eMastered.... Thoughts?

eMastered.... Thoughts?
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#1

I know this will divide a bunch of folks, but I wanted to share my opinions and experiences and see what you all thought too.

So, many of you will be aware that there are some online mastering software services (Landr and eMastered) that act like a drive-thru mastering service. You upload your track and put in a few basic settings and five minutes later you have a mastered track. In eMastered’s case, it costs about $16 US a month.

Here are my thoughts so far. No, it does NOT replace or improve on a proper, trained, experienced mastering engineer and probably never will…but…

I have run my band’s last 4 songs and a couple of mine through it as I have to say it has added a lot to both… that finish that we so often talk about.

I ran some tests to match the volume (you can compare your original track and the mastered version in the online software). I downloaded a few versions of the master into my DAW, matched their volume and A/B/C’ed them. There was a clear improvement in regards to clarity, punch, width and volume.

It also, at times, highlighted some issues with my mix so I would have to go and change that before running it through again - another reason to go with the middle tier subscription which allows you unlimited masters.

eMastered gives you a chance to trial it with a song or two, which I did. Then I watched a clip that Graham from Recording Revolution made about the services and I had to agree with him when he said something along the lines of “if it makes your mixes and songs sound better…why not?”.

Many members here have gone and listened to my new song on the BTR section of the forum and said it was overly compressed. That was me pushing the compression settings on the eMastered software a little hard.

Speaking of settings, they are pretty easy, designed to be accessible by anyone and NOT mastering engineers. The settings pretty much have high, normal, low or equivalents for width, volume, eq (H,M,L) and overall mastering.

eMastered also now have a “reference” mastering option to upload another commercially mastered song and it tries to match particular elements based on the analysis of both tracks. Whether that works or not, I have not tested it, but it costs no more so it’s worth a shot if you are going for a certain feel. That feature is up for furious debate…

Anyway, I have had largely positive experiences and I am glad I (we…my band) paid for a year’s subscription.
Anyone else have thoughts, experiences, questions on these types of services?

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#2

wait… $16 a month? Im a real person and can do it for $10/ month - what say you? :wink:

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#3

I have been suspicious, but have heard a few respectable audio folks (like Graham and Mixerman) say at least try it. In one sense, it takes the process outside your own bias to a more objective view perhaps (though if you’re choosing some level of settings … not so much), which was the advantage of mastering engineers in the past. Getting another person’s opinion seems like the gold, which this doesn’t allow you to do. It may be objective, but not flexible and truly ‘intelligent’.

Have you tried mastering things yourself? I know many don’t recommend this, but since Brandon started talking about “Pretend Mastering” years ago I certainly play around with what I think makes sense. If I were even more serious, I would first mix, give it a rest, then master later in a separate session. I have played around a lot with mastering settings and different approaches. I think Ozone now lets you even put those references in and gives you suggestions for equaling or matching (without copying).

That reminds me, I have a plugin called Master Match that I haven’t used yet, which is supposed to do precisely this. I guess the main question is “can you emotionally distance yourself from your recording enough to make it sound commercial and competitive?” I guess I like the hands-on approach, even if it has its flaws. Handing it over to some software algorithm almost completely means you don’t know what it’s done to your song, unless it gives you specific tweak specs on what it did. Even then, you’re at least once-removed from knowing the tools that did it.

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#4

Vtr, you are confusing me (that ain’t hard!).

I guess the catch would be, and I see the irony here, that when the software highlights your bad mix, or does a poop job of mastering (be it your settings or just the software itself) you can do it again, or fix the mix and run it through again.
It is also (bring on the 2019, modern lifestyle statement) “instant”.

I’m not saying it’s better than a real person, far from it. But I know I will use it often and my mixes so far have benefited from it.

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#5

(though if you’re choosing some level of settings … not so much)

The settings are very basic and I don’t mess with them much. I had a very bright mix with deliberately digitalesque sounding guitars and I changed the eq setting on that master after the initial one was too bright.
Overall, I tend to leave it as is.

Have you tried mastering things yourself?

Sort of. I tended to put a light compressor, some gentle eq and a limiter on the master but I often feel like I don’t know what I am doing with mixing let alone mastering.

I’ve had a run lately where I feel like my mixes are now starting to get reasonably good (my band are happy and say they think they are our best mixes too) so that’s a good thing I guess. But after the trial, I found that this just elevated the mixes somewhat. Not hugely, but definitely noticeably.

Handing it over to some software algorithm almost completely means you don’t know what it’s done to your song, unless it gives you specific tweak specs on what it did. Even then, you’re at least once-removed from knowing the tools that did it.

I see your point but I figure it does not really matter. I have never actually seen a mastering engineer at work so I wouldn’t know what they would do anyway, and I don’t know they’d even tell me. If it sounds better, I’d be happy.

I figured there would be polarising views and I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical! But I gotta say, I hear the results and I’m generally (mostly) happy with them.
I still get why people would not want to use it, but it does provide some people who can’t afford to send their ditties to a mastering engineer an option - albeit one that will possibly bring out the bad parts of your mix and it won’t know or react to it!

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#6

Just like mixing or production, the “big boys” all have a mystique that they capitalize on. If I had the money, I wouldn’t rely on random software decisions. I would go to the guy who mastered the reference source I strove to emulate. The downside is you don’t get miracles with a monthly rate, but I’m sure it helps the average guy out a little. Mastering should have a standard that relies on the quality of the mix so that it verifies rather than corrects the premise of the mix, and moves it up to make sure it works within the context of the playback system.

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#7

Agree with everything you said Styles.
Money is an issue for many of course. Nope, you don’t get miracles, but I have heard an improvement. I don’t think the software every promotes “fixing a mix”, in fact I’ve seen many reviews and comments in their social media posts that it has actually highlighted bad things in people’s mixes, which I guess is a good thing if they are will and able to hear and review them.

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#8

Mastering is:

a) Overrated.
b) Very easy, compared with engineering, producing and mixing.

The main advantage of mastering is the consultation that takes pace. A second pair of trusted ears to analyse your recording and give advice on it. You’re probably not going to get that from an automated service.

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#9

eMastered is a new one for me. I played with Landr a little when it first came out but haven’t really looked again. I uploaded the track I’m working on now to you eMaster site, and I’ve got to admit, it sounded pretty good! Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like you can download the trial so I couldn’t A/B it.

As for @AJ113’s point. If you’ve got a few good engineer friends, (or are on this site :wink:) you could run your mixes past them before and/or after you do you eMaster to get that feedback.

But hey, I’m with you. If it you like it and it sounds good, why the heck not?

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#10

Again, completely agree, AJ.

However, if it helps improve the mix?

There is obviously a human disconnection in the process when using the online version. There was a deep seeded feeling of “this can’t possibly work” and “surely it’s too good to be true that it will just make it louder” - A scam of sorts to trap bedroom musos?
But I gotta say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

I am sure mastering is not that difficult but I have tried on occasions to “master” and this service does a far better job than I have done.

Miked -I think I may have just recorded the output from my pc and compared from that.

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#11

There are no rules - nobody cares how you got there, they just want listen to the music. So if you think the service is helping you, then of course, use it. But I think it’s incorrect for them to to call it mastering.

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#12

Yeah good point. Kind of almost like an online plug in.

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#13

Hi I just went there and put a bunch of my song through the blender. It’s nice that you can flip back and forth to your original on the fly for a comparison. The only problem for me is when I would go back to the mastered version, I would quickly have to hit the puter volume so as to compare. It sounds to me that they not only jack the volume, but maybe a little overall reverb too. One of my songs seemed to really improve the clarity.
I don’t think this emastering is a big deal to those that have the talent to do a good job themselves? But what about the little guy?
The first post I had on this site was something like “how can I make my songs just a little better” I was up for passing the torch and paying someone a given amount (like $100) and recognize that might be just a couple hours of their time, but if they had a system, it might go pretty easy??? I felt what I recorded was decent and they would not have to do anything major to any of the tracks. I also recognize that amount might be an insult. I will go back now and try a few more songs. If I join up I will post the before and after and a volume that is similar between the two. Fun to mess with and very fast. Thanks for this link

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#14

I haven’t tried that service, but I have used Landr a few times. I felt like I got mixed results. My review would basically say, “it was kind of okay.”

If I’m not paying someone else to master my song, I’ll do it myself with Ozone 7. If nothing else, there are a ton of presets you can just flip through, waiting for that “oh wow that’s better,” moment, and can then tweak whatever you want afterwards. If I didn’t have Ozone I might go for something like eMastered.

I experimented with getting a song professionally mastered recently, for $60. It was a good experience, largely due to the mix advice they gave, kind of like AJ said. The final product was a noticeable improvement. I’m planning to use this service again, for the next song that I’m releasing via Distrokid. Probably? I’m not sure yet.

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#15

No worries.
Yeah, I wasn’t sold straight away because I thought the volume jump, which is significant, might be all there is. Thankfully not so.

There are some features that I’d like to see and will suggest them. I’d like the original to be stored on my user library and not just the mastered version. That way I can come back later and tweet their settings and run it through again if need be. But from what I can tell it only saves the fi so product and offers an option to master again then and there.
Glad it came in handy for you.

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#16

For what it’s worth, your testing process with examples for us to listen to has been helpful to me. Perhaps I’m less skeptical now, but yeah I’d certainly carefully check anything that came out of that, especially on BTR like you’re doing. I may be a bit of a “control freak” wanting to do it myself, but getting other informed opinions can help remedy that - rather than making decisions in isolation.

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#17

And that’s where you folks come in… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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#18

depends how good you are at it :wink:

Dan,
I have no clue how that particular online system even works, but I think it would be interesting to offer a subscription service that was AS cheap and maybe even better in terms of feedback quality, on a platform like this, where many contributors / or self styled ‘indie’ mastering engineers, like myself, could chime in.

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#19

LIke a paid for BTR? The hard part about that is that you need to vet the people who are giving feedback, because most people don’t do a very good job when they are learning how to do it, despite what they might think. While there are plenty of people out there who are not professionals but do have a good set of ears and do it for fun, in my experience most people in the “doing it for fun” category are under-qualified.

That’s not a dig on people learning to master. That’s how you learn. I cheap mastered stuff for a lot of people before I realized that it’s not something that I should be charging for. I’m not terrible, and I’m not great, but people definitely should not be paying me for my feedback unless they’ve already royally screwed it up and I can at least point them in a better direction. But that’s a far cry from being able to charge people for my feedback.

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#20

Isn’t the arbiter of that the paying public? If you have a queue of people waving their money in your face then surely whatever it is you’re doing has value for them?

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