Landr has a very bright future ahead of it, and it could very well become a vital link in the bedroom production chain. I wouldn’t hesitate to run all my dance productions through it for dropping at gigs and for upload on SoundCloud and YouTube. For selling on iTunes and CDs, though, I’ll still want an extra set of “human ears” to help out. Still, highly recommended.
First Impressions / Setting up
Landr is an online mastering service that does the entire mastering process for you in minutes: You upload a stereo WAV file of your track, Landr runs its mastering algorithm on it, then sends it to you for preview. There are three types of loudness you can pick from: Low, Medium, and High, with the Low option having the softest overall loudness, and High being the loudest.
Once you pick the option you want, Landr sends you a link via e-mail to download your track. It takes less than five minutes to get everything done once you’ve uploaded your track – it really is that fast.
I’ve used Landr since it first came out late last year, and while the idea of instant mastering through the internet thrilled me, the mastered output wasn’t anything to write home about: For some of the electronic tracks I sent that were bass-heavy, I noticed an undesirable “pumping” during louder passages.
I remedied that on my end by just lowering the bass for my tracks, but this is something that a real, human mastering engineer is able to correct on his own, among other fixes that can really make a track sound “finished”. At the time, I felt like Landr was still very much in its infancy, so I just relied on having my work mastered by others (Joey Sturgis and John Scrip, to name a few).
When I heard about the latest Landr update that rolled out today, I was keen on checking how the service had come along. Having just used it a few months back with those issues still bugging me, I uploaded three tracks to see how they’d turn out.
What is mastering?
Mastering is the process of adding the final polish to a track or an album. This ensures that it sounds balanced and as consistent as possible throughout different playback devices (eg car stereos, club systems, earbuds), and it also increases the overall loudness of the track so it’s in the same volume range as other commercially available recordings. It’s the last line of quality control before a song or album goes out for replication / distribution.
This is done by tweaking EQ, compression, limiting, widening or narrowing the stereo field, and other subtle techniques that add up to create what’s called the “final master”, which is what gets sent to a CD / vinyl replication plant, or to sites like iTunes, Apple Music, and Spotify.
I was expecting some minor tweaks, but boy was I wrong! Let’s just say I was blown away by how much the service has improved, and in such a short period of time too.
I’ve embedded an A-B of the unmastered and unmastered tracks below. You can hear for yourself how Landr brings up the volume of the tracks, evens out the low end, and really glues things together. The very apparent “pumping” problem that I had with some tracks has been eliminated (tracks 2 and 4 in case you want to check):
To compare how Landr stacks up against a commercial mastering studio, here’s Lux Leigh – End Of Me as mastered by a professional engineer.
I highly recommend Landr if you’re a DJ/producer who makes original productions and remixes. A common problem with bedroom recordings is that it’s difficult to get our tracks to be as loud as what’s available out there, so we compromise by turning up the gain knob on our DJ controllers and mixers when we drop our productions during a gig.
While there’s no need to master a track that’s already been mastered, I can see Landr being used by DJs who make a lot of edits – sometimes, a tiny bit of compression, EQ, and limiting can “even out” a song that we made in our laptops. For producers who make tracks on tablets and phones, an inexpensive mastering service like Landr can really “up” the quality of your productions, especially if you’re just getting into mixing and arranging.
Finally, for the DJ that loves making mixtapes, Landr can help smoothen a mix whose levels are all over the place. Of course, setting proper levels is one of your priorities when making a mix to begin with: What Landr won’t do is rescue a track or mix that’s clipping and distorting beyond reason!
So will Landr replace professional, high-grade mastering studios? At its current incarnation, the answer is no. Some of the tracks I ran through the engine still aren’t as loud and balanced as some other commercial recordings, but here’s the great news: They’re pretty close. So close, in fact, that I wouldn’t hesitate to run all my dance productions through it for dropping at gigs and for upload on SoundCloud and YouTube.
For selling on iTunes and CDs, though, I’ll still want an extra set of “human ears” to help out, and that’s why I’ll continue to have releases done by a professional mastering engineer.
Landr has a very bright future ahead of it, and if its current quality of automated mastering is any indication, it could very well become a vital link in the bedroom production chain.
For me, the ideal production workflow would look something like this: Arrange / produce -> mix -> Landr -> play it at gigs -> tweak production -> mix -> Landr -> play it at gigs. Repeat as necessary. Once I’m satisfied with the production, I’ll do a final mix and then send to a mastering studio for online sale and streaming.