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A Comparative Study of Music Mastered by Human Engineers and Automated Services

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Technological advances in music and audio engineering have brought forth a new method of audio mastering in the form of online automatic mastering services. However, many claim that the results from automatic mastering services are inferior to the work of professional human engineers. The presented investigation explores the perception of mastered products by popular mastering services found online. Music was submitted for mastering provided by two human mastering engineers and two automatic mastering services. In a listening test, subjects were asked to identify human-mastered samples. Later, subjects were asked to provide preference rankings among human-mastered and instant mastered samples. Furthermore, objective parameters pertaining to timbre and spectral energy distribution were calculated from stimuli. Subjects were unable to consistently identify human-mastered musical samples. Preference towards human-mastered samples was observed from jazz excerpts but not from rock excerpts. These results show partial support for claims of human mastering superiority based on preference. This study provides a new perspective on the perception of content from human and instant mastering, which may offer a first step to understanding many differences between the two services.

JAES Volume 70 Issue 9 pp. 764-776; September 2022
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AES - Audio Engineering Society