Audio Mastering Room Set-Up | Recording Studio | Monitors | Berklee Online | Jonathan Wyner

September 11, 2019 No Comments

[MUSIC] I want to spend a couple of minutes unpacking the mastering environment, the mastering room. I think it goes without saying and this has probably been repeated over and over again and drilled into you, that the better your listening environment, the better off you are. Sometimes I think of Olympic athletes, and they will only perform at a very high level, if the input is good, their diet is good, their training is good, etc. You can only go so far as the quality of the nutrients, if you will. So I think that is absolutely true of the mastering environment. In some ways, you can make an argument that it is more true in mastering than in any other part of the audio production chain. So what goes into a high-quality mastering environment? Let’s assume your ears and your brain are trained, your acoustic in your room, the quality of the speakers, the ability to hear from 20 hertz all the way up to 20 k in proper proportion is really, really essential. While some people will advance the argument, well, why do I need to hear 20 hertz if people out in the world are listening in ear buds or they’re listening to tiny little speakers at the beach on their phone? Why is it important? I can only ask you to trust me that it allows you to make better decisions in your work, if you can actually hear everything that’s there, not only in figuring out whether the low end is sitting properly compared to the mid-range or the top end, but also in managing the artifacts and the behavior of signal processors that might be responding to very low-frequency signals, that if you can’t hear them, you can’t figure out what’s going on, and how can I modify my work, so that the thing is going to sound better. As a result, we’re all striving for the best possible scenario. I realize for most people it’s not possible to have access to a mastering quality facility right from the outset, and you level up as time goes along, but it is ultimately and truly important. It’s a given that the acoustic and the monitoring system needs to be as good as possible, and as full frequency as possible. The next most important element in the monitoring chain is the monitor controller; a way of facilitating switching between various inputs in a way that’s level matched and listening through a single D to A converter, a single reference. So here in the mastering room at Berklee at the Brick and Mortar School, here’s the controller for the grace D to A converter, the M9.06. We have a variety of different analog inputs and digital inputs; all of them can be level matched. So we can compare before and after, compare the work to external references, and we also have a calibrated level control here. That’s all very helpful as a way to set a solid understanding for what it is that we’re actually listening to. If you listen to playback from your phone, playback from your computer, all through different D to A converters compared to play back from a disc player or something like that, you can’t really compare because you’re not listening to everything through the same path. It’s not an apples to apples comparison. So these are some of the essential parts of a mastering studio that allow you to work efficiently, and also to have confidence that you are hearing accurately what the audio is and are able to make the changes you want to make. The monitoring system, the DA converter, and the monitor controller are the most important elements in the mastering studio. Once you’ve satisfied that, if you’re using stock plug-ins at the outset of your work, it almost doesn’t matter exactly what tools you’re using because you’re able to assess the quality of your work because you’ve got a quality playback environment. [MUSIC]

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