Mastering Engineer VS Robotic Mastering
Can a robot or computer algorithm make judgment calls with regard to making changes to an artist recording? Can a robot or algorithm decide not to make any changes? Is "mastering" a scientific numbers job where every decision is exact? Let's talk about this and the automated mastering services that are out there today for consumers to master their music with. Making audio judgment calls(use of eq, compression etc) requires free thinking and recognition of one's self in relation to what you are doing(listening to music for example). A computer algorithm can only be pre-programmed to make certain decisions based upon a pre-determined "expected" input. This means that if the computer sees an excess of 2khz, it is pre programmed to reduce the gain of that frequency. This can be perfectly good but it doesn't take into the factor that it may have been mixed that way for a reason and thus requires other mastering techniques to achieve the optimum listening efficiency(pleasurable listening). But do automated mastering services work? Are they a good alternative? Some are on a monthly subscription that cost no more than your Netflix bill offering unlimited masters. They have gained huge popularity and are in the millions of subscribers, so they can't be bad at all... right? I have tested only a couple and i have not done scientific testing but i have come to the conclusion that sending your music to a mastering engineer is a better way to go. (Obviously I'm biased lol ;) ). I performed a master in which i was very satisfied with, but it wanted to try out this automated mastering service just to see what its all about. I will say i was a little bit floored at how good it was. Now saying that, it was not as good as my master of the same song and the client can back that up as i gave them both masters without telling them which is which. (I told them after they decided). I found that there was certain resonant frequencies that I took care of in my master, but the "auto master" didn't take care of. It sounded like the "auto master" was more interested in getting the compression right so it could be "loud". The algorithm just cant think like a human, and when dealing with a piece of art only a human can decide what to think about it. So should you only use a professional mastering engineer when getting your music mastered? Well given the cost of a mastering engineer a quick automated mastering service doesn't "sound" so bad. (No pun intended) I feel automated mastering service are great for quick one off mastering where you need to get the point across about a product to a label. However it feel a real mastering engineer is needed to ensure perfect quality control when releasing to the "world stage".