Mastering help needed...

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Apr 21, 2019.

  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Someone posted a link a while back about some online, simple to use, basic mastering program that they used and loved. Anyone have any idea what that might have been?


    I'm paying someone to turn my book into an audio book. I love the guys performance, but I'm having some issues. He seems somewhat inexperienced on the producer side of things. I don't listen to audio books, so I'm unsure what's acceptable and what's not. I'm therefore open to any and all thoughts and suggestions.

    The levels are a wee bit low, some sections are a wee bit louder than others, and the EQ is not entirely consistent.

    Is there a simple way to master this and get everything more uniform? For anyone who DOES listen to audio-books, is this common, or are the books more or less perfect recording wise?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. guts


    Aug 13, 2018
    It doesn't sound like it's even been mixed, or at least not mixed properly, if you're hearing the loudness of the actor's voice fluctuating noticeably.

    I can't tell you what program to use but I can tell you what you should be looking for.

    You need a full featured DAW to automate volume changes in the performance. You need at least a parametric EQ, compressor, limiter, and LUFS meter. You might need a de-esser. It might be nice to have other kinds of dynamic processing, but you don't necessarily need them. You might run into problems that require specific processing solutions like clicks, pops or thumps in the recording, but if you had the recordings made by someone who knows what they're doing the chances of you needing special software like that are low.

    I mix and master music and I listen to audiobooks, but I don't master audiobooks, so I can't tell you the intimate details of how to master them. But I can tell you it is not a simple process for the uninitiated. Straightforward, yes, but in no way simple.

    For the most part professionally produced audiobooks do not have frequent, sudden, significant changes to the tonality of the actors voice. That said, the actors voice is a dynamic instrument and it is not uncommon for one part of the performance to be done in a lower register, or quieter, or in a different timber; or for a line to be delivered in a way that very much stands out from the rest of the performance in this regard. Part of your job in mixing and mastering will be to get all of these separate instances of spoken word to blend and balance well so as not to jar your readers out of their immersion.

    It's a big task, but it can be done.
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  3. And I

    And I

    Feb 19, 2009
    Witchtown, MA
    Don't use an automated mastering program. If you need mastering, hire a human, you'll be happy you did.

    I did a few audio book recording and editing gigs when I was working as an engineer. Generally, after things are recorded, all mouth noise is removed (the most time consuming, painstaking, and if anyone listens on headphones--the most important part), levels are balanced out so every word can be understood, any EQ changes (usually caused by different takes being blended where the reader had their head in different places in front of the mic--something that pro readers don't do) are smoothed out.

    Whether this needs traditional mastering at all is debatable. Are you going to make CDs? Just digital release? What platform will host it? They may have standards you need to conform to. Check this out: ACX
    TNCreature and Joe Nerve like this.
  4. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Thanks guys.

    I am going through ACX. That's where I found my guy to do it. He's being really helpful and compliant, and he's doing a stellar job with the reading... I think he's inexperienced however, recognizes that, and now I'm not sure how to proceed.

    The book is definitely listenable, and there are no HUGE spikes or changes in volume and tone, but there are definite variations. It's really hard for me to discern what's acceptable, and what isn't. And I don't know how to deal with the narrator anymore. I'm contracted with him per finished book hour. He's putting tons of work, edits and redos into this... at this point I'd say he's making about $15 an hour. If even that much.

    Also, I have the tools to EQ and master this myself, but my hearing is shot. I can't do any serious producing anymore. Plus I never knew what I was doing with matering, anyhow.

    Gonna have to have a discussion with this guy and see what we can work out. I'm happy that he seems to want this to be perfect, as much as I do.
    And I likes this.
  5. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Hope this works out. It's a good dang book.
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  6. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    Joe, has anyone else listened to the hot takes?

    You just admitted your hearing is shot. How about running a chapter or two past the wife?
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  7. Turbo Sparky

    Turbo Sparky Supporting Member

    May 14, 2018
    South Eastern U.S.
    Unsure of your first preface/question.
    I have listened to numerous audio books and spoken word. IMO, if-on the rare occasion-that there is or was fluctuations in the readers/actors EQ it is quite annoying.
    Consistency in delivery, bolume, cadence/meter is a must IMO. Even uneven pauses/inflections in punctuation can become, for lack of a better word, annoying. Monotonality (if that's a word) is also a sure way for the listener to become "deaf" to the information being passed IMO. "Droning on" can be a definite problem.
    One last "issue" at least for me, is a listeners ability to discern/notice where/when editing/splicing of sentences/words/paragraphs have occured or natural inhale/exhales are edited out/deleted.
    Another commentor above suggested that "it" was probably not mixed down correctly; c'est possible.
    Good luck with your endeavor!
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  8. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass

    May 10, 2006
    Ozone8 Elements does a real nice "do it yourself" mastering job. It uses machine learning to place your mix in the recommended ballpark. You are free to adjust to ear as desired. It masters automatically for LUFS levels expected by specific streaming services so your mix will be as loud at allowed without loosing fidelity. Machine learning is dramatically changing many processes and mastering is one of them. Not saying the expert human is now unnecessary, but for many of us it's a cost that far eclipses amateur and semipro budgets for expected ROI. Software is relatively inexpensive. I've enjoyed excellent results with Ozone8 Elements.
    Joe Nerve and DirtDog like this.
  9. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Another vote for Ozone8 Elements. If you pay attention, you can get a deal at (no affiliation). I got thee full Elements software for free after spending £0.77 on another plug-in.
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  10. Frank Tuesday

    Frank Tuesday

    Jul 11, 2008
    Austin, TX
    Does it sound like the volume fluctuations are normal speaking fluctuations, or are the distinct differences from when he took a break, or restarted another day. Maybe his mic was a little closer or further away on session than another. If it is the latter, you can balance the volume of the different takes. If its the former, then an appropriate amount of compression in the mix should do. Unless he's not a technically good voice artist. They it could be more challenging.

    If the EQ is varying significantly, you could use EQ matching. FabFilter has good EQ matching. Ozone has good EQ matching. (I don't think Ozone Elements does, though).

    Speaking of Ozone Elements, I grabbed a free copy when Plugin Boutique had their deal, but I have full Ozone, so I don't need it. I grabbed it so I could pass it along to someone. If you want it, let me know. Hopefully the registration is still available.
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  11. tfer


    Jan 1, 2014
    Kind of OT, because it’s not necessarily audiobook related, but I have had a lot of success with the Final Touch app on my iPad.

    Well worth the cost for mastering...
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  12. And I

    And I

    Feb 19, 2009
    Witchtown, MA
    If you're still not moving forward on this, PM me. Best move might be to thank the person you've been working with for what they've done so far, settle up with them, and give it to another engineer to finish. I may be able to help you out for low dough or point you to someone else who can.
    Joe Nerve likes this.