All about producing and mastering audio for disc, the web and beyond

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bax by Dangerous vs Clariphonic by Kush

Spent the afternoon comparing the Bax Eq with the Clariphonic. Both were very interesting, the application similar, but the differences quite pronounced.

Both are program eq. Both employ very broad filters to create general, euphonic effects. The Clariphonic was more versatile in offering MANY different shapes of presence filters and HF boost and a very smooth sound. The Bax offers filters, a straightforward UI, detents, low frequency contour, seemingly better headroom and transient response possibly due to less phase shift (read not parallel eq). Neither is better.

My take is the Clariphonic is a great tool for mix buss and the Bax for the mastering studio.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The relevance of science

Teaching mastering is one of the more interesting things I have taken on in the past few years at the physical campus at Berklee and I also authored a course for the online school. There are a number of things that make this challenging, particularly since any creative endeavor usually requires years of practice to 'get good' at it. Teaching the principals involved and some of the protocols is not so difficult it turns out.

The on aspect of the subject that seems to consistently elude students is when it comes to teaching the underlying science, either as it relates to digital audio or to the equipment brought to bear in each task. Sometimes the understanding of even the most essential things like sample rate and bit depth seem so, well, dry and seemingly irrelevant. Yet in my mind that understanding that is one of the items that separates the mastering engineers from wannabees. Why? Because good audio hygiene, when practiced properly, will yield louder, clearer and arguably more compelling results, and to my mind you can't really keep your eyes on your audio hygiene without looking under the hood so you understand not only what you are doing but WHY you are doing it.

So I torture students with details about the what and the why. Sometimes I see the light bulbs go on. That's gratifying and so I persist....

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Follow up: Checking a disc for 'quality' of lack thereof

An obvious and good question: "How DO I check a disc?"

There are two different aspect to this, checking the audio to be sure that the data was transferred properly to the media, and that all the metadata is in place


checking the data retrieval from the media after writing.

The first needs to be done by listening and checking the navigation of the disc.

The latter needs to be done using a CD reader that has firmware hooks that allow software to monitor and report on the error detection and correction and the success thereof. The simplest solution is something like the Plextor suite of tools that work with some of the Plextor optical burners

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

There's style and then there's music and then there's what's inside

This week I get to wear a hat that's a bit different from the one that I wear sitting in the mastering room. I am in Germany working to help Deborah prepare for a performance with L'Arpeggiata...a cross genre ensemble that brings together exquisite musicians from different countries, geographic and stylistic. I was sitting at breakfast talking with a Paraguayan harpist and we were talking about how musicians can become trapped in their 'genres'. It's not uncommon that when you spend alot of time practicing scales and the finer nuances of a particular style, you lose sight of the bigger picture which is really the music itself: the larger musical idea and expression however it is manifest.

DUring the conversation I was struck, once again, by how some musical concepts cut across musical styles. As a producer, recording, mixing or mastering engineer it is important to understand what is important to the style and preserve/enhance or feature those components. It's also surprising to notice that seemingly incompatible genres share attributes.
For instance, classical music relies heavily on the preservation of dynamic range. The difference between fortissimo and pianissimo, not just in the timbre but also in the sheer difference in the movement of air between the two is essential to make the music expressive and effective....and the same is true for hard rick. Without enough available dynamic range, the kick drum in a hard rock tune would not be able to have the impact it would need. Hyper compressed hard rock sounds flat and two dimensional. There may be no better example of this than ACDC's Back in Black. If you haven't heard the tune, go listen and see what I mean.
So whether we're talking about Vivaldi or Tool we need to know what's important in the music and how to showcase it....and we may be surprised to discover that in some cases, it's the same thing.