Modern ITB Mastering

Thank you for taking my question! I’ve been Mastering ITB for almost 10 years now and still enjoy the many facets of the work day in and out. I’ve been thinking lately that as far as ITB workflows compared to hybrid/analog workflows - is there a risk of ITB mastering engineers all sounding too similar in execution of our duties? I sometimes compare my work to others in my peer space and other than a few subtle differences, I don’t think my work sounds much different than theirs.

Where I do hear a difference is between analog mastering vs ITB and it’s not always that a master is “better” but just that it hits different emotionally for better or worse.

I realize all of this is subjective but curious what you and others think about keeping fresh perspective on these things. What are some ways we can set ourselves apart from the pack when everything starts to sound so similar?

Thank you! dB

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Dereck,
You really hit home with this one.
I’m 99% ITB for over 10 years was well. I was more hybrid earlier on during my conversion period and now mostly all in due to my workflow and client time demands.

I definitely feel like i’m chasing Refs with the same plugins used by mixers and producers sometimes and don’t feel creative but that’s the game lately. I really feel this is the main problem. I’m not really happy when i’m pushed in that direction.
With almost everyone having the same plugins it’s very apparent that most masters in a shootout sound the same now. No surprises there.

Is Analog Better?

I recently bought a Terry Audio CEQ to try and change my sound and it definitely works. It has an amazing sound and color that cannot be found in most plugins. That being said it doesn’t work for me all the time.
Many of the projects i work on are so loud and pushed anything run through analog gear loses the “glue” that is in the digital mix.
I also just got a Sontec MES-432D9D from Make Believe Studios.
It actually sounds like the real thing to me. It has a much different vibe when using it. I find myself using different frequencies from other EQs.
Is That Better? I’m not sure yet but getting good results when i use both of these tools.

I think the most important part of my setup is that I’m very familiar with my plugins and know when to use different ones when necessary (its also so easier to try another one if you’re not sure obviously)
I’m constantly trying to stay fresh and not mail it in.

Not sure if there’s an actual answer for this but i hope i answered some of your question or at least validated our situation.

Chris

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Thanks so much for your response. As the caliber of clients I work with increases, so does my capacity to expand my hardware and software arsenal. Of course plugins make it incredibly easy to experiment and I even have a few outboard processors when my workflow gets too static.

I think its definitely time for me to look at a hardware EQ for Mastering. I was a beta tester for the MES-432D9D and really enjoy its use but to keep things fresh, cycling some hardware in and out could break me out of this situation, even temporarily.

Thanks again for your insight!

-dB