Welcome to the first installment of Robby Reviews! A long time ago I think I mentioned considering posting more than just what amounted to journal entries here on robbysuave.com. I can’t say I planned on doing reviews of things, and maybe this will be the only entry in the series, but today I am going to review LANDR.
LANDR is a service unlike no other as far as I know. It touts itself as a system that masters audio files automatically and virtually instantly; there are no human ears listening to these songs, painstakingly EQing them to get them to sound just right. It’s just a bunch of code and algorithms and other technological stuff.
I guess LANDR has been around for a while, but I didn’t hear about it today. Since they offer the ability to upload audio files and get a 192kbps mastered mp3 back, FOR FREE, I thought I’d try it out. Heat Stroke has already been mastered, so I’m not looking to get anything mastered right now, so this was purely an experiment. Before I get into the results, let me reiterate that this site quickly spits out better quality mp3s at you for free. You can also pay for monthly subscriptions that allow you to upload songs and get lossless tracks rendered out to you instead of just the mp3.
For this experiment, I used a song on my upcoming album (which comes out January 27th and you should buy it, by the way) called “Wildfire.” I chose it because I feel like it benefited the most from getting professionally mastered. The guitar is sort of sludgy and thrashy, and I figured this is about the worst I could throw at LANDR, to see how it compares to the mastered versions I got from Sage Audio. So, below are 3 audio clips, so you can hear for yourself the differences. The first clip is my unmastered version. The second clip is the LANDR version. And the third clip is the professionally mastered version.
In my opinion, the results were as expected. Obviously, a professionally mastered song is going to sound better than an automatically mastered one. But hey, that LANDR master was free. I’m hardly an audio engineer or anything, so I can’t go into too many details as to what LANDR is actually doing to the song, but I can say something about it. One of the algorithms is runs is a normalization pass. For this example, for you to listen to, I normalized the unmastered version. When you have something mastered, you want to keep it kind of quiet so the engineer has headroom to EQ the frequencies. It seems to also compress the audio a little. LANDR made that quiet guitar part at the beginning almost twice as loud as the unmastered version. After a quick listen with my hardly-trained ears, I didn’t notice too much EQing going on. You should notice a lot of low end in the unmastered and LANDR versions, and just a better, louder, fuller sound with the professionally mastered version.
So, going strictly by this test, you have to admit LANDR is improving the sound of your songs. If you have no other avenue of getting your songs mastered or EQ’d or whatever and don’t need anything higher quality than 192kbps mp3s, this could be your thing. Or maybe you have a crappy/quiet audio recording that you want to quickly enhance. While I can’t see myself using this for future projects, I will consider using it for some of my older songs that aren’t worth getting professionally mastered. I mean, it’s free. If it doesn’t improve the sound as much as I would like, I’ll take it to Sage Audio, because they were awesome when they mastered Heat Stroke.
Final thoughts: Trying it out is free and easy. If what LANDR advertises itself as being interests you at all, I recommend trying it. It’s certainly nowhere near a substitute for a professional mastering job, but it’s still pretty neat and impressive. If Robby Reviews had any kind of review system, I would subtract at least one point for being a Canadian company. Other than that though, yeah, this is cool. I was definitely pleasantly surprised by the results, and it’s something I can see myself coming back to for a quick and easy audio enhancement when I’m not at my computer where I can normalize and tweak the EQ.