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Metering while mastering

From: Audio Mastering Techniques

Video: Metering while mastering

There are more Metering Tools available to the mastering engineer than the simple metering that we are used to during recording, because the Mastering process requires a lot more visual input to tell you the things that you need to know. Paying attention to the meters is extremely important in mastering, much more so than mixing, especially when you are trying to achieve hot levels. Typically, the mastering engineer will look at the following: A PPM meter or a Peak Program Meter, a Spectrum Analyzer, sometimes called a Real-Time Analyzer or an RTA, a Phase Correlation Meter, a Phase Oscilloscope, and a Dynamic Range Meter.

Metering while mastering

There are more Metering Tools available to the mastering engineer than the simple metering that we are used to during recording, because the Mastering process requires a lot more visual input to tell you the things that you need to know. Paying attention to the meters is extremely important in mastering, much more so than mixing, especially when you are trying to achieve hot levels. Typically, the mastering engineer will look at the following: A PPM meter or a Peak Program Meter, a Spectrum Analyzer, sometimes called a Real-Time Analyzer or an RTA, a Phase Correlation Meter, a Phase Oscilloscope, and a Dynamic Range Meter.

A Peak Meter is what's found on virtually every piece of Digital Equipment and Plug-in, since it has an extremely fast response. This has become a necessity for digital recording, because any signal beyond 0 dB causes a very nasty distortion. All Peak Meters have a red over indicator that lets you know you've exceeded the zone of audibly clean level. VU Meters found in analog audio gear are what's known as RMS meters, and you'll occasionally find a digital version of the Mastering Metering package, RMS stands for the Root Mean Square Measurement of the voltage of the electronic signal, which roughly means its average.

Even when your Peak Meter is tickling 0 dB, the RMS meter will settle at a point much lower, since it's measuring the signal differently than the peak meter. We don't use RMS meters much these days, since a Peak Meter is much more precise, when in the pre-digital days, that's all that was available, and it's still what many engineers are used too. The Phase Scope gets its name from the fact that in the early days of recording, a phase between the left and right channel was checked by an old-fashioned oscilloscope, which is nick-named a Scope. Phase is extremely important in a stereo signal, because if left and right channels are not in phase, not only will the program sound odd, but instruments pan to the center like lead vocals, and solos, and disappear if the stereo signal should ever be combined into mono.

While the Phase Scope take some time to get the hang of, the Phase Correlation Meter is dead simple. Any signal that's drawn towards the right-hand +1 side of the meter is in phase, which is good. Any signal that's drawn towards left-hand -1 side of the meter is out of Phase not good. In general, any meter readings above 0 and in the right-hand positive side of the scale have acceptable mono compatibility. A brief read out towards left-hand negative side of the scale isn't necessarily a problem, but if the meter consistently sits in the negative side, it could represent a mono compatibility issue.

Keep in mind that the wider your Stereo mix is, either by panning or wide stereo reverbs, the Phase Correlation Meter will tend to indicate more towards the left side, but as long as the signal stays mostly on the right, your compatibility should be good to go. A Spectrum Analyzer is an excellent tool for determining the frequency balance of your program by looking at it in 1/6th-octave portions. It's especially effective for singling out particular frequencies that are too hot and for dialing in the low-end. Contrary to what you might think, when you look at the Analyzer, the object is not to aim for a totally flat response.

The deep base below 40Hz and ultra highs above 10K are almost always rolled off compared to the other frequencies. It's very useful to look at other mastered songs that you think sound really good, get a feel for what they look like on the Analyzer. Keep in mind that your mastering job will probably not look like your chosen sample, since songs is unique, but if it is the same genre, it might be close by the time you finish working your mastering magic. The Dynamic Range Meter is very similar to a Peak Meter but adds the additional function of measuring the Dynamic Range of a signal.

Checkout the movie on Dynamic Range if you missed it, for more information on Dynamic Range. While you don't need all of these meters to do a proper mastering job, they all do serve a purpose, and can be helpful in identifying problem areas in your mixes and master tracks.

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This video is part of

Image for Audio Mastering Techniques
Audio Mastering Techniques

56 video lessons · 10787 viewers

Bobby Owsinski
Author

 
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  1. 1m 39s
    1. Welcome
      1m 39s
  2. 7m 7s
    1. Introducing mastering
      1m 22s
    2. The history of audio mastering
      3m 30s
    3. Mastering professionally versus doing it yourself
      2m 15s
  3. 10m 10s
    1. Mixing with mastering in mind
      6m 41s
    2. Mastering session documentation
      53s
    3. Printing alternative mixes
      2m 36s
  4. 6m 21s
    1. Evaluating your listening environment
      1m 33s
    2. Beginning with the basic listening technique
      3m 19s
    3. Deciding between monitors and headphones
      1m 29s
  5. 18m 13s
    1. Overview of mastering tools
      22s
    2. Exploring the dynamic ranges of different music genres
      2m 40s
    3. Understanding compression
      3m 20s
    4. Understanding limiting
      1m 25s
    5. Understanding equalization (EQ)
      1m 44s
    6. Using a de-esser
      1m 14s
    7. Metering while mastering
      3m 57s
    8. Exploring the mastering signal path
      1m 11s
    9. Listening in your digital audio workstation (DAW) using the A/B method
      2m 20s
  6. 33m 10s
    1. Making a loud master
      3m 7s
    2. Compression tips and tricks
      2m 4s
    3. Achieving competitive level
      2m 2s
    4. Understanding the pitfalls of hypercompression
      2m 10s
    5. Balancing frequencies
      3m 20s
    6. Reducing sibilance with a de-esser
      2m 2s
    7. Inserting fades
      1m 37s
    8. Eliminating noise and distortion
      43s
    9. Using multiband limiting
      4m 23s
    10. Adjusting the stereo image
      3m 24s
    11. Bringing out specific elements in a mix
      8m 18s
  7. 8m 17s
    1. Using dither
      1m 40s
    2. Using the appropriate workstation
      1m 27s
    3. Adjusting the spreads
      1m 28s
    4. Using International Standard Recording Codes (ISRC)
      1m 14s
    5. Using Universal Product Codes (UPC)
      1m 10s
    6. Creating CD-text discs
      33s
    7. Delivering or receiving a DDP master
      45s
  8. 12m 44s
    1. Encoding using the MP3 format
      3m 43s
    2. Understanding MP3 metadata
      1m 44s
    3. Creating a great-sounding MP3
      2m 46s
    4. Generating a FLAC file
      1m 18s
    5. Submitting music to online stores and services
      48s
    6. Submitting music to online song databases
      2m 25s
  9. 17m 23s
    1. Understanding AAC, the iTunes file format
      2m 28s
    2. Mastering for iTunes tips and tricks
      1m 36s
    3. The Mastered for iTunes format
      1m 29s
    4. The Mastered for iTunes tool package
      54s
    5. Using the iTunes Plus tools: iTunes Droplet
      1m 51s
    6. Using the Mastered for iTunes Audio To WAVE Droplet
      49s
    7. Using the Mastered for iTunes AURoundTripAAC Audio Unit tool
      6m 48s
    8. Using The Mastered for iTunes tools Test Pressing Feature
      1m 28s
  10. 3m 30s
    1. Mastering for high resolution
      1m 36s
    2. Mastering for television
      1m 54s
  11. 1m 19s
    1. Delivering the master to the replicator
      28s
    2. Archiving the project
      51s
  12. 50s
    1. Next steps
      50s

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