ORLANDO, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 2009: As the new year began, mastering engineer Bob Katz of Digital Domain took a long look at the state of mastering during the past year. “We made a lot of beautiful masters in 2008. I’m not sorry to see the year go, but I’m thrilled that indie and small labels are still kickin’ butt. In fact, I mastered an average of five CDs a week, despite my quintuple bypass operation in May!”
AMONG THE MOST MEMORABLE CD MASTERS PRODUCED AT DIGITAL DOMAIN IN 2008: A reissue of the salsa classic album El Gigante Del Sur by La Sonora PonceÃ±a for Emusica (Fania) Records, lovingly restored from the original 1977 1/4-inch tape. Classically Mild, a new album for HMV Saregama by one of India’s best-known popular singers, Sonu Niigaam (who appears on the soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire). Flower of Evil, by the eclectic Norwegian singer Susanna, interpreting classic rock songs, for Rune Grammofon records. Ghost Country, a remix/reissue of one of country-rock group Marley’s Ghost’s 9+ albums, for Sage Arts Records. One, an album from popular Merengue/Bachata artist Leny on Universal Records. Manzanero Big Band Jazz de Mexico, by Mexico’s most treasured composer, Armando Manzanero, on Universal Records. A single from Latin Grammy winner Brenda K. Starr.
Independents and small labels were in full swing in 2008, evidenced by Bob’s new masters of: Three Cities, a tour de force world music production by the Bombay Dub Orchestra, on Six Degrees Records. Happy The Man, Guggenheim Grotto’s second album, as the Irish folk-pop group begins its American tour. The Atomized Dream, the fourth album by Georgia’s progressive metal group Canvas Solaris, for the Sensory label. When Katie Smiles, the fourteenth release by Billboard’s Top 20 Contemporary Jazz artist, pianist Kim Pensyl. Jazz Gitan Moderne Gypsy Jazz by New Orleans’ The Courtyard Kings. Grow Your Own by Britain’s Martin Harley Band, on Villanous Records, which was mixed at Digital Domain by Robin Reumers in Studio B. Jubilation, In Bern at Maria, by trombonist John Allred, trumpeter Warren VachÃ© and band on Arbors Records.
For Katz, mastering should be the last place to cut corners or take economies, because a talented mastering engineer can turn a good mix into a great master. “Producers need the perspective of an experienced mastering engineer with an accurate system to make sure they put their best foot forward,” said Katz. Indie labels and artists seem to agree, since many of them are struggling with less-than-perfect acoustics in project studios and are seeking the advice of the mastering engineer to help them produce better mixes and masters.