Published Nov 01, 2005Andy Krehm, mastering engineer at Silverbirch Productions, has extensive experience in the music industry as a musician and mixing and mastering engineer that has given him a background much broader than most mastering engineers. He has mastered over 2,500 albums, including discs by Bruce Cockburn, Jeff Healey, Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics and Kevin Breit.
Is an all-in-one facility for tracking, mixing and mastering wise? Should a room be set up only for mastering?
My room is geared 100 percent to mastering. A couple of years ago, my facility was rebuilt from the ground up by one of the top designers in the country as a mastering studio. My feeling [about an all-in-one space] is, would you like to mix your album in an un-tuned room, with the speakers lying on their side pointing at a board with all the reflections, or would you like to mix it in a mastering room? Why not mix in a mastering room? But don't use the same engineer. I have two engineers who only mix and record, and I do not mix, I only do mastering. That's the criteria. The mix guys can use all my mastering gear it's a quarter-million dollar studio and has way better gear than most project studios [i.e., studios without a big live room]. A lot of recording studios have taken to doing mastering in the same room and that is a crime, in my book.
Is mastering prohibitively expensive for the non-major label client?
In our experience we've had a huge indie clientele over the years. I've acquired more gear as the years go by, but I've decided to leave my prices fairly reasonable so serious indie artists can afford to master an album properly. So people are getting mastering work for between $450 and $600, which for a studio like this is a hell of a bargain.
Are there mastering techniques you detest?
I think everyone's aware of the volume wars that were started and perpetuated, I guess, by [pre-eminent U.S. mastering facility] Sterling Sound. I like to find out what my client wants if I have an emo band, they're going to get the shit compressed out of their stuff cause that's what's going on right now. And I'm going to make sure that with a traditional vocal jazz album that it's compressed just right for that. To be honest with you, somebody coming out of Canada that's going to the States with their album should not be trailblazing with an album that's clearly in a Billboard category. I don't believe that we should be doing the trendsetting, particularly from here. If the top guy at Sterling wants to start mastering at a little lower level, he's got more clout with the labels. If he cools it a little bit, then the rest of us will too.
Is there any mix you can't save?
You can't save something that's been over-compressed and distorted that's embedded. Unwittingly using mastering gear on your mix buss when you intend to go to mastering absolutely ruins it. People think louder sounds better. If people are working at home they should pull down the fader on their master. They might be really surprised that the mix sounds better than the master. Our website (www.silverbirchprod.com) gives a lot of information about preparing for mastering, mixing for mastering and all kinds of stuff that's taken years to write and most people are very appreciative of it.