Vinyl Manufacturer Mastering/Audio Delivery Guidelines

Please find links to various vinyl manufacturing plants / brokers and their guidelines and advice for (pre)mastering digital audio for delivery to them.

GZ Media (full detailed mastering specs) –

Breed Media (small FAQ) –
Deepgrooves (general FAQ including audio delivery) –

Record Industry (audio specific FAQ) –

Press On (scroll down for mastering section)-
TAKT (click on “Your Source Audio) –

Mobeniko (very detailed with links) –

RPM Records (full audio FAQ) –

Hand Drawn Pressing (general FAQ with audio included –

United Record Pressing (full audio FAQ) –
Digiclone (sparse but phone call advised) –

Grama (scroll down for Mastering section of FAQ) –

Gotta Groove (advise and contact point) –

Third Man (FAQ with some confusing mention of RIAA..) –

Furnace Record Pressing (fairly detailed page on website) –

Vinyl De Paris (small FAQ) –

Gold Rush Vinyl (small FAQ) –

Vantiva (sparse information amongst website text) –

Holiday Records (detailed FAQ) –

Cascade Record Pressing (FAQ section) –

Palomino Records (small FAQ) –

Violet Records (small FAQ) –

Erika Records (small FAQ) –

RTI (article written by Mastering Engineer) –

Program Records (PDF sheet) –

Suitcase Records (PDF sheet) –

Zenith Records (full mastering guide) –

China Etech Co LTD (small FAQ) –

Purple Media UK (small FAQ) –

Angel Vinyl (PDF sheet) –

RPM Records (fairly detailed spec sheet/webpage) –

M Com’Musique (very sparse / only meta data) –

Vinyl Records Makers (very sparse FAQ) –

Celebrate Records (very sparse FAQ) –

Interpress Vinyl (sparse FAQ) –

MY 45 (PDF sheet) –

Pallas Group (very detailed PDF sheet) –

Rand Muzik (PDF sheet) –

PHR Pressing (FAQ) –

AFG (small FAQ) –

CDstar (FAQ) –

Phonopress (very small FAQ) –

Toyokasei (very small FAQ) –

Semikols (PDF sheet) –

Rey Vinilo (fairly detailed FAQ) –

Keuroneko (PDF sheet) –

Runrun Records (detailed FAQ) –

Krakatoa Record (very small FAQ) –

Sonic Wax (stem mastering??) –

Joe Caithness Mastering : Video Game Music credits

Here is a list as of 03/09/2020 of my Video Game Music mastering (and more) credits.
A few bits most likely missing and many, many unannounced!

Absolver – Vinyl – Laced Records
Black Future 88 – Vinyl – Laced Records
Bloodborne – Vinyl – Laced Records
Borderlands – Vinyl – Laced Records
Borderlands – Digital – Laced Records
Borderlands 2 – Digital – Laced Records
Borderlands 3 2xlp – Vinyl – Laced Records
Borderlands 3 4xlp – Vinyl – Laced Records
Borderlands 3 – Digital – Laced Records
Control – Vinyl – Laced Records
Dead Cells – Vinyl – Laced Records
Devil May Cry 5 – Vinyl – Laced Records
Dishonored – Vinyl – Laced Records
Enter the Gungeon – Vinyl – Laced Records
Hotline Miami – Vinyl – Laced Records
Hotline Miami – Digital – Laced Records
Megaman X series – Vinyl – Laced Records
Megaman series – Vinyl – Laced Records
Resident Evil – Vinyl – Laced Records
Resident Evil 0 – Vinyl – Laced Records
Resident Evil 2 – Vinyl – Laced Records
Resident Evil 3 : Nemesis – Vinyl – Laced Records
Resident Evil 4 – Vinyl – Laced Records
Resident Evil CODE : Veronica – Vinyl – Laced Records
RUINER – Vinyl – Laced Records
RuneScape Original Soundtrack Classics – Vinyl – Laced Records
RuneScape Original Soundtrack Classics – CD – Laced Records
RuneScape Original Soundtrack Classics – Digital – Laced Records
RuneScape The Orchestral Collection – Vinyl – Laced Records
RuneScape The Orchestral Collection – CD – Laced Records
RuneScape The Orchestral Collection – Digital – Laced Records
Shadow of the Tomb Raider – Vinyl – Laced Records
Shadow Warrior 2 – Vinyl – Laced Records
Strafe – Vinyl – Laced Records
Street Fighter 3 – Vinyl – Laced Records
TEKKEN – Vinyl – Laced Records
TEKKEN 2 – Vinyl – Laced Records
TEKKEN 3 – Vinyl – Laced Records
Warhammer 40,000 : Dawn of War 2 – Vinyl – Laced Records
Warhammer 40,000 : Space Marine – Vinyl – Laced Records
Wolfenstein II : The New Colossus – Vinyl – Laced Records
Yooka Laylee – Vinyl – Laced Records
Yooka Laylee – CD – Laced Records
Yooka Laylee – Digital – Laced Records
Gears: Tactics – Digital – Laced Records

Joe Caithness Mastering : Affordable and effective vinyl/turntable care (with links)

Hello there, over the last few years I have been trying all kinds of vinyl care / turntable maintenance products well within the affordability of anyone who, well, you know buys vinyl!

None of these links are affiliated with Joe Caithness Mastering in any way, these are just things I have personally had good results with.

Joe Caithness Mastering’s “Guide to Digital Audio for Musicians” Part 1.5 : The Two Types of CD production

“What the hell is the difference between CD replication and CD duplication?”

This is a question asked by almost every client who comes to me to master for a short run of CDs.

The rule of thumb is that if you’re making small amounts (usually up to 100 or 200) of CDs on a “make your own CD” type website it will be duplication.

Duplication involves copying 1 to 1 a CDr master of your album. This is basically the same as burning a CD in your computer CD/DVD drive over and over on a large scale.

This is a lower quality product for three main reasons.

  1. The CD you are producing is a copy of a CDr. As most people will know CDrs aren’t the most durable format ever and need to be burned from a CD drive/software in the first place. This introduces scope for errors which will then be duplicated along with the audio.
  2. CDr is a lower quality product as far as age and durability is concerned. Because these CDs have been effectively printed onto the layer on the top of the readable side is a lot less durable than a commercial CD. You may have even seen this peel off if a CDr is left in a car for example.
  3. As each individual CDr is burned from scratch in a new distinct drive, sequential CDrs are less likely to be consistent. For example if there is a problem with a drive within the stack of 5 used to make the CDr each time this drive is used you are potentially creating a dud product.

I have used this format for releases myself, and many people choose to still as it is a very cheap way to give punters at live shows a product to purchase. But be aware that you are rolling the dice to some degree just by using CDrs.

The standard for a commercial released CD Audio disc you will find a shop is a replicated CD.

These products which we are all aware of also include the risks of age and damage, but to a much smaller degree. Replicated CDs are manufactured in a similar way to vinyl, as in they are physically pressed as a virgin product using a glass master. When ordering a CD from a production company you will often this glass mastering as a cost as it is a bespoke production master made for your CD.

Replicated CDs are incredibly cheap now so my personal suggestion is unless you are making a handful for a show or tour consider making a replicated CD run and giving away any additional copies to fans or promo if you have any left over after the initial sale has died down. This means if someone pulls out your release to listen to or rip to their computer in ten years time it is a lot more likely to work as the day the master was made and therefore reconnect you to your listeners.

Spotify releases new specifications for loudness and mastering

From the Spotify for artists website:

(’s-mastered )

Ensure your master stays below -2db True Peak (TP) to be optimised for the lossy formats we use (Ogg/Vorbis and AAC), which, like all lossy formats, do not handle loud peaks well.”

“Generally, you won’t benefit from mastering louder than -14dB integrated LUFS due to Loudness Normalization. There’s no harm in doing so, but the tracks won’t play louder than that.”

The above means we now have targets to aim for. How I will amend my services to meet these is still in development, but it sure is great to know now!

Joe Caithness Mastering’s “Guide to Digital Audio for Musicians” Part 1 : CD Audio

Welcome to part 1 of my new series of blogs to help musicians from a non engineering background understand some of the things they will encounter with audio formats. First up is CD Audio.

First of all, so we have an understanding of how CD Audio differs to other consumer formats, we will look at the specifications for CD Audio, which are as follows:

2 Channel Stereo Audio

Sample Rate : 44.1kHz

Bit Depth : 16 Bit

Length (Recommended by Sony) : 74 minutes

Length (Theoretically possible) : around 85 minutes (most plants will reject anything close to this!)

Maximum Track Count : 99


What is the disc itself actually made up of?

The data on a CD is split into three parts:

1. Lead In – This contains the Table of Contents, which is easiest described as the index of the tracks on the CD

2. Program Area – Where the audio data is contained

3. Lead Out – describes the last area of non audio data stored on the CD

What IS a “Red Book” CD?

Red Book” describes a compact disc which conforms to the original CD Audio standards developed in 1980 by Sony and Phillips. Non Red Book conforming CDs will play on most CD players, although some of the specifications deal with the physical capacity of a disc (length of audio), and non-conforming lengths are not guaranteed to play back on all systems.

The “Red Book” standard is the officially recognised standard by the IEC for consumer and duplication systems.

The name comes from the original manual for CD-DA standards used by engineers and designers which had a red cover, apparently!

The term for this format was originally CD-DA (Compact Disc – Digital Audio), but some times you see Audio CD or simply just CD being used on sales descriptives for this format.

Almost all the CDs you will have ever bought for music will be CD-DA, although they are various additional formats which came after the initial wave of commercial CD.

What non audio data can be added to a standard audio CD?

CD Text is a specific addition to the Red Book standard which allows extra user defined text to be displayed on compatible players.

The correct name for data within a CD Audio master which isn’t audio is its “meta-data”.

CD Text allows these to be displayed on CD Text compatible CD players and computer audio programs.

Areas of the user definable additional meta-data available on a modern CD Audio product are:

Product identifying information –

UPC/EAN (or Bar-code, for entire CD):

ISRC Code (per track on CD):

CD Text information –

Track Title:

Album Title:

Track Artist:

Album Artist:

Track Songwriter:

Album Songwriter:

Track Composer:

Album Composer:

Track Arranger:

Album Arranger:

Track Message:

Album Message:


What is a DDP?

DDP stands for “Disc Description Protocol” and is a file set format used for the delivery of audio CDs. We use these as they are not prone to errors like transferring audio files via the internet and re encoding them without being able to check to CD Audio at the last stage and errors such as can occur in physical CDr masters.

It is a folder (often in a ZIP or RAR when delivered) and must contain the following:

Audio image(s) (.DAT file(s))

DDP Identifier (DDPID)

DDP Stream descriptor (DDPMS)

Subcode descriptor (PQDESCR)

These are all created by the mastering software and are not adjusted by the recipient.

Sometimes an additional text file (often called a PQ read out or Cue) can be founding inside these folders for checking against the resulting manufactured CD.

You cannot play a DDP like an audio file!

Most DDP programs allow us to create digital masters which correspond exactly with the DDP as a reference. This plus a text file allows you to confirm the information inside the DDP without actually playing or accidentally damaging it!

HOFA are an excellent company for mastering software and provide a DDP player, which is also great for reading back DDPs where they are the only surviving master.


Although digital streaming services currently outnumber CD in term of consumer usage they very much still exist and are part of the audio product market. I hope now people who are not audio engineers and technicians have a good idea of the language and technologies applied!

Joe Caithness Mastering’s “Guide to Digital Audio for Musicians” Part 0.5 : Language and Terminology!

Sometimes communication breakdowns around language in music projects can slow down your workflow and generally kill the vibe. And by that, I don’t mean that you’d be working with people who speak different language for which you’d have to rush to Translation Services Singapore and go through that ordeal. I’m talking about the lingo, the argot that people in the music business use.

So let me take a moment to explain in the most practical way possible some of the terms you will come across with digital audio….

(Digital Audio) Sampling : How to turn an analogue signal (continuous voltage) into a digital signal (1s and 0s). The computer reads the input signal a defined amount of times a second and stores these as amplitudes. The stored information played back results in a recreation of the original signal. This is not the same as sampling in production/composition, although in this case they are related terms!

PCM : Pulse Code Modulation. A clever bit of science which allows computers to store audio as digital information. Almost all digital audio playback and storage uses PCM. (see Sample Rate / Bit Depth).

deciBel or dB : The measure of amplitude of sound. There are many types of dB which are calibrated and quantifiable to other measurements i.e. voltage = dBV.

dBfsdeciBel Full Scale. The range of values available in a digital audio system. This is measured from 0dBfs (the highest) backwards in negative values i.e. “the audio peaks at -0.5dBfs”. Anything with a positive value in dBfs is called a clip or over (see below).

Sample Rate : How many times the computer samples an audio signal per second. (example 44.1kHz, 96kHz).

Bit Depth : How many different values the computer can chose from when sampling. (example 16 bit, 24 bit).

DAC : Digital to Analogue converter. A device which takes the digital information and reproduces it as an analogue signal (voltage).

ADC : Analogue to Digital converter. A device which takes the analogue signal (voltage) and stores it as digital information.

Clipping : When an input signal contains values over which can be stored. These are sometimes called “overs” and usually results in a red light flashing somewhere.

Headroom : The distance between your highest amplitude signal (or highest value Bit) and clipping.

Dynamic Range : The difference between the highest amplitude and lowest amplitude usable in any audio system. In a digital audio file Dynamic Range can refer to the distance between loud and quiet, but there are way too many standards of this and none are really universally applied currently!

DAW : Digital Audio Workstation. Any program that you do things with digital audio in, it’s that simple!

File Size : The amount of space required to store any digital file. Measured in bytes, kilobytes, gigabytes, terabytes etc.

WAV : This is the standard full quality (or lossless, more on that later) recognized by all systems but created in a Windows or other non Apple based system.

AIFF : Essentially the same as a WAV in most uses but an Apple standardization developed parallel to WAV.

MP3 : The most common lossy audio file format which is commonly used in digital audio distribution and streaming.

AAC : Similarly to the WAV vs AIFF difference, this is a lossy format developed by Apple and used in their systems.

Lossless : This audio is at the full quality it was exported from the DAW .

Lossy : This audio has been data compressed and has changed from the original audio master.

Data Compression : A technique of removing some data from a file to reduce the file size on the disc it’s stored on and improve upload/download speeds. This is unrelated to Dynamic Compression!

File Archive : A way of storing data in a way as to save space on a hard disc. The most popular being the ZIP and RAR formats.

FLAC : Essentially a hybrid of the developments of Lossless and Lossy audio. The audio file retains its original data but the file size is reduced. This works a bit like a zip archive and therefore needs an encoder/decoder to operated.

File Transfer  : A way of sending files over the internet. This can be by email or using a service such as WeTransfer, Dropbox, Google Drive etc.

Distortion : Any change to a signal which is not applied purposefully. “What comes out which didn’t come in and isn’t part of the process of getting from A to B.” or “Input + Process = Output + Distortion”.

Real life usage example : “I limited the audio, but now I think I hear some distortion?”.

(Although you can add distortion if you like for an artistic effect, but “distortion” is probably a rabbit hole of linguistics we can’t really go down right now! )

Compressor (audio effect) : A device which limits the dynamic range by reducing the signal by a chosen ratio to is original amplitude at a chosen value.

Limiter : A device which limits the dynamic range by limiting any signal from going beyond a chosen value. A limiter which mathematically will not allow values over the chosen value is called a Brickwall. Limiting is different to standard clipping because limiting generally has parameters to adjust. (example “limited to -0.3dBfs” – there is no signal above that value).

Equalizer : A device which changes the tonal characteristic of audio by changing amplitude at different frequencies.

Vintage Digital Series #3 :Junger Audio DO2 Digital Dynamics Processor

I’m back on my vintage digital hype after a long break, mostly due to being deep into work doing masters and trying to fix various bits of obscure transfer gear I’ve picked up recently, maybe we’ll talk about that again soon but for now I’d like to tell you about something I picked up a few weeks back.

I had my eye on these Junger boxes after seeing various mastering houses who had the budget to buy new stuff and the inclination to not keep hold of old, hard to maintain, lower samplerate boxes, keep one of these in their racks alongside all the trendiest of modern analogue processing equipment.

They are ugly little guys, with a pretty dated user interface, that said they are a total breeze to use. 1RU of pure early 90s tech aesthetic, which if that’s your thing, well, fair enouh I guess. Junger is a German broadcast equipment company who at one time branched out into pro level mastering/pro audio gear. The Junger compressor/limiter/expanders appeared on the market soon after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and were the brainchild of Herbet Junger. There are also some broadcast only units on the market second hand as well as various versions of this unique compression design. I am told by mastering engineers I trust that the dynamic EQ is especially worth looking out for, but incredibly rare.

I grabbed this on a pretty weird broadcast wholesale second hand seller in the UK, who almost doubled the price I bidded on it in ridiculous fees which if I hadn’t got this for 100 bucks I would have told em where to stick it… this aside for £200 all in this was a steal. Even at it’s 48kHz max samplerate I can’t imagine this leaving the racks after a few weeks unless they come to some kind of arrangement to make a native plugin (go on!).

As readers of this blog may know I own a TC M5000, the original digital mastering rack unit. In the manual for the D02 (or at least the last revision, mine appears to be an earlier version) it compares their “muti-loop” to TC’s “multi-band” compression and explains where the Junger algo can do something nothing else on the market at the time could do.

As dated as this thing might look you simply cannot fault the sound of the units instant capabilities: perfect digital hard bypass, clean a whistle signal with no processing applied and a learning curve of about 2 minutes. The “multi-loop” I referred to is what we would now call “parallel compression” or “upwards compression” and if I’m honest I’ve never heard one I liked. Every time I tried to set up a parallel compressor I couldn’t get anything like the sort of RMS rise I wanted without hearing an exponential weirdness in the loud signals (now being summed against a heavily compressed version of themselves with some delay I guess…). But the Junger D02 I grabbed for 200 quid the other week changed my mind.

After working out that it’s basically reacting to whatever digital juice you pump into it and you have 1 dB steps at the front of the unit to drive more or less, I got something completely usable within about 20 seconds. 

The Junger compression is so easy you end of second guessing yourself if you’re used to complex push and pull in hefty analogue mastering compressors. You pick a mode (1 to 4 for different time constants), you pick a ratio (which is essentially compression amount here, as each ratio has its own make up gain built in), you match the peak level on the genuinely decent VU meters on the output, and finally you bypass.

Has it added level and perceived loudness, yet kept the loud elements rock solid where they were before? Yep then it’s working. That’s really all it is. But man, when it works it can do something light years more transparent than downward traditional compression. This became really obvious to me on a very sensitive piano/vocal recordings I mixed a few years back which I like to pull up to put new units through their paces. All the haunting and dramatic stabs of the piano and vocals emoting dynamically were kept clean and in the same place, but the droning low end of the piano, the reverbs, all that detail had jumped up, making a kind of thick/wide/exaggerated effect on everything BUT the lead elements. This is the parallel I had always dreamed of, but never achieved! I literally went “aaah! that’s it!”.

I haven’t tried the expander yet, but the limiter and AD/DA is basically for the bin I am afraid, but come on, this unit is as old as some engineers!

I urge any mastering engineer, or any mixing person dealing with acoustic music especially to grab one of these when they inevitably come up cheap again, you’ll be surprised.

Mastering Engineers are not Audiophiles

People often ask me about posh HIFIs out of the blue in the pub or on social media. Presumably this is because I post all about electronic music boxes and talk about frequencies and stuff. It took me years to work out why I was associated with people who spend money endlessly tweaking audio players and talking about new fancy streamers (I didn’t know what one of these was until two months ago when I finally bought myself a new HIFI, mostly because I wanted to listen to BBC 6 Music downstairs and it came with one!). Recently it dawned on me: because I care about good sounding audio professionally I must be on a personal quest for audio perfection at home. I guess it makes sense in a way; I do get paid to care more about audio playback than anyone else essentially, right?

It’s true; my job is to care about audio. But that’s not what being an audiophile is. My aim here isn’t to insult people who are into their HIFIs as a hobby or to cast aspersions on the people who do, but to draw a line between those who seek to make audio work for everyone and those who seek to make audio work for themselves.

When I master a piece of audio I have one aim in mind: To make this audio as enjoyable and accessible to those who chose to listen to it.

I am not interested in the audiophile listening rigs unless my client has briefed me that they are aiming to sell to that market.

I don’t ask why the end user is listening on the format they are, whether this be ear buds, MP3, just in the car etc, I just accept that they do.

Music is so important to a human’s happiness, I wouldn’t for a second prejudge how and why people chose to engage with it. I’m just so happy they do and I’m happy I get to play a role in that. Furthermore I find the idea that people who can’t afford good systems should have their experience de-legitimised so offensive. If all you have is a phone, ear buds and Spotify I want you to feel as much of the emotion the composer intended as possible.

The language sometimes used by audio engineers to patronise listeners who don’t spend their time and money on systems to enjoy music on is not only problematic politically it is also self defeating. This is exemplified by how small incremental changes in audio format standards are sold as monumental revolutions in the audio industry and rely on cynical marketing techniques and “emperors new clothes” story telling.

I want to democratise good audio. I can do this in my daily work by being open minded and listening to my clients (and their consumers) needs, not by lobbying audio companies or paying lip service to corporations redesigning the wheel. Good audio playback is great, but then again so is a weekly deep tissue massage and fine wine, this doesn’t mean everyone has ac
cess to them, and they should not be benchmarks for a “good life”.

If you want to be part of the push for better audio standards be my guest as it will make my job easier and make the music I purchase more enjoyable, but it’s not my role.

Joe Caithness – Owner / Head Mastering Engineer – Subsequent Mastering

Vintage Digital Series #2 : TC Electronic – M5000 / MD2 Mastering

Hey there, it’s been a while since I dropped in on this whole “Vintage Digital” thing. It’s kinda funny, I get some funny jibes and then some people genuinely intrigued when it comes to this stuff, I can’t deny that I do keep looking to pick this stuff up super cheap on eBay, but at the time same let’s be clear that most of my stuff is really going to sound like super low distortion digital cleaning up and super sexy sounding expensive analogue-ness, as that’s my normal rig…

That said, I had a few interesting experiences recently. Firstly I was offered a big beast of a Weiss BW-102 system (see previous more for more info on this old monster) and secondly I had a piece of gear come back from the dead. The BW-102 was a steal, and I wonder who got it, but the shipping from the states would have killed me.

But before we get to that I must be slightly candid and anecdotal. A few years back now I ended up losing my current mastering space (which wasn’t great, to say the least) and having to move into a pretty blank space, which had auxiliary uses. It wasn’t perfect, but I come from a DIY background with that kinda working class mentality that you have to work, you can’t sit around waiting for something else to happen, so I made it work. In some ways it was great, it made me sell stuff I didn’t use and forced to me seriously look at my routing, gain structure and work flow. The space was also occupied by another mastering engineer, Dallas Simpson, and for about a year we lived completely separate mastering lives. It was only crossing over by accident sometimes that we got chatting about the gear we had. I asked him if he knew what “X format” was he could explain in detail some legacy formats I hadn’t had the chance to work on, for example, and he would ask me about some analogue gear I had (he was working all on digital hardware and some plugins) and I could show him sounds he didn’t have in his arsenal. One day I was bemoaning my lack of de-essing capabilities, I had some kind of free plugin but it wasn’t great and was more of a mixing quick fix thing, therefore not so great for serious mastering work. For the year which had passed I had been staring as this odd looking TC Electronic brick-like thing in his rack (which was now combined with both our gear to stop dragging stuff around), I’ll be honest and say I thought it was kinda funny looking and assumed it sounded like crap. He suggested I gave it a go, I was even looking at other stuff from DBX, Drawmer etc, and it wasn’t until another local engineer was like “Joe, check out that TC thing, seriously, that’s pretty much the one everyone uses in an old box”. So Dallas chucked the manual in the room, in all it’s 90s folder glory and I sat down and read it.

I had no idea if this thing even had the MD2 section the forums told me about, and to his credit Dallas didn’t know, and didn’t need to care! There is something I find myself jealous of when an audio engineer doesn’t know what’s inside a box because they’ve been doing busy doing work on it day in day out to go on a forum and wax lyrical! But that’s another topic entirely….

After navigating the somewhat obtuse manual and documents I found online I worked out that the MD2 for the M5000 was an additional bolt on you can upload to the box and provided two bits of software for mastering and it WAS installed, alongside the reverbs and other effects the box is possibly most known for. This is split into two sections:

The Digital Toolkit
Multiband Dynamics

The Digital Toolkit is a kinda nuts and bolts for fixing up digital audio signals, and for it’s time is actually mind blowingly useful. I remember the original DAWs for home PC and they had almost none of this stuff… M/S matrix with degrees, DC offset filtering, Fletcher and Munson based fading, 4 band parametric EQ with assignable filters AND variable filter shapes. OK I don’t use this much, but I’m training my interns to use the EQ on this as I think not having a screen and having to really chose bands is super useful for their ear training.

The Multiband Dynamics is the big daddy, this is THE multiband compressor design for serious audio work. And by that I mean the engineering behind this is the basis of almost all that came after it, and if you hear this thing, you’ll realize TC absolutely nailed it first time. I have spoken about Mutliband Compression and how it’s actually used in mastering in another blog spot, but I will go ahead and say that there are Finalizers/finalisers/automastering units and there are multiband pro mastering units, this falls in to the latter (although yes, the Finalizers are a kinda bastardization of this exactly processing).

This gives you 1, 2 or 3 bands to work with (this is important, the Finalizers don’t do this, they are always in crossovers), and each band has individual discrete control of it’s sections: Compression, Limiting, Expansion.  This is no “set and forget” unit, this is a serious piece of audio manipulation gear. What’s more, the settings are all set to known musical parameter ranges (I’m pretty sure most of these are even in the latest MD5 generation too), they got it right first time.

I can control a low end where the kick is weak and the sub bass is overpowering in a bedroom dance music mix as well as pushing that nasty hi-hat back into the upper mids where the snare and vocal sit before I even hit analogue. Or I can use it’s firm and somewhat glassy 90s sound as an effect. It’s EQ sounds to me almost exactly the same as the System6000 original EQ (I wonder if they null?). When it comes to restoration there are ways in which we can rebuild broken areas of the dynamic range un-obtrusively.  This is a really flipping useful box! And the DA/AD ain’t too shabby either.

OK, it’s got a tiny green screen and it whines and growls when it’s on, but man, it sits on my desk and when I hear some program material that just sounds.. kinda wonky.. within minutes I can set the M5000 MD2 up to just nail it and forget I ever cringed. Then I can think about how I’m gonna add that bass, or get that mid range to the front etc.

If you’re a mastering guy and you like to use your hands over that exact nit picking with those many many dynamic eq/multiband/witchcraft plugins (I find them infuriating) then grab one of these off eBay, they are stupidly cheap generally and if you get one with two DSP cards you can do a LOT of work alone on this thing.

I thought this thing had blown up (turns out it was just one card), and after plugging it in the other day when our Powercore MD3 was bumming me out I am so happy it’s alive again. May the mastering brick ride another day!