Macro Micro

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Macro Micro

I finally got my little tape mastering studio setup in the back room. It consists of an Otari MTR-10 tape deck feeding a NuWave Phono Converter through its auxiliary inputs and then into my computer through USB.

I am monitoring everything on a PWD. I use the HDMI connector for tape and USB for the computer output. 176kHz/24 for PCM and eventually DSD will be included. It’s a reasonable setup and as I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a pair of Era loudspeakers in a home audio configuration for monitoring.

My idea is simple. If I want to achieve a perfect sound on my stereo system when I am done mastering, why not start out mastering on the very same system I want to eventually listen to? Turns out this may not be the best idea. I am having great trouble hearing small changes; yet I recognize that fixing these small changes results in a better overall recording. Intense work at the micro level yields the best results on a macro level.

I recall a conversation I had years ago with Keith Johnson, master recordist at Reference Recordings about loudspeakers. Because his recording pretty much hit the mark every time, I naturally wanted to know what loudspeakers he used to master his work. What he told me surprised me. He used a homemade pair of near field monitors as best I remember. This made little sense at the time and when questioned about that he merely said “it’s what I am used to”. Perhaps now it makes a bit more sense. I think many mastering studios and recording engineers prefer near field monitors, relative to a home stereo setup like you and I might listen to the end results on.

What I am discovering during this mastering project is that I may need a micro view of the music in order to wind up with a great macro view. I think it’s somewhat like digital photography. I use Photoshop quite a lot and when I am working on what will eventually be a large print photograph, intended to be viewed from several feet away, I routinely zoom into the picture to find and fix small problems. This focus on the micro brings great benefit to the macro. I am getting the sense mastering may be somewhat the same.

I have tried headphones as the ultimate micro loudspeaker and find them too near field for the task. A set of bookshelf loudspeakers, placed in close proximity to the work station seems to work well.

More on this project as time goes by.

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Paul McGowan

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