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Mastering checklist?
Old 3rd February 2009
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Mastering checklist?

I'm curious - do you guys work from a mastering checklist? - Like a series of steps and things you do repeatedly that help you master things more efficiently if you got a lot of work or just to make sure you don't forget anything.

For master track, I think I'm doing all the standard plugins. I first run it through sonic maximizer. I find that little or even a lot of that really improves the whole mix. It blends it all together and crisps the mix right up.

I make sure the signal doesn't clip before it goes to the next plugin: Ozone. I use most of the features, especially eq, reverb and the exciters. I don't use the stereo widening much because I find if I really have to use it, then that means the mix stinks. Little amounts work though. I personally stay away from the MB compressor. When I use it, I just round out peaks more because it goes to the limiter.

Then I send the output of this to sonnox limiter, which is hands down the best limiter I've ever used.

After that, I check it out in harbal. Sometimes I'm not skilled enough to EQ by ear, so this program helps me create a sanity check. I usually mess around to see what sounds better, because perfect balance (as it suggests) often sounds like crap. I think the biggest benefit I get from harbal is to see where the bass frequencies are at, and to tame them. I often take this information and adjust my eq in ozone, just to get rid of harbal from the mastering process altogether. I want the song to sound good in my daw.

After that, I check the whole audio for clips. Most of the time, there aren't any - but it's always good to be sure. Sometimes I get like 0.001% or 0.003%. So, I go back and remove those.

After all of that, I test on different speakers and rinse/repeat.

What do you guys do?
Old 3rd February 2009
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
I do less than you - i compress, stereo widening a touch, EQ, limiter....i would never use a reverb on my own master...i would return to the mix if it was dry....my mixes are never too dry though, rather too wet by times because my mix room is dead.
Old 3rd February 2009
  #3
Mastering
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by egervari ➑️
I'm curious - do you guys work from a mastering checklist? - Like a series of steps and things you do repeatedly that help you master things more efficiently if you got a lot of work or just to make sure you don't forget anything.

It's like muscle memory, after you do it a thousand times you don't need the list anymore :-).

Around here we have a networked Filemaker database because I have an assistant that prepares the VIP (EDL), proofs masters, and so on, and we need the networked database to coordinate the steps and make sure we don't miss any handoffs. Other than that, we don't need a list anymore .

Your list is just a very small subset of the possible things mastering engineers might have to do or be aware of. I could write a book about that :-).

BK
Old 3rd February 2009 | Show parent
  #4
Lives for gear
 
MASSIVE Master's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 15 years
Quote:
What do you guys do?
Listen objectively, do what the mix tells you to do.

There are no checklists, presets or prejudices.
Old 3rd February 2009 | Show parent
  #5
Lives for gear
 
Adam Dempsey's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 10 years
My (mental) checklist has more to do with checking supplies of tea, coffee, milk, the air con temp, hard drives ok, gear warmed up, nice to also have music playing if/when the client arrives...
Sonically, every project is a clean slate.
Old 3rd February 2009 | Show parent
  #6
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 15 years
It's about a gut reaction to what you hear and then figuring out a way to fix what you don't like without screwing anything else up.

I do a bit of a checklist of what could get screwed up in order to make sure I don't get too lost in whatever I'm trying to fix.
Old 3rd February 2009 | Show parent
  #7
Lives for gear
 
wado1942's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
For starters, I'd NEVER use a Sonic Maximiser in mastering unles it was like a live concert recorded with a handheld cassette deck from the 30th row or something. That is probably the most misused processor on the planet. About twice a year will I open up a stereo enhancer. About once every 2 years will I put on some other kind of enhancer. Almost all mastering work is about getting the songs to work with eachother in context, helping them sound the best they can for the medium they were intended.

Now how I do it. I generally start just by listening to the songs and putting them in order. I then usually do whatever editing I need to do. Then I set the levels of each tune so they work together in context. If any EQ is needed, I generally add it next. If compression is needed, I often do that next. Sometimes compression works better before the EQ though. I do my level adjustments to help the impact of the music. I generally leave any limiting till last because any EQ afterwards will change the crest factor negating any limiting you just did. Though it will still SOUND limited, the ratio of peak to average level will be increased. So I do any limiting that's needed, then downsample to whatever my output format is. Now this is just what I USUALLY do. I may need to add some steps or processes, I may leave out some steps or do some steps in a different order. It all depends on what the music wants.

I remember getting a CD from a guy who did a master from 1/2" tape and hearing the distinct gurgling deep in the background from digital noise reduction. I called him and asked him if there was a noise problem and he said "no".
"So why did you use noise reduction?"
"Because it was analogue."
......Noise reduction on 1/2" tape. I've never had to use NR even on 1/4" tape, much less 1/2". NEVER use a process or technique without good reason. If you're using a Sonic Maximiser as a matter of habit, it's because either the mixes are all bad or because you have a severe crossover/driver alignment issue with your monitors. If you're always using a stereo enhancer, it's because the mixes are all bad or your monitors are not well placed.

Sometimes a mastering job for me is just putting songs in order, adding fades and downsampling. Sometimes it's 10 hours of meticulous labor with lots of tiny manual adjustments and layer upon layer processing.
Old 4th February 2009 | Show parent
  #8
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
Only a list of the songs/versions so i know i have all the correct files or tapes that should be used.. any editing notes that need to be done ...thats about it for a list.

From there it's whatever each song needs or doesn't need, one maybe all dig, one may go thru console with only 1/2db @ 18K , one may need every piece of EQ i have. There are times you can get an album that is very consistent where the same chain will work for all songs.

louie
Old 4th February 2009
  #9
Lives for gear
 
Thor's Avatar
 
Verified Member
🎧 15 years
Are we still on a mastering forum...?



Thor


Quote:
Originally Posted by egervari ➑️
After that, I check it out in harbal. Sometimes I'm not skilled enough to EQ by ear, so this program helps me create a sanity check.
Old 4th February 2009 | Show parent
  #10
Gear Guru
 
lucey's Avatar
 
Verified Member
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Old 6th February 2009 | Show parent
  #11
kjg
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
bump! :D
Old 9th February 2009 | Show parent
  #12
Gear Addict
 
cemski's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Great explanation!

Quote:
Originally Posted by wado1942 ➑️
For starters, I'd NEVER use a Sonic Maximiser in mastering unles it was like a live concert recorded with a handheld cassette deck from the 30th row or something. That is probably the most misused processor on the planet. About twice a year will I open up a stereo enhancer. About once every 2 years will I put on some other kind of enhancer. Almost all mastering work is about getting the songs to work with eachother in context, helping them sound the best they can for the medium they were intended.

Now how I do it. I generally start just by listening to the songs and putting them in order. I then usually do whatever editing I need to do. Then I set the levels of each tune so they work together in context. If any EQ is needed, I generally add it next. If compression is needed, I often do that next. Sometimes compression works better before the EQ though. I do my level adjustments to help the impact of the music. I generally leave any limiting till last because any EQ afterwards will change the crest factor negating any limiting you just did. Though it will still SOUND limited, the ratio of peak to average level will be increased. So I do any limiting that's needed, then downsample to whatever my output format is. Now this is just what I USUALLY do. I may need to add some steps or processes, I may leave out some steps or do some steps in a different order. It all depends on what the music wants.

I remember getting a CD from a guy who did a master from 1/2" tape and hearing the distinct gurgling deep in the background from digital noise reduction. I called him and asked him if there was a noise problem and he said "no".
"So why did you use noise reduction?"
"Because it was analogue."
......Noise reduction on 1/2" tape. I've never had to use NR even on 1/4" tape, much less 1/2". NEVER use a process or technique without good reason. If you're using a Sonic Maximiser as a matter of habit, it's because either the mixes are all bad or because you have a severe crossover/driver alignment issue with your monitors. If you're always using a stereo enhancer, it's because the mixes are all bad or your monitors are not well placed.

Sometimes a mastering job for me is just putting songs in order, adding fades and downsampling. Sometimes it's 10 hours of meticulous labor with lots of tiny manual adjustments and layer upon layer processing.
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