Mastering in Sonar, why not?

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simppu
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2005/09/30 10:33:49 (permalink)

Mastering in Sonar, why not?

This must have been disussed before, but still: is there really a major difference between mastering a mix in Sonar track and using a costly, separate mastering software? Honestly, for a decent demo, is there something essential missing, if you import the mixed wav into a Sonar track, equalize it, compress it with multiband, do other plugin-based editing, clean the start, process afada, etc.? Please tell me the big difference, and I'll be saving for mastering tools...
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    bermuda
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 10:39:47 (permalink)
    Jsaras has previously done mastering for folks using just the tools in Sonar to prove you can master with just the tools in Sonar.

    but it's not just about getting the best tools for every occassion.

    Yep we can throw some stuff on somewhat blindly ...as we all do... including me

    but go try out someone who does mastering professionally too.

    There are a few folks on here that do that, some have 1 minute free so you can here what the finished product may sound like.

    I have written 420 1 minute long songs especially geared for this offer ! but seriously...nothing to lose on having a go yourself, plus getting a pro to do it ....

     Yes.
    #2
    fac
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 10:48:17 (permalink)
    Just get a good set of mastering plugins (ie.- Voxengo, Ozone, WaveArts, etc.) and you can master in Sonar as easily as in any dedicated audio editor.

    I have a "Mastering" template for Sonar. It has one audio track routed through one "mastering bus" that contains a compressor, a good EQ, and a limiter (Voxengo Crunchessor, CurveEQ and Elephant, in my case), and also an instance of Elemental Audio Inspector at the end of the chain. There's a second audio track routed to the soundcard's output.

    In the first audio track I import the soon-to-be-mastered mix, and in the second I import a commercial song extracted from a CD. Now it's just a matter of tweaking the plugins and matching the level and spectral content of the commercial song. I have everything I need in the same screen: level meters, RMS measures (from Elephant), spectral views (CurveEQ and Inspector), stereo field graphs (Inspector), clip indicators (Inspector), etc.

    Also, I switch the audio engine from 44.1 Khz to 96 Khz when mastering and render the final WAV at 96 Khz, then use Voxengo's r8brain to convert to 44.1 Khz. It gives me better results than doing everything at 44.1.

    And now with Sonar 5 waveform preview things are going to be even easier.

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    fac
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 10:54:29 (permalink)
    Oh, just let me add that I master my own songs because they're not commercially oriented. They won't be sold or used as demos. They will be burn to CD's to give to friends and family.

    If I were to do some commercial CD, I would take my mixes to a pro mastering studio.

    If you still do it yourself, a good tip that has worked for me is always mastering twice: do a first master, burn to a CD, listen to it for a while in several places (car stereo, home stereo, discman & headphones, etc), take mental note of what's wrong with the mix (written note should be better but can't do it while I'm driving), and then (after a couple weeks) make a second master. It will sound much better (at least in my case).

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    bermuda
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 11:13:02 (permalink)
    Very good and relevant advice from fac

     Yes.
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    ohhey
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 11:13:12 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: simppu

    This must have been disussed before, but still: is there really a major difference between mastering a mix in Sonar track and using a costly, separate mastering software? Honestly, for a decent demo, is there something essential missing, if you import the mixed wav into a Sonar track, equalize it, compress it with multiband, do other plugin-based editing, clean the start, process afada, etc.? Please tell me the big difference, and I'll be saving for mastering tools...


    One reason I would not want to do that is because it would require another trip through the audio engine to get the output file. I like to use a file based wav editor like Sound Forge so I can operate directly on the file. Also, if process with a plugin in Sound Forge I can see the results (waveform) after it's done and before I do another one and keep an eye on peaks and levels. With Sonar 4 I can't see the results at all. Now Sonar 5 has a bus waveform view but I would question how accurate it is when you have more then one plugin applied and have not palyed the song through. I think the new bus waveform view is more of a rough estimate.

    It's also a skill thing, I've used Sound Forge for years and I can get things done very quickly with predictable results, I'm not sure if I have time to get to that level with Sonar as a matering tool, and there is no reason since I already have Sound Forge. However, if I had to start over I think I would still like to have a wav editor.
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    Fullmoon
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 12:28:26 (permalink)
    Just to get an idea.....what software(s) (other than Sonar) are my fellow Forum members using to master in? Any compelling differences (advantages) that you can point to, in support your Mastering sofware choice?

    Thanks,
    David
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    Petteri Karjalainen
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 12:36:02 (permalink)
    when the song goes through my master bus.. it's mastered. and im not kidding even.
    I do my songs in such way that when I do the final export to a wave .. I dont have to touch it ever again (maybe this is why my songs never use less than 92% of CPU) and if you're doing a commercial release .. forget "mastering" on your own anyway .. the label people will ask you for an "untampered" version which they will propably master themselves

    ..but is it 20 - 40% better ?
    www.badloop.com
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    attalus
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 12:38:59 (permalink)

    ORIGINAL: Fullmoon

    Just to get an idea.....what software(s) (other than Sonar) are my fellow Forum members using to master in? Any compelling differences (advantages) that you can point to, in support your Mastering sofware choice?

    Thanks,
    David


    I use cdarchitect because it does a ton of things that sonar can't do-cd text,isrc coding,redbook burning,the crossfadind but still giving each track its correct number place on cd etc, and i think it does one or two things sound forge does'nt do and thats DAO burning.I don't think it's a good idea to burn your album on to cd's using windows media player or something similar!Mastering programs are more than just used for applying processing effects.
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    ohhey
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 12:43:30 (permalink)

    ORIGINAL: attalus


    ORIGINAL: Fullmoon

    Just to get an idea.....what software(s) (other than Sonar) are my fellow Forum members using to master in? Any compelling differences (advantages) that you can point to, in support your Mastering sofware choice?

    Thanks,
    David


    I use cdarchitect because it does a ton of things that sonar can't do-cd text,isrc coding,redbook burning,the crossfadind but still giving each track its correct number place on cd etc, and i think it does one or two things sound forge does'nt do and thats DAO burning.I don't think it's a good idea to burn your album on to cd's using windows media player or something similar!Mastering programs are more than just used for applying processing effects.



    I tend the seperate the mastering and CD layout processes. A mastered song file is an archive just like a master tape would be and is considered "finished". It might or might not go on any one CD or be crossfaded with another song and that is a seperate process then the "mastering".
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    SteveD
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 12:46:06 (permalink)
    I master the stereo mixdown in Sonar after loading one or two reference songs ripped from commercial CDs into adjacent tracks.

    I bounce the mastered mix to a new track to listen carefully for pops or clicks before exporting. Very rare, but "Never turn your back on digital" - Bob Katz.

    The good news is that if the bus wave form preview is all that in S5, I won't have to wait for bounces just to check it before a final is produced.

    Mastering in Sonar works well. I see no need for another app. There are many items higher on the priority list for me than Sound Forge or Wavelab.

    [EDIT: I do use CD Architect 5.2 for checking levels, album continuity, and PMCD burning, but I don't do any editing there... as the files are already dithered to 16 bit by the POW-r dither in Sonar.]
    post edited by SteveD - 2005/09/30 12:58:01

    SteveD
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    ohhey
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 13:00:48 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: SteveD
    ....

    [EDIT: I do use CD Architect 5.2 for checking levels, album continuity, and PMCD burning, but I don't do any editing there... as the files are already dithered to 16 bit by the POW-r dither in Sonar.]


    Another good reason not to make changes in CD Architect. Also, again you can't tell if you have cliping unless you play the entire project. I think that's how we ended up with so many cliped major label CDs in the last 10 years.
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    The Scar
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 13:07:51 (permalink)
    One reason I would not want to do that is because it would require another trip through the audio engine to get the output file. I like to use a file based wav editor like Sound Forge
    Mate, I always learn interesting stuff from you... can you explain this a bit more?

    What I do is output a stereo file, then start a new Sonar session with that file and master it... but it sounds like you're saying that approach goes through the audio engine, which it wouldn't if I used SoundForge, and the result is better with SoundForge?

    (Sorry if this sounds totally confused... I just want to be sure I understand what you're driving at.)

    T.

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    #13
    dcasey
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 13:10:06 (permalink)
    I'm fond of Ozone from iZotope (www.izotope.com) - I haven't found a preset that can actually be used right out of the box, but a few of the presets have given me a starting point. One of the biggest challenges in my book is trying to get a master any where near as hot as the commercial releases. Obviously the big studios/mastering houses have really good equipment and or software, but it's the art of mastering that makes a good cut. You can easily get carried away with compression, EQ's and the like - it's harder than you think to do this well. A lot of folks will tell you to ship your songs off to someone else to master, telling you that you will never master mastering - I say bang your head against the wall for a month if you have to. Personally, I want to learn to do this myself, but that's just me.

    While I haven't used the Voxengo Mastering Suite, I use several plug-ins from them (Aleksey Vaneev) and they are fantastic. I don't know what the presets look like, I don't know if they can be used right out of the box or as a good basis for your type of music. Perhaps someone else can comment on this.

    I suspect you can "master" using only the tools that Sonar provides, but if you can afford Ozone or the Voxengo suite - I recommend looking at those.

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    #14
    Guest
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 13:12:35 (permalink)
    there are simply too few waveform editing and analysis commands in Sonar to do a proper job
    of mastering (imho).

    jeff
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    ohhey
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 13:13:37 (permalink)
    Oh, one more thing. I often do edits in Sound Forge that are done by selection, not applied to the entire song like a plugin would be in Sonar. I might also use the pencil tool to do tiny little fixes by hand. There is no way I can do that in Sonar or any other tool I know of. So Sound Forge is a must have. This is not just for mastering but also for editing clips, I just couldn't get that level of precision any other way. I can often fix a track (clip) in Sound Forge that can't be re-recorded and is an essential part of the mix. I would hate to have to tell a client (or mayself) "Sorry.. I can't fix that.. it can't be done". In fact I will go so far as to say that I could do with any DAW for mixing even ProTools (yuck) but I could not do the real magic I do without Sound Forge.
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    Fullmoon
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 13:18:22 (permalink)
    Thst's good news to hear... I haven't upgraded to Sonar 5 yet... that might be a reason another incentive to upgrade. I'm still learning Sonar 4 PE and going from a Roland VS880 to Sonar you have to change the way you think about mastering (and recording).

    Got a lot to learn...
    Thanks for the info

    David
    #17
    ohhey
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 13:27:46 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: The Scar

    One reason I would not want to do that is because it would require another trip through the audio engine to get the output file. I like to use a file based wav editor like Sound Forge
    Mate, I always learn interesting stuff from you... can you explain this a bit more?

    What I do is output a stereo file, then start a new Sonar session with that file and master it... but it sounds like you're saying that approach goes through the audio engine, which it wouldn't if I used SoundForge, and the result is better with SoundForge?

    (Sorry if this sounds totally confused... I just want to be sure I understand what you're driving at.)

    T.


    I think it's "better". Every trip through the audio engine is uncertain at best and may even add dither for a second time. I do know the sound changes and not for the better. What I do is export to 24bit at native sample rate to the project. Then I do all my mastering in Sound Forge at that rate. Then as the last two steps I 1. resample to 44.1 (using highest quality setting) and then 2. dither down to 16bit. That way any mastering processes are done at 24bit and at native sample rate. I get no surprises that way, things sound exactly as I expect them to.

    If I open the export from Sonar and there are things I can't fix in Sound Forge I go back and re-mix and re export. That way every song has only made one trip through the Sonar audio engine and has not been downsampled by Sonar.
    #18
    dcastle
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 13:31:28 (permalink)
    One reason I would not want to do that is because it would require another trip through the audio engine to get the output file. I like to use a file based wav editor like Sound Forge so I can operate directly on the file.

    And just what do you think happens to that file? Does it just sit there and get magically transmogrified? Nope! It goes through the Sound Forge audio engine. There is no conceptual difference between using Sound Forge or SONAR to do this kind of mastering.

    Every trip through the audio engine is uncertain at best and may even add dither for a second time. I do know the sound changes and not for the better.

    It used to be argued that there was audio degradation in every single effect or fader, but this has largely been eliminated with 32-bit floating point, and is virtually non-existent with 64-bit floating point, so the number of effects, faders, or trips through the audio engine is really irrelevant any more. Furthermore, exporting to 32-bit floating point wave files should render any dithering completely transparent.

    I can't wait to hear the audiophiles start saying they can hear the zipper noise of a 64-bit floating point fader at the end of a cymbol reverb tail.

    Technically, it doesn't really matter whether you master-as-you-mix in SONAR or export the mix and master as a second step. But, from a work-flow perspective, it matters a lot. If you are mastering in the mix, then the levels have to be perfect for the entire song, not just relative to the other elements in the mix. This can create some difficult decisions and tradeoffs. But, if you export your best mix, and then master it in a second step it can be easier. Of course easier is not necessarily better, and you may find that EQ and compression change the mix in ways that require tweaks in the mix.

    Regards,
    David
    post edited by dcastle - 2005/09/30 13:43:16

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    #19
    SteveD
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 13:32:38 (permalink)
    Makes sense to do clip editing with a pencil tool during mixing... but during mastering? If I were a mastering house without access to the multi-track, sure I'd need tools to fix things that are wrong in the mix, but since I'm wearing both hats... if I need to edit something... you can bet I'm back in the mix doing that. And guess what app I use for that.

    I obviously haven't had the pleasure of using the pencil tool in Sound Forge... sounds like it could be addictive... I'm sure it is. But can't you achieve the same result with hand drawn clip gain envelopes in S5?

    I agree that the spectrum analysis and bit analysis tools in Sound Forge and Wavelab are excellent. But the PAZ analysis tools in the Waves Diamond bundle seem to do a pretty good job.

    BTW... I've NEVER passed what I do off as mastering for anything that's going to be pressed at a duplication plant. I ALWAYS recommend a commercial mastering facility first.

    SteveD
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    nprime
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 13:50:39 (permalink)
    Dear me, this thread is making me nauseous.

    It would seem that most of you think that mastering a song is all about obtaining maximum volume, or worse yet matching someone else's idea of perfection by "duplicating " their frequency distribution.

    Mastering is a very specialized art. I dare say it takes as many years to become good at it as it does to become a competent recording engineer.

    And, most importantly, mastering requires top end gear in top end room. The idea that poeple are "mastering" in their bedrooms on $300.00/pair speakers makes me sick to my stomach. A real mastering house has spent thousands of dollars on the room's acoustics alone, then probably ten times that on professional monitors, amplification, and hardware. The people who work there do nothing but mastering. They are specialists.

    To compare what you people are doing with a couple of cheap plug-ins in an acoustically incorrect enviroment to these places is a joke.

    You are making your songs as loud as possible with the least possible dynamic range, and then forcing them into an EQ pigeon hole. If you are happy with the results then bully for you, but...

    Please stop calling this mastering. It would more appropriately be called "apprenticing".

    Rod
    post edited by nprime - 2005/09/30 13:58:39

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    #21
    SteveD
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 13:56:19 (permalink)

    ORIGINAL: nprime

    Dear me, this thread is making me nauseous.

    It would seem that most of you think that mastering a song is all about obtaining maximum volume, or worse yet matching someone else's idea of perfection by "duplicating " their frequency distribution.

    Mastering is a very specialized art. I dare say it takes as many years to become good at it as it does to become a competent recording engineer.

    And, most importantly, mastering requires top end gear in top end room. The idea that poeple are "mastering" in their bedrooms on $300.00/pair speakers makes me sick to my stomach. A real mastering house has spent thousands of dollars on the room's acoustics alone, then probably ten times that on professional monitors, amplification, and hardware. The people who work there do nothing but mastering. They are specialists.

    To compare what you people are doing with a couple of cheap plug-ins in an acoustically incorrect enviroment to these places is a joke.

    You are making your songs as loud as possible with the least possible dynamic range, and then forcing them into an EQ pigeon hole. If you are happy with the results then bully for you, but...

    Please stop calling this mastering. It would more appropriately be called "apprenticing".

    Rod


    Careful friend... says there you are replying to my post. Doesn't look like you read any of it.

    ORIGINAL: SteveD
    BTW... I've NEVER passed what I do off as mastering for anything that's going to be pressed at a duplication plant. I ALWAYS recommend a commercial mastering facility first.

    SteveD
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 13:57:53 (permalink)
    the pencil tool in Sound Forge... sounds like it could be addictive..

    it is .. i don't record anymore .. i just draw the waveforms out .. so much more
    control ;-) and .. you don't always get clean stuff to work with .. so sometimes you have
    to use it to fix isolated problems.

    and PAZ is good stuff for sure .. but there's a whole aresenal of stuff in SoundForge ..
    and the batch scripting is a real timesaver too.

    it can be done in Sonar . but you need to supplement what they have significantly.

    jeff
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 14:02:00 (permalink)
    It would seem that most of you think that mastering a song is all about obtaining maximum volume, or worse yet matching someone else's idea of perfection by "duplicating " their frequency distribution.


    you mean like Nickelback .. one of your country's gifts to audio posterity? ;-) .. you'll be expelled
    for this kind of talk.

    jeff

    #24
    simppu
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 14:06:58 (permalink)
    Great, folks! After a break with the kids I came back to find what I had hoped: some good ideas and responses to think about. I do not have the thousands of dollars and everything, so it was nice to hear that "others do it too". I had't thought the reference track from a commercial cd - definitely worth trying. I was not quite convinced about swiching to 96kHz in between the mix and the final product - what's the point? I love this forum - despite the fact that I only have the S3 and will be soon out of date...
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    nprime
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 14:10:36 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: SteveD


    ORIGINAL: nprime

    Dear me, this thread is making me nauseous.

    It would seem that most of you think that mastering a song is all about obtaining maximum volume, or worse yet matching someone else's idea of perfection by "duplicating " their frequency distribution.

    Mastering is a very specialized art. I dare say it takes as many years to become good at it as it does to become a competent recording engineer.

    And, most importantly, mastering requires top end gear in top end room. The idea that poeple are "mastering" in their bedrooms on $300.00/pair speakers makes me sick to my stomach. A real mastering house has spent thousands of dollars on the room's acoustics alone, then probably ten times that on professional monitors, amplification, and hardware. The people who work there do nothing but mastering. They are specialists.

    To compare what you people are doing with a couple of cheap plug-ins in an acoustically incorrect enviroment to these places is a joke.

    You are making your songs as loud as possible with the least possible dynamic range, and then forcing them into an EQ pigeon hole. If you are happy with the results then bully for you, but...

    Please stop calling this mastering. It would more appropriately be called "apprenticing".

    Rod


    Careful friend... says there you are replying to my post. Doesn't look like you read any of it.

    ORIGINAL: SteveD
    BTW... I've NEVER passed what I do off as mastering for anything that's going to be pressed at a duplication plant. I ALWAYS recommend a commercial mastering facility first.



    My reply was to the thread in general, not you personally. Sorry if you took offense.

    R

    Listen

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    #26
    Otis
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 14:12:45 (permalink)

    ORIGINAL: nprime

    Dear me, this thread is making me nauseous.

    It would seem that most of you think that mastering a song is all about obtaining maximum volume, or worse yet matching someone else's idea of perfection by "duplicating " their frequency distribution.

    Mastering is a very specialized art. I dare say it takes as many years to become good at it as it does to become a competent recording engineer.

    And, most importantly, mastering requires top end gear in top end room. The idea that poeple are "mastering" in their bedrooms on $300.00/pair speakers makes me sick to my stomach. A real mastering house has spent thousands of dollars on the room's acoustics alone, then probably ten times that on professional monitors, amplification, and hardware. The people who work there do nothing but mastering. They are specialists.

    To compare what you people are doing with a couple of cheap plug-ins in an acoustically incorrect enviroment to these places is a joke.

    You are making your songs as loud as possible with the least possible dynamic range, and then forcing them into an EQ pigeon hole. If you are happy with the results then bully for you, but...

    Please stop calling this mastering. It would more appropriately be called "apprenticing".

    Rod
    Whoa! Now tell us how you really feel!
    #27
    dcastle
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 14:13:04 (permalink)
    Dear me, this thread is making me nauseous.

    Hmm! I think you meant .... but maybe you're right.

    nau·seous Pronunciation Key (nôshs, -z-s)
    adj.

    1. Causing nausea; sickening: “the most nauseous offal fit for the gods” (John Fowles).
    2. Usage Problem. Affected with nausea.

    nauseous·ly adv.
    nauseous·ness n.

    Usage Note: Traditional critics have insisted that nauseous is properly used only to mean “causing nausea” and that it is incorrect to use it to mean “affected with nausea,” as in Roller coasters make me nauseous. In this example, nauseated is preferred by 72 percent of the Usage Panel. Curiously, though, 88 percent of the Panelists prefer using nauseating in the sentence The children looked a little green from too many candy apples and nauseating (not nauseous) rides. Since there is a lot of evidence to show that nauseous is widely used to mean “feeling sick,” it appears that people use nauseous mainly in the sense in which it is considered incorrect. In its “correct” sense it is being supplanted by nauseating.

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    #28
    agincourtdb
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 14:14:00 (permalink)
    My only requirement is that it sounds good to my ears, and to the ears of my band when it's my band's cd.

    Which, by the way, was mixed and mastered in Sonar 4PE, is pressing now, and will be out Oct 9th :-) (shameless plug) It sounds pretty good to me, apart from some room ambience problems with the original studio tracks I inherited from the other recording engineer (basement with brick walls, maybe you remember the thread).

    Undoubtedly someone with better gear (or even just dedicated mastering software) and more experience could do a better job. I'm willing to bet it's the experience that's the weightier variable. Anyway, I'm happy with the way it's turned out and so is the band. :-)



    #29
    ooblecaboodle
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    RE: Mastering in Sonar, why not? 2005/09/30 14:24:14 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: Fullmoon

    Just to get an idea.....what software(s) (other than Sonar) are my fellow Forum members using to master in? Any compelling differences (advantages) that you can point to, in support your Mastering sofware choice?

    Thanks,
    David

    I master in SADiE, because That's what we have in our mastering studio - it was there before I got employed.
    I hate SADiE with a passion, it is the most unstable piece of junk I've ever worked with, and it hasn't got enough DSP power to simultaneously run a limiter, and a dither plugin. It will occasionally lose comunication with it's own integral, custom control surface. It will randomly decide not to lock to timecode right in the middle of a dubbing session, 8 times out of ten, if I press undo, it crashes completely etc etc etc.
    All this from a hardware assisted DSP based system.

    Howeven, I CAN't master in Sonar, because it HAS NO MASTERING FEATURES.

    I can't make a CD image, or a DDP image, I can't edit PQs, I can't edit ISRCs, I can't enter a barcode. SONAR IS NOT A MASTERING APP.
    I really wish I could amster in sonar though.

    It’s not over ‘till you’re underground.

    www.sainwales.com
    this is where we are!
    #30
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