Originally Posted by james__bean
Is there any way to actually know that? Excuse me if this is a dumb question, but is there any way to know if a recording was screwed up during the recording process as opposed to being screwed up in the mastering process? How would you know the difference just by listening to the cd? I had just figured that they mastered the album horribly and was hoping for a remaster at some point. But if for some reason the recordings were just crap, well then there's no hope
It takes some experience of putting music together in a recording environment to be able to spot a bad recording session from a bad mix from a bad master.
There are a few pointers.
If the audio quality is variable, with some tracks sounding good and some not, then that's probably a recording issue. Perhaps the tracks were recorded at different studios, or/and with different gear/personnel.
Is one instrument dominating the mix? (McCartney's bass on Band on the Run comes to mind.) Maybe the offending instrument was played by a forceful personality! That's a mix problem.
Are all the instruments over-compressed? Are there any passages or breaks where the sound breathes properly? The usual method of employing compression is to record everything as straight as possible, with only the lightest limitation/compression to take care of any unexpected transients. The real deal is usually added during the mix when sonic problems that need to be dealt with come to light.
You can tell if the audible compression was only added at the mastering stage, because the compression will affect all the instruments in an ensemble crecendo more or less equally. Having said that the idea behind multiband compression is that the individual bands of the audio spectrum can be compressed in isolation.
So, if the cymbal crash is too loud on the final mix, it might trigger compression, but only in the treble region.
The whole idea with compression is that it shouldn't normally be heard. So, if you are hearing it, someone messed up big time.
Difficult one to be precise about.
(If I get a chance to hear the album I will report back. Is there any particular track where the problem is most evident?)