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Vinyl Mastering

Vinyl sales are on the rise! Still not a big item in the overall revenue picture but up double from last year so lots of bands are releasing their album on vinyl as well as CD and uploads to a digital distributor.

People are now asking more and more if there is any difference between CD/Digital Distro mastering and vinyl mastering. The answer is YES!

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The (pre-) mastering process starts with the usual audio sweetening, balancing and spacing of the songs and then cutting a lacquer. Both these steps can be done by the vinyl lacquering engineer or it can be done by the same mastering engineer who is doing the CD/Digital Distro audio who then delivers the album to the lacquering engineer who then does a FLAT transfer. A flat transfer means the lacquering engineer ONLY modifies the audio where necessary in order to transfer it successfully to the lacquer.

After the lacquer is made, it is sent for plating and then goes through more processes before manufacturing starts. This can be done at one company or in three different places!

So why not use the lacquering engineer for the actual mastering work while he is cutting the lacquer? The answer is simple! You have put some thought into selecting your mastering engineer for the CD and Digital release so why would you trust someone you don't know to do the work for vinyl?

Many years ago, I learned that it is difficult for the engineer making the lacquer for vinyl directly from modern CDs. They are usually too clipped and/or limited in order to make them loud. In addition, some of them are very bright which causes the lacquering engineer to have to de-ess the audio(take away the excess vocal sibilance and equalize out the excessive high end).

I learned what not to do when I got a call from a band whose CD I mastered saying that the lacquering engineer was complaining about how my CD master was making it difficult for him to make a good laquer! So I called him and got some feedback on what to change in my approach. I also talked to another lacquering engineer for confirmation and more tips.

So these days, if my client tells me they are manufacturing vinyl as well as CDs, I recommend that they create a separate album for the vinyl maufacturing. This is not as difficult or expensive as it might sound! In fact, what I do after mastering the first song of the album for CD, is to calculate how I want to create the same song for the vinyl guy. Once I figure that out, I run the vinyl version. I make note of what I did and follow the procedure for the rest of the album. In other words, we find the appropriate settings for the next song for CD and then apply the same couple of changes that we did to the first vinyl master, and so on, until we end up with two albums. The changes are the same for every song for vinyl so you retain the same tone and balance for the whole vinyl album. Works like a charm!

I then sequence the CD and use exactly the same spacing for the vinyl album except for the Side A, Side B split. Once all audio is approved, we make the CD master for the client and a test master on CD of the vinyl work, for proofing purposes. With unattended sessions, proofs are all done via FTP. If no further changes are to be made, we upload the 24 bit audio to the vinyl mastering engineers FTP site so they don't have to work off a 16 bit CD.

So how much time does it take? Once I have the difference between the first CD master and Vinyl master noted, it only takes about 7 minutes, or so, to set up and run each vinyl version provided it is done at the same session. If you decide to do it later, it takes much more time as I have to recall all the gear for each song before I can print it.

So maybe an hour and a half to set-up and run the vinyl master plus do a separate sequence. Online mastering charges $10. per extra version so $100. for a ten song album as long as done at the same time as the album.

Those that have done it are very satisfied with the results!

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OnlineMastering.net and ProToolsMixing.com

Welcome to OnlineMastering.net!

I am Andy Krehm, the chief mastering engineer at OnlineMastering.net. Although this is a new site, I have been mastering full-time for well over 15 years. Previous to that, I was a pro session and theatre guitarist and producer/arranger for 20 years.

OnlineMastering.net is a collaboration between Ken Lewis and myself. Ken is one of the best and most sought after producer/mixers in the US. He has multiple Grammy Award credits and has plenty of Gold and Platinum records! Check out his website Pro Tools Mixing.

 I have been working for him both directly and through recommendations to his clients since 2007.

I am located in Toronto, Canada and Ken is in New Jersey, USA. How we met is another "power of the internet" story! I still can't believe how we connected so I never get tired of telling the story!

Many years ago, Ken was looking for info on a Requisite compressor which he had heard was excellent. The Requisite compressor, like many high-end studio units are sold by small companies and are not available to check out in your average music store. So he entered "Requisite Compressor" into a search engine and up came my mastering gear list! (the Requisite L2M Compressor is one of my favourites and I have been using it for years starting with the  MK I to my current MK III).

Coincidentally, at about the same time, he had just lost one of the mastering engineers that he was using and recommending to his Indie clients. She decided to take up being a musician again and quit the mastering business.

Ken works for many Major and Major/Independent labels but also mixes for indie bands/artists and was keeping his eyes (and ears) open for someone who was an excellent mastering engineer to recommend to his indie clients. However, the other criterion was that they had to offer indie rates (in other words, not too expensive!) to unsigned bands/artist and indie labels with no major distribution.

So when my gear list came up, he looked around my site, liked what he saw and sent me a single to master, as a try-out.

He and the band liked the mastering and the rest, to quote a most appropriate cliche, is history! We have been working together non-stop for years. I appreciate the business and the quality of his work and he knows I am not going to ruin his mixes and will treat them in an appropriate manner for the genre!! In other words, a perfect mixing/mastering relationship!

Mixer/producers often have their favourite mastering engineers! Why? Because mastering, like mixing, is an artistic endeavour. There is more than one way to mix a song and more than one way to master it.

Although mixers, producers and artists in the modern era are more aware of what mastering can do (or not do!) for a mix, the business of mastering is also at its most confusing these days! We have a huge glut of "online" mastering studios springing up, both good and bad, and many of you who are looking for mastering services do not know how to evaluate them.

Many of them use only plug-ins in an untreated bedroom or basement with mixing speakers.The engineers likely have very little experience so the chances of getting a good master out of one of these places is rare!

 The other problem are the mixers who dabble in mastering a couple of times a month. Those are the studios who offer mixing and mastering by the same guy. Some of them wouldn't think of educating their clients that going to a dedicated mastering engineer is usually the best bet to finish an album but would rather take the money themselves! And some of them simply don't know any better because they have never heard their mixes mastered by a professional!

 I have no problems with mixers who master as long as they have explained to the client about the benefits of using a separate and full-time mastering engineer. If the client doesn't feel their music is worth the extra expense, then at least they are getting their album mastered. Most of the mixers I know prefer NOT to master their own mixes!

Another problem is that sometimes bands strap themselves financially because they feel they just have to use the guy that just mastered the latest #1 hit. They don't realize that there are a good number of quality mastering engineers that charge far less and whose work is just as good!

 So I have put together some info here to try and help clients evaluate and find a pro mastering studio:

 How To Evaluate and Compare Mastering Studios.

 If you follow the criterion in the link above, you will be able to find many established mastering engineers with credits and top of the line analog and digital outboard units in a tuned room with great speakers. However, amoungst these folks, there are guys who excel in one style and do not do everything well. Plus, being an artistic endeavour, some mixer/producers simply don't like the work of some highly qualified mastering engineers for various reasons! Sometimes they crush a mix that doesn't need it or other times they will change it more than is wanted.

Some guys just do their own thing with no regard to what the mixer, producer or artist wants!! That's what I call "Old School Mastering" and I know first hand from my former years as producer! Some of the guys I went to were excellent engineers but they really didn't want you there nor did they want your input!! Imagine working on an album for a year with a good budget and then witnessing a less than stellar job by a mastering engineer who worked on it for a few hours!

 My philosophy comes from my session guitar playing days where I was called upon to play a wide variety of guitars and styles. A typical week would be playing a heavy metal solo on a commercial and perhaps some 5 string banjo in the blue grass style on a film score later that day. At night, it might be a show backing up acts such as the Pointer Sisters or perhaps playing electric, 6 string acoustic and 12 string acoustic on a theatrical play for a show such as Evita!

So my mastering philosophy comes from the fact that I appreciate a very wide variety of music and am always trying to figure out how to approach each genre with integrity! I always take suggestions from clients with the utmost respect and do my very best to try to understand how their comments/suggestions apply to their tracks. When someone wants me to "do my own thing", I let the musical genre tell me what to do!

So as you can see, the relationship between mixer/producer/clients and mastering engineer is very important.

That is probably why Ken has stayed with me for so long. He likes how I treat his mixes and clients and I absolutely love working on his mixes! When he recommends our services, he knows that his clients are going to get top notch work for very reasonable prices. Other reasons I like working with him is that he is very organized, knows what he wants and is very pleasant and easy to work with. The latter qualities are also extremely important to a long-term working relationship!

So, although Ken has been sending work to me for years, collaborating on this new site is just a way of focusing our relationship and making it official.

Please feel free to leave comments!

Thanks,

Andy

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Jeff Healey and OnlineMastering.net hit #1 on Billboard

This is a bittersweet kudos for as most of you know, Jeff Healey passed away in March, 2008. We refer you to the following page on the Stoney Plain Records' website for a well-written overview of Jeff's life and accomplishments.

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Prism Precision technology finds a home at OnlineMastering.net

For those of you who have been following our three year journey to build a new studio and upgrade our gear, we are pleased to announce that we have finally reached the last item on our list. When we tell our regulars that we are done they chuckle in disbelief, remembering that almost every time they came to the studio in recent times, one of the engineers would be proudly showing them something new and interesting (at least interesting to the engineer!).

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OnlineMastering.net Flips Its Desk for Requisite

OnlineMastering.net Flips Its Desk To Accommodate The Requisite Direct Connection

As our mastering engineer, Andy Krehm, worked his way down to the bottom of the three year upgrade plan he came to the "upgrade wiring" note.

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OnlineMastering.net Purchases LavryGold Conversion

The majority of our mastering work is done in the analog world using class-A tube and solid state gear, an Ampex 1/2" mastering quality tape deck, coupled with some fine outboard digital units.

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OnlineMastering.net Debuts The Sweet Sound Of Tape

OnlineMastering.net Debuts The Sweet Sound Of Tape: Introducing Our New ATR Services (Mike Spitz) Custom Remanufactured 1/2" ATR-102 (Ampex) with Stock and Aria Electronics and Flux Magnetics Mastering Series Extended Response Heads Mastering Deck

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OnlineMastering.net Gets A New Monitoring System

OnlineMastering.net Gets A New Monitoring System or Lipinski Meets Velodyne and Gets Dangerous

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OnlineMastering.net Gets More Weiss – Weiss EQ-1 MK2

OnlineMastering.net Gets More Weiss - Weiss EQ-1 MK2 Dynamic & Linear Phase Equalizer:

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TC Electronic Mastering 6000 Debuts At OnlineMastering.net:

Anyone who has worked in pro studios have seen TC Electronic units. Our recently purchased TC Electronic System 6000 is the flagship unit of the company. It has the best sound and the best, most complex algorithms of all the companies' units. The TC 6000 is a "mainframe" computer, i.e., an outboard unit and therefore, like our other digital units (both Weiss units, the K-Stereo Processor and the Waves L2), operates at full capacity without depending on the power of the computer which runs our audio program.

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