Where does a mix stop and master begin?

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Typo Szar
Member Since: Jul 04, 2002

Being that I don't know much about what happens during the mastering process coupled with the odds and ends I do know, I find it confusing to figure out when a mix is "finished" and when its ready for mastering.

A dilemma i usually have is the, "this lost some hi-end"..."i think in mastering the hi-end will come back up". I don't know how ill advised that is on the whole, but there are many similar questions concerning reverb and especially dynamics.

Ive heard ppl say "get ur mix as good as it can be" but thats pretty subjective since most people compare their mixes to cds that are mastered.

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Czar of Midi
Since: Apr 04, 2002

May 08, 2008 10:11 pm

Well, it is actually very true about getting it as good as it can be. Mastering can only do so much, and if it is a bad mix mastering may help some but it won't fix a bad mix.

When I render a project as a pre-master I will always try to get the best possible sound and still leave a bit of headroom for the mastering process.

On the reverb thing. Well that is subjective really. Some items need their own bit of reverb in certain songs to sound correct. Others simply need a tiny overall verb to get them settled sounding.

Final word is that getting the mix near perfect before sending it out to be mastered is in your best interest in the end.

Chief Cook and Bottle Washer
Since: May 10, 2002

May 09, 2008 02:51 am

I'm no Master O-Da-Master, so I'm gonna chime-in, as much to spur other opionins as express my own.

From my experience, as limited as it may be, I have and continue to get a feeling of what is best done to the mixed file as a whole. Verb is a good question. When you apply verb as a whole you are putting the whole band in a room. Since verb is often used as an "effect" even in performance beyond the verb that is inharant to the room I find myself applying verb mostly in the mix.

Generaly speaking, it is easier to fix things in the mix as I have greater control than after the piece is mixed down into a single blend of sounds. If nothing else my work in performing mastering increases my understanding of what can be effectively done in that process, therefore increasing my understanding of what just needs to be accomplished in the mix stage.

One example per origional post would be that EQ and or multi-band compression/expansion can be applied to an overall mix to bring out the high end. Now having said that, the high end that will be enhanced will not be as selective as bringing out the high end in the mix e.g. overall high frequency of the mix can be made more prominant in a piece, but bringing out more high hat will be difficult.

What you hear is what you get.
This comes from a thread here sometime back. I can catagoricaly state the what you hear while listening to a mix is not what you get after mixdown, at least in Cubase. I have proven this by using the principal of sound cancelation via phase inversion. I have read that in PT you will get what you hear, I personaly doubt this, but I am not going to buy PT or any other prog to test my theory. Sufice to say, I always listen to a mix down with an open mind to having to fix things in the mastering process or to going back to the mix and altering things to compensate for things changed in the mix down, or 'rendering' of a mix down.

This also is a rather subjective subject. Per current mastering practices, especially when applied to much of the genre of Rock and Roll, dynamics are often masacured. The parenthetical "loudness wars" that dominate current practices sacrifice dynamics for blastisimo, the last remaining dynamic in rock. (hint of sarcasm well taken as per my personal opionions) This does not have to happen in the mastering process and can be applied to different degrees, but suffice to say can be an issue to take into consideration in the mastering process.

Lastly, I preceive the mastering process as a two fold process. One being putting a final shine on a single song and the second being making songs "play well together". When placing multiple songs together to create something intended for extended listening the sequence of the songs, the relitive volumes of the songs, the time between songs, and the overall tonality of the songs need to be pleasing in terms of being a single performance.

Typo Szar
Since: Jul 04, 2002

May 09, 2008 06:30 am

Thanx for the quick replies, and a big up to Walt for such a detailed and articulate response!

yeah i remember the cubase dilemma, it was my post :P

anyhow, i guess its back to the mixing board for me, searching for that "perfect" sound. I'm gonna take the implied answer that you shoot for the stars with your mix and you let mastering kind of make up the last final miles.

Chief Cook and Bottle Washer
Since: May 10, 2002

May 09, 2008 08:31 am

In short crux, you got it! I dare say that some of my mixes sound better than my masters. I capture and mix 48/32 and by the time I have rendered it down to 44.1/16 and got it up to comparable levels of other mastered material it is a "squashed" version.

I obviously had forgotton that the wyhiwyg post was yours. OooPs; sorry. You do have a tendency to bring up interesting posts.

Since: Apr 03, 2002

May 09, 2008 10:22 am

Mastering starts as soon as it's mixed to a single stereo (or surround) recording...

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