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Messages - Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

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Music Gearheads Tech Talk / Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« on: May 11, 2015, 11:01:43 AM »
Feel free to give us examples where a remastred version have ended up not louder ? :)

Anything done for the Audio Fidelity or MFSL labels, all ECM recordings are mastered, as are those by Telarc and I could go on. What you seam to be rallying against is the "loudness wars" which are quite common in new rock releases and many re-masters. However that is almost 100% label and artist driven. In essence a mastering engineer only has the power that you give them.

Also turning up and making sure tracks hang together from one to the next is not the same as squashing, limiting and crushing it to death.

One other aspect is to "glue the mix together" but how do they do that, if not with compression ?

Traditionally NOT done in mastering. That is, the whole "glue a mix together" thing is done by the mix engineer with buss compression and it is not usually a mastering engineers job or concern.

Sending ambient music to the best mastering studio in the world would be a total joke..they do not even know
what to do with that kind of music all they would hear is production errors..

Sorry but here you are just speaking in hyperbole and ignorance.

Not to be a jerk, but I have met, talked to and personally know some of the best mastering engineers in the world and this is not the case. They all take extreme care with the music they are given. They work with the artist to achieve said artist's sonic goals and would NEVER be content to craft a product that the artist was not 100% happy with.

Ambient music have nothing to do with traditional music production it is totally isolated from that.

I think that you are too easily putting "ambient music" in a fragile box and frankly doing it a disservice.

Its music! It may sound good in your room, on your equipment, but if it does not translate on some universal level to everyone else's music systems then you have failed. Period!

In other words, your music should sound good on ipod ear buds, Grado Headphones, KRK-Rokits, Audiophile home theater systems, 5-1 budget systems, laptop speakers and in your car. Its called translation and if you can't figure out how to do that, then that is what a mastering engineers job is.

Also if your music is so fragile that slight eq changes will ruin it, then that is a problem! Frankly I have never heard an ambient album from anyone that I respect in this genre where subtle eq changes ruin the sonic intent of the music.

How do I say and know this? Well because in any play back environment there will be subtle eq changes.

Mastering houses have played out there role more and more..people have better and better equipment in their home studios..
And sounds more and more like the fish product...  However.. there is many cases mixes can benifit from just go thru magic hardware
to give that extra magic you cannot get with the software... but that is more like summing..

A two sided example/argument you bring up here.

Some people are getting better equipment...but more realistically prosumer equipment is actually getting better. I do hold to the standard, that there is no excuse anymore for bad audio quality, at least in so much as you cannot blame the gear.

So when recordings don't sound good, who is to blame? The engineers and musicians who lack the knowledge of how to make something sound good or lack basic mixing skills, but that is ok because like anything worth doing, there is a learning curve and it will take time to get the hang of.

Also there are professional mixing and mastering engineers who can help. Sure, you can fiddle about and learn to fix everything on your car if you want to, and you can buy the tools you need to do so, it can even be your hobby and passion. But there is also the slight chance you might need some help from a professional with better tools and skills and taking your car to them can save you time, headaches and even by spending money for their expertise can save you more money in the long run.

Also there is no "magic box" that you can just run a signal through and audio sounds better, or where a bad mix is suddenly awesome.

There is great gear out there that can and will make mixing easier, but you still have to learn to use it and even there most professionals will tell you its a process best done, one piece at a time...

Anyway..I do not agree that mastering process is a must.. this I think was more in the past..
external ears can be good and also bad.. depending on how much of external input you are willing to put in.
It is easy to do drastic changes in the mastering process that might be far from the artist vision.

Here we will just need to disagree.

What music have you sent out to have mastered? Did you have a bad experience? Where you unable to work with the mastering engineer to fix the problem?

Here is the thing, some people/artists can and do master their own work at home. But usually they have the right tools, a great treated room and the correct knowledge and experience to do so. This is great when it happens, but I assure you it is the exception and not the norm. And the people who can do it have spent years mastering the art of mastering their own music and they have worked out sonic and translation issues.

Once again..too many good albums have been destroyed by these mastering studios.
Also a lot of them have this "fast food" mentality,  they master a album so fast that they can't even listen it thru
they find a preset and just use it on the full album.. which results in ugly artefacts in some parts..


I would state that you get what you pay for. If someone uses a cheap on-line mastering service or a guy down the street with a laptop and "mastering" software, then what did you expect?

Again out of the numerous mastering engineers I know, NONE of them use set it and forget it processes and all of them listen through a song multiple times to get it right.

I also will say on the flip side that if it takes more than a day/session to master an album, then that person is not much of a mastering engineer. In other words, if you the artist/creator are struggling to get your finished mix to sound right and translate evenly across the board, especially after days and days of eq tweaks and such then perhaps this is when, where and why a mastering engineer is important.

Music Gearheads Tech Talk / Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« on: May 11, 2015, 10:09:23 AM »

Hi Paul.

I don't have that gear yet, eh eh.. I was considering it, because a studio is selling them for a good price. Yeah, the noise thing is indeed a problem, but I'm really happy with a noise removal plugin from iZotope, I use it moderately with my outboard synths to reduce a bit their natural noise floor with great results IMO.

Indeed I'm looking for some character and natural compression and I think this Studer A-80 is my passport for that goal.

Just know that a tape machine like the A-80 is a wonderful, but finicky beast that will require a lot of calibration and care!


Music Gearheads Tech Talk / Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« on: May 07, 2015, 09:51:11 PM »
People need to move away from the thought that all a mastering engineer does is make things louder. I still stand by my feeling that all music be it punk, country, classical or ambient will benefit from the right kind of mastering.

Its great to create your perfect musical vision in your personal space, but if that sound does not translate properly across the board to other people's systems in their spaces, then that is problematic.

A good mastering engineer will make sure that the music they are mastering will sound good anywhere, on any system. That is their job! I have NEVER in 20 years had a mastering engineer ruin a piece of my or a client's music. They don't make it loud and crushed or alter it too far unless you tell them to.

A second set of ears is always beneficial in my opinion.

Not sure what I am hearing that you guys aren't but there is a great minimal beauty, depth and sound quality in this album even a power to it that I love. I especially like the solid deep lows.

I was not as nuts about the companion disc, but taken as a collection of sketches it is fine.

Music Gearheads Tech Talk / Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« on: May 07, 2015, 09:23:13 PM »
Taking this thread out from the grave...

What's your opinion on this workflow:

1. Recording and mixing hardware synths into the DAW

2. Equalizing the output with an -> API5500 + BAX EQ

3. Recording hot to tape stereo mixdown-> Studer A80

4. Recording the result to digital again


First of all, very cool gear. You have an A80...NICE!!!

I record all of my hardware synths into my DAW, and I mix all of my tracks through out board EQs and Compressors on a track by track basis and then I too have a Bax on my master buss along with an A-Designs Nail compressor.

The A80 will definitely add a sound and a compression depending on how hard you hit it. I would worry a tad about extra noise, but all that matters in the end is are you happy with the final sound? Have you compared you mix with and without the tape? If you like the tape better then you are doing it right.


I have been listening to this VIA Bandcamp all afternoon.

I am not typically a fan of old school sequencer music most of the time with the exceptions of a few classic, usual suspect albums from Tan Dream and Kluase and despite that, I think this is just fantastic and mesmerizing music. This may be my favorite Roach release since Mystic Chords and Sacred Spaces. Great depth, sound choices, treatments, recording quality, a great album!

I plan on grabbing the 24/96 version from Spotted Peccary.

Everything and Nothing / Re: April Fools Day ignored and denied???
« on: April 10, 2015, 10:17:00 PM »
Just a thought, maybe she has been picked on or teased at some point in her life, or is self conscious and does not like attention being drawn to herself. By acting as if it did not happen then she does not have to deal with any personal, public or internal embarrassment.

...or maybe she just did not find it funny and does not want to give you the satisfaction of putting one over on her.

Everything and Nothing / Re: Did you ever like KISS?
« on: February 13, 2015, 09:53:19 AM »
Got to see them on 79 tour with original lineup.  It was pretty mind blowing.  I think even my Dad enjoyed it (one of the best presents he ever gave me, namely because he knew how much I loved them and was willing to take me ).  I'd have to say Dressed to Kill from '75 is my favorite album, with Destroyer and the debut self titled one close behind. Not to mention Alive, a legendary live album.

You gotta give them credit for spending two hours putting on the makeup for all those years. 

Looks like we're in the minority here.  I can understand most negative opinions.  I'd call them a guilty pleasure these days.  Cheesy,  yet oh so good.....

I could have written everything you wrote verbatim! The 1979 Dynasty tour (with Judas Priest opening) was my first concert ever! As a kid/early teen they were one of my favorite bands...along with the Beatles and Stones.

I actually have all of their albums including the new ones although the early years are still the best and what I listen too most when I put them on. I proudly admit  that they are still a nostalgic guilty pleasure!!!

I have seen them live twice since 79, both times with makeup and the original 4.

In fact my cousin got free tickets to Ace about a month ago, so I went. yes it was cheezy, but so what  ;D

Independent Music Reviews / Re: PDFs of Wind and Wire, the magazine
« on: February 09, 2015, 10:02:16 PM »
Thanks, Paul. That means a lot. I was just listening to Silence Speaks In Shadow a few days ago as I was compiling my top 20 "desert island" discs for the ambient@hyperreal listserv survey...and yes, once again, it made the cut. What a brilliant piece of work. Absolutely essential ambient and should be in everyone's collection (I actually own two copies "just in case.").


Independent Music Reviews / Re: PDFs of Wind and Wire, the magazine
« on: February 04, 2015, 12:17:11 AM »
Awesome Bill, issue two has your review of Ma Ja Le's 1st release "Dreams In The Orchards Of Saturn" to this day it remains one of my favorite reviews I have ever received on one of my albums!

Music Gearheads Tech Talk / Re: Gear: Studio shots by Deb
« on: October 27, 2014, 08:18:32 PM »
It's funny Loren, I kept looking for the like button as if this was facebook...

Music Gearheads Tech Talk / Re: Gear: Studio shots by Deb
« on: October 27, 2014, 12:22:41 PM »
Wow great space Loren!!! I would love to come over and check it out on one of my NAMM trips  ;D

I am really impressed by what Antelope are doing lately. I still think the overall most impressive piece in thier line right now is the zen studio. It's just a killer forward thinking complete package.

As such I can't wait to check out the new devices they announced at AES

All three are very cool. I will be getting a " tour " of them tomorrow !

Now Playing / Re: Currently listening, part 1
« on: October 03, 2014, 09:13:45 PM »
Is the Elements tour box worth picking up? How are the tracks from the new band?

His album Angel Song is one of my all time faves.

Music Gearheads Tech Talk / Re: Eventide UltraReverb
« on: September 18, 2014, 03:36:26 PM »
Once it is authorized to the iLok you no longer need an online connection. I play live shows with my mac with an ilok and I turn off wifi during the performance and it works fine.

Now Playing / Re: Currently listening, part 1
« on: September 15, 2014, 07:28:51 PM »
I might do one of the Chicago shows...but I doubt it. I'll probably just wait for a release of one of the shows live on DGM

Now Playing / Re: Currently listening, part 1
« on: September 15, 2014, 06:40:06 PM »
Getting ready for King Crimson coming to Madison, WI next week.

King Crimson - Larks' Tongues In Aspic (Alternate Takes & Mixes)
King Crimson - Red
King Crimson - Islands
Fripp, Jakszyk & Collins - A Scarity of Miracles

I'm jealous Dave, I was too late in getting tickets for Madison and now its sold out.

Music Gearheads Tech Talk / Re: Online Mastering ?
« on: August 31, 2014, 12:07:21 PM »
I guess I would never trust online mastering in a generic sense. I think that the danger is that mastering is then viewed more as a process rather than being an art, which I happen to believe it to be.

As a process it becomes too much about the tools and what is done in a logistical sense, IE just making a track louder, fit a certain eq profile or whatever.

As an art form it is about presenting a collection of songs as a whole and making sure they hang together and flow as an experience.

A great quote I recently heard from well respected audiophile mastering engineer Stephen Marsh, is that "Mastering is the completion of the process of mixing." He views them as part of the same process and I really think that is true.


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