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Do vintage musical styles benefit from modern mastering techniques?

Take some music in 1970s style, then apply mastering processes from the 21st century. Will it work? Or will the two eras clash horribly?

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Here's an interesting piece of music...

For me, this music has the flavor of the band 'Yes' from the early 1970s. It's probably the bass guitar that does it. I like the enthusiasm of the playing a lot. I don't want to go back to the early 1970s, but it's an interesting musical period, and the sounds are completely different to what we commonly hear today.

And...

Along with the 1970s music, clearly we have an additional layer of 21st century mastering techniques. In terms of trying to make the track loud enough to compete with anything else that's around today, the mastering is certainly doing its job.

But...

Modern mastering techniques do have a tendency to turn everything into a kind of 'wall of sound', to borrow a phrase from Phil Spektor (and that's going even further back in time).

This is fine if you want your track to have plenty of impact. Indeed, many modern recordings consist of a vocal backed by a wall of sound of indeterminate instrumentation.

It doesn't matter whether I like it or not, or even whether you like it or not. It's what the market likes that determines what we will mostly get to hear in the mass media. And the market does seem to like the heavily mastered sound right now.

However, I don't think it works well in this instance. Clearly there is some excellent musicianship in this track and, from what I can tell, it seems to be reasonably well recorded.

But the mastering has turned everything into a bit of a mush, where I would prefer to be able to hear the individual instruments blending together, and with each instrument clearly audible in itself. In that way, the musicianship would be more to the forefront.

This is a good opportunity for comment, to get a feeling for what the recording community thinks. So have your say below. What do you think about the sound? Good or bad? Whatever your opinion, please tell us why.

By David Mellor Thursday June 7, 2012
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