A Mastering Engineer About His Own Personal System...

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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A great read...

https://www.dagogo.com/mastering-engineers-systems/

...Fast forward to a career in audio production. First as a recording engineer – thanks to my Dad for suggesting a job in a recording studio as opposed to my college dropout plan to be a rock star – then later a producer/mixer, and finally my job for the last 20 years as a mastering engineer.

Looking back, I think I pursued studio life as a way to be the person responsible for helping create the kind of recordings that I enjoyed sonically...

...So what do I want in my home system as opposed to my work system?

First, to be clear, I’m of the opinion that audiophiles should not aim to have a system that perfectly re-creates what was heard in the recording studio or concert hall. The notion that a playback system can be completely transparent and colorless as some sort of pure conduit for the recording is a noble pursuit, but that doesn’t cut it for me. The flaw of this approach, in my opinion, is almost no one can know what is ‘correct’ and even if they did, it would only be ‘correct’ for a tiny subset of recordings that were specifically produced to sound good on that kind of ultra-flat and almost distortionless kind of system. And don’t get me started on one thing any recording engineer knows in their bones: what comes out of any playback system regardless of how well recorded any musical performance is, never sounds like what it sounded like in the room with the performers. So given that the recording is an illusion (admittedly sometimes very convincing), I just want my home system to sound good! And on a broad range of recordings. But just like many audiophiles, my good is a pretty sophisticated good. Born from many years of listening and experiences with lots of different gear, including a massive amount of tools that influence the sound of the recording itself. I’m picky about my good....

...I need the lows to go low. Too many years of listening to a full-range system in a well-designed mastering studio have me hooked on the sensation of feeling some 30 or 40Hz if it’s in the recording. No excessive boominess please and not gobs of it, but I need a little splash of that in my coffee. ...

...Further down the scale but again of no small importance is a sense of harmonic richness, including a buttery smooth and extended top end, plus a sense of texture to the midrange. Musicians call it simply ‘tone’. Some of this is just plain frequency response, but I believe components can also change the sound in ways I perceive as a harmonic coloration that melds to the recording in a pleasing way – ‘Hey hon, can you put on a little of that makeup that makes you look so hot?’ ....

....That is what I need to do good work, but it’s not what I wanna listen to for fun. To quote another mastering engineer Dave Collins, ‘(when playing my own work) I want my home system to make me sound like a genius.’ ...
 

microstrip

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May 30, 2010
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Thanks Lloyd, very interesting article. I would have liked to read what are the recordings that the author considers his top five masterpieces, I could see in allmusic the he has mastered a lot of music.
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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and not a single piece of audio equipment was mentioned that he listens to in his home and/or studio.......
Yeah...i was kinda on the look out for that. The article still made a good point given the endless debates that exist in this world about systems, fidelity, 'true-to-the-master', etc.
 
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Mcsnare

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Apr 2, 2022
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The point of that article was not about specific gear, but I understand the curiosity.
Since I started reviewing as a fun sideline, my home system gear is constantly changing, currently VSA Ultra 7s and VAC Statement stuff. The core of personal stuff consists of a TW Raven LS, various carts, VAC Master preamp, Ampsampsound Bryce Monos, QLN Prestige Fives, Innuos streamer and whatever dac is around. The studio monitor system changed about a year ago to Acora SRC-2s, Pass XA-200.8s, Prism Sound ADA8-XR, DA-2 converters and a custom Knif Audio monitor controller/insert console as the “volume knob” and for selecting various eq’s and compressors to use.
 

ddk

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May 19, 2013
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and not a single piece of audio equipment was mentioned that he listens to in his home and/or studio.......
You can find it in the Q&A section, the system IMO does explain his subjective views.
david
1AF9E5C9-BCF0-4791-A576-344189330B6E.jpeg
 

ddk

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May 19, 2013
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The point of that article was not about specific gear, but I understand the curiosity.
Since I started reviewing as a fun sideline, my home system gear is constantly changing, currently VSA Ultra 7s and VAC Statement stuff. The core of personal stuff consists of a TW Raven LS, various carts, VAC Master preamp, Ampsampsound Bryce Monos, QLN Prestige Fives, Innuos streamer and whatever dac is around. The studio monitor system changed about a year ago to Acora SRC-2s, Pass XA-200.8s, Prism Sound ADA8-XR, DA-2 converters and a custom Knif Audio monitor controller/insert console as the “volume knob” and for selecting various eq’s and compressors to use.
It’s more than curiosity the gear reflects what the individual is hearing and his opinions at the time. Also this specific article is very much a commentary on playback systems and not much else. IMO the system is the cornerstone of his conclusions and reading the equipment list can provide the reader with more insight. Interestingly his listed system couldn’t be any further away from his favorite ones that he mentions :)!

david
 

Kal Rubinson

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May 5, 2010
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Yeah...i was kinda on the look out for that. The article still made a good point given the endless debates that exist in this world about systems, fidelity, 'true-to-the-master', etc.
Yes, and one that has been made many times before.
 

Mcsnare

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Apr 2, 2022
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It’s more than curiosity the gear reflects what the individual is hearing and his opinions at the time. Also this specific article is very much a commentary on playback systems and not much else. IMO the system is the cornerstone of his conclusions and reading the equipment list can provide the reader with more insight. Interestingly his listed system couldn’t be any further away from his favorite ones that he mentions :)!

david
I’m not sure I’m getting your point, maybe you can clarify.
When I wrote that article 2.5 years ago, I mainly intended to illustrate that the studio system doesn’t have to sound “good” but be revealing in the sort of ways that enable me to do the work. I’d rather have my home system be a little more relaxed or even fun sounding. I decided not to build the Northward Acoustics room outfitted with ATCs and ended up acoustically treating my old living room and using the Acora/Pass combo. It’s clean, flat, low distortion, dynamic, and revealing in the way that I need for work. It is also an enjoyable listen - even when not listening ultra analytically. I‘ve found this to be rare.
 

ddk

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May 19, 2013
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I’m not sure I’m getting your point, maybe you can clarify.
When I wrote that article 2.5 years ago, I mainly intended to illustrate that the studio system doesn’t have to sound “good” but be revealing in the sort of ways that enable me to do the work. I’d rather have my home system be a little more relaxed or even fun sounding. I decided not to build the Northward Acoustics room outfitted with ATCs and ended up acoustically treating my old living room and using the Acora/Pass combo. It’s clean, flat, low distortion, dynamic, and revealing in the way that I need for work. It is also an enjoyable listen - even when not listening ultra analytically. I‘ve found this to be rare.
Sorry I didn't make the connection between you and the article. As a rule on WBF industry affiliation must be part of the member's signature, knowing who we're talking to helps with conversation as well.

I wasn't commenting on your views or systems one way or another my post simply suggested that listing equipment when discussing personal listening values can be helpful. You made direct comments about the sonic character of your home system vs what you use for work knowing your two systems helps me better understand your comments and listening preferences, same as you found it relevant to list the type of sound and system and first turned you on to high end sound. It's the same when I talk to clients their equipment helps me understand what they're hearing and where they want to go. Same with reading any gear review the system gives context to the writer's comments and what they're hearing; at least for me.

david
 

Solypsa

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... It’s clean, flat, low distortion, dynamic, and revealing in the way that I need for work. It is also an enjoyable listen - even when not listening ultra analytically. I‘ve found this to be rare.
Speaking of the 'accurate for studio vs enjoyable for home' topic, do you feel this hinges on tweeter roll off? (For many many years now its considered that pleasure listening requires a slight roll off from truly flat...how much and from what frequency is debated ) Or have you isolated other aspects of this studio vs home divide?
 

Sampajanna

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Apr 1, 2021
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Great article. You are a good writer as well! I will check out some of your PTA articles!
 
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Mcsnare

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Speaking of the 'accurate for studio vs enjoyable for home' topic, do you feel this hinges on tweeter roll off? (For many many years now its considered that pleasure listening requires a slight roll off from truly flat...how much and from what frequency is debated ) Or have you isolated other aspects of this studio vs home divide?
Well, a home system should sound like whatever the owner likes. That could be all over the place! Everybody hears and prefers their unique perception and preferences.
As far as studio monitors, generally “accuracy” is something desired as to means to make translatable decisions, but how can accuracy even be defined?
In 2022, studio playback is way flatter and more extended in the top end, than in days of yore. However, I have heard some hella bright systems in folks homes and in showrooms, so maybe your point is kinda valid if not a hard rule.
 

sbo6

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May 19, 2014
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And don’t get me started on one thing any recording engineer knows in their bones: what comes out of any playback system regardless of how well recorded any musical performance is, never sounds like what it sounded like in the room with the performers.
Truer words were never spoken..

Also, great read, thanks.
 

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