Mastering to me is a bit like applying stain to wood: done correctly, it brings out the definition of what’s there rather than covering it up. But making mastering effective is a really special art. Danny Wyatt, a veteran mastering engineer now working as an instructor with Dubspot, has some serious credentials both on the mixing and mastering side and as an educator. He’s worked with a range of artists over the years (Wax Poetic featuring Norah Jones, Curtis Mayfield, Thievery Corp., the Roots, Ultra Records, and Mos Def, to name a few). But he also doesn’t mystify his knowledge: he’ll tell you straight what he believes, both face-to-face and as a teacher.

I feel I know Danny’s work a whole lot better, too, having had him master my new solo electronic album, which will be released soon. You can get sort of a loose sense of how someone works when they’re manipulating someone else’s material, but you really get close to their technique when they’ve got their hands on your own stuff.

I like handing over work to a mastering engineer both because they can then provide some objective distance, and because they specialize in the craft. But knowing basic mastering technique is increasingly essential for anyone working in sound – aspiring engineer or not.

Danny has some free videos out, included here, that explain some very useful techniques and tools:

  • How to use a limiter, here illustrated with iZotope’s Ozone 4, including its “Loudness Maximizer.” We’re talking distortion-free loudness, not nasty, justly-notorious brick-wall limiting.
  • Mid-Side EQ, which I’ve heard Danny call “ear candy,” for widening the stereo effect of a track (here with another of my tracks as the example). Again, he uses Ozone, though other tools could work, too.
  • Compression of a bass with URS Classic Console Strip Pro – dubstep-style here, but applicable to a wide range of things. especially with the emulation of the LA-2A modeled compressor.

If those videos whet your appetite, Danny’s class is now taking enrollment for an in-depth online course, so you can benefit from this level of instruction without having to be in New York:
http://www.dubspot.com/mixing-mastering/

And stay tuned, as I did an interview with Danny that digs into his workflow and approach, which we’ll have here on CDM soon.

Have a look at the videos right here:

  • http://soudcloud.com/stich Sergey Aldosev

    Hi,

    Thanks for nice tutorials. Quite close to what i do.

    I have one remark. As far as i know URS Classic Console Strip doesn't use convolution.

    Correct me if i'm wrong.

    Thanks again

  • Peter Kirn

    @Sergey: I expect you're right; convolution is generally associated more with EQ, and I can't find any reference from URS that they're using convolution. I expect it's just modeled.

  • Chopstickkk

    I hate to be hating here but this is not how a so called 'mastering engineer' should be teaching people how to use a limiter.

    Adjustments should always be made at a constant volume so that you can actually hear what the limiter is doing to the material when you perform a before and after A/B comparison

    This video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7PYjalQ2vQ – between 2:50 and 3:10 explains the principle pretty well.

    His explanation of the release control was welcome however.

  • http://seanny.net Renzu

    I think the most general advice one can give about mastering is it's largely a final problem-solving stage. Check your mix/master on as many systems as humanly possible– bright ones, dark ones, headphones, and in big, small, quiet and noisy environments, at different listening levels. You'll rack up a laundry list of problems to solve for sure.

    @Chopstickkk … yeah, his non-normalized A-B-ing tripped me up too. I'd also suggest anyone using iZotope Ozone's limiter to look at the inter-sample clipping option and to experiment with the different limiter modes. "Intelligent II" tends to preserve transients better, perceptually.

  • Chopstickkk

    @Renzu – Your first paragraph about people getting their mixes to sound the way they want them to on lots of different systems is definitely the best advice you can give any producer looking to make their material mastered sounding.

    If you need loudness for the dancefloor/demo sendouts/etc. sure apply some limiting otherwise you'll end up sounding weak. But if you're looking to learn mastering read Bob Katz's book for a start and take if from there don't heed these type of hybrid mixing/mastering videos.

    Oh, and be prepared to put in a lot of hours not making music anymore!

  • Peter Kirn

    I agree with the advice of listening on lots of systems. I like Bob's book, too. Even multiple qualified engineers will sometimes give you different answers.

    Keep in mind that part of what Danny was trying to do was A/B in a video, which adds a challenge in that things you can hear in the studio may not be immediately evident. Beyond that, though, I can ask him about why he did those A/B's that way…

  • paco

    In the Limiting tutorial – even though he suggests going easy and not over-compressing the mix, the threshold setting he settles on is chopping off around 9 db. I would consider that to be more on the extreme side and really messing with the sound, transients, etc.

  • antonio

    Hi, i'm very new in audio mixing and mastering.

    I just have one simple about the level settings his using on Live.

    Is he keeping the stereo track and master track to 0.0 dB? I can see on the video that he didn't changed the levels on Ozone.

    I'll be thankfull for some feedback.

  • rmcrmc

    the m/s eqing tips are totally helpful. theres a tool by nugen audio called monofilter that sort of did a similar thing where it mono-ified everything below a certain cutoff freq to focus the bass, but i think the m/s technique is considerably more elegant.

    thanks for these vids!

  • ZynzynzyN

    Interesting bit about his eq tastes at 55Hz and 110Hz

  • maux

    even a noob knows that you do A/B (or bypass) comparison at a constant volume.

    don't need a professor to teach me how to apply a preset…lol…on dubstep…more lol.

    useless tutorials…very american (loud is better)…mainly adverts for software products and the dubspot itself…very lame.

  • Tim

    Ok, on both well positioned speakers and headphones the mid/side EQ he did was completely imperceptible to me.

  • Peter Kirn

    Yeah, it's hard to hear the results in the video because it's YouTube.

    @maux: These software developers didn't even provide so much as comps in this case, so I can guarantee you it's not an ad for the software. Now, of course, you can disagree with the techniques presented.

    But, you know, you're absolutely right. Compression and increasing loudness are entirely American. Part of what I enjoy about going to Asia and Europe is that, in those parts of the world, there isn't any over-compression at all. (sarcasm filter off)

  • Chopstickkk

    @antonio Yes it's normal to leave the master output of the main DAW software at 0 dB (otherwise it will change the output level of the limiter).

    @paco +1. That's a helluva lot of limiting.

    I'm not against teaching people to 'pre-master' their demo tracks so that they hold up on demos/dancefloor and don't sound puny. But it should be taught as that – under the name 'pre-mastering' to avoid confusion.

    I feel that it's bad form to be teaching 'mastering' like this to up and coming producers. They should instead be educated about what a real mastering engineer can do for their music. And by this music I mean their un-clipped/un-limited/un-eq'ed/un-tubeywarmeymiddysidey-ed raw mixdowns.

    This video should have begun by explaining these things, explained that it's important to keep an unclipped/untouched mixdown and then go on to the content.

    Poor show imho.

  • Peter Kirn

    Well, these are little videos on specific topics, not a full course on mastering, since Danny is offering that separately. So, I think it's assumed that this isn't your first time at the rodeo. I'm editing his interview, which I think included some good thoughts; I can ask him for his take on this. (I'd hoped he'd jump into this comment thread…)

  • http://danielwyatt.com Daniel Wyatt

    Hi Guys,

    Thanks for all of the excellent comments. Regarding the A/B comparison, the intention was not to demonstrate a unity A/B, but a before/after A/B with the additional gain and increase in RMS power. Although i do use "smart bypass" techniques both in Wavelab and in Ozone, i usually compare the master with an appropriate current track in the genre.

    Thanks,

    Danny

  • Peter Kirn

    Yeah, and that makes sense to me – it's a YouTube video with seven minutes, so what's demoed here is the end result.

    Anyway, folks, I'm game for more discussion of different approaches here, as we have a chance to chat about how to go about this outside of just one YouTube video…

  • Anthony

    That was a great set of videos. I am always looking to learn more about mixing and mastering. It really is an art all to itself.

    I looked at Dubsteps online class, pretty pricey. Peter, do you know of any other online options for learning more about this subject?

  • http://www.musicalgeometry.com Jason

    Enjoyed the vids, though wish he would stop talking over the parts when he asks you to listen, especially when he is turning the bypass on and off. Still great info. Thanks!

  • maux

    yes…seems to me that americans are a bit deaf. (sarcasm filter on)

  • maux
  • efluon

    nice topic.

    but: how can you take a mastering tutorial serious when there is heavy aliasing / distortion going on? noticed it first at something like 4:30 in the second vid.

    thats also because its youtube?

  • efluon

    @maux: that's a nice one!

  • Peter Kirn

    Yeah, I think you have to listen more to the ideas than the actual sound sources … at least here. There may be a way to make this stuff come across on YouTube, but it'd require a lot more experimentation with export settings.

  • http://tekmonki.com TekMonki

    I took this class from Danny about a year or so ago (time flies!). I picked up a lot from him and the class that I'm STILL putting into learning/practice. Well recommended.

  • http://hearandknow.wordpress.com/ Hear and know

    Hi! That's what we need. Mastering is so important, but nobody is familiar with.

    Thanks Dubspot and cdm!

  • http://ericbeam.com Eric

    Some good info for the novice & well produced.

    I have to say some of the "tips" have me cringing & can potentially to cause more harm then good. I don't find giving out incomplete knowledge beneficial for the music/audio community. I'll admit to my bias living in the world of mastering myself.

  • antonio

    @Chopstickkk Thanks for the answer!

    Now, I've read and hear about leaving the level of the mix at -12,-14-18,-20 dBFS to have some headroom for mastering (up to -0.3, -0.1dBFS if i'm not wrong).

    So I my question is… if the level settings in Live should be at 0.0 dB (both audio and master tracks) the RMS of the stereo track level should be between -20 and -12dBFS for the mastering? That will depend on the nominal level choosen for the electroacustic chain I guess.

    I've been having troubles with these kind of technical issues specially when it comes to Levels on mixing and mastering.

    Again, i'll appreciate any help

  • maux

    Rashad Becker (dubplates) :

    The basic mistake is that people compress or limit without a musical vision.

    They compress or limit because they feel it should be louder, and they do not do proper AB comparisons … that's the thing you have to learn – making correct AB comparisons. Its absolutely not easy and it takes several years of practice.

    Yes, but it is more complex than that. Briefly, you should always do different stages of comparison, you should compare whilst not looking at any meter, you pick one element, which might be the most prominent or most important one, or even the least prominent or the least important one, you don't look at any meters and set both signals to a volume so that this element has the same prominence in both versions. Be very careful about that, if it really has same prominence, and not just closely the same. Then see how the rest of the track wraps around this element in the uncompressed version and in the compressed version. Now look at the meters and set both versions to the same peak level and compare, most of the time compressed signal will probably win. If you on the other hand set them both to similar RMS or average level and compare, there is a good chance the uncompressed version will win in that case.

    —-

    I mean the usage of the ears became rather degenerated, or it is not developed to the standard the ear potentially offers. People use their ears as bad eyes. They don't train their listening, they don't question the ways by which reality is represented by their ears. And this is all related. I think if music today was more as it was some two decades ago; still elaborate on narrative dynamics, this would generally also educate people more in listening.

    ……

    I'm not willing to take part in that race for loudness anymore, because it is so damn redundant at the end of the day. Each amplifier has a volume knob.

  • http://www.dubstepbasslinewobble.com Stunned Silence

    He may be a so called mastering engineer.

    But he has no clue about technicalities of signal processing.

    DC offset removal section for example.

    It realigns the waveform causes by bad power at the outlet???? Really. Is that what it does.. and how its caused. I mean really really?

    Limit before EQ? Um…. he mentions 'chasing your tail' Well thats exactly what EQing AFTER setting compression will do.

    Set limiter settings , Add some bass , O look the limiters now clamping down harder…

    What an absolute crock of horsesh*t.

    Just because you have some records under your belt DOES NOT make you a GOOD educator.

  • tayo fatola

    nice topic

  • subkoks

    Nice tutorials