So I posted a cringe on how a song was badly mastered, and well it got me thinking about making an intorductory post about music mastering, for your general knowledge. Before I start, just to let you know, I’m using a software named MusicScope, which is really fun to play with. It’s a paid software, but you can use in trial version to test the first 30 seconds of a file if you want to play a little bit around and see how is your music.
So that’s the song that started it: Ref: rain, the ED of After the rain.
I rarr it in order to obtain it (thanks mora.jp for now refusing foreign credit card) and when I listened to it, noticed a clear loss in clarity when the music ramped up. Well it appears that the masterer decide that, instead of lowering the overall volume, decided to literally clip the sections where the music ramped up, indicated by the 3 arrows. See how flat it becomes.
Clipping refers to a loss of information when the audio level go above a threshold (the two red circles in the circle graph), and are therefore not recorded, hence the clip, a loss of information.
sh0ut, 2nd OP of Re: Creators
Unfortunately, clipping is somewhat recurrent because of nowaday practices. With how pop and music in general are recorded, masterer try to get the highest overall volume level. This a two consequences. First, masterer often compresses the music, reducing the dynamic range (the S-Mode number) so there is less variation between the lowest and the highest sound, flattening the music. Second, the music while be on the edge of the threshold in order to get a higher volume. From time to time, it will cliped, resulting in a loss of information.
As you can see in the picture below, music nowadays are master in such a way that the green line, the volume level, stays almost always near the threshold, and sometime clipping.
Otozureta Henka, OST of Usagi Drop
A proper mastering of music should show a big dynamic range (S-mode). This indicate a file where the masterer didn’t seek to get the highest overall volume of the file. This allow for much richer expression of the music and instrument, and more clarity, vs the compressed song of pop mastering.
Notice how the green line is way more spiky and travels more distance up and down.
Fake FLAC vs True Flac
There is a reason, theme song of No Game No Life ZERO
A last point I want to make you aware with FLAC files is how the quality can vary widely. Often files will be labeled as FLACs, so you’re expecting better audio. But some FLAC files are MP3 that we’re converted to FLAC. This is totally useless as all the information have been already lost with the lossy formating of MP3, hence giving you a fake FLAC. here is an example where we can see the frquency spectrum of a song ends abruptly, indicating a MP3 file that have been converted to FLAC.
If you want more info, lachlanlikesathing did a great video about mastering right here. most of the information i displayed here come from him.