The mastering engineer’s most important tools are a pair of healthy ears and the skills to use them for critical listening. The latter normally is based on training and experiences out of dealing with various musical productions and the focus on the special goals of mastering: The primary goal of mastering is to condition a musical production for an optimal presentation to the "outer world". Mastering also could be seen as the "interface" between artists/producers and the audience.
For optimal fulfilling this function the mastering engineer needs working conditions which are supporting a best as possible contact to both worlds. To bury oneself between expensive equipment in a hermetical closed studio wouldn't be the best way to reach that. Therefore I prefer this workspace:
Like many top mastering engineers I prefer to work unattended – apart from rare visits of the artists or producers to present for instance rough results and to discuss further goals. For these purposes a big studio is not necessary – unless one wants to impress the visitor with the equipment. How reasoned above, the control room could be a living room with daylight and windows for fresh air. Beyond that the room should be a smart configured with the best as possible acoustic management under these conditions. Important in this context: Computers should be acoustically shielded in such a way that no fan or other machine noise can be listened in the control room. In my case, the computers are located in the neighboring room.
The goal of creating the interface between production and the consumer is best achieved if the workspace for mastering is similar to the one in which the product is ultimately consumed - even if the spectrum from the ghettoblaster in the kitchen over the car radio reaches up to the high-quality home cinema system in an optimized room, so that, of course, not every possible scenario can be taken into account.
And not to forget: another great benefit of a studio in a living room is the lower pricing for the clients because it’s not necessary to co-finance an expensive studio rent.
MONITORS (fitting the control room)
The control room widely decides about the choice of the best fitting monitor systems. Beyond a certain quality standard the monitors not necessarily must be the most expensive. In many cases those anyway wouldn't be the most suitable for the particular room situation.
- ME Geithain RL 906
- K & H O-110 (with subwoover)
- ADAM P-11
- Auratone 5C
- various first-class Headphones (e.g. Stax SR-5 Gold, DT 1990 PRO ...)
At least as important as the right speakers and headphones is the monitor d/a converter with an excellent neutrality and transparency. For this purpose I use a
- Mytek 192-DSD DAC (Mastering Version)
By the way – fortunately this dac has an excellent value-for-money ratio (nowadays about 1.000 EUR). And it can be handled via remote control. This enables to stay at the sweet spot while changing the monitor level or for instance while switching into mono mode.
other AD/DA CONVERTERS:
- 2x Universal Audio UA 2192
- RME ADI-96 PRO
- RME Fireface 400
- 2x RME Multiface (for mobile applications)
- KRK ERGO (for alternative monitoring)
- Sequoia 13 (mastering, mixing and other audio editing)
- Pro Tools 12 (Windows)
- Logic Pro X (sounddesign & sequencing)
- PreSonus Studio One 3 (mixing, mastering OSX)
- UAD-2-QUAD-Core card with various plug-ins
(Manley Massive Passive, Precision Mastering PlugIns, Precision K-Stereo, Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor, Sonnox Inflator, LA2A, 1176LN/SE, Studer A800, u.v.a. ...)
- Flux Alchemist 3, Solera 3, Epure 3
- iZotope Ozone 7 Advanced Mastering Suite
- FabFilter Pro Q3
- Waves Linear Phase Multiband Compressor
- Slate Digital: FG-X, VCC HC
- Celmony Melodyne Editor V2
- various virtual instruments (e. g. Spectrasonics Omnisphere, Trilian, Stylus RMX, NI Absynth, NI FM8 ...)
- various samplers/sample players
- various virtual pianos/keyboards: Pianotec 5, Synthogy Ivory,
NI B4 II, NI Akoustik Piano ...
- Mac Pro (4-core) 3 GHz, 16 GB RAM (OS-X Lion / Windows 8.1)
- Mac Pro 2013 (4-core) 3,7 GHz, 32 GB RAM (OS-X El Capitan)
- Dell Workstation (4-core, Xeon E5-1630 v4, 3,7 GHz, Windows 10)
- RME HDSPe AES 32 (16 ports up to 192 kHz)
- various laptops
- DPA 4021 (stereo set for piano recording)
- Schoeps MK4 stereo set (acoustic instruments)
- Neumann TLM 49 (vocals, speach)
- Brauner Valvet (vocals, speach)
PREAMPS / CHANNELSTRIPS:
- AVALON AD 2022 (in connection with DPA 4021 stereo set
for piano recording)
- 2x Focusrite ISA 430 MK II (recording, analog mastering)
- Universal Audio LA-610 (voice recordings)
- RME QuadMic (mobile recording)