Hello everyone! a.nihilist here with a little something I thought would be cool to have on the blog, since we have a segment reviewing doujin music.
As those who’ve read my self-intro would know, I come from a background of many audio-related stuff, and am going towards an audio-visual career.
While I won’t claim to be most knowledgeable in *everything* audio, from the recording to mastering to consuming at the end of the production chain, I would like to think I’ve some bit of knowledge in most general audio-related stuff.
But anyway, this post here exists to talk about something that us Cosmic Potato Librarians felt had some importance in our quest to review stuff, but yet wasn’t the main focus of the blog’s postings.
It’s gonna be a little technical, but this post is designed to be as informative on our personal concerns over the process of reviewing our music.
This post may expand over time as we address concerns people have over how we review our stuff, and why we say some of the stuff we say.
Let’s first talk about something in the audio production industry called “Mastering”
Mastering is the process of taking an original, raw recorded track and processing it so that the end result sounds better, or as I see it, making music more palatable to the ears.
In my personal opinion, this probably is the most important factor when it comes to producing good music in its technical sense (clear-sounding, without artifacts that distort the sound and make your listening experience terrible).
Audiophiles and recording engineers will argue that the recording equipment matters a significant bit when it comes to getting that raw recording to begin with (which I agree to as well), but mastering a track is a skill that one has to cultivate when producing music, because every recording is different, and different instruments recorded have to be processed differently so that they shine when you hear them out of your personal gear, be it earphones, headphones or speakers.
While there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way of mastering something, it is rather important that the listener enjoys the music, both in its tune, as well as its technical performance. You can’t possibly enjoy music when you can barely hear the lyrics over the instruments being played right? (This is an exaggerated example, by the way…)
Picking out flaws in a track…
Not every track is mastered perfectly, and there definitely will be differences between a track produced by a veteran mastering engineer versus someone who just entered the industry.
While it is true that you can “learn” how to master audio tracks in school (I am going through that to a certain degree), it’s also very important to input personal judgement and be flexible when it comes to mastering music. There isn’t a blanket formula that fits any and all situations, or recordings.
Hence, it’s actually rather important to judge a track by how well it’s mastered, beyond the origin of its concept of the album, and the skill with which the instrumentalist plays his instrument.
This is particularly important when it comes to a doujin circle, because it reflects strongly on the dynamic between the artist playing his instrument, and the recording/mastering engineer. They both have to work closely together to convey what the artist wishes the listener to hear. If the artist *is* the mastering engineer, it further reflects on his ability in tackling multiple issues at one go.
Of course, as with all reviews, especially on such a technical subject that has neither right nor wrong, giving such a statement as to whether a certain track/album/circle’s mastering is good or bad isn’t something that is easily made. One has to give good reasons as to why something is to be considered badly-mastered, or why its outstandingly done compared to the rest of the stuff already available.
This leads me to my final point…
The importance of listening equipment…
As an audiophile myself, having dabbled in the portable audio game for quite a number of years, even testing the waters on home and HiFi setups (during audio events), I can confidently say that the equipment you use to listen to your music truly makes a significant difference even if your track were the same between them.
Of course, being a sensible engineer besides that, I cannot condone the more-ludicrous side of things (that ruins the image of this otherwise honorable quest for perfect sonic reproduction), so I most definitely won’t be asking people to fork out $10,000 for a listening setup. Honestly, S$150 is more than sufficient for a music player, earphones/headphones and whatever amplifier you may need.
But I digress. The primary point I’m trying to make is that good equipment naturally come with better capabilities at either picking out fine detail, or retrieving flaws resultant from poor recording/mastering during the production process.
It isn’t entirely necessary for one to go beyond their handphones and earphones when it comes to listening to music one enjoys, but for the sake of being thorough, we also have the ability to cater to the more-hardcore listeners of music, if they’re into doujin stuff.
Don’t get too worried if we start talking about nonsense you don’t seem to hear, because all is good if you enjoy what you’re listening to. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing if your earphones/source are incapable of resolving the flaws. If anything, it only means that your listening experience is streamlined such that you can purely enjoy the music, and not experience any potential problems that may exist in the track.
The bottom line is…
As most of us here in the Cosmic Potato Library are audiophiles to begin with (not necessarily the ridiculously hardcore ones), we place quite a bit of emphasis on what we use to review what we love, which is doujin music.
Because we wish for the best possible review we can output, we use gear capable of pulling out any and all forms of detail, giving us the ability to comment deeper into the technical realm of doujin, going beyond the surface of just the music alone and into the capabilities of the artist and his circle.
This, we believe, will give our readers the most comprehensive coverage of the entire album produced by a given circle so that you have a better ability to judge what you want to get before you buy it.