Fatal Vision

Re: Mastering
Posted by: Danny Danzi ()
Date: February 18, 2021 08:46AM

212 wrote:

"Danny - good to see you raise your profile. Was it 2001 (?) we chatted briefly at Maximes in Wigan, you were regretting the "plastic" stage clothing !! hot work !!
Anyway, more importantly, the "sound" of CDs is a bit of an obsession with me so interested to read your comments. Can I ask you to name 1 recent CD you think sounds great ? I'm keen to reference - thanks."

Hahaha, I think I remember that chat actually! The funny one was the last time I think. I had a blue silk shirt on that was totally black after the show. Tony Marshall named me "spongey" because about 15 minutes after, the shirt was blue again. How the heck I soaked it all up, I'll never know. LOL!

You question is a great one. I have mixed feelings and have multiple answers. I'll try to break them down and not get too "engineer" technical. But if I DO say something you don't understand, don't be afraid to ask. I know you guys know a lot about this stuff any way. But just in case...

Ok, to me most of the new music is all bad quality wise. Loaded with bass because they are catering to people with earbuds. When I listen to new music on a $10,000 rig here in my studio where everything is professionally tuned for "flat response" and it still sounds like bass rumble, you know it's bad. So, there are no newer tunes in my musical reference library. I have songs that showcase different instruments for different reasons. This goes with the territory for the field I'm in with recording, mixing and mastering.

I tend to lean towards older newer stuff and super old stuff. Example: Living Color's "Cult of Personality" is one of the best recordings of all time to me. It sounds fantastic on every piece of gear I own including laptop, car speakers, boom box and even my phone. The drum sound is monstrous, the bass guitar is not overly booming, and the guitars are killer....until the absolute garbage guitar solo. Ugh, why on earth someone allowed that is beyond me. LOL!

So that song is a winner for me quality wise. Now, by today's standards, it's very weak volume wise and IS lacking a bit of low end. As we have evolved with recording and our abilities, there are frequencies we use today that were not used years ago. For example, old analog records normally didn't have sub low bass sounds under 70hz in the low end area, and didn't utilize the upper end from like 15k to 20k. (which we call the air frequencies) Some of those frequencies you can't even hear, but done right, they add "air" to a mix.

Digital has allowed these new frequencies to be more present as we have created tools that better accentuate them and bring out these frequencies. Digital has pretty much taken any limitations away, but if we're not careful, these same gifts can be over-used to where it can ruin music really bad. And that's what we're seeing here.

When you listen to a piece of music, listen for the snare drum. If it sort of sounds buried in the mix of other instruments, that is the first sign of what we call "hyper compression" or "brick wall limiting". There's just no reason for music to be that loud. It needs to take us on an up and down journey. The peaks and valleys created by musical dynamics are what helps to move us. Brick wall limiting takes a signal, and makes it stay the same whether it's quiet or loud.

For example, here's what Metallica's St. Anger looks like:

St. Anger

See how it looks like a square box? This is the sort of thing the limiters are doing.

Here's my single "Do Me A Favor"

Do Me A Favor

It's loud and proud because it's supposed to be. But you can hear the dynamics and SEE them. It's not a total blob of smashed audio.

Other reference material I live by that I see in my folder, but again, in the field I'm in, there are reasons for these songs and some of them ARE rather loud. But they still sound terrific:

Out of my Head: Theory of a Dead man- love the quality. Loud and all, it just sounds good.

Gorgeous Nightmare: Escape the Fate- Again, it just sounds good to me even if it is a little aggressive.

Take That: Shine-love it! It just sounds killer. Great sound all around with a good drum sound, killer vocals, reminds me of the Beatles at times, bass is done well....you just can't help but smile when you hear this! Great production.

Slash and Myles: Halo- yeah, loud and obnoxious, but it works for this song. For me, one of the things I've changed about myself is how I listen to music. And that is, I listen to it for what it is and how it was delivered instead of what *I* think it should be. If I'm not careful, it's too easy to hate music because of the production. Then what? You just sort of shy away, ya know?

That's one of the issues for me (or at least it used to be) being in this field. I've so up on production and what's going on that it can totally ruin my listening experience. I had to stop acting like Mr. Producer and just shut up and listen to what the artist delivered. We can really ruin it for ourselves thinking like that. Example, anything Bad Company annoys me because the snare drum sounds like someone punching a mic'd up cardboard box. Steve Howe's guitar sound on early YES albums makes me wanna throw up because it sounds like nails on a chalkboard. Stuff like that, I've had to ignore or I wind up hating really good songs because the production annoys me.

One of the best songs for me as a benchmark right now is Creed's "Overcome". Older song, but it's beautiful. The low end is so tight and pronounced, it just speaks to me. Very well rounded, a good song, loud and proud, but still within the means of having the good dynamics we need.

Halestorm: I get Off- really love this. Dynamic, killer song, production rocks, and it's not totally squashed.

And finally, Undaunted by Adrenaline Mob. It just has a great sound, isn't too crushed and hits hard on all instruments.

Of course there are old classics too, but these are some of the more modern songs I like to benchmark from. With all of the above said, I always do what I feel is best for a my own stuff as well as my clients. If a song sounds really good with more of that limiter sound, we go for it. But I never squash it to where you can't hear snare drums or things are missing from the mix. The object is to enjoy the music, allow it to move you and take you on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. Not totally remove the ups and downs and crush you with loudness.

I'm not sure if any of the above answers your question or helps you out any, but it's the best way I can answer it based on what I do here as well as my experience with this sort of thing over the years. :)


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