Whats the deal with these automated mastering services?

Whats the deal with these automated mastering services?
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#1

Since quite some time now, you regularly see advertisement for mastering services, that even offer prices like 6$ for a song and stuff. They say stuff like " get your tracks instantly mastered and sound BETTER" lol.

I’m not realy interested in using those services, but I was just wondering if any one knew what the deal is with those things, and if any one ever tried it ? :slight_smile:

Greetings


#2

6$ a song?

I don’t want to sound cynical, but it sounds like somebody is going to grab your track, throw it into Pro Tools as an audio track, put an instance of Izotope Ozone 8 and just apply a preset to your track. To be fair, it will be technically mastered and may well sound better.


#3

It’s not that. It’s automated. No person needs to listen to it.

I honestly haven’t used one, so I’m not going to pretend to have an opinion one way or another. I have seen shootouts where the LANDR or whatever version beat out a hand mastered version of the same song in a poll, and I’ve seen times where LANDR absolutely sucked. Then again, I’ve heard professional mastering jobs that sucked to.

I’m not really that offended by computers doing human things. Some people hate the idea now matter how good it is.


#4

I’ve used LANDR a couple of times. One time I thought it made the track sound better, and the other time it sounded awful. I haven’t tried it since. I think… it’s possible that this kind of thing could work well in some cases, but in general the technology is far from there yet.


#5

Some of these are absolute hack jobs, there was on affiliated with Reverbnation that offers analog mastering and it is absolutely automated computerized process, so I wonder where the “analog” process goes into play, clearly a load of BS.

I depends on the material, some tunes honestly even a computer might mix well. Personally, I am not interested at all. I rather go all my mastering and as long as it sounds good, I am happy to keep it this way.


#6

Can’t you have analogue gear hooked up to your computer such that you can route audio through it? Like a plugin insert, except it sends the audio through analogue gear. I thought I’ve seen people do that before. Maybe that’s what it was doing.


#7

Yes, you can but you have a 0% person in this mixing service and somehow it is “all analogue”, I call BS on that.


#8

So I guess, if the outcome is some what 50/50, its pretty useless :smiley:

I’m the same on that side. People often fail to see the liberty it can give us. Mainly speekign about other occupations then the arts, but still. As far as my knowledge goess, I see mixing and prodducing and stuff more artistically then the mastering process. Not that you can’t be creative in how you use gear or software, but normally, at least thats what every one says when it comes to how good your mix needs to be before mastering, all the coloring and effects and stuff had happend, the only thing that has to happen now is make a last check to see if every thing is in ballance. Btw, are there different kinds of styles to mastering ? I mean like, with compression the talk about the new york style or etc… Does something apply to masterng as well ? Cause then you should at least have some options when uploading your song to these services.


#9

Me neither - in fact I’m all for it. However, these auto-mastering services are sucking in vulnerable people who just want their recordings to be as good as they can possibly make them.

The main feature of a mastering service is the consultation - the second pair of trusted ears. Often the process can result in one or more tracks being remixed. There also needs to be a discussion on intended end use and loudness. If you can automate all of that with a computer I’ll be surprised.

Obviously there are the technicalities of eq, compression etc. too, but this is only a fraction of the service. I wouldn’t even begin that part unless I had assessed the recordings and been through extensive consultation first.


#10

True, but I think you can add to your list “vulnerable people who just want their recordings to be as good as they can possibly make them, who otherwise would not have paid for a mastering engineer.”

The definition of mastering has been bastardized long before automated “mastering” came along, so I don’t think it’s really any worse than Ozone calling itself a mastering plugin.

Yes, the consulting side of mastering is important. I’d argue more important if you are going for the best possible outcome. But these automated mastering sites aren’t meant to be a replacement for mastering engineers (at least not yet. I’m sure that’s their goal.). The are meant to provide a way for people who are recording their own music and want to show it to a bunch of people and have it sound at least somewhat comparable to professional recordings.

It won’t sound perfect, but it will probably sound better than what they would have done on their own with Ozone.


#11

I pretty much agree with aj, though I can see boz’s point. I don’t want to bother sending something out for mastering if there’s 0% chance they’ll send back some mix notes for me to fix before they master. At some point soon, the technical EQ and loudness stuff should be automatible and turn out fine, but my impression is we aren’t there yet for some reason. But maybe we are, I haven’t researched or tested it recently.


#12

Right there with AJ. I think these “mastering” services are also very misleading, as they advertise “professional” results so subpar home mixers can think they are getting the same thing if not better at cheaper rate than pro studio. IMO they’re trying to catch the luddites or the bargain shoppers.


#13

I came across this from Ian Shepherd, referring to @Mixerman in regard to automated mastering services. It’s part of a pitch by Ian to buy his Home Mastering Masterclass, so I take it with a grain of salt. I tagged MM to see if he has anything to say about it.
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You’ve probably heard of Mixerman - maybe read one of his books, or bumped into him online.

He’s controversial and entertaining, but at the end of the day he almost always gives great advice.

Not this time.

And that worries me, because a lot of people pay attention to what he says. To find out exactly what I mean, click here:

https://productionadvice.co.uk/mixerman-versus-mastering/

I’m expecting this will prompt some lively debate on Facebook and elsewhere - get involved and let me know what you think !

Ian

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I believe this is the source of what Ian is talking about (link should take you to related article).

Hype? Controversy? Friendly competition? :slightly_smiling_face:


#14

The debate is going on at my FB Group Mixermania.

I’m cool with Ian. I just don’t think his arguments make any sense. All I’m saying is that if you’re not making money making music, it makes absolutely no sense to pay to have your music mastered. The mastering will not have anything to do with whether or not people react, and the moment people do react to your music, you can always have the track mastered at that point.

We can debate it here too.

Enjoy, Mixerman


#15

Me neither - in fact I’m all for it. However, these auto-mastering services are sucking in vulnerable people who just want their recordings to be as good as they can possibly make them

I don’t know. $120 per year for a service that will bring your product to level isn’t nearly as problematic unscrupulous MEs who just want to fill in their schedule with Stems Mastering. I won’t mix a track unless I like the song and unless I think I can bring it home. Bottom feeder MEs will master ANYTHING, and they are often a waste of money. And if the mixes are an abomination, then the mastering really doesn’t matter.

The main feature of a mastering service is the consultation - the second pair of trusted ears. Often the process can result in one or more tracks being remixed. There also needs to be a discussion on intended end use and loudness. If you can automate all of that with a computer I’ll be surprised.

Agreed. And for you and I that is important consultation. But for a musician who still isn’t making money on their recorded music, it’s way cheaper to just use a bot. Is it as good? As good as what? Some kid who has mastered all of 50 songs and charges $40? In most cases it probably is.

Obviously there are the technicalities of eq, compression etc. too, but this is only a fraction of the service. I wouldn’t even begin that part unless I had assessed the recordings and been through extensive consultation first.

Automated mastering is total bullshit. I’m not going to argue otherwise. But for a large segment of the recording musician population, it’s better than paying for mastering at a time that you’re just learning to make a record. And it’s certainly better than trying to self-master. I mean, if you can’t rightly make a mix worth a damn, I’m pretty certain you shouldn’t be messing with a brick limiter.

There is a market that makes sense for automated mastering. It’s just not the professional market. Guess which market is bigger.

Enjoy, Mixerman


#16

Here’s a question: since online platforms are enforcing a certain amount of dynamic range, does that make mastering even less important? My general impression was that squeezing a waveform into a sausage tube is not easy to do without ruining the song. But literally raising the volume a bit so that it’s in the right ballpark for the number LUFS? It seems like there’s less to do if you’re going to keep a lot of the dynamic range that you were working with in a mix.

In any case I’m just going to keep using Ozone. I tend to just add a little bit of compression onto the track and raise the volume so that the peaks are cut off a little, but not enough that it has a negative effect on the sound. And play around with the tape saturation stuff. When I run it through iZotope Insight to measure the LUFS I usually have to turn it down if anything. I could be doing it completely wrong, haha, but with how hit or miss the automated ones are, I figure I’m better off doing it myself for now.


#17

Here’s a question: since online platforms are enforcing a certain amount of dynamic range, does that make mastering even less important?

I believe so, yeah. I can easily get it to -14 LUFS just with the stereo compressor. I couldn’t get it nearly loud enough without introducing a brick limiter when it was all about loudness.

My general impression was that squeezing a waveform into a sausage tube is not easy to do without ruining the song. But literally raising the volume a bit so that it’s in the right ballpark for the number LUFS? It seems like there’s less to do if you’re going to keep a lot of the dynamic range that you were working with in a mix.

If you’re not compressing the mix, and if it’s not programmed material, then you might require a brick limiter to get it to louder. -14 LUFS isn’t very loud, and there could be an argument to make it louder than that anyway.

In any case I’m just going to keep using Ozone. I tend to just add a little bit of compression onto the track and raise the volume so that the peaks are cut off a little, but not enough that it has a negative effect on the sound. And play around with the tape saturation stuff. When I run it through iZotope Insight to measure the LUFS I usually have to turn it down if anything. I could be doing it completely wrong, haha, but with how hit or miss the automated ones are, I figure I’m better off doing it myself for now.

I wouldn’t bother turning it down after you master it. Make one master, send it everywhere that way. The streaming services will take care of level matching. And -14 probably isn’t loud enough for most modern records. Not all. But most.

Enjoy, #Mixerman


#18

We’ll have to agree to disagree on that. This is a home recording forum; if you’re going to learn how to record and mix, it makes sense to learn how to master too. Compared to mixing, mastering is easy (technically).

No, it doesn’t make sense per se, but there are some artists who care very much about their music. They want to do everything ‘right’. They want to give their best performance, use the best equipment that they can afford, work with professionals in the industry, and generally go through the full process. They are not so deluded that they think their recordings are going to compete with big boys, but they take pride and satisfaction in doing things the way the big boys do it. That’s their fulfilment from the process. To these people, mastering certainly does make sense - and who are we to argue?


#19

Dude. People can spend their money anyway they like. All I’m doing is explaining the reality. It’s not 2006. People record at home now. It took me years to become a competent musician, and even more years to become a competent recordist and mixer, and even more years to become a competent producer. If your goal is to become a producer, then that’s what you gotta do, But if your goal is to become an Artist, and to sell your product and tour, then you don’t have time for that nonsense. You have bigger fish to fry. Get great at songwriting, arranging, and performance. Then when people start to react, hire professionals to keep the technical out of your way, and to bring the product to it’s maximum potential.

That advice doesn’t preclude someone from mastering their early work. It gives permission to young musicians who are learning to record, to forego the expense until they’ve gotten past the first major hurdle. A great song with a cohesive arrangement, and a compelling performance. At which point they will get a definitive reaction.

This isn’t about dictating free will. It’s about explaining the reality, which is distorted. Mastering isn’t nearly as important as people make it out to be, and never has been. The mastering or lack thereof, will not cause or prevent a reaction to a song, nor does it preclude someone from mastering a track once they see it’s potential. How many times have the Beatles remastered their album? Why does someone have to master every song they record when they can Focus Group their songs first?

When things change, then strategies need to change. All of my arguments are based on how things work today, not on how they worked a decade ago, or even four years ago for that matter.

Enjoy, Mixerman


#20

Me too - another point we agree on.

Not everybody has the ambition to be world leaders in their chosen area. Some people just want the fun and satisfaction of operating at a certain level.

I will further add that just because someone is not operating as a world leader, does not necessarily mean that they are not a great songwriter/arranger/performer - or producer for that matter.

I agree. But that doesn’t mean other people don’t see it as important, and for those who do, the automated services are cynically aimed at their vulnerability.

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