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.