Claes Holmerup: Mastering on the Falcon
With programs like Cubase Audio for the Falcon, it's possible with a limited budget, to reach almost anywhere as far as arranging and audio recordings are concerned. But the job hasn't been finished just because you've mixed down your masterpiece to DAT...
What is "Mastering"?
It's various kinds of editing of the final mixdown of a music production. If you listen to the mix and find out that a certain range of the song is too short or too long, that verse and chorus should have changed places or that an end fade is too long - then you might need mastering.
The first alternative that comes to mind is, of course, to make a new mixdown. In many cases, this can be too complicated or even impossible; you may have used borrowed or rented effects units or had help from other persons at the mixdown. In these cases you really need mastering.
Sometimes you want to increase the average volume by using a compressor, or simply cut the worst peaks with a limiter, to be able to get more "energy" out of the mix when you're finished. In these cases you also need mastering.
If you find out that your final mix has too much bass (VERY common in home recordings, due to poor monitoring equipment), you can adjust it by using an equaliser to lower the bass. Again a task for the mastering.
Why digital mastering?
It's a clear advantage to make mastering on the computer, since you keep the digital format and don't have to make an extra generation of D/A-A/D convertion. Even if many analog compressors, equalisers etc. often have a very good sound quality, they always add more unwanted noise than if you make the editing in the digital domain. The really professional analog units with the best sound quality also are real turn-offs when you look at the price tag...
For PC there are among others WaveLab, SoundForge and CoolEdit; extremely powerful programs that are continuosly updated. Do you have to buy a PC to beable to make this final touch-up then, as nothing similar exists for the Falcon?
NO WAY!!! From the German company SoundPool comes AudioMaster (which according to SoundPool themselves have a more professional class than the above mentioned PC-programs - they've said so, so take it for what it is...).
In the main program you can set start- and stop points for the various pieces of the song and then you set them up in a Cuelist which describes in which order they should be played back. You can magnify the graphical display very much, in order to get very precise cuts. When you've made a couple of cuts, you can choose to export them to new, separate audio files. This simplifies things if you should record a couple of songs that should be burned on a CD.
An extra module for AudioMaster is "Dynamite", a compressor/limiter/whatever dynamic effect you have in mind. Compression, limiting, gating etc is graphically set in a curve where you set points and pull them any way you want. When you're satisfied with the result, you make an "offline" recording to a new audio file, which can be used for further editing.
The next module in line is the Equaliser. It has 6 separate parametric equalisers where type (highpass, lowpass, bandpass and notch), frequency, gain and q-value can be set. When you're satisfied with your result, you make an "offline" recording, just like with the Dynamite.
Another module is the Analyser, which gives you very accurate measurements of the frequency spectrum - with many different ways of showing the result. This can be very useful if you want to compare recordings with a previous one, to get the same "sound".
Yet another module is the Sync module, which enables AudioMaster to control and be controlled via midi.
Well - how well does it actually work?
Apart from the fact that the germans sometimes have a strange view on what a user-friendly interface looks like, I have to say that AudioMaster really works very well. I haven't had the time to make a thorough test, so I've certainly missed many things. The program seems to be very competent and is able to do many things with a good sound quality. The separate FPU-version that's included makes it even better!
One thing that's a little sad though, is that you can't use all the modules at the same time - only one at a time. This is simply because the DSP-power isn't high enough. If AudioMaster would be able to run more modules at the same time, the sound quality would have had to suffer - a compromise that SoundPool didn't want to make. Sound editing puts very high demands on the computer.
If you don't need full versions of the modules, there is a "limited" modules package available, which contains the Sync, Analyser and Equaliser modules in somewhat restricted versions. If you need some of the functions, but not the main program, there are stand-alone versions of Analyser and Dynamite.
Current prices in Sweden:
Analyser module SEK1950
Equaliser module SEK1950
Dynamite module SEK1950
"Limited" module package SEK1950