top of page

"I'm all about finding the loudness sweet spot. Mastering is all about balance. It's not about matching. You don't wanna make all the songs sound the same or be the same loudness. Everything is unique and wants to be treated the best possibly. But it's about balancing things." - Ian Shepherd

In this episode

  • Ian is a sound engineer with over 20 years of experience in the industry.

  • He explains the importance of having a well-designed recording studio with good acoustics.

  • He highlights the role of a sound engineer in optimising sound quality, and how this involves selecting the right microphones, monitors, and signal processors.

  • Ian emphasises the importance of capturing sound as accurately as possible during recording, and how this can be achieved through proper microphone placement and using the right equipment.

  • He also discusses the role of mastering in the music production process, and how this helps ensure a consistent sound across an album or collection of songs.

  • Ian shares his experience working with various artists, and how he approaches each project with a unique perspective to achieve the desired sound.

  • Finally, Ian emphasises the importance of communication and collaboration between the artist, producer, and sound engineer to achieve the best possible result.

...

About the 

guest

Ian Shepheard is a Mastering Engineer and world-renowned advocate for prioritising sound-quality over loudness. He's the master-mind behind the Productionadvice website as well as Dynamic Range Day. Over the last twenty years, Ian has worked on thousands of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, including several number one singles and award-winning albums, including Tricky, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Deep Purple and many, many more.

Tags

The Production Talk Podcast - The modern way of producing music


Subscribe to The Production Talk Podcast
on your favourite streaming service now!

The production Talk Podcast on Apple Podcasts
The production Talk Podcast on Spotify
The production Talk Podcast on Google Podcasts
The production Talk Podcast on Amazon
The production Talk Podcast on Castbox
Jan 'Yarn' Muths or mixartist.com.au, in the studio

Contact the podcast host Jan 'Yarn' Muths at mixartist.com.au

Disclaimer: The Production Talk Podcast is independent of (and not related to) my teaching responsibilities at SAE.

transcript

Transcript

(auto-generated by a robot - please forgive the occasional error)

Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome to the Production Talk podcast with me, Yarn, of mixartists.com.au. In this podcast series, we celebrate the modern way of producing music. We want to talk about all things related to songwriting, recording at home and music production. So, if you produce your music at home, this is the place to be. Please subscribe and recommend this podcast to all your friends. This is the Production Talk Podcast episode 69. 069_IanShepherd === Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome back to another episode of the Production Talk podcast. At the beginning of this episode, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the country that we are meeting on today, the Arakwal people of the Bundjalung Nation. And I'd like to honour the First Nation's people's culture and connection to land, sea and community. And I'd also like to pay my respects and express my gratitude to elders past, present, and emerging. With me today is Mr. Ian Shepherd, a British mastering engineer who's worked with people like Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He also runs the production advice website and he's the founder of the Dynamic Range Day. He's also the mastermind behind the Perception Plugin in by Meter plugins, which I proudly own and use a lot. Welcome to the podcast. How are you? Ian Shepherd: I'm good. Thanks. That's great to be. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: It's fantastic to have you on board. You are based in the United Kingdom. What's the weather like? Ian Shepherd: It's actually a pretty nice day. It's, it's quite windy, but the, the sun is out and it's very mild for this time of year, so, yeah, it's nice. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Okay. Not, not too miserable. That, that's good to know. , please introduce yourself and tell us about the early days of, of your career. What are you doing these days and how did it all start? Ian Shepherd: Okay. So I'm a professional mastering engineer. I've been mastering for over 25 years now. I, I started out as a mastering engineer, which is unusual. So, you know, quite often mastering engineers are people who have already had a career as a recording engineer, a mixing engineer, or a producer. And they, they kind of come to it later on. Ian Shepherd: I, by chance, you know, straight out of college applied to. A bunch of different studios here in the UK to try and get some work. And as far as I knew, the company that I was applying to was a cassette duplication plant. That was how they were listed in the, the white book, this directory of studios that you could get in the uk. Ian Shepherd: But it turned out that they were a recording and mastering studio. It had been a vinyl pressing plant, and then it had pivoted, you know, in the early nineties to CD mastering. So there were four or five studios there. There was a live room with a a Steinway piano. And I started out pretty much from the beginning as a mastering engineer. Ian Shepherd: So I was trained from, from the ground up, which was kind of unusual. I worked there for 15 years and then left to, to set up my own company doing blueray authoring DVD authoring, and then the website and the podcast and the plugins and everything else. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Wow. Okay. And did they throw you straight into the deep end or did they train you up? Did you work with clients Straight away. Ian Shepherd: Well, not right away. I was, I guess I would say there was definitely training. And I, but they, it was very practical. You know, I was cop copying and compiling tapes, just straight digital copies, you know, recompiling stuff for one of the, the small labels that we, we did work for very early on, which was actually great because I got to listen to a huge range of music on this very high quality monitoring that they had available. Ian Shepherd: You know, and I just learned simple stuff like, you know, putting in suitable gaps and, you know, fading out when necessary. Putting it, you know, logging time codes for the beginnings and ends of songs because, you know, these days it's all done automatically by a computer, but back then it was all entered by hand and saved to the tape. In terms of working with clients, I don't honestly remember, it wasn't that long. It was a few months before I started, you know, working on actually audio work for clients not working with clients directly at that stage. That was the case of I would be given an album to master that someone else didn't have time to do. Ian Shepherd: And then my work would always get reviewed by one of the other engineers there. So at that time you had to make a CD master on something called a matic tape, which was a big video cartridge with these incredibly expensive recorders. Yeah, hundreds of thousands of pounds to, to make the, the master. Ian Shepherd: And they, two of the studios there were equipped with those, but my studio wasn't. So initially I was compiling onto digital audio tape that tape the tiny little Jan 'Yarn' Muths: yeah, I remember Ian Shepherd: Yep. And those Jan 'Yarn' Muths: the error codes that came Ian Shepherd: Absolutely, yes, and the mangled tapes and the, all that, all that stuff. But those then got transferred by another engineer in another studio. Ian Shepherd: So everything I did was listen to from beginning to end, so they would pick up, you know, I remember the first thing I did, you know Nick Watson, who now works at Fluid Mastering, kind of came in and said, Yeah, it's, it's good, but it's not right. And I did, you know, it had taken me two days to do an album, and I had to go through and do the whole thing again. Ian Shepherd: And even after that, there was, there were some tweaks. But, you know, that was a, that was actually a fantastic way to learn because I, I was in the deep end in the sense that it was me in a room on my own, responsible for what I was doing. But at the same time, I had the safety net of knowing that, you know, any mistakes that I made would be picked up on, and that I would get this helpful feedback. Ian Shepherd: And I think probably the first time I got to work with clients was when everyone else was on holiday or, or sick or something, you know? And it was just kind of, okay, well we have this session booked, can he into it? Yes. And I had sat in on sessions with other engineers at that point, you know, so I had learned, you know, how they handled a session, how they worked with clients, the kind of the procedures if you like. Ian Shepherd: So yeah, I, I would say it was a kind of accelerated intern process if you like, you know, not kind of, I mean, I remember I went to visit the BBC studios when I was a student and I had a great time. Loved it. Went to, I think it was made of Vail, the studio there. But the engineer there told me, I, I sat with the tape op at the back of the room, literally just hitting record stop logging tape. Ian Shepherd: And he's like, Yeah, I've, I've worked here for about 10 years. You know, the guy at the desk, he'll probably be done in about five years and then I should get a chance at, at running the show. And I remember thinking, I don't wanna wait 15 years to get my hands on the fades. You know so, you know, it, it wasn't that, you know, that was one extreme. Ian Shepherd: And then I think really mine was at the, the other end where Yeah, I really got into it really quickly. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Very practically, we had a fantastic training ground by the sons of it Ian Shepherd: Mm, absolutely. Yeah. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: that's really inspiring. Nice. Today there are so many mastering engineers out there and you know, there's heaps of experienced people like yourself and, you know, some big names in the industry, but that's among hundreds if not thousands of small people. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Some of them are promise a lot on their websites and they might not have, you know, a lot of experience from a musician's angle, from a musician who's looking for an experienced mastering engineer. What's the difference? What would one expect from a professional mastering engineer that an amateur can redeliver? Ian Shepherd: That's a really tough question because, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Ian Shepherd: Honestly, it's very hard to tell from, from the musician's point of view. You know, you can have somebody presenting themselves as highly professional and you would expect a certain level of service. But there's no guarantee of that. And at the same time, you might have somebody whose prices are so low, you think this is too good to be true. Ian Shepherd: It, you know, it must be a Bud budget operation. But you know, the reality is, unlike when I started where you needed literally hundreds of thousands of pounds to, to even have the gear for mastering studio, let alone the, the space for it and the, the infrastructure you know, these days you can literally create a master on a $300 laptop. Ian Shepherd: So, and, and you know, even the plugins that come included with something like Logic or cubase or, or Pro Tools or whatever are sufficient to do an excellent job. I'm not gonna say that, you know, you can get the same that as you could get if you went to a top light. Professional mastering studio. But you can get superb Jan 'Yarn' Muths: mm. Ian Shepherd: So I think my advice is always to, for people to try and find somebody they resonate with who seems to be accessible, who, who will communicate. So something that happens occasionally that still surprises me is that someone will have gone to a big name mastering studio who may have an online portal, you know, and the, the kind of the entry level price, you don't even get to choose your engineer. Ian Shepherd: And I've had people saying, Well, I had my song or my album mastered by this place and I don't really like the way that it sounds. Can you do something different? And I always reply, Well, have you talked to them about it? Have you gone back and said, I'm not really happy with this result, can you please? Ian Shepherd: And sometimes they're reluctant to do that. I dunno whether, you know, they, they feel that it's not their place to question. Somewhere that has a big name in the industry perhaps, or whether they've had that conversation and been discouraged. I've heard stories about, you know, some big name engineers being really quite defensive and kind of saying, Well, you know, you came to me, this is what I do if you don't like it, tough Ian Shepherd: And, and that to me is, is not what you want. You know, if somebody, if I master something for somebody and they come back and say, I'm not quite sure, I want to say, Okay, well let's talk about more about that. Let's figure out why, you know, is that because I'm the wrong person for, for you for this material? Ian Shepherd: Or is there just some, And usually it's a tiny little tweak. You know, I've had people feeling really unhappy about something and it ends up being half a DB at three kilohertz or something, you know, because they're particularly sensitive to that frequency or audit. It can, it's often amazing. How sensitive people are. Ian Shepherd: I guess it's not surprising, right? It's their music. They, they, you know, they've worked super hard on it for, for so long and now they're, you know, it's going out into the world and they want it to be perfect. So Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm. Ian Shepherd: I think, you know I think it's good to have a name that you recognize in some way, and that doesn't have to mean that it's the biggest name in the world, but, you know, ideally somebody who's been recommended or who other people have talked highly of if you can get an idea of what they've worked on, you know, if somebody sends, gets in touch with me, then I have there's a Spotify playlist. Ian Shepherd: There's a, a couple of other pages where they can just hear an example of stuff that I have worked on so they can get a sense of, I mean, it's really hard with mastering. You hardly ever get to hear the mix beforehand, right? So whatever the artists, engineers, producers, everybody else has done, then it gets mastered and that's the version that gets out into the world. Ian Shepherd: So it might have sounded fantastic before mastering and not much happened, or it could have sounded actually a bit rough, and the mastering has worked a minor miracle to get it to where it is. And as musicians or as you know, potential clients, we have no way of telling that. So it is really tough, but I think my, the, the key, key thing I would say is whoever you're thinking of working with, send them a message and get a conversation going. Ian Shepherd: You know? Because for me it's all about communication. I mean, I, you know, if, if somebody genuinely isn't happen, happy with the work that I've done, I would always refund them. You know, I don't want anybody to take anybody's money if they're unhappy. But the number of times that's happened in my career, I could count on the fingers of one hand because somebody comes back and says, Oh, it's not quite what I wanted. Ian Shepherd: And you have a conversation and you can figure out. You know, and, and I think that for me is how it should work. You know, I talked to people before they send the stuff in, you know I'm happy to take a, listen to an early mix and give a bit of, you know, feedback, kind of say, Yeah, this is, this is great, but maybe you should consider that. Ian Shepherd: Or, If I was gonna master this, I'd be concerned about such and such or, you know, wanting this. And again, if somebody just sends something in, I will always, or pretty much always do a master of what they have sent because obviously they've been through a kind of a process to get there and, and this is what they've decided is ready for mastering. Ian Shepherd: So I'm not, There are some engineers I know who kind of often throw things back and say, No, no, you need to do this, this, this, and this. And their clients love that. I'm not that kind of engineer. I tend to try and be humble about it. Take what they've got and understand where they're trying to go with it, have empathy for what they're trying to achieve and just. Ian Shepherd: Help it get to the, to the next level to be as good as it can be. But if Jan 'Yarn' Muths: good good way. I like that. Ian Shepherd: Thank you. Yeah, well, no, I was just gonna say that if having said that, if for example, right now there's, you know, we'll talk about it some more in a minute. There's this trend for everything to be super loud and that actually often includes the mixes that come in. Ian Shepherd: So quite a common piece of feedback I might have is, this is sounding great, but it's already on the loud side in my opinion. I would be curious to see if I can get an even better result. If I could have the version where you didn't have that final limiter or that final maximizer or whatever, you know, if that's an experiment you're interested in trying, I would love to give that a go. Ian Shepherd: And sometimes they say, No, no, we're all fine. And sometimes they say, Yeah, let's, let's give it a try. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm-hmm. . I Ian Shepherd: so, you know, that's, that's the way I tend to approach it, is I will do my best with what I'm sent and then if I have some feedback, I'll offer it. Cuz you know, quite. The master has to be uploaded the following day or go to the CD plant or whatever it is, you know? Ian Shepherd: So, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm-hmm. Ian Shepherd: and then other times people are just completely sick of it. They just wanna get it out the door. You know, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. You're right. Yeah. Ian Shepherd: it's, But I, I think, yeah. Sorry, that was a long question, answer to the question. I think communication is key. I think choose somebody who you, you know, you, you can talk to, you feel comfortable that they understand what you're trying to achieve, and well, you've heard some of their work and you are happy with it. Ian Shepherd: And I think all of that is much more important than, you know, reputation or cost or any other factor really. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Okay. Thank you. Nowadays we have competition from services that call themselves e mastering. And you know, there are a couple of names around. What's your take on those? Do they deliver acceptable results? Are they good for some clients but not for others? Or, you know, what's your take on it? Have you looked into those Ian Shepherd: I have a, not so much recently, I did when they first started coming out and. I think the answer is, it depends. , classic audio engineer, answer to everything. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Ian Shepherd: the, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So true. Ian Shepherd: I'm uncomfortable with the labeling of them. They call themselves mastering services, you know, and there's some of these sites advertise, you know, get professional results in minutes, that kind of stuff. Ian Shepherd: I'm uncomfortable with that because for me, mastering, I mean, we were just talking about, it's all about communication. It's a human process. You know, there is no machine out there that will understand what the emotional intent of your music was. You know, what the message you wanted or the emotion you wanted to convey when you wrote the song, when you recorded it, when you performed it. Ian Shepherd: So in the machine's opinion, maybe there's too much base, but maybe you wanted a dry, hard, brittle sound cuz you were trying to make kind of feel slightly edgy or uneasy or, you know, it was a song about loneliness and you wanted it to feel empty and desperate. Or maybe you were just going for the classic sound of something that. Ian Shepherd: Is not, doesn't have as much low end in it these days. So in, I'm not comfortable with calling them mastering services, however, that doesn't mean, I think they, I have heard things that have been through processes like this, that sound fine. You know some that sound pretty good. I've tried tests with things that I've done. Ian Shepherd: I, I way back, I did a, a test where I mastered something myself, and then I put the mix through one of these things and compared, and I've heard things that are frankly weird, you know, just where clearly the, the artificial intelligence didn't understand inverted coms what the song was meant to sound like. Ian Shepherd: And did some, you know, there are others that seem to be a much kind of cookie cutter approach. Everything gets the same treatment. But having said that, people are using them in very creative ways. So, you know, Working with a professional mastering engineer is going to cost some money. Using one of these services, depending which ones you try might be 10 times cheaper than working with a person. Ian Shepherd: So some people are doing mixes, submitting them to these services, listening to the master that comes back and going, Okay, well I kind of like that, but I'm gonna tweak it a bit more. Resubmitting it, you know, multiple times. And they end up still spending less money than they would've done with a professional mastering engineer, but they've got something they're happy with. Ian Shepherd: I guess my only concern about that is, you know, one of the most valuable things about mastering is having someone else hear your music in a different listening environment. You know, one of the biggest challenges as you know, if you're recording and mixing your own stuff, which I know applies to a lot of people these days, you've got the gear you've got in the room, you've got with the headphones or the speakers that you've got, and combination of those factors could sound amazing. Ian Shepherd: Or might actually sound a bit odd. And the problem is you are always gonna mix it in your room to sound or on your headphones to sound as good as it possibly can to you. But let's say for example, just pick, pick an extreme example. Apple beats headphones, super popular superba. If you mix something to sound balanced EQ wises on beats, the chances are when you play it back on anything else, especially something like little apple earbuds in, you know, tiny or, or a phone speaker, it will probably sound base light cuz you were hearing more base from the headphones than most other systems will give you. Ian Shepherd: It's a bit like if you put it on in a car with a huge, you know, base bin in the back. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Right. You always get opposite Ian Shepherd: Exactly. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: The speaker sound like or the headphones. Yep. Ian Shepherd: right. And the trouble is if all you've got is beats, so you do your mix sounds great on beats, then you upload it to one of these streaming services, not streaming services, the auto mastering, you know, robot mastering things. Ian Shepherd: It comes back. You do a couple of tweaks, you send it off again, it still sounds great to you on beats, but then it goes out into world. It might sound wrong to everybody else because it might not have enough base. So Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Got Ian Shepherd: if you're gonna work on your own stuff, which is something that I help people do, you know, on the website and the podcast cuz lots of people do it and it's fun and you know, it's, it's enjoyable and it's another skill. Ian Shepherd: So I encourage that. But if you're gonna do that, I always encourage people to have at least one other trusted place to listen. Doesn't have to be super high quality, but it has to be somewhere else that you know really well. So that your instincts are reliable. And I say listen to it somewhere else. Ian Shepherd: If you hear something that kind of makes you think, Huh, maybe that's not quite right. Make some notes. Go back into your mix room or back to your mixing system or mastering system, wherever it is, and listen again. And if you. Can then hear, Oh, maybe that's right. Then you can make some adjustments and, you know, you don't wanna listen to too many places because it just gets horribly confusing. Ian Shepherd: They do wanna be places that you yeah, that, that you know really well so that you have an instinct for how it should sound. But even when you do that, it's still you, right? And it, the chances are if you're recording and mixing your own stuff, you've been working on it for days, weeks, months, years, potentially. Ian Shepherd: And so everything has a story, you know, So you, you put it on, you go, Oh, that kick drums a bit boomy. Yeah. But that was because of this. And actually, I kind of quite like it. And there's a, there's a temptation to, I guess, make an excuse for the way that it sounds or to, you know, make a, make a judgment about it. Ian Shepherd: Whereas someone like me coming to it completely fresh and just saying, Okay, if I heard this straight after Song X on Spotify, what would I think. We'll just go, Okay, that kick drum's too boomy. You need to deal with that. You know, we need to open out the high end. It's a little bit too too boomy overall and stereo width needs tightening up, whatever it might be. That's something that the mastering engineer can bring to you, which is just this, you know, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: This fresh Ian Shepherd: a fresh perspective and it's what they do all day, every day. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm-hmm. Ian Shepherd: can be super valuable and it can be super hard to have that perspective yourself. I mean, again, there, there are ways around it. You know, you can take a rest between finishing the mixing, You can give it days or a week or more before you come back to it, so that you are hearing, and as I say, you can listen on a different system to get a completely different take on it rather than where you recorded and mixed it. Ian Shepherd: So there's, there's definitely stuff that you can do. And it, it's possible, you know, I, I. People who've taken my courses who go on to become mastering engineers, you know, they get so good at it that you know, they, they end up, you know, making it part of what they offer to their, to their clients. So it is possible, but it's hard. Ian Shepherd: And that's another thing that you don't get from the, from the online services, I don't think, you know, you get some kind of, I always think it's more like you know the, what do they call the, the wizard things in a, in a photo app on a phone, You know, you take a photograph and it's, it was a dull and overcast day, and it's, Oh, so I'll hit the, hit the magic wand button and oh, it brightens it up and the colors pop a bit more and it looks generally better. Ian Shepherd: You know, that's, that's worth doing. Is that the best possible version of that photograph? Probably not. If you sent it to a graphic designer or if it was a bit of video and you sent it to a professional color grader, they would give you. An even better version, you know, where, and you know, cuz maybe it'll over brighten it a bit or it'll blow out some of the, the highlights or, you know, whatever it might be. Ian Shepherd: So yeah, another long answer. I think those services can be useful. They can be valuable, they can be helpful. Some people use 'em really well and are really happy with them. For me it's not mastering it's more like, you know, a kind of an auto correction tool. And so yeah, it's, you know, if, if, if it works for you, then, then that's great, but I would hope that a human would get an even better result. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. And none of those mastering algorithms have any sense of taste yet that's still reserved to us humans. And what I also found is that you know, there's still a value in, in producing EPS or albums, and that's not something where, you know, e mastering servers actually look at how the songs work together. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: By my understanding, they're just, you know, apply algorithms to each song individually without considering the song before and after. Ian Shepherd: Yeah, that's a great Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Is is that, do, do you agree with, with that? Ian Shepherd: I, I completely agree. Yeah. I'm not aware of any service that will do anything different. If you give it a bunch of songs, I mean, I guess that will come as well, probably, you know, that'll be a, a future enhancement. So, you know, the technology's always progressing and there are definitely are elements of what we do as mastering engineers that are similar for each job. Ian Shepherd: You know, it's everything. Every song on an album I work on separately, you know, kind of common misconception is that, oh, mastering is just putting a limiter over the whole thing. You know, that's not what. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Make it lower and bright. Ian Shepherd: exactly. I mean, we, we do usually make things somewhat louder and we might make them brighter or warmer or whatever that might be, if, but it all depends on the material and you, it could easily be a completely different approach for every song on the album. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm-hmm. Ian Shepherd: is where, where the magic is for me, you know, is, okay, I make some small changes to this song. I make some small changes to this one. This one needs a bit of a bigger change. That one was fine, but I needed to turn it up a ton. And that one was also fine, but I turned it down slightly Individually. Ian Shepherd: Those changes may not be that huge, but when you put them all together and they become an album or they go into a playlist it can make, it can transform things. It's, it's kind of amazing what you can achieve just with a stereo mix and, and some quite simple changes. So yeah, that's another limitation of the, the online services. Ian Shepherd: Right now, at least. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Okay. Look you mentioned earlier at the beginning of interview that many of the clients, of your clients partially produce at home or produce at home from beginning to end. Does that make your job harder when, when people record and mix themselves as home compared to, you know, productions that come from a professional studio? Ian Shepherd: Wait for it. It depends. . Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Really? Ian Shepherd: Oh no, absolutely. Some of the, some of the worst recordings genuinely I've ever heard have come from some of the biggest studios in the world. In my Jan 'Yarn' Muths: You're not Ian Shepherd: No, I'm not kidding. Absolutely. Yeah, I've, I've heard, I've heard stuff that I would not have allowed. You know, I'm, I'm simple stuff like I say that Recordings. Ian Shepherd: Yeah, recordings mixes as well. But I mean, I mainly get to hear masters cuz it's usually that thing that somebody is not quite happy with what they've got. So they ask me if I can take, give them another kind of perspective on it. But yeah, I've heard masters where, you know, the left channel was one and a half DBS louder than. Ian Shepherd: So the drums and the bass and the vocals all sound like they're not coming out from right between the speech. You know, the whole mix sounds lopsided. And that just to me is just fundamentally not right. You know, I, it's, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: huge oversight. Ian Shepherd: I think so I mean, I, I guess it's possible that that was a conversation. Well, no, actually, because the example I'm thinking of where that happened, I corrected it and the client was like, Oh, yeah, I wonder why they didn't fix that Jan 'Yarn' Muths: mm Ian Shepherd: you know, so, so yeah, I've, I mean, it's not common. Most stuff that comes from professional studios is good. You know, I'm, I'm not trying to pretend, but it is true that I've heard really poor quality results from places that you would not expect that from. And some of the best recordings I've heard have been made by people in, in air quotes, bedroom studios. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: While. Ian Shepherd: know, Well, I mean, just for example, as, as a recent example, you could take the, the Billy Eish album you know, not the most recent one, but the, the first one that kind of went huge for us. She and Finn recorded that literally in his bedroom at their parents' house. It was then professionally mixed, you know, and professionally mastered. Ian Shepherd: So it's not completely clear cut, but yeah, you, there's no clear pattern. You can't assume, oh, it's coming from a home recording. It'll be not great. And you can't assume that, oh, it's coming from professional recording studio, so it'll sound fantastic. It completely depends on, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I see. Ian Shepherd: everything. The, the, the performances, the material, the artist, not so much the gear, I have to say, you know I think you can get amazing results with very, very affordable gear these days. Ian Shepherd: And I mean, again, I've heard stuff from, you know, where I know that people have. Incredibly expensive high end gear, and it still doesn't sound great. So you know that Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Ian Shepherd: that's a red herring in my opinion. It's of course, it's nice to have really expensive, really nice gear. I'm not, you know, not gonna knock that at all, but it's not a requirement. Ian Shepherd: Especially not now with Jan 'Yarn' Muths: more how you use it rather than the gear itself. Is, is that what Ian Shepherd: Exactly. Yeah. The, the unofficial catch line of my catch raises of my, my home mastering masterclass course is it ain't what you use. It's the way that you use it. And I Jan 'Yarn' Muths: that is right on, right on. Yes. I I love that. I love that. Okay. Really good. Look a bit earlier, we had a little dis on, on, you know, the e mastering services and, and spoke about what a professional mastering engineer can do, but even professional mastering engineers do get things wrong at times. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And there was a time when everybody fell for this collective madness of making everything a little bit louder than the other record which we all know these days as the loudness war. And I believe. All the mastering engineers that I'm aware of, you're probably the most vocal one against the loudness war. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Can you, can you comment on, on what's, what's wrong with loudness? What, what's wrong with loud Ian Shepherd: Well, no, there's nothing wrong with loud masters at all. I think the, the problem is when it becomes a competition or a war, as you say, I mean, I love that you, you spoke about it in the past tense, but I'm, I'm afraid from where I sit, it's still very much in play. Which is particularly frustrating because there's no real, even if you thought there was a benefit to being loud these days, most people won't get to hear it. Ian Shepherd: We could come onto that in a minute, perhaps. But no, I mean, Yeah, I love loud music. Everybody loves loud music. And there the reality is that if you play somebody two versions of a, a song that are identical, but one of them is slightly louder, the chances are they will say that the louder one sounded better. Ian Shepherd: Because there is a, it's a, it's a psychoacoustic effect. It's something that our brains do. It's not to do with the sound itself. Nobody really knows why. But louder music sounds tend to sound as though they have more base and more trouble. And it might be an evolutionary thing. I, I always make this joke that you know, maybe it's because for a caveman the Jaguar that is, or sabertooth tiger I should say, that is breathing down your neck about to eat you, is much more important than the one that's a hundred yards over there. Ian Shepherd: Stalking a herd of gazelle's, so, Your brain prioritizes the sound that is close to you, because if you react to it, you're more likely to survive. That seems quite credible to me. But it may not be the real reason. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Oh, I love that. Ian Shepherd: But the, the, the fact is that we tend to prefer louder sounds. So yeah, you know, mastering engineers have known this for ages. Ian Shepherd: Even if somebody brings you the most amazing mix in the world, if you turn it up slightly, it'll sound slightly better to them and they'll think they're getting their money's worth, except. There's always a limit to this stuff. You know, amps have a maximum gain, Speakers have a, a maximum level you can push them to before they start clipping and eventually, you know, shredding tweeters and stuff. Ian Shepherd: And particularly in digital formats, you know, with, with analog tape, you used to be able to push the levels up and it would start to kind of softly saturate and it would get a bit, you know, kind of blurry and crunchy and, you know, the transient would, transients would be softened. And actually that could sound quite nice sometimes, or certainly quite appropriate Jan 'Yarn' Muths: to some degree, Ian Shepherd: material. Ian Shepherd: Digital clipping is much less forgiving. Digital clipping tends to sound very brittle, very harsh, very quickly. Especially when, you know, you get beyond just the odd transient and it's cutting into. Musical signals, like, you know, the tone of a bass guitar or a vocal or whatever. So yeah, you know, in every piece of audio software you have this zero db indicator at the top of the meters, and if you push that into the red, the chances are it's not gonna sound great. Ian Shepherd: So you add extra processing, you add compression and limiting to try and bring the level up and not hit clipping. And that also can sound good in moderation and sometimes even in excess. But, you know, it's, I always talk about, I have this analogy that I call the, the loudness cliff. You know, if you imagine you are pushing a boulder up a mountain and you wanna be on top of the mountain where everybody else is as well. Ian Shepherd: So it takes a lot of effort to push the boulder. Kind of two thirds getting up to close to the top of the mountain, and then you get towards the top and it starts to level out. And actually it's not that hard anymore. You can push it, but you're not getting very much, you know, you do the same amount of pushing and you don't get that much higher. Ian Shepherd: Then you get to the top and if you push it just a little bit too far, you go over the other edge and get smashed on the rocks below . And it, for me, it's the same with audio. You don't wanna be too quiet. You know, you, it wants to be loud enough. And actually there is some benefit to using that compression and limiting the processing to achieve that kind of loudness. Ian Shepherd: It can help glue the sound together. It can help with consistency, it can help with translation, which means, you know, it can help it sound the way people expect on a wider range of systems. And then you get into what I consider to be the sweet spot, which is the top of the. , but you push it much further than that and then you just start getting damage, you know, And it can be subtle to begin with. Ian Shepherd: You know, if you imagine the mountain kind of just rolls over a bit and it just starts to go down slightly, you don't really notice too much. And then beyond a certain point, you know, it's, it's, it's all downhill from, from there. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Ian Shepherd: So the, the loudness war was Jan 'Yarn' Muths: of a sweet, sweet point there Ian Shepherd: absolutely. I'm all Jan 'Yarn' Muths: to find, and if, if you push it even further, then you get past it and it actually gets worse. Is, is that what you're saying? Ian Shepherd: I'm, I'm all about finding the loudness sweet spot. I mean, for me, mastering is all about balance. It's not about matching. You don't wanna make all the songs sound the same or be the same loudness, or, you know, it's, everything is unique and wants to be treated as, as the best it possibly. But it's about balancing things. Ian Shepherd: You know, you, you want a quiet song to be a little bit quieter than a loud song, you know, maybe certain sections of the loud song, you want to be even more intense. So there's, there's balance there. And then there's balance in terms of finding this loudness sweet spot where it's loud enough to translate and to stand up against everything else there and to sound right for the material, you know, to, to, to feel right in the, in the genre to achieve the, the emotional impact you're looking for. Ian Shepherd: You don't wanna go any further than that. And the problem with the loudness war, so to come back to your question is that this idea has grown up over the years that louder is always better and that you need to be at a certain loudness in order for people to like it or for it to sound right, or for it to sell loads of copies. Ian Shepherd: And that creates this pressure on people that they feel that they, they need, you know, we ought to be making it. However loud. And that's where I have a problem with it. That's the bit that I'm outspoken about because especially today, where most people hear stuff for the first time on streaming services and on streaming services, they turn really loud stuff down so that users don't suddenly get blasted by really loud songs cuz that that gets them complaints. Ian Shepherd: Even if you make something insanely loud, nobody's ever gonna hear it that way. You know, above a certain point. Everything gets reduced in loudness online, almost everywhere. And so it's completely fruitless. So, you know, when the war in air quotes started back in the, I guess mid nineties, that was the era of the CD changer, you know, where you might go into a, a bar and they would have 200 CDs in a, like a, like a, like a jukebox, you know? Ian Shepherd: And somebody could go in and dial in a song and in that situation, maybe there was an advantage in being. A little bit louder than everything else, so that people kind of go, Oh, what's that? You know, you kind of cut through the, the conversation and, and stand out from the crowd Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm-hmm. Ian Shepherd: just doesn't apply anymore. Ian Shepherd: But people, yeah, there's this, I mean, I still see it, you know, you so, so these days we, you're able to measure loudness. That's actually quite tricky to do. But there's a, a thing called the loudness unit, or the loudness unit full scale which is shortens to Lus. L u Fs l u Fs is a, is a way of measuring loudness. Ian Shepherd: And you'll hear people saying, Oh, if you're on cd, it's gotta be at least minus nine l u Fs, because. L U Fs is also measured. It starts with zero at the top and it goes down from there. And, you know, just minus nine, that's really loud already because that's an overall value for the song. And, you know, you can go down to minus 90 or something maybe not quite that low, minus 60 in terms of loudness. Ian Shepherd: So minus nine is right up at the top of the, And then there's people who will say, Oh no, if it's edm, it's got to be minus eight or minus six or minus four. And people have actually done research into it, you know, I mean, I, I kind of always say, That's not true, and people go prove it. And I say, Well, I don't have to, because there's people who have done, you know, they've plotted graphs of the loudness of hit records over the years, and they found that there is no connection to sales. Ian Shepherd: You know, listeners don't care. They want a song that they can, that moves them emotionally or makes them want to dance or laugh or cry. You know, They, they want something, they want the music, and they don't care about the loudness. They, they genuinely don't. So it's. That's another thing that I find sad is that it's, it's very much an obsession of musicians and engineers. Ian Shepherd: You know, the people who care most about the music have fallen have been deceived by this idea that it has to be super loud and they end up making it louder than it needed to be because they think it's necessary. And they don't realize that really nobody else cares much. , you know, I mean, as I say, it needs to be loud enough. Ian Shepherd: But if it's too loud, it'll get turned down. So just do what sounds right for the music Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So if it gets turned, If it gets turned down later, you said if, if somebody makes it really loud and pushes it past that sweet spot and now you're getting negative side effects. So what happens if it's turned down by the streaming service? Are these negative side effects still there? Ian Shepherd: Yes, that's, that's the sad thing if you, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm-hmm. Ian Shepherd: when I'm working, mastering. I mean, you know, the, nobody's perfect. You said yourself early on. We're all human. So even as a mastering engineer with 25 years of experience over and over again, I, I start work on a project and I probably start with the first. I mean, I, I skip through the album to get a sense of the range of material that's there, but then I tend to start at the beginning. Ian Shepherd: So I'll take the first song and I'm, I'm marching, I get it to a point, I think, Oh, that sounds great. And then what I always do is compare with the mix before I had done whatever it is I'm doing it with. And because I know about the loudness deception and I don't wanna be thinking that what I've done is better just because it's louder. Ian Shepherd: I always, Well, these days you mentioned right at the top, I use my perception plugin, which just automatically measures the, the before and after loudness and balances them. So then I can do a comparison. It's like, okay, how does this sound different without having to worry about the loudness? And not always, but still, quite often, I'll get to that stage and it's like, Yeah, I went a bit too far Ian Shepherd: And it's, you know, it's, there's not quite as much impact or it's, maybe it's a little bit too bright overall or it's a little bit crunchy or, you know, and the great thing then is that it's easy. I can just ease back slightly on my settings, usually come up with something that sounds even better. And then that time when I do the ab comparison, the before and after comparison, I'm like, Yeah, my master sounds better than the mix, which is my goal. Ian Shepherd: You know, Or, well, I want it to sound as good as the mix and I want it to be the best possible version. It can be, it doesn't have to sound better, but often I do think it sounds better. And that's not because of loudness, that's it, just objectively, you know, it sounds more glued. It sounds more consistent. Ian Shepherd: It sounds, you know, the, the dynamics are working better. The chorus really hits. Now I can really hear that kick drum pumping through whatever it is that, that I'm going for. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm. Ian Shepherd: in that case, I've spotted the negative effects and I've adjusted them at the mastering stage so they don't end up in the master. Ian Shepherd: Right? And so then that version can go out and people can play it however loud they would like, and it's gonna sound as good as it can on that particular playback system. That's the goal. If I hadn't done that process, if I had gone with my first impression, which actually was a little bit on the hot side, when that gets uploaded to the streaming services, they will turn it down. Ian Shepherd: But it's just a level reduction. They don't change anything else about the sound. So all of those negative things that's slight crunchiness that maybe the pumping or maybe some distortion or it just all sounds a bit flat and a bit held in and a bit, you know, the, the chorus doesn't quite kick, it doesn't have that space and that, that life to. Ian Shepherd: That's still gonna apply. It's just gonna be quieter. And if you take an extreme where something is super loud and it gets turned down often, it can actually sound quite a lot worse than other music because this is the other thing, right? Once the loudness deception is taken out the equation, once you are hearing stuff at a similar loudness level, you hear much more accurately what's happening. Ian Shepherd: That's why I do it when I'm mastering, so that I don't fool myself. But these days, you know, people listening on streaming are not gonna be fooled by loudness. They're gonna hear the songs exactly as they are. And that's why I encourage everybody to go for balanced dynamics. You know, it doesn't have to be super dynamic. Ian Shepherd: Like I say, I love loud music. I love loud sound. I'm, my goal is to make people's loud music sound loud, but also sound great. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Got it. Mm. Okay. Look about a year and a half ago I worked with a client and we, I mixed an album for album for them. And then the band leader figured out that there are quite a few mastering houses out there who offer a free test master. So he took once of the mixes and passed it to, I don't know, two or three different mastering engineers and got 'em all back. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So when he listened back, he just put him, dropped him pretty much in his DW and hit play. And I noticed that they were quite significantly differently loud. And going back to what you said earlier about how we perceive volume differently and how something louder seems better I wasn't really surprised that the one that he perceived as louder was the one he liked best. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: But if I understand what you said correctly, it was actually not the best thing to do. He should have. Balance the volume out first before making that call. Is, is that correct to say what's a good way, what's a good way to compare two different masters or two, three different masters in this case? How, how would you do that? Ian Shepherd: well, okay, so. Two answers to that. Personally, I would measure what's known as the integrated loudness. So it's the LS value and it's a single number for a whole song. And I would match the songs. So if one of the Masters came out as being two DB louder, I would turn it down by two DB and then I would make my comparison. Ian Shepherd: And I have a, a Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And that's before you had play, is that Ian Shepherd: before I hit pla. Well, no, I would probably listen to the raw loudness first. I mean, I think both are valid and important, you know, but the reality is, we are not in the early nineties anymore. Nobody really is gonna listen to this in a CD changer kind of way. There are some websites, there's Beat Port, and there's I think Bandcamp and SoundCloud do not yet turn down the loud music. Ian Shepherd: The, the process is called normalization. Loudness normalization just means kind of evening things out, making it more normal, . So those sites, which obviously are important to independent musicians, don't turn down the loud stuff. So I think it is important to know how much louder. Everything else out there is, you know, when you are comparing and to factor that in. Ian Shepherd: So I'm not saying loudness is completely relevant, but I would also measure and match the loudness and do that comparison because that will enable me a, to pick out whether there are negative aspects of the louder songs that on reflection I'm not so happy with. But also, you know, if there's a loud version that sounds just as good to you, even when the loudness is the same, then why not go with that, you know, the, That's great. Ian Shepherd: The second way that you can do it and of course I would say this, but is to use a website that I developed with meter plugs. So meter plugs are the company that I. Develop my plugins with, We created a free website called Loudness Penalty. It's at loudness penalty.com and anybody can go there and you, you just drag an audio file onto the browser window. Ian Shepherd: It doesn't get uploaded. All the processing is done in the browser on your computer, so it's completely secure. Nobody is listening to or storing the music. And it will tell you what adjustment to the level will be made to that song on a range of streaming services. So it might say, Oh, it'll be turned down by tdb on YouTube. Ian Shepherd: And Spotify and title be turned down by 4D B on Apple Music. So, and then you can preview it. I mean, the numbers are interesting, but the important thing is you can then press play and hear it with that adjustment applied, and then you could open. One of the up, to use your example, you open one of the other masters in another tab in the browser. Ian Shepherd: Do the same thing with that and Jan 'Yarn' Muths: see. Ian Shepherd: So then you don't have to worry, you don't have to understand loudness units or have a loudness meter or measure any of this stuff. Just open as many tabs as you like. You can even compare it to, you know, providing everything. He's going through the same sound card and you've got all the volume controls set to to zero. Ian Shepherd: You could compare it with other material on Spotify, for example. So you could choose, okay, how will this sound in terms of loudness on Spotify? And then play a couple of reference songs that you really like from Spotify. And that will tell you before you upload how the stuff is gonna sound. And you can then make that an informed decision about you know, am I happy with how this sounds? Ian Shepherd: Once it has been normalized, once it's been changed to the distribution loudness of the service you're on. Because they, they all have a Jan 'Yarn' Muths: a really good idea. Yep. Ian Shepherd: that they don't go any further. They'll turn loud stuff down. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I love that workflow. I've used that website to, to come up with the measures, but I've never used it. Actually listen back in a normalized fashion that is actually really smart. Look, I'm going to put the link to, to allowance penalty.com into the show notes. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So if you get to the end of the episode, please scroll down, click it, and then bookmark that straight away for your productions. Great advice for listeners. Thank you. So going back to my client who had a couple of different masters' hands, some louder, some, some quieter. If, if they were to go on cd, chances are they probably would choose the loudest one. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: But what, what about streaming services or vinyl or radio? Would it make a difference there whether they picked the moderate or the really loud one? What's the take on that? Ian Shepherd: There are different answers for each. I mean, first thing I would say is that it's not necessarily the right approach to choose the loudest one for cd. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm-hmm. Ian Shepherd: because the reality is people who listen on cd, the chances. Even with all of this, I mean, one of the other crazy things about the war is even with all of this going on, there's a big difference in loudness between stuff that gets released. Ian Shepherd: I mean, if you take something like you know, the, the, the Daft Punk album from a few years ago that everybody loved the sound of so much that was mastered significantly quieter than a lot of other stuff around. The new album by Tool was mastered by Bob Ludwig and overall was at minus 14 LOFs, which is quite a lot quieter than most, you know, aggressive, kind of progressive metal is master that. Ian Shepherd: I mean, just to return to my previous point, that had no influence on the success of those albums at all. But let's say you went from listening to, you know, something super loud and then you put one of those CDs in. The first thing that you do, is it just the volume that you're comfortable with it? You know, if it comes on, it's a bit loud, you turn it down slightly and if it's a bit quiet, you turn it up and people are used to doing that. Ian Shepherd: And they always do it themselves. So even though there's no. Computer algorithm making decisions about loudness on cd, the person listening to the music makes that decision. So, and as soon as they've done that, the advantage or disadvantage in inverted coms of or in air quotes of being louder has gone right. Ian Shepherd: Then it's exactly as if they, they had used their own personal version of the loudness penalty website. So Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Ian Shepherd: I, as I say, if you, if, if you find a loud version and it still sounds good to you, even when it's loudness matched, I don't see that there's any harm in using that for the CD release. But, Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So what about radio, for Ian Shepherd: well, okay. Ian Shepherd: Radio is the most complicated. I was gonna do vinyl next because Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Okay. Okay. Good. Then do vinyl first. Ian Shepherd: so vinyl is kind of simpler because there are physical limitations in the vinyl format that have to be taken account of when the cut is. Which determine how loud something can be cut onto the record. So, for example, the longer the playing time of the vinyl, the lower the level has to be because basically, you know, a vinyl is a, a groove cut in the, in the plastic. Ian Shepherd: You have to be able to fit enough grooves onto the record to get the running time that you want. So the longer it gets, the less space there is for the groove. So the, the smaller the grooves have to be and therefore the quieter it is cut. So really the digital level that we've been talking about is not strictly relevant when it gets cut to to vinyl, the cutting engineer is always going to adjust that. Ian Shepherd: And Jan 'Yarn' Muths: see. Ian Shepherd: I'm not a cutting engineer, but I know several really great vinyl cutting engineers and they all agree that actually they can get better results with more dynamic material going in. So not this super loud, super limited loudness war sound, they can cut that sound to vinyl. There's just no benefit. Ian Shepherd: And actually it's harder for the cutting leave to trace those aggressively limited wave forms accurately. You end up getting extra distortion and the vinyl doesn't sound as good. So that's a pretty simple one. Radio is really complicated because it depends . So in the Jan 'Yarn' Muths: There we go again. Ian Shepherd: in the US and in Europe there are, well, in, in the US there are regulations, and in Europe there are guidelines for broadcast about loudness. Ian Shepherd: So for broadcast, for tv, you actually have to submit at certain loudness levels, and if you don't, the music will be, or the material will be rejected. So that's one aspect on radio the loudness will probably be adjusted. And the question is how do they do it? Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm. Ian Shepherd: If you go for a little independent radio station there might be no adjustment. Ian Shepherd: It might be exactly as it comes off of the, the CD or outta the file. Other radio stations might use something similar to the streaming services where they measure the loudness and even it out to get a more consistent result. The, the big commercial radio stations and, you know, stations like the BBC here in the UK will use what's known as broadcast processing. Ian Shepherd: So these days, radio is going digital, but back when you had analog radio everybody wanted their signal to be good and loud for areas that had poor reception. You know, when your radio station buried in the, in the noise and the hiss, So they used broadcast processing. So they have automated processing strapped the output before it goes to the transmitter. Ian Shepherd: That evens out the loudness of everything and. Quite often does it quite aggressively, and it quite often changes the sound quite dramatically and those processes are still in place. And some people use them to get a, a signature sound for their radio station. So there are presets Jan 'Yarn' Muths: the, the organ processes and so Ian Shepherd: exactly the optos. Ian Shepherd: And, and similar so yeah, people at the radio stations in that case are using those processes creatively to change the sound of what you send. So the question as Jan 'Yarn' Muths: terms, they just throw another compressor on top of it which probably has one setting. There's no engineer who fine tunes that. It's just sitting there. Everything goes through the same processes. Is, is that how it Ian Shepherd: that's, that's how it is and the evidence is based on my tests. Usually the louder stuff goes in, the worse it sounds coming out at the end. Now the, all of this processing is getting more sophisticated, so I'm not gonna. Set in stone. But I guess, you know, the, I said it depends, but probably a more accurate thing to say is it's complicated. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah. Surely. Yeah. Ian Shepherd: very little control you, cuz obviously your music might get played anywhere and if it gets played on. But I think for me the, the answer is always go for the sweet spot because then you're making the music sound the best it can be. It's as loud as you can get it without any negative side effects. Ian Shepherd: So that means if it gets played back on a radio station where they're not evening out the levels, it's still gonna be in the right ballpark. If it's played on somewhere where they're using some kind of automated system, like the streaming services, then it's gonna work really well. And if it's going through some kind of broadcast, broadcast processing, it's also gonna sound great and it's not gonna get too badly mangled in the process. Ian Shepherd: Whereas if you put in a super loud version, it's gonna come out sending even more crushed and lifeless and distorted and all the rest of it. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Wow. Okay. It truly is complicated. Yes. But Ian Shepherd: But the answer is simple, right? Which is, which is aim for the sweet spot. You know, try and get the perfect balance of loudness and dynamics and don't be tempted to push it super loud. Cuz it's probably gonna backfire Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mm. That really, really smart, you know, Wise words. What is your prediction for the future? How's the loudness industry, the, the playback industry going to change over the next couple of years? Ian Shepherd: I think I would be foolish to make a prediction. I have, I have, I have hopes and I have fears, you know I hope that over time more and more people will realize that it's not necessary to, to push for extreme loudness. There's no real benefit and will choose to, you know, pull things back a bit and master produce. Ian Shepherd: Record, master their music with more balanced dynamics and that they can do what's best for the music, you know, rather than thinking, Oh, you know, I mean, one example for me is country music. I saw a, there was a discussion online just in this past week about the number one country album in the US being almost as loud as Death Magnetic by Metallica, which is a famously super loud album. Ian Shepherd: An album is so loud that the, the fans complained and started a petition asking for it to be remixed and remastered. Now it's not actually as loud, but it is really loud at the loudest sections. And I just listen to it and think, Is this musically appropriate? You know, does this make sense for the for, for the art? Ian Shepherd: Was it necessary? So my hope is that. People will stop doing that. They'll stop, feel, feeling pressured into doing things that are not right for the music, just because somebody says they should or they are afraid it won't, they won't be able to sell copies or that people will skip their song or something. Ian Shepherd: And just start doing what's best for the music. And the great news is that because, you know, normalization, this, this process of turning down the louder songs is here to stay. It's only gonna get better. It's only gonna improve. It'll get more sophisticated, it'll get more clever, It'll get better results. Ian Shepherd: And that means we have creative freedom to, to genuinely do what's best for the music and not to have to worry about loudness for, for its own sake. That's my hope. My fear is, That won't happen. The, the, the myths will persist, you know, that people will continue making, I mean, you know, one of the sad things that's happened is that some people have heard their music not sounding as loud when they, when it gets reduced in level by Spotify or YouTube or whoever. Ian Shepherd: So they just do another master that's even louder. And they just, they just keep going and piling it on in an attempt to, to kind of fight that system. So there, there's, there's a kind of negative aspect to the, the whole thing there, you know, where it's, it's really not helping. So, you know, I have another reason to be hopeful, which funnily enough has to do with this new feature on Apple devices called Apple Spatial. Ian Shepherd: There's a lot of excitement about it last year. They are, you kind of get this 3D immersive sound on, I mean, it's on Android as well and, and other systems, but Apple have really kind of, Gone with it in terms of publicity and obviously there's a lot of people using Apple devices. And yeah, it's all about 3D immersive sound. Ian Shepherd: Trying to get the feeling of surround sound, even if you're just listening on headphones. And the interesting thing about that is that the, the music is being delivered in a format called Atmos, Doby Atmos which is a kind of an upgraded version, if you like, of, of doby surround sound that people might remember. Ian Shepherd: And they have specified that these masters can't be too loud because it messes up what's possible technically in terms of, because you have this format where nobody knows where it's gonna be played back. Is it gonna be played back in a movie theater on 36 speakers or in somebody's living room with 14 speakers or just on a pair of earbuds? Ian Shepherd: So to have that flexibility to, to provide the best possible playback experience on all those devices. They've said, here is where the loudness needs to be. And the result is that engineers working in that format can do stuff that is much more dynamic. So it's got to the point where most of the time I will now choose to listen to the Dolby Atmos version of a song, if there is one on my my phone rather than the stereo version. Ian Shepherd: Just because it's likely to have more dynamics. And it won't be super, super loud. I'm hoping lots of people will do that and that everybody will start thinking, well, okay, what if we can go and have some decent dynamics there? Let's do them in the stereo mixes as well. You know, why make these two versions? Ian Shepherd: Well, let's, let's just have better dynamics everywhere. So again, that's my hope, that's my optimistic outlook. But I, Well, yes, I was gonna say whether I could predict that or not, and sadly, , I'm not sure I can, but yeah, fingers crossed. Let's hope. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Okay, excellent. Look maybe the very last question. If people are not curious to learn more about you and maybe want their record mastered by you, where, where can they find you? What's the best place to, to get in touch or follow you? Them Ian Shepherd: They can go to my website, which is production advice.co.uk. If you click on the about tab there, you'll find my contact details, or you can search for me on social media. I'm on Facebook and Twitter quite a bit, so people are welcome to connect with me there. If you want to hear more of this kind of stuff, you could take a listen to the Mastering Show podcast, which is available on iTunes and everywhere else you can get podcasts. Ian Shepherd: I Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Wombly recommended Ian Shepherd: Oh, thank you. I have a, a YouTube channel where I put videos out about all this kind of stuff, kind of giving practical demonstrations and advice for people who, who want to try out some of the things that we've been talking about. Yeah, so it'd be great to hear from people. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Ian, thank you so much for your time today. All of these places. I'm going to put in the show notes of course, so you have no excuse. Click the show notes, scroll down, click the links, and check out. Ian's fantastic work online. Thank you so much for sharing all your wisdom with us today. I really appreciate that. Ian Shepherd: No, my, my pleasure. I enjoyed it. Thanks for having. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Mr. Ian, she on the Production Talk podcast. Thank you so much. That was absolutely phenomenal. I hope you all got something valuable out of today's episode. Mastering, as we all know, is this magical black art, and Ian did an amazing job demystifying it and showing us the limitations of what can be achieved in mastering and also give us some fantastic suggestions on how to overcome the downsides of of loud masters. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Since you're here, you are definitely into a podcast. And I just wanted to point out that Ian also has his own podcast called The Mastering Show. You'll find it on every single player that I'm aware of. Just be aware, it can get very technical there. It's a place where Ian speaks about in depth mastering stuff and parts of it are very technical, but it's a lot of fun, so maybe just check it out. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I enjoy it a lot and I listen every time. If you want to reach out to me, you can do so via my website, a mixed artist.com iu, where I offer music, a recording services on the east coast of Australia, and of course, online, mixed on services for clients worldwide. I'm looking forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, have a fantastic week as to you soon. Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Bye.
bottom of page