Call me oldschool, but I generally dislike Artificial Intelligence or Algorithm based "mastering" jobs. The websites doing that sort of thing have been around awhile now, and they tend to be pretty hit and miss. "Mastering on the cheap, fast turnaround" kind of thing. Sometimes it's better than no mastering at all....sometimes not, sometimes you hit a sweet spot with your track and it works well for the site's algorithm, but that's uncommon. IMHO, it's way better to have it done by an ME who knows what they're doing, in a room designed for the job with an immaculate monitoring system. And there are some good reasonably priced engineers out there that won't break the bank on a project. For example, John Scrip at Massive Mastering. (that's really the only example off the top of my head). Though I'm looking at this through the lens of the commercial music side of things, rather than the game music side of things. In the context of game music, algorithm based mastering (especially for smaller indie devs) might very well just be the ticket.
I gave the soundcloud demos a quick listen on my headphones since it's late here. (AKG K240 MkII on an ART Headamp V6 Pro from a Mackie Onyx 1620i mixer/audio interface) But I still need to check on the nearfields (Tannoy Reveal 6 Passives on an Art SLAII 200W amp). I also need to listen to the actual files since Soundcloud further processes uploads for streaming. My room is by no means a mastering room, but it's not too bad for a bedroom mixing suite kind of setup and doing some critical listening. Just....not as critical as mastering. I have a swing of about +/- 5dB SPL in here and a decay time around 500 to 600 ms in the low end. Which is about as good as you can get with a room this size. The new bedroom in the new house will be a small step up since it will be slightly larger, and have room dimensions that are within the Bolt area. (I think the new house's room is like 11.5 x 14 x 8ft. where my apartment room right now is 9.5 x 13.3 x 7.8 ft.)
In any case, take the following with a grain of salt.
Initially, first thing I'm noticing at least on the headphones is more compression. That could be the tools in the pipeline, the AI algorithm, or re-rendering an already lossy format (OGG) into lossy again, and/or the additional processing after Soundcloud runs it through its preparation for streaming. I'll have to listen to the actual files (which I just finished downloading) and check again over my Tannoys later. Which I'll get around to soon. It's not too bad with the horns and low end, but I'm definitely noticing it on the strings/woodwinds, and it sounds a tad harsh.
FWIW, my philosophy on compression is to know it's working, but not actually hear or notice that it's working when listening. If you hear the compression at work and clamping down on the attack, then it's possibly too aggressive, and needs dialing back a bit. Though temper that with sure, rock and pop/prog/metal/etc. can probably handle more aggressive compression just fine and still sound great. Orchestral....not as much, and needs a little more finesse.
The other thing I notice is that there is a bit more "smile" to the EQ of the track, or a more aggressive curve. It's not a huge change, but it seems a little more harsh to me (though that could also be the compression at work, or the lossy rendered to lossy issue), strings and woodwinds, even though samples, sound a little less silky to me. Possibly upper mids overemphasized. It's not bad on the horns, and the curve works for them quite well. But strings/woodwinds do sound more compressed and harsh to me. It's not "bad", but definitely a different flavor. Some people might like the more aggressive sound, but I think I prefer my own flavor even if it is a little more subdued.
Also, to get a better result from your pipeline, I should send you the lossless formats with the mastering tool and limiter removed from the master channel. I'll do that, but I'll need to go back and render the project to WAV files. It's not a big deal to do, but I probably won't get to it until after we close on the new house and get moved in (which is soon, we close on July 26, and I should have the new bedroom studio room set up by early-to-mid August or so). I'm also building a rehearsal space for our band in the basement. Room will feature a small L-shaped wet bar, PA/media system, acoustic kit, and the room will be 17x21 ft. with 7.5 ft. high joists. (Direct-mount grid ceiling will be 7ft. 5 inches high, which is pretty damn good for a basement around here). I'm hoping to get that project started in September, but we'll see how the timing works out with the contractors, schedules and such. (I'm hoping we get selected for a fairly sizable local music festival that's happening on Sept. 7th....should find out next week).
Off Topic bit about the basement construction:
For those curious, just a bit about the rehearsal/general media space I'm building for myself and for our band to rehearse in as well. Of course, it also triples as an entertainment space for friends/family guests that visit.
The basement shell/foundation as a whole is roughly 26 x 34 ft. (about 7.92m x 10.36m) which is 886 sqft, or 88.2 sqm. I'll be building a 357 sqft. room (about 33.16 sqm) which is 17x21 ft. or roughly 5.2m x 6.4m in the basement. Luckily the joists are a good height for a basement. 7.5 ft. or 2.28m high. Ceiling will only lose an inch of headroom from the joist since I'll be using a direct-mount grid rather than a drop grid. The room dimensions aren't within the Bolt area (ceiling is way too short) but otherwise the Amroc calculator shows fairly evenly spaced modes in the low end, so they aren't clumping together too badly in narrow frequency bands. Overall should be a pretty tight sounding room once the acoustic treatments are up.
The ceiling space will have a 3 inch layer of roxul safe n sound in the ceiling joists up against the floorboards, 3" air gap, then a 4" layer of OC703 (or RXL 60). I'll be using a direct mount ceiling grid like Ceiling Link or Ceiling Connex (grids are PVC material) They use drop grid tiles, but you only lose an inch of headroom. It can only hold 3/4" thick ceiling tiles, so the low end frequencies will just pass right through those, (hence the heavy insulation + air gap in the joists) but otherwise the ceiling tiles I'm choosing have an NRC about 0.7 to 0.8, and CAC of at least 35. (something like the USG Mars or Eclipse tiles) Not really trying to soundproof, but the concept is to make the ceiling into one big cloud. Acoustically kind of like making the ceiling "disappear." Though I might see about treating any light leakage spots from floorboards with some green glue.
A half-height partition wall that separates the laundry area will need to be removed. Shouldn't be a big deal to demolish it as it's not a load bearing wall, and I don't think there are any pipes or electrical running through it.
Walls will be typical lumber framing with spaces filled with either roxul safe n sound or knaupf R-15 insulation. Drywall will be 5/8" purpleboard panels. Flooring will be wood colored ceramic tile, grade 3 rated for moderate traffic (we'll be in and out and possibly moving our amps/equipment around, so I want decent looking tile that can stand up to a bit of wear and tear). The basement flooring seems pretty level, but I'm sure there will be some minor dips which will need to be smoothed over with leveling compound.
Basic plumbing for the wet bar (just need to connect water and drain line) and basic electrical for 2 dimmable light switches and 3 or 4 grounded outlets. (one might need to be a GFCI outlet since it will be within 6ft of the sink).
Wall paint: 3 walls will be Glidden Premium "Silver Blue Pearl" color. Accent wall will be a Behr Marquee "Electric Blue" (funnily enough there was another shade I kinda liked called "Come Sail Away"
but I liked the Electric Blue better.
Our drummer is also a mechanical engineer. He designs the gutworks for larger buildings and labs, and works with other contractors in that field. He estimates that since it's a fairly basic basement room project, I could be looking at about $30/sqft. for the work. My estimate is more conservative (meaning budget for a higher expected cost) so closer to around $36/sqft to $42/sqft. at the very high end. with desired materials, and maybe overestimating labor.
I plan to install the ceiling insulation myself. I just need the contractor to measure, cut, and install the grid since I don't trust myself that much. Tiles will be 2x2 tiles, and I'll put those in myself. (I want to make a pixel art ceiling, haha!)
The main support beam is a steel I-beam that will end up traveling down about the 1/3 side of the room, just in front of the wet bar area. I don't plan to frame around it. It's painted black, so I'm fine just leaving it bare. (Hey extra spot to put some wine or beer glasses and stuff)
PA system will be a pair of 12" powered PA speakers, either Yamaha DXR12's, or JBL EON 612's. Leaning toward the Yammies, but the JBLs are cheaper. Board will be a Tascam Model 24, which can also be used to track rehearsals. Front wall will have 3 GIK 242 series broadband panels (one behind each speaker, and one placed landscape over the computer monitor) long walls will each have 4 panels (same type) spaced to have a guitar hung between the panels. Rear short wall will have 5 panels right next to each other, just above the drum kit. Front wall corners will have GIK freestanding soffit column traps (17" x 17" x 44" stacked). Rear corners will each have a door, so no traps. L-shaped wet bar with 2 dimmable LED pendant lights hung symmetrically around the corner of the "L" ..... maybe a 3rd one at the end of the bar, and a 4-ft. dimmable LED track light on the opposite wall. And a few bar stools. Acoustic drumkit will probably be a Tama or Ludwig. I'd love to get a DW kit in there, but they're freaking expensive even for the basic 5-piece kits. I think I'll stick with the Tama or Ludwig kits which are about half as much.
I'm not really into getting kegs, so the wet bar will just feature a mini-fridge and possibly wine fridge rather than a kegerator. Not that I drink wine much. Mini-fridge should be fine for storing some ciders for myself and other beer for other band members.
That about sums up the basement project.