Reggae tune - Which master sounds better?

I woke up in the middle of the night and made a reggae tune. I use LandR online AI mastering, but I’m not sure if I prefer their master to mine. One is LandR and the other one is done in Cubase ITB, using some Steinberg plugins and others from Universal Audio and Waves.
Which sounds better to you? I’ll tell you which is which later, unless you find it obvious. One is a bit louder than the other tho, perhaps I should have matched them a bit closer to compare.

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Hey there, nice track. Makes me wanna sit back and roll a doob, which is saying something as I don’t smoke.
I’m only listening at home on cans and not in the studio so there’s that, but I prefer the first (volume aside). I like the bit of oomph in the bass. Also brings out the lead guitars a little spatially.

The second master seems to squash some of the transients a bit much in some areas, noticeable around 10 seconds or so. It also seems to flatten the mid component a bit more which sort of flattens the mix as the sides are brought up on an equal level.

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Haha thanks, it’s been over 25 years since I last rolled a doob, maybe just took a while to kick in! Thanks for checking it out.

I agree with you. So, No1 is LandR, and No2 is what I did.
I think my own master (inexperienced as I am with mastering, I mostly started with presets on the plugins) was actually closer to the unmastered track that I’d been listening to as I was mixing, in terms of sounding cleaner, but nothing I can do can even get close to the sort of “jumping out at you” sound this algorythm is doing, without totally ruining the dynamics.

Still, not a waste of time tho, it’s the best I’ve managed to do so far. I think I’ll save this as a track preset, if I wanna knock off a quick master for demos & stuff. This was the chain…
Steinberg Stereo Enhancer
Waves Puigchild
UAD Pultec
Steinberg Maximiser
Steinberg Brickwall Limiter

Im digging he first one as well.

It was actually nice to hear some MUSIC and not canned crap

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Couple of things to try for your masters that I find work well:

  • Fast transient limiter first in the chain. Does not affect volume, bring threshold and output down together to shave off rogue transients. Should not be “heard”. Waves L2 is good for this.

  • For width adjustment go with the multiband imager, keeping the low end front and centre and adding a little width to mids and/or high end.

  • A saturator (or tape effect) is great on the 2 mix. I love Waves Saphira for this.

  • Parallel compress the mix lightly, not much gain added but brings things forward. Favorite is PSP Audioware BussCompressor.

  • Try to go for not much more than 3-4 dB of gain reduction on the limiter. I really like using Mastering the Mix Perception AB if the limiter doesn’t have a gain compensation option. The extra loudness tends to make people think somethings better. That helps dispelling that myth :slight_smile:
    For me Voxengo Elephant is the shizz with mastering limiters.

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I would guess the second one is the one from LandR (but could of course be totally wrong). It sounds more produced to me. The first one sounds more like a Cubase master with less cohesion and glue. I think I prefer the second one more which ever platform it comes from. Listened to the mixes on headphones. It would have been good if the perceived volume of the tracks were adjusted to be the same.

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Ok so bang goes my next day off! Thanks for that, I’m gonna have a play around.
Honestly, I don’t think I got the skills to beat the machine in this area, but I’m really enjoying trying. I got the J37 and Kramer tape plugs already, so may have a mess around with them. Black friday tomorrow, so can probably get around £50 grand worth of new plugins for £25 from Waves :laughing:

So it’s 3-1 to the AI machine then. Hopefully it never learns how to play the guitar! Appreciate the feedback guys!

Really cool tune, Chubs! Love it.

To me, the first master was much better. I think Atardecer noticed the same things I did. The sound of the lead guitar jumps forward as it should, and the bass is much better. The first is louder, so that may affect my perception. And I see now that the first version is the one from LandR.

I’ve been using Ozone from Izotope. The most current version gives you an automated “suggestion” at a master that you can use as a basis for your own master, supposedly based on an AI engine, which is what I see LandR is offering. Typically it throws up an eq module that should adjust frequency response to what is typical for the genre, then it does an analysis of the dynamics by band (similar to Cubase Multiband Compression), then comes a Dynamic EQ, followed by Ozone’s Maximizer, which targets loudness based on LUFS set to -14dB. All parameters adjustable.

In front of Ozone on my master bus is the Cubase compressor set to “light compressor” (adjusted to taste), followed by a tape saturation (Magneto II set to “Master - Warmth”). I usually add Ozone’s Imager plugin in front of the Maximizer to enhance the stereo.

I’m just telling you this as another example of how someone else does it on the cheap, not as a recommendation per se. To be honest, mastering is a sort of dark art as far as I am concerned.

My nephew is in a band with a following that has produced a bunch of albums, and the band always goes to a particular studio, and after the studio does the mixing, it is sent to a particular mastering house, and it always comes back sounding so lush, and none of us has any idea what they have done to it. I wish I knew what they have done to it.

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Yes I’ve heard a few people describe it as a dark art, it certainly is to me anyway. I’ve played with Ozone before at a friend’s studio. Honestly I had no idea what I was looking at! Interesting to know it has it’s own AI engine tho.
The good thing for me, using this song to pitch myself against the machine, was the time spent trying to get the mix right. I can usually rely on just dumping my track into this thing and know it’ll sort it out, it was a really good pracice & learn exercise.

I made an album back in 1996, which got released on an indie label. That got mastered by Dennis Blackham. I got to spend the day with him in his studio in Surrey, I didn’t even know that mastering was a thing until that day! I made the album on an old Akai 12 track machine. We ran the stereo out thru a cheap Alesis compressor, thinking that had polished it up! I thought that would be the end result, I wish I’d known!

Hey Chubs, that’s a cool one! thanks.
My taste is #1 , too.
I’m not able to be as precise as Atardecer (by the way thanks for the clarity of explanations). I feel that the fist one makes me more “present in the room”.

Yes, thats a good way to describe it I guess.
I’m sure a good mastering engineer would do something even better, but as this is a home recording to be played on mp3 by my mates and maybe someone who stumbles on it on spotify, I’m more than happy with whatever it is that Mr Algorythm is doing.