I don't think the analizer is going to help much either. Looking at music isn't as effective as listening. Are you using full range monitors? You should. I know I need to listen at a pretty loud volume to really know if the low end is right.
All monitor configurations also need a certain amount of power to reveal the dynamics and especially the lower end properly.
Usually the better the system is the lower you can play with the spectrum and dynamics being correct, and then it all depends on your ears and what you prefer
I always use a spectrum analyzer, peak meters, power meters, VU meters, phase meter, DC meter, L/R power meter, and Bit meter. They can tell you a lot about what's going on and they help to confirm what your hearing. I have really good monitors that I totally rely on but I use the meters as a way to confirm what i'm hearing and to make sure that nothing funky is going on. Sometimes your working and working on a mix and even a ME can loose perspective, I glance at my meters to make sure i'm on track and haven't lost something along the way. The best way to learn how to use these meters is to listen and watch a lot. pop in tons of CD's and look at what is going on in relation to what you are hearing. you can't totally rely on meters because different kinds of timbers have to be accounted for. The problem you get into is when you try to make all of your mixes look the same.
I'm no means a mastering engineer, (not even a recordist by profession) but I've found a sonogram more effective than a spectral analyzer. Having frequency vs time on the two axes with brightness representing amplitude just makes a lot more visual sense to me than having amplitude vs frequency. Having a time axis can really help to figure out what instruments are making noise in which regions, etc.
Not to mention that you have a readily available graph plot for, lets say, 10 seconds. You don't have to keep playing the same bit over and over just to see the visual for one instant, for example.
Other than that, I agree with Michael. Ears first, eyes confirmation.
An 8192 point FFT spectrum analyzer helped me see what my room looked like - to a certain extent - so I could make physical adjustments and hear the music from the nearfields a lot better.
Using a measuring mic and a software RTA w/overlays I sent some white & pink noise out in the room, watched it, while comparing to the original 'non-room' white/pink overlay.
Hmm - I just thought why don't I do that with a good reference song also ! He He good idea.
I've been using Mellancamps 'Trouble No More' CD (Ludwig) lately but I just got Pink Floyd 30yr anniv 'Dark Side' after the raves here so I might have to switch.
But I still like watching the spectrums while doing my garage mastering - at least now I can hear the balance properly !
Just out of curiosity, when you used the spec-analyzer and ran pink & white noise, you stated "that you wanted to see what your room looked like"
What exactly were you looking for on the spec-analyzer? I am curious because a friend is trying to tune his home studio. I had Westlake audio do my control room, and after the wall-treatment, they used a spec-analyzer and adjusted a graphic EQ accordingly. I guess I should have paid more attention to what and why they did if for nothing else> education. I have a spec-analyzer and would like to use it at my friends place, but frankly I don't know what to look for
First you have to have a good flat mic to use, something geared towards what you are doing. You want to look for non uniform response or not depending on the room. peaks and valleys. You should be able to calculate these by the demensions of your room if you have parallel walls. this will tell you where your problems are. using an eq to correct these problems is really not the ticket, correcting your or their room is much more effective. This is more of a question in the acoustics forum.
I tried recording frequency sweeps and various instruments/percussion at various points in my live room and control room. After studying them through a speccy analyser, this allowed me to make rough changes to the rooms and adjust the positioning of musicians for future recordings. Not terribly accurate, but that's not the kind of person I am....
Anyway, I used to work in a hospital and I'm sure an analizer was used for some very uncomfortable body inspections.....
I am certainly not an ME either but just wanted to ad that Wavelab comes with a number of analyzing tools. I have my spec. analyzer out on my 2nd monitor anytime I'm working on something simply because I can. (whether applic. or not.) I would like to find out more about sonograms, who makes a good plugin version and how accurate are they?
I'm using few different spectrum analyzer which i check peak frequency and equal rms,phase checker,clip vu's (analog and digital),
I defenetly trust my ears, my monitors and my room, but when i master i feel i have a very big responsebility to the client, and i prefer to chek miself with meters and few types of headphones to be sure i've done it just right , some times i even chek miself with a 20$ computer speakers or if i'm doin' a live gig before i have to hand the master to my client i'm takin' it with me to another test .
Mastering is a very serious buisness and i prefer to leave the romantic arguments about algorithms reliabuility out and use them ,not rely on them , but using them because they are very powerfull tools