Home Studio Upgrades

I made a couple of major improvements to my home studio recently and should be current for a few years. The improvements were way overdue, so when I saw some mind-bending deals over the holidays, I pounced. My studio laptop was more than a decade old, and my software didn’t even support plugins. It was time to move on.

I’d only ever used Propellerhead’s Reason music software to make music (and love the product to boot), so moving to Reason 12 was a no-brainer. Not only did it include all the changes since Reason 7 was released in 2013, but the familiar environment would allow me to keep focusing on making music, not learning new software. After reviewing recommended system requirements, I began searching for a laptop.

As had happened more than ten years previously, the HP Envy best fit my laptop needs, so I bought one along with Reason 12. I still use the same audio interface, monitor speakers, and headphones, but I’ve added an extension cable to the latter for reaching into my isolation booth, as well as a USB hub. The Envy delivers great performance and pairs great with Reason 12, and I look forward to spending lots of time with them.

Mastering Mastering

I recently finished mastering my upcoming single, “I’m a Reader.” I’d never mastered anything on a laptop, so there was a bit of trial and error involved. My first try was too loud. It’s called hypercompression, and here’s what that looks like.


I loved it loud. The problem, though–at least as I understand it–is that this loudness will make the music sound worse when streaming services use loudness normalization to make everything play at the same volume. I removed the maximizer from the equation, but the song became too quiet (below).

Too Quiet

I had clearly overcompensated (despite this, the waveform clipped twice, as the two red lines indicate). While the song sounded nice at a high volume, it now had too much headroom. I decided to give one of my preset combinators a try, and here’s what happened:

Preset Combinator

Clearly, things were improving, but I still missed some of the oomph that the original hypercompressed master had. Using the same preset combinator I’d just used, I ditched the preset controls and tweaked away. I liked the sound, and the waveform looked more like what I’d had in mind.

Preset Removed

It was a keeper. I have a lot to learn before I can ever master mastering, but I’m light years ahead of where I was a few weeks ago. The thing is, you do your best and keep learning. I’ve got a lot more music to put out. Look for “I’m a Reader” to be available shortly.