As I master my own recordings, I thought it may be interesting to share my setup and to hopefully see other peoples setups for this function.
I've arrived at a fairly satisfactory mastering suite by trial and experience, picking other peoples brains, and most importantly - stopping to try and understand what mastering actually is !!
After looking at many software solutions, I stuck to mastering with Ableton as it offers the specific tools I want. I've added a couple of screen dumps below (couldn't fit it all on one screen width).
The top track is 'Tap The Other Foot' by Eltjo Hasselhof", - Why?... Because this is the sound I'm aiming for in this track and so it is there as my reference, I can solo between this and my track to compare results.
Track 2 is my track and the mastering (fairly standard) chain used is at the bottom of the screen in strict order of application:
1. Multiband EQ (can't be too multiband
2. Multi Compressor (allows different compression for lo, mid and hi frequencies, an absolute must have)
3. Limiter (Gonna keep my track hot at -0.1db)
4.(on the second photo) Spectrum analyzer
Assembling a CD to Red Book stuff would be Sony CD Architect
Well, that's my setup, hope it's of use and perhaps others will share their thoughts and setups.
HI Nikki, timely, I've been recording on a Tascam DP-008 exports as Wave files . I've very little experience with mastering, but would like to see if I can polish up my songs a bit more. It's a great idea..using an existing song to discover the values within! I'm leaning toward Sonar...what version of Ableton are you using? I'm looking for a software package in the $200.00 range, Pro Tools etc. I'm a PC User. Would love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for a great post Nikki. I'll be happy to share once I get my head around a consistent setup as mastering is a new area for me. I've been using pro tools 8.0 and am still getting my head around all the effects and how to use them in a mastering situation.
This is a great topic-I am a long way from having mastered mastering. I also use Pro Tools 8 as well as a BOSS digital recording studio. I am very interested to hear how other people approach this task.
Wow, geat to see this occupying other minds as well!
Bob, I use Ableton Live 8, tho I do like Sonar, I think Samplitude is a great value for money if you're on a budget, but a bit processor heavy. These are all PC of course, Logic is the one for Mac. I would say download the free trials of everything and check them out. I would also say, that if you're on a budget, most apackages are available as 'lite' versions and can be upgraded as required.
And in general............
All my mastering plugins have been arrived at by reading and trial and error, I'm no expert! There's loads of articles on the web. The chain I use is based on this research.
I was very impressed by the mention in one article of the Logic multipressor and searched the web for ages for a compatible plugin, only to find Ableton has one buit in! Doh. That's why I use Abeton, it has everything.
This is by far the most useful mastering plugin for me as it allows you to specify the lo, mid and hi eq bands for any track and to apply different compression ratios/thresholds for each. Has an infinite range of effect on the sound. The spectrum analyzer (analyser for us here in the UK!) is a great visual tool to see how your track looks across the frequency spectrum and can sometimes contradict your ears.
Of course all this is just to get each track sounding good, as possible,. The final step for CD is to assemble all the tracks, make sure they all have a consistent sound and level, insert the gaps and track markers, PQ codes etc. and for this I am looking at Sonoris PPD Creator and Sony CD Architect, both available as free trial downloads.
Thanks for posting your thoughts Nikki. It's nice to hear what others are doing for mastering. This was a recent struggle of mine to complete my most recent album this winter.
You've made me more curious about Ableton. I just received a lite version of it with a MIDI controller I just bought. I'll definitely look into it more.
I tried mastering myself and I took basically the same approach as you. (Unhappy with my results I ended up having it professionally mastered) I used Mackie Tracktion 2. Even though it's not a well known software it actually works quite well. It included some pretty good mastering tools like parametric EQ, 3 Band compression, limiters, reverbs, etc. I found some free vst plugins at kvraudio.com that worked really well. I found a free Spectrum Analyzer that was great for comparing with reference tracks. I also found some maximizers and expanders for added punch. Yes, I know, I'm thrifty going for all the free stuff. But really there are some good tools out there.
In the end, I wanted this album to be top notch so I had it professionally mastered through Discmakers and the results are excellent! I've received a lot of compliments on the quality of the sound. My biggest struggles were with dialing in the EQ and adding more gain to the overall volume.
One piece of software I did purchase to make some fixes myself was iZotope RX 2 to get rid of any noises I didn't like in the recordings. If you are mastering on your own this is an amazing tool for cleaning up things like breathing noises, arm rubbing against the guitar, etc. You can also get rid of any hum or hiss.
In the end, I felt like it was going to take me a lot of time and learning to get a great sound. It was causing a lot of frustration as there was a lot of trial and error. Even though it cost a lot of money to have it mastered, I don't regret it one bit. I thought of buying some better software but would still have to spend a lot of time learning it and training my ears. I would much rather spend more time on making good music. It takes enough time doing all the other things a musician needs to do like booking, networking, blogging, making videos, making calls, writing up contracts, practicing, managing sales, performing, etc.
Oh, and Bob, iZotope Ozone 5 is a highly regarded mastering bundle for $200. When I was trying to master myself I was considering getting it. The guy at Sweetwater said it was an amazing bundle. I've also heard it discussed a lot in other forums like gearslutz and people really like it.
I certainly don't want to discourage you guys from mastering on your own as it is possible to get great results if you're willing to put in time.
Yes David, I have a trial copy of Izotope on my pc must install it and take a look.
Installed the trial of Ozone 5, seems really nice. I should point out that it is a set of plugins so needs a vst host (sequencer or editor) to run them. Haven't gor a trial of RX2, I think there's a standalone version of that one, I''ll try to get a trial download later.
Also, weirdly, I could only get Soundeforge to see the Ozone plugins on re-scan even tho they were installed to my vst directory. Both Ableton and Samplitude didn't see them :0(
I did take the opportunity to re-visit Samplitude again, which seems to have a good rep as a mastering tool and I found these 2 videos on youtube:
For an overview of mastering with Samplitude:
And for Red Book CD-ing with Samplitude
And I believe that Samplitude Producer 11.5 is around $250.
Hi Folks - Anyone used Pro Tools 8 to master?
Don't master your own recordings, please, if you aspire to sell on iTunes, etc.
I decided to send my tracks off for mastering. Did consider doing it myself but I figured that a professional would lend a fresh pair of ears to the tracks, and also would be much more experienced in mastering and do a better job than I ever could, and also they are conversant with the technical side of properly formatted master files/CD. Did cost a fair amount of money but I think it was worth it.
The mastering company usually offers a free sample of the mastered track so the 'risk' is reduced. If you can afford it I think it's worth using a professional.