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The Future of Home Studio Mastering
By Chris Burnett,

Mastering is usually the final process in bringing a recording project to life. Many artists have often experienced the negative consequences of having their final mixed tracks mastered incorrectly. Incorrectly mastered musical recordings result in extremely unpleasant sonic experiences for the listener. Poor mastering detracts from the actual music and often negates the glorious sounds that were originally produced during the countless hours usually devoted to perfecting the final version of each track.

Har-Bal Harmonic Balancer ( is software that has solved this dilemma for the masses. Here is an economical solution that also takes any guesswork out of the complexities of frequency analysis with regard to recorded music mastering. Another technical consideration that the software solves, involves the inherent physical limitations of most mastering engineers to physically detect certain tonal imbalances in certain frequency ranges.

Introduction To Harmonic Balancing

It is pretty well documented that prolonged periods of listening to improperly mastered recordings usually leads to hearing fatigue that ultimately takes the pleasure out of the listening experience. Harmonic Balancing provides a reliable means of correcting and removing the tonal imbalances inherent in any song, thus producing a more naturally pleasing and agreeable sound to the listening ears. Users of the software report that this new process has demonstrated itself time after time in producing a harmonically balanced sound from one that was wanting. When a song is Harmonically Balanced they state that the effect can be phenomenal.

As an example of what sounds can be impacted by Harmonic Balancing, consider this question: Have you ever been in a club and found yourselves having to literally scream to talk to someone sitting right next to you? Contrast this experience with those times when the music is being played just as loud in volume as the first example, and you never have to strain to speak or be heard.

The question presented in this situation is a typical example of hearing mastered musical recordings where frequencies exist that are in conflict with the natural sound spectrum. Listening to a song that is improperly mastered is often an ultimately irritating experience. Most of the time, in cases like this, the average listener is totally unaware of the cause of such irritation.

How Harmonic Balancing Software Works

Har-Bal Harmonic Balancing software gives any mastering engineer the unique ability to actually see these types of frequency conflicts and initiate the proper steps to correct them. Harmonic Balancing simply brings out more of what an artist wants to present on a final record, without changing the overall song - this is also the same goal for which the process of conventional multi-million dollar studio mastering strives. Har-Bal software simply brings this ability to the home studio engineer as well, and at an economically affordable price.

Many artists today have access to recording production tools and equipment. There are also countless artists who create music that is on par with any being heard in the mainstream music market of today. However, due to deficiencies in the quality of most final mastered recordings, the music of many new artists is often passed over for potential opportunities. An artist, whose technical musical craft is developed to a professional quality, may now consistently produce a recorded product that is technically in keeping with the highest of standards in the recorded music industry.

With its ease of use (and integration) into most of today's popular computer operating systems, Har-Bal can quickly add the vital professional's touch to home studio produced recordings, making the best possible sonic impression. With Har-Bal you can literally create a harmonically balanced sound of unparalleled quality one hundred percent of the time. With this software you will be able to create original and re-mastered recordings that rival the best mastering studios the world has to offer.

About the Software

Har-Bal is a commercial shareware software product. Being shareware you can try out the software before you decide to pay for a registered version. Trying out the software allows you to determine whether it suits your needs and whether it runs correctly in your specific environment. The shareware version of Har-Bal is a feature-restricted version of the registered version. The functionality is identical with the exception that no record function is provided and playback is limited to 8-bit resolution. Har-Bal has been specifically designed for use with the Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP operating systems.

FREE - Har-Bal™ Demonstration Version

About Har-Bal International

The current software is the result of a consolidated effort from Paavo Jumppanen (Developer) and Earle Holder (Engineer). As with many good ideas, Harmonic Balancing has its origins in a number of life experiences leading up to seminal realizations. However, the initial seed of the idea was planted by related research work being done at the University of Tasmania. That research specifically involved using homomorphic signal processing techniques in the analysis of laser schlieren signals in transitional combustion flows.

The primary reference book on the subject of homomorphic signal processing techniques (Digital Signal Processing by A. V. Oppenheim & R.W. Schafer ISBN 0-13-214107-8) had a particularly interesting section (10.7.3) giving an overview of homomorphic deconvolution applied to the restoration of acoustic recordings. More specifically, they were using the technique to remove the frequency response of the recorded horn sounds from certain recordings of the noted singer, Enrico Caruso.

The concept of Harmonic Balancing eventually developed from the work done during this and other research. The concept proposed to measure the mean spectrum of a recording in order to test the quality of the sound through its spectrum and a listener perception of the song; and if the quality is found to be lacking, construct an equalization filter to correct for any of the sonic deficiencies. Over a five-year period, the initial concepts of Harmonic Balancing were eventually transformed from a concept into the reality of Har-Bal mastering software.

Interview With Har-Bal International

Your product is another significant technological breakthrough in the area of record production. How long have you been offering your Harmonic Balancing software commercially?

[Earle Holder] Har-Bal International officially went live on August 15th, 2003. Two weeks prior, we offered only the demo version for clients to download. The responses from our customers have been both positive and appreciative.

Earle Holder (Engineer) - HDQTRZ Digital Studios

You also have gained the respect and admiration of your users because of the quality of your technical support. What would you contribute to your success in servicing your software clients?

[Earle Holder] We believe in plain old-fashioned good customer service and providing our customers with the same type of respect we would demand from any business. We allow ongoing communications from our customers by way of our forums page as well as a chat channel. This allows us to receive suggestions and provide tips on an ongoing basis. It has been quite successful and is chocked full of general knowledge. We try to answer all of our user's questions regarding issues concerning recording and product use.

The software is currently available for all of the Windows operating systems. Are there plans to expand the scope of your product to include availability of Har-Bal to users of other operating systems?

[Paavo Jumppanen] Yes, certainly. Our outlook is cross platform and we don't swear allegiance to the Windows operating system family. The fact that Har-Bal began life as a Windows app is more a historical accident rather than a firm marketing tenant. My professional background is principally in Windows programming so it made sense to test the concept of Har-Bal on the Windows platform. Now that we have firmly established the concept we plan to port to both Linux and Mac OSX through the wxWindows portable application framework. But as working with wxWindows will be new territory for me, a port will take some time.

What is the role that each of the founders and creators played in making the Har-Bal Harmonic Balancing software a reality that many home studio engineers now benefit from?

Paavo Jumppanen (Developer/Engineer)
[Paavo Jumppanen] Initially Har-Bal was a personal project that I commenced to make good a large number of audio CD's in my collection that I found very difficult to listen to. If only it was mixed and mastered better!

About 18 months ago I quietly made available a working prototype of the first attempt of Har-Bal, known as mEQ, which was available as a free beta on the web. That version happened to be picked up by Earle some time later and he expressed some interest in the idea. At that time, I had a complete re-design of the concept under way and was in need of professional input from a seasoned music industry professional, so I recruited him as a beta tester and later as a business partner. Over the course of a year we'd managed to transform the concept to reality.

Since formalizing our business relationship, my role is essentially product development and customer support and Earle handles marketing and customer support. But, along with our customer base, we all have input into the future directions of the product in one way or another.

Where is your company located and how can you be contacted?

[Earle Holder] We are an international company located both in the US and Australia. This allows us to provide immediate 24hr customer/tech support via email to everyone worldwide. Email addresses are as follows,,, and The telephone number is 770 469-1089, but we prefer to be contacted via email. If everyone were calling us at once we would have to hire full time staff just to answer the phones. We want to keep our software costs down.

What are your current projects and goals with respect to the Har-Bal mastering software?

[Paavo Jumppanen] We have many options in the further development of Har-Bal. The current version is just a starting point, not an end in itself. What it does well, EQ, will be the central part of the software for the immediate future but although it is pretty easy to use there is a whole lot more that we can do to improve upon usability.

What Har-Bal really lacks is the concept of a collection of tracks that make up a composition, a project if you like. So a better version of Har-Bal would have the ability to manage a collection of tracks as a project with the filters for each track stored as part of that project. Once you have the concept of a project with a track list then the process of mastering an entire album can become that much easier. Which track you will preview and design filters for will be simple selection from your track list as would selecting a reference from the compilation to perform tonal matching with. Once filters are designed the entire compilation can be rendered in one operation and the transition from one track to another can be automatically "blended" to remove transition glitches in the case where the transition from one track to the next is not a silent one.

In the immediate future we intend to make the filter topology selectable between linear phase and minimum phase, add a spectrogram summary display of the entire track to visualize the thematic changes in the track, add the ability to partition the track into its different thematic regions so that each can be analyzed and filtered individually and adding a live 1/3 octave display superimposed on top of the averaged spectrum display to make it easier for users to see where the difficult resonances lie.

These are just some of the ideas we are working on. There are many more possibilities that I haven't touched upon too, but that's another story.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this article and interview.

[Earle Holder] It has been our pleasure. We do hope our customers continue to enjoy the benefits that Har-Bal has provided thus far and look forward to the future developments. It has been a long road uphill and it really means a lot to us that folks out there experience Har-Bal's fullest potential. Thank you for interviewing us and allowing your readers to get an inside peek.

FREE - Har-Bal™ Demonstration Version

Har-Bal International -
HDQTRZ Digital Studios -

Provided by the MusicDish Network. Copyright © Tag It 2003 - Republished with Permission