Remapping Mastering: What the Masterdisk Relocation Means to Music Production

July 22, 2014 by  

In approximately 4,000,000,000 years, the Milky Way galaxy we call home will collide with the Andromeda galaxy. No one will be injured in this slow-motion crash, but the interaction of all the spiral arms will fling every visible star hither and yon, transforming our night sky forever.

Masterdisk has moved to a new Manhattan home -- and the implications loom large.

Masterdisk has moved to a new Manhattan home — and the implications loom large.

Too impatient to wait for this exciting phenomenon? Well, a parallel remapping has occurred recently in the mastering realm. It all began when the forces of New York real estate and music industry economics set a collision course with Manhattan’s globally respected Masterdisk.

Everything smashed together, scattering elite mastering engineers and their assistants across the country, with new rooms to call home.

Setting Things in Motion

It all began in January of 2014, when Scott Hull, the owner of Masterdisk, received some unwelcome news: Masterdisk’s lease would not be renewed, and the occupants of one of New York City’s most respected mastering facilities, located at 545 W. 45th Street for over two decades, would have 60 days to vacate.

Hull had already been seriously considering a move from the classic rooms of 545 for a while. Mastering has not been immune to the ongoing financial pressures facing the recording industry, and perhaps no link in the chain was more susceptible to a shakeout then a Manhattan multi-room mastering facility.

Now Masterdisk resides at 260 West 36th Street, Suite 801. It’s the latest of a few addresses in the company’s history, which dates back to 1973 when it launched as a spinoff of the recording, editing and mastering arm of Mercury Records.

The Latest Evolution

Hull had to move Masterdisk under a deadline, but according to the veteran mastering engineer – whose lengthy credits include Uncle Tupelo, Herbie Hancock, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Panic! At the Disco, John Zorn, Laurie Anderson, and The Book of Mormon: Original Broadway Cast Recording – the idea to relocate had already been brewing for months in his mind.

Scott Hull, Owner of Masterdisk

Scott Hull, Owner of Masterdisk

“It was in the middle of last year that I finally saw a new vision for Masterdisk that didn’t include a large group of engineers,” Hull says. “The business has changed and musicians are looking for a singular voice that aligns with their perspective. I came to believe I could serve them better on my own. Once I made that decision, the move was an obvious next step.”

Anyone who visited Masterdisk at the 545 W. 45th Street location, which featured multiple rooms designed by Fran Manzella, likely recalls a buzzing atmosphere where senior engineers, their assistants, and no shortage of major label and indie artists circulated constantly. Over the years, countless thousands of albums – including hundreds of GRAMMY award-winning gold and platinum records — issued from the suites of star engineers that worked at the location including Greg Calbi, Bob Ludwig, Howie Weinberg and Leon Zervos.

Hull, who himself served as Ludwig’s assistant from 1984-1993, doubtless enjoyed the collegial atmosphere as much as anyone. But for the moment, Hull is choosing to work with a streamlined team at 260 W 36th Street, where he’s been in operation since mid-March.

There, he’s recently mastered projects for Tom Scholz (Boston), William Onyeabor, Anna Gastier (SNL), Joshua Redman and James Farm, Eric Harland  Voyager – Vipassana, Bobby Previte’s SO PERCUSSION, and Dave Matthews – the latter two for vinyl and using his prized Neumann VMS-82 lathe.

“Right now it’s a single studio operation with a wonderful support staff,” Hull says. “I’m also constructing the perfect space for our lathe, a hugely important aspect of Masterdisk. Vinyl is part of the new frontier of mastering and we’re highly focused on cutting the best records in the world.

“My plan is for a three-room mastering studio, and I’m still ‎looking for the right individuals to fill out the Masterdisk team,” Hull continues. “‎I’ve been in discussions with several high-quality mastering engineers. We are trying to work out the details.

“So – in the meantime – I am mastering some of my best work ever. Listen and see for yourself: Organic, live in the studio, direct-to-analog, and vinyl projects are what I’m finding the most satisfying.”

The Latest Locations of Masterdisk Engineers

This is certainly not the first time that a shakeup has redrawn the mastering lines in and around Manhattan. Mix magazine in 2008 called that year a “maelstrom of rearranging”, as multiple facilities shut down, were sold, and opened.

So it’s a little bit of history repeating itself now, as the constellation of elite mastering engineers that occupied 545 W. 45th Street at the time of, or within several months of, the move has scattered into a freshly distributed set of pros. As many as could be tracked down at the time of publication are listed below.

Tony Dawsey now operates Phantom Mastering in the hamlet of Mahopac, NY. The former Masterdisk Senior Mastering Engineer started there on Oct. 15th 1980, a journey launched in the mail room.

Tony Dawsey has launched Phantom Mastering in upstate NY.

Tony Dawsey has launched Phantom Mastering in upstate NY.

In the decades that ensued, Dawsey built up a massive discography that includes Jay-Z, French Montana, Diddy, RZA, DMX, Moby, Prefuse 73, Nine Inch Nails, Guru, Al Green, and King’s X, to name just a very few. “I have been very busy lately,” reports Dawsey, who is booked by Peter Cho “I’ve completed work on The D.I.T.C. Remix Project for Slice of Spice, along with the SP1200 Project: A Re-AWakening for Lord Finesse also for Slice of Spice. I’m very excited about the project for Sean C & LV called Loud Dreams a compilation of many top Hip Hop artist.

“Wakeem Dean, founder of Ruff Ryders Records is putting out a mixtape on his son LiL Waah called Playtime Is Over hosted by Swizz Beats,” Dawsey continues. “I’m even more excited about Pilz4Jazz a very refreshing Jazz project for Al Mack.” Other notable recent credits for Dawsey include The Notorious B.I.G. Life After Death, Puff Daddy & Family No Way Out, Ratking’s “So It Goes” (mixed by Young Guru), and the debut album for Crown mixed by Dana Nielsen.

Roger Lian, a Senior Mastering Engineer at 545 W. 45th, is based out of the new Masterdisk. A veteran of the company since 1989, he was Bob Ludwig’s last digital editor before the latter headed north to Maine to launch Gateway Mastering. His lengthy credit list includes the likes of Rush, Paul Oakenfold, Violent Femmes, The Smashing Pumpkins, and New York Dolls.

New additions to Lian’s discography include Mushroomhead’s The Righteous & the Butterfly, Sleep from A Bad Think (which is former A Flock of Seagulls drummer/GRAMMY winner Michael Marquart), and the actor Leslie Odom Jr., set to release his first jazz solo album on Borderlight Entertainment in August.

Former Masterdisk Senior Mastering Engineer Vlado Meller went much further afield, relocating his practice to Truphonic studio in Charleston, South Carolina. Meller’s platinum-plated, 43-year career includes credits with the Beastie Boys, Andrea Bocelli, Johnny Cash, Celine Dion, Duran Duran, Julio Iglesias, Michael Jackson, Lil Wayne, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Metallica, George Michael, Oasis, Pink Floyd, Public Enemy, Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shakira, Barbra Streisand, System Of A Down, Weezer, and Jack White. His two-time GRAMMY-winning journey also included stays at Sony Music Studios and Universal Mastering Studios.

Vlado Meller is officially a Southerner, in South Carolina.

Vlado Meller is officially a Southerner, in South Carolina.

Most recently VLM has continued its run of high-level projects, including work for Universal recording artists Broods, Smokey Robinson, SBTRKT, and Rebirth Brass Band. Emerging Charleston artists he’s worked with include Dangermuffin and The Royal Tin Foil.

“Since I own my complete mastering studio, it was just a matter of physically relocating and reinstalling my gear in the new location,” explains Meller. “With the help of my former Sony friends, it became reality as of March 1st. I have a new assistant Jeremy Lubsey, formerly of Masterdisk, and Peter Cho continues to be my booking manager. It was a smooth transition with minimal interruption for my clients. 40 plus years in this business made my transition easy and seamless.

“I had a great two years at Masterdisk, filled with many great memories and really great people,” he continues. “I hope to build, and have many more memories in the future here in Charleston, SC.”

Lubsey was with Masterdisk for two years as a vinyl lacquer cutting assistant and engineer, and in addition to assisting Meller he is also a mastering engineer in his own right at Meller’s facility. He is booked by Peter Cho.

Meanwhile, Andy VanDette, former Chief Engineer at Masterdisk, has remained in Manhattan. The always upbeat VanDette can now be found at Engine Room Audio, bringing his 30+ years of mastering experience for CD, Vinyl, 5.1 Surround Mastering, and Mastered for iTunes to the Financial District facility.

Andy VanDette has stayed true to Manhattan in Engine Room.

Andy VanDette has stayed true to Manhattan in Engine Room.

VanDette’s discography runs deep, including Rush, Beastie Boys, David Bowie, Whitney Houston, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Deep Purple, Uncle Kracker and Metric, among many others. Most recently, VanDette has mastered high-charting records that include Sevendust’s Time Travelers & Bonfires, and Framing Hanley The Sum of Who We Are.

For VanDette, who cut his teeth as a Masterdisk intern in 1984 before rising up the ladder to his Chief Engineer position in 2000, an ongoing NYC presence after his time at Masterdisk was a must.

“When looking for new options, I asked my clientele if I still needed a Manhattan studio,” he explains.“Overwhelmingly, they responded, YES. Howie Weinberg, Dan Millice, and Mike Tucci had so many good things to say about Engine Room’s owner Mark Christensen, and Studio Manager Scott Lee, that I had to check it out. I found a well-designed, acoustically treated space, with great gear and killer monitors.

“And more, I fell in love with the comfortable, laid-back vibe here,” adds VanDette.“It’s great to be part of a facility that creates, records, and masters music — all within walking distance to three major subway lines.”

Mastering Engineer Tim Boyce is now on point in Greenpoint, having opened up The Sound Design Mastering — ensconced in the space operated by Julian Silva’s On Air Mastering. As his business name implies, the multitalented Boyce is offering both sound design and mastering from his studio, the latter bolstered by a credit list including Jay-Z, The Great Gatsby Soundtrack, Kid Rock, Nico Jarr, and French Montana.

Of course, Boyce couldn’t resist talking tech in connection to his move. “I’m bringing lots of upgrades,” he comments. “These include new ULN8 and Sonic converters, Cedar hardware, Weiss EQ, and the Bettermaker EQ to match up with the Masterpiece there (at On Air). I’m also bringing upgrades to the infrastructure — computers, trapping — along with monitor upgrades via a Velodyne sub and multi-channel Bryston.”

Alex DeTurk has found a most intriguing landing spot. To transition away from the lathe work where he’s long excelled, he’s now doing digital mastering at the well-regarded Strangeweather in Brooklyn. “I’ve known Marc (Alan Goodman) and Daniel (Schlett) for a while, great people. These are completely new tools for me, which is a great deal of fun and inspiration right now.”

His impressive credits over the years include David Bowie, Townes Van Zandt, NAAM, Brendan Benson, Javelin, John McLaughlin, The Walkmen, and Teen Girl Scientist Monthly. Still, it proved a hectic pace to keep up.

“I needed a lifestyle change — I was getting pretty burned out,” he admits of his own wish for transition. “I want to re-focus my energies to provide the best service I can – to a small core group of people.  And an effort to be more selective with the work I do take on — hopefully I’ll gain some time to explore other avenues of work, music or other.”

The mastering engineer Graham Goldman is continuing a five-year stint at Masterdisk, working on Hull’s rig at the 36th Street location. With CD, vinyl, and Mastering for iTunes all under his belt, his credits include Rabbits, The Go Set, Swarm of Arrows, and 16. Most recently he’s mastered for Idiots, Protection Patrol Pinkerton, Are We Serious, and Truest.

Randy Merrill is at Sterling Sound.

Randy Merrill is at Sterling Sound.

Randy Merrill was involved with Masterdisk for a little over 5 years, from July 2008 through October 2013. Today he’s at Sterling Sound, assisting Tom Coyne in their picturesque Chelsea Market studios.  “I am doing my own sessions at night in his room,” says Merrill, whose credits include Bruce Hornsby, Franz Nicolay, Demander, Nectar, Alex Wong, and Kassini, “with many pieces custom designed and built in-house by the Sterling technical staff.”

Uptown, the stronghold known as the Mastering Palace just got extra strength from Mark Santangelo. An understudy of Meller’s when the pair were together at Sony Music Studios, his credit list includes Neon Trees, The Weeknd, and Neil Diamond. Most recent projects include Illangelo, The Maria Ahn EP- (mixed by Sean Yoo/Ryan Fagman), and Viking (Mixed by Jon Hildenstein).

“I’ve since joined Dave Kutch at The Mastering Palace,” he confirms. “My transition from Masterdisk to The Mastering Palace in the beginning of March was seamless. The room I’m working out of at The Mastering Palace has most of the software/hardware I was accustomed to at Masterdisk. They made some additions for me, including The Weiss DS1-MK 3, as well as the Mutec Work Clock — both sound incredible and I couldn’t be happier. I also got accustomed to the Focal SM9 and Electra Be speakers quite easily.”

Mark Santangelo has reconnected with Dave Kutch at the Mastering Palace.

Mark Santangelo has reconnected with Dave Kutch at the Mastering Palace.

Santangelo’s way-back relationship sealed the deal with Mastering Palace owner Kutch, whose own all-Solar System client list includes Alicia Keys, Lupe Fiasco, Bruno Mars, Jim Jones, John Legend, Natasha Bedingfield, and Marc Anthony. “Dave Kutch (owner) and I have had a great and longstanding relationship since we worked together at Sony Studios,” says Santangelo. “It was simply the right time in my career to make the transition over to his studio.

“The Mastering Palace staff already has an excellent reputation with all of my major label clients so the decision was easy. They’re also in the process of expanding and building new rooms, so it’s an exciting time.”

Also listed as an engineer on Masterdisk’s page is Jeff Reeves.

A Different Scale

No aspect of the music industry has been particularly predictable the last few years. It’s an atmosphere ripe for thrilling discoveries to some — necessitating swift reinvention for others.

Hull is upfront about the challenges that a dedicated mastering practice has in such an environment. “Like the music business as a whole, modern mastering facilities are being constantly challenged to redefine what it means to make great music,” observes Hull. “And, though DIY mastering is easier to come by than ever before, it’s consistently missing some important elements: years of experience, concierge service, and exposure to a musical community on whose shoulders we built some of history’s most influential artistic statements.”

Those changes explain the different architectural scale by which the new Masterdisk is constructed. “I don’t consider our space to be a ‘large’ facility,” he says. “On the contrary, it’s the perfect size for the personal feel I believe will be the hallmark of the new Masterdisk: Not too big, not too small.

“What I did want to ensure, however, was adequate space—and vibe—for a world-class vinyl production setup. Masterdisk has been very lucky to be such a big part of vinyl’s resurgence. Our lathe is a rare specimen, perfectly suited to high quality cutting, the kind you’d expect for projects coming from today’s music icons.”

Masterful Musings

Might new stellar nurseries of sound radiate from this updated scene? Maybe it will be like when we converge with our galactic neighbor a few billion years hence – an upheaval that creates something beautifully new in the process.

Mastering is a deeply personal business. Artists and labels have shown consistently that they’re most loyal to the mastering engineer, more so than the facility they work in. The magic of FTP means we can master on Mars, so it becomes the trust of an engineer’s following that counts – not the location, size or signal path of their facility.

“I’ll often Skype with a client, send and receive files electronically and master—either in digital or analog—without even seeing him or her in person,” says Scott Hull. “I find that most new artists prefer to avail themselves of the modern technology that can save us all so much time.”

– David Weiss


Session Buzz – New Records In The Works Around NYC

July 25, 2013 by  

Summertime is not the super busiest time for recording studios; bands are out touring and playing festivals, and business overall slows a bit. But still, if you ask around (and we did), plenty of projects were just getting started if not just wrapping up over these longest days of the year.

Producer/engineer Chris Shaw mixed some vintage Bob Dylan over at Strange Weather Recording in Williamsburg – that is, he mixed “Bob Dylan, Live at the Isle of Wight 1969”, as part of a Bootleg Series. Also at Strange Weather, Daniel James Schlett finished mixing the new Amen Dunes record for Sacred Bones, as Marc Alan Goodman started work on the new Analog Rebellion record.

Joan Osborne and Bill Evans at Grand Street Recording

Joan Osborne and Bill Sims at Grand Street Recording

Speaking of Dylan, NYC blues legend Bill Sims has been putting some of the finishing touches on his album of Bob Dylan tunes, with Joan Osborne laying down some soulful vocals on “I Shall Be Released”, over at Grand Street Recording in Williamsburg. Ken Rich engineered the session and is co-producing the album with Ethan Eubanks.

Also at Grand Street… singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson tracked drums for a few of her upcoming songs with drummer Elliot Jacobson, producer Chris Kuffner, engineer Ken Rich and Jake Lummus assisting. The team made use of the studio’s 60′s Ludwig 24×14 kick and matching toms, along with a vintage Black Beauty snare and an oddball 1920s era 15″ brass snare….Diane Birch recorded and mixed a couple songs for her upcoming album with Tomek Miernowski… and composer DB Shapiro recorded and mixed his newest album with Ken Rich engineering and producing. Rich mixed down to ½” tape at 30ips on Grand Street’s new Studer A80RC MKII tape machine, monitoring on the new ATC SCM25a monitors recently purchased from Audio Power Tools.

Prior to Fun.’s summer tour, guitarist Jack Antonoff was recording over at Mission Sound (also in Williamsburg) recording for his new project for RCA, with John Hill producing. And this month, producer Chris Goss is at Mission, cutting tracks for Pure Love. Mission’s own Oliver Straus will be engineering.

Kanye West locked out Studios 1 and 2 at Germano Studios in NoHo to record/mix tracks for Yeezus, with engineers Noah Goldstein and Anthony Kilhoffer, and producers Mike Dean and Hudson Mohawke. Following Kanye, Lauryn Hill moved into Germano for several weeks, working on new material with engineer Graham Marsh for Sony Music. Meanwhile, Dream Theater was in to mix their new eponymous full-length album, with Richard Chycki engineering; Yoko Ono worked on her new album with Sean Lennon producing; Universal France artist Emilie Simon mixed new material with producer/engineer Chris Coady; Tiësto was recording in Studio 2 and pop artist Moxie was in Studio 1 recording with Dan Glashausser for Capitol Records.

Wilco guitarist Nels Cline and renowned jazz guitarist Julian Lage are working on an album together, and recorded at Sear Sound in Midtown – tracking with Chris Allen at the Neve 8038. British soul singer/songwriter Liam Bailey tracked a new album through that Neve as well, with Jimmy Douglass at the controls, and Salaam Remi producing for Sony Masterworks.

In other Sear sessions…Ian Axel’s new project “A Great Big World” recorded some new tracks for their Epic Records debut, with Dan Romer producing and Ted Tuthill engineering; The Public Theater tracked and mixed the music for Shakespeare In The Park‘s production of “Comedy Of Errors”, with Gary Maurer engineering and Greg Pliska producing; James Farber mixed some new music by The Gypsy Kings; and work for the “50 Shades!” musical began, with Matt Pierson producing and Chris Allen engineering.

Brooklyn dream pop band Elysian Fields mixed their upcoming album with producer/mixer Mark Plati at his East Village studio, Alice’s Restaurant. Plati also recently mixed projects for Swiss singer/songwriter Bastian Baker and Benji Hughes. All three records were mixed on Alice’s Restaurant’s Rupert Neve Designs 5088 console with Shadowmix faders, and mastered by Tom Durack. Notable outboard used on these projects includes the Burl B2 Bomber ADC and DAC; Thermionic Culture Phoenix, Retro 176 and LA-2A Tube compression/limiting; various API 500 series EQs; and plug-ins by UAD and SoundToys

Cerebral Ballzy

Cerebral Ballzy

Brooklyn punk band Cerebral Ballzy tracked a new song at Saltlands in DUMBO, with James Iha producing, and Arjun Agerwala engineering (assisted by Pete Wells).

Also at Saltlands… J Matthew Smith mixed sessions from tape for the 30th Anniversary re-release of veteran funk artist Steve Arrington’s Hall of Fame for Tummy Touch Records; the band Noble Hunter recorded a live set for Lambkini’s “Behind The Glass” video series; and Jon Patrick Walker & the Guilty Party tracked and mixed new material with Josh Kaufman producing, and J Matthew Smith engineering.

Trey Songz released his new single “Sensational” earlier this month – the track was recorded, mixed and mastered at Engine Room Audio in lower Manhattan. The single was produced by Troy Taylor, recorded and mixed by Anthony Daniel and mastered by Mark B. Christensen.

Christensen also recently mastered: Albert Einstein, the second studio album by rapper Prodigy (of Mobb Deep) and producer, The Alchemist, featuring appearances by Roc Marciano, Raekwon, Action Bronson and more; and Ron Isley’s new album, This Song is for You, which came out last week on eOne Music. And Boston band Gentlemen Hall mastered their new track “Sail Into The Sun” at Engine Room with mastering engineer Dan Millice.

The guys behind French Horn Rebellion have a new studio in Brooklyn named for their production company, You Too Can Woo, where they’ve been busy working on the new album by The Knocks (David Perlick Molinari mixing), new tracks by French Horn Rebellion, Ghost Beach’s live set, and designing new sounds for MTV. (See photos of the studio in this Cool Hunting feature.) Other recent projects include work with St. Lucia and Haerts. And the studio’s been hosting regular sessions for Savoir Adore, and Deidre and the Dark.

Band of sisters, HAIM.

Band of sisters, HAIM.

LA band HAIM mastered their new album – produced by Ariel Reichstaid for Polydor Records – with Emily Lazar at The Lodge, assisted by Rich Morales. Lazar also recently mastered a Damian Taylor remix of Gotye’s “Easy Way Out” (produced by Wally De Backer aka Gotye) – look for it on Gotye’s upcoming “Video Mirrors” release – the new BT album, A Song Across Wires, and the new Party Supplies album for Fool’s Gold Records. Rich Morales assisted on the BT and Party Supplies albums.

At Masterdisk, Scott Hull has just finished mastering Sting’s new album, The Last Ship, produced by Rob Mathes for Interscope / A&M; Ben Allison mastered his new album, The Stars Look Very Different Today, with Randy Merrill. The album was recorded by Aaron Nevezie at The Bunker, and mixed by Allison for Sonic Camera Records. Vlado Meller mastered the new album by Phantogram, produced by John Hill and mixed by Rich Costey at Eldorado in Burbank for Universal Republic. And Mark Santangelo mastered the new album by The Weeknd producer Illangelo, called History of Man. Hear a track off the album, due out on Bromance Records August 20, here.

Beach Boys guitarist Al Jardine was in Brooklyn at Excello Recording, mixing a new single “Waves of Love” with producer Larry Dvoskin and engineer Hugh Pool. Dvoskin also tapped Pool to mix a collaboration with Sean Lennon for Bono’s “One” charity project.

Also at Excello, Bluegrass legend Tony Trischka was in with The Punch Brothers producing vocals for his upcoming release with engineer Charles Dechants; alt rock duo “Ken Rock South” was in tracking and mixing an EP with Pool, assisted by Dechants; and Chilean production duo Koko Stambuck and Christopher Manhey were in tracking with Mexican Warner Brothers artist Paulino.

And we know there’s so much more going on out there! If you’d like to be featured in “Session Buzz,” please submit your studio news to

Vlado Meller Mastering Workshop to Debut in NYC, August 1-3 and September 19-21

June 20, 2012 by  

The need for high-level education in the mastering sector is being addressed via a new workshop from one of the world’s most accomplished mastering engineers, two-time GRAMMY-winner Vlado Meller.

Vlado Meller is sharing 40+ years of best practices in his new mastering workshop.

Meller has announced the Vlado Meller Mastering Workshop (VMMW,) a three-day intensive hands-on course which will launch in New York City from August 1-3. The course will also be available from September 19-21.

In the VMMW, qualified students will have the opportunity to learn personally from Meller. His 43-year career includes albums for Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Public Enemy, Jack White, Metallica, Andrea Bocelli, Oasis, Johnny Cash, and Shakira.

The workshop’s intensive curriculum is designed for professional mastering engineers, as well as working mixers, engineers, and producers looking to broaden their understanding of the mastering process.

Over the course of the three-day workshop, Meller will:

– illustrate his personal techniques through before and after examples of past releases
– detail the steps taken to arrive at finished results
– and guide students as they work hands-on at the mastering console on their own program material.

Class size will be limited to only a few students to allow for individualized attention.

VMMW will take place at Arf! Mastering in midtown Manhattan. Owned and operated by GRAMMY-nominated mastering engineer Alan Silverman, Arf! was selected by Meller for its world-class signal path, accurate monitoring, and spacious, day-lit room.

For more information on the course and Vlado Meller, as well as registration, visit

Ace Engineers Share Tips on Mastering for iTunes

April 6, 2012 by  

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.

Masterdisk Hosts Sessions for Metallica, John Zorn, “Smash,” “Godspell”

March 2, 2012 by  

Scott Hull’s Masterdisk saw its West Side suites buzzing with a plethora of recent projects.

Mark Santangelo (l) hosted The BB Bats live and in person at Masterdisk.

The man in command, Scott Hull, mastered three new Tzadik album releases: John Zorn’s Mount Analogue, Terry Riley’s Aleph and Zeena Parkins’ Double Dupe Down. Hull also mastered the new Broadway Cast Recording of Godspell on Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records, and Madi Diaz’s Plastic Moon, produced by John Alagia and released on Small Horse Records.

Vlado Meller was back with the masters of metal, Metallica, finishing Beyond Magnetic for release on CD, as well as mastering for iTunes by Vlado Meller. Meller has also been mastering songs for the NBC series “Smash” (Sony/Columbia), which are released on iTunes. Also in Meller’s suite was Labrinth’s upcoming album Electronic Earth on Syco/Sony; U.S. artist Mona’s debut album on Zion Noiz/Mercury; and artist Kristina Maria plus producer Vito Luprano attended their mastering session at Meller’s suite.

Alex DeTurk cut two LPs for releases off the Readymate label, founded by Brendan Benson of the Raconteurs, plus the upcoming album for Savoir Adore.

Randy Merrill hosted Greg Naughton from The Sweet Remains, along with mix engineer Carl Barc. Barc was also in the suite with Merrill for a new Boots Factor release.

In Matt Agoglia’s room, Matt mastered an EP for the Rochester artist Joywave, plus the Joey Ramone track “Rock and Roll is the Answer” slated for release on the album “Ya Know?”

Mark Santangelo complemented his work assisting Vlado Meller by mastering the new BB Batts album this month.

The monitors in Tony Dawsey’s suite were filled with the sounds of Machine Gun Kelly’s “Wild Boys” and Red Cafe “Let It Go (Dope Boy),” plus “Untouchable” by DJ Absolut.

Jeff Reeves was the mastering engineer for Carla Prather’s latest release “Chronicles of a Soul Sistah,” and Sharrie Williams “Out of the Dark” (winner of the Blues Album of the Year award from Paris’ L’Academie du Jazz).

And lastly (but not leastly!) Tim Boyce took a turn from assisting Tony Dawsey to master the French Montana track “Shot Caller.”

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