engineer does, has to get client approval before it can be released. Your stuff sounds great, but I'm curious about other engineers who run into clients who simply refuse to go with what sounds good (and accurate)...and insist on excessive loudness maximization and exaggerated high and low ends. After reading through the forum for a while, there seems to be some engineers who really aren't that popular around here (and will go nameless). Are they really entirely to blame for a poor remastering, or are they at the mercy of their client?

    thanks,
    Jon
     
  20. Doug Hess Jr.

    Doug Hess Jr. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Belpre, Ohio
    I've got a question. In the old days we only had the analog VU meters. Then they added the peak light when the needle got past 0vu. Then I noticed cassette decks (since that's what I was using) started with peed meters. Which gives a better guide to what is going on? Is it better to work around 0 on the vu or +3 on the peak meter? Which do you prefer in your work Steve? (anyone can answer, though)

    I guess I'm wondering if all of this detailed information thanks to the Adobe Audition, etc. of peaks, etc. is more information than most people need and actually gets more in the way than helping.
     
  21. Joe Nino-Hernes

    Joe Nino-Hernes Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    It depends on the type of tape you are using, and how your meters are calibrated. If I am using a +9 ultra high output tape, and I have my meters calibrated to display 0 dB-VU at 250 nW/m (nanno-webbers per meter) I can peg the meters with no distortion. Generally when I use this tape, I set up my meters to display -6 dB-VU at 250 nW/m. This means that -6 on the meter is actually -3, -3 is 0, 0 is +3, +3 is +6 and +6 is +9. The meter can display anything you want it to. VU is not a real measure of amplitude, it is just a reference. You must reference it to something, like actual magnetic flux on the tape (nW/m) or dB-V (volts output).

    Digital VU meters generally have peak hold, because they can react much faster than an analog VU meter. I like working on analog VU meters. There really is no need to see the transients that are displayed on a digital meter. The peak light was added to some analog VU meters to display "overloads" that were too short in duration for an analog meter to display. Its not needed. Levels recorded on analog tape are based on averages. You can record transients at certan freqencies at over +14 dB-VU with no audible distortion. Rated output of tape is based on 1,000 Hz and 10,000 Hz.
     
  22. Doug Hess Jr.

    Doug Hess Jr. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Belpre, Ohio
    Thanks Joe for that super answer. I guess my seeing the transients is about a useful as a tachometer on a car with an automatic transmission. Gotcha!
    Doug
     
  23. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    Location:
    The OC
    You will find that the difference between peak meters and vu meters varies a lot depending on the type of program material. Some sounds that are fairly constant, like string or synth parts may look pretty similar on both types of meters, but some sounds look totally different, such as a glock, or a triangle.

    Both types of meters have their places, though people recorded just fine with vu meters for years. I'd say for the most part that peak meters may be more useful on multitrack machines for individual tracks than they would be with mixes. The bottom line is to use your ears. They will tell you far more than the meters will.

    Many consumer recorders went to peak type of meters and I think vu meters make much more sense for consumers. Most of them will tell that if you use tones to set up the decks to allign them to -8 or there abouts.

    I'll add a bit to what Joe said about setting up tape decks at elevated levels. All you are really doing there is basically calibrating the meters to fool the engineer into recording higher levels on tape. In other words, the level may hit peaks of 0vu on the meters, but it's actually at +3, +6, or +9 or whatever elevated level you have set. There are several things to consider with using elevated levels. One is how the tape handles the elevated levels. As you increase the level onto tape you will run into saturation at some point. This will sound a bit like compression at first and can easily get into distortion as you increase the level further.

    There are several benefits of using elevated levels. The most obvious is the gain in signal to noise ratio which of course reduces hiss levels. Secondly, the natural compression that results with saturation is one of the things that people like about analog tape recorders. It tends so smooth and soften some sounds. Thirdly, some people like to really hit the tape hard to get a distorted sound which has a unique character to it that some producers like.

    Listen to some of the RTB productions with Queen, The Cars, Cheap Trick and others and you will hear massive tape saturation which causes audible distortion on tracks, usually noticed on his drum sounds, and particularly on toms. Another factor that may come into play with elevated levels can be electronic distortion. As you increase the record level you will decrease the available headroom in the front end of the recorder. That said, most pro gear can handle levels that are pretty darn high, but not all recorders can. This is why using your ears is so important. IMO a good set of ears should always be the tool of choice for evaluating sounds.

    I should mention one more thing about meters. Different engineers have different styles. Some engineers like to have the buss meters well above 0db on peaks and some like to not exceed 0db. This has nothing to do with whether there are elevated levels set on tape or not. In other words, an engineer who always exceeds 0db and uses non elevated levels, may actually print hotter on tape than an engineer that records at conservative levels and has elevated levels set on tape. This is another reason to use your ears.
     
  24. GT40sc

    GT40sc Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eugene, Oregon
    to add to what Joe and Doug are saying about elevated levels...(+3, +6, +9, whatever.)

    Remember that analog tape hiss is a artifact of playback, not of recording. Working at elevated levels allows the deck to be set up with more record gain and less playback gain, thus giving a lower level of tape hiss on playback...(Doug S. said this too, but I missed it the first time.)

    Doug Hess asked about metering...

    On the old Ward-Beck mastering console I used to run, we had analog VU meters as well as PPM meters. (Peak Program Meters)

    There is a relatively new digital meter design by a company called Dorrough that reads both peak and VU at the same time; giving you a very good idea of the "sonic energy" of a particular track. Very cool, but very expensive...
     
  25. Mister Charlie

    Mister Charlie "Music Is The Doctor Of My Soul " - Doobie Bros.

    Location:
    Aromas, CA USA

    What an excellent point. Thanks for making it.
     
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