September 22nd, 2016 at 8:12 pm by admin

Have you ever wondered how some artists are able to put out new music more frequently than others? In some cases a new track every week!

 

You might have wondered how they are able to do this, and wished you could do the same thing. Maybe you’ve produced some songs in the past. A release here & there, but have always struggled with the time it takes to do it.

 

My friend Jason Timothy from MusicSoftwareTraining has created an online course to help you breakthrough your creative barriers and show you just how to Create an EP in 30 Days.

 

You might know Jason from his Amazon Best Seller book “The Mental Game of Electronic Music Production,” in which he writes about finishing songs fast, beating procrastination and finding your creative flow. Just search Amazon for “Music Production” and his book is #1.

 

That’s why I got excited when he told me he was launching his new course that demonstrates and shows you exactly how to create an EP in 30 Days.

 

However, this course is not for procrastinators. He is accepting only 100 students, and each student will have to follow along with the rest of the class, doing homework and applying what he teaches you along the way. At the end of the course, you will have created an EP of your own.

 

If you’re ready to own your relationship with music this is the ultimate course for you.

 

If you want to create 2 or more release quality songs in just 30 days this course is for you.

 

If you want to improve your workflow, and breakthrough your creative barriers that are holding you back this course is for you!

 

You can try this course for 7 days for just $1 (USD)!

 

Also, Jason will be giving this course away for free to 1 lucky producer who fills out this form.

 

You will also gain access to Jason’s private FB group where you will meet other students, as well as all the graduates from his previous launches.

 

Fill out this form.

 

Don’t worry, there is nothing to buy now. If you are interested in this course and would like more information, simply fill out this form. Jason will get in contact with you with more info about the course and work with you to make sure you get the most out his course.

 

>>> Fill out this form to gain access to his course – Create an EP in 30 Days Master Course <<<

August 23rd, 2016 at 9:36 am by admin

Knowing how to use an equalizer is an integral skill for anyone working in audio, yet knowing how and when to use one isn’t always easy. Here are some practical tips for using your equalizer more effectively.

1. Use Peak Filtering to Find The Frequency:
Peak filtering is a method of identifying problem frequencies using the 3 main components of an EQ; the Gain, Bandwidth (also known as Q or Resonance), and Frequency knobs. Follow these steps to find problem frequencies:

  • Increase the Gain +10db on a given frequency band. (see image 1)
Peak Filter Example: Gain Increase

Peak Filter Example: Gain Increase (image 1)

  • Increase the Bandwidth so that you’re only effecting a small range of frequencies (in this case with the Q knob). (see image 2)
Peak Filter Example: Increase Bandwidth

Peak Filter Example: Increase Bandwidth (image 2)

  • Move the Frequency up and down the spectrum to identify the problem frequency. When you hear it, you will usually know by the harshness of the sound or unnecessary muddiness of that frequency. Let your ears guide you. (see image 3)
Peak Filter Example: Move Frequency Knob

Peak Filter Example: Move Frequency Knob (image 3)

2. Use Subtractive EQ – LESS IS MORE!:
Now that we’ve found the problem frequency using peak filtering, we can remove it using Subtractive EQ.

An example of Subtractive EQ is demonstrated below.

  • First, find the problem frequency using peak filtering demonstrated in #1 above.
  • Once identified, turn the gain knob down to lower the volume of that frequency or remove it altogether. (see image 4)
Subtractive EQ Example

Subtractive EQ Example (image 4)

Subtractive EQ can be combined with all other parametric shapes including bell (seen in figures 1, 2, 3), low shelf, high shelf, low cut, high pass, etc…

Here is an example of using a high shelf filter to turn the high frequencies up > 1500Hz using Subtractive EQ

  • Use a Low Cut filter (also known as High Pass) to identify the cutoff point in which you want to turn the frequencies up. In this case we want to turn up the frequencies above 1500 Hz. (Hint: You can also use a stereo spectrum analyzer in conjunction with your ears to help guide you.) (see image 5)
Subtractive EQ: Shelf Filtering

Subtractive EQ: Shelf Filtering (image 5)

  • Turn your Shape to Low Shelf, and turn the gain down accordingly. (see image 6)
Subtractive EQ: Shelf Filtering

Subtractive EQ: Shelf Filtering (image 6)

Notice that I used Subtractive EQ to turn down the frequencies below 1500Hz instead of turning up the frequencies above 1500Hz. In effect, this is the same as turning the frequencies up on all frequencies above 1500Hz. This saves me DB while getting the same desired effect.

Remember, Subtractive EQ should be your first instinct, while additive EQ should be used sparingly.

Note: Most amateur producers will use EQ to boost frequencies they want more of, known as Additive EQ. However, doing so will add unwanted DB to your mixes. Instead, you should focus your efforts on removing unwanted frequencies to make other instruments stand out.

3. Give and Take. IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE:
It is very common that you will have many instruments competing for the listener’s attention. For example, in electronic music you will have a kick and bassline that take up a lot of the same frequencies, causing them to sound muddy together when no processing is applied.

A solution to this problem is the give and take technique. If you boost EQ on one instrument, ask yourself what other instruments might be competing with those frequencies.

In this case, if you boost your kick (below 80Hz), try lowering the EQ on your bass below 80Hz to make room for the kick frequencies you boosted. You want every instrument to have their own space in the frequency spectrum allowing your instruments to breathe and move around each other. Not competing for the same space.

4. Use Your Ears:
Your ears are the most important tool you have, above all things. Let them guide you. Don’t make changes unless your ears tell you they’re needed.

Sometimes I will find myself closing my eyes when turning a dial to force myself to hear what I’m actually doing. When I’m happy with the sound I’m surprised to find the setting I end up on is one that I wouldn’t typically choose if I had been watching the knob being turned.

5. Remove Bottom End From Instruments That Don’t Need It:
When it comes to the bottom end of a track, you’re looking for clarity rather than just lots of ‘woofing’. Apply a high-pass filter to instruments that have no real low-end content. For example, filtering below 50Hz from guitars will remove cabinet rumble to the mix. Filtering below 80Hz from a vocal will remove any rumble from the mic stand (or a tapping foot).

6. Experiment:
Mastering the use of EQ isn’t something that just happens overnight – it takes lots of time and practice. Don’t be afraid to experiment by mixing multiple versions of your tracks in order to discover how different EQ treatments affect the end result. Eventually, you’ll instinctively know how to get the sound you want.

7. Don’t Be Seduced By Thinking Louder Is Better:
If you add 10dB at 150Hz, 10dB at 1kHz and 10dB at 3kHz, all you’re really doing is boosting the volume of the track by 10dB. Just because the volume is louder, you might mistakenly perceive the track as ‘better’ – don’t be seduced.

Conclusion: Following these tips will help your mixes sound tighter and ultimately lead to better recordings.

Did I leave anything out? Feel free to let me know in the comments! Also, if you enjoyed this article please share using the social network buttons above.

 

All examples images are using Fabfilter Pro-Q V1. You can get it here: Fabfilter Pro-Q ($179 USD)

June 8th, 2016 at 6:08 pm by admin

ian-sutton-studio-mixing

Mixing is not only an art, it is also a paramount step of the production process that when done correctly, can yield great sounding recordings. It turns a collection of tracks into a finished piece of music, and can make your song sound good on anything from a cheap hi-fi radio to an audiophile’s dream setup.

In theory, mixing should be easy. You turn a few knobs here and there, until everything sounds good. However, that is not the case.

Anyone who has done enough mixing will know what it’s like to twist enough knobs only to find yourself in the middle of a jumbled mess with no direction and now all the sudden you don’t know where your mix is going. And you’re lost.

Here is a list of 7 Mixing Tips that will help you streamline your mixes and keep you on track to better and more efficient mixing.

  1. Keep your sub-bass and kicks in mono.

Think of it this way; you’re kick and bass are the driving forces behind your tracks, and as such, should be centered as much as possible, with everything else happening around it in the stereo spectrum.

Keeping your sub-bass in mono will keep your low-end centered, and will save precious db space for you to mix other instruments as well. It will also give you a good reference point for where to mix your other instruments. As a general rule of thumb I like to use Ozone Imager to keep everything < 200Hz in mono.

  1. Using a spectrum to analyze your signal.

I know I preach that mixing is an art. But behind that art is a science. And the science is this wonderful tool called a spectrum analyzer. A good spectrum analyzer will let you visually see your audio signal in real-time.

I will keep one open on my master channel at all times so I can see what is happening visually when all my tracks are playing at the same time. If I notice any major dips or spikes I will adjust my mix accordingly.

  1. Using mono mixing as reference.

This is an important one. Too often I get mixes that are really wide in the stereo field. I.E. the song sounds thin because a lot of the instruments are playing outside the normal stereo field. I see this happen a lot with producers who use mainly headphones for mixing.

They start panning instruments left and right and before they know it their track is so far wide that nothing is happening in the middle, leading to thin recordings. To combat this, make use of a stereo-to-mono plugin and check it every now and then.

This will force you to make space for all of your instruments. If you can make your track sound good in mono, it will sound great in stereo. Sometimes you don’t know how wide an instrument is until you reference it in mono.

  1. Make use of subtractive EQ.

Although additive EQ certainly has it’s place, subtractive EQ is an equalization technique where you subtract frequencies to make others stand out in the mix instead of adding to them. For example, to make my highs stand out in a mix, I will usually use a low-shelf curve to turn my lows down rather than try to boost the highs to get them to sit right.

Done correctly, this saves DB headroom and keeps your mix levels in check. I use more subtractive EQ than I do additive. That’s for sure.

  1. Do NOT use a limiter on master channel.

That’s right. Don’t do it. Using a limiter on the master channel when mixing is basically a replacement for what skills you lack in mixing, and can adversely effect your track in a negative way.

Instead, try using a limiter with a small threshold on individual instruments, rather than slapping it on top of everything via the master channel. Your mastering engineer will thank you.

  1. Do NOT move the master channel fader-volume.

When I started producing music 9 years ago I would start with my master fader at 0db, and as I added more elements to the track I would gradually move the master volume fader down to keep it from going over 0db.

My mixes would end up being really quiet to start, and be really loud by the end and I couldn’t figure out why. I know that sounds ridiculous but turns out I’m not the only one. I see it all the time, and I wish someone had told me sooner!

Keep your master volume at 0db, and do all of your mixing using the channels before it hits the master channel. If your levels are going above 0db, then change it in the mix, and DO NOT use the master volume-fader to compensate.

This will yield a more level and accurate waveform primed for mastering when you’re done. And will force you to learn to mix better.

  1. Tweeters facing out.

tweeters_out

This is a big one. Too often I see pictures of studios with the monitor speakers sitting horizontally and the tweeters are on the inside. This is a huge mixing mistake! Earlier I mentioned that your sub-levels and kick should be centered and in mono.

The same should be consistent with your audio setup. The bass and low-end should be centered in your listening environment with the mids and highs moving around the bass.

Having your tweeters on the inside is counter-productive and will confuse your mixes. Having them on the outside will keep your mixes more consistent.

And there you have it. While writing this I got some ideas for a few new articles, which I will be coming out with in the next few weeks. But this should get you started and on your way to better mixes.

What would be some tips you would suggest? What are some of the biggest tips anyone has given you that helped you improve your mixes? Comment below!

April 26th, 2016 at 6:33 pm by admin

In the last year we have seen an increase of new artists asking us to be part of their projects. One artist in particular has reached #1 spot in Beatport’s Top 100 Minimal Releases this week after just 5 days in the charts.

We are proud to have had the privilege of mastering this release right here at Darkroom Mastering! If you need confirmation that we are one of the best in the business, here it is.

Congrats goes to P.U.N.C.H.I.S. Records and everyone involved including the artists Jason Timothy, Marina Karamarko, and Battric & MIVU, and label boss Sergei Loginov, and everyone else involved. Looking forward to the next #1 Spot!

If you like minimal techno, or electronic music in general, which I know a lot of you do 😉 then you can grab a copy of it here.

http://btprt.dj/1WRD2sV

http://btprt.dj/1WRD2sV

(disclaimer: I do not make money from the sales of this release)

January 13th, 2015 at 7:35 am by admin

I often get asked what plugins I use for mastering. With so many options available today, it can be difficult to narrow it down to just a few. I would love to name everything I use, but the list would easily exceed over 20 plugins. However, I managed to put together a small list of essential plugins I use regularly during my mixing and mastering sessions.

DISCLAIMER:

The list here is in no particular order as each plugin is used for different purposes and scenarios. If you don’t know when or where to use these plugins, you can do more harm to your track than good. These plugins alone will not improve your mix.

Right, so let’s get on with it.

Fabfilter Pro-Q – ($199 – Demo | Purchase)

Fabfilter Pro-Q

Fabfilter Pro-Q

Although this EQ is relatively new to my toolbox, I have found myself using it more and more. I immediately knew why it is a go-to for many top producers after using it. I like that it is very transparent! Meaning; you can hear EQ changes of just +/- .33db. That comes in handy when trying to make very small adjustments, unlike most other EQ’s I have used.

Also, it has a post-EQ/pre-EQ spectrum analyzer for visually monitoring what the EQ is actually affecting, and for making precise adjustments. Another feature I like is that it doesn’t add any extra db volume like some EQ’s do. I have not tried the updated Fabfilter 2, but I hear good things. I’m good with this for now.

 Why I Like It:

  • Very Transparent
  • Color coordinated for making precise adjustments easy.
  • A/B Toggle between two EQ settings
  • Mid/Side and Left/Right Mode
  • Pre EQ AND Post EQ spectrum Analyzer
  • No Added DB

WAVES PuigTec EQ – ($250 – Demo | Purchase)

PuigTec EQP-1A

PuigTec EQP-1A

I mostly use this for low-end balance. It has a nice attenuation knob that sort of sucks the low end out like a vacuum and then the boost knob to adjust the volume at which the frequency knob is set. I don’t use it much for anything else, but I really like the way it helps me control the low-end balance on my tracks. When you have a good combo of the attenuation:boost ratio, it just sounds warm and fat!

 Izotope Ozone 5 Imager – ($250 – Demo | Purchase)

Izotope Ozone 5 Stereo Imager

Izotope Ozone 5 Stereo Imager

Best stereo imager I’ve used to date. Period. This tool lets you control the stereo image of 4 separate bands. For example, I can put everything below 180hz in mono, saving lots of space in the stereo field, while adding width to everything above 8500Khz giving that extra high-end shine. Need I say more?

To use Ozone Imager, you will have to buy the Ozone 6 Bundle now, as 5 is no longer available. I have not used v6.0 yet, however.

SSL G Master Buss Compressor – (Available Only in WAVES SSL 4000 Collection $650 – Demo | Purchase)

WAVES SSL G Master Bus Compressor

WAVES SSL G Master Bus Compressor

A buss compressor capable of giving an entire mix or groups of tracks a little compression without over-doing it. Breathes life into your drums or mixes with little effort. Has a side-chain feature that comes in handy. 2:1, 4:1, and 10:1 ratio options.

Fabfilter Pro-L – ($229 – Demo | Purchase)

Fabfilter Pro-L

Fabfilter Pro-L

My search for a good limiter ended when I started using this. The dithering features are easy to understand, and the advanced features are intuitive. I can usually squeeze a little more loudness out of a track without damaging the dynamics by playing with the attack and release. It’s very transparent like it’s Pro-Q sibling.

You can see exactly what parts of the track are clipping by looking at the gain reduction meter and graph. Plus, it has A/B option for comparing 2 different settings.

PSP Vintage Warmer ($149 – Demo | Purchase)

Vintage Warmer 2

Vintage Warmer 2

I know many producers in the industry who swear by this tool. Basically, it is a limiter with stereo/mono options and EQ. I love throwing this on small kicks and making them sound huge. Or even for the simple things like ensuring kicks and basses are playing in mono. The learning curve is a little more difficult, however, and takes practice to use it.

Nomad Factory Magnetic ii – ($129 – Demo | Purchase)

Nomad Factory Magnetic ii

Nomad Factory Magnetic ii

What an incredible tool this is. It does a great job of emulating reel-to-reel tape compression to give a track warmth and tape color to individual tracks, groups of drums, vocals, and even whole mixes. The big knobs make it easy to use. And it has a tape saturation feature, which I find very useful for when a track needs a little added grit.

Also, I can adjust the balance between the lows and highs in a wide-band setting for making high-low balance to a master very easy to do without making dramatic changes to the rest of the chain. Can be easy to over-use if not careful.

Lastly, it has several different tape machine algorithm’s to choose from that emulates the sound of many famous reel-to-reel tape machines.

Brainworx BX Digital V2 – ($329 – Demo | Purchase)

Brainworx BX Digital V2

Brainworx BX Digital V2

State-of-the-art digital mastering processor that provides you with a mastering class 11-band equalizer, M/S De-Esser, Mono-Maker and intelligent Bass- and Presence-Shifters, plus extra M/S features, such as Pan for M&S, and Stereo Width Control

I particularly like this plugin because I can solo a specific frequency, which makes finding harsh frequencies a breeze. If I hear a bad frequency in a track where there’s just too much of a particular frequency that shouldn’t be there, I can pinpoint it with ease, and instantly adjust the EQ accordingly.

After using it you will see why Future Music UK called it “Plugin Of The Decade.”

Voxengo Span – (Free – Demo | Purchase)

Voxengo Span

Voxengo Span

 Last but not certainly not least, Voxengo Span. I use it for two reasons:

  1. Spectrum Analysis: It has a lot of options to adjust it how you want it to look and behave. It also has a full screen option, which I like very much. Have you ever noticed that most spectrum analyzers have small screens? Kind of defeats it’s own purpose in my opinion.
  2. Loudness Metering: SPAN displays level metering statistics, headroom estimation and clipping detection.

Best of all, it’s free.

What kind of Go-To Plugin VST’s or AU’s do you use? Are there any plugins I left out? I am always interested in trying out new products.

Please leave your suggestions and comments below!

November 24th, 2014 at 6:55 pm by admin

As a mastering engineer of several years, I’ve seen a lot of music come through my studio. As a result, I’ve noticed many critical mistakes producers often make in their productions. So I put together a list the 6 most common mistakes I see producers make, and how you can avoid them.

By avoiding these pitfalls you will look more professional, cut email exchanges with engineers in half, train your ears, and you will know what to look out for in future productions.

1. Producing with the Limiter On
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see. Producers who do this are usually compensating for what they lack in production experience. I know, I know, the track just doesn’t sound big enough, so you add the limiter on the end because it sounds better.

But what you’re actually doing is ruining any chance of successful post-production work because the dynamics get squashed.

It is very hard to reverse the damage caused by a limiter once it has been added. It is usually best to avoid a limiter altogether instead of slapping it on the end of your master output. A limiter should be added as the last processing tool during mastering.

If using a limiter is necessary, just use a compressor with a small ratio (2:1) and small threshold. Again, IF NECESSARY.

2. Exporting Above 0db (Not Mixing Below 0db)
This one I see quite often. When you export your track, it is imperative that the signal does not exceed 0db. When I review a track and see that it does not have any headroom, it is because of 1 of 3 reasons.

a) It was produced with the limiter on (see above)
b) It was exported too loudly.
c) Both. Yikes!

Make sure when you’re producing your track, that the levels on the master channel have clear headroom.

What is headroom you ask? Headroom is the difference of space between the highest peak volume of your track and 0db. Usually, the more headroom, the better for post-production purposes.

3. Producing With The Master Fader Turned Down
I have been here before. You start your track with a kick and you want it to slam, so you turn the volume of the kick up, and turn the master channel down so you have room to add additional elements.

As you start adding more elements you notice that you keep running out of headroom, so you keep turning the master channel down. This technique will lead to tracks that are quiet at the beginning, but way too loud during the second half of the track.

Instead, try leave the master volume at 0db. Fight the urge to move that S.O.B. at any time. Do all your mixing before it hits the master channel and focus on the levels of your instruments.

If I start with a kick, I turn that channel down about -10db, and if I need to adjust the volume I will avoid the master fader volume and instead use the volume knob on my audio interface. I will say it once more. Leave the master fader volume at 0db.

If your levels go above 0db, then you have to mix your project down better so that it does not hit 0db.

4. Exporting in 16bit Without Dithering
You produced everything great! The track looks great! The waveform looks great! Sounds great! Everything is great! Then…. I see a big fat 16bit format.

This is a problem because if your stems are 24bit, and you exported to 16bit without dithering, you’ve just lost 8 bits of information. Gone. Period. Poof up in smoke!

And you will usually hear that in the master version once it is ready (or not ready) for distribution.

Do yourself a favor and check that you export in 24bit or higher if you plan to have any post-work done (mastering). Dithering should be the last step of the mastering process and should only be done once. (See dithering).

5. Cutting Off The End of your track during export.
Indeed, you’ve done everything right. However, the reverb/delay at the end of your track gets cutoff. When I ask a client to double check, they’ve indeed cutoff the end of the track by accident.

This happens because your DAW will export until the end of the last audio clip by default, and will not export any additional audio unless you tell it to do so.

Double check the IN/OUT points when exporting. You’re DAW will tell you exactly what point your track will start AND stop exporting. So export additional time just in case.

6. Not Exporting The Beginning Properly
This one comes up a lot, although not as common. The very beginning of your track starts with a kick, but the first kick sounds quiet compared to the rest of the kicks throughout the track.

It’s usually because the full length of the kick is not being exported due to the IN point being too soon. If that is the case, the rest of the kicks are the same way. For example, at a big drop or after a downtime.

Often times a kick sample is not precisely at the beginning of the track, and actually starts a fraction before. So examine that first kick like it’s under a microscope.

You might have to move your entire track up a fraction and export accordingly.

I hope this has helped you have a better idea of some common mistakes that producers make. If you avoid these you will be on the fast track to becoming a better producer.

 

Get Mastering

 

April 8th, 2014 at 6:19 pm by admin

While mastering has been somewhat of an expanded service over the years, there seems to a lot of confusion over some topics surrounding this important stage of the production process. Being a mastering engineer allows me to explain such misconceptions. Here’s a list of 9 Common Myths About Audio Mastering – Explained.

1. The Louder The Better

This is simply not true! Loudness is not desirable if it means sacrificing sonic integrity. This means pushing your track so loud that it eliminates all your dynamics in the track.

This can be fatiguing to the ear and have a negative effect on listening when doing so for an extended period of time. Use your volume knob. That’s what it’s there for, after-all.

2. Mastering Will Make A Bad Mix Into a Good Mix

Sadly, a poorly mixed track will almost always remain so. In mastering it is very difficult to isolate specific frequencies without affecting all the instruments.

For this reason, it is vital that a mix-down be mixed as best as possible before going into the mastering stage. That means getting the right tone and instruments balanced 110% before sending out for mastering.

3. Mastering Is The “Dark Art” of Making Music

Mastering is considered by most to be mysterious and therefore nobody wants to approach it. However, with experience, reaching sonic accuracy is just knowing what needs to be done to produce the best results.

This doesn’t mean start mastering your tracks by yourself. Which leads me to the next point.

4. I Can Master My Music Myself

It can be difficult to be objective toward your own music! Especially if you master your track in the same listening environment that it was produced in.

For those reasons, it’s better to leave it up to someone with fresh ears, who can be objective, and has the experience mastering tracks. Even top-end mixing studios will have their music sent out for mastering.

5. All the Mastering Engineer Does Is Add A Limiter

Making a track loud is just one part of mastering. An experienced engineer will do his best to ensure the best listening experience.

This can include, but not limited to: Editing & Fades, Track to Track Spacing, Hum & Hiss removal, Stereo Width, Surgical EQ, Tonal EQ, Compression/Parallel Compression, Adjusting the volumes of tracks to match so the whole project feels like a smooth listening experience, ISRC Codes and CD Text just to name a few!

6. Mastering Costs Too Much

Some mastering engineers can be insanely expensive, and rightfully so. They have decades of experience recording the best bands with the most expensive gear. There are also ones with wide varying ranges of experience, equipment, prices, and quality of work.

It is best that you find one that matches your budget and one you’re happy with!

7. Mastering Needs At Least -3db Headroom

I hear this all the time. The truth is, a good engineer will correct any volume issues before it goes into the mastering chain.

I prefer to work with as much signal as possible. Meaning that I like the audio to be as loud as possible before clipping (At 24bits). Then, during the mastering process I will turn the volume down to a preferable level before it goes into my chain.

Anything below -10db in volume I’m afraid might be losing signal and you should aim to submit mixes louder than -10db, but not reaching or exceeding 0db.

8. Mastering Isn’t Required For All Tracks

Actually this one is probably the most true, depending on how satisfied you are with your mix-down. Sometimes mixes come in that are near perfect, and in that case, doing adjustments like EQ, Compression can actually harm the audio.

It’s worth remembering that you should never underestimate a fresh perspective from an objective and experienced set of ears.

9. You Need Top Of The Line Gear

This is false. You need the correct gear and correct ears to make a quality master. In addition, with the options available today in digital music, it is entirely possible to make quality masters on a budget.

Instead, invest in listening, and new techniques, and understanding of good sounding recordings.

Conclusion

Hopefully this list helps to dispel any myths about audio mastering, and serves to clear up any confusion you might have.

What other myths do you guys hear about? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

January 8th, 2014 at 11:09 pm by admin

A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of mastering for Paul Baker and Question of Time Records (London, UK) for their latest release Moth / Sin Mente EP [QOT12]. We were excited when it reached Week 52’s #68 position on Beatport’s Top 100 Minimal charts.

Now, fast forward to week 2 of 2014, and it has reached position #1 for Top Minimal Releases on WhatPeoplePlay.com!

A big congrats to Questions of Time Records and Paul Baker!

To see it charting, go to www.WhatPeoplePlay.com and visit the Top 100, then click the Minimal Genre.

Question of Time Records - Paul Baker - Moth / Sin Mente EP

Question of Time Records – Paul Baker – Moth / Sin Mente EP

Links:

Website – http://www.questionoftime.co.uk/

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/questionoftimerecords

Twitter – https://twitter.com/QOT_Records

 

 

June 10th, 2013 at 12:24 am by admin

This guide is intended to introduce to you the world of room acoustics, and how you can enhance your listening environment by taming sound issues that studio owners face. Thus, improving your recordings.

The goal is very simple – we want to get the sound from the speakers to your ears with the least amount of reflection and distortion. This is really just a matter of what becomes of the sound after it passes your ears.

Introduction

In a perfect world the ideal studio would be placed in the middle of a large field, ensuring that nothing would interfere with the frequencies hitting your ears; otherwise known as a reflection free zone (RFZ).

Because this is not always possible we have to contend with sound reflections from walls, floors, furniture and ceilings. These are all factors that will change the way we hear things in a listening environment. Therefore, we have to deal with the possibility that the sound we are listening to isn’t always as it seems.

Part 1 – Soundproofing VS. Sound Absorption

There is a very commonly misconstrued idea that soundproofing is the same as sound absorption. However, they are completely different topics to discuss.

*SOUNDPROOFING

SOUNDPROOFING is when you want to stop the transfer of sound from your studio to another room, and SOUND ABSORPTION is what you want to do when you want to improve the acoustics within your studio. Implementing both will ensure best results.

Products that are designed to BLOCK SOUND from entering or leaving a space are almost always found INSIDE the wall construction. These products are heavy, dense, cumbersome, or designed to decouple the wall so that one side of the wall doesn’t have hard surface contact with the either.

*SOUND ABSORPTION

Sound absorption is that property of any material that changes the acoustic energy of sound waves into another form, often heat, which it to some extent retains, as opposed to sound energy that material reflects or conducts.

Products that are designed and intended to ABSORB ECHO within a room are soft, light, fluffy products. They will generally feel soft to the touch. They are designed to soften up the surfaces that are in the room and reduce the echo within that space.

*SOUND CAN PASS THROUGH ANY MEDIUM. In fact, it travels through solid objects better than through air. Much like water, it doesn’t have a form and molds to its surroundings. It can be absorbed by some materials and contained by others.

(Above: Sound Absorption Panel)

Part 2 – Early Reflections: The Destruction of Proper Stereo Imaging.

The first issue we want to address are called early reflections. This is when a sound hits your ear after bouncing off an object creating a very small delay effect and our brain cannot distinguish this as a separate sound source.

For example, the sound coming from your left monitor hits the right wall next to you and as a result bounces into your right ear. This means you are actually hearing some frequencies twice! This is not good.

Instead of distinguishing the delay as being separate from the original source, our brain interprets it as the same sound coming from different directions.

When you pan a sound left or right you will have a harder time distinguishing the balance between the two. Similarly, a sound that is in the center might sound more left or right. If this is familiar you might be dealing with effects of early reflections.

early reflections

The image above shows an example of early reflection points.
The red lines represent the sound you do not want to hear.
Keep in mind these reflections also occur from the back wall, floor (including large desks and large mixing boards below your monitors), and ceiling.

*HOW TO FIND EARLY REFLECTION POINTS

A simple and effective way to find early reflection points is to position yourself in your normal listening position and have a partner move a mirror flat against the sidewalls at ear level starting from the front of the room to the back of the room.

ANYWHERE YOU CAN SEE YOUR TWEETERS is where you should place sound absorption panels. Once the sidewall reflection points are located you should do the same thing on the floor, back wall and ceiling. It’s best to place absorption panels all around the areas of reflection for best results.

Part 3 – Standing Waves: Controlling Your Room.

You don’t have to understand the science of standing waves to understand what they are. To put simply, standing waves are when the sound combines with a reflecting source in mid-air. This can occur between reflected sounds and the original sound source and also between reflected sounds themselves.

When this happens frequencies will sometimes over power other frequencies and cancel them out causing nulls or dead space within a room and vice-versa where frequencies will expand giving the impression that your music sounds louder.

Ever notice when you stand near the corners of your room and the low frequencies seem almost too much? Or move to another position and the instrument you thought sounded great just isn’t there anymore?

Or, how about when you eat something that’s just been microwave and you realize some parts didn’t get cooked enough and other parts got too hot? Much like sound in a room, this is caused by standing waves.

– Dealing with standing waves.

Because mid and high frequencies are easier to treat this particularly happens more often with lower frequencies. One of the most effective ways to deal with standing waves is by having an angled ceiling. Unfortunately this is not the case for most of us.

This is where room acoustic treatment comes in. By applying low frequency absorption to the corners, walls and ceilings, we reduce the amount of sound waves being reflected back into the room.

These absorbers that focus on the low-frequencies are commonly referred to as Low-End Noise Reduction Devices, or LENRD. More commonly they are referred to simply as “bass traps.”

lenrd bass trap

(above: LENRD Bass Trap)

By placing LENRD’s in your studio you can prevent unwanted low frequencies from gathering in your room that can lead to standing waves and acoustic interference.

Part 4 – Monitor Positioning: Where Room Treatment Really Begins.

While there are a ton of articles to be read about monitoring position and speaker placement, we will keep things basic and stick to some key rules.

– Generally, the more symmetrical the room the better (minus a slanted ceiling for getting rid of standing waves).

– In a room that is more elongated it is better to position your speakers facing the long way so the back wall is further behind you. That way the sound has further to travel behind you before reflecting back to your ears. This is important when working in most home studios and smaller recording spaces.

– For listening position, you want to make sure you form an equilateral triangle between you and your monitors. The distance between your monitors and your ears should be equivalent to the distance between your monitors.

– It’s good practice to have your tweeters at ear level.

– Lastly, if your monitors are on their side, make sure the tweeters are positioned on the outside.

Part 5 – Diffusion: Optimizing Your Sweet Spot

Diffusers are used to treat sound aberrations such as echoes. They are an excellent alternative or complement to sound adsorption because they do not remove sound energy, but can be used effectively to reduce distinct echoes and reflections while still leaving a live sounding space.

(above: wooden sound diffusor)

Compared to a reflective surface, a diffuser will cause the sound energy to be radiated in many directions, hence a wider more open sounding environment, including your sweet spot. DIFFUSION CAN MAKE A SMALL ROOM SOUND LARGE AND A LARGE ROOM SOUND LARGER.

Final Notes

  • Soundproofing is NOT to be confused with sound absorption.
  • Using the mirror method to find early reflection points is a good start to treating your studio.
  • By placing LENRD’s in your studio you can prevent unwanted standing waves and acoustic interference.
  • In a room that is more elongated it is better to position your speakers facing the long direction so the back wall is further behind you.
  • The distance between your monitors and your ears should be equivalent to the distance between your monitors.
  • It’s good practice to have your tweeters at ear level.
  • Lastly, if your monitors are on their side, make sure the tweeters are positioned on the outside.

Helpful Video Demonstrations

 

For more info on acoustic treatment products please visit www.ProSonicAcoustics.com

February 25th, 2013 at 5:11 pm by admin

Although dithering is an important step of the mastering process, knowing how to use it, when to use it, and why you should use it will improve your recordings and final mastered audio files.

What Is Dither?

Dither is low volume noise, introduced into digital audio when converting from a higher bit-resolution to a lower bit-resolution.

The process of reducing bit-resolution causes quantization errors, also known as truncation distortion, which if not prevented, can sound very unpleasant.

To understand this better, we must understand bit-depth.

What Is Bit-Depth?

In the digital audio domain, bit-depth is what defines the number of measurement values to describe the amplitude of a single audio sample. Each bit effectively represents 6db of dynamic range.

For example, a recording made at 24bit-resolution would have a potential range of 144db. (See figures 1-2 below).

Dithering (Figure 1)

Dithering (Figure 1)

Dithering (Figure 2)

Dithering (Figure 2)

 

Truncation Distortion

As one reduces the bit-depth, such as from a 24bit-resolution sample to a 16bit-resolution sample, you are reducing the number of values available to measure the amplitude of any given sample.

In other words you now have less values available to describe the dynamic range of your audio. (see figures 3-4 below).

Dithering (Figure 3)

Dithering (Figure 3)

Dithering (Figure 4)

Dithering (Figure 4)

As a result, certain values that are no longer there will be forcibly rounded off to the next closest value.

This truncation results in the loss of very low signal levels, and the creation of audible distortion where the values have been rounded, squaring off the waveform. (see figures 5-6 below).

Dithering (Figure 5)

Here is a 16bit audio file with a line drawn in the middle showing where the audio would be before it was converted from 24bit. (Figure 5)

Dithering (Figure 6)

This illustrates the truncation distortion where the audio is forcibly bent to the nearest bit. (Figure 6)

 

How Does Dither Prevent This?

If you apply dither to a silent audio file, and turn the volume way up, you can hear the sound of dither alone.

You might even see this visually if you add an EQ to the end of your production chain and see the noise moving around even though there is no audio coming from the speakers.

Introducing this subtle noise to an audio file prior to reducing the bit-depth eliminates the truncation distortion. You are in effect trading the distortion for noise.

Given this information, one could determine that the use of dithering on a 24bit sample, and exporting in 24bit or higher resolution bit-depth would be ineffective, as there is nothing being replaced with noise, and is only necessary when down-converting to a lower bit-depth.

The Computer Screen Analogy

To help better understand dithering, I like to use the hand over your computer monitor analogy. How it works is you start by holding your hand over your computer monitor.

Notice that you can see your computer monitor perfectly with the exception of the block where your hand is.

Now, if you wave your hand rapidly back and forth from left to right across the screen (applying dither), it allows you to see the entire screen as apposed to blocks of the screen.

Why Dither?

Now that you have a better understanding of what dithering is, you might be asking yourself, “why dither?” Especially if you can just keep your 24bit-resolution file and avoid dithering altogether.

The answer is simple; all finished, mastered audio files are 16bit. Although 24bit is a higher quality sound with more audio detail, and eliminates truncation distortion altogether, the reality is that 90% of all playback devices are 44100/16bit.

Which means if you try and play a 24bit audio file through one of these 16bit playback devices, it will sound like shit.

In this regard, you should keep the consistency of bit-depth throughout your production process from beginning to end. If you are producing in 24bit and your playback is set to 16bit, then you should be using a dithering tool in your production chain.

If you are recording and producing in 16bit, and your playback is in 16bit, then there is no need to dither. If you are producing in 16bit, and your playback settings are 24bit, there is no need for dithering.

What are the current settings of your project? What are the current bit-depth of your samples? What is your playback bit-depth settings set at? These are all things you should know when producing your track.

Note: If you intend to have your song mastered, it is best to export at the same bit-depth or higher as your project settings are set to. For example, if you are producing in 16bit, be sure to export in 16bit or higher.

If your project settings are in 24bit, and you export in 16bit without dithering, your audio file is damaged before it even goes to the mastering engineer.

Types of Dither Algorithms and Shaping Options

Many dithering options offer noise shaping. Noise shaping allows you to add an eq curve to the dither noise, helping move the energy of the noise to less audible regions within the frequency spectrum for an even better result.

Here are a few popular types.  (I will be using Ableton’s dithering options, though is very similar options in all programs)

Dithering (Figure 7)

Dithering (Figure 7)

 

  • Triangular – By default, Triangular is selected, which is the safest mode to use if there is any possibility of doing additional processing on your file.
  • Rectangular – Rectangular mode introduces an even smaller amount of dither noise, but at the expense of additional quantization error.
  • The Three Pow-r Modes – The three Pow-r modes offer successively higher amounts of dithering, but with the noise pushed above the audible range.

The Images Analogy

Image dithering works the exact same way and is no different than audio dithering.  Below are four images.

From left to right, the first image is an 8 bit image at full resolution, next is the same image reduced to 1 bit with no dithering, 3rd is the same greatly reduced image with dithering added, and lastly in image 4 is the reduced bit image with added dithering, plus noise shaping option added. (see figure 8 below).

Dithering (Figure 8)

Dithering (Figure 8)

 

Last Notes and Conclusion

Note that dithering is a procedure that should only be applied once to any given audio sample. If you plan to do further processing on your rendered audio sample, it’s best to render to 32-bit to avoid the need for dithering at this stage.

Lastly, you only want to dither your rendered audio if it’s final. If you’re sending it to someone else for mastering, or it’s just not yet the master, then don’t dither.

Regarding which mode is best, it’s really best to use your ears and spend some time with the results.

 

*Sources:

Images provided by izotopeinc – http://www.youtube.com/user/izotopeinc?feature=watch

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