Thursday, February 23, 2012
Masterdisk chief engineer Andy VanDette on mastering the Rush catalog for iTunes
Back in November Rush released remastered versions of their first 15 albums in three Sector box sets. The mastering duties were handled by Masterdisk chief engineer Andy VanDette, who has been working with Rush sound engineer Rich Chycki on handling most of the mastering duties for Rush since Snakes & Arrows Live, having worked on that album along with Retrospective 3, the R30 Blu-ray and the Moving Pictures deluxe edition last year. VanDette spoke about his approach to remastering Rush's catalog in this article/interview for the Masterdisk website back in November. He was also recently interviewed for Ars Technica (thanks Kevin) about the challenges of mastering music for iTunes in the digital age and repeatedly cited Rush's back catalog as an example.
... [VanDette] recently completed a project remastering the bulk of Rush's back catalogue. As part of the process, VanDette created special versions of each song specifically for uploading to the iTunes Store. He described the often lengthy, trial-and-error process of trying to make iTunes tracks sound as close as possible to polished CD remasters. ...
... The constraints of vinyl aren't a concern when mastering for a CD, so it's possible to boost overall levels as well as low frequencies without ruining the rest of the mix. "While remastering the classic Rush albums, I added as much LF as I could, always aware not to cloud the classic 'ping' on Neil's snare, muddle Geddy's voice, or bury Alex's guitar," he said.
"These are some finely balanced mixes, even 35 years later," VanDette said. "I wanted to make sure the listener still heard the classic album come through, without it being too loud, boomy, or modern sounding." ...
... Creating iTunes-specific masters for Rush's albums required a more nuanced approach than just boosting the bass. "The delicate mix balances of a Rush album dictated that I could only 'nudge' the bottom, not really boost it," VanDette explained. "For iTunes mastering I focused on making up for the losses created by the iTunes AAC algorithm. Generally, I heard changes in level, bottom, top, punch, and imaging."
But not every album, or even every song, could be treated the same way. "On a live album I found the center image was lower, making Geddy's vocal too low in the mix," VanDette said. "It was rare to be able to use one static setting for an entire album." ...
... The mastering work for Rush's catalogue is finished, and VanDette is waiting on final record label approval before the new remasters will be available on iTunes. (The versions currently available are converted from remasters done in 1997.) ...
So it looks like we can expect some re-remastered versions of Rush's back catalog on iTunes in the near future. You can read the entire article at this link. While on the subject of Sectors, information on obtaining replacements for the faulty Fly By Night and A Farewell to Kings discs was posted to Rush's Facebook page a couple of weeks back. I've already received the replacement disks myself as have several other fans and all the issues have been resolved.
[Rush Sector box sets replacement disks update]
[Rush acknowledges flaws in Sector box sets]
[In the Studio with Redbeard special on Rush Sector box sets]
[Masterdisk chief engineer Andy VanDette on the Rush Sector box sets]
[Rush Sector box sets release open thread]
[Rush Sector box sets preview video now online]
[Rush sound engineer Rich Chycki on Clockwork Angels recording, Sector box sets]
[Rush 6-disc Sector box sets; Fly by Night, A Farewell to Kings, Signals in 5.1 coming November 21st]
[Rush 5-CD Sector box sets to release November 21st]