Mastering

Confirm your sources...

We live in a time of information overload. There’s never a lack of “news” available should we ever get bored, but not all information is correct or reliable.  

If we are to move through our current state of uncertainty in the world with conflicting opinions on climate, immigration, politics and more, then our decision to follow a particular viewpoint needs to be thoroughly investigated.  

Dont be lazy when it comes to informing yourself. Don’t believe the most seemingly supported news but rather be prepared to dig deeper and avail yourself with accurate information so our viewpoints can be both educated and considered.

As humans we have evolved to require stories, which provide us with meaning to our existence. These stories give each of us a role to play upon the stage of life but in order to believe these stories they have to extend beyond our current horizons. I’m all for storytelling but perhaps your imagination of being capable of mastering after reading a post on the Book of Faces is not all that informed - nor correct? 

Confirm your sources... 

the VANITY of TREES: Padma Newsome

Absolutely delighted to support the release of this sonic tapestry by dear friend and colleague Padma Newsome. The album is a collective of works featuring the wonderful artistry of this beautiful man. I am thrilled to have been involved in bringing this to life. Best wishes and congratulations Padma x. https://padmanewsome.bandcamp.com/album/the-vanity-of-trees

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HARRISON Consoles enters the Cross-Platform Plug-in market

HARRISON Consoles out of Nashville Tennessee have been designing, developing and manufacturing ultra high end consoles for decades, with the company founder Dave Harrison introducing the "in-line" configuration of a channel fader and a tape return (baby fader) on the same channel strip. His now famous 32C console and the same-named EQ are synonymous with musicality and technical perfection. The company has been developing it's own DAW known as MixBus and I've lauded their products over the past few years both here on ToKwerX and also under my role with RMIT University's Sound Production program.

Harrison have ported one of their digital designs long available in their flagship consoles across to other formats to allow engineers access to these within the AAX, AU and VST systems and it appears this will not be the last; the AVA Mastering EQ.

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Unique in it's ability to create a flat curve between adjacent frequency bands this final stage EQ is designed to add the final touches to a mix or master. So far I've run this across some projects recently completed as a comparison and it's subtle ability to open up air in the top end, add presence to upper mid range and depth to subs in the 60-80Hz realm has proven wonderful. Harrison are offering a special price on this EQ so check out their site whilst this remains available. Harrison Consoles.

the ToKwerX Hybrid-System

The current mixing and mastering facility at ToKwerX is a beautiful balance of analogue and digital devices. Allowing the immense control and immediate recall of digital but gifting the ability to enhance with saturation, warmth and real vacuum-tube harmonic distortion to the mix or master. Add to this an expanded perception of stereo image and depth of field derived from 16 stems into analogue summing. The modern mixing & mastering facility need not be huge but can be incredibly powerful, whilst retaining the sonics that only analogue produces.

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3 minutes

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Within minutes of ToKwerX this is where you can be. So special and unbelievably close to the new studio. So whilst you're undertaking editing, mixing or mastering at ToKwerX take a break and breathe some of the amazingly fresh air and listen to the birds chatter over the symphonic chorus of the forest. 

Most clients just send through their projects these days but I invite and encourage you to come, stay a while; complete your project amidst the peace that is literally moments from our door.  

Two pieces of history ... "Formiles" Mastering

When Quad Eight ceased making high end consoles in the US out of Hollywood CA a company known as Orphan Audio bought most of the assets from this historic contributor to the film-sound and music industries. Orphan later recreated two newer incarnations in salute of the iconic companies Quad Eight and Electrodyne.

I wrote to Orphan Audio asking if they knew anything of the specific history of my QE CL22's, and to my romantic delight, this is the reply from director Ken Hirsch:                 "Anthony,
This pair of CL-22's has had an interesting life.
They were originally built for a custom 27' long, Quad-Eight film dubbing console, installed in the Alfred Hitchcock theatre at Universal Studios, Hollywood, CA. All the console modules were custom ordered by Universal Studio's fitted with those distinctive natural finish aluminium "Alco" knobs and flat black faceplates...  Can you imagine the world famous films your modules have mixed?
Although the final factory design notes show a date of Nov. 1978 and first release was indeed very early 1979, I believe your pair was built for the Universal Studio's console no-later than about 1980... in addition they have been one of my favorite dynamics units since I bought my first pair in 1984."

So, what's their nickname to be? Shall we pass the entire master through the Alfred's?    Tonight the first client to be blessed by the CL22's at ToKwerX was band Formiles. Back to master another single "Xenox." The Quad Eight's were amazing, embedding the punchy VCA Limiting that resulted in an entire stage of otherwise digital virtual-VCA dynamics being eliminated. Most processing for this release was done in the analogue domain. 

Signal path Analogue: AUDIENT SUMO Buss Compressor - AVALON 747 Opto-Valve Compressor @ EQ - HARRISON 32C EQ - QE CL22 Compressor/Limiters - Captured in DSD @ 5.6MHz. Digital processing: UAD FATSO - UAD Limiter - OZONE 7 Inter-sample Clip Prevention. Sample-rate and DSD~PCM conversion in Saracon by WEISS.

MASTERING: the Royal Parks

The last few evenings have been spent with Dan Arnott and Tearlach Wales from Melbourne band "the Royal Parks" mastering their album, with tracks produced by Noah Georgeson. A lush and incredibly emotive backdrop for some absolutely beautiful vocals makes this album a perfect candidate for the warmth and detailed image produced by my system here at ToKwerX. All analogue processing was recaptured in digital using the glorious DSD format @ 5.6MHz sample rate. Once again the Harrison 32C EQ's were the final element in the signal path, but the ability to drive the analogue stereo buss harder on the Audient SUMO just as one would on a console master buss allowed for some beautifully rich and subtle saturation before the final capture into DSD.

RENT: ToKwerX Mixing-Mastering Room

Due to changes in my parenting responsibilities I am relocating my studio system back into our home. This means the space I built at Coloursound Studios in Altona Beach will be available for rent.
Comprising of a customised acoustic space complete with floating floor and rear-wall bass trap that "eats everything" below 300Hz this room sounds incredibly flat. Therefore lending itself perfectly to mixing and mastering duties.
The space will accommodate up to larger midfield monitoring easily and also has an area that would quickly become a vocal isolation booth without too much expense.
For details contact Mat Robins on:
+61 405 312 061

the Sherriff

Every so often I have the pleasure of working on music that takes me on a journey, away from commercial viability, record labels and radio. A purely artistic space where music can exist for no other reason than for itself, like a breath - we don't even think about it but we die without it. Adrian Sherriff brought me music like this for mastering; thankyou Mr Sherriff. I feel privileged for having shared this - like a breath of fresh air.

Beggarman Masters

Completed the first track for Melbourne based classic rock outfit "Beggarman." The tune "Supersonic Woman" has been selected for inclusion on a compilation album and is on it's way OS, with an article also soon to appear in Classic Rock Magazine, which goes to press this Monday. The remainder of the 5 track EP will be mastered in a weeks time. 

From a mastering engineer's perspective I think it's interesting to comment on the differing approaches to the bottom end; yes the subs but more importantly the low mids. This is where the 'punch' resides and no amount of sub frequencies (all below 80Hz) will provide that; these frequencies are extremely long wavelengths and just don't 'speak' that fast. So the impact comes from the mids - where all the 'music' is. The band was mixed by Mat Robins at Coloursound Studios through his gorgeous 1980's Neve console and is rich in this frequency range. A few notches of subtractive EQ then a slight single octave boost in the 80Hz region was all that was required to retain the big bottom end but significantly improve the impact. I believe there is a tendency to miss the importance of the low mids during the mastering process. The fact remains that there is very little if any 'music' down there in the subs and the lower mids must be controlled in order to provide the all important 'punch.' 

7 Days

This coming week I shall be setting up my system in the new ToKwerX @ Coloursound Studios in Altona Beach. This has been and remains a monumental task in time management given ongoing studio work with current clients, teaching at RMIT and importantly my family. The countdown has begun though and this Easter has been an important time to complete the new space. I'll post a few more "in progress" pics later this week but here is Part A of the floating floor; part B laid tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Floating Floor Part A

Floating Floor Part A

Over Excited

I wanted to write about the use of Aural Exciters in modern mixing and mastering. Aphex brought out the first version in hardware several decades ago and they were a wonderful device for brightening up the top end of any program material. Best remember we were using tape then though and these days with the high definition of DSD (Direct Stream Digital) frequencies up this end are not rolled off as with tape. So whilst "POP" music seems to have extended the realm of possibilities in the definition of "bright" I personally find the accentuation of these frequencies potentially dangerous. I am particularly concerned about the bandwidth from 3k~10k. Yes our human recognition of frequencies is most accurate in the 2.5~3kHz range and "exciting" this area can add a sense of presence to an otherwise dull program. But presence, especially for the lead vocal is not essentially a mastering issue; this should be addressed within the mix. I know I harp on about this but "the dark art" of mastering is certainly not a collection of tools to repair an otherwise ordinary mix. Hi-Hats and Sibilance are my major concerns for the use of Exciters. I am openly an anti-sibilant engineer, requiring plenty of definition in this area of approx 7.5kHz for an "s" but I get immediately and painfully distracted if this band of frequency is overt - drilling me through the eye with "t & s" is one sure way to put me off. I think it was Bob Katz who also stated that sibilance is able to be heard above all else, even when someone is speaking facing away from you, and he's right. Turn your monitoring right down, really low to focus on what's happening in this realm of hats and sib's. De-Essing is a wonderful tool; use it! So if you're convinced that an Exciter is just what your material needs to brighten it up I am going to suggest you have some more work to do - go back to your mix. Here's a hint. I start each and every mix session with a reference track of a piece with a great top end to attune my ears BEFORE I listen to my own material. Use this as often as you require throughout your mixing to wake up your ears. This will ensure your mix is bright enough and your 5~10k bandwidth will be in control. I personally love exciters but they demand an awareness of what can occur to these frequencies I've discussed. Avoid adding harshness to your top end at all costs. As another mastering engineer states as his mantra, "keep it warm." (Bob Ludwig)