Having been recently (officially) inducted in SAE’s Mastering Suite, I thought I would go in and become more familiar with the equipment. I have been interested in mastering for a while, in fact learning mastering was one of the reasons I chose to do the Bachelor of Audio. As part of my upcoming AUS230 major project involves mastering three tracks, I thought it would be best to get more acquainted with the gear there.
The Mastering Suite consists of four notable hardware pieces, the BuzzAudio EQ, the Neve 8816 Summing Mixer, the Dangerous Compressor and the Dangerous Master (which is the output of the hardware). It also consists of two Focal SM9 Studio Monitors to allow for precise hearing. All of which are very helpful considering the room is the deadest on campus and as a result, excellent for mastering. At the centre of the studio is the SSL Nucleus Console but that is mainly used as the control surface i.e. to adjust monitor levels.
Left: The BuzzAudio EQ and Dangerous Compressor, Right: The Neve 8816 and Dangerous Master
Left: The SSL Nucleus Console, Right: One of the Focal SM9 Studio Monitors
In addition, the studio (via Pro Tools) runs excellent mastering plugins such as iZotope Ozone 7. So mastering engineers can use a combination of hardware and software to enrich a band’s mix.
I have been very keen to try out this studio since starting the Bachelor, especially since it houses the Dangerous Compressor which I have heard is excellent for mix buss compression. Having learned the basics of mastering online and from friends and having been inducted into the studio about a year ago, I thought I’d try and master a mix to see how well I can master currently.
At the moment I am familiar with:
- Mid/Side processing (the basics, mainly EQing)
- Using subtle glue/mix buss compression to catch peaks
- Using a limiter as the final result to achieve maximum possible loudness without ruining dynamic range
- Using multiband compression, to split frequency bands for compression (basics)
- And using stereo width to widen mid and high frequencies and narrow/mono low frequencies
So another SAE student, Calum McLaughlin, sent me some mixes he did for his band Holding Giants. In fact some (if not all) of those mixes will be mastered for my major project. I mastered one of the tracks “Fireproof” in the studio. I mucked around with the hardware and added some tape saturation (which made it sound more vivacious and crisp) and a vintage limiter via Ozone. This was the result.
Here’s the original mixed by Calum:
And here is the mastered version I did:
Comparing it to my reference songs, I thought it sounded pretty good. Maybe a little too overcompressed (I wanted a balance between dynamic range and loudness) but overall it sounds good, and Calum was pleased with the result. I feel I have a long way to go in terms of mastering which is why I am doing the course, but I am pretty eager to learn new techniques and become a more effective mastering engineer.