Mastering with Mulch

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Babaluma
Babaluma's picture
Joined: June 24, 2009

I just wanted to say that I've been using AudioMulch for mastering, for the last ten years or so, and daily in a professional context for the last three years. I think it might be an intersting discussion about this slightly unusual use of AudioMulch. AFAIK, there aren't any other mastering engineers using AudioMulch, although I have heard that some have used the DDMF metaplugin for chaining VSTs. I obviously feel that Mulch does it so much better! Coming from an analgoue past, with extensive experience with outboard gear and hardware modular synthesisers, Mulch is ideal for me to use in mastering. The clear layout of signal flow, reliable audio engine, and ease of adding/removing/switching/moving plugins and contraptions in any part of the chain, being able to "tap off" the signal for montioring or recording at any stage etc., all makes for a very quick workflow.

 

A brief description of the whole chain:

The "hub" is a Crookwood mastering console/monitor controller/headphone amp/2 x DAC/1 x ADC/analogue VU meter, connected to a pair of ATC SCM20 ASL Pro monitors, and Sennheiser HD600 headphones, for monitoring.

The converters are hooked up to an RME HDSPe AES interface via XLR/AES cables, to get in and out of the PC.

In Mulch, it's simple to assign Inputs and Outputs to the different converters, and create the "analogue loop" for the outboard processing. The analogue chain consists of the Crookwood DAC, a pair of Chandler Germanium Compressors, a Thermionic Culture Pullet EQ, a Chandler TG2 pre amp (make up gain for the passive EQ), a Dangerous music Bax EQ, and the Crookwood ADC. (The other Crookwood DAC is the monitor DAC, so I can monitor from any source, anywhere, analogue or digital).

 

How it works in Mulch:

I start with the digital source file from the client, and have a "mastering preset" Mulch document which automatically loads at startup. The file is played by a FilePlayer contraption, which then goes out the "transfer" DAC into the analogue chain. After that, the signal comes back into Mulch via the "capture" ADC, for recording. That's the main analogue loop, and it's easy to monitor either before, or after, the processing.

At any stage along the way I may add none/some/all of the following digital processors: various meters (peak/RMS/Leq/LUFs/correlation meter/bit scope/spectrum analyser etc.), EQ, gain/attenuation stage (I use the Mulch SGain contraption, usually in multiples of 6.02.... dB for bit transparency - Mulch usually "snaps" to some of these values, which is great), tape emulator, de-esser, stereo width enhancement via Mid/Side processing, etc. This is all done in real time in AudioMulch.

With the Crookwood console, I can monitor anywhere in the chain, analogue or digital, and volume match any of those sources to within a quarter of a dB, for a fair appraisal of A vs. B, before vs. after comparisons etc.

Sometimes, I'll add the final digital limiting (usually Elephant) and dithering (Sonoris Dither) stage in the same document, so I can hear the final result, but I usually leave that as a separate process, so I can do it quickly via "rendering" it using the "Export to sound file" comand, at a later time. I often like to leave the final limiting/dithering stage for another day.

I'd be happy to upload document screenshots, if people were interested?

 

So, I'm basically doing ALL playback, recording, and processing via Mulch. The only other audio software I use is a regular DAW (Sampltide Pro X), for the fade ins/fade outs/crossfades (if seamless gaps are needed between tracks etc.), Voxengo R8Brain Pro Full (for any sample rate conversion needed), Sonoris DDP Creator Pro, (for burning and checking the master CD, and authoring DDP images for the pressing plants), and Opti Drive Control, (for checking error rates on CDs - I use Taiyo Yuden media, so they are usually OK).

 

Anyway, it was long winded I know, but I thought some of you might be interested. I'd be happy to answer any questions, and would love to hear if anyone else is using Mulch in a similar way.

 

Best wishes,

 

Gregg

 

PS - Quick question for Ross:

I always leave "Dither" unchecked in the Settings/Audio General tab, as I like to work in 32bit float until the final dither down to 16 bit, where I apply my own Dither at the end. Would you say this was a good way of working, for my particular application, or woiuld you recommend I switch the internal Dither on?

Ross B.
Ross B.'s picture
Joined: April 11, 2009

Hi Gregg, thanks for posting the infos,

With regard to dither: the dither setting affects the signal going out to the soundcard, but not file recording. If you want bit-transparent output to your analog loops I would leave it off. It's questionable whether dithering 32-bit float to 24 bit integers buys you anything -- kinda depends how stable the low order bits of your DACs are. In any case, AudioMulch's dither is quite basic and not really mastering grade.

Babaluma
Babaluma's picture
Joined: June 24, 2009

Thanks for the swift reply Ross. That's what I had guessed, so I will continue to leave dither unchecked!

 

Yes, as far as I understand it, 32 bit to 24 bit dither is way below any known analogue noise floor, so superfluous, althouhg Bob Katz swears he can hear the difference between truncating from 32 to 24 out the soundcard, to dithering to 24 bit first, although in my tests I couldnt hear a difference.

 

Thanks once again for the incredible program!

Stclaire Mastering
Stclaire Mastering's picture
Joined: November 27, 2012

 

Hello Greg,

just read your post great reading lost of great information.

I just started using Mulch as part of my mastering arsenal for exactly all the reasons you mentioned in your post. As a new user of AudioMulch I would be interested in any document screenshot you can provide. 

It would be greatly apreciated. Thanx again for the info.

Luis Stclaire

 

 

Babaluma
Babaluma's picture
Joined: June 24, 2009

Hi Luis,

 

Thanks for the interest! Here is a pic of the Transfer & Capture chain document:

 

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8375/8563971905_d0dbc7f732_o.jpg

 

As you can see I have some rarely used contraptions/plugins unconnected but "ready to go" at the top if needed: a de-esser (Spitfish, which usually gets used in an MS matrix), a tape emultaor (SKNote Roundtone, I need to get rid of that as I never use it...), an SGain contraption with -6.02.....dB for use with projects that come in already too loud/squashed, EQ (DDMF LP10, usually used for HPF before the analogue chain, or surgical cuts), and MDA TestTone for putting -14dBfs Pink Noise through the chain for stereo matching before I do a "take".

 

Moving on to the regular chain, the Input is just a File Player, the Original is just an output which gets sent to a different output on the RME HDSPe which is sent to the Digital Input 3 of my Crookwood console (so I can always easily A/B the original file with my mastered version while I am working for "reality checks"). Then there's a Sonoris Meter and 24 bit dither before being sent to the Transfer DAC and analogue chain (Chandler Germanium Compressors, Pullet & Bax EQ etc).

 

After the analogue chain (from the Bax EQ) the signal goes into the Crookwood Capture ADC, into the RME and Mulch with a Sound In contraption. Then there's another Meter, and Voxengo MSED where I will occasionally make miunute adjustments to the stereo width (no more than -0.4dB on the summed channel for stereo width enhancement). Then Voxengo SPAN (more for lining up the test tones and impressing clients than anything else...) Then another 24bit dither before "recording" the mastered version to another file.

 

And here is a pic of of the Limit & Dither document:

 

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8226/8565073694_2226657459_o.jpg

 

Very simple, Input FIle (my mastered version), Voxengo Elephant Limiter, Sonoris Dither, a final meter (to check RMS, and with oversampling to ensure no inter-sample peaks), and the final Output file. With a whole album I'll use Mulch presets on all the contraptions/plugins, one for each track, so it's easy to go back and forth checking perceived volumes between the tracks etc. I'll then use "Export to sound file" for the final mastered versions.

 

It doesn't really make that much sense without being able to see the analogue chain, VU Meters, and the Crookwood controller (where I can select multiple sources, both analogue and digital, volume matched to within 0.25dB, and multiple destinations for both monitoring and recording) etc., but basically that's it!

 

Again, happy to answer any questions about workflow or Mulch related mastering issues! For me it's an extremely elegant way to do it all. I love the visual/modular style read out of the signal flow.

 

Best wishes,

 

Gregg at Hermetech Mastering, Milan

Winstontaneous
Winstontaneous's picture
Joined: October 25, 2011

Thanks for the detailed post!

I'm in the process of setting up a "mastering" workflow for my art installations and online releases, this is very helpful. I'm not sure I would have thought of using presets for different songs like you do. As you mention once you get used to a modular display it's hard to use other DAWs.

Babaluma
Babaluma's picture
Joined: June 24, 2009

No worries, glad it was helpful!