The problem with LANDR PT.1

problemwithlandr

from August Canadian Musician:
Written by Michael Raine

Noah Mintz is considered one of Canada’s top mastering engineers, having put the finishing touches on albums by Arkells, Broken Social Scene, Death From Above 1979 and Rheostatics, just to name a few. When he saw an early press release about LANDR he dismissed it as “ludicrous’ but decided to test out the free version as he began to hear about it more and more. When it comes to his views of LANDR, he doesn’t pull any punches.

“First you’re trying to turn art into an algorithm, which is literally impossible. It just can’t be done. You can’t have a computer do mastering any more than you can have a computer create art” says Mintz. “They can claim whatever they want, but as a 17-year veteran of mastering, much of what I do is in what I don’t do. It’s not the gain that I use or the EQ or compression I use; It’s how I use it or why.” Because, Mintz says, mastering is all about maintaining or enhancing the listening experience and artistic intent, not necessarily the technical quality, he sometimes makes no changes to a mix and it’ll take him eight hours to come to that conclusion.

“I don’t understand how an algorithm can listen to a file. It can analyze it, but it can’t listen to it. It doesn’t understand how a set of harmonics or played frequencies touch a human being, right? So it can’t make those decisions that are important towards a quality listening experience, which is really what all mastering is about.”

Taking on the notion that LANDR is “good in a pinch” he says “We have enough things out there that are contributing to the degradation of sound quality and I don’t necessarily think we another.”

Mintz does note that his opinions don’t stem from a place of competitiveness.”There is probably a very small percentage of releases out there that actually use professional mastering, so LANDR is not really competing with us; it’s competing with smaller grade mastering or recording studio mastering and those guys can do a better job than LANDR can do,” says Mintz. He also takes exception to the notion of machine learning. As he says, “mastering 1 million tracks makes no difference to a robot unless there is a control in place telling LANDR what it’s doing wrong and what to do differently next time.”

“I am the first person to adopt technology; I love technology of all sorts, and if I really felt what engineers do could be quantified or imported into an algorithm I wouldn’t have a problem with it.” Mintz says in conclusion. “You can look at the RMS of the song, raise that level, and maybe that is good in a pinch, if that is what LANDR does but anyone can do that who has recorded an album”

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