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Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science 2nd Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0240808376
ISBN-10: 0240808371
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"If you record, you need this book. Arguably the most clearly written single source of essential audio information available, Katz populates its 335 very readable pages with fascinating insights, expert testimony, myth-debunking facts, practical techniques, and strong opinions. Ostensibly about mastering, this book goes way beyond its primary subject and covers so much critical information that it should be required reading for anyone who presses 'Record.'"--GuitarPlayer.com

About the Author

Bob Katz played the B flat clarinet from the age of 10, and his lifelong love of sound and music led him to become a professional recording, mixing and mastering engineer (since 1971). Three of his recordings have garnered the GrammyT award and many others have been lauded in publications such as Stereo Review, Audio, and Stereophile. He has written over one hundred articles for audio and computer publications, and is an inventor and manufacturer with processors and support gear in use at mastering studios worldwide. His most recent patent-pending inventions, the K-Stereo and K-Surround Processors, fill a missing link in the mastering and post- production pantheon. He has been a workshops, facilities and section chairman of the AES and has given lectures in several countries. Currently, Bob runs Digital Domain Studios just north of Orlando, Florida.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press; 2 edition (October 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0240808371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0240808376
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 9.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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A better title for this book would be "Why You Should Hire A Professional Mastering Engineer." Katz spends 300 pages describing the work and tools of a mastering engineer, but only about 10 making any attempt to teach the reader how to actually use those tools in a mastering context.

It's true that no one can say "here are the adjustments your mix needs" without hearing it first.

However, a great mastering book would help us understand what we should be listening for, and how we might respond. For example, he could give a list of common mastering problems and possible solutions, such as "If your mix is deficient in A, you'll notice quality B when you listen to it. To fix that, try C or D. The reason compressor attack settings for this adjustment generally range between E and F is that around E you may start noticing effect G on slow-tempo material, and around F it can start taking on an undesirable H quality. The goal of this processing is that you'll hear J. If you process too heavily, you'll cause K to happen, meaning you'll hear qualities L and M in your mix."

Katz does this in exactly one section of the book, and it's fantastically helpful: pages 133-135 describe how to use parallel compression as a mastering tool, giving two starting points for compressor settings and describing what effect each is helpful in producing. He's a big proponent of this method (which hadn't occurred to me to use in a mastering context) and even raises the possibility of subtle tone adjustments using a multiband compressor to do parallel compression.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book is mostly useless to people like me with a good deal of recording and mixing experience but no formal training in mastering.
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Format: Paperback
Background: I'm an amateur/enthusiast hobbyist who plays multiple instruments and records in home studio.

I was very excited reading the reviews and immediately got a copy of this book. Now that I have owned it for several years, and finished reading multiple times, I concluded the following:

- The author has absolutely extensive experience.

- However, the book truly feels just like a dump of the author's notes over the years. Just various items, high level, and low level, mixed together. Does not seem to have a good structure that's useful for the reader.

- This is not for beginners, as it is nowhere near systematically explaining how to "master audio". A beginner would finish the book confused, gaining almost no new skill.

- This is not for intermediate engineers, as it sometimes assumes you know nothing, but in other places it talks about details that would only amuse absolute pros with decades of experience.

- This is not for advanced engineers, since I'm guessing they would already know those few techniques mentioned in the book.

How is it useful for people learning to master, to show exotic audio processing devices, describing each in 1-2 sentences? Most readers wouldn't use them anyway.

And... the kicker: The book feels like it doesn't want *me* to master audio, that I should leave the task to a professional mastering engineer, because it thinks I will not do a good job.

One target audience that might benefit from this book is people who already got the required mastering training/school from somewhere else, and want to hear stories from a pro.

Honestly: I got a lot more useful, real, practical mastering knowledge by reading my mastering software user manual than this book.
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I'm a home recording artist/engineer. I bought this book to get some tips on improving my mastering of my home recordings. I did find the chapters on dynamics processing helpful....other than that this book was a bit beyond me. He talks about expensive outboard equipment and plug-ins and very technical audio theory. A lot of his teaching is too expensive or impractical for my needs. This is definitely geared to the professional mastering engineer. I did gain greater appreciation for mastering engineers and their expertise.
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This book is thorough and informative, however I found the practicality of it rather limiting. It seemed overly elitist and almost written on the presumption that you had access to a huge studio and mastering suites.

Some of the information was very helpful, and no doubt has aided me in my pursuit of recording and mastering, but considering the sheer amount of content, my critique is that it's simply not accessible enough. I gave it a good try, but ultimately found Bobby Owsinski's releases MUCH more useful. Bob Katz knows his stuff, but the book oozed purism and snobbery.
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This is a terrific book if you know what you're getting. Want to know what top mastering pros worry about? This book will tell you. Want to know what the mixdown engineer should worry about and what should be done when mastering? That's here. Want to know what jitter is, what signal levels are appropriate for various purposes, this book will tell you why as well as how. Want to know how a professional builds and tunes his or her multi-hundred thousand dollar studio, that's here too. This book will not directly tell you how to build a $1500 studio, how to pick a cheap microphone like an SM58, or how to do a quick and dirty job of mastering your home recordings.

So why would anyone other than a pro read this book? Even if you're an advanced amateur, you might want to know things like: why you shouldn't use too much compression in your recordings, why your MP3s shouldn't max out on peak level, what jitter is and how you'd know the difference between a good and a mediocre A/D converter.

This book is very readable, but it does go into some fairly serious technical analysis of signal processing. If math scares you, then there are some sections you'll want to skim.

Overall, one of the best books on audio I've read (and I am very much an amateur, albeit with a background in physics and in software). I read it from cover to cover, thoroughly enjoyed it, and learned a ton. No, I won't be able to afford most of the equipment that he discusses, but I've learned a lot about the capabilities and limitations of the cheaper signal chains that I do get to use.
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