You are previewing Complete Audio Mastering: Practical Techniques.
O'Reilly logo
Complete Audio Mastering: Practical Techniques

Book Description

Learn the art of professional audio mastering Gebre Waddell covers this all-important subject in greater depth than has ever been done in a book.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Complete Audio Mastering
  3. Copyright Page
  4. Dedication
  5. Contents
  6. Introduction
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. 1 Overview of Mastering and the Typical Session
    1. Overview of Mastering
      1. Goals of Mastering
      2. Role of the Mastering Engineer
      3. Choose an Engineer Based on Genre?
      4. Who Needs Mastering?
      5. Don’t Master Your Own Mixes
      6. Balance of Benefit and Sacrifice
      7. Creativity in Mastering
      8. Subtlety
      9. Mastering Is an Art
    2. Typical Mastering Session
      1. The Engineer
      2. Receiving
      3. Attended/Unattended Sessions
      4. Acoustics and Monitoring
      5. Passes
      6. Processing
      7. Final Output
  9. 2 Do-It-Yourself Guide for Basic Mastering
    1. The Most Basic CD Mastering
      1. Issues with Such a Basic Approach
      2. MP3 Encoding Without Other Processing
    2. Selecting a Digital Audio Workstation
    3. Basic Mastering Processing Chain
    4. Processing Packages
    5. Basic Equalizer
    6. Basic Compression
    7. Basic Limiting
    8. Compare the Processed Version with the Original
    9. Sample-Rate Conversion
    10. Dithering
    11. Export to CD
    12. Exporting for Internet Release
    13. This Portion Is Only a Basic Guide
  10. 3 Preparing a Mix for Professional Mastering
    1. Maximum Peaks at –3 dB
    2. Mixing into a Limiter
    3. Requesting the Removal of Mixbus Processing
    4. Multiple Mono versus Stereo Interleaved
    5. Selecting Stem Mastering
    6. Allowing Time for Mastering
    7. Sample Rate
    8. Mastering to Tape
    9. Bass and “Air”
    10. Mix Problems
  11. 4 Accepting Mixes, Workflow, and Client Interfacing
    1. Receiving/Importing Digital Recordings (Bit Rate, Sample Rate, and Levels)
    2. Data Integrity: CRC and Checksums
    3. Requesting Information from the Client
    4. Receiving/Importing Analog Recordings
    5. Attended versus Unattended Sessions
    6. Organizing Our Work
      1. Saving/Copying/Pasting Processing Configurations
      2. Importance of Timeliness
    7. Each Recording Is Processed Individually
    8. File Compression
    9. File-Transfer Options
    10. Focus on Customer Service
    11. Time Frame for Revisions in Mastering
  12. 5 Mastering Gear
    1. Gear Lust
    2. Equipment Demos
    3. Stepped versus Continuously Variable Controls
    4. Detented Potentiometers versus Rotary Switches
    5. Analog Components
    6. Software Plug-ins versus Analog Processing
    7. Mastering Software Bundles
    8. Native Processing
    9. Retailers, Auctions, and Classified Ads
    10. Acoustic Treatment
    11. Monitoring Control Systems
    12. Monitors (Speakers)
      1. Ideal Monitors
      2. Passive versus Active Monitors
      3. Full-Range versus Midfield versus Near-Field Monitors
      4. Upgrading to 5.1
      5. Crossovers
      6. General Placement
      7. Monitor Positioning
    13. Subwoofers
    14. Monitor Amplifiers
    15. A/D and D/A Conversion
    16. Audio Interfaces
    17. Wordclocks/Master Clocks/Distribution Amps
    18. Analog Equalizers
    19. Plug-in Equalizers
    20. Dynamic Equalizers
    21. Compression/Expansion
      1. Compression
      2. Expansion
      3. Parallel Compression
      4. Side-Chain
      5. Selecting a Compressor
      6. Analog Compressors
      7. Plug-in Compressors
      8. Multiband Compressors
    22. Maximizers/Limiting
    23. Stereo/Mid-Side Processors
      1. What Is Mid-Side?
      2. Stereo Processors
      3. Analog M/S Converters
      4. Digital Stereo Processing
    24. De-Essers
      1. Analog De-essers
      2. Digital De-essers
    25. Restoration and Noise Reduction
    26. Harmonic Enhancement and Saturation
      1. Analog
      2. Digital
    27. Routers/Patchbays
    28. Consoles
    29. Headphones
    30. Acoustic Environment Simulation for Headphones
    31. Digital Audio Workstation Software
    32. Playback Sources
    33. DDP Software
    34. Sample-Rate Converters
      1. Software
      2. Hardware
    35. 5.1 Mastering
    36. Meters
      1. Analog
      2. Digital
    37. Mastering DSPs
    38. Combination Processors
    39. Metadata-Embedding Software
    40. Forensic Audio Software
    41. Connections and Cables
      1. Analog XLR
      2. AES/EBU
      3. S/PDIF
      4. 1/4th, 1/8th, and Minijacks
      5. Multi-Pin Connectors
      6. RCA
      7. BNC Wordclock
      8. Bantam/TT
      9. ADAT Lightpipe
      10. USB
      11. FireWire
      12. Thunderbolt
      13. PCI/PCIe
  13. 6 Mastering Acoustics and Monitoring
    1. Hiring a Professional Acoustician
    2. Room Modes
    3. Absorption
    4. Absorption Coefficients
    5. Diffusers
    6. Front-Wall Treatments
    7. Treating First Reflection Points
    8. Clouds and Ceilings
    9. Narrowing the Front of the Room
    10. Minimizing Noise
    11. Rear Diffusers
    12. Early Reflections
    13. Listen to Tones with an SPL Meter
    14. Parallel Surfaces
    15. Console/Desks/Surfaces
    16. Symmetry
    17. Decoupling Monitors
    18. Bass Traps
    19. Minimal Objects in the Room
    20. Ideal Room Dimensions
    21. Angled Walls Behind Monitors
    22. Monitor Visibility
    23. Correcting Acoustic Problems with Equalization
    24. Speaker Placement
    25. Speaker Decoupling
    26. Integrating Subwoofers
    27. Subwoofer Placement
    28. Subwoofer Calibration
      1. Method A
      2. Method B
      3. Method C
      4. Method D
      5. Subwoofer Phase
      6. Excerpt from the Dolby 5.1-Channel Production Guidelines (the LFE Channel Is the Subwoofer)
    29. RT60/RT30/RT20
    30. Listen to Translations
    31. Acoustic Methods/Techniques/Design Concepts
    32. Selecting Monitors
    33. High-Quality Amplifiers
    34. Biwire
    35. K-Meter Explained
    36. K-20, K-14, and K-12
    37. Stepped Monitor Gain Control
    38. K-System Criticisms
    39. Consistency as a Result of Reference Levels
    40. Monitoring at a Variety of Loudness Levels
    41. Ear Sensitivity
    42. Alternative Reference-Level Selection
    43. Workplace Safety
    44. Headphones
  14. 7 Mastering Practices: Techniques, Problems, and Approaches
    1. Technique: Listening
    2. Technique: Working with Intent and Vision of the Result
    3. Technique: Only Making True Improvements
    4. Approach: Destructive versus Nondestructive Processing
    5. Technique: Working with Reference Recordings
    6. Technique: Minimizing the Delay Between Comparisons
    7. Technique: Avoiding Ear Fatigue
    8. Technique: Processing Sections of a Song Separately
    9. Technique: Minimizing Processing
    10. Technique: Making Client-Requested Changes Properly
    11. Technique: Processing Based on First Impressions
    12. Technique: Turning Things Off/Listening in Bypass Mode
    13. Technique: Relationships with Mixing Engineers and Producers
    14. Technique: Concurrent Processing
    15. Technique: Processing in Stages
    16. Technique: Stem Mastering
    17. Technique: Reverb Processing
    18. Technique: Mastering Equalization
      1. Parametric Equalizer Controls
      2. Analog Equalizers
      3. Digital Equalizers: Minimum Phase
      4. Digital Equalizers: Linear Phase
    19. Technique: Using a Graphic Equalizer
    20. Technique: Basic Frequency Balancing Using an Equalizer
      1. Subsonic (~0 to ~25 Hz)
      2. Bass (~25 to ~120 Hz)
      3. Lower Midrange (~120 to ~350 to 400 Hz)
      4. Midrange (~350 to ~2,000 Hz/2 kHz)
      5. Upper Midrange (~2 to ~8 kHz)
      6. Highs (~8 to ~12kHz)
      7. “Air” (~12 kHz to the Limit of Hearing)
      8. Out-of-Band Noise
      9. Filters, Shelves, Bells, and Q Values
      10. Final Word
    21. Technique: Order of Frequency Adjustment
    22. Technique: Substractive Equalization
    23. Technique: Using Less Common Equalizer Filters
      1. Baxandall Shelves
      2. Gerzon Shelves
      3. Niveau/Tilt Filter
    24. Technique: Frequency Roll-Off on Both Ends
    25. Technique: Extra Equalizer After Compression
    26. Technique: Monitoring the Middle and Side Channels
    27. Technique: Mid-Side Processing
    28. Technique: Checking Mono Compatibility
    29. Technique: Using Unique Mid-Side Processors
      1. DDMF Metaplug-in/Mid-Side Plug-in
      2. iZotope Ozone
      3. Brainworx
      4. Mathew Lane’s DrMS
    30. Technique: Understanding Distortion/Coloration/Saturation
    31. Technique: Using Digital Emulations of Classic Gear
    32. Technique: Running Through Twice
    33. Technique: Adding Distortion to the Side Channel
    34. Technique: Using the Same Character Processors on All Songs
    35. Technique: Using Dither
      1. Dithering in the Visual Realm
      2. Audition Different Types
      3. Impact of Dither on the Sound
      4. Dithering Should Be Kept to a Minimum
      5. Dithering for Digital Processing
    36. Problem: Jitter
    37. Problem: DC Offset/Asymmetrical Waveforms
    38. Technique: Bass Enhancement
    39. Problem: Bad Mixes
    40. Problem: Hum in the Analog Signal Chain
    41. Problem: Sibilance
    42. Technique: Raising Levels Before Analog Processing
    43. Technique: Adding Noise in the “Air” Band for Brilliance
    44. Problem: Limiting Distortion
    45. Problem: Intersample Peaks
    46. Technique: Using Sample-Rate Conversion
    47. Problem: Using Unbalanced-to-Balanced Connections
    48. Problem: Unbalanced Left and Right Channels
    49. Problem: Unbalanced Bass in the Mix
    50. Technique: Upsampling
    51. Technique: Digital Limiting
    52. Problem: Lack of Vocal Clarity
    53. Problem: Matching Equalizers
    54. Problem: Harsh/“Digital” Sound
      1. Addressing Resonances
      2. Raising the Lower Midrange or Bass
      3. Rolling Off the Highs
      4. Using a High Shelf
      5. Dynamic Equalization on Upper Midrange/Refinement
      6. Using a De-Esser
      7. Analog Processing with Tubes or Transformers
      8. Warming with a Compressor
    55. Problem: Muddiness
    56. Problem: Part of the Frequency Spectrum Is Out of Balance During Loud Passages
    57. Problem: One Part of the Frequency Spectrum Is Too Dynamic
    58. Problem: A Broad Part of the Frequency Spectrum Is Too High
    59. Problem: Less Than Full Sounding
    60. Problem: Fast/Medium Transient Sounds Stick Out Too Much
    61. Technique: Manually Reducing Peaks
    62. Technique: Reducing Level Before a Part Change
    63. Technique: Analog-and-Digital Gain Staging
      1. 16-, 24-, and 32-Bit Formats
      2. Digital Gain Staging
      3. Analog Gain Staging
    64. Technique: Mastering with a Focus on the Vocal
    65. Technique: Working with a Vocal-Up Mix
    66. Problem: Lacking Depth, Needs a Three-Dimensional Sound
    67. Problem: Recordings Sound Different in the Car
    68. Technique: Mixing Down to Tape/Mastering with Tape
  15. 8 Shaping Dynamics
    1. Types of Dynamics Processing
      1. Compression/Downward Compression
      2. Expansion/Upward Expansion
      3. Parallel Compression
      4. Side-Chain Compression
      5. Multiband Compression
      6. Limiting
    2. Compression Settings and Meters
    3. Setting Attack/Release/Threshold
    4. Macrodynamics/Microdynamics
    5. RMS-Sensing Compressors
    6. Peak-Sensing Compressors
    7. Compressor Response
    8. Character versus Transparent Compression
    9. Mixbus Compressors
    10. Punchy Compression
    11. Serial Compression
    12. Volume Automation for Macrodynamic and Microdynamic Adjustments
    13. Gain-Reduction Meters
    14. Compressor Input Levels
    15. Compressor Output/Makeup Gain
    16. Linked versus Unlinked Compression
    17. Expansion/Expansion Before Compression
    18. Analog Compressors
      1. Voltage-Controlled Amplifier (VCA)
      2. Opto/ELOP
      3. Variable Mu
      4. Field-Effect Transistor (FET)
      5. Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM)
  16. 9 Achieving Loudness
    1. Apparent/Perceived Loudness
    2. Beyond Ideal Loudness, There Is Quality Loss
    3. When Did the Loudness War Begin?
    4. Why Does the Loudness War Exist?
    5. Future of the Loudness War
    6. Loudness Potential of a Recording
    7. Digital Clipping
      1. Using Clipping
    8. Compression Before Limiting
    9. Digital Limiting
    10. Operating a Limiter
    11. Sensitivity of the Ear
    12. Clipping a High-Quality A/D Converter
    13. Serial Limiting
    14. Digital Limiter Ceiling of –0.3 dBFS
    15. Maximizers/Multiband Limiters/Inflators
    16. Ideal Loudness
    17. Processing While Focusing on the Loudest Passages
    18. True Peak Ceilings
    19. Broadcast Loudness Standards
      1. ITU-R BS.1770
      2. EBU R128
      3. ATSC A/85
      4. CALM Act
  17. 10 Fades, Sequencing, and Spacing
    1. Spacing Between Songs
    2. Performing Fades/Cross-Fades
    3. Fades During Mixing Stage
    4. Fades During Mastering Stage
    5. Performing Fades During Mastering Has Its Own Set of Benefits
    6. Sequencing an Album
    7. Noise Reduction
      1. Denoise First
      2. Noise at Beginnings and Endings
      3. Learn Feature
      4. Noise/Hiss/Clicks/Pops
      5. Spectral Editing
      6. Careful Application
  18. 11 Visualizations/Metering
    1. FFT/Fourier
    2. Using Spectral Analyzers
    3. Bit Meters
    4. Correlation Meters
    5. Vectorscope
    6. Reconstruction Meters
    7. Meter Action/Speed
  19. 12 Preparing the Final Output
    1. Providing Client a Preview for Approval
    2. Making Revisions
    3. Quality Control
    4. Red Book/Rainbow Books
    5. Red Book CD Specifications
    6. Setting Track Markers
    7. CD Pause Length
    8. Track Offsets
    9. International Standard Recording Codes
    10. MCN/UPC/EAN Codes
    11. CD-Text
    12. Premaster CD
    13. Writing Speed
    14. Disk-at-Once/Track-at-Once
    15. Error Checking with Plextor/Plextools
    16. CD Error Levels
    17. DDP File
      1. DDP versus Premaster CD
      2. Zipping/Archiving the DDP
      3. BIN/CUE (An Alternative to DDP)
      4. Other DDP Alternatives
      5. Drawbacks to DDP Alternatives
    18. Mastering for Vinyl
    19. Shipping to the Client
    20. PQ Sheets
    21. Shipping to the Replicator/Duplicator
    22. Checksum/MD5
    23. Nonlossy: WAV, AIFF, FLAC, Etc
    24. Nonlossy Metadata
    25. Lossy: MP3
    26. DVD-V, DVD-A
    27. SACD
    28. Blu-ray Audio
    29. Mastered for iTunes
    30. Enhanced CD
    31. Ringtones
    32. 5.1 Audio
  20. 13 What Happens After Mastering?
    1. Storage and Returns
    2. Database Submission
    3. All-Music Credits
    4. Replication versus Duplication
    5. Eclipse Systems
    6. Disc Life
    7. Radio and Broadcast Processing
    8. Car Stereo
    9. CD Refractive Index
    10. Clubs
    11. Growing Home Theater 5.1 Systems
    12. Internet/Streaming/Format Conversions
    13. Smart Phone/MP3 Player/Computer Playback
  21. 14 DAW/Computer Optimization and Interfacing
    1. Do Not Let a DAW Dictate the Workflow
    2. Save Early, Save Often
    3. Keyboard Shortcuts/Hotkeys
    4. DAW Functions
    5. Wacom Tablets/Trackballs/Mice
    6. RAID and Online Backup
    7. Solid-State Drives (SSDs) versus Hard-Disk Drives (HDDs)
    8. Ending Nonessential Processing and Services (Windows)
    9. User Accounts
    10. Faulty Drivers
    11. Plug-in/Interface/DAW Conflicts
    12. Other Typical Problems/Regular Maintenance
    13. DPC Latency Checker
    14. Computer Hardware Problems
    15. Operating System Tweaks
    16. Disable Onboard Sound in BIOS
    17. Disable Internet and Antivirus
    18. Second Hard Drive for Audio
    19. FireWire
    20. Startup
    21. System Registry
    22. Latency/Buffers
    23. Driver Systems
    24. Spyware/Badware/Viruses/Malware
    25. Be Serious About Technical Problems
  22. 15 Starting a Mastering Studio as a Business
    1. Challenges Faced by New Mastering Studios
      1. Entrenched Competitors
      2. Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Mastering
      3. Customer-Service Challenges
      4. False Advertising and Scams
      5. Album Sales at All-Time Low
      6. Nonscalable
      7. Low Growth Rate
      8. High Startup Cost
      9. No Points
      10. Limited Scope
      11. Legal Disclaimers/Limited Liability
    2. Benefits of Starting a Mastering Studio
      1. Talent in Practice
      2. Marketing Without Limitation
      3. Surge of Independent Artists
      4. Shorter Projects
      5. Less Band Politics
      6. Local Attended Sessions
      7. Being a Sole Proprietor
    3. Rising to the Challenge
      1. Seek an Internship
      2. Take a Course
      3. Collect Resources
      4. Learn Aggressively
      5. Learn About the Legends
      6. Add Mastering Services to an Existing Studio
      7. Leverage Existing Opportunities
      8. Reach New Markets
      9. Visit the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), Join the Audio Engineering Society (AES) and Grammy Recording Academy
      10. Working for Notable Acts
      11. Insure Your Studio
    4. Hiring Interns
    5. Other Opportunities
      1. Opportunities for Audio Forensics
      2. Consider Related Fields
  23. 16 Contributions
    1. On Analog Multiband Compression and Audio Gear
    2. The Case for Full-Range Monitoring
      1. What Is That?
      2. But What About the Consumer?
      3. What Are My Goals in Monitoring?
    3. Connection and Calibration of an Analog Mastering Chain
      1. Prologue
      2. Building Up a Chain
      3. Patching Methods
      4. Installation, Calibration, and Operating Levels
      5. Closing Words
    4. Distortions and Coloring
      1. Introduction
      2. Distortions as Color
      3. Nonlinear
      4. Time Domain
      5. Coloring
    5. Mid-Side Processing
    6. Digital Filtering
      1. What Is a Filter?
      2. Digital Signal Processing
      3. Filter Types
      4. Design and Implementation
      5. Conclusion
    7. Optimizing Audio for Radio
    8. Premastering for Vinyl Cutting
      1. What If the Songs Will Not Fit?
      2. Processing for Master Lacquer
      3. Cutting the Master Lacquer
    9. ASIO versus WDM
      1. History and Implementation
      2. Sonic Differences
      3. Zero-Latency Monitoring
  24. A Decibel Units of Measure
  25. B Mastering Resources and References
    1. Online Resources
    2. Offline Resources
    3. Print
    4. Video
    5. Classes
  26. Index