Yesterday, I had to officially accept that the happy Status 5 was approved a little early. Interestingly, this was not an issue with the Edit&Mix results, nor was it with the Layout lane (which is swimming along nicely and in perfect schedule sync), but the mastering part.
This process thing requires that for milestone 5, mastering has more or less everything in place, and during the following phase, only needs to make a few fine adjustments based on open action items. It also requires that the mastering side has fully reviewed the mixes for “fix in the mix” tasks.
Both was not the case.
It started with me being entirely unhappy with the bass sound on Horst’s New Condominium in my car (and on other cheap systems). And some more minor bass unhapiness in Lazer and Spheres. That, however, wasn’t the worst (and I’m actually super-happy with the hastily fixed bass sound now for Horst). What’s more is that my initial plan, to use one mastering setup for the entire album, was not actually the best.
Yes, I already knew that Spheres had some aggressive upper mids (and worked on that successfully by using track effects and a second track in WaveLab), but what I hadn’t listened to enough is the fact that this album is, bluntly speaking, a about half-half collection of warm and icy tunes.
On one side, there’s the Seventies’ jazz-rock aesthetic of Dreams of Hesse or the proggy punch of The Porcupine, which screams “tube compressor” at you. And on the other side, you have tracks like Tiny Bugs, which seem to glow in a grey-blue colour, shaped like slender, tall, surreal structures.
At this point, I have started to define a new setup (by using tracks in WaveLab), removing all effects but the post-fader limiter/dither from the so-called mastering rack, and setting up three different tracks, each with a different combo of slow (not mastering-slow, but 100ms-slow) compressor, EQ and fast compressor. There’s one track for warm tracks, there’s one for icy tracks, and one for Spheres, the problem child.
Now the second issue is that I’m not exactly very versed in the use of “warm” stuff. Let’s look at some of my last productions: Verschluckbare Kleinteile had a clinical LP10 EQ, and a L2 limiter (which was just responsible for about 1dB of gain reduction, and in that realm, is really surgically clean). A tätowierte Katz’ had an Apogee UV22HR in the mastering chain, and nothing else. I found that I have arrived at some free stuff, and still own some age-old licenses in the past which would work well in parallel mode – which WaveLab doesn’t support.
Maybe I’ll just take that version-5-old Waves stuff, and the Magneto I still have for the warm compressor?
There’s work ahead.
Ok, seems I was too hasty in calling it a failure – maybe I’ll need to add some minor touches, but “not all is lost” as they say…