Ace Engineers Share Tips on Mastering for iTunes

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Mastered for iTunes” is out. Last month, our buddy blog Trust Me, I’m A Scientist published this piece which explores the tools, the best practices, and the controversy. Click thru to TMIAS for the full article, and read an excerpt here.

Last week, iTunes announced a new set of tools and best practices that would allow engineers to master albums specifically for release on the iTunes Music Store.

Although the application is novel, the basic concept is nothing new. Mastering engineers have long made separate masters to account for the quirks of different mediums like CD, vinyl and even tape cassette. 2012 marks the first time that engineers have had the tools, and the economic incentives, to tailor separate masters to compensate specifically for the idiosyncrasies of iTunes’ data-compressed AAC format.

Apple’s 256 kbps AAC files are supposed to sound pretty close to CD-quality and they routinely fool listeners in double-blind listening tests. But when record-producer/living-legend Rick Rubin heard the iTunes version of his new Red Hot Chili Peppers production I’m With You, he was reportedly appalled by how its sound changed during the conversion process.

“He was horrified,” Grammy-winning mastering engineer Vlado Meller told me when I visited him at Masterdisk.

“It was as if they had notched out certain frequencies in order to compress the file. When we did the A/B test with the original and the iTunes release it was like it was two different masters. If it wasn’t for [Rubin] making a stink and putting his weight behind it, we wouldn’t have this today. He deserves the credit for that.”

Click thru to Trust Me, I’m A Scientist for the rest of this feature, by Justin Colletti.

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