Ben Talks to Stereo Masters

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Music plays a big part in this blog. From track by tracks to reconstructed posts, I do a lot of stuff pertaining to music. While I do not have a background in music production, I appreciate the medium. The extent of my knowledge is an A in GCSE Media Studies. So people who take it further always get my attention. Especially when they do it so well.

I recently became involved in Reddit, which is an aggregator for news, opinions, and viral stuff. I recently posted one of my reconstructed album covers for Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys on a fan subreddit. Another user did an upscale of my cover, that garnered a lot of rightfully deserved attention. A repost of the image was later put on Facebook by another fan, on a group I am in. I don’t blame the person for reposting it. Frankly, it was amazing. The picture was pretty good on a computer screen, but the up-res was next level. Zooming into the picture to see the details in people’s faces.

I messaged Stereo Masters, who’s YouTube channel does similar witchcraft on videos and music, to do an interview. Big thanks to Stereo Masters for taking part. He does excellent work, and I think you will want to know more about it.

Ben: Starting with your background, is remastering and remixing visual media a hobby for you, or something more? How did you get into doing this?

Stereo Masters: The inception of my work began as I took an interest in creating visual edits for Doctor Who and experimenting with sound isolation for The Beatles. I find its great fun to take the things you enjoy and push with them further, and I think that ethos is relevant for me even now. The work I have done has been a hobby ever since then.

My Reconstructed Pet Sounds Cover 

Stereo Master UpscaleStereo Masters’ Upscale of my fan cover 

Ben: Your work mainly breaks down into two categories. You remix mono recordings of songs, and you upscale film and video to HD, or 4K. Take me through the process of starting and finishing an audio and visual project.

Stereo Masters: I usually resort to an ensemble of tools I deploy to get the sound I need. A lot of the audio separation is taken care for by A.I, i.e. Moises.ai although the results of those aren’t perfect. So, I would take them further to manually correct any unwanted sound bleed by using iZotope RX7. This is a great workstation I would strongly recommend to all who want to get down into this! Once I have got these isolated STEMS, it is a matter of meticulous mixing and mastering using plugins emulating vintage effects to get the desired sound that closely reflects the original master recording. That pretty much condenses the workflow I follow for all the audio remixing.

Artificial Intelligence is an extraordinary, constantly developing means and it is what I also use for video upscaling. Topaz Video Enhance AI: another propriety software is capable of upscaling footage to 4K, albeit with mixed results! However, there’s little intervention that I can make to improve the result as opposed to audio. But little things such as noise reduction and de-interlacing can make all the difference to the source material. I use a tool called Avisynth, prior to feeding it onto the software. With these results, I resort to some colour-grading and basic image adjustments, e.g. contrast to polish the look of the visual. I choose whether to keep the original track from the footage or go with the best source of the studio track from the album, which I would carefully sync to the footage…with some speed manipulation so that they align.

Ben: Your YouTube channel, Stereo Masters, started off with Doctor Who title sequence edits and such, before moving onto primarily music-based content. Do you find it easier to work on music-based projects, compared to your earlier work?

Stereo Masters: I guess I have moved on with the times and my interests have shifted, but it has all been most helpful in my overall experience. With all this practice I have had, I’m trained to recognise what I need to do, and I’ve become efficient at it.

Ben: Your most viewed video is your up-res of ‘The Long and Winding Road’, at 92,000 YouTube views. Would you say that this is your proudest achievement so far, or would you give that to another project?

Stereo Masters: I owe the popularity to that video to McCartney’s genius on the most part! I would not place that video as the pinnacle of my achievements, since there are things I can do better, and most recently I decided to give it a spin on a song from the same concert called, “Silly Love Songs”. It does not suffer from the same degree of video compression as I applied some grain reduction prior to upscaling it to 4K, which helped to bring it forward for the streaming format. I would encourage folks to compare it with the official release by Paul McCartney’s official YouTube channel. In retrospect, I would say I am very proud of my remix of Buddy Holly’s “Think it Over” in both Mono and Stereo.

Buddy Holly- Think it Over (Original Mono)
Buddy Holly- Think it Over (Stereo Masters’ 2020 Mono Remix)
Buddy Holly- Think it Over (Stereo Masters’ 2020 Stereo Remix)

Ben: What music is in your playlist at the moment? Are there any particular singers/groups that you like more than others?

Stereo Masters: I hold onto a lot of popular artists from the 50s to the present day and go through an addictive phase between them! As of now, I am much into The Everly Brothers. I have made some interesting compilations of tracks as a form of ‘Sound Experience’ bringing together songs I like that are arranged to weave together between transition on my Spotify.

Check Out Stereo Masters Spotify

Ben: Talking about projects again, what project was the hardest/most complicated one to finish?

Stereo Masters: I would say that most consuming project has been working on The Beach Boys’ SMiLE, which brought together a lot of bits and pieces of sources with extensive research and sound isolation to get the outcome.

SMiLE In Stereo Release Video (Album linked in its description) 

 Ben: Following on from that, have you ever abandoned a project as a bad job, or started again from scratch? 

John and Ringo: Up-resed and colourised
Silhouetted, Ringo & John at a recording session for the album “The Beatles” (White Album): Colourised by Stereo Masters


The Everly Brothers c.1959: A before-after comparison of restoration and colour grading done by Stereo Masters

Stereo Masters: A lot of what I do goes about iteratively, and I consider the opinions of others and revisit the multitrack session and adjust or just start from scratch over again. Personally, I find results in both audio and video to be either hit or miss and I cannot settle with anything close since any difference is to me as stark as night and day.

Ben: A lot of the material you cover is from between the ’50s and ’70s, music. Does remixing and remastering material add new relevance to these songs for people who call themselves Millenials or Gen Z? Why should young people give older music a chance?

Stereo Masters: I think what I do does somewhat contribute to the song’s revival, although I lack the popularity to really push it out there. I strive to push further with what I must begin with, and it can raise a veil over the sound or image. Interestingly, taking a look at my channel analytics, the largest proportion of my audience is the 25-34 year old demographic which is somewhat ironic as this is older music, so I am a little surprised but glad that spirit lives on and I am part of the revival. I think older music has a lot to offer that new music lacks and can be much more genuine too when you look into perspective that it was ignited by a generational shift from the post-war era, and it holds nothing over the music culture we’re in the present day.

Ben: What projects are you currently working on? You’ve recently released some Buddy Holly Mono and Stereo Mixes, and several excellent upscaled videos. What’s next?

Stereo Masters: Currently, I’m working on creating modern stereo remixes of The Beatles’ album “Please Please Me” and “With The Beatles” and I have released three of the tracks from The Beatles debut as of now. The future is uncertain, and I usually tend to work on tracks I am also enjoying. It is a great motivator and enjoyment to work on something you are happy doing at that moment in time, and I think it helps with attaining the best you can do for it.

Ben: Finally, are there any particular projects you would like readers to check out?

Stereo Masters: I would most encourage readers to check out the channel and delve into the playlists I have put together on the channel page and unwind through the work I have created. 

Special Thanks to Stereo Masters for giving some of his time to answer my questions. You can keep up with his work on his YouTube Channel.

Related Posts & External Links

Ben talks to: Cathryn Appleton (honeyishrunkliverpool)

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Ben

Since 2012, Benjamin Attwood has written for the If you Ask Ben blog.

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