Video killed the radio star. Streaming killed downloads. Home taping is killing music. Is the cloud about to kill the mastering engineer?

Landr, the instant online mastering service, already looked a bit that way. The drag-and-drop service lets you download a track that is algorithmically mastered – no humans directly involved. The service says those algorithms were carefully tweaked not only by DSP engineers, but actual mastering engineers. It isn’t like the “mastering” preset on a compression plug-in your DAW; according to the developers, the system is adaptive and learns from analysis by genre of music uploaded. And it covers a lot of processes – multi-band compression, EQ, stereo enhancement, limiting, and aural excitation, with some manual adjustment provided to the user.

Now, there are various reasons why I wouldn’t trade a human mastering engineer for this – even if Landr sometimes achieves good results. I really rely on a human mastering engineer as a final pair of ears. That person may be the one who finds mistakes, or who judges professionally just how loud a track ought to sound in the first place. (The very existence of the manual controls here more or less eliminates its utility to me.)

But maybe Landr is finding its own place – one in which a mastering engineer actually can’t compare. And that’s its unique ability to happen instantly right when you upload a file. Like Instagram filters and the auto-contrast on your digicam, spell-check and the location finder in your Google maps app, Landr’s instantaneous, automatic operation is the whole point.

Let’s be honest: you upload something quickly to SoundCloud, you want it to sound loud (and good, but especially loud) right away.

Landr now links directly to SoundCloud to make that happen. Connect your SoundCloud account, and either log into Landr or create a new account (requires just an email and name).

SC_02_Share to SC

For me, at least, Landr gave me four free WAV downloads. I’m going to do some testing of that and get back to you. As for SoundCloud, you get unlimited free uploads “optimized” for that service. Since Landr is normally paid, that’s already a reasonable deal. The finished, mastered tracks are uploaded directly to your account.

The move may say as much about SoundCloud as it does about Landr or mastering. It’s clear the world’s leading sound upload service wants to continue to offer a complete solution for sharing noises. And while users panic about rumored changes to licensing or other hype (more on that in a separate story), there is some evidence that SoundCloud still has ideas for how to lure you to upload to their site specifically.

So, whither the mastering engineer? I don’t think so. Apart from the factors above, the mastering engineer’s service have already expanded from just sending you a stereo master, to being associated with digital distribution and vinyl cutting. Landr’s biggest competition may be not mastering engineers, but “turning up the knob on your compression plug-in” – and there, I think Landr has the edge.

But beyond that, pay attention to this one. It’s the latest evidence that the sharing of music online changes more than just how you listen. It does also change how you produce.

A free SoundCloud option is now available once you connect your account to Landr.

A free SoundCloud option is now available once you connect your account to Landr.

  • itchy

    πŸ™ what is going on with soundcloud πŸ™

  • Punkyou

    How about not recording garbage in the first place and unleashing it on the public?

    • Gunboat_Diplo

      Thats so punk.
      [Makes wanking motion]

      • Punkyou

        That’s so original

        • Gunboat_Diplo

          So was your original comment. If you want to comment on how garbage music is, you should post a link to your own music.

          • chaircrusher

            Good talk, guys!

      • Punkyou

        OH You’re the opinionated know-it-all Gunboat_Diplo who I see all over the place! Well I’m just so gosh darned honoured to be burned by you

  • Gunboat_Diplo

    LandR is built into Sonar now. They did a blind test with 3 LandR settings, one professional mastering, and a couple done by Cakewalk staff. It’s on the Cakewalk blog.

    • Florian Krause

      Just had a listen to the test. The levels were not matched between the masters, so I am not sure what the point of this was. We know that a difference of only a few dB can make one mix sound better than the other. The landers were of significantly lower volume, which made them sound much nicer then the other overcompressed ones, while the Sonar mixes just went for as loud as possible. The mix of the actual mastering engineer was somewhere in the middle. Well, their blog says they are going to do another test with matched levels. So we have to wait for that, as the current one is pretty meaningless in my opinion.

  • Goldbaby

    How about SoundCloud up there streaming quality while their at it. 128 kbps is so iTunes 2001. Are there worried peoples dial up connection can’t handle it?

    • blacktrope

      Couldn’t agree more! Completely beyond me why they haven’t been able to change that especially for paying customers. But it really seems fitting if you look at their site and how often it is not working.

      • Goldbaby

        It is through necessity rather than preference that I use SC. I use Octave as well and it doesn’t re-convert MP3s to a default bitrate.

        • Freeks

          It’s better to upload wav/aiff to SC due the mp3 conversion. Problem with that is that when i ant to enable DL then the DL is the wav/aiff.

          • .mo

            so does that mean soundcloud owns your mp3s?

          • .mo

            so does that mean soundcloud owns your mp3s?

    • Freeks

      It’s probably due money. When they have billion streams in hour it will save some money. Also, most people just don’t seem to care. 128kbps is really bad in SC. It’s not even a minor difference.

      So idea to master to bad quality is quite interesting πŸ˜€
      Maybe they have 128 kbps preset in LANDR?

      • zeibura

        Last time I checked the free service “mastered” tracks to a 192kbps mp3

        • Goldbaby

          SoundCloud definitely streams at 128…

    • Alex

      They should have quality options, you woudn’t want to use too much mobile data when streaming with 4G.

  • Diego


  • zeibura

    “The service says those algorithms were carefully tweaked not only by DSP engineers, but actual mastering engineers.”

    Got any names?

    I mean, I know their website says that “[their] team is composed of music industry veterans – award-winning mixing engineers, top-level DSP programmers, musicians, producers and label owners” but they’re conveniently too scared to credit them so that we can check their credentials.

  • Pierre-Adam Opku Bouchard

    I tried Landr. Got bad result.

    • OlaT

      Same here

  • link

    This will go great with my one push button music creations.

  • Robin Parmar

    “Let’s be honest: you upload something quickly to SoundCloud, you want it to sound loud (and good, but especially loud) right away.”

    No, I really don’t. And, let’s be honest, this phrasing is coercive and distasteful.

  • iJustWantToCommentNotSignUp

    I’m calling the police. Soundcloud just wants to take my masterpiece, master it, and say they own the rights to it because they produced the final product. I’m not falling for the copyright trap. Where is the freedom, justice, and freedom?

  • Piet Ooth

    Nothing like being careless with the sound quality of your tracks.
    I swear, all the Internet and technology have done is enable lazy people to spread their filth.