Mastering Shootout: LANDR vs Pro Master

| Audio Example, Mastering, Tips, Video

When it comes to mastering your music these days there are lots of choices: home mastering, hiring a pro to master it for you, and even auto mastering through an online service like LANDR.

Today I want to do a little A/B shootout of a mix that was both mastered by a pro engineer as well as LANDR. And then compare those versions to just the mix by itself with only some limiting for volume.

The differences are very apparent and interesting. Which one sounds better to you? Leave a comment!


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418 Responses to “Mastering Shootout: LANDR vs Pro Master”

  1. Drew

    I personally like the thick low end of the LANDR, but it really muddied the cymbals (and the snare/toms) and lost the top end and clarity of the mix – to my ear. I think the pro master is probably my favorite, but I personally would like a little more bottom end.

    • Andrew MacDonald

      I liked the pro master the best, but I agree there could of been a bit more bottom end. The LANDR was just to muddy, but it wasn’t horrible either.

    • Scott Saya

      My ears kept saying LANDR was the best over-all sounding mix, but exceedingly close to the Pro Master. So I keyed in on your words about “the bottom end” and am studying what that sound is.

    • Sebastian

      Totally agree! 100%! Still amazing though what a “mastering bot” can do these days.

    • steve

      I think the promaster is best through my monitors I bet it would sound great on lots of different stuff. Just adding the limiter was better than the Landor master. The Landor master might not sound good and my car ha ha way to much bottom end IMO. But it’s funny how your ears adjust to sound. I can get used to all three of them. I’ve also heard lots of pro masters that sound worse than all three of them

    • Rob

      I have to say I liked aspects of all 3 Masters. The first one with just the limiter had a fullness to it which I liked. The Pro Master track was more defined in the Mids and was punchy. The 3rd Master using LANDR had a fullness on the low end. I also noticed it was hotter than the other two. Overall i thought the Pro Master was best for consistency.

    • John Dirks

      Hands down – the LANDR version, The pro version and the limiter version had too much high end for my taste. But then again, what do I know? I’ve been pumping Les Paul’s through Marshall’s since the 60’s.

      • DeVora Clark

        I agree – Limiter sounds top 40-ish, too much high end! Ian’s mix was cleaner, but where’s the bass guitar track in both of these masters???? And the LANDR is more accurate for a ROCK MIX, but it’s a little muddy and again, where’s the 70’s bass guitar bottom sound that drives the mixes I drool over????? Chris Squire and George Martin spoiled me.

    • Cole

      Hi, I was really interested in what the pro mix would sound like as I only either master myself, or use LANDR. Your track to me sounded fuller with LANDR, I agree losing a little top end but I did prefer it to the pro mix which, in my humble opinion was a little thin.

      The limiter version I thought was not to way off the pro. For me, in most instances (not all) LANDR comes up with a good master but you do have to chose the best setting for your style of music.

      However, as you rightly mention, it does depend upon speaker,headphone quality and of course personal preference.

      Excellent test – nice song.

    • Bo

      The pro master holds much better than your limiter and the LANDR. The pro keaps the vocals even while the others push the vocals in and out of the song. I listend to this on my lap top speakers, because I believe a good master should sound good on all platfoorms (studio monitors, car speakers, ect.,) Just my opinion.

    • Rick Spyder

      The pro master is by far better…way better difinition to the mix elements…in the end isn’t that the objective ….anyone can slam a mix and make it sound like landr. .. Ian rules again

    • Kyle

      The limited mix sounded a little flat, but a good clean mix. The pro mix had a nice punchy, clear tone. The Landry had a nice thick bottom, but i feel it muddied the song up. I liked the pro mix best, but it could have a tad more low end IMHO. The top end is perfect

    • Ron

      By far I preferred the LANDR master. I found the previous two too thin and had the life squeezed out of them.

  2. Simon Rycroft

    The human mastered one definitely sounds much better to me. The LANDR one was too bottom heavy to my ears. Interesting shootout!

    • Alfred Key

      I recommend trying this with several different sets of headphones. I find my opinion is changing depending which said I’m wearing. My earbuds absolutely love the robot mix. My Pro Studio headphones prefer Ian’s mix. In my mid grade Sony consumer headphones actually prefer the basic limiter mix. All of which causes me to ask the question which would I release to best serve my customers???

      • Kevin Barr

        Apple ear buds I preferred the rob version. With pro ear buds I liked the human master. With a set of Sony headphones I liked your limiter version.

        What I want to know is what settings you used on the robo version. Was it a 320 MP3 or was it mastered to a wave file. Then there is, IIRC, the low medium and high for Landr.

        I listened to this on my studio monitors. What I notice is Ian cut somewhere in the 3k hz -5k hz range to tame the guitars but it also pulled out some of the vocals. Sounds flat in that range. The robo version bumps up the 250hz-700hz to increase the lower vocals then pulls down the top with either a low pass or band pass filter to tame the high end.

        LOL I may be off a little in the frequency range but this is just a quick observation.

  3. Dmytro Ostroushko

    Ian’s is the one I like best, but still, I prefer your limiter version over the landor master. yes, there is more bottom, but at the same time, I subjectively find that this version is a bit muddier

  4. Mark Saltman

    Very cool idea. Def the Pro mix sounded best for me, followed by your mix and last the Landr. The Pro mix was the crispest and clearest with everything. While the low end made it sound thick, it also had a bit of a dull quality, and that especially hurt when you hit the bridge.

  5. Michael M

    I like the LANDR overall. I think it will translate cleanly across more sound systems. That said, I have used LANDR often, specifically for a few clients who didn’t have the money for “professional mastering”. I would say when it works, it works great–but it seems to be genre specific & sometimes has trouble mastering outside of modern pop/rock music.

  6. Steven Marciano

    I prefer the pro master version. I like the overall balance of it and you can visualise the sound stage best in that version to my ear.

  7. Ryan Kelm

    The pro master sounded the best to me. The guitars sounded cleaner and overall I think it had a more defined and polished sound compared to the other 2.

  8. Angel

    Definitely liked the pro-mix more since it brought out the clarity and controlled the low-mids more. The LANDR did seem to have better separation in the low end as far as the kick and bass. It gave me the impression of a Pultec eq where it boosted the lows while cutting out some low mud.

    1) pro

  9. Loren Kirkland

    To my ears, only because of my tastes and the type of music I work with often, the LANDR sounded better. The other versions felt a little too sizzly to me, but once again, I like the low end and the clearer mid range because of my tastes. They were all good tho! Ian’s one of my favorites btw!!

  10. David Price

    All 3 sounded overly compressed to my taste. Nevertheless, I preferred the LANDR master for it’s improved balance while maintaining clarity.

  11. Michael Quinn

    After listening on headphones Audio Technica – ATH-MT50’s, overall I preferred the Landr mix as the vocal seemed to glue and add fullness to the sound overall. I liked the second engineered master as it added a little brightness and separation to the guitars (which should be my preference against the loudness war) but maybe psychologically that’s what we have trained ourselves to think is correct due to listening to compressed .mp3’s and .m4a over the years. The first master seemed a lot more brick walled – a little slammed – like T-Racks but still very listenable My ideal mix would be the brightness and separation of master 2 with a little more bottom end that Landr seemed to add. Thanks for sharing this.

  12. John Paul Riger

    Pro Master was best. But your’s was damn good. Very subtle differences. All three were good. The bottom line really is all the mixing work that went into the project BEFORE mastering. My ears are 58 years old too with a lifetime of loud music so don’t trust me. But it’s like my wife says, “You can’t make chicken soup out of chicken sh*t” meaning a recording can only be as good as the artistry, techniques and technology used to prep it for mastering. Preference plays a huge role at that point and time. I think by the time we’re ready to master, we’ve studied each millisecond of every single tracks countless times. So fresh ears are huge. When self-mastering you kind of have to pretend you’ve never heard the track before and give it a whole new listen. And as with any master project, it might sound great in a pair of Bose QCs but awful on a cell phone which is what most people use nowadays, so yeah it’s a moving target in many ways. The hardest part is when to know when to quit and say it’s done. For the perfectionist, that’s a damn tough call….

  13. Gary

    Ian’s is the best, it’s clear that someone listened to the components and worked on each one. The LANDR one isn’t bad, but it sounds effectively like a preset, which by definition, can’t take the entire song into account.

  14. Charwyn

    Personally I’d place them them Limiter > Landr > Pro.
    More “objectively” (not really, but ignoring most of my “personal” taste, sticking to what people tend to expect) I’d rate them Pro > Limiter > Landr.

    I like drums and bass a little more “dry” than they are in Pro, the crisp is too high for my taste (but it should sound awesome via the radio and everywhere else but my monitors).

    Loundr is too “bassy” for my taste, but I don’t like it because normally all my mixes suffer from too much bass, so I kinda grew some level of distaste in those things.

    The original mix is just so fresh I’d probably be happy with it.

  15. Eugene

    First of all, thanks for making this comparison. It’s always good to hear different approaches in mastering and mixing on the same song…

    Despite the fact that I’ve listened to it on a cheap soundcard at my office, but through good earphones, I could still hear the difference in all tracks. Pro master really sounds more clear in terms of vocals and guitars, and yeh, landr’s version sounds too low. But in a rock genre I would rather go for landr (maybe just slightly turning down that low end) 🙂

  16. Nick Critchley

    Ian’s song sound way better/clearer, everything is in it’s own space, the Landr sounds muddled, the original is just fine but the human master has brought out the best in it.

  17. Jon

    The final mix with just limiting sounded fine but when you played Ian’s version it’s obviously a lot clearer and a little crisper, or “up front”. What really surprised me was the LANDR version. I hate to say it but the robot mix sounds pretty good. It cleared up some of the muddiness but I really like the bottom end that it added. It really helps drive the song . While they all sound good (even the robot version), I guess ideally I would pick Ian’s mix if I could get a revision with more bottom end.

  18. Kayle Vernon

    Hi, Graham:

    I actually would have liked the LANDR version a little better with the low frequencies being up front, but it seemed to be a little more muddy down there. Therefore, I like the mastering pro version the best. With the limiter version, the mids seemed a bit muddy as well. Not bad at all, but just a little bit. I think Ian’s version was the cleanest. To me, it would have been absolutely perfect if the lows were pushed just a tiny bit in his version. Again, just my opinion! Love the site!

  19. Jorge

    I’ve listened to them on cheap headphones and I couldn’t tell the difference before you pointed out the differences 🙁

    Afterwards, I could hear how bass heavy the Landr version is.

    To me, they all sounded good on headphones. The big question is, does the Landr version translate well on other devices? We can almost be certain that the professionally mastered will. y guess is that the Landr version will probably sound too boomy on a sub woofer.

    Great song by the way! 🙂

  20. Marc

    The Pro master is by far the best. The landr master is the one I like the less. Too much bass frequencies and less clarity. Giving more bass and more treble is not giving more power. When I listened to the limited master, I heard some annoying frequencies that has been managed in the pro master.

  21. Christopher Green

    I have to say I like the Pro Master best, but I think my ear needs more training, because while I could hear the difference, I couldn’t hear a huge difference. My second choice is definitely the limiter one though. The LANDR one was far too low for my taste, some of the guitars started to sound muddy to me.

    Great sounding song by the way! Where is your EP available?

    God bless!

  22. Richard Hensley Sr.

    I preferred #1, I heard everything clearly.
    Pro master 2nd, just a little more bottom on bass and drum.
    Landr , good but to muddy for me.

  23. Rodrigo Rodrigues

    ok cool..
    not much to say about your master because it was a limiter only.
    the other two added something to it.
    Ian’s mix, I have to say, is my favorite. He made it sound open… very wide. And he brought richness to the guitars on the sides which was really cool.
    In the pther hand, LANDR master ended up being something that I believe general listeners would be more inclined to like because of the low end focus.
    The downside of LANDR here was that side by side with Ian’s it sounded like it was in a box, narrow vs Isn’s very wide.
    Other thing is that you ended up not having control on the amount of low end added there, which sounded nice but it would be better if there was control.

  24. Bridge Recording

    Thanks Graham, figured this was coming. Thanks for doing it. Personally Ian’s mix pleased my ears the most. I think it had more clarity and the balanced management of the sizzle helped the song not tire your ears. LANDR’s accent of the bass was good, I felt like the low-mids got boxy though and like you I missed the low end on your ‘Limiter’ master after hearing the other two. Thanks again!

  25. John Martine

    The pro master is by far my favorite. It sounds the most “alive” with more air, definition, and punch. The automated master is the beefiest with obvious low end boosting going on which would work great for some songs. The human wins this John Henry challenge.

  26. John Cornelius

    Well. All three are tons better than the pitiful stuff I am producing (boo-hoo), and it really seemed that all three were very LOUD and lacked noticeable dynamics (in other words, are radio-ready!). But there were a couple things from each mix that did jump out in variance to the others. And ps I am listening on my AT-50m phones because some are sleeping in late.

    No offence intended Graham, but your choice of swooshy ‘verbs and delays isn’t my ‘bag’, and in some ways makes it difficult to distinguish the drums and bass the way I prefer.

    I did notice that Ian’s toms, snare and kick seemed more weighty (that’s good!), and he was able to locate a high-mid zone that seemed to be a little irritating. By reducing that freq I was able to hear the main part of the vocals and guitars better. Plus Ian’s mix ‘seemed’ a little more wide in the field.

    That’s about it for me. I do appreciate this comparative lesson. Its easier to learn from than words. I read something yesterday (a quotation from someone important, I’m certain) that said in essence that trying to describe differences in music using words is akin to using dance to explain architecture. Well, something like that, anyhow.

    Thanks Graham,
    John C.

  27. Pedro Sousa

    Hi Graham,
    The pro master version is more balance than the others but i would like to hear the pro master with a little more bass, not as much as the robot master but a little more, like 1,5 to 2 dB more bass


  28. Tommy Thomas

    I agree that the pro version crisps out the guitars better and the Landr is a little bass heavy. To my ear the Landr found the toms resonance in the bass boost which I like. All in all I have found that Landr stands up pretty well and I love its accessibility. Love the song!

  29. Bart L Wolf

    I’m guessing that the Robo’s mix might project too much bottom/low on the hyped lows and highs of radio stations. Ian’s mix had more clarity and would probably translate well over different kinds of listening situations.

  30. Henning

    Well I don’t like my answer but I like the LANDR best.
    Not as clear as Ian’s but his seems too clean to me. The limiter-only is lacking low-end and power and there’s a tiny midrange problem.
    It’s a close stylistic thing to me between Ian and LANDR: Ian goes Pop, LANDR goes Alternative.

  31. Lawrence Sotoodeh

    Hi Graham-Great session subject! I’ve been using Landr for the last six months and do notice that they tend to master a bit bottom heavy. That said, it’s a type of stylistic mode that I think fits my compositions. A reasonable monthly fee for unlimited Wav masters makes Landr a good fit for me.
    If you have some time and care to give a listen you can stop by at: .
    Thanks for the great program Graham, really informative and helpful!

  32. John Colombo

    I might have liked your limiter-version master the best.. You’re right, the Pro master was clearer and had more air in it, but might have been a bit too scooped for my taste. I agree with your assessment about the LANDR, it was bottom heavy, almost to the point of being a bit muddy. (I’ve found that with my own tunes submitted to LANDR).

  33. John Verhaegh

    The PRO version sounds better, more pleasant mids and midhighs, clear bottom end, en nice crispy, pleasant highs.
    De limiterversion is okay, but has some non pleasant mids, not only the guitars but overall.
    I recognize this from my own mixes, that always shows how important GOOD mastering is, and that it really is a specialized business.
    De LANDR version I do not like at all.

  34. John Skinner

    Overall, I liked the Pro mastered version because of it’s clarity, or the fine EQing of the mid range frequencies. For me, if the Pro mastered version had the low end oof the LANDR version, I think it would be just right. My 2 cents 🙂

  35. Cecil Caperton

    I believe I prefer the Pro Master mix. It just seemed to correct the higher mid frequencies and highs to make it more pleasing to the ear. The LANDR version, though better than I would have expected, took out too much of the upper end frequencies and removed more of the life out of the track. Your version with just the limiter left too many frequencies in the upper mid to higher frequencies which kind of irritated my ears some when listening to it. I would still go with the pro when it comes to mastering. This really was a great way to get to hear the difference between LANDR and the pro mix. Thanks for the demonstration. I had been curious.

  36. David

    the pro mastered version sounds more open, but there’s something weird happening with the snare on that version. it sounds a little pinched. the landr version is way too hyped in the middle bottom, sounds muddy.

    i prefer the pro mastered version, but honestly the ozone version is pretty well done to my ears, yeah it (the ozone version) could use a bit more carving in the low mid, but i, to my own ears, don’t like hyped low end. which of course says more about my own tastes, which tend towards the ambient, modern classical genres which is not known for a lot of oomph in the low end.

    ozone definitely has some well developed dynamics, just needs some clean up
    pro mastered has clarity and “openness” but the snare sounds a little pinched
    landr version is just too muddy, and i think lost many of the dynamics, especially with the backing vocals.

  37. Paulo Clayton

    Ian’s version is certainly cleaner. The Landr version seemed a bit boxy to me, which pulls away from the impact of the bottom end. I would like Ian’s version a bit more if it had a bit more low end, but not as much as Landr added. Would have been tighter low end.

  38. Richard Rayer

    I like the Pro version but like the LandR as well. They are different but both sound good t me. The limiter version did not give space to each player in the mix.

    I liked the clarity of the Pro version but I liked the bottom end of LandR. I would have a hard time choosing between the two.

  39. Dominique Lô

    Hi Graham,

    3 has by far much low end, (I think mastered to listen with small earphones and/or mp3 format)

    2 is the most equilibrated, but lacks a little bit low ends

  40. Charlie X

    I preferred the human one…because I heard more high end and definition. THe Lander sounded muffled or under water and the limiter was not too bad …I would have picked it but I preferred hearing the high end more…sounded like there was more dynamic range that the others on my speakers.

  41. Dan Bailey

    I thought Ian’s master was the most balanced and pleasant to listen to on my Genelecs. The robo master was too thick in the bottom end. Your “limiter only” master was the least effective to my ears.

  42. Scott

    I have uploaded about 25 tracks to LANDR, and although I keep hopeful, I haven’t found one that I really like. My biggest thing against LANDR is they don’t provide a way to AB compare with gain staging. I have to pull it into my DAW and equalize the levels in order to hear what they did. After doing this a few times I realized that I preferred my original with the volume turned up.

  43. liam

    1. Pro Master. Clarity, Width, Dynamics all nicely present. Sounded most like the finished professional product.

    2. Limiter. A bit muddier than the pro master but still a good representation of the song and it didn’t lose its bite.

    3. LANDR . Felt squished and too much bottom end to me. Least professional sounding for release.

  44. Casey

    I listened a couple of times on earbuds and then headphones. At first I didn’t have a powerful positive preference but more a distinct negative preference for the LANDR version – there are things I liked both about your mix and then Ian’s version, whereas the LANDR version is just way too heavy-handed with the bass – reminded me of those old types of consumer discmen/walkmen with a “bass boost” switch. it squeezes out headroom for other elements and is just distracting from other stuff in the mix, and also if someone is going to listen to this in their car or home stereo with a bass-heavy EQ setting anyway that master would be way off. Ian’s master doesn’t have a super distinctive footprint on the mix, he’s more doing subtractive stuff to my ear rather than additive, which in most cases is the best way to go. Occasionally I actually missed a little bit of the mids from your original mix but I think overall I’d pick Ian’s – even handed, not hyped but more sculpted. Thanks for the shootout. As someone who does a lot of mastering work for clients and tries to keep prices affordable I think automated services are hurtful to the profession, so it’s nice to hear a human winning.

  45. Jon Harvison

    Interesting. Of the three personal fav would be Pro mix. Limiting mix good but lacks depth and clarity. Landr very bottom heavy and lacks the clarity in the midrange I guess because the low has been pushed hard. Ian’s mix for me has got the bottom end balanced, brought out the tone of the mid range to show off what the guitars are doing in a “good” way and kept the top end clean and well defined so the lyrics are clear. It’s a song, without the lyrical clarity the song writer has wasted there time crafting good lyrics.

  46. Jan-Mikael Erakare

    Hi Graham…thanks for providing this opportunity. I prefer the sound of your limited mix first, the pro-master next and LANDR’s least. I find the mid-range on the limited mix more pleasing, with the vocal (and all of the centered info for that matter) more forward and dimensional, The pro version pulls the centered info back into the mix subtly, creating a more even plateau, and a more ‘polished’ sound, but removing some of the intensity of the vocal for my tastes. Your mix has a rawness to it I find appealing, and the pro master is a little too burnished for my tastes. The bottom end sounds cloudy on LANDR’s mix to me, and overall I find it difficult to listen to compared to the other two masters.

  47. nigel

    thanks for posting graham

    on my system the guitars and voice sounded more open and clear in ian’s version it din’t sound like just the hi range wus boosted it sounded like the middle of the sound wus opened up i just had to very slightly boost the bass on my amp to bring out more bottom and it didn’t muddy the middle

    landr sounded the most lifeless, dull with indistinct sounds

    neither the landr or limiter mix could be opened up and given life with eq on my amp

    thanks again best wishes graham

  48. Lindsey

    Personally I liked the pro-master better, but, it would have been nice if you had not revealed which master was which. I think the results you are getting from this shoot-out would have been far different if you had simply said master A, master B, master C.

    People listen to music through mental filters and will judge what they are hearing based on information they are given rather than using their ears. They do the same thing with their eyes. The visual appearance of wave forms on a grid cause the listener to make musical judgements based on what they see rather than what they hear.

    • Alan Honeycutt

      This. It would have been more informative to do this as a single blind study. As is, I feel like people are naturally going to bias towards the pro master.

      If I close my eyes and listen and try to be objective, I have to admit that I prefer the LANDR master. I’m listening on my “everyday” headphones and might feel different if I had monitors, but, to my ears the LANDR mix has more energy to it because of the additional bottom end.

      Ian did the best job of creating separation (lots of clarity on the sides), but his master still lacks energy. I’d love to see what he would come up with if he biased towards a bit more bass in his master. It’s highly likely that I just prefer a bit more low end than he does.

      My criticism of all three mixes is that the drums (especially the snare) are just crushed and have no punch to them. I’m not sure that can be fixed in the mastering process.

  49. Jason Calderwood

    I definitely thought that both the Pro and LANDR masters were better than just the limiter. Your comment about the mids being a bit off in your final mix was spot on and I feel that both Ian and LANDR produced an improvement over the original. As to whether I prefer Ian or LANDR… that is much harder to say. In my opinion, the LANDR result was perhaps a bit too dark, although the bottom end is definitely nice and thick. I think I prefer Ian’s treatment, but it’s hard to say if the reason I prefer it is because the shootout wasn’t blind and I really don’t want to prefer a “robot” over a human! A reference track to compare against might be even more enlightening.

  50. Gyp Bugane

    No contest, the original mix sounds good to my ears, but its a bit ‘middy’ sounds a bit cluttered in the mid range, can’t really pick out the details of some of the guitar parts.

    Ian’s master sounds open, wide and balanced, I can hear everything clearly, which for me is the goal.

    The landr one sounds terrible, just sounds like its had a massive bass boost, doesn’t appear to have ‘fixed’ anything in the mid range, if anything it sounds more narrow in the stereo field than the original mix. There is just no clarity just a big bass boost.

    When you jumped back from Landr to Ians master it did sound like there was something missing in the bass (its all relative to what you’ve just heard) but after about 3 or 4 seconds you realise that the bass on Ians is just right and sounds balanced to the rest of the track, there is no reason why this song / genre should have massively boosted low end, much better to have tight and defined low end which is what Ians version has.

    All of course IMHO 🙂

    I think the exercise would have worked better if you had just called them A,B and C and let people judge and then revealed later which was which, a bit like Ian did a while ago with his two masterred versions where one was just 0.5db louder and virtually everyone chose the louder version even though the two mixes were identical, that was an excellent bluff.

    But, yeah, no real surprise, the professionally mastered version that has been done with care and attention to detail sounds the best.

    Thanks for the post, was interesting to listen to and ponder, I’ve considered using Landr, just out of interest / for fun, as some people I know have said its really good, but after hearing this no chance.

  51. Jerry

    What I find most interesting is the Pro master is articulate. It is crisp, but unbiased, which tells me it will sound good everywhere. The Limiter version is indistinct – neither here nor there: missing some attention to the EQ that came out in the Pro version. The LANDR version, while sweetening the bass, was heavy-handed. I don’t think it would hold up on a full range of output systems. Perhaps it’s just the section of the song that you sampled, but one of the things about modern recordings that drives me crazy is the lack of dynamics. The consistent peaks of this tune witness this trend. It reminds me of radio-limiting – which is great for radio, but uninteresting for ears that want to probe the mind of the music makers. Cheers and thanks for the great teachings (I’m a customer and subscriber).

  52. Allen Burnett

    Overall, I liked the pro master better because of the clarity. Maybe because I do quite a bit of EDM, I did like aspects of the Landr master. A combination of the two would be really interesting. I have a Landr account and have not done a shoot out like this myself (although it is sometime I told myself I would do). I think that auto and professional mastering both give you a point of view it is a matter of which you like better. One thing that I like about LANDR is that I can try out different versions of my mix in all phases of song creation without worrying about paying more.

  53. Robert Martin

    It was very interesting. I liked the song and all of the mixes were fine to me. I thought I could hear the BGV’s on the LANDR version a little bit better. Subtle but a little better. I really couldn’t say I like one better than the other. If I was forced to pick one, I might pick the LANDR version.

  54. George Roxburgh

    Graham, thank you for doing this. Great to have the opportunity to hear different “mastered” versions like this.
    In order of my personal preference:
    Pro : clearest and balanced
    Limiter : Good – though felt the vocals didn’t stand out enough
    LANDR : Bottom/low-mid end “muddy” and distracting
    What’s interesting is that this was not a “blind” test so who knows what I might have thought if I didn’t know which version I was listening to.

  55. San Miguel

    Three different subconcious messages in each final result:
    Limiter Version: “Forget enjoying the music and just think about the lyrics”.
    Automated Version: “Forget about the lyrics and just enjoy the music”.
    Pro Version: The perfect balance between both. It makes you both hear the lyrics and feel the music.
    It makes you wonder if logarithms can be perfected so as to appeal to both heart and brain but I seriously doubt it. This shoot-out made me clear that both stages (mixing and mastering) involves and requires the “human touch”…

  56. simon kane

    I preferred the LANDR version, but then again I’m a Bass player so I guess I may be biased..which I guess is something I need to be aware of when mixing and mastering 🙂

    • John C.

      I know what you mean! Worked beside a bassist using an Ampeg system for several years. Now my ears crave bass. most of my mixes are boomy as the result.

  57. John Llewellyn

    Even if I had not had the other two versions as reference I am pretty sure that I would not of liked the Landr version at all. The bottom end is to much and does not have clarity and it takes away from everything else. Ian’s master is very nice and very close to your Graham but I still find a lack of total clarity over-all. To me Graham your master is the best for clarity and to me the best one of the three. To me that heavy bottom end sound should not be the focal point but for this song I feel it needs more of that snapping beat- sound of the drums. I feel Ian’s version has a touch more of this . Over-all I feel the drums need more clarity and freedom. These are my thought’s from what I am hearing through my speakers.

  58. Jeffrey Rubin

    Hey…just an amateur, listening on headphones. I liked the human mastered version as I thought the low end was just right and seemed to have a bit more high end sheen. My real question is, if most people would be listening on Pandora, or iPhone earbuds, or on their car stereo, etc, how much would the difference between the 3 versions make in the real world? Are we creating music to be heard for ourselves or audiophiles or by the general population?

  59. Paul Krueger

    Well, I hear the same differences that you describe but honestly, I’m not sure I’m discerning enough to appreciate the improvements of the pro mastering over your limited mix. Despite generally being a fan of low end, I think I like the LANDR version the least, due maybe to the low-mids creating a bit of muddiness? But…

    I like LANDR. One of my difficulties with my own stuff is that I can’t always get it to sound good in different environments. Once I think I’m done, once I’m really starting to like my work, I’ll usually burn a track to CD and listen to it while driving around in my old, noisy truck. It’s discouraging how often something pops out that just screams “amateur”. Something is usually annoyingly loud, often the lead vocal, the snare or the high hats. How could I have thought this was good? I go back inside, try again, rinse and repeat.

    LANDR is the only tool in my (budget-oriented) arsenal that has solved this for me. I don’t know what it does exactly, but it has taken a lot of the frustration out of the end of my recording/mixing routine. I actually have songs now that are “done” instead of being perpetually in “I’m sure I can make this better someday” limbo.

  60. Pierre

    I prefered the pro master, which is more balanced and less harsh than the limiter mastering but less boomy than the Landr one. But I would have loved to do this not knowing which was which, because I believe we are always influenced by the ‘label’. Keep up the good work!

  61. Cireneu Kuhn

    Something in between LANDR and Yan´s would be great. I liked the clarity from the PRO and the bottom from LANDR. (I listened in the studio with subwoofer on).

  62. Albert

    Hi Graham,
    infact very interesting.
    I agree, more punch at the low end is fine. The pro-mastering is – a little – more clear. Nevertheless your homegrown mix is on an exceptable level as well.

    The song itself is not my cup of tea. So I wonder how a shoot out would end with a less forceful and more acoustic song.

  63. Adam Matza

    I prefered the professionally mastered version. I liked the balance and detail Ian brought out in the song. Landr is way too biased on the low end and seems to be louder. I prefer your mix limited to Landr. There is no way a computer algorithm can do what an experienced and talented mastering engineer can do. Also, another set of unbiased, but trained, ears is a huge advantage in achieving the best result. Frankly, Landr is gimmicky and meant to appeal to a certain demographic who doesn’t really understand what proper mastering entails. They want it loud, bass heavy and cheap. Like anything else in this world, if you go for the cheap shortcut, you get cheapo results.

  64. Rodney Gustafson

    Very interesting comparison, Graham. Well done.

    Gotta say, I found Ian’s master to be a bit harsh in those upper mids. I did like the extra clarity up top but it sounded a bit too “edgy” to me.

    Landr’s extra low-mids gave it a very nice warmth. But yeah, the guitars suffered a bit as a result.

    Some kind of middle ground between the two would be ideal. To be quite honest, if I had to choose just one of those three, I might lean towards your “limiter only” master. While it lacks a bit of the final polish that the other two have, I think that it is the best happy medium between them. If I had to pick between the pro master and landr, I’d probably go with the latter.

    All that to me tells me that it is very important to hear previous work by a mastering engineer, and to open a good line of dialog about what you like. If their previous work doesn’t appeal to your ears, you probably won’t be happy with the result.

  65. Steven

    The Pro Master Version is my favorite. It has slightly less “sizzle” than the Limiter Only version and the drums and guitars seem to fit in the mix nicer than on the other two mixes. The LANDR is rather muddy and thick.

  66. Devin Owens

    I like Ian’s master the most out of the 3. I’ve always liked the sound of Circa Survive’s records, and his master sounded a lot like that. The LANDR master sounded too low endy to me but not terrible. The master with just the limiter on it sounded very lively, and not bad at all!


  67. Guy

    Nice demo Graham.

    My first reaction thoughts:

    1. Sounds just like you left it.
    2. Sounds more balanced and “polished” (radio ready in comparison)
    3. Sounds polished but like you said, with heavy bottom.

    I personally like the beefy bottom, but it’s subjective. With the majority of today’s playing devices being not real “bass friendly”, Ian’s master might be more versatile for a wider audience.

  68. Charlie K.

    I like Ian’s mastering best. It has the best balance of punch and bottom end. That’s just my two cents. : )

  69. Scott Forrest

    I liked the pro mix. The clarity of the pro mix really separates the instruments/vocals and seems to widen the mix just a bit. It could have used just a tick more low end.

    The lander mix, when it kicked in, added what seemed too much low end, and the clarity of the upper ranges seemed to get lost. It seemed much more muffled to me. The low end was huge but not necessarily in a good way as it seemed to be coming through a pillow instead of well-defined low end frequencies.

  70. Nathaniel Shelley

    Its hard to say which is best at first as my ears are used to the previous version when it changes. Ive listened to all 3 version with a minute gap in between and the pro master sounds cleaner and rounded compared to the others. Id say 1st – pro, 2nd – limiter, 3rd – Landr. Ive used Landr in the past and they are highly passable imho. I dont subscribe to the ‘its a robot, what does it know?’ school of thought, as music is digital and of course a program can track it and make choices based on industry standards for sound/eq/comp etc.. But deffo the pro version for me!

  71. Craig Vogel

    The good news is Ian, the pro, shows why he’s a pro. He cleaned up the mid/low-mid from the original, while not overemphasizing the bottom the way the robo-master did. Frankly though, I don’t really think this shootout was a fair fight – No “real” processing vs. the Standard (a qualified, experienced human) vs. a computer?

    What would interest me more is a different kind of bake off: Ian vs. Graham. Not that I want to pit the two pals against each other, but more what Graham has available to him on his own vs. what The Pro has. The ability to self master in DAWs like Logic, now give the engineer/producer the ability to perform this critical last stage themselves. Again, IMHO nothing is better than a Pro so Ian should always come out ahead, as he should, and thats fine – but what if Graham could make something almost as good? Not trying to put Ian out of business but one of my clients paid $1000 to a Pro to master 12 songs a couple of years ago (and I have no problem with that because The Pro did a stellar job as well). However, sometimes the budget is just not there and can these pre-made templates of plugins actually achieve a decent result by an educated engineer? I’ll conclude by confirming the biggest issue with self-mastering: not hearing with fresh ears. This one factor may trump all the technical, economic and experience issues associated with mastering.

    Excellent choice of topic Graham and keep up the great work. (You too Ian!)

    • Ian Shepherd

      Thanks for the detailed reply, Craig ! Are you in Duelling Mixes ? A while back Joe, Graham and I all did our own masters, with interesting results 🙂

  72. elcapitan

    well. well. well.

    to me, the professionally mastered seemed too bright. the landr was pretty good.

    for my personal and subjective ear, i would have turned the bass down just a tad on the landr version and tweaked the highs just a tad. a hybrid of sorts between the pro and the robot. 🙂

    thanks for posting this.

    keep inspiring. all the best to you.

  73. Brian Starks

    I don’t like the LANDR version as I feel it gets too muddy. Yes, the low end is stronger, and I do like the way the bass sounds in that version, but as an overall release, I don’t like this version.

    I do like Ian’s version, it adds a subtle clarity to the mix that helps make it sound more “radio ready” to me. It does lack some punch in places, though it may not be possible to get there without getting things muddy, which is what LANDR did.

    The limiter version is, well, pretty much what you’d expect.

    I think all three versions lack any sort of dynamics. That may not be the result of mastering, or maybe it is, I can’t tell. As a producer, I would seek greater dynamics in the song. The “opportunity” for them is clearly there, but the execution didn’t arrive as I would prefer to see / hear.

  74. Randy-Studio151 LLC

    Graham, of all three, I like Ian’s master the best. The mids seem creamier on Ian’s master, yet the bass was tight and punchy. The top was nice and clean without being harsh. I am listening on Adam F5 monitors and a Presonus Temblor T10 sub. The LANDR master, to my ears, was a little boomy on the bottom and a little brittle up top…just my opinion on my setup…I’m sure others will hear different things. Very cool comparison! I was curious about LANDR vs. pro mastering engineer…. Ian rocks! God bless and thanks for all you do!

  75. rick

    I like the Pro master best! It is not pregnant and boomy. The other masters are bringing out harsh highs and boated lows in the song. The song in general is sounding like everything is so surgical sounding; with the parts hyper focused ‘especially the kick drum sounds like a pancake.

  76. Paul Cooper

    Thanks so much for doing this shootout, Graham! Mastering has been something I’ve been grappling with for a bit now, whether I could do it myself, or if it’s worth the money. This experiment was really helpful.

    My ranking: Pro > Landr > Limiter

    The Limiter version, in my opinion, made the vocals too bright and harsh in comparison to the others, but overall sounded good.

    While I think the Landr master was very good, I think it added a little too much low mid stuff. The result was that we had a great master with crisp, clear higher frequencies, and nice, strong low end, but then some muddiness that came along with it that wasn’t in either other master.

    The Pro master had that edge on the Landr. It provided the same clarity and beef in the highs and lows, without adding that muddiness I seemed to hear in the Landr version.

    Seems like the human touch is still the way to go!

  77. Elston Gibbs

    LANDR. I like how it was thicker mix. The pro-mix was less heavy but was still effective with bringing the high end and low in closer. Your mix was great too, but I agree that the others kinda cleaned up your guitars.

  78. Edward Halterman

    I liked Pro Master the best, then yours with just a limiter 2nd, although I could make an argument for yours being the best as well. I did not like LADR at all, too much bottom and something happened in the mids to I didn’t care for; to my ears it was muddy. Thanks, Graham!

  79. Andreas

    I did like the Landr master best i think. Sounded best in my headphones.
    Maybe Landr has the headphone people in mind and so give the sound moore
    bass generally?

    • Alfred Key

      I found the robo mix the sound better on earbuds but when I switched over to my Pro mixing headphones the low-end was too much. So you could be completely right about that since so many people are listening on earbuds or tiny little speakers may be overdoing the bass is what their purposely trying to do

  80. Calle

    Maybe next time you could do a blind test followed by a reveal a week or so later? I doubt folks that subscribe to your stuff would say “LANDR is better than a pro mastering engineer” even if that’s ultimately what they think. We’re people that want to develop a craft and we value the human touch.

  81. Raoul Schuhmacher

    Hi Graham,

    Thanks for this – very insightful. Observations from listening through headphones:
    – The difference between the three are not dramatic, speaks for the quality of the mix 🙂
    – I did like the more pronounced low end in the LANDR version, also seemed to be wider.
    – My preference would be the clarity of the PRO version + a little more low end power as suggested by LANDR


  82. Kyle Patterson

    The Ian master had the the best Polish and the Landr definitely a little to heavy on the low end for my personal taste. At the end of the day the mix itself sounds killer and just the limiter has a really pretty good overall sound.

  83. Jerry

    I’m listening on an iPad, and I prefer Ian’s version. The upper midrange has a nice intensity to it that I don’t hear in the others. A little more top end sizzle too. Limiter-only version is good too, upper mods have a little boxiness to them, just a tiny bit. LANDR isn’t bad, but I miss the top end. Will need to hear on my monitors to get further detail, especially on the low end. Thanks for posting this, very helpful.

  84. Peter Fox

    Hi Graham, I definitely prefer the pro mastered version. Both of the others still sound good, but a little bit muddy. Your limiter mix sounded the most muddy. The LANDR version while better than the limiter version did not have the crispness in the vocals that the pro had. I think your friend has a great ear!

  85. Dougie Fraser

    Hey Graham,
    Peace and love from Scotland. Brilliant song of yours – loved it. How do I buy it?
    I wish you hadn’t told us who did what. In a way it got set up so Ian Shepherd’s version came out on top. Because apart from the differences you mentioned (big low end on the Landre version; more mid clarity in Ian Shepherd’s etc) there really wasn’t too much of a difference. The psychology of knowing – hey this is from a professional mastering engineer – colours how you hear it (a bit like loudness!). Similarly for the Landr – I found myself hoping it would fail – cos who wants the baby they’ve laboured over mastered by a ‘robot’ (even if it is a very clever robot!!!)
    You know what – on first hearing I liked your own version the best because it ‘seemed’ to have a slightly less processed and therefore more natural feel to it. Maybe if you’d spent a little more time on your guitars – yours would have won the shoot out. Thanks for your great work.

    • Aaron

      I had to go through the video again and look away from the screen to “turn off the bias”. I wanted to like the pro version more and have LANDR crash and burn haha…

    • Graham

      Hi Dougie – the EP is called Never Satisfied and you can get it on iTunes, Google, Spotify, anywhere really.

  86. jaime paredes

    all 3 are have something special the one with ozone: i like the exciter
    the pro mastering: definitely is more clear and detailed i would go for this one (nothing wrong with the other 2)
    landr: because your mix is so good it sounds still great and more bottom as you mentioned which gives the song a nice feel of depth but landr not always sounds good, sometimes the computer smash the mixes, overall i would pick the pro….for obvious reasons, but i think once you get a nice solid mix like you did, the mix can fight itself and survive any mastering pretty much.

  87. Aaron

    Listening through AKG K240 MKII: the professional master takes it. The attack on the drums and overall punch fits the genre.

    The limiter version wasn’t far off. I think if you had run a multiband compressor, followed by a limiter, you’d have a damn good mix!

    All of the low end in the LANDR mix was nice and smooth but the top was clamped and lost clarity. I imagined if I put it through my monitors the sub would pop off and the neighbours would be knocking at my door with a 6 pack.

    Seems to me that LANDR is directed towards electronic/modern “hip-hop”/bass music. People making these genres of music don’t need to understand production to make their music sound “decent”. They grab some synths, download some presets and samples, copy, paste, copy, paste, “master” through LANDR and BOOM: there’s a big bassy beast of a track with a highly compressed high end that doesn’t kill your ears due to lack of a proper mix.

    Uhhh I didn’t want to turn this into a *bash* but honestly, if I’m going to spend a day writing a song, a day figuring out the orchestration, 2 days recording at the highest quality possible, and another day or 2 mixing, it’s going to a professional for mastering. . Or I’m going to master it. But there’s absolutely no way my masterpiece is going to be put through something like LANDR lol

  88. Drew Puzia

    I tried it out on NOT my Sennheiser HD 600 headphones (which are pretty sweet) but on real world everyday headphones that I see lots of people using. The headphones that I used was stock Ear Buds off a iPad. So I was going for a typical user experience. That being said I felt that the bass from Landr was a little too much but worked the best because ear buds really don’t have a lot of bass. Overall Ian’s was the best however it was down a little in overall volume. So from an ear bud POV I would give the nod to Landr. However, if I throw it across my home stereo which is real nice using high grade Polk Audio speakers and sub woofer, with an Apooge DAC and Yamaha amp. Ian’s would sound the best. So the can of worms I just opened is which market are we going for? Portable iPad and ear buds or close to state of the art home stereo listeners? I have studied Mastering at Berklee and it is a very different field then mixing. One product that I use that enters the equation is the Lurssen Mastering plugin from IKmultimedia. Sort of an all in one plugin that gets really great results for a novice and a pro. But using it as part of a chain with some MS Eq like the Fabfilter Pro -Q2 and some saturation before the Lurssen is getting great results as well.

  89. Clint McLain

    Definitely the Pro Master was much cleaner and clearer .
    The LANDR was to much bottom end you lose alot of the mix
    The limited version even sounded better than the LANDR to me .
    I listened on both my Behringer Nekest 6 with subwoofer and my Klipisch stystem

  90. Max Bloomquist

    I think I liked the Pro best for clarity, but the LANDR had a smoothness that appeals to me. Coincidentally, I just tried LANDR for the first time last night and am happy with the result, but it was a very different style of music and mix -just acoustic guitar, bowed bass, and single vocal. Cool demo here.

  91. Achilleas Moraitis

    It’s definitely:
    1. Pro master (by a large margin)
    2. Limiter
    3. LANDR

    It’s worth noting that 1 & 2 are much closer together than they are to number 3.

  92. Nether

    I’ll say the automatic one seemed too bassy to me, the limiter only sounded good and the pro had more clarity, more top end. Does the song need it? I’m not sure. I’d be happy if my sounds sounded like just the limiter version:)

  93. Jay

    Good shootout

    Ian’s pro master sounds the best

    I have used LANDR and it worked well, the band loved it so thats what mattered the most with that project.

    There will never be one real winner sense what we perceive as the “best” is relative.

    But thats a different topic.

  94. Randy Gunter

    Not much difference between the three, using computer speakers with a subwoofer and medium-quality headphones. Favorite was just the limiter. Least favorite was the pro.

  95. Kent Dawson

    I actually prefer the low end of your limited mix, but I liked the clarity and presence of the pro master. I do agree with you that the pro master did get rid of something in the mids that improved the sound quality, but it was quite subtle. I found the lows a little lacking in the pro master though.

    The LANDR master seems very hyped in the low end, to the point that I found it muddy and lacking in clarity up top.

    To sum up, if I were hearing your limited mix or the pro master come on the radio in a typical, non-ideal listening environment, I would probably think “hey, what a great song” and not analyze it much further. If I were to hear the LANDR version, which is probably totally commercially acceptable today, I would probably hear the low-end hype and start thinking about how I might mix it differently (I’ve done this before!) as opposed to enjoying the song, which is kind of the point of making music 😉 But hey, maybe the average listener for the demographic for your song has a 4000-watt subwoofer system in the trunk of their car would eat it up 😉

  96. Randy Gunter

    As a side note, next time you do this, do it blind. Don’t tell people what they are hearing until after they’ve made their choice. We’ve done blind tests of microphones and it is really, really interesting. Gets rid of the “I’m going to pick this one because this is the one I’m supposed to pick” scenario.

  97. David Keller

    Hi Graham, Several comments here. First, I think this would be better as a blind test because I’m sure our biases are affecting our opinions. Especially since most professionals don’t look highly on LANDR. Second, I’m curious as to whether these are compliant with ITU BS.1770-3. Unless you have the waveforms zoomed, just from the looks of them my first thought would be they are all over processed. I admit I could be wrong because you can’t always judge by waveform looks but I have seen many “professional” mastered songs with peak clips (showing flat topped waveforms) and just too much loudness. So I guess I’d be curious to see the metered numbers on these. Third, personally, I wouldn’t mind hearing a bit bottom on Ian’s version. All of them seem to slightly lack some lower mids to me. To me the LANDR seems to be trying to make up for the lower mids but does a poor job of it. I would take that as a sign to maybe adjust the mix slightly and try again. While none of the mastering jobs impress me I was surprised that LANDR did as good as it did. With that said if I had to take one of them with no alterations it would be Ian’s version. I personally think a dynamic EQ could add the right amount of low mids that I think are lacking.

  98. Awaclus

    The last time I checked, LANDR was literally just a limiter with the exact same settings every time.

  99. Milton Messenger

    Definitely the Promaster. Seemed more balanced and sounded like I was listening to a radio. Landr sounded too thick and mushy. Landr might be our future, especially if they give us a lot more choices to pick from. Anything that can keep me being more creative and less “technical”, I welcome.

  100. Drew Puzia

    Great idea to do this! Next time perhaps a blind listening test and toss in the Lurssen Mastering console from IKmultimedia. I think people naturally do not want to lose to a machine.

  101. Brian Burnham

    1. Pro
    2. Limiter
    3. LANDR

    I was surprised at this but the only thing that sounded articulate to my ear in the LANDR master was the vocal. The guitars sounded the best in Ian’s version and overall, his was the most polished and everything was clear and well defined as was the limited version. The LANDR version was much more bass heavy (which generally, I like) but all the low-ish instruments (drums, bass, guitars) are a bit mushy. The other two have much more definition in the low end instruments.

    Thanks Graham, awesome comparison

  102. David Anderson

    Pro-Master sounds best to my ear. Sounds like the best balance. Very interesting, thanks for posting this comparison. Landr was impressive albeit too muddy in this example.

  103. David Mann

    This is very interesting , out of the 3 i like the Pro mastering the best, but since I hear the side effects of the pro mastering ( mainly making the mix a bit more synthetic ( I don’t want to say lifeless but in comparison less alive then the limiter only version ), I feel the best final version could have been learning from the Pro Master what need fixing and go back to the mix and fix it there. but this is not exactly a best business practice.
    For me since I don’t even have the budget to send it to pro master house ( I wish I could )
    I master it in the mix session after I am happy with the mix , so if I need to fix the guitar, I can do that on the guitar and on the whole mix.

  104. Alfred Key

    Wow great back-to-back I’m really glad you did this. I was hoping the robot mastering would be more transparent than it was. I have to admit I think Ian’s mastering was the best of the three if I had to pick only one. There was definitely better definition and stereo spatial representation in his mix and I think his treatment of the Bass was completely right on target. The robot mix low end was just too much for my ears, and I am a low-end lover! It would be incredibly interesting to rerun the robots session again with a lower intensity setting to see if that calms down some of its extreme nature.

  105. Chris Hall

    The pro mastered version is definitely the better of the three , well ballenced without a preference to the lows or highs. I have used LANDR and got the same result, loads of bottom end.

  106. Crazy chris

    I like landrs master more .pro masters mastering is too flat to me .landr got a good balance between clearance and power from below.for me is important that the lows are hitting me in the stomache as the mids and the highs given me the hearable and nice highs to feel good

  107. Bruce Vaught

    I prefer Ian’s version. It sounded fuller than Graham’s and a bit brighter. The online version was a bit too muddy and I agree with Graham’s assessment that it had quite a bit of low end. Too much low end for my taste and for what the song requires, in my estimation.

  108. Robert

    Well on headphones on my cell I have to say my preferred version was the Landr version.

  109. Dustin Hall

    Graham the master from Ian sounds amazing. I thought the one from LANDR and The limiter was relatively the same. The LANDR did have more bottom end but I don’t think it did it any favors. Good tune by the way! But the Ian master was great!

  110. Gaston Schachtl

    Hi Graham, I like actually Ian’s Master, it is more clear, lower botom end, i little less of mid freq and the best of all, it is all about balance…

  111. Vincent Siméon

    Honestly at first I picked LANDR because I love this low end BUT in the same time it don’t respect your original mix . A real master for me have to be the more transparent for the more different listening environment possible. IMO mastering process is an art but not an artistic process (I know it’s not clear but I’m french). So, if I’ve been the client and validate the mix without to much low end I’ll probably go for the Ian master.

  112. Neil

    The mix with just the limiter is definitely dry.

    The pro mix has great separation, a great balance, and the vocals are processed well. I wish there was a bit more low end. but not as much as the landr.

    The landr has a lot of low end, as well as some global processing (delay, reverb) but not enough clarity. It sounds decent at low volume, but I bet listening to it with a lot of bass filter on your stereo it won’t cut it.

    So I think the pro mix sounds the best, it sounds most balances, clear, and rich. I like the vocals on this mix a lot.. which matters to me the most.

  113. Rene Ellis

    Ian’s master I feel overall sounded better. The spread of the guitars and the vocals sounded great, However more low-end would’ve been nice. Landr tamed some of the low and it sounded nice but the Shimmer and spread of the guitars and vocals was missing. The limiter copy actually sounds good too. A little glue compressing before the limiter and that could have been the album cut.

  114. Tom H

    Great Comparison! All were good but listening through AKG K240’s the differences were clear to me in a variety of ways.

    Your mix with limiter actually had a nice crisp top end but I felt was harsh in the guitars and mids as you mentioned. Bass was there but I think the high end of the drums was over powering the low end. Punch was missing in the bottom end and I think yours was louder than the rest of them to my ears. It was not however squashed even though the wave form on all the mixes seem to lack visual dynamics.

    Pro master by Ian definitely evened out the whole song and the dynamics, individual components were very well balanced and complete clarity was brought into the mix. I thought it lacked in volume in comparison to the other two but that could easily be remedied with a little more boost. I believe if you ran them all through his “Perception” plug in the differences would be even more apparent by comparing them at equal relative volumes.

    LANDR was not impressive to me at all. Bass was louder and pronounced but at the expense of the top end and midrange clarity. Volume was definitely boosted as I’m sure that’s the best way to differentiate between a submitted mix and the mastered product. Some of those processes I believe use a comparison genre logarithm to match a reference to the final mix output. One of those was called HARBAL back in the day and I’ve used it with pretty good results. Not a bad start but the experienced ears make a much better impression. One other tidbit of info for those looking for a quick master is IK Multimedia’s Lurssen Mastering console. I’ve used it with great success and my clients absolutely love what I’ve produced for them as a demo. Not affiliated with IK in any way but I like this product for doing quick masters. That said, I’ve worked with Bob Katz before at Digital Domain and there is no substitute for a professional mastering engineer when your music deserves the finest treatment it can get.

  115. Graham

    Ian’s version works for me, nicer separation than limiter only. The LANDR version loses clarity on the low end to my ears (but I only have this one pair).

  116. Stephane

    All three were good to me but I liked what Landr did. It actually convinced me to try their service for my own mixes!

  117. donald thomas

    Innarestin…all 3 sound all right, I like the LANDR version, but I’ve always liked the sizzle from the cymbals, and lots of top end sparkle, so I like Ian’s master the best. I’ve used LANDR before, just the free version, and I must say they seem to be on the right track…

  118. Seymour

    I really like the Landr version my musical tastes are 90s rock like Incubus and 311 and stuff and they have that kind of bottom end Rage Against the Machine. I like the limiter version as well the pro has air but my preference is the landr.

  119. Per Callesen

    Shephards is my favorite. I feel there is room for the vocals and instruments.

    Limiter and Landr is quite similar in the headphones i have access to right now, “holiday in france”.

  120. Eric Palacio

    I would have to say the lander master sounds more radio ready, the low end gives a more today kind of tone. The pro master sounds clear but not as warm. Your master has to much mid range and gives an unnatural sound to your vocals in certain parts of the song. So in conclusion the Lander master may have more low end then your used to but it opens up the mix more and has a more modern tone.

  121. Phillip Laycock

    The Pro Master is my #1 Preference. Loved the clarity. For me it sparkled more.
    LANDR is my #2 Preference just too much bass for my liking.
    Limited Version is ok but lacks sparkle of other 2.

  122. Dave

    Hi Graham,
    First off, the LANDR version seemed to me a bit mushy. The Pro master virsion was good, but your simple limiter version was best to me for my tast. But I did like the Pro mastering of your friend, though to me it sounded a bit thinner. Myself I absolutly cannot afford to have my stuff mastered. I do it myself sparringly on Sony Sound Forge with a bit of EQ and Wave Hammer since I have this software. Thank you for sharing this information.
    The Lord be with you and your family.

  123. Murray Murdoch

    Great song Graham. I thought your master with Ozone stood perfectly well on its own, however I did like the way the pro master brought out the guitar parts and gave the track slightly more mid energy. The online master was thicker and punchier, which would appeal to some, but by comparison was my least favourite. Side by side comparison in order of preference: 1 Pro,
    2 Ozone , 3 LANDR.
    Thanks for all your great videos and sharing your incredible knowledge.
    Cheers, Bassmangizmo. (UK)

  124. Mike Privette

    Hey Graham, I actually thought the LANDR master grabbed my attention more and got me into the beat of the song.

    I can’t afford your paid stuff right now, but thanks for all the tips you put out. I recently went back through and zeroed out a song I already have on iTunes, and re-mixed it using the ideas you’ve shared. What a difference man! You’ve inspired me to get better and not just settle with mediocre.

  125. Seymour

    I love the fact that we love this craft so much that we can listen to these things where someone who doesn’t understand music like this can’t really tell the difference but we can critically find differences in these things and we been doing this long enough to understand what we’re listening for that’s amazing kudos to all of you

  126. Jules Roels

    First of all, great shootout with very interesting results!
    To me the Landr version was too thick and somewhat smeared. I don’t believe this song needed that “wall of sound”.
    Ian’s version was nicely detailed and balanced, especially the guitars. However your vocals seemed to be pushed to the back a bit.
    Your limited version kept the vocals up front with perhaps some excessive presence compared to the Shepard version. A blend of the two would be great to hear.
    Cool song by the way!

  127. Lucky

    Iain’s master sounded the best for me to be honest but I kind of expected that. What I was really listening out for was the Landr master and I’m surprised by it. I expected it to be all over the place and although the low end felt overpowering, it didn’t sound nearly as bad as I thought it would.
    Just my opinion.

  128. Brian McGibney

    The LANDR sounds very flat by comparsion

    Limiter is better but the Pro Mastering is better still.

    You should do a comparison of the above with what can be achieved in OZONE. I’m using ozone 5 Advanced (actually prefer it over later versions) and have had pretty amazing results. You just have to be careful not to over do it :<)

  129. Hans Vercruysse

    my preference from best to minor
    A. Promaster
    B Your limiter master
    C Lander
    -> A promaster has more clarity, detail, open sound, balance ( he removes the lowmid ( or high bass) and higher mids in the way it makes more room for other things …it,s like removing the curtain in front .. as a pro sound should sound – will sound right on everything ..
    B is not bad but a bit to°flat° , the balnce is ok but it lacks the clarity
    C , sorry but , no good , absolutely no character

  130. Michael Horne

    The Pro Master version sounds way more musical and pleasant to listen to than the other two. It’s almost frightening to think that mastering can make or break a good song. Many thanks, Graham, for this insight. Mike Horne

  131. Ray

    I like the Pro mastered version most. The Landr version sound a little to dull to me, but I like the bottom of it.

  132. Tom Lukas

    To my ears, the pro-master sounds best on your song/style. Your limiter-only master masks some highs and midrange frequencies. With the added low end, the automated master would seem more appropriate for other styles.

  133. Marco

    Personally my choice would be somewhere in-between the LandR and the pro version. I like the bottom-end added by LandR but it’s a bit too much, the Pro version could benefit from a little more bottom end. The Pro is the more balanced of the 3.

    Other from the bottom-end, what I noticed when comparing the 3 versions is, the position of the vocals. The Pro and LandR versions seemed to blend and sit the vocals a little more into the mix, making it a whole or more centered, while the Limiter version seemed to have the vocals standing a tiny bit higher or floating above the music, kind of more detached compared to the other two versions.

    So of the 3, my choice would be the Pro, I’m impressed with the LandR result though!

    Very interesting video.



  134. Chip Richter

    To my ears… the Pro Mastering sounded best… my take was exactly what you said. There was more definition over-all and yes more low end but not as much as the LANDR Master. thanks Graham cool exercise.

  135. Luke Fisher

    Ian’s master has more definition over all, especially in the high mids, which I like, but not enough low end. The Landr version has more low end, but not as much definition. The limiter track has the negatives of both. The ideal for me would be the human mastered track with more low end added.

  136. Joe

    I liked Ian’s version, just due to the clarity. I use LANDR myself, and usually choose the LOW master for the same reason. It was still a close decision.

  137. Gary Eberhart

    The landr has a LOT of bottom low end! They probably would be ok for Trap or hip hop but sherperds master is the best to me, Shepard has detail to it and sounds like shepherd MASTER would tranlate better on different devices! Landr doesn’t sound bad but on some systems it may sound to boomy!

  138. Tryggvasson

    Great idea, awesome video. Your version of mastering would have also been nice. I’m gonna look into robomastering, just as a reference for my own master bus processing – it’s not as bad as I would have thought. Is LANDR free?

    • Tryggvasson

      I think the „humanly mastered” version is more balanced, more detailed, warmer and more cohesive – there be some goodly compression over there :p.

  139. SchawgMan

    Hi Graham,
    First off, an early happy holidays to you and your family.
    The Pro mastering complimented the mix and enhanced ever so slightly the transients of the drums and the overall dynamics and the overall tone of the song while remaining within the color and feel of your original mix. The LANDR mix is just a mix ran through any “mastering plugin” with. It’s dull, blend and has no soul just a loudness and a preset eq curve.

  140. Art Davis

    OK they all are quite good. I was impressed with Lander’s mix. Not bad for a robot :). The pro mastered version was to my ears quite a bit better than the other two. Hard to describe but more air in the mids? Probably the result of side chain compression.

    When not AB’d against anything else the original one with the limiter was just fine as is.

  141. Dan Cullinane

    Great case study here. I actually like the mix with the limiter the best. While Ian’s pro master is fantastic, super clean, and balance, Graham’s just feels warmer to me. I’m on my AKG K77 headphones at work. The Landrs low end can be felt in my neck, which is cool. Maybe not for this song, but I’ve had some tunes that could have benefited from it in the past.

  142. Spike Speigel

    I enjoyed Ian’s most! Like you said, it’s definitely subjective, but I hear the crisp clarity you’re talking about that may not have the big low end… but to me it sounds like that’s what works best for the type of song it’s for. Its definitely opinion based tbough… For example, a piano track that might sound too muddy for someone, might sound amazing for someone else. Whatever floats the artist’s boat, right? 🙂

  143. Robert Baker

    The pro-mix is better in my opinion. What I heard was more clarity in the mix. I’m a bass player so “More Bass” so I have to fight with myself to get a good level of bass. I eithier have too much or too little. The LANDER mix was too “boomy” for my tastes to the point of being distracting. The limiter mix was a bit lifeless compared to the Pro-Mix.
    Pro Mix 100%!

  144. Chris Doskoch

    I thought I liked Ian’s better but I don’t know any more. It’s just a touch scooped for my personal tastes and very processed sounding which sounds real good and slick. My choice seemed to vary at different volumes and through speakers and headphones. At louder volumes I didn’t mind the Landr when my first thoughts were it was a bit boomy. I think there are good points on every mix.
    If it was my song I would prefer Ian’s master but with just a touch less slickness I think.
    Or maybe the Limiter with just a bit more clarity in the mids and a touch more processing.

  145. winston o coles

    1. limiter only. Sort of a thiner sound.
    2 . Pro. Very smooth. Easy to listen to.
    3. Too much bottom end. More like a wall of sound that would
    soon lead to listening fatigue.

    Great video. Thanks for everything. wince

  146. Tim Edmondson

    In listening with my Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro headphones the Pro Mastered had the largest stereo spread. Very open with detail. As a listener it draws me more into the song. Makes me want to finish listening because the intention of the song and mix was brought to life.
    The Landr mastering had too much low end across the song for me. Muffled and muddy.
    The Limiter version had more detail to the difference frequencies than the Landr.

  147. Micha

    The time I saw the LANDR beta over a year ago I was hoping to see some analysing from you or Joe.
    Really love your input!

  148. Bryan

    Hi Graham,
    That was interesting hearing the difference of the masters
    For me, I like Ian’s Pro mix mastering. It’s easy on the ears. The mids, guitars sound amazing. I like the separation of the sound. Very clear. Radio Ready.
    They all sound good but for me I would choose the 2nd example. What kind of gear, software did he use? Very talented mastering engineer.

  149. Gordy Howe

    I Enjoyed The First Because How It Brought Out The Vocal Which Is The Most Unique Part Of Any Mix!

  150. Rieuwke

    I liked the pro master the best because of the drum sound. Definitely more punchy to me.
    Also, the best song I’ve heard from you. Keep up the good work and thanks for all you do.

  151. Steve


    Pro – Sounded….Pro! Space, airy, clarity, punch, definition.
    Limiter – Sounded damn good……I liked it almost as much as the pro.
    LANDR – Sounded too muddy.

    Note – 60 plus, mild tinnitus! 🙂

  152. Alex Vincent

    Ian’s Pro master was top for me, followed by your limiter version, then the Landr version.
    I found the Landr’s just threw a blanket over the whole sound. Ian’s version was certainly more exciting than your limiter version but I couldn’t pinpoint why.

    I feel like I would get fatigue listening to the Landr master though I am impressed with its results regardless.

    I’d love for you and Ian to do a walkthrough on this track as to what was done.

    Great track by the way!

  153. Cedric

    Loved this shootout. Really gets me thinking about this kind of stuff and overall mix. I am listening to your video on some good senheiser headphones. I think the winner is Ian’s pro-master. It was most balanced and the mid range fit well. The LANDR was bass heavy, and I enjoy bass for sure, but I imagine on a system with a real subwoofer it would get too boomy.

    It really all comes down to someone’s timeline and budget. LANDR is fast and likely 50% less cost than professional mastering. So I think if someone doesn’t have mixing or mastering skills and they want something that sounds decent on soundcloud, then LANDR is a reasonable option. If you want to have a showcase album that you will market and promote and hope for digital radio play, then hiring a pro Master engineer will be worth it.

  154. Sean Charteris

    Thank you so much Graham! I love videos where I have to concentrate and train my ears to discern differences.
    I like Ian’s version the most. Secondly, I like the limited version. The LANDR version is my least favourite. I feel that the vocals also take a step back in the LANDR version, and vocals are arguably one of the most important elements in contemporary mixes. In fact we fight to bring vocals to the front of the mix.
    I liked the transients in the bass of Ian’s mix. The bass was clear and defined.
    Once again, this was an absolutely fantastic video. Thank you so much for the time that you invest in improving our skills. We appreciate you and your work so much!

  155. Kimball

    The Best was the Promix more balanced
    The Landr was muddy distorted didn’t like
    Found it irritating grating

  156. Matt Denton

    The limiter version seems bright and missing top end, really just louder. The Landr version is very dark and thick, I can see how that might appeal to a certain taste but I really liked Ian’s version best, it just had more clarity and balance across the entire frequency spectrum. He really does a great job.

    I master myself and I’ve started using Landr to get a baseline to compare against, so I know what to do & not to do with my track and make sure my mix is on point.

  157. Mike Berrios

    Been waiting for this video! Ian”s mix sounded best to me. Solid low end that wasn’t overpowering or muddy. Then the Landr, really great low end, but a little to much muddy midrange showing through, no shine on the high end. The limiter lacked bottom end.

  158. Grant Lincoln

    Listening on earbuds I would have to say the pro master sounded best. Just seemed to have air on it if that makes any sense! After hearing the Landr I did like the the added bottom end though. Last time I mastered one of my songs I ended up using my apple earbuds and it came acrossed great in the car. Sounds crazy but worked!

  159. Dennis

    The bass guitar or synth bass or instrument in a song are extremely important in carrying a song during choruses and verses…. especially in a full mix rock type song like this. So LANDR wins because you have the rock type song and it definitely needs that bass to carry it and to jam to. The LANDR is a tiny bit muddy, but, I say if you yourself left more bass in your bass instrument track and bass drum for your own first limited master, you could get very close to the LANDR on your own. Plus you need to leave SOME thickness and bass in your voice, like you REALLY thin it out. Nothing crazy, just a bit more low-mid and bass to show in your vocal also otherwise you suck too much life out of your male voice.

  160. Bas van Driel

    Great shoot out !

    To my taste , the LANDR master is more convincing in the lowmids and lows, and is a lot ‘warmer’ than the pro-mix, which has more radio-quality to it imho. The pro mix sounded much more balanced and is therefore likely to translate better i think. However, the pro mix sounds a little thin as well and a little too much on the high mids, it benefits the guitars, agreed, but it does lean a little bit too much into the high frequencies for my taste.
    If the LANDR master would have a slight raise in the high mids and highs, it probably would have won the battle for me. Unfortunately for the LANDR algorithm, it has lost in overall balance, which is where the pro version shines. They both outperform the limiter mix, which has less focus compared to either of the other ones.

    1. Pro mix
    2. LANDR
    3. Limiter

  161. Ken Ketler

    Hi Graham,
    Ian is an extremely talented mastering engineer. I can’t recommend more highly that everyone join him with his Dynamic Range Day campaign. I have learned more from him than I thought was even possible. I have been lucky enough to have a few of my tracks played on FM radio recently, and it is astounding what the radio processing can do to your mix. Ian gives great advice on milking the most from your mixes on radio, You Tube, and MP3 encoding (look out for digital overloads when you convert you WAV files!)
    May I also recommend a free Mastering compressor/limiter called “Limiter #6”. This has also changed my whole approach to mastering my own mixes.
    Recording is what we do, right? If we record and mix our own stuff, why not learn as much as possible about mastering? I believe it will make us all revisit the way we approach recording and mixing.



  162. Bernd

    1. Ian’s
    2. Ozone
    3. Landr

    I’d like to hear your mix completely without limiter because the slightest touch of limiting will dampen the transients and eventually soak up the snare hits, especially, quite heavily.
    So, for comparison purpose I think it would be better to bring down the limited versions to the level of the mix!

    Anyways, brilliant mix, great song. You and Ian did a fantastic job!

  163. Joe

    Ian’s master sounded best to me overall. I played all the masters through 4 sets of headphones and two monitoring systems as well as earbuds. All the masters became pretty good in their own way. One set of monitors seemed to capture something above 12k and was loud enough to make me ask about it. Landr’s needed more high end which possibly could have been accomplished by lowering the low end slightly. The limited version went a little cloudy on one of the pair of earbuds and the Landr got boomy on another. I choose Ian’s because his mix sounded good across the board with slight variations but still clean.

  164. Felix

    Limiter : Vocals sound clearer, more in your face
    Pro : Drums sound punchier and everything more dinstinctive… except vocals
    Landr : Lush vocals but muddy hi-end

    Personnaly i kinda like the messy Landr version, its a common production style in indie music these days and i can understand why they push the algorytms that way.

  165. Don Cook

    I dug the body of the limited mix but Ian’s mix brings out the details of the song

  166. Michael Curtis

    Great job, Ian! And to you, too, Graham for the great mix. If I had to pick one, it’d be Ian’s master. I’m a mastering engineer myself and at Movement Mastering and have started using LANDR in a new way:

    Instead of it viewing it as my enemy, it’s now my training partner.

    Every master I do now I upload it to LANDR, master the track independently, then compare the two. I then take those results, evaluate them, then make a second “integrated” master with my new findings.

    Thanks for all you do, Graham.

  167. Jurek

    The second one is the best. Why? Because is more human, more for human ear. That’s all. Thank You.

  168. T.

    The LANDR worked best on different devices. No scientific chat about engineering, no gear chat about preamps and eq: It does what a master should do: Ensure, that the mix will sound good at different devices…

    Until now I used just the free version, but after I heard how small the difference to a “human master” is, I will give them an extended try.

  169. Eli

    Okay, what I think:
    – Limiter version obviously lacks low end.
    – Ian made the stereo image wider and more distinct.
    – Ian did multiband compression, I’m sure mid freq part is compressed more than in the Limiter version, this is why it sounds more contained and clear.
    – Ian’s version has more bass than the Limiter version in a good way.
    – LANDR has more bass than the Limiter in a bad way. More 250-300hertzish muffled sound which doesn’t do any good.
    – LANDR cut the high end way too much.

    My rating:
    1. Ian’s master.
    2. LANDR
    3. Limiter

    Honestly, I don’t think LANDR did a poor job. The result of the auto-processing is okay, I wonder if the algorithm is capable of delivering these on a regular basis (i.e. it is adaptive enough to the source material).

  170. Renato Cortez

    The stereo image of Pro Master sounds so much better. We can feel the reverbs and all the space between monitors.

  171. Jim

    I think there is a bit of techy over hype here.

    I mean will the ordinary girl or guy really notice much of a difference. So the point is this. It’s the quality of the song first last and most which counts.

    They all sounded okay to me and not a massive difference between them and yes I have a decent pair of headphones audio technica m 50x.

  172. RusH

    Have to say, and it’s probably going against the majority, but I think the LANDR mix is too bottom heavy.

    The pro mix sound, has the most clarity, but I have to say, Graham, your initial mix isn’t bad at all.

    For me, your vocals need taming and bringing back in the mix a little, but after that’s done, to bring up the low end overall balance and depth of the track wouldn’t be that difficult in my opinion.

    Bottom line, I think you’re doing a great job and personally don’t think you need the pro mix or LANDR!

    I get the feeling that online “mastering” services are generally geared towards a certain type of music upload and so the requirement is “Oh it needs to be loud and have a warmth in the low end” kind of feel.

    I’m no mastering pro in the slightest, and I’ve been around numerous mastering engineers to see that mastering is whole science in itself.

    Unfortunately, to have our tracks properly mastered can work out pretty expensive for most of us. That’s why I personally have had to adopt the “DIY” approach. Are my mixes perfect?…No, but it’s great learning how to make the next track sound better and then the one after that better still, I’ve been years at it and still I’m nowhere near where I would like to be, but eventually I’ll get there, as we all will.

    Graham, I include your good self in this, with the knowledge that’s readily available on the internet and great video tutorials extremely accessible, the world as a home producer has never been more exciting. The only limitation is ourselves when it comes to getting these things done.

    Learning skills and tips from each other and then honing those skills to suit our own way of working, is far better than having an online algorithm guess how a track should be in my opinion.

    In all fairness, I’d guess that services like LANDR, are doing no more than putting a smiley eq setting, a compressor and a limiter on your mix anyway!

  173. Rick M.

    Nice song. Out of the three mixes, I liked the Pro Master version, because it has a nice clean and clear balance throughout the song, keeping inline with the idea of your original mix. However, I do prefer a little more bottom end to bring out the bass drum and bass guitar. Maybe not as much as the LANDR mix, but a little bit more then the Pro mix. I do find it interesting that LANDR noticed the bottom end was a little thin, but what was it comparing the bottom end to. can you set the style of music that it masters? I wonder what it would have done if your song had more bass.

    All-in-all I guess that’s why you go to different mastering engineers, so that they can add their style or flavor to your mix.

    Rick M.

  174. Ronald W Brown Jr


    I’m kinda stuck between the Pro & LANDR. I love the clarity of top end sizzle but that low end is definitely juicy. The combination of the two would be SWEET! Love the song and all the interplay of musical parts. And the 60cycle hum at the end…STELLAR!

    Thanks again for all you do!

  175. Smoov


    I’m kinda stuck between the Pro & LANDR. I love the clarity of top end sizzle but that low end is definitely juicy. The combination of the two would be SWEET! Love the song and all the interplay of musical parts. And the 60cycle hum at the end…STELLAR!

    Thanks again for all you do!

  176. Ian Robins

    I liked Ian’s the best. My ears are getting old and I have lost a bit of top end so I tend to look for a crisper sound to compensate. Gotta hear that hi-hat! So maybe I’d like best of all something between In’s and the LANDR. Very interesting though.

  177. John

    Appreciate the post! Very interesting to hear this kind of shootout. I like Ian’s master best. The LANDR version seems a lot like trying to tell The Rock what you were thinking with your song only to get back the sonic equivalent of: “It doesn’t matter what you think!”

  178. Justin Shane

    1 Pro master by Ian…more dynamic, richer sounding and sweeter top end. More clarity! Although it
    seemed to be missing a little muscle in the mids. Personal taste I guess for me…

    2 Limiter…simple clean not bad at all and more clarity than the Landr. Actually gave Ian
    a run for his money except the dynamics…that’s where Ian wins it, The Dynamics are in tact!

    3 Landr… is a bit round and darker overall, the low mids could use a bit of carving.

  179. Randy

    Ian’s master was the cleanest and sounds the most “pro”, but it doesn’t have as much low end as the LANDR master. I’m actually pleasantly surprised by the LANDR track, but it is a bit muddier. Ian’s is best, then LANDR.

  180. Ben

    Interesting — I had a winner in mind, and then totally changed it by the end of this video.

    The takeaway for me: I was impressed with the LANDR, and it was my initial winner before I shifted to the pro master, which for my ears ultimately gave the song the treatment it needed. But I liked the LANDR low-end — if it makes sense to say, I find that big hugs of low end (and dirt) transport me into the song better than a straight-up “clear” mix — it just grabs more of my attention — and I ended up wanting some of that mixed in with the pro job’s clarity. Had I heard either master on its own, without the side-by-side comparison, I wouldn’t have any substantial issues.

    The pro mix ultimately won out (and, yes, I’m being honest; I’m not just trying to defend the human role in music production). But not by much.

    A sure factor: I only listened through earbuds. I’d probably experience it differently with studio headphones (sorry, I’m at my dayjob), but if we’re talking a *mastered* song, I do a lot of my daily listening through earbuds. As do a lot of people.

    • Ben

      UPDATE: Funny — I repeated the listen on my studio headphones, and on my studio monitors, and came away with a slightly different conclusion: I like the LANDR mix best. Now you have the option of hearing me out.

      The pro master is nice. But, well, eh — OK, here: The LANDR version is, to me, more interesting. It’s bigger. It’s bolder. It’s not about adherence. And — again, just talking about me — that means more to me than a clean/clear/(and, sorry but … boring) master with laboratory controlled personality. Give me something a little different, less expected, less textbook.

      The LANDR did that.

      The pro master is nice. The limiter version is too. But they just felt a little too plain, which didn’t really do this *great* song justice.

      • Scott

        That is exactly what I felt, Ben. (though I didn’t describe it that way in my comment)

  181. Ben mcneil

    Initially I thought your mix with the limiter was best. After you switched between the three, I think the Pro Master is superior. That said, I would borrow money and bet that most of the younger radio listeners would choose the Landr version. Perhaps the extra meatiness is due to compensation of phone/portable speaker performance. All in all I don’t beleive that a computer will replace the human touch, but for the average indie musician, hiring a pro masterer isn’t normally friendly to the budget.

  182. Martin Weeks

    Wow! Lot’s of comments, doubt if my two cents will even be read but here goes.

    I think Gyp Bugane pretty much nailed it. Order would be Ian’s, then Your Master and coming in at a very low third is Landr.

    I squinted and looked very carefully at the wav patterns in the mix to see if I could spot anything that stood out. Can’t really say since I could not expand enlarge the video display.

    Ian’s Master is as Gyp said much more clear. The little guitar riffs here and there show up cleanly and nice when they appear, and then the rest of the mix folds into place.

    I have to admit upfront that since as a kid I was raised pretty much listening to my parent’s Jazz music collection, I’ve never been a big fan of dominating bass. Yes I know it’s really popular due to the advancement of Hip Hop, Rap and House, but I’ve always thought that bass should be the nice thick feels good between your toes carpeting of a good mix/master.

    Yes some genres do in fact sound great with a strong dominating bass line. (Blues for example) but to my ears there’s just way too much of the “Boom Box” Bass thing going on right now. Hey nice bass licks (Like Stanely Clark, or Jaco) are great to hear when played well…but when the bass lines are average or just decent, if they are too dominating then you don’t hear the subtleties of those tasty little shots of guitar… and with most modern day car stereos chocked full of bass enhancement presets…to my ears less is more.

    Ian’s Master seemed to do that.

    Your Mix was a close second, but I agree with what you said in the video, that it was at times just a bit tinny.

    I have to admit that that is hard to work with for me. I spend a lot more time (and I mean a lot) carefully adjusting and readjusting EQ as no matter how many “Breaks” I take to let my ears compress…getting that perfect balance that allows the important little “Spots” for dynamics and punch to poke through when needed and sit back politely when not necessary is the single most difficult portion of my mix sessions.

    And yes I still will work through all the other techniques to create balance from gain reduction in the pre, to automation…but it always comes back to the EQ on all the levels from individual tracks to buses to the master bus.

    I’ve watched and read a lot of Ian’s Tutorials on Mastering and (correct me if I’m wrong on this) he seems to put great emphasis on very careful and “Slight” EQ Adjustments in his mastering work flow…much more than the compression and limiting.

    He also emphasizes the less is more philosophy. Not a half a dozen cool plugins, but really just EQ, Compression and then Limiter.

    I have a long way to go regarding this subject in my learning curve so I hope my 2 cents did not upset or tick off anyone.


  183. Robin K

    Pro master for me. LANDR lacks definition across the EQ spectrum, resulting in the lows and low-mids swallowing frequencies that they should not .

    Ian has excellent ears and skill to match. His master of your song is in-keeping with your original, I would say, as he listens to the sonic message given by the finished mix.

    I have tried LANDR (albeit only once) and came away with just as muddy a mix as you did.

  184. Dean

    Well I have to go with the Pro Master. Easy choice for me, the vocals just sit best in the pro version. If I were doing this for a client, I would want it to transpose well on different types of systems. I think hearing the whole song from all 3 , maybe a day apart would lead me to the some conclusion. Very fun to thinks about. Thanks Graham.

  185. Matthew

    Maybe your master shouldn’t be the base line. Don’t you think it would have helped to hear the original original – not mixed by anyone to see what that sounded like going in before anything?

  186. Adam P

    It seemed to me that the vocals took a hit in the pro master, and seemed a bit thin to me. But there was great balance in high and low, the background guitars we’re much more apparent in the pro master where as before they were burried in mud, espescially with just the limiter version.

    So I would choose:

    1. Pro
    2. Landr
    3. Limiter

  187. Robert James

    The pro mastering is the better one by a mile. I noticed the warmth, fullness, punch and clarity immediately.

  188. JP

    Ian’s master was way more musical than Ozone 5 or LANDR. I actually heard more low end and punch on Ian’s mastered version. I monitored the mastered mixes through studio headphones. Thanks for doing the shoot out.

  189. ScooterMac

    Ian’s was definitely the clearest, punchiest mix. The Landr one wasn’t bad, it just seemed a little bottom heavy, and as everyone said, it “muddied” things up a little too much.
    When you started saying what you thought about them……. I was nodding my head, yep, that’s exactly what I was thinking too.
    I used Landr on one of my own songs about a year ago, and didn’t like the way it turned out. Mine was actually too “harsh” instead of being muddy. I’m sure they are always tweaking their algorithms to make it better though.
    I’ve taken Ian’s Masterclass, and he definitely has “golden ears”.
    Thanks for the comparison Graham. It was interesting to hear the difference with Ian’s being one of the choices.

  190. Steve Counsel

    In order of preference
    1) Pro mix , I like the guitars they pop out nicely and there is more space and depth in the mix
    2) Limiter, I think it sounds well balanced, although the drums sound a bit flat.
    3) Landr, sounds muddy, although with the extra bottom it might work for a different style of music.

  191. JL

    I actually like LANDR. if I could carve some low end…Of course Pro Mix is excellent but in my opinion a little too soft and carved out in the mids for the track…

  192. Don Chandler

    Pro master was best but had to check myself to see if it was because you told us it was a pro master. LANDR seemed to cloud the mix. Would of been happy had I received pro mix or limiter mix.

  193. Mesamanandmo

    The Pro Mix, Hands down. Overall better mix in all frequencies. You could add a little more Bass but it needs to be tighter not so Boomy! People still hear better than machines but it is getting closer.

  194. Will Scherrer

    Ian’s master is best – a lot of ‘elbow room’ and definition. To my ears the limiter only and LANDR versions sounded somewhat ‘opaque’ but drums in LANDR version were closest to Ian’s.

  195. Nathan Kaye

    Hmmm. I was surprised by my preferences here.
    I found the whilst Ian’s had great separation & balance, it seemed a little to crisp, perhaps perfect for pop.
    I liked that the Landr one had more bottom end, albeit a bit too much, but it seemed to make it sound like it had a bit too much saturation overall which muddied it up.
    I felt the limiter version had a better overall balance, but seemed thin & lacked bottom end, especially in comparison with the LAndr one.
    I kind of feel like there needed to be some kind of blend between all 3 of them to get the perfect master.
    If I was forced to choose between them, I think that the Landr master was closer to the genre, than the other 2.

  196. Gerard

    The limiter version was the clearest
    The pro was muddier in the mid & high but Bass had more depth but less clarity
    The Landr was also muddier in the mid & high but Bass had more depth but less clarity
    Overall just the Limiter did the job. Though the Bass could have had a little more depth
    All the extra processing on Pro & Landr didn’t produce a superior master at all
    It just showed how subjective mixing/mastering is by different guy and a robot 🙂

  197. Alex

    My ears preferred Ian’s mix. I’m an old-school musician/composer who likes a well-defined bottom and a detailed top end. IMHO, there’s far too much bass and saturation in most contemporary records, lacking the subtle art of dynamics. Music should have space and breathe.
    Thanks for the share, Graham.

  198. Deepak

    Obviously the one by the Pro Master’s sounds more crisp and throwing more clarity , however your mastering just with the One Limiter is clearly able to get more attention of mine too, Just one limiter and result is not much different .

  199. Bane

    Great post, Graham! I appreciate your accurate representation of the three and hope you’ll do more “shootouts,” as I trust your neutrality.

    1. Ian’s master
    2. Limiter
    3. LANDR

  200. Beth

    The pro master was the best. Liked how Ian gave the higher end clarity while the lower end wasn’t over powering.

  201. Vasilis

    I feel that the ”robocop” was too dull n muddy to my ears.I liked the pro master the most cos of it’s clarity but I think that the snares is too smashed,it kind of killing the transients.The limiter one sounded more natural without killing the transients but was missing some of the good charasteristics of the pro master and what he did.Thanks for everything….

  202. Tony D.

    Hello Graham they all sound nice but I think that yours with the limiter, is 1st then your buddy the engineer, and the Landar.

  203. diana

    Hi Graham, thanks for sharing this. With headphones I prefer the landr master. On studio boxes I would say that your mix has a lot of midrange frequencies, that make tracks feel uncomfortable and kind of too busy for me. That of your friend is better has the mid issue fixed – but could add a little low end for my taste.
    Landr is very interesting – a bit overdone on low end, it takes energy out of the track compared to your friends master.
    And while writing – another experience is striking: Once you don’t see which master is playing it’s a different experience again. Now I would rate the second master best, but only the instrumentation. The problem is more in the vocals that are harsh in the highs in the first and second track.
    Could be that landr tried to fix this by reducing high frequencies and adding low end.
    I have decided to use landr a lot – as my mastering is so time consuming and sometimes less good than the landr results. And rarely a lot better. And it’s a mess that mastering is done in a minute which is crazy.
    With bad mixes though landr is not as helpful in my experience. Especially when there is too much of high end, mid or low end. My mixes work good enough with landr – but only when landr can add something, Reducing or compression is not working as well with the robots.

  204. Scott Astill

    G’day Graham,
    You don’t mention which Landr algorithm you chose of the 3 options.
    As for which is better, I think it depends mostly on playback device.
    On a phone or tablet, using the inbuilt speakers, the Landr master bites less in the upper mids.
    On my studio monitors, Ian’s master has the best balance.
    Therefore, as a CD/EP release, I’d go with Ian’s, but for digital release, I’d offer options for the listener depending on their device.
    Just my 2 cents….

  205. Jordan

    Please do another some time WITHOUT lettings us know 🙂 I’d love to see the results of a blind shootout, because I’d be willing to bet people just dont WANT to like the LANDR mix.

  206. Jason Johannson

    I am a LANDR user. Have to mention that first… I would say between the three, I prefer Ian’s as it is most alive and well separated. Articulation across different cans and speaks are decent. Second would be the limited as it more closely resembles Ian’s (or the other way around) and third, LANDR. Too muddy as it seemed to have pushed too much of the low range across the board.

    The good thing about LANDR however, is that you can adjust your mix accordingly and have another master at hand in literally seconds or minutes. Can’t do that otherwise. It is actuaklly a bit of a departure or change in workflow. But given the choice among the three here, LANDR loses and Ian wins!

  207. Alan Honeycutt

    I really hope that Graham suddenly reveals that the masters were mislabeled and that most people liked the “limit only” version the best.

  208. soundkanvas

    I think the best sounding was the Pro Master version because I feel it sounded more open and had sheen although it could use a bit more bottom end

    The mix with just limiting sounded thin in comparison perhaps a bit bright but still good.

    LANDR sounds overly compressed sounds a bit squeezed it looses or lacks sheen. I do like the bottom it provides but it sounds a bit muddy. I have to admit I used LANDR on my latest release. I could not get my master to sound as good as LANDR at the time. LANDR is pretty good.
    I attempted to master a song on my own about a month ago and I have to say it sounded the best out of all my experiments so far buts it’s no easy task.

  209. EJ

    I wonder how many opinions would change if this was a blind taste test. The results might be surprising. In my case I believe I’d hear the difference but not so sure I’d accurately assign each switch to the right process.

  210. rex l weible

    I liked all 3 BUT landr’s bass took to much clarity from the bass guitar making it muddy as so many others have said and that is a deal breaker for me so landr is 3rd and the limiter just fell short of the human factor so limiter is 2nd and pro is 1st because all the elements where there (for me) good crisp highs ,nice smooth mids, and plenty of lows to make my speakers jump. Lows are very important but just like any other element to much is” well to much” Thanks Graham for the side by side comparison there is nothing like hearing it for yourself

  211. Scott Nanni

    Thanks Graham,

    Liked the energy of the Pro Master and LandR-PM seemed to give a bit more air in the mix which was a benefit to the VOX-LandR for me took a little of the fizz out of the guitar tracks which when A-B’d in comparison to the Pro Master was a slightly better alternative for the overall tonality of the mix

    Thanks for all of yourgenerosity in the of sharing your hard won experience and knowledge


  212. Chris Alford

    Hi Graham,
    I though the Pro Mastered, Ian’s, sounded clearer as if someone had lifted a blanket off of the other two versions.

  213. Joe Harris

    Definitely the pro master sounds the best to my ears. It sounded cleaner. The drums sounded more natural. I just closed my eyes when you switched between them. I’ve watched Ian Shepards own shootout with LANDR in the past.

    PS: great tune by the way!

  214. stephen C

    The pro was the best for me, followed by the Limiter then Lander. But look at the cost difference. As Graham would say, you have a $100 mic and a $1,000 mic. It is really worth the price difference? Sometimes it is not. I don’t know how much Ian charges but using the same formula as a mic to get a better sound, it may not be worth the difference. Plus, who is listening to your music? Do you have a fan base other than your friends and family? Are there “powerful” people who you know are going to listen to the album? If not, LANDER may be best for the money. By the way, has anyone commented on how awesome the song was? I wasn’t distracted by the music! NOW GO BUY GRAHAM’S RECORD!!!!

  215. Loryine C. Rappaport

    I like the Landr first. Singer vs. Instruments…. I am a Singer. different from Engineer. Celine Dion (example) touches the emotion and has good instrumental. As long as the VOCAL stands #1 and the rest fits around her like a glove, it’s good. Landr brings out the singer voice the most with the instruments supporting. When (choir arranged) voice competes with the instrumentals, Singer emotion is lost. Have you ever heard a band where the drummer competes with the rest of the band? With the Landr mix, I would like to also hear the vocal without ALL the doubling and slightly louder. Landr makes the instruments lower (making the singer louder. Important: What type singer sound are you? What type of song is it? Beatles sound is more blended? Landr mix is bringing the vocal out the most.. Mix the instruments, then mix the singer #1 louder…into the instruments/ song. Pro mix is better than Limiter but it still competes with the voice, though less. Harrison Craig “Broken Vow” Google it. This is my opinion and not every ones.

  216. Bob Klein

    I prefer the Pro Master. It had the best balance of high and low ends to my ears. LANDR was too muddy and the Limiter versions was too “thin”.

    Interesting comparison. Thanks!

  217. Luc Valcourt

    Ok… Ian’s master is best. If budget is a concern then just hit it with a limiter and send it on its way.

    Now (if anybody is still reading), there is much more to mastering then what is covered here. Mastering is not just simply frequencies, dynamics and loudness. It also involves song order, fades (in and out) and timing between each song. Just the sequence of songs to be released on CD can influence the decisions for eq, compression, width adjustments and loudness of each song as compared to an instance where any one of those songs would have been mastered individually. This king of human reaction to the music is something that NO computer will ever be able to mimic. It is an in the moment reaction that can be both analytical and emotional.

    Get the spacing wrong, and your cd can feel rushed or sluggish. Maybe a certain song will have more impact if it just stops dead as opposed to a long fade out. Any number of creative ideas can take a collection of songs to a new level.

    But if we’re talking about releasing singles…

    Ian’s master.

  218. Brad Davis

    The pro master is definitely clearer an more defined. The LANDR mix seems fat just for the sake of being heavy. I’d be interested to know how the other algorithm options would fare. I’d also really like to know how you would have handled mastering your own mix beyond just adding a limiter. There’s a move towards home studios mastering their own work. With the tools available and a trained ear, it should be more than possible. I’d love to hear your thoughts in a future video.

    • michael jensen

      Just my opinion here….He definitely addresses how he does this in a few other videos. Beyond the limiter he also does some global EQ. To be honest, I’d be surprised if he didn’t address some of the high end while doing so. From what I understand via Duelling Mixes, Graham usually mixes just a little less bright than Joe, so I would assume his full mastering of the song would have caught much of the same things Ian Sheppard did. Especially if he waited a few days to clear his ears before starting the mastering.

  219. cesare

    Hi i was listening to your mixes,very little difference in all 3.i think the average listener wouldnt be able to tell,only us guys can tell because we record and mix everyday.good song

  220. michael jensen

    Ian’s master was better. But it wasn’t MILES above the others. When I got my album mastered, I had 3 different mastering engineers all do the same song and picked my favourite of the three. So it really depends on WHO is doing the mastering. I think Graham’s mix was just a tiny tiny bit harsh to my ears, but ONLY when I had the chance to compare them. When I heard Graham’s first, it sounded great (and still does) but when it was flipped over to Ian’s I instantly heard the clarity, especial at the top end. I also heard that the low end was just a little bit rounder (if that makes any sense). I found it pleasant.

    The Landr master was fine. But not great. Just like when I auditioned 3 different people to master my album, there was one who I liked, but definitely liked the least. I felt the same way with the Landr. It was definitely darker. Not muddy, but darker. It seemed to lose some of the energy of the first two mixes. Would I tell someone not to use Landr? No. They’re a reasonably priced service that does a good job, but it was my least favourite of the three.

  221. brett

    I prefered Ian’s mastering. It added clarity and a more defined sense of space to the instruments. It brought the snare out more which was nice because it felt like it was a little low in the mix. The Landr version seemed too boomy and the cymbals sounded muddy in comparison.

  222. Javier

    The best sounding mix to me was the Pro for sure. Could have used a little more low end but the LANDR was too much muddiness that I really did not care for the sound. I liked Grahams version 2nd best. I was listening on KRK Rokit 5s.

  223. Michael Pierce

    1) Pro Master

    2) Landr

    3) Limiter

    Very interesting. I’ve been using Landr for my songs but wasn’t sure how it would stack up. This really helped and put it in perspective. Great song by the way!

  224. Terry Davis

    Of the three, the Pro and LANDR master sounded a bit better. While the Pro master brought out more of the guitars’ edge, the LANDR master added some bottom which brought out the bass line. My guess is the LANDR master must’ve been done at low intensity, thus the bottom end.

    I’m actually a LANDR user, and I do like the fact you can decide how intense you want your master copy. The low side brings out some bottom end, while the gives you some bottom end, but the overall sound is more crisp and clear ( I think they call it “Slam it with sophistication.”)

    Bottom line, it really depends on what you really want to hear more of, I guess. Everyone’s ear and taste is different.

  225. Phil Felicia

    I liked the additional low end of the LANDR mix but would have preferred the clarity of the Pro Master. I’d vote for a hybrid between the two. I don’t think there was too much low end in the LANDR version, just that it was muddy.

  226. Kevin

    First, totally not my style of music. I am much more interested in acoustic instruments, and never have mixes as squashed as any of these three. Having said that: I keep changing my mind about whether I prefer “just the limiter” or “pro master.” Clarity of voices or guitars in different parts of the song, perhaps? In general, though, I’d go with just the limiter. I did find Lander lacking in the top end relative to the bottom — felt like it was going through something without enough audio bandwidth.

  227. Ed

    Ian’s master hands down. I mean eventhough you clearly hear more low end on the LANDR master, they are clearly present in Ian’s and yes, his treatment of mid ranges and hi ends is just clearly putting the rest to shame.

  228. Luke Valley

    I really liked the pro master, the drums had more definition and the glue held together better in the chorus when everything seemed to get loud. All three had their own qualities and I like the low end in the Landr but the pro mix really shines to my ears.

  229. Keith Brown

    I felt like the Pro tightened the drums and Bass and made the guitars clearer. This is the best one that I would pick. Graham, I think yours would be second for me.
    Finally, the Landr was too muddy on the bottom for my taste.
    I am recording a Country praise and worship album right now and it would be interesting to hear the difference with a country song.

  230. Ettienne Meyer


    I liked both the Limiter and Pro versions.
    Landr sounded very unpolished to me.
    Enjoyed the Clarity of the pro mix but lacked depth which the Limiter version had.

    I think a combo of Limiter and Pro versions would be my personal preference.

    Thanks for all your lessons and valuable tips Graham.

  231. yarrow

    Very interesting shootout. The only thing i would add after reading some of the comments – i just compared what i was hearing from the YouTube video to the wav files i downloaded when i bought the record a couple months back. The low end is anemic in the YouTube feed while the wav file which is ian’s master sounds fat and punchy. When hearing the LANDR version on the internet my ears wanted to like it because of the low end even though i knew it was muddy. I have been using LANDR and i would say this test is consistent with my results with it. Everything i ran through it got that heavy thickness added to it and i had to make changes to the mixes in anticipation of that happening. Anyways – great shootout. My biggest takeaway was how awful YouTube sounds. Kind of just ruins all of the hard work we all put into our music/mixes…

  232. Ricardo Corrales

    I liked the low end of the LANDR, although I thing Ian’s sounded more balanced and clear.

  233. Jabu

    Pro master is my 1st choice,the low end is for me beautifully controlled and round including the top end.
    Limiter is not bad either which indicates the professional standard of a mix itself.
    LANDR I don`t know whether it is my poor quality earphones but I feel I can’t listen to that low end for an extended length of time.

  234. Roman K.

    Pro master doesn’t have the boxiness in the middle and sounds crispier and brighter.

  235. Wes

    I think the LANDRL has lots of bottom end as Graham and so many of you others have mentioned (maybe too much).

    Hearing the different versions on my 3 different headphones and my studio monitors:

    Ian’s version seems to split the difference between the Limiter and LANDR options and Ian’s version does seem to have more separation between instruments.

    Overall…I have to say that there could have been much more separation between the instruments. I could hear the drum foot pedal on Ian’s but everything seemed to be somewhat muddled and messy on all of the versions.

    I would imagine this was a relatively quick mastering process…and maybe that could have also been a factor.

    • Ian Shepherd

      Nope – I spent plenty of time on this 🙂 The level of my master is 0.5 dB lower than the LANDR version though, and 0.8 dB lower than the limited mix – adjusting those levels makes a surprisingly big difference…

  236. René J

    Hey Graham
    I really like Ian’s Mastering except that to me, it sounds a bit scooped in the mids. LANDR I liked the least. Their compression settings killed many transients from the drums. If I could pick Id choose your Mix but with Ian’s Multiband compression on it.
    Great Video.

  237. Magnus

    Comparing them against each other I initially liked the fatness of the LANDR. Comparing to whatever on my Spotify playlist the Pro master is by far the best.

  238. KDP

    The Pro Master sounds the best to me. The LANDR is a much thicker. I didn’t care for that too much.

  239. Christian

    Ian’s Mix all the way.
    Regarding the LANDR, I don’t like it at all. I much prefer the limiter version compared to that.

  240. Barbara

    The Pro version was much clearer with more transparency and separation of instruments. Each part, each instrumental line could be heard more clearly and with a better sound quality. Also the stero width seemed wider, perhaps because there was more “space” between instruments, but perhaps more width was purposely created. The bass was beautiful, but focused. The frequency spectrum was balanced.
    The Limiter-alone version seemed muddy, less clear, less interesting musically.
    The LANDR version was the muddiest and by far the least interesting.

  241. Charles Gibbs

    Hey all!
    Well, as far as taste, Ian’s for a couple of reasons, A: Ian has been mastering since the 80’s and so has many many many hours of experience that many of us noobs including myself still have to learn, the other B: you don’t get to master for itunes unless you know your stuff, now this has many subs to it, it has to be comparable on allot of mediums, car stereo’s, hifi’s, radio and allot of small speaker’d stuff like phones and mp3 players, this means that although his was lacking low end it has a more pronounced click on the beater head of the kick drum making it audible on smaller speakers, listening on radio, hifi or car stereo’s you won’t really pick up that missing low end as most of them are eq’d with more bass and treble and cutting out some of the middle range, so for me with all that in mind and not just focusing on the “sound ” so much but imagining it on the above mentioned items I believe Ian’s to be the closest representation of what it should sound like on those of us’s systems using high end audio gear that is “flat” in response.

    But that is just my ten cents worth.
    Have a blessed Christmas to you all
    and God Bless you and yours.

    Regards Charles

  242. Luc Caeyers

    The difference is the biggest with LANDR, more Low End indeed, which makes it sound more “In the box”, “Muddy”. Low End is very dangerous, because it can destroy easily the song, I am not in for LANDR.

    The Graham Mix is closer to the Pro Mix, more clarity and open, but Pro Mix has a bit more body in the song, which suits nicely, but he did not overkill in Low End. I like the Pro Mix.

    I recently had a conversation with an Pro Master Engineer and he told me he always listens and tries to focus on 3 items that makes the song interesting. His mastering actions will always focus on those 3 items only to come out of the song and make them sound natural and more present. He puts himself in the place of the listener and will search for the most interesting part of the song to focus on. Just to say that it is very personal and according every one’ taste.

  243. Mike

    After solid cross checking on different systems I am getting a clear picture. Ian’ s is the best. Just the limited top version is second. The LANDR is the worst. On several systems it cannot compete with the other two in terms od clarity, preservation of transients, stereo width and intelligibility of the single instruments. Maybe it is made for metal mainly because it seems to be programmed to get that kinda wall of sound thing, that, if u like it, fine, but if not, urrrrrgh.
    Worst of all it muffles not only the overall sound but also the vocals.
    It only sounds good on small cheap speakers and monitors. Even on a home theater the low mids and bass tends to rumble at a little more than very quiet volume levels in the room.
    On expensive headphones (HD 650) Ian’s Mastering excells. On advanced monitoring (Tannoy) also. On cheaper speakers like Behringer the LANDR sounds good. But not on the Behritone!!! Check it out!
    On a big PA the LANDR sounds awful compared to the other two.

    The biggest surprise for me was the quality of the version just limited a bit with Ozone. Wow.
    But, a professional mastering with a separate pair of ears, lot of experience and so much more will always lead to the best possible result.
    Guitars, vocals, transients, width, depth, clarity, punch, everything big wow.
    And LANDR is good to show you that your listening environment is by far not good enough for mastering if you like the results.
    The more you like the less you need it. 😉

    • Robert

      Thanks, good point about not only cross-checking with different versions, but also different listening environments. To be fair: LANDR offers different sound options, maybe other settings would have been less boomy.

  244. Robert

    The weird thing with those shootouts is that I always prefer the thing that comes next. Every master has something that the other one hasn’t, and then it comes on. When you flip from Ian’s version to the LANDR one I think “Oh, cool, here comes the bass”. When you switch to the limiter one I think “Oh, this sounds more balanced”. Switch back to Ian’s: “Oh nice, that sounds crisper.”
    My headphones tend to accentuate the top end, so here I liked the LANDR best for its thickness and warmth in the bottom end. But as I did a shootout with another song that I just had on Spotify (it was Wolf Alice if you want to know) I then settled for the Ian master.

  245. Michael Winnett

    Pro mix best due to clarity but just needs a smidge more bottom.
    Would have been more interesting if you didn’t tell us which was which until the end.

  246. Niklas Harju

    I felt that the compression in the LANDR master squashed the song too much in a bad way, and it sounded a bit too muddy. It didn’t sound good at all in my ATH-M50 headphones. I liked the Pro Master most.

  247. Simone Odoardi

    None of them was bad, but the human one plays in another league.
    The guitars are much clearer, the sound is warmer and more pleasing for the ears.
    The spacial image has also gained definition in the pro-master.
    The frequency spectrum is very balanced.
    The LANDR one was good enough for most purposes but it’s of the same quality that I can get by picking a preset in T-Racks or Ozone and tweaking some of the settings.

  248. Julian Yon

    To be honest, all three are overcompressed to my ears; perhaps that’s an artifact of the original mix (and therefore your taste). However, my preference is Ian’s master, followed by the limiter, then LANDR. Honestly, the raw version is good, but there is more presence in the pro master, which adds a subtle improvement to the clarity. The key word is “subtle”; if I were given the limited version and told it was mastered, it would actually be the compression I’d pick up on, not the EQ. As a comp sci I really wanted the algorithm to win, and I think it was correct to pick up that a little more low end would be appropriate for the genre. Unfortunately it seems to have softened the edges to the point where the overall sound is mushy and dull…

  249. Scott

    I’m starting to wonder, reading the comments, if there might be a little bit of bias against the LANDR version because of what people might ‘think’ Graham would say?..
    Because I personally prefer the LANDR version (though in other instances I haven’t liked it). I also usually don’t like too much low end, and absolutely hate the current trend to boost the heck out of it, especially the crime by radio stations of adding their own extra low end boost (besides compression), so that it completely obliterates the original mix.

    I do like how Ian’s mix has added clarity to the high end, which I think is important.

    The reasons I like the LANDR mix are that the vocal sound is the best and sits the best in the mix (a little more forward and not as thin). Also, and maybe most importantly, the drums are thicker, and actually sound like REAL drums, whereas in the other mixes, in my opinion, they sound more like a drum machine. It is a little too bottom heavy, but I don’t agree with others that this has made it muddy. I feel that the bass notes and the punch of the kick are brought out (again, maybe a little too much), where these are lacking in the other mixes. And finally, the guitar sound is also less thin and more realistic, and some of the effects (delay?)are a little more noticeable, which adds to the 3-dimensionality.

    • Vik

      I agree, but I seem to be part of the minority. This mix sounds like it went through real tape. Less detail, but more candy to the ear. The others sound digital.

  250. Aaron Zink

    I kind of liked the low end of the Landr master but I trust a human for results that translate better across systems. Seems like a lot of today’s mixes and masters tend to hype-up the low end and then kills iPhone and laptop speakers, which unfortunately, is a very common listening situation. I liked Ian’s master in the mid-range WAY better than the other two. And overall Ian’s masters is my preference. I will say this, if you’re on a tight budget, the Landr master is definitely adequate. Thanks, Graham!

  251. Joseph Broadway

    Hey Graham, enjoyed the song, very nice clean & clear sound. I am just getting settled into my new world of The DAW in my home studio after moving from a Standalone unit. Thanks to you and Some others here and thru some pages I am a member of I am making fast successful Progress. I have been in music for over 30 years in Southern Gospel, Bluegrass, and Singer Songwriter. I have been training my ears more and more over the past few years to really listen to the complete song, instead of just plain hearing sound. I have listen to some of your music and I have to say for my part I liked the Pro Mastering, then your Limiter Master, then the computer mastering last. I am really not a fan of the computer mastering for you because it dose not represent your style in that it has added to much low end and your style is cleaner and clearer than how the computer portrays you. I understand that fact after listening to something over and over many times you will get fatigued and sometimes feel something is lacking or is not just quite right; but just to remind you of your own preaching; “trust your ears and trust in your abilities, skills and God given talent to master yourself”. Yes the Pro Master added a little sparkle to this song, and yes sometimes you need to either walk away for a bit or give it to someone to bring it around; but you are consistence in your mastering and bring a great project every time. Keep the clean and clarity in your mix and mastering. Joe Broadway Just My 2 Cents.

  252. Steve Burton JR

    I only had the ability to listen through a TV speaker (Samsung Flat screen). But I could still hear subtle differences. I like the pro version the best. It felt the smoothest. Had low end but not muddy. Also had some clarity I couldn’t hear in the others. The landr version sounds a bit muddy. And of the coarse, the basic mix with just the limiter sounded very open but unbalanced. Great shoot out!

  253. Dave Davis

    I liked Ian Shepard’s master best, by far. To me, it seemed like Ian’s version had more clarity in the the upper mids, in the highs, and in the ultra highs… and not just clarity but intentional clarity. What I mean by that is, like a sculptor removes the excess stone to reveal the figure within, he removed the frequencies that did not need to be there to clearly reveal the frequencies that needed to stand out to make the track sound its best.

    To me, the other masters were just louder, where as Ian’s master was actually better. 🙂

  254. Jason

    I actually didn’t follow directions (on purpose, mostly). I listened to this on the speakers from my iPad Pro. Unfortunately for us who slave and agonize over tonal balance, warmth and sparkle, this is the way most people listen to our music today-through cheesy speakers or $20 headphones. From that perspective (grudgingly), I preferred the LANDR master over the others. I will listen again on my studio setup at home and will probably choose the Pro Master. But for me, in the everyday listening world, I think the LANDR wins out. They may also purposely set their algorithm for this as well. Just speculation, but that may be what they’re going for. Their market (for now) is the broke home studio guy just trying to get his tracks up for a demo or small project at an affordable price. I suspect as time goes on, they may expand their algorithm to different genres and possible be more true over time. On any projects of any serious nature that I do, I prefer a human to master my tracks, but it’s amazing how far bot automation has come in producing something that’s half way musical and commercial sounding. Great shootout Graham!

  255. Jerry Alston

    Listening on Sennheiser HD 580 headphones, I thought that the LANDR master sounded muddy and thick. Between yours and Ian’s, I think it’s nearly a toss-up. Different, yes. One better than the other? Not sure. Ian’s seemed to have a little boost in the upper miss (or a cut somewhere lower) that gave the mix a little more presence. But we know that brighter will tend to sound better when doing a head to head comparison. If I had heard these in isolation I think I’d be happy with either yours or Ian’s.

  256. Bruce Gilchrist

    I listen to these mixes on my home recording studio set up and I guess I will be the minority opinion her-I didn’t like any of them. I find the kick drum timbre really irritating like someone banging a stick on the side of drum. The over all sound was a Spectoresque wall of sound with little distinction between the instruments-a sort of sonic mush. Maybe that’s what you were going for but I didn’t like it.

  257. Andre

    Hi Graham I like the pro master mix, sounds live but also like the Landr nice lows but like your vocal more on Landr master.I use yamaha NS-10M hahahahahahaha they dont lie

    Great idee Graham and love your work

  258. Jason

    Great idea to compare techniques. Maybe it might have been more objective to do a blind test and see if any stand out ahead. Or even publish an opinion poll.

  259. Gabriel Pereira

    To be True, I really like the limiter version, sounds more natural, better dynamic and stuff. Ian’s sounds good too, Lander is muddy, no good at all. Think the best would be a mix of the limiter version with Ian’s.

  260. Vik

    they re all overcompressed, but the landr one has the best frequency balance. Definitely need to check out that service

  261. Georg

    In Ian’s version I heard details from backing vocals and guitars that were drowned in the LANDR file. Guess he really listened to the music as it was intended and made it audible in a “silky way” – stellar! 🙂 Graham’s self-limitation (pun intended) in mastering just proved the quality of the mix, but well, it was not what he would call “mastering”, really.
    Graham, thanks for this comparison that gave me tons of inspiration! – Ian, that was a great, very musical job! – Sorry, LANDR, powerful but too mainstreamy for me… but keep on working, you’re getting closer.

  262. John C Tiller

    Great post thank you for doing this. Very interesting. I preferred the limiter mix the best. I do wish I had a little more about him. The lander mix with my second favorite but I think the low-end was overdone. I preferred the high-end and your limiter Nick to the Vander but just wanted a little more loads to your limiter mix. Thanks again

  263. Andy_S

    I listened in my studio. For me the pro-master definitely wins. It wins despite I find this shootout a bit unfair for the profi-master, which seems quieter, which is easy to fool our ears as sounding worse (especially in the bass). But I find it by far most open, naturally sounding and dynamic.

  264. Douglas M.

    To my ears in my studio the “Pro Master” sounded better with more zing and presence in a general sense. The “Landr” robo master was just too muddy…not enough life in overall dynamics.

  265. J Morris

    I’m leaning toward the Pro Master Mix due to the clarity and mid range reproduction. I would have liked a little more low end though.

  266. Kyle

    I liked the pro master the best, simply for the clarity and seemingly more width in the stereo field. Limiter was next, followed by LANDR. While the thickness of the low end for LANDR was appreciated, I think the high end was reduced too much for my taste. Given budget, I would have a pro master. With limited budget but some time, self-mastering would be a decent option – the tools now like Ozone 7 have brought that along a ways.. Given limited budget and limited time, LANDR would be an option, but perhaps with guidance in terms of how aggressive it is. I personally haven’t used LANDR, I self-master what I’ve been doing, haven’t had anything high profile enough to warrant hiring out a pro mastering engineer.

  267. Jim King

    I think the Pro Master sounds the best, clearly more separation and distinct tones. But I do like a bit more of the low end like the Landr version. Maybe a combo of the two would be what I would be trying for.

    After hearing all 3, the limiter version just lacks some sparkle with more of a mid range sound which seems a bit more middle of the road.

  268. Noe Sarmiento

    I like the one mastered by Ian best, I feel it would translate better on a wider range of playback systems, the midrange was best on that version. LANDR was second and not bad at all but personally, I think it had too much low end. Third was the mix with just a limiter, didn’t have the clarity of the other two but still sounded pretty good.

  269. Joe Hannon

    Ian’s master was superior in every way. Guitars well defined… left guitar was presented as sonically different from the right (which was what I heard in the Limiter master) and so the sound stage was wider and more pleasing. The LANDR master muddied up the guitars and took some of the punch out of the drums. The kick sort of “floated” and wasn’t locked down, whereas the PRO master was tight and punchy with the bass guitar well defined and driving the track. The lead and backing vocals were also much better in Ian’s master. The Limiter master was in second place with it’s clarity but lacked a bit of cohesiveness that Ian brought out. The LANDR master was in third place for me. Overall, I can see the PRO master as translating across many play back systems best. Great track Graham, great vocals and instrumentation, enjoyed it very much! Looking forward to downloading it.

  270. Geir

    Hi Graham,
    I found the Pro Master was the best when listening through my headphones,
    a pair of audio-technica ATH-M50x Studio Headphones,
    nice and clean, very well balanced all round and would work on a lot of systems,
    the LandR Master was pretty cool on my monitors, but through my headphones, it sounded a bit muddy and to much bottom end, lost a bit of top end…..

  271. Michelle

    I like the pro master version, more clarity and I’m hearing more individual voices, with space. Not so much in the limiter version. There is a squishyness to the limiter version. the Landr version is interesting, definitely more bottom end. I’m also not listening on my studio speakers, I wanted to give it a real world trial. Not computer speakers, but not my music listening speakers either.

  272. Getúlio Prates de Oliveira

    Well, listening in my Porta Pro: Ian’s and Landrs are great, I favor the Ian’s mastering.
    The limiter mastering sounded poor to me, punchless.
    The great bottom end on Landr are great to the phones, and the clarity of Ian’s mastering should be great in other devices.
    I must listen to it again in other sound sources.
    But as you use to put a lot of stuff in the Master Bus is noticeable that the mix is very well shaped even in the Limiter Only mastering version. But I favour the Ian version and the Landr version in second place.

  273. Gershy

    I like the Limiter Master for the overall frequency, in combination with the Landers Master which adds the low end fatness (more energy) . I felt like the Por Master kind of ruined the presence of the mix which was already good to begin with.

    • Gershy

      I feel like most of the times when listening with your eyes it sounds a lot different to when listening with your ears only. I based my judgment by listening to the three with my ears and closed eyes.

  274. MarkB

    Limiter only version was more open and clean IMO, and maybe it could have been backed off and tweaked slightly to make it far superior.
    Ian’s master is pretty good, sounds commercial. Hyped a little maybe. Tell Ian I could hear the dithering. (J/K)
    The Landr version is tricky. The added bass sounds like fun until you hear the open cleaner version, then in comparison the Landr version seems muddy.

    Mid grade studio phones, Allowing that YouTube audio may be a compromise.


    Hi Graham,

    this mastering shootout is a briliant idea, particular for me, as I’m in a learning prozess in mixing. Your question, which mastering sounds best for each of us could have been more exciting, if you would not tell us in advance, which master is pro, LANDR or limiter 🙂 … this is my little proposal maybe for your next upcoming shootout … for me … I could not make a desicion between pro or LANDR, to me, they are both great sounding. I instantly tried LANDR on one of my Mixes and was inspired, what this service can do. I’ll use this LANDR masterings henceforward as a reference to learn, what I can/should do manually in mastering my own stuff and where I want to get.


      • Dan

        I closed my eyes and jumped to random points in the video! Only thing that doesn’t help is that what you hear directly before will influence how the next thing sounds as your ears adjust. A blind test would have been great!

  276. Mark

    Someone i know told me something along the lines of: for LANDR to achieve its mastering it relied on both professional engineering AND analysis from every file submitted. So the “algorithm” as you say isn’t “inert” if that makes sense. I don’t know how true this is, but he had collaborated with them a few years back.

    I’ll go out on a limb and say it probably has been shaped by the demands of radio standards and the dominant music genres or dominant musical tastes. Hence all the talk about the low end.

    Its quite amazing to compare it to a seasoned mastering engineer.

    Pro track enhanced the guitars and put them in the spotlight. There is so much more space and depth. Even the harmonic content gets a deeper impact here. Everything is neat and polished. Also, its not just that the LANDR track has more low end, this track has had its low end softened when compared to just the limiter, yet made it round and warm. Doesn’t make it a good or bad thing, it is simply a different statement.

    The LANDR track is much closer, more “festive” if that makes sense. All around more gritty and overall more center. Bass guitar driving the groove. Again this dirtiness is just a different expression, different statement that can be made with the track.

    If it comes down to it, i think Ian’s version triggered my imagination more. Also, it may just be me being prejudiced, but the LANDR’s style and settings just seem way too similar to the general style i seem to hear on streamlined commercial productions you hear these days. Ian’s version has a more vintage shape on things haha. If its actually the case and not just my preconceived ideas, i would suppose it would make sense with how the LANDR’s adaptive mastering works.

    I’ll take a guess, but i’m also thinking Ian’s version fits more with YOUR vision of the song. Probably because he can factor in imagination and emotion in his decisions, but also because you probably gave him some guidelines or cues for the final artistic statement you were looking for. While LANDR has options, it doesn’t have that kind of access … yet.

  277. Niels Dettenbach

    The “fat bottom end” is what most end users and semi pro’s “want”. Add a good “smile” EQ before the limiter and a bit of high level compressor (API or some with less low end in the sidechain) and you are there in their view too.

    LANDR makes more professional masters then many semi pro masters or even end users – but really high level / skilled / experienced mastering leads usually to other – more reliable – results. But that might be overkill for many of the mass music today – so LANDR has his target audience…

  278. Ar Dubro

    I really liked Ian’s work, it has a great balance, clarity, smooth hi’s and solid lows.

    LANDR version is pretty good too, I personally didn’t like it’s low-mids balance comparing to Ian’s master, but it seems to me that it’s a matter of taste and LANDR is definitely able to do a decent job too.
    Anyway, I think that Human/Robo score is still on our side, 2:1

  279. malcolm hodgson

    The pro master worked best across all devices. landr is too bass heavy. Suits club/dance music but certainly turns the mix to mud on my phone.
    Graham is so close that frankly he could save himself the money with a small bit of work on the guitar clarity.
    I tried landr on one of my songs and it made a complete mess of it. I am going to try a one off pro master for my next song just to see what they make of it.
    However the question of which is best is a pointless question as ALL music is subjective. It is in the ears of the beholder!

    Depends what you like.

  280. Wade Nichols

    I thought the LANDR master sounded more “Radio” and the Pro Master sounded more balanced overall. My least favorite was the Limiter only. It really is a preference LANDR vs. Pro. It would be interesting to actually know what Radio does to send along the airwaves. Maybe LANDR’s algorithm is based upon that??

  281. Jerry

    Pro Master because of the balance mix. clear , stereo was wider.
    Listen on KRK’s Crokit 5

  282. Vaughn Meck

    I liked the Landr. I’m currently producing a classic Rock Band and the sound just seem to match my needs better. I’ll agree the Landr version was slightly softer in the high end, but no one ever said you can’t re-EQ even your masters! Be the Master of your Masters!

  283. Jim Gleckler

    I thought the pro master improved clarity across the whole spectrum and more to my taste
    the limiter version was fine
    the landr had too much low end for my taste – reduced the clarity a bit for me

  284. Heinrich

    Interesting. A matter of taste, I would say.
    If the aim of mastering is to make the song sound good on any system, then I would say :

    I listened on a relatively cheap set of headphones. Differences between the three versions were noticeable, but subtle. Definitely more low end on the LANDR and more clarity on Ian’s.

    In the final analysis Graham’s track sounded OK compared to the others. My feeling is that if he applied just a little mid-side processing ( higher frequencies more to the side and lower ones centre) then I would have noticed no difference between his and Ian’s or LANDR’s.


    1). Purple ( best snare and drums overall ).
    2). Green ( 2nd, though snare not clear enough ).
    3). Red ( Too Muddy overall )

  286. sal

    LANDR for me but it was a surprise because the track of mine that I submitted to them came out a bit fizzy in the high end imo and I was expecting the same,

  287. fuzzbox

    With my headphones which are low end ( not the cheapest) I preferred Ian’s mix. However the LANDR also sounded good but to a point. In a similar way to ‘ Louder is better ‘ their algorithm produces more bottom end for that reason, more bass is better. I think this is a marketing approach by LANDR.
    That said I would just use Ozone 7 and move through the presets to find one that I like and tweak further from there. ☺ ♫♪♫

  288. Bruce B

    I thought the Pro Master sounded the best. Good clarity overall.

    Then the Limiter was next. Considering that that’s all that was done at that stage, it sounds pretty good to me.

    And finally, the Landr. My ears picked up a more “muffled-sounding” track, as opposed to the others.

    My ears like to hear “clearness” as much as possible.

  289. Michael

    Definitely think Ian’s pro mix sounds the best… but I agree with most of you I would prefer a touch more bottom end.

  290. Mark Valtenbergs

    My first impression was the landr sounded more full. Second and third listens still had me liking the landr better though I think Graham’s reply that the pro master mix brought out the guitars is true. I prefer a bit more low end and warmth but I would say that the promaster mix is very well balanced.

  291. Patrick S

    I only listened on my pair of AV40s, so take it with a grain of salt.

    1. Ian’s definitely has more clarity across the board, and just sounds more professional. Funny, since it’s the “pro mix”.
    2. The LANDR almost muddied up the mix too much with the lower to bottom end, but did sound good otherwise.
    3. The mix with just the limiter sounded a little bit brittle (not a lot, but noticeable). Maybe I should have at least listened on headphones too, but I agree with Graham that my ears could have been tainted after listening to the LANDR mix and the excessive bottom end.

  292. GuitarmanDan

    most everybody is suckered in for bass/kick heavy mixes these days
    i’m old school down w/ the classic guitar sound and the best BALANCE is the Pro Master

  293. S Raheemani

    “Pro Master” would be my choice because i am used to hear “Flat Mix” and yes thank you Graham you Rick your tutorials should have a million Dollar Tag


    Hi again,

    the next video should be made by Ian to teach, what he has done to the mix.

  295. Brylo


    I liked the LANDR best.

    I’ve always bashed it because it just took out the human element out of it. The emotions a mastering engineer will feel through the music will determine to a degree how the song is mastered.

    However, there is no doubt that the creators of LANDR have really fine tuned what they have.

    All in all, both the pro and the LANDR masters sound great. There are differences in the high end and low end, respectively.

    I think at the end of the day it comes down to preference, whether it was done by a human or a robot, retrospect, seems irrelevant.


  296. Bill

    Pro master is the best on my monitors, JBL 4410s. In the LANDR master, the bass was boomy and the mix lacked clarity. I thought the limiter version was also pretty sweet.

    In the AKG 240s, all 3 versions have merit. The limiter master sounds very clear with the cymbals and tambourine. The pro version is just really nice overall. Pleasant to listen to. The LANDR mix works well in the phones, the boom went away and it just sounded like the whole bottom was nice and fat yet sufficient clarity.

    This was fun and useful.

  297. Daryl Graham

    I found the Pro Master to be the best. More refined and balanced. Seemed to have a dryer vocal. This mix would be more suitable for all speaker systems. Cool idea thanks for doing the Graham

  298. Dan

    I like the limiter version best. (Listening on earbuds).

    The toms sound good on Landr but altogether there’s too much low end. I don’t really enjoy listening to it.

    The pro master is nice, tight low end, but thin compared to the limiter, it just sounds richer somehow.

    When I close my eyes and listen, and my favourite version that sounds just right comes round, I open my eyes and find it’s the limiter!

    Great job all round, and thanks for posting this video.

  299. Greg Stevens

    This video was very helpful to me. It helped me hear what it was like to have the kick and bass to be punchy without being muddy, and to hear clarity in the guitars and cymbals. That is what I heard in the pro mix, which I preferred. I would not have been able to discern that before without the side-by-side comparison. Great lesson!

  300. Orlando

    The Pro Mastr. Was my choice! clarity, Better dynamics.. the limiter ver was ok for reference! the Landr like if it was drowning the clarity and base on genere ill go with the Pro ver.

  301. Forde

    The mix with only the Limter had Graham’s usual kink kink poke poke tink tink tink sharp treble poking at us, I hate it! That’s why Graham needs to stop being stubborn and just change his monitors, he keeps pushing the shitty treble around 7kHz-12kHz; when will he ever stop doing this in all his songs? It sounds terrible! There’s a big difference between ‘appropriate air’ and ugly sharp pokey treble sounds poking their head up constantly. And Graham’s mix felt empty, that’s the problem with his manner of digging-out the lower-mids on everything, it has consequences, it should only be done mildly on the master bus and on a few sounds in the mix. Minus 2.8 db at around 490Hz would be fine with a narrow Q.

    Ian’s master failed to mitigate the sharp annoying treble tones, and also left the entire mix without any character, it was like a play-it-safe approach and went nowhere, it was neither here nor there and neither this nor that, just nothingness, sterile as all heck.

    LANDR mitigated the sharp treble nicely, but added a touch to much weight in the bottom-end, but overall given the choice, LANDR won, and it had much more of that radio-ready tone we’re all familiar with.

    If only LANDR injected a touch of ‘air’ into the top-end and dialed-back the bass a tad, it would have been literally perfect.

    The LANDR was glued and smooth and running as one entity, and as I already said, it had that classic radio-ready tone, but also got rid of the midrange weirdness (empty distant wonkiness) and made the whole track as one united entity. None of them were particularly great, but LANDR got the closest.

    • Mike

      Hm, sounds you’re the only one with that problem with Graham’s mixes 😉
      That means, you have a problem with your monitors or/and your room. NS 10 in combination with untreated walls? Hm?

      • Scott

        Sorry, Mike, but I agree with Forde. Why are you bashing on him because he dares give his opinion? None of us are perfect and can always learn from one another, even Graham. I’m sure he would be the first to agree with this.
        Forde is defining the mix (master) he likes by how it all ‘gels’ together and becomes one, and also, like some others have commented, on the emotional or musical impact of the track.
        Seems to me that is kind of the definition of what a good mixed and mastered song does.
        It’s not how clear the highs are, or how technically perfect any one or 2 elements are. This is where the art comes in (besides the composition and playing), even if it is done by an algorithm.

  302. Jon Wymore

    Cool comparison. Like many others if I had to pick one it would be the Pro Master. Like many others also would have liked a touch more bottom end somewhere between the pro and the landr.
    It sure helps to start with a good mix! Thanks for the comparison and all the tips Graham!

  303. Turon Thomas

    I actually like the Pro master version better. I think yours sounds thin because you only used a limiter. The Landr master wasn’t bad either to me.

  304. Brandon K. Guttenfelder

    I prefer the Pro Master over the other! The low end seems heavier in LANDR, but isn’t worth the trade off in overall clarity & balance of the Pro Master! (Especially on different qualities of speakers.

  305. Clinton Carlton

    Hard decision… I have to say I like the Pro Master version 1st, Graham’s 2nd and LANDR 3rd.
    I’ll compare it to gravy.

    1. Ian’s mix brings out all nuances of the song. It’s super clear, thick and pumping.
    (Smooth and flavorful, perfect!)
    2. Graham’s mix is almost as good as Ian’s, just missing some tiny thing… not sure what?
    (Slightly thinner, but still tons of flavour.)
    3.LANDR sounds like there’s a little too much bass. It’s a little overboard.
    (Thick and slightly lumpy, but still some flavour.)

    Overall, if it was heard on an average sound system, it would probably be extremely difficult to tell much of a difference.
    Regardless, the song itself is brilliant. It would be pretty hard to goof it up.

  306. John Aylward

    Hi All.
    To my ears, the Pro Master sounds a little more pleasing though there’s nothing wrong with any of these masters. I guess it’s just down to taste.

  307. Smurf

    For those that like the LANDR “bot” give the AAMS software a try. I have used it since it came out and it does better than LANDR on everything IMHO.

    It is FREE to us, as it is donation ware, but I paid for every version up to the Donation-Ware release and KEEP paying because it is one of those pieces of software that is worth it.

    With all that said, I like the Limited version….

  308. Max Miegler

    I have to admit that I liked LANDR best. The more mid-rangey sound suited the song best. There is nothing to blamed about the pro master. It is crystal clear, open and all. But for my ears it sounded to poppy.

  309. Stephano Prunebelli

    Vocals sound better with the Pro version and even sit better in the mix whist on the other versions come out a bit more aggressive (relatively to the rest of the mix) and the mix loses clarity!
    Low end and high end at Pro Ver are more gentle to your ears and the whole track sounds more balanced!
    Keep in mind that one of the basic reasons for mastering is to get your track sound good in all sorts of speakers. So a very powerful and thick low end or a very punchy high end could sometimes, cost you trouble. Especially if your track is been played through a cheaper set of speakers.
    Plus that analog processing…through all that hardware…!?
    well there is a reason they cost that much…they sounds better (warm) and it makes a big difference if your production is fully in the box!….so
    Analog Mastering by a Pro!!!’=)

  310. Willi Gutwein

    Personally I thought the LANDR master was ‘mud’ You can have lots of low end without the mud. The pro version was clean with overall definition. Its all academic in any rate because our comments are based on what we are listening thru and what we prefer. Personally I must say if the LANDR mastering becomes popular because its easy and cheap and then people become accustomed to that style of sound then music may continue to be mediocre. Look whats happening with streaming and compression. Yes I am old skool and have lots of analogue gear but hey listen to something like the latest Avenge Sevenfold or say Coldplay, those albums dont sound like a LANDR master. Dont let technology take away your skills and most importantly your ears.

  311. Creative Space

    I like the LANDR Master because of the Low End. Don’t know if it would hold up through the entire song but the section I heard i enjoyed the bottom. This is strictly a matter of taste and chose.

  312. tuna colada

    I gotta say in my opinion the Pro Master was the best.The drums were tighter and more prominent,much more clarity overall..LANDRs’ bottom was muddy but on that song,that might be someones preference.the ear like the eye is very subjective,one mans grunge is another mans mudded out tone.When making my own stuff Im always trying to get that pre-mix tracking in the headphones sound cause I liked it the first time around or I wouldve re-recorded it.Even Soundcloud does something when they process it to their site,its subtle but its there.Thanks Graham for tips and common sense advice……tuna out

  313. Josh

    I really like the Pro Master. To me it sounded even and much more natural. The LANDR mix I liked the low end which I felt the original mix was missing but it went over the top with it. The original mix sounded super thin the second I heard it. It sounded more thin than normal when I hear a Mix by Graham. I have never used LANDR before, and I don’t know the prices, but I can definitely see if its a budget in mind concept then a lot of people would go for it. You could definitely use it as a learning tool to see what It thinks it should sound like and start helping you make different mix decisions if you find it keeps making the same adjustments over a handful of songs. Then again its an algorithm and it might be told to make similar adjustments consistently.

  314. Dave M

    1. Pro master by Ian, but missing some low end. Crisp and good high end. How would this sound on anyone’s usual eq settings when they listen to music? Probably pull up some low end.
    2. Limiter version
    3. Landr, too much bottom, muddied it up.

    This mix had a lot going on, I would think it would have been hard to get everything “defined”, while mixing it.

  315. John Rogers

    Coming from someone who has mastered over 30,000 songs, it doesn’t really tell you anything if the song mix is already 90% mastered, and just putting a limiter on it makes it sound pretty good. Of course LANDR can handle that.

    That’s like asking someone to make a puzzle and there are only three pieces left out of 100! A five-year-old could do that!

    Try improving a song that’s over-level and distorted, or mastering a song that’s super bright and thin, or a super bass thick song. How about an entire album that’s all over the map. This is what you get in if you’re in business.

    LANDR would NEVER be able to bring some consistency to this.

  316. Charlie

    The pro was mixed and lower than your limiter only. The Landr sounded a little bit of a blanket over it. Both yours and the Pro were more to my liking. I would had liked to hear yours and the pro at the same volume.

  317. Walt

    Great shootout Graham!

    After listening on studio monitors (in a tuned room/placement) and then on two different studio headsets, both while watching which was playing and then pseudo blind (plus through notebook computer internal speakers just for perspective):

    (I’m assuming that my ears are not mislead by the slight loudness difference between the limiter only version and Ian’s version.)

    Ian stands out as the winner (no big surprise). The LANDR was over compressed and full of mud. I can see if this were listened to on a monitoring source that is very deficient in the 200~500Hz region, the LANDR might seem better to some.

    Ian enhanced the stereo image, nicely balanced the frequency spectrum, and, being an expert in this area, he preserved an appropriate level of dynamics.

    I would certainly take Graham’s limiter only version over LANDR if only because LANDR muddied it up and over compressed it with no attention to what that did to the musical details (it’s a machine). The other reason Graham’s limiter only version beats LANDR is that Graham is a very good mixer and that gets you most of the way there without mastering. Mastering with a machine could easily lose the nice detail that Graham brought out in his mix – and Ian brought out the best in what Graham had already done. That’s what a mastering engineer should do.

    On the tiny notebook computer’s internal speakers, I still preferred Ian’s version over the LANDR even though LANDR brought more low end to this type of setup. The problem is that it did so at the expense of the stereo image and the dynamics, making it less interesting to me even on those tiny speakers.

    Ian’s version did punch up the bass a bit, but he did that without muddying it up with upper bass and low mids.

    Nice job to both Ian and Graham – showing once again why talented humans can beat machines in anything artistic.

    • Ben Kruse

      I’d still be interested to know what processing setting you used on LANDR. I’ve used LANDR on several projects and found their most extreme settings (loud, if I remember correctly) to introduce distortion and level changes that make a mix muddy. Even the medium setting does it sometimes. However, if used judiciously and often, you can adjust your mix (especially the buss compressor and loudness level) to account for the LANDR processing. Again, when used judiciously with a good ear to what the LANDR processing is introducing to your mix, it can be a great option for those on a tight budget.

      • Walt

        Hi Ben,

        I haven’t used LANDR myself and it is helpful getting the perspective of someone who has used it.

        I guess my question would be: If you need to have a good ear and use LANDR judiciously, then would it not be just as well to get some mastering software like that from Ozone and do it yourself without having to pay per use?

        I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on that since you’ve used LANDR and have noticed what it can do if misused.

        • Ben Kruse

          That’s a great question! I guess I haven’t tried mastering for myself for a couple of reasons. 1. Expertise: I have always felt like mastering was the realm of ‘mysterious beings of light’ aka: mastering engineers. But seriously, it takes time to get good at something. The payoff to learn how to master something just doesn’t seem worth it to me from where I’m standing now. 2. Fresh Ears: I know technically LANDR isn’t another set of ears but it is a fresh perspective on my work. We write, record, and mix all of our own music and I think the mastering stage needs to be done by someone (or something?!) other than myself. TTYTT, by the time I’m done with a song it’s almost lost all the magic for me. I have to take breaks from stuff just to keep it fresh.
          With all of that in mind, however, I do want to try mastering my own stuff someday just to see how it would turn out.

  318. Morne M Bester

    Listening on my studio headphones I think Ian’s version will translate better on all mediums IMHO

    If you listen on your earbuds for example a person might prefer the LANDR version for the extra bottom end but here Ian will give you a wider sweeter sound with more separation – use your bass boot if you need more bass lol
    The LANDR version will sound bassy on my car stereo and home hi-fi for sure, and most probably a tad muddy on my monitors.

    The Limited version will translate well too, but I think Ian’s version brings a bit more to the table.

  319. Shawket Serri

    Hi, actually I liked your mastering soundtrack because it’s very balanced to my ear and clear, although Ian’s soundtrack and yours are very similar with its quality but I prefer to hear the sound less deep and more brighter! .. Regards

  320. Brian Beamer

    I listened to the three with headphones. Sennheiser 280 Pro. The first I thought was pretty good.The second, the Pro Mix,,, after a couple of runs ,I could hear subtle differences. The on line mix had more punch, but was it dynamically better.? The fact that the first one was just an added limiter was interesting. Someone said ,,” where’s the bass” As a bass player I listen for the bass and could hear it on all three. If you are aiming for perfection, you would have to go with the Pro Mix, but to me on a budget, I would give the On Line one a miss and go for the first one. If I wanted to spend money,{ which I may do one day},the Pro Mix would be the way to go.

  321. Mark

    I have always found this a tricky subject in the audio world. It all boils down to personal preference. I have spent years trying to find the tried and true ways of doing thnigs only to find each artist asks for different things. So, to me… all signs point to personal preference for these subjects.

    LANDR is great if you are working on a budget or don’t have the connections or time to master professionally. Both deliver exceptional results but the listener will still have their preference.

    In my experience, working with singers and rappers… I mix a track and think, “wow! thats a perfect mix!” Send it to the client, and then they say “can you turn up my vocals a bit.” Crushing my perfect mix dream. Then I’ll do another mix and they ask me to turn their vocals down.

    I have even tricked clients before as a “test.” They have asked me to turn the vocals down, so I to test my theory, I rename the file with something like ‘vocal mix -3db’ and send it back and they love it. When really it’s the same mix. The client ended up using the mix they asked me to raise the vocals on that I sent them back untouched. Placebo effect?

    Anyway, this in my opinion, will always be an endless battle of opinions and personal preference.

    I think we (as audio engineers and musicians) should be more focused on quality of recording, mic placements, etc… And then deliver the best mix you can. As long as you follow the rules and guidelines and don’t clip your audio you can’t really go wrong. With time and practice and the tips and knowledge we learn you, you get better and better with time.

    No one will ever be satisfied in this game all due to personal preferences.

    I like you this, he likes that, they like something else. It’s a never ending battle to please everyone with one mix. IMPOSSIBLE!!!

  322. Rick Jones

    I listened over my laptop speakers. The limiter version was like a nice sweater with a few years worth of ‘pilling’ – serviceable, and with some texture. The pro version was the only one I could hear the lead guitar lines on, yet, the stereo spread was so wide and so high that my head felt as if I’d eaten one too many menthol cough drops. The Landr version wasn’t offensive – but it might be a little *too* compressed and featureless.

    Before anybody labors under the misapprehension that I’m being unkind, or even downright rude, you must know that few people understand a word I say. Recently, I went to the emergency room and the nurse asked me to describe my malady. I replied, “If you’d lick my hat, you would understand perfectly.” My son says that probably wasn’t the best way to diagnosis the problem, but it sounded reasonable to me.

    If we could have the texture of the Limiter, the guitar clarity of the Pro and the fatness of the Landr, I believe that would be the best of both of the three worlds.

  323. Winston McMiller

    Landar did an adequate job on the mix. I actually preferred the basic limiter master first. Landar added more midrange clarity but missing the smooth peak with the limiting mix. Landar probably added 5khz to add presence but it comes off a wee bit harsh. I did not like the Pro version, it felt overly compressed

  324. Douglas Romayne

    I was prepared to like the pro master best and despise the robo master but while the pro is clear and polished, it sounds a little thin and polite to me. The limiter version sounded fuller but a little flat. I think the thicker, heavier sound of the robo is more appropriate to the song’s lyric (which I took to be about the seedier side of human nature) and instrumentation. That said, it leans too much toward the kind of mix made to listen to on ear buds and needs some work but to my ears makes for an interesting starting point.

  325. Joe Piccione

    Pro Master appeals to my ear. Listening on GRADO PS500’s
    Clarity and Punch with over all cleanliness. The ROBO Master makes the mix sound sloppy.
    The Limiter sounds like it needs the polish of a mastering job.

  326. Swaggerman

    My $.02 — Ian’s version is the best by far, although I would have liked a little more roundness in the bottom end to balance the clarity and sparkle of the highs. The Limiter version is OK, but lacks the clarity in the mids and highs in Ian’s version. The LANDR version sounds like low-mid ‘soup’ (like what I’d expect to hear on a demo of the song), with nothing to fix the mid and high problems and far too much confusion in 80-160 Hz.

    Listened on Focal Twin-6BEs and Sennheiser HD-650 phones



  1.  Mastering Shootout: LANDR vs Pro Master
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