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> Why Professional Mastering Matters., A report from the British Music Producers Guild
Saoirse O'Shea
post Oct 4 2012, 12:29 PM
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There's a recent report form the Britsh Music Producers Guild that highlights some of the problems artists find when they 'self-master' or use inexperienced mastering engineers.

Here's a quote:

'In recent months this issue [technically incorrect masters and/or wrong issues] has affected a number who have faced potential bills for incorrectly manufactured CDs because proper measures were not adhered to.

"This is a very serious issue that the whole industry needs to address," Ray Staff added. "We live in a world where, other than vinyl, we are moving away from physical masters to the online delivery of CD masters and files for downloads. It is imperative that guidelines are followed to ensure that the right files and masters are delivered and to provide mastering engineers with some protection in case of mistakes by others. Many of those working in the mastering business already know the process but there are a lot of people who are new to mastering or are working in small home-based facilities that need guidelines and need a structure that establishes a clear chain of responsibility." '

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A little differently but to hghlight this issue... A few months back we were asked to quote to produce a redbook master. The artist decided that our quote was too expensive and he decided to use the servies or a mixing engineer who 'masters' as a side line. (The difference in the two quotes came down to about £2 per track.) So the mix engineer mastered and issued the redbook PMCD CD to the duplication plant and 2500 CDs were pressed. They all contain digital whitenoise as the PMCD has unrecoverable errors and there are other issues with CD text etc. The artist and the mix engineer are arguing over who pays for those cds at the moment as at present all they are good for is a drinks mat.


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vonhotch
post Oct 4 2012, 05:35 PM
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Ouch! All over a couple euro per track. What is a redbook PMCD?


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Saoirse O'Shea
post Oct 5 2012, 09:00 AM
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Difference in price to have it mastered by the mix engineer rather than professionally was about 25 euros. Cost of 2500 unplayable CDAs (not including jewel cases etc) about 700 euros...

Redbook PMCD.

Redbook is the agreed Sony/Philips technical standard for an audio CD. It stipulates things like bit depth, sample rate, maximum CD length, pre gap time, between gapping, minimum track length, CD TEXT, and so on. PMCD stands for pre master CD. The standard is available from the AES, Philips, etc and costs about $100 to buy for members.

There are other 'colour' book standards for other types of CD and DVDs.

Technically the CD you get from the mastering engineer that is sent to the replication plant is not a master but the pre master (hence PMCD).* The replicator produces the 'master' disc from the PMCD. The PMCD has to meet other quality standards, in addition to the Red Book, to be suitable for the replicator to use. These include the number and type of errors on the PMCD, often referred to as the block error. All CDs have errors but the errors on a PMCD must not exceed a given standard or the CD may skip, have drop outs, contain unwanted white noise and distorton and in a worst case be unplayable. The replicator checks that the PMCD conforms usually on an Eclipse before they produce the glass master and run the print. If there's a problem they normally contact the mastering engineer, which is one reason why the mastering engineer includes their contact details on the PQ print out supplied with the PMCD. Duplicators don't always run an Eclipse or similar quality check and if there is a problem they will be duplicated on all the CDs made.

A professional mastering engineer should check a PMCD for block error conformity before they send it to the client. However home/project mastering and mix engineers rarely do this either because they don't know/can't do it as it requires specalist cd writers and readers. Making sure that the PMCD etc meets red book and conforms with quality is actually as, and arguably more, important than processing the music to get a particular sound. Sadly most people don't realise this until it's too late.


* It's also possible to replicate/duplicate without a PMCD using a DDP image.


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Todd Simpson
post Oct 11 2012, 05:17 PM
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Folks, this is exactly why you want a Pro mastering engineer on your side if you EVER plan to do a PHYSICAL release. If you are releasing tracks on youtube, spotify, by yourself, you can fudge it. But if you are actually planning on printing up physical media, there are set standards that regular musicians, even experienced mix guys just don't know or work with often. So if you plan on making some CDs in any serious quantity (a duplication run of even 250 from a duplication house lets say) do yourself a favor and have a pro master the tracks.

If you are printing cd's up at home to hand out at shows, again, you can fudge, it's probably fine. If you or anyone associated with your project is fronting the cost for duplication (E.g. a pro duplication job at a duplication facility, not burning cds at home) spring for the real deal on Mastering smile.gif

Todd


[
quote name='tonymiro' date='Oct 5 2012, 04:00 AM' post='610980']
Difference in price to have it mastered by the mix engineer rather than professionally was about 25 euros. Cost of 2500 unplayable CDAs (not including jewel cases etc) about 700 euros...

Redbook PMCD.

Redbook is the agreed Sony/Philips technical standard for an audio CD. It stipulates things like bit depth, sample rate, maximum CD length, pre gap time, between gapping, minimum track length, CD TEXT, and so on. PMCD stands for pre master CD. The standard is available from the AES, Philips, etc and costs about $100 to buy for members.

There are other 'colour' book standards for other types of CD and DVDs.

Technically the CD you get from the mastering engineer that is sent to the replication plant is not a master but the pre master (hence PMCD).* The replicator produces the 'master' disc from the PMCD. The PMCD has to meet other quality standards, in addition to the Red Book, to be suitable for the replicator to use. These include the number and type of errors on the PMCD, often referred to as the block error. All CDs have errors but the errors on a PMCD must not exceed a given standard or the CD may skip, have drop outs, contain unwanted white noise and distorton and in a worst case be unplayable. The replicator checks that the PMCD conforms usually on an Eclipse before they produce the glass master and run the print. If there's a problem they normally contact the mastering engineer, which is one reason why the mastering engineer includes their contact details on the PQ print out supplied with the PMCD. Duplicators don't always run an Eclipse or similar quality check and if there is a problem they will be duplicated on all the CDs made.

A professional mastering engineer should check a PMCD for block error conformity before they send it to the client. However home/project mastering and mix engineers rarely do this either because they don't know/can't do it as it requires specalist cd writers and readers. Making sure that the PMCD etc meets red book and conforms with quality is actually as, and arguably more, important than processing the music to get a particular sound. Sadly most people don't realise this until it's too late.


* It's also possible to replicate/duplicate without a PMCD using a DDP image.
[/quote]


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Alex Feather
post Oct 11 2012, 09:37 PM
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Mastring is very important! It might kinda pricey though smile.gif Physical CD's are dying and everything is going digital but even than it is a good idea to do a professional mastering so your track is sounding as good as possible


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Saoirse O'Shea
post Oct 13 2012, 09:53 AM
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In some ways going direct to digital means professional mastering is even more important. With a physical CD there are two checks on the quality - the mastering studio and the replication plant. With digital you only have the mastering studio.



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Get your music professionally mastered by anl AES registered Mastering Engineer. Contact me for Audio Mastering Services and Advice and visit our website www.miromastering.com

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We use professional, mastering grade hardware in our mastering studo. Our hardware includes:
Cranesong Avocet II Monitor Controller, Dangerous Music Liasion Insert Hardware Router, ATC SCM Pro Monitors, Lavry Black DA11, Prism Orpheus ADC/DAC, Gyratec Gyraf XIV Parallel Passive Mastering EQ, Great River MAQ 2NV Mastering EQ, Kush Clariphonic Parallel EQ Shelf, Maselec MLA-2 Mastering Compressor, API 2500 Mastering Compressor, Eventide Eclipse Reverb/Echo.
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Todd Simpson
post Oct 14 2012, 02:28 AM
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QUOTE (tonymiro @ Oct 13 2012, 04:53 AM) *
In some ways going direct to digital means professional mastering is even more important. With a physical CD there are two checks on the quality - the mastering studio and the replication plant. With digital you only have the mastering studio.


Yet another fine point. If you do get to a "Release" ( Even a Digital Only Release, where money is being spend to set up accounts for putting on itunes etc. and for promotion) you still need to get it mastered. Honestly, anything you plan on sharing and having out there should probably get mastered outside of tracks put out there just for some feedback. Digital Only Release is still a "Release" especially if money is being put on the table to promote, distribute it.


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Bogdan Radovic
post Oct 14 2012, 02:09 PM
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I always do mastering for my tracks. Not only it makes your music sound better - its very good to get another set of unbiased ears in the production process smile.gif With online mastering possibilities nowadays, its getting more and more affordable and easier too.


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Todd Simpson
post Oct 15 2012, 04:22 AM
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Very true! Some sites will master tracks for a crazy cheap price. But of course, don't just let price be your guide. If you can develop a relationshiop with a mastering engineer that you trust, it will be well worth it.


QUOTE (Bogdan Radovic @ Oct 14 2012, 09:09 AM) *
I always do mastering for my tracks. Not only it makes your music sound better - its very good to get another set of unbiased ears in the production process smile.gif With online mastering possibilities nowadays, its getting more and more affordable and easier too.



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Saoirse O'Shea
post Oct 15 2012, 10:45 AM
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QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Oct 15 2012, 04:22 AM) *
Very true! Some sites will master tracks for a crazy cheap price. But of course, don't just let price be your guide. If you can develop a relationshiop with a mastering engineer that you trust, it will be well worth it.


Totally agree Todd. A good ME will want to work with you to produce a project that you are happy with and that means building a relationship and having good communication with the ME.

Most of the ridiculously cheap sites will just run your project through a preset in some software. Many of them won't even listen to your music before they do it. If you're very lucky the preset might work but more often than not it won't. A lot of sites seem to be interested only in taking the money and then go awol since essentially you're paying for a cookie-cutter result and if it doesn't work the 'ME' can't/won't change things.

In contrast we charge a fee but unlike most we don't view pre-approval work as a recall and so don't charge extra for pre-approval takes. We also tend not to charge when we ask for a remix before we master and we also don't charge for critically listening to mixes and offering advice/suggestions. (We do charge if it gets out of hand with remixes. That is usally when the mix engineer is at remix version 6 or more and still iseems a long way from the finish line.) Most charge extra for all of these as they take time.

One of the things a mastering engineer brings is critical objectvity. People generally master when they think the mix is good enough but far too often in my experience the mix still needs work. If you do your own mastering no-one is there to tell you this. In addition most people who mix and also master do everything in the same room and on the same equipment. If there are issues with this sonically - and there usually are - the person can't deal with it.


--------------------
Get your music professionally mastered by anl AES registered Mastering Engineer. Contact me for Audio Mastering Services and Advice and visit our website www.miromastering.com

Be friends on facebook with us here.

We use professional, mastering grade hardware in our mastering studo. Our hardware includes:
Cranesong Avocet II Monitor Controller, Dangerous Music Liasion Insert Hardware Router, ATC SCM Pro Monitors, Lavry Black DA11, Prism Orpheus ADC/DAC, Gyratec Gyraf XIV Parallel Passive Mastering EQ, Great River MAQ 2NV Mastering EQ, Kush Clariphonic Parallel EQ Shelf, Maselec MLA-2 Mastering Compressor, API 2500 Mastering Compressor, Eventide Eclipse Reverb/Echo.
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