ANALOG vs. DIGITAL mastering: EXAMPLES!
FIRSTLY PLEASE READ FOLLOWING:
– Listen on high quality hi-fi speakers firstly (not nearfield monitors) otherwise there is chance that you will not hear most significant differences between analog vs. digital. Basic nearfield monitors (in price range up to 500 Eur) are designed for mixing, most of them is not good enough to check master – for this reason most of mastering studios do not use monitors, but prefer hi-fi (Brand: Bowers and Wilkins for example). Neafield monitors usually have flat, cold, ugly sound (designed to show you mix in raw style with all problems and conflicts in frequencies) without enough details and transients. Good quality hi-fi is linear too, but have more details, transients, show color of sound etc. On small monitors (they usually don’t have lot of bass, trebles and details/transients) difference between digital and analog mastering is not so significant, but on big PA digital harshness kill ears. On the other hand low cost hi-fi speakers are designed to sound nice and soft as possible, they are not good for checking masters too, because also problematic thing sounds nice here. So choose high quality, linear, detailed hi-fi from renowned brands (example Bowers & Wilkins, KEF etc.)
– Listen also on good headphones too – to check transients and details (not dj headphones like Senheiser hd25, they are not designed to sound good or linear they are designed to be closed/isolated as possible for live dj sets with sound intensive, loud and centered as possible) but good headphones with lot of details, recommended are: Senheiser HD600 or 650 and hi-fi Beyerdynamic DT235, higher volume is used, more distortion, harshness and sharp transients you can hear.
– Mixes used for examples were not ideal, we would say quality was 50-60% (so mixes itself has some problems, little bit of harshness and distortion, usually we are getting this quality of mixes from standard producers). Psytrance tracks has little problem with harsh sound of synthesizer at some levels of cutoff, it is not caused by mastering but by fact software synthesizer were used (they usually don’t have smooth sound like dsp hardware synths eg. Virus TI) probably cutting of some frequencies in mix could help, also mix is too much glued together.
– Please note: amount of digital harshness and distortion in mid and hi frequency range/transients is multiplied on big PA in club or at festival (because all problems in sound are significantly multiplied by high power amplifiers, amplifiers create its own harmonic distortion, as well as PA speakers, which too creates and boost distortion occurred in input audio). So if you hear ugly harsh transients, mid and trebles with your headphones or speakers you can be sure it will be 5-20x more intensive on big PA speakers. Usually every pure digital mastering with VST plug-ins creates lot of digital aliasing/distortion, artifacts, harsh trebles, mids and transients.
– Some people are using soft sounding monitors (like Dynaudio) Dynaudio is producer of hi-fi speakers and these monitors are known for pleasant, soft sound, so you don’t hear lot of problems, details and harshness/distortion in problematic mid-hi range and transients. Vice versa: some monitors like Yamaha HS7 or HS8 has very curious harsh sound itself, audience of 8 people listened masters on them and told digital sounds good, same digital master was played on 6 other pairs of monitors, speakers and headphones to same people and they told digital is harsh, ugly shit, these monitors reproduce color of sound / higher harmonics of sound in very curious way, again monitors are for mixing not mastering or final checking.
– All examples have very high RMS volume level, usually -7RMS and more! This level creates distortion itself, but it is actual trend in these music styles. It is difference if you get this high RMS level with gain staging (analog compression, saturation of HEDD converter, saturation of multiple analog devices, digital processing, analog and digital limiting) rather than only with digital tools.
– Focus yourself mainly on transients (digital are sharp and harsh), mids, trebles and overall distortion. These aspects of audio are multiplied on PA system at party. Most of distortion and aliasing is congested here – mid-high frequencies and transients in digital mastering because of facts mentioned in previous article.
READ HERE: Why electronic dance music and ITB mixes should be mastered with analog equipment here: