Manic Compression

I’ve just been listening to ‘Absolution’ by – the songs are great, the playing’s great, the sounds are great… but the mastering is SOOOO harsh!! The whole album is flatlining at close to 0dB all the way through – so little light and shade, distorted vocals, squished drums… MAKE IT STOP!!

Why do bands do this? At least one track on the new album by The Killers is like this too – Glorious Indie Rock ‘n’ Roll is so over compressed I get major ear-fatigue after about two minutes. It’s a shame, cos it’s a great song.

This kind of mastering job used to be reserved for single edits of songs – it makes tracks sound great on small cheap radios (think ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ or ‘Bartender And The Thief’ by Stereophonics). But to mix a whole album like that is just painful – stop doing it!!

Mastering is such a sensitive part of the recording process – it’s what happens after the tracks are recorded and mixed – you send a Cd of the mixes to a dedicated mastering person who then compresses and EQs the tracks to make sure that the level is consistent between the tracks, and that there are no rogue peaks in the audio that means the rest of the track has to be really quiet to accomodate them. In more extreme circumstances, the whole track can be really obviously compressed to bring the average level right up. That’s what’s happened here, and it really hurts your ears listening to it on good speakers.

the mastering on was done by – a hugely experienced and skilled mastering engineer who got the job on my stuff because he’d mastered albums, and also ‘Spirit Of Eden’ by Talk Talk – one of my favourite albums, and one of my favourite sounding albums.

He did a great job of taking my pre-mastered mixes and doing the compression and EQ magic required to bring the overall level up a bit without losing the dynamics on the tracks. There’s some serious audio-voodoo involved in mastering, and Denis has clearly got the mojo. I’d recommend him highly if you’re wanting to get a record mastered.

SoundtrackMuse, ‘Absolution’; Tommy Simms, ‘Peace And Love’.

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