With a new AI plugin balancing up to 100 tracks for you, the sky is the limit. Hailing from Taiwan, we speak to Neil Lee about his company Master Tones and what’s coming next.

Attack: For those that don’t know you, who are you, and what do you do?

Master Tones: I am Neil Lee. I run Master Tones

I graduated from National Tsing Hua University with a master’s degree in engineering, and my undergraduate school was in physics.

I’ve been playing music most of my life and wanted to pursue pro audio development with my engineering degree. Since 2018, I’ve been working with technology and a mix engineer to develop Master Tones plugins, heavily influenced by my university studies. 

Neil Lee runs Master Tones. 📷 YSOLIFE.

I wanted to ask about British Kolorizer. As a British firm, it was always going to get our attention. What is it that you are capturing there? 

Marshall amps! We spent much time with a mix engineer and faithfully recorded the sound of their Marshall amps. For me, it defines the British amp sound!

Are there plans to capture the sound of other countries?

Ha! Possibly! But it’s not easy to say “This sound is that country, and this sound is another country”. So we might not be as specific.

But different countries do indeed have a sound, at least to me. I love the sound of music from Japan, Germany and the US, so maybe we can focus there a bit more. In Japan, there seems to be a trend to incorporate a lot of high-frequency sounds into the mix – that’s something that interests me.

What’s the one thing that you think sets Master Tones apart in a busy marketplace like plugins?

I think the most important aspect is our remodelling. I believe it’s one of the best available. We really focus on the details, and everything is done very, very precisely. It’s also incredibly subtle in its application, and we found, working with mix engineers, that subtle and precise is precisely what they want. We worked back and forth to get it right. 

The Cat is free and billed as the first mental health care plugin. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

This was a project we released during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a distortion plugin designed to be fun and free to help people pass the time staying at home. We didn’t want it to feel like work but instead feel like a product to have fun with. That’s also one of the reasons behind the cute animation of the cat. It’s meant to, make stressful projects, less stressful!

The Cat by Master Tones

Can you tell us a bit more about the Master Tones services on your website?

Sure. We also license out our AI technology so people can use our tech to convert text to speech or their singing voice, transcribe recordings, make music and other audio services. Mainly our services are there to power education, community and engagement with music as a culture.

How do you research what plugins you are going to make next? Is there industry data you refer to? 

I believe a lot of people look at industry sales data. But for us, it’s slightly different as we work with mix engineers, mainly in Taiwan, who inform our decisions. They act as consultants.

It’s essential to maintain that human touch and it’s worked well for us. They will identify key issues in their professional workflow and we’ll make it with them. It’s about real user experience and understanding for us. 

“It’s slightly different as we work with mix engineers, mainly in Taiwan, who inform our decisions. They act as consultants.”

Everything will be more personal to you. In that sense, they (DAWS) will be more intelligent than they already are in ten years

What do the next ten years of the plugin market look like to you?

I think DAWs will change the most, and with it plugins will be more creative. More AI will be more personal to the type of music you make and how you make it. Everything will be more personal to you. In that sense, they will be more intelligent than they already are. 

And for us, our philosophy is to empower artists to make music anywhere any time. That’s what we want to support.

What do people don’t understand about the process of making plugins? 

I think most people think you code and code only!

But it’s so much more. There’s so much testing, artist testing, mix engineer testing – even testing in different settings, studios and monitors. It’s an extensive process. You can constantly listen and tweak. People don’t understand quality control.

Did you make Master Tones to solve personal production issues or notice a market gap?

Both! It’s a personal thing, but it’s also external influences from Taiwan musicians and mix engineers we work with.

And what’s the music production / pro audio scene like in Taiwan?

I can say that we are the only audio plugin company in Taiwan! At least, as far as I know.

There are lots of musicians and lots of studios. These people have helped us shape the sound of Master Tones. There are a lot of pop production studios here combined various sounds from here, to K-pop to J-pop.

What’s next for Master Tones?

We are now focusing on AI applications and plugins. Our upcoming product is an AI-powered tool designed to handle fundamental mixing for up to 100 tracks or even more. This remarkable tool aims to shift the focus of mix engineers and musicians towards the heart of music creation, fostering their artistic innovation. Watch this space!”

A product in development Master Tones are designing an AI tool to assist mix engineers and musicians.

Original photos by YSOLIFE.

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Author Eric Brünjes
4th August, 2023

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