more flexible solutions are desired, we
use 4 completely separate
analog processing channels. This
eliminates the limitations found with a traditional 2-track "locked
together" mastering that uses only one audio
is more powerful when you can process separate issues with separate solutions that don't
overlap or create unwanted artifacts to the sound.
• A separate vocal channel allows sibilance correction without taking
sparkle away from the
cymbals or snare drum.
• A separate bass channel to correct muddiness won't take out
the impact of a kic drum - or remove warmth from guitars because
elements are processed
|• A separate drum channel can apply limiting
exactly where it's needed. This prevents limiting artifacts being
applied to the parts of the sound that needs NO limiting. Now the artist's entire performance will sound more
musical and more true to a live performance.
is an Apple certified Mastered For iTunes
HD Separation Mastering has been used for years as a way to address
contemporary playback volume of mastered audio files - while increasing
the ways that the sound of voices and instruments can be enhanced --
all while keeping a closer eye on the dynamics
that gives music much of it's life
This method is practically pre-set for the goals of the Apple MFiT
system - because Apple is holding up a higher standard that is not centered around "loud." HD
Separation Mastering is also not centered around "loud." It's centered
Loud digital audio masters happened because there wasn't a long-range
standard for volume level (like there was when vinyl record's physical
size dictated some volume limitations). So artists and record labels
kept saying "louder means we're cooler."
mastering engineers protested the pitfalls of putting so much
energy into making louder recordings. But more artists still chose to
released louder recordings, and the listener got left holding the bag.
The newer (louder) music in a continuous
playlist with older (softer) music caused an irritating
of volume from song
to song. We all know this, right?
In time, Apple heard what engineers knew. They saw that people still
loved the older releases of GREAT music and they were tired of newer
music blowing up their earbuds. So somebody was smart and said,
Sound Check and iTunes
Apple created Sound Check
software to basically restore a
"level standard" playback
volume in iTunes playlists. It does so by turning the volume
DOWN of louder audio, and turning the volume UP if there's room in a
softer audio file. iTunes Radio does
the same thing. But engineers really wanted more than just equal
volume, they wanted better sound.
MFiT. The goal: better
sounding music by using higher standards.
standard: Start with higher
resolution audio file(s). We've been ready. EVERY Vestman Mastering
session - for years now - has started with (and continues to be)
up-sampled 96k-24 bit audio - prior to processing via our analog gear.
standard: Final audio masters have a lower
peak output level to prevent clipping distortion. Vestman
Mastering masters has been at that exact standard for years. It makes
standard: Final audio masters are high resolution 24-bit high
sampling rate files. At either 96k or 88.2k sampling rate, we have your
sound quality covered.
means we monitor the Apple AAC conversion IN REAL TIME. We hear the
results, and so do you.
A huge benefit:
DYNAMIC AUDIO doesn't get blown away by slammed mastering in all
situations. In fact, better dynamics will sound punchier, more open,
and more distinct. MFiT is about creating better master audio files so
that music will move you - the way it
wanted to move you in the first place. More info here about remastering and Mastered for iTunes.
HD Separations have
always had better natural dynamics
With better dynamically articulated audio from HD Separations, the
has a natural presence - that doesn't require the smashed-down
"loudness" methods. Music with dynamics "speaks" - and even causes
loudspeakers to have a wider
"excursion" (wider movement) that will... move you!
We have utilized the lower peak output level of -1.0 dBFS long before
Apple made it an important guideline for MFiT. Out-performing hemmed-in
dynamic slamming has been easy for us because musicality and optimum
sonic potential has always been the natural outcome of HD Separation
Beyond the mastering process, let's
look at the actual sonics of the
In the case
of mixing "in the box", imagine you have 30 tracks in your
project. (Some may have 60 tracks, some may have 20. Let's explore a simplified 24 bit example
to explore what could be going on in a mix that has 30 tracks (not
counting digital processing, phase cancellation or industry recognized
32-bit floating math
your computer is not a mixer. It's a big calculator.
If all 30 tracks were recorded with 24 bit audio on each track, that's
720 bits distributed over all 30 tracks that are playing at once. But
the stereo file made from your stereo bus will only have
24 bits when you 'bounce a master file to disc'. The stereo file
is not 720
bits. How can you capture all of the bits that are embedded in every
Unless you are using an analog summing box
(Discrete Class-A required for best audio resolution) or a large format
console, you are accustomed to hearing every channel output all
(simplified for this example) 24 bits. Your 30 tracks being mixed down
(rounded-down) only contain the 24-bit resolution of just one stereo
It's all being done
really well, to be
consider the difference using smaller number of tracks summed to make
Separations (some use the term
"stems" or "subgroups"). For instance if you have 10 drum tracks in a
that's 240 bits resolved to a 24 bit 'bounced to disc' drum file. Much
different math occurring than when 720
bits are resolved down to a 24 bit full mix file.
If you have 10 vocal tracks, that's 240 bits
resolved to 24
bits. If you make a bass Separation (possibly 2 tracks - 48 bits which
resolved down to 24) and then an instrument Separation (8 tracks - 192
bits down to 24), you now have 4 Separations - each with much higher
resolution than the sound you were getting from your single 2-track
stereo buss summing.
Check for yourself:
I'm the first to admit, I'm not a computer
programmer or math major. And you should check this for
your ears to see if this exploration has sonic merit. Bounce a stereo
all-tracks mix. Now bounce 4 Separations - Drums, Bass,
Instruments, and Vocals (here's how). Put
the stereo mix and the Separations into a new project. Mute the stereo
mix. Listen to the Separations, then solo the stereo mix. Listen to the
The reason analog summing boxes are sold is because dividing the
digital tracks out of the computer and combining them in the analog
domain sounds different than 'in the (computer) box' summing. But
much of that
good sound isn't so much
the box, but rather that each group of tracks isn't resolved the same
way it is using one all-digital single stereo buss
output. (There are many variables to a good sounding analog summing box
system: interconnecting cables, D-A converters, the actual electronics
in the boxes,
(even patch bays) etc. I manufactured the Discrete Class-A Nautilus
summing in my mastering room) several years back, so I've participated
in this subject personally.)
The analog signals created by the D-to-A
voltages of the stems/Separations. There is no
numeric-calculated loss in the electrical voltages of analog sound. The
waveform-voltages created by analog summing is a non-reduced
"modulated" signal (within the constraints of headroom).
This means the waveform becomes more complex
as more elements are added. No "rounding off" or "dropped bits" occur
as more elements are added. Big-name artists who mix
through large-format analog consoles (utilizing high-precision D-to-A
converters) are getting higher sonic resolution than a standard
in-the-box mix where the
bits are calculated/resolved and loss is incurred. Plus there can be
character (coloration) of the analog sound by the console - which is
desireable (or not) depending on your taste (preferences).
(in or out of the computer) have their merits
I did some research a few years ago listening to an excellent
comparison of over 20 summing methods, including analog summing. All
summing methods have a different tone, or character. Even things like
different cables can change the character of your sound. I don't claim
that one method or the other is "perfect." The summing method you
prefer depends on your references
Separation Mastering allows us to recombine the higher resolution
separated files you send us using our propriety HD method. It's
different than ANY mastering house. Our console is set up different,
experience with this method exceeds all other mastering studios and the
sound is unmatched. Our 4 channels of separate Discrete Class-A analog processing is unique and significantly more
powerful and flexible than any other mastering studio.
If you have an analog summing box, you are actually hearing the higher
resolution sound that you would not hear if you're simply taking a
stereo master output from your computer. The summing box (or console)
is actually a significant monitoring device. Some people are shocked to
hear the clarity from HD Separation Mastering. That's because they are
used to hearing that 720-to-24 sound.
It's common to get used to a
more blurry, washed-together, less-articulate sound. You don't hear
transients that are actually recorded on your drum tracks. You don't
hear detail to the reverb in your vocal tracks. You don't hear
pin-point clarity in your instrumental panning.... unless you are
mixing through a large-format analog console. Then you are actually
hearing all the detail in all the tracks that make up your mix. The big
name artists hear
this kind of clarity in their mixes because it's there to be heard in
those big consoles.
Separation mastering fills the gap and offers you more of that
out-of-the-box higher resolution sound - and you don't have to buy an
expensive summing box to achieve it (although for the purposes of
real-time monitoring of Separations/stems, it's an excellent idea).
Easy recall of separate elements saves time when fine adjustments give
you the perfect final sonic resolution.
Q) We don't know exactly
mastering will do and won't do for the sound.
successful commercial album you buy has
been mastered by
an expert mastering engineer. What mastering does to the sound depends
on the how much alteration is done to the source mix. Mastering brings
albums into a place of competitive
sound, whether that's giving it more presence and highs - or mids for
clarity - or lows for fullness - or volume for loudness. Check our site
for what to expect.
Our mixes are a lot quieter than regular CD's and there seems to be no
low end. We were told by the engineer not to worry because mastering
takes care of that.
should be addressed in mixing, but
certainly the volume is appropriately handled in mastering. Separations
solves all of that with no needed remixing.
I also read that we shouldn't have the mixing engineer compress the
song because it makes it practically impossible for the mastering
engineer to work with.
are just fewer advantages to an overly slammed
mix. Sometimes however it's appropriate when done by a professional
mixing engineer. Loud audio levels sometimes depend on layers of
limiting/compression in order to retain "apparent dynamics" while
getting the volume up right at the mixdown stage.
Separations solves all of that! Every question you have is nailed using
Separations as a format to submit to mastering. Simply let us know what
commercial projects you like the sound of and send or bring in
reference CDs so we know exactly what your taste is.
Could you let me know whether you would consider this to be a good mix
to be mastered, or if you think there should be changes made?? (more
low end? More/Less guitar?? Etc…)
and low end is a preference, and while
we may have a good idea about the balance, really if you send reference
CDs of what you like, we can emulate that - and bypass the "trial and
correct" stage by using Separations.
Q) I loved the master you did for our band 2 years ago - it still
sounds great! It was almost as if you reached in and remixed it, it was
so good. Are Separations more of a good thing, or could it be too much?
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
liked what we
did before, this will blow
you away -
particularly the improved spatiality and space around the vocals.
It's never intended to go overboard - and it's simply a SYSTEM where
you're providing the ideal
excellent results.... not just good ways. Separations don't
replace your 2-track mix - they supplement it.
Q) We know someone else
who did their
own mastering using plug ins. Their songs were hot alright, but the
drums that previously punched out seemed softer or flattened down. Will
separations help this problem?
only so many one's and zeros relating to volume
level, and when your master is slammin' hot, transients (peaks) have to
be taken down in order to bring up the overall mix, otherwise the whole
record is clipped to pieces. With loud mastering techniques and mindful
listening, Separations can be used to restore punchier drums in the
Q) Why is the sound more
spread out like you're saying? Isn't it all digital?
of the summing tasks directly into a high-end
precision mastering system, you're almost getting a Direct-To-Disc
recording. Whether we sum in the digital domain or the analog domain,
the layering of sound sources (vs. a single-layer source) right to the
mastering system is ideal. Plus if we do enhancements to the
Separations, it maximizes the precision and minimizes the compromises.
Q) What if I want some
help with my
mixes? I like my mixes, but I'm not sure how to bring them up to the
happy to help.
We have an ideal environment to dial in and
achieve your goals. Plus, mastering settings are all recallable. Once
you get your master CDR, if you have ideas for further creative
enhancements, we'll recall the session and take care of your requests.