Professional Sound - Indepth

Mastering in the 21st Century Louder Than God Intended by Bryan Martin

What can I say? Louder wins. So in the spirit of the 21st century, I have been experimenting with extreme volume mastering and, yes, I can do that (eek ack). Like Bob Ludwig said, “I used to work really hard at making records sound good; now I just make them loud.” You want it as loud as Metallica or U2? No problem. It does help if all the dynamics and transients have not been obliterated by the machismo of the mix bus limiter. A brick is a hard thing to swallow, and even harder to master regardless of sexual prowess. Honey, where did you put my volume knob?

It would appear that in the new i-Reality, mastering is about volume. Many wax nostalgic of the halcyon days of analog, tape, and studios (does anyone remember laughter or large format consoles, or a chief tech?), but lets get real kids: no one is accusing modern recordings of sounding great. Every basement has a studio, and a bathroom. Abbey Road simply cannot exist in your laptop.

Thankfully there are still a few refugees from the lost world fighting the extinction of fidelity in a digitalia loaded with distortion, MP3s, and earbuds. I guess music and passion are kind of like a bad teenage crush or heroin. I am still mastering with custom-built uber-fi tube gear and designing more. Who doesn’t get all doe-eyed at the thought of the birthing of their musical baby through those lovely glowing valves and hunks of iron (4 per cent silicon steel, actually)? It’s big. It’s industrial. Hey, can you do a Vulcan mind-meld on that thing? And everything that leaves here sounds better than when it came in.

As far as pricing goes, if the session is unattended and payment is immediate, I can accommodate any budget. So I hope to see all of you in the brave new race-to-the-bottom, or should I say, over-the-top-of-digital-zero world of: Mastering in the 21st Century (this should be said by Powdered Toast Man). Louder is louder.

Grammy Award-winning mastering engineer Bryan Martin can be found at Sonosphere Mastering,, or in the lab building
oversized tube gear that is not street legal in most first-world countries.

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About Andrew King
Andrew King is the Editor-in-Chief at Professional Sound. He is also a co-host of Canadian Musician Radio and NWC Webinars’ series of free music and entertainment industry webinars.
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