mastering for alt. music

ENCODER Sound on SoundBetter

ENCODER Sound masters music for the creative musicians of Perth and Australia. With a focus on Perth’s independent, alternative and experimental music scene, we’re geared towards artistic integrity and high fidelity.

Operated by Dan O’Connor, a mastering engineer & musician embedded in the exploratory music scene of Perth, ENCODER Sound brings a wealth of experience and unique perspective to audio production via 10+ years across many facets of the music industry; audio engineer, trumpet player, performing artist, record label owner/operator, and postgraduate researcher. ENCODER Sound is the studio arm of an empire built on listening, focusing on mastering services for alternative, independent, and experimental music. Dan has developed a unique perspective on sound and the process of creation that can help you bring out the nuance in your recordings and prepare them for release.

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Interview with ENCODER Sound

  1. Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?

  2. A: I mixed the debut Nika Mo album 'Of Cloven Hoof in Honey.' Nika Mo is a Perth local alt-folk artist. Besides the beautiful music, and the thoroughly considered concept, compositions, and lyrical content. The album was very DIY in nature and featured a lot of the local exploratory musicians. It feels like a great little product of a creative community.

  3. Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?

  4. A: "Are you keen to master my EP?" People often seem like they're not sure I'd be into the music. I'm really keen to master anything, because I love the challenge, the process, and hearing new stuff. I like digging into music that perhaps isn't exactly in my wheelhouse. So, people who might be worried that I don't work on mainstream or pop music, for example, should be at ease that I really love finding the greatness in any style or genre of music. (also, everyone loves EPs!)

  5. Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?

  6. A: A common cliche is that the goal of the mastering engineer is make music louder. Often the music does get louder, but the goal is to optimise playback for fans and listeners, and this doesn't necessarily mean things get louder.

  7. Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?

  8. A: My studio is pretty minimal to begin with, and I like it that way. So I'd take a MacBook Pro, Lynx Hilo, pair of HD660S headphones, some kind of nice power supply to run them, and some kind of dust cover or vacuum to keep all the desert sand out of the equipment.

  9. Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?

  10. A: I've played trumpet since my early teens, and played guitar in a number of local bands. I have a Bachelor of Music with first Class Honours (2017) from the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts and I went on to study a Doctor of Music Degree at the University of Western Australia (2018—as yet unfinished). As is common, my audio engineering chops developed in parallel to my performance studies and creative pursuits. In 2016 I founded a record label for experimental and improvised music, Tone List, which led to mastering a great number of those releases. My time and mental focus congealed toward mastering as I founded ENCODER Sound in 2019, working with a select group of adventurous artists.

  11. Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?

  12. A: Rob at Soundbaker is a Perth guru recording and mixing engineer, great guy, great studio.

  13. Q: What are you working on at the moment?

  14. A: A group named OVERLAY setup some studio sessions whilst on Australian tour. Each session featured members of the group improvising with local musician. The music is kind of ambient and textural, mostly acoustic, and very interactive. I'm mastering that one at the moment.

  15. Q: Analog or digital and why?

  16. A: Digital is great for transparency, efficiency and workflow. Analog is great for colour, photos, and bragging rights.

  17. Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?

  18. A: I promise to give your music my full attention, the full breadth of my expertise, and get you excited about releasing new music.

  19. Q: What do you like most about your job?

  20. A: Listening to great, super fresh music all day and getting to know the people who make it.

  21. Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?

  22. A: (Tough artsy questions) What music do you love? What do you love about that music? How do you see this prospective project in connection to the music you love? (The more practical questions) It's important for me to know what the plan is for the release of this music. What format are you releasing on (digital, cassette, vinyl, etc.)? When are you releasing the music?

  23. Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?

  24. A: As soon as you feel like you're going to need a mastering engineer, reach out at that point. It works better for your music, your schedule and your budget if we start communicating early in the project and well before the release date.

  25. Q: How would you describe your style?

  26. A: I often wear jeans and a t-shirt... I have a casual style and presence, but when it comes to sound I am ready to dig in and get the most out of any project. Perhaps I lean towards "less is more," but only if that is the right fit for the project.

  27. Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?

  28. A: I would love to work with Trent Reznor on a film score, Damon Albarn on a Gorillaz record, Josh Homme on a QOTSA album, master a HAIM album, listen in Bob Ludwigs mastering room. It be great to be in the room while Heba Kadry masters a Silversun Pickups record. All these folks work on interesting music that reaches people, opens up worlds, etc.

  29. Q: Can you share one music production tip?

  30. A: Don't touch the volume nob. Set your volume to a healthy, fun listening level for your favourite music and leave it there. You can do this across all your listening devices. For example, always listen to your bluetooth headphones at the same level too. This way you start to get a sense of relative level across lots of musical content and you can think more about tonality and character, rather than loudness. There is a trick though, because if you're recording or mixing the overall level will be lower, because the music hasn't been mastered yet. In this case you need to turn your volume nob up. But ,be precise about it, say 12dB (or 12 clicks up, however your volume works). Now you have another reference level, the recording and mixing reference level, anytime you're recording or mixing, set the volume at that same spot.

  31. Q: What type of music do you usually work on?

  32. A: I work mainly on indie, alternative, and experimental music. These umbrella terms kind of encompass some more traditional musics, such as ambient electronic, folk, jazz, and classical.

  33. Q: What's your strongest skill?

  34. A: I'm a great listener, both to music and to people.

  35. Q: What do you bring to a song?

  36. A: A fresh, experienced perspective on the music. Also, an "outsiders" perspective, meaning that my musical taste and work often encompass the avant-garde and experimental side of music-making. So, if you're an artist that is trying something new, or trying to push a sonic boundary, I understand this and can work with you on that. Or, if you're making pop music, for example, my attention might be drawn to different elements in the mix than a pop focused mastering engineer. The result could be something special!

  37. Q: What's your typical work process?

  38. A: I base the process around treating every project as a unique piece of art and preference dedicated listening to the mixes, and references, at the beginning of the mastering process. Before I make any changes to the program material I listen thoroughly and form a concept as to what should happen. I try to avoid the constant tweaking of parameters that can lead you down a confusing rabbit hole. Fresh perspectives are of the most importance when mastering, so I tend to make the necessary augmentations, take a break from that particular project, then re-engage with it some hours later, or even the next day (if time permits). Masters are then sent to the artist whom I encourage to assess the master in a similar way, with multiple dedicated listens over a couple of days. If revisions are required (they seldom are) we go back and forth as needed.

  39. Q: Tell us about your studio setup.

  40. A: ENCODER Sound is a mastering studio with a focus on artistic integrity and high fidelity. The monitoring and listening position have been painstakingly considered, as well as the acoustic treatment, and the system features a Trinnov Optimizer to tame any remaining anomalies. I run a Lynx Hilo for conversion, Adam Audio monitors and Sennheiser headphones for a secondary reference and QC. It sounds great in here, and it sounds completely consistent day to day which has allowed me to hone my ears and produce masters that translate effectively.

  41. Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?

  42. A: I love anyone stretching to produce something new, or pushing at an artistic boundary. I also love people who have created or curated a whole world or community around their work.

  43. Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.

  44. A: I master music, often from underground producers, artists, and improvising musicians.

Jeremy Segal, Assemble

I was the Mastering Engineer in this production

Terms Of Service

Turnaround is 48-72 hours (quicker possible subject to negotiation)
Revisions free within the first three weeks, with identical mixes (charges apply thereafter)

GenresSounds Like
  • Pixies
  • Oneohtrix Point Never
  • Brian Eno
Gear Highlights
  • Lynx Studio Technology conversion
  • Trinnov monitor calibration
  • Adam Audio & Sennheiser monitoring
More Photos
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