In Music

Trevor Sadler (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography)

In Music

Gary Tanin (PHOTO: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography)

In Music

In Music

Local engineers agree: mastering gives CDs pro sound

(page 2)


"Mastering provides the objectivity by a professional who's experience offers him/her with a myriad of options. The artist/band or mixing engineer cannot be truly objective about their creation. This allows a mastering engineer to approach a project with truly fresh ears."

Sadler believes that more and more clients are arriving at the mastering stage with a tape that needs some help.

"The problem of people relying too heavily on the mastering process to 'save' their mixes has grown in the last few years," he says. These days more and more people are doing recordings in a home environment rather than a pro studio, and this can greatly affect the quality of the mixes. It's obviously much harder to get mixes sounding the way you want when you're working in a bedroom on a computer as opposed to a pro studio on a large console.

"In addition, the people who are doing these recordings often do not have the vast recording experience that studio professionals have, and as a result the recording quality suffers. It's because of this that I generally turn down work on a regular basis, not because I feel the music itself it bad, but because the recording quality is so bad that I don't feel I can legitimately help the sound of the project in the mastering phase and would rather not be associated with a project that I don't feel I can make sound acceptable."

So, are more musicians then beginning to see the benefits of having their records professionally mastered? The jury appears to be out.

"I actually think there is a split happening," Holter says. "There is a huge home recording and local band market who may have never even thought about mastering, outside of throwing a 'louder/limiter' plug-in on their stereo master (tape). Then there are the guys who get it and who are trying everything possible to make their masters and their art something special, and know that mastering is part of that process."

Tanin believes that the home recording set-ups that are becoming so ubiquitous are leading musicians to think that they don't need anyone else to make a great-sounding record.

"Many novice musicians and recordists start out believing they can do it all in the box," he says. "Since the new plug-in they got bundled with their software is called a 'mastering' tool, they make the false assumption that it will do what someone who's had years of experience with hundreds upon hundreds of recordings can do.

"This music industry goes through phases. I have seen a turn for the better with the 'understanding' of what mastering is, though I'm not sure that there are enough local bands and/or musicians serious enough about their next record to consider the importance of mastering. The established, full-time artists I work with would never consider releasing a product without first getting it mastered."

Sadler is inclined to agree. Ask him if musicians are getting mastering more now than ever and he responds: "Well, not really.

"I am fortunate in that I have a wide and diverse client base across the world that values my services. Probably less than 20 percent of my work originates locally. There are people who take pride in their music and will do the best job they can in the recording, and this includes hiring a professional mastering engineer. I take as much time as I can to educate musicians, engineers and producers about what proper mastering can and cannot do, and how to avoid people passing themselves off as being able to do mastering when they have no proper credentials. Still, there are some people who will never get it, and the sound of their work will suffer."

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