Need advice from CD mastering people

Enoch wrote on 1/27/2004, 6:57 PM
I just bought CD Architect and I'm wondering if those of you who use this product to master your own music to CD, use the direct x plug-ins that come with the program, or do you find them inadequate for compressing, limiting and equalizing your project? If you do find them lacking, what other products do you use before formatting in Architect?



jardeano wrote on 1/27/2004, 8:23 PM
you can create good cd masters fom cda5,,,and yes,,,there is always something better but the dx plugins are great,,have you spent sometime using them? DO you have experience creating master cd's on the computer? If not,, consider yourself lucky to have cda5........The end result of creating a master comes down to what ya hear,,,you could know how to work with effects and plugins etc but if ya ain't got the ear for it,,,it's not going to sound good,, it's an art ,, If you do have experience creating cd masters and are just looking for software or are new to computer music composition ,,I feel cda5 is a great app... good luck,, I'm curious why you think the dx plugins are lacking........
Enoch wrote on 1/28/2004, 5:42 AM
I actually don't have an opinion yet. I just spoke with someone who is not a big fan of SonicFoundry (Sony) plug-ins who assumed that I would need to purchase something else to achieve good compression etc. I'm happy to hear from you that you think they are adequate. I have some limited experience with mastering, but I'm a novice. Hopefully I can get what I'm looking for without buying T Racks or some other plug in bundle. Thanks for your help!
farss wrote on 1/29/2004, 4:02 AM
I'd assume it depends what you consider 'mastering' to mean.
Actually I was surprised to find that CDA included any plugins, I'd assumed by the time you got to the stage of commiting to CD the precise sound was already locked down and all that was required was getting it in the correct format for the CD.

It seems from my limited knowledge that Vegas is the tool for recording and mixing and Sound Forge the tool for audio microsurgery if needed.
kbruff wrote on 1/29/2004, 11:35 AM
I agree, all the work should be done way before any CD burning is even concieved of.
Geoff_Wood wrote on 1/29/2004, 7:45 PM
CDA5 is my mastering app of choice.

Certainly all the audio work should be done before 'burning', but that mastering work is EXTREMELY appropriate for doing in CDA5. Far more appropriate than SoundForge (for anything over a single track) and more streamlined than Vegas for this purpose

The separate plugins per track, overall plugins, instant access to any event/track on the timeline - ideal for comparing tracks relative to one another.

Not to say that there are a few tweaks and fundamental features we would *ALL LIKE TO SEE IMPLEMENTED*. Namely switch-out on non-active plugins, CD-TEXT, and CD-EXTRA - in that order.

Rednroll wrote on 1/30/2004, 5:36 AM
"but that mastering work is EXTREMELY appropriate for doing in CDA5. Far more appropriate than SoundForge (for anything over a single track) and more streamlined than Vegas for this purpose"

I totally disagree. Sound Forge is the mastering tool of choice. CD architect is a CD Track Assembly program, with DX plugin functionality. There are major components missing within CD Architect to consider it a complete mastering tool. The first being there is no DC offset tool. There is no RMS Normalization feature. There is no reverse audio function for radio edits of cuss words. There is no Spectrum Analysis to see problem EQ areas that may go unheard, yet could be causing secondary effects. Also, one major lacking feature compared to Sound Forge is there is no VU meter or RMS level statistic tools. A VU meter is eccential for any serious mastering engineer. A VU meter responds on an average level, quite the same way your ears perceive loudness. You need a VU meter, to ensure proper loudness matching from song to song, and to be able to compare how your mastered material is to other commercially released CD's. You can just as easily compare tracks via A/Bing within Sound Forge by changing between windows, or using regions within 1 file. You can actually do this a lot quicker than having to scroll down a timeline. To me without these tools, it's like mastering with ear muffs on.
Geoff_Wood wrote on 1/30/2004, 1:00 PM
I semi agree with some of your points. CDA could benefit from a spectrum analyser. For estimating comparitive loudness, I prefer ears to eyes.

RMS normalisation tool ? What's wrong with WaveHammer ?

Where do your DC offests come from ?

"To me without these tools, it's like mastering with ear muffs on".
- To my mind relying on your visual approach is the earmuffs thing.

Sure, more things is better, and these function could/should be added.

Rednroll wrote on 1/30/2004, 8:40 PM
"For estimating comparitive loudness, I prefer ears to eyes."

Yes, of course. The problem is that ears get fatiqued. A VU meter never get's fatiqued, so it's good to have a visual sanity check at your disposal. The ears also can't tell the difference between levels unless one is 2dB or more louder than the other. You risk wasting a lot of time if you don't A/B every song as you go along and compare everyone to one another. For instance you can master song 1, then song them, they both sound similar in level, but actually may be up too 2 dB different, because your ears can't tell the difference......This is a well documented FACT. You then master song3, and compare it to song 2, since they follow one another on the CD. They may now sound the same, but could be 4dB quieter or louder than song 1. It's called the creeping effect, which goes undected by the ears. The creeping effect more commonly can also happen within a song. It's very common for the mix engineer to keep raising the level throughout a song, where towards the end it may actually be up to 6dB louder than the beginning and your ears could not notice it, because the increments happened over a long period of time in small 1 dB increments. The mind can only remember audio level comparisons within a 5 second duration after which, the reference starts to be forgotten. Another well documented fact. As a mastering engineer it is up to you to fix these problems. Using your ears alone will allow these problems to go undetected, due to hearing limitations. Therefore, this is only avoidable if using a VU meter, where you can ensure the levels are within 1 dB of each other and ensure the end is not louder than the beginning. Why do you think I've been asking for a VU meter in Sound Forge since v4.0? It's because, I've been trained by a very knowledgable Motown mastering engineer, that made me aware of these hearing limitations.

DC offset? Obviously, you don't do mastering from outside studios. If you only master material that you mixed and you know there is no DC offset in your equipment, then this would be no problem. The problem would be that having the mix engineer, master the material, is always bad scenario. There are many reasons for this, read any article on mastering and you will hear that same thing over and over. A fresh set of ears is always recommended for the mastering engineer. When mastering material from outside studios I run across DC offset on a regular basis. Not everyone has a complete humless completely digital studio. Analog gear deteriates over time, along with the capacitors inside the equipment, used to elliminate DC offset. Therefore you always need to check the DC offset, to ensure you're getting the most out of the audio headroom and dynamics.

kbruff wrote on 2/1/2004, 10:21 PM
Hello Geoff,

All of the items suggested are useful, but SF7 is truly a mastering atmosphere.

I make the statement after really considering your remarks, on the basis that you can actually apply any number of pluggins. Finally you can save the file when you are finished. I dont think CDA5 actually creates an accessible wave file for the individually processed tracks. If CDA5 does do this then of course it is worth consideration.

Asides from everything expressed by different forum authors, there is one other feature that is worth mentioning. The pencil tool is a nice way to edit annoying transients which makes mastering a real art form, which belongs in the domain of a dedicated mastering atmoshere such as SF7.

Thanks for your time,
Geoff_Wood wrote on 2/3/2004, 8:16 PM
Red, I can certainly hear differnces significantly lower than 2dB, short term Lower than 1 with realtime adjustments being made to a playing programme. But that is irrelevant wrt my methodology. I decide which track is the fully normalised one (usually the most dynamic) and work everything from there. All others go *down* from there, by ear.

Different tonal content makes ear-estimation of absloute levels very tricky anyway. With CDA5 I can instant skip around the whole 'CD' for instant comparisons. I would never imagine that I could listen through whole tracks and aurally compare levels from previous songs.

Sorry if this doesn't make much sense - I 3/4 asleep...

Rednroll wrote on 2/4/2004, 7:49 AM
"Red, I can certainly hear differnces significantly lower than 2dB, short term Lower than 1 with realtime adjustments being made to a playing programme."

You must have golden ears, and hear better than 99% of the worlds population. The decibel was created by Alexander Graham "Bell". After much studies, it was found that a "1 dB" change was the smallest possible change the human ear could hear under an "ideal" listening environment, with no outside sound sources. A 2dB change in level is more correct for real world applications, because of the added stimulus of outside sound sources. Maybe you don't have human ears, so you don't fit into all the studies that have been conducted over the years. You might want to check into conducting some labratory studies, you could pick up some extra cash and prove that all the sound level studies done to date are false.
Geoff_Wood wrote on 2/4/2004, 3:42 PM
I know all about Bell and bells, and decibels since training as a telephone tech over 20 years ago. That 1dB thing should be taken in the context "1dB is a change that pretty much any Tom Dick or Harry can hear in average surroundings".

Many real golden ears mastering engineers often claim to be able to discern 0.1dB changes. I can easily pick a change of 0.5dB in a continuous signal.

Try it.

Rednroll wrote on 2/5/2004, 9:01 AM
I've tried it, and taught it for many years. Part of my lectures was demonstrating to students, that you needed a change of greater than 1dB to notice a level difference. Part of my lecture was to blindfold a student, in a control room with a Yamaha 02R playing music through it. The student was to acknowledge when they could hear a change in level. On the 02R we had fader preset settings stored of 0dB, +1dB, +2dB, and +3dB. Over the years, I have not had one student be able to catch the 1dB change. +2dB, was caught 70% of the time, where a 3dB change was caught almost 100% of the time. Now if you tell me you where mixing and could hear a .5dB change in level when changing a track, then yes I would agree, because other factors come into play like masking. Maybe you think, you can hear a .5dB change in level, but I would guess that your listening evaluation is not a blinded test. The mind, can play strange tricks on you when you're EXPECTING to hear something.....see my discussion on the producer adjustment knob.
Enoch wrote on 2/7/2004, 2:48 PM
If CDA5 does not allow manipulation of a wav file with plug ins and a new "rendered" copy created, but rather just serial effects applied to tracks, then I have my question answered. I have SFXP studio loaded. It may not be v7 but I can process my songs there and then use CDA5 to simply create the CD timeline.
Rednroll wrote on 2/8/2004, 1:17 PM
Yes, this is the correct way to do it. Although, I don't think Sound Forge XP has directX plugin abilities. Sorry, to divert your original question, but that's what I was hoping you got out of the information. Sound Forge is the better program to do the actual mastering part, as far as the audio processing. CD Architect is better for doing editing, simple crossfade mixing, and the assembly of the CD tracks. I use a combination of Sound Forge and Vegas for my mastering needs, but use to use Sound Forge and CD Architect. In either case 99% of the mastering processing that I do is done by external hardware and Sound Forge's processing, while Vegas is the final glue to put it all together, once all the tracks are finished being "mastered".
drbam wrote on 2/9/2004, 5:54 AM

Your comments bring up a question that I haven't been able to fully answer for myself: "what advantage(s) does CDA have over Vegas for final assembly and burning?" Vegas is so quick and easy that so far there doesn't appear to be a compelling reason for me to use CDA instead of Vegas for this.


Rednroll wrote on 2/9/2004, 6:18 AM
In my opinion....None. I actually think it's less effective because you can't do multitrack mixing within CDA. There's many times clients ask me to assemble skits between song titles during the assembly process. Vegas makes this task much more effective. Plus I also have track faders for individual songs, for leveling, instead of using volume envelopes. Volume envelopes to me are better just for doing custom fades. Some users think the more streamline interface in CDA is a more effecient work flow. I don't agree, because I can make Vegas look almost identical to CDA, but ya know different folks/strokes.

Also, think of the live recording benefits. Record an entire concert for a band in Vegas. Hit stop, add the track ID's, burn a CD hand it to the band before they even start to take down their gear.

The thing that upsets me is that Vegas got the CDA features, because CDA v4.0 was discontinued. Now that CDA v5.0 reimerged, they have discontinued additional CD features in Vegas. Which means I'll probably never see CD Text in Vegas, or a PQ editor, or a print cue sheet option. I wish CDA would die again, so Vegas can again get some CD assembly features.
drbam wrote on 2/9/2004, 8:53 AM
Thanks Red! Helpful comments and I agree with all the points you made.

Geoff_Wood wrote on 2/11/2004, 2:31 AM
I find Vegas cluttered and distracting for assembling CDs. But everything I know or do is wrong, so don't listen to me !

Rednroll wrote on 2/11/2004, 8:48 AM
"But everything I know or do is wrong, so don't listen to me !"

Ahhhhh....Geoff, am I giving you an inferiority complex? What's wrong with a little debating so everyone can learn from each others experience? You have no problem making statements, which you believe to be the absolute correct way to do things and criticize others for not doing the same, but then when someone else is able to call you on your opinion and point out your flaws, you have no information to back your opinions up. You think, maybe you could learn a little from your incorrect assumptions, move on and improve your overall engineering skills? I bet it turned your whole world upside down, finding out that all the past mastering jobs you've done, may have gone out the door with sub-par quality. Quit you're whinning, nobody likes a cry baby. If you would like to be right instead of wrong all the time, then you should start educating yourself a little more, and learn basic hearing limitations, that way you know they exist and know how to overcome them.

Isn't this your statement?
"mastering work is EXTREMELY appropriate for doing in CDA5. Far more appropriate than SoundForge (for anything over a single track) and more streamlined than Vegas for this purpose"

Now I prove you "wrong" and you're going to cry about it? Cry me a river, it doesn't bother me. I understand my delivery of information always isn't so nice, so I'll try and be a littler more kinder for you sensitive types.

rpmbassman wrote on 2/11/2004, 10:21 AM
For the record, I also do not use CDA as my main mastering software; I use a wave editor (not from Sonic Foundry).

I use CDA for assembling the CD.

I don't believe CDA offers the same/needed capabilities for mastering purposes. I would feel crippled using only CDA for mastering (even with any plug-ins you so desire).

That said, I do love CDA, and would like it to remain as a stand-alone app (eliminating it would not make me buy another editor).
kbruff wrote on 2/11/2004, 3:31 PM
I use CDA5 over nero on many occassions (despite some of CDA5's disadvantages), simply because I can view the wave form, and if necessary open a track directly in SF7 and then return to CDA5 for CD authoring. That interaction for me promotes a smoother work flow.

Another CDA5 user,
Geoff_Wood wrote on 2/12/2004, 1:53 PM
Red sed
> "Isn't this your statement?
> "mastering work is EXTREMELY appropriate for doing in CDA5. Far more
> appropriate than SoundForge (for anything over a single track) and more > streamlined than Vegas for this purpose"

> Now I prove you "wrong" and you're going to cry about it? "

You didn't 'prove me wrong' at all. You proved that your working methodology is very different to mine.

Do you not agree that if your wish list of (what was it, spec-anal metering and DC offset removal) were included as standard, as opposed to available by 3rd-party DX plugin, the layout would make itt more streamlined ?

Rednroll wrote on 2/13/2004, 7:26 AM
You're in such denial. You say CDA is "Far" more appropriate to do mastering than Sound Forge. I think I've proven you wrong and explained the basic mastering NECESSITIES that are needed and are included in Sound Forge and not CD architect. The most important one aside from spectral analysis and DC offset, is a VU meter and I think I've explained to you "Why". Most professional mastering engineers will agree that you can't do mastering without a VU meter and be 100% sure of your work without it. Before Sound Forge v7.0 had a VU meter I always had a cassette deck withn a VU and had the deck record enabled monitoring my output, thus just using the VU's. For CD assembly, I agree that CDA is the right tool you need. It's perfect for assembling, editing, fades, and crossfades. Very quick and user friendly in this department. This is only the final stage of mastering though, the most important part is the processing, which CDA lacks in those key features I previously mentioned and therefore, does not make it an appropriate mastering tool. Another key feature is that it's lacking a way to record into it. The only way to get audio into CD architect is to extract it from CD or to already have the file located on your hard drive. A lot of people still mix to DAT tape. How do you get this into CD Architect to master? I use an external hardware multiband compressor, how do I play back through that from a CDr or DAT tape and record into CD Architect? I can't. So if you're using CD Architect to do your mastering, please don't refer to it as that term, it's really an insult to true mastering.