Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Speaker and Room Calibration

I recently discovered speaker calibration. I thought I was doing everything right by putting broad band sound absorption on my walls etc, but my mixes (and then later my masters) were still pretty messed up. Specifically despite nearly a year of work, they still ended up sounding cheap. I couldn't figure it out.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Mastering is HARD!

Before I get into this, I'll front load the conclusion: In all the talk about mastering, if your monitoring isn't flat, even the best ears won't do any good. Of course, the compromise is to intimately know what your gear sounds like ... but I think that takes thousands of hours of critical listening and an extensive knowledge of acoustics.

I self-mastered my last album (The End of Silence). I was very excited about it. I had resolved to remove myself from my music in order to master it. I couldn't afford an ME at the time, but I badly wanted to release my album.
I believe I got 70% of the way there with the help of the free videos and articles at, as well as the information available at

I think I managed to successfully divorce myself from my music so that I could look at it as objectively as possible. I analyzed it intently for problems without thinking about the mix and the compromises that led to things sounding the way they did.  I carefully selected and manipulated various plugins to (as transparently as possible) make my music loud as well as dynamic as well as punchy as well as clear as well as crisp. I compared it  on various playback systems. I also compared it to Auto mastering (mastering box, AAMS, e-mastered, LANDR), other pro masters, and the final mixes - and I level matched them all so that I could be as accurate as possible!

It was extremely painstaking, aggravating, frustrating, rewarding, happy , sad ... it was every emotion I can think of wrapped into one giant hairball. 

But I have now realized my monitoring situation was utterly inadequate for mastering. 

............... :(

After listening to one track (Swallowed) and then every other track on a system tuned to be (what I believe is) flat (using Sonarworks reference 3), I can hear a terribly pronounced bump in the upper mid range which is making everything sound cheap. I re-checked on my car, and listened again on everything I have.  Now in every case, I hear that cheap sounding boost in the 4-6k region. The sadness of this realization is nearly overwhelming.

So the long and short is that after listening on the tuned system, I decided to make two changes - a wide 3db cut at 4.1kz and a narrow 1 db boost at 10khz ... the result in the song :swallowed' is that it's become the song I was envisioning in my head all along, and it sounds pretty well the same on everything I play it through.

Now my hope is that there isn't some other etherial thing I'm missing ....

Sheesh mastering is HARD!