Rush News

Masterdisk Chief Engineer Andy VanDette On Remastering Rush for iTunes

Masterdisk Chief Engineer Andy VanDette, who recently remastered Rush's Mercury catalogue for the Sectors boxed sets, spoke to about the creation of compressed versions of each song specifically for the iTunes Store.
"VanDette explained how mastering varies depending on the age of the original recordings as well as the final output format. Many master recordings for Rush albums are from vinyl's heyday, he said. 'Back then we would try and hide as much top end as possible, knowing that the end users' styli would be crap.  Most listeners today swear they love the bottom end on vinyl, but I remember in the heyday of vinyl, it was all about top end.  If we could only have a clear top end without all those pops and clicks' we thought,' he said, noting the tendency of low-end record players to introduce unwanted noise. 'Back then, bottom was the enemy. It made the grooves [in the vinyl] too wide, and forced us to turn down the overall level of the disc.'"

"The constraints of vinyl aren't a concern when mastering for a CD, so it's possible to boost overall levels as well as low frequencies without ruining the rest of the mix. 'While remastering the classic Rush albums, I added as much LF as I could, always aware not to cloud the classic 'ping' on Neil's snare, muddle Geddy's voice, or bury Alex's guitar,' he said.  'These are some finely balanced mixes, even 35 years later,' VanDette said. 'I wanted to make sure the listener still heard the classic album come through, without it being too loud, boomy, or modern sounding.  Mastering for iTunes was a different challenge.  You can't get around it-when you throw away 80 percent of the data, the sound changes. It was my quest to make the AAC files sound as close to the CD as possible; I did not want them to be any more loud, hyped, or boomy sounding than the CD.'"

"Because iTunes tracks are typically played back on decidedly average earbuds or computer speakers, there is a tendency for some producers to boost bass frequencies to make up for the tinny sound. However, VanDette said, doing so is not really the answer. For one thing, there's no guarantee that playback will always happen on sub-par equipment...Creating iTunes-specific masters for Rush's albums required a more nuanced approach than just boosting the bass. 'The delicate mix balances of a Rush album dictated that I could only 'nudge' the bottom, not really boost it.  For iTunes mastering I focused on making up for the losses created by the iTunes AAC algorithm. Generally, I heard changes in level, bottom, top, punch, and imaging.'  But not every album, or even every song, could be treated the same way. 'On a live album I found the center image was lower, making Geddy's vocal too low in the mix,' VanDette said. 'It was rare to be able to use one static setting for an entire album.'"
 For the full article visit - Thanks to Ed at RushIsABand for the headsup!

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