There’s a new player in town in Britain’s competitive mastering engineer’s market. Its name is Bahahs Studio and what they offer is the full analog package for your tracks, electronic music in particular, assuring customers that when they’re done with your music, it will contain colour, warmth and character – a goal often lacking in the workflow of other studio’s where loudness has top priority, often times resulting in a degradation in quality.
We spoke to Bahahs Studio founder and long-time master engineer Shahab Notghi about that which sets his studio apart, the most common mistakes that are made by amateur producers in the mixdown and more.
Bahahs Studio is a boutique, independent mastering and production studio based in Bournemouth, in the South Coast of the UK, with over a decade of experience in the industry.
Bahahs Studio was founded by Shahab Notghi; a self professed house music devotee who cut his teeth in the competitive world of music as an official photographer to the likes of Amy Winehouse, Basement Jaxx, Kanye West, Groove Armada and The Prodigy. With unprecedented access to these artists’ performances Shahab absorbed years worth of wisdom on how to craft the perfect mix. Knowing his career would lead him on a path from photography to his true love of music, he invested heavily in making his dream a reality. A decade ago Shahab jumped head first into music production and hasn’t looked back since.
With a natural ear for dance music and an obsessive mind, his skills have been employed by some of the best labels in the business. Striking out as an independent, he now works with a collective of like-minded talented producers to offer his services to get your music noticed. The main philosophy held by him and his engineers is that mastering music is not a skill but an art form: “We don’t just make music sound better, we bring it to life”. Check out the below before and after mastering samples to hear the difference.
But isn’t this also possible by watching an in-depth YouTube tutorial, as many producers who have more of a DIY approach to mastering are doing? Notghi disagrees:
“You need to listen to the song in the state of the art room, through state of the art speakers and with state of the art DA/DA convertors. It’s that judgment which is vital. If the judgement of the music, frequencies etc. is wrong because the monitoring is no good, then your at a major disadvantage. “If you can’t hear when something is wrong, then it’s all a waste of time”.
The Loudness Wars
Even some of the best artists in music history have fallen foul of the “loudness war”; a well established phenomenon where tracks are mastered to hit the peaks of dynamic range, sacrificing sound quality for volume and even generating distortion. Notghi recognises that loudness for loudness sake is not putting the music first. Using only the very best analogue equipment his mastering engineers have developed a “proven technique to get you the loudest achievable master whilst minimising loss of dynamics.” If you’re interested in what this technique exactly involves, you’re free to visit Bahahs Studio to watch an actual mastering session.
“It’s a well known fact that the car stereo is one of the best environments to check a mix in”
So what’s the biggest amateur mistakes Notghi and his colleagues have come across over the past years, and, more importantly, how can they be avoided?
“It always concerns the high end frequencies! Hi hats and shakers are mostly mixed far too loud. I highly advise listing to your final mixes on as many different devices as possible to make sure the mix is well balanced and nothing is jumping out too much. It’s a well known fact that the car stereo is one of the best environments to check a mix in”
To overcome this problem we use a special tool called the Maselec MPL-2 Peak Limiter that controls the high end frequencies in a very unique way without losing any audio quality and dynamics.
Proudest Studio Possession?
“Our studio has been designed with no expense spared to create the perfect acoustic space for mastering. We’ve built up an impressive collection of the best digital and analogue equipment available today.
Each piece has been thoughtfully chosen to compliment the mastering process, adding an individual “je ne sais quoi” to the mix. Take for example our handmade Chandler Curve Bender, used by Pink Floyd and The Beatles, it imparts a high quality expensive tone like nothing else. By choosing the right piece of kit for each task our technicians know how best to manipulate every element to produce the perfect song.”
One final question we had to ask Notghi was what he thought to be the best DAW for producing electronic music:
“Ableton is the best tool for writing music and exploring new ideas. It’s so quick to learn and fun to use. Pro Tools has the best audio engine. For mix downs and audio editing nothing can beat it! Logic Pro I feel has fallen behind. It’s not very creative, it’s not very logical as the simplest tasks are very time consuming. It’s a shame as Apple have allot of money and over the years they have not invested into the development of the program”
Prices for the various mastering services at Bahahs Studio start at £40,- with a 24-hour turnaround of the mastered track. In September the Studio is offering a discount to celebrate it’s opening by charging £25,- per track, with a maximum of 25 tracks.