Machine mastering vs. Online ear-training – Can cloud services do away with the studio pros?


eargym

We all know the importance of mixing and mastering and most have heard of the success of Landr, the online cloud mastering platform, but will computer algorithms ever be able to compensate for the human ear? We here at Stereoklang have tried the Landr platform quite a lot since its debut and it is clear that it brings a lot of benefits and the output is actually quite impressive.

landr

So apart from the sheer speed of getting your new track mastered in any needed format we think the most obvious quality the Landr platform is offering is its ability to add air into your track. The Landr platform will create space in your track and it will accentuate the individual instruments in the mix, and for good or bad make it louder. Making your track louder has its clear merits since normally this is quite tricky in the mastering process. Listening to other masters in traditional digital DAWs it is clear that being able to get the right balance between all the EQs, Filters and Compressors and still maintain the loudness is quite a challenge – something that Landr does well. Below is an example of a track mastered with Landr, please note that it is Landr’s MP3 output, not WAV.

One problem though with cloud mastering is that the output will never be better then the algorithm being used and one thing is how the platform makes its initial analysis of the track regarding for example genre. It is quite obvious to us that as soon as you add a track including vocals the platform will treat the track in quite a standardized way. As with most vocal pop-songs the vocals should have its clear space in the mix and in the output master, but if you are in the field of making more experimental music, let’s say minimal techno with ambient vocals or similar where you perhaps would like your vocals to be more like a soundscape or even as an instrument alongside the other instruments, our experience is that Landr does not really cope with this in any good way – it will treat your track as a pop-tune and you will need to go back to your mix and drastically compensate for this before uploading it to the Landr platform. True enough we know that the platform is learning every day as it gets more and more material to work from, but for now there are some limitations in how the platform makes the analysis, and this very understandable.

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To add to the equation Landr now has launched a collaboration with SoundCloud where you can directly link your Landr and SoundCloud account together. This allows for publishing directly onto SoundCloud from inside the Landr library and as cream on the cake (although not tested by us) you can also export directly into a SoundCloud optimized format for free. The free thing is ofcourse OK, but we would never publishing anything directly onto SoundCloud before one has actually downloaded the final master to be able to do a test run on all hi-fi gear that you have at your disposal at home – before going live for real. But perhaps it suits those who trust their mixing skills 100% as well as the Landr output of course 🙂

Read the announcement here >>

This brings us back to the other part of this  – getting your final production in the right shape both in the mixing process and in the mastering process, regardless if you are doing it yourself in your own DAW or preparing your mix output for upload to Landr. So apart from useful tips that we will share with you there is actually an interesting tool out there now that you may wanna use to take your mixing and mastering skills to the next level – the new online Audio Ear Training solution called Soundgym. Below is a teaser for the training site:

SoundGym is an audio ear training platform for music producers and sound engineers. It’s like a gym for your ears. While playing fun sound games, you will enhance crucial listening abilities: frequency detection, compression, coloration, gain difference detection, spatial impression and more. Each game is focused on improving a specific skill, delivering a comprehensive and effective learning experience with results that you can measure. SoundGym enables you to track stats and progress, follow friends, compare scores with others, achieve goals, win awards and get special prizes.

Go here to try it out >>

Tips for the seasoned mixer and masterer:

1 Try to avoid templates – let every song stay unique in your mindset and approach to the track when you start mixing, to make sure you stay true to the characteristics of the song.

2 Avoid excessive use of plugs – many effects will not save a crappy recording – shit in shit out

3 Too much compression – do you ‘reeeeeeeeally’ need compression on every single instrument, don´t let go of being human as well

4 Finding the right balance – balance between instruments is not an exact science, of course there are guidelines which one ought to follow but not as a slave, try being brave and move something expected either out of focus or in focus

5 Always use de-esser when dealing with vocals to avoid sounding home made