LANDR is a unique new mastering service that bypasses the human element. That’s right, essentially your tracks get mastered by a robot. I was certainly skeptical at first, but the prices of LANDR’s services–which are the lowest in the industry–made me want to look into it.
One would argue that mastering your song (which traditionally means getting your song ready for radio play) is one of the most important steps of the music production process because it involves putting the finishing touches on your song. The desired end result is to get a full and clear sound, as well as boosting it to an industry standard volume level.
Because the mastering step is so crucial, I decided to do a comparison of LANDR with three other Mastering services with comparable prices. Each of the services listed below are between $25 and $35 per track. LANDR’s pricing structure is different than that of most mastering engineers because they also offer unlimited masters for a monthly subscription. But those who are serious about their music will want to get their song in an uncompressed .WAV file format, which you can get for either $9.99 per track or $39/month for unlimited WAVs.
(Click here to visit my referral link, which will get you two free .WAV masters for signing up.)
Comparing LANDR To Other Mastering Services
For this comparison, I will be using My True Love Song (1:9 Gospelectro Remix), which was originally recorded and then remixed by One Nine Pro. Each sample is 1:45 in length and includes a nice range of dynamics for the purposes of this comparison.
Channel Fuse provides single song mastering for $25. The master below is a .WAV that peaks at -0.1db.
Gigantic Mastering provides single song mastering for $35. The master below is a .WAV that peaks at -0.2db. You’ll notice that there are a few beeps in the mix because that is the way they provided their sample. I will also note that Mike, the engineer, was very friendly to work with and responded with the finished sample very fast.
3. Sage Audio
Sage is a Nashville based studio that provides single song mastering for $34. The master below is a .WAV that peaks right at zero db. This is the one I ended up going with. I thought their engineer Steve did a very good job getting a big sound with a pleasant tabour. He was very fast in responding.
Again, it is $9.99 per track or $39/month for unlimited WAVs. The master below is a .WAV that peaks at -0.2db. I went with the Medium intensity option (explained below). This track was mastered with the Ionian 1.0 update to LANDR’s interface.
Comparing The Waveforms
The waveforms in the image below are listed in the same order as the list above.
LANDR Review – Conclusion
In the end, LANDR surprised me and exceed my expectations. I felt like the end result was a full sound that was nicely EQed. When if comes to mastering, like any other art, it really comes down to preference. Today, the trend seems to be to have your masters come out as loud as possible, but many professionally recorded songs in the past, and even some still today, do not prefer the loudest option. If you are going for a loud mix, LANDR may not be your best option because, as you can see by the waveforms above, there is a significant difference between LANDR (#4) and the other three.
So, evenn though it not the loudest, I still believe it sounds surprisingly good. I strongly recommend adjusting the “Intensity Level” to the Medium option. I feel that the Low option is probably too soft, but the High option was way too compressed and did not sound good at all. Also, make sure you upload your premastered track to peak at between -6db and -5db, which is what the site recommends.
There are things that I really like about a real live mastering engineer that you just will not get with a robot. One significant problem is with the bass. Mastering engineers work with multi-band compressors to actually mix the bass for you to either boost it to get a nice punch or lower it so as to not overwhelm the listener. I suppose if you were able to mix your bass in such a way that it perfectly meshes with LANDR’s algorithm, it may turn out fine, but that is not an easy task. Also, I love to be able to ask my mastering engineer for feedback on my mix, which is vey helpful; but with LANDR you pretty much get what you get.
In conclusion, I think LANDR has some potential, but it does take some experimenting with it to know how to get the best sound out of it. At this point, I think it is great for mixes that are not meant to be bass heavy (In fact, I mastered this acoustic song with LANDR for that exact reason: “Meant To Be” by Luke & Semone); and I also think it works great for demos.
But what do you think? Let us know by commenting below.