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Mastering Demystifed

Quick guide to mastering

Mastering Demystifed

Mastering Explained


What is mastering, do I need it, and can I do it myself? Must be the top three most asked questions we get on the subject. So, I decided we would address it head on in this short post. In hopes of demystifying the subject.

            Mastering at its core are the combinations of itty bitty changes to a final mix that insure optimal performance on all playback systems. Those playback systems are literally anyway your fans consume music. So, that means ipod earbuds, car systems, TVs, radios, laptops, cellphone speakers, etc. Now in-order to ensure that quality playback, sometimes compromises have to be made. For instance, let’s say you love how bright and pretty the high frequency range sounds in your mix but on certain systems it translates to harshness, it maybe even shrill in other places. We may have to dull it up a bit so that we still retain as much of those highs as possible but without introducing ear fatigue to the listener. Or let’s say you have a lot bass in your record that really thumps the physics of cell phone speakers literally can’t reproduce those massive low frequency waves on such a small speaker. So, we must make adjustments so that listening experience of the end user on a cell phone speaker is as close as possible to the experience another user is having  in let’s say in their car.


The right balance

                We must find the right sonic balance so that the playback experience isn’t starkly different from listening medium to medium. On top of that mastering is normally where loudness comes into play. You don’t want your record to come behind a commercially mastered song and have to reach for the volume knob to turn it up leaps and bounds. You also don’t want to have to make huge volume adjustment from song to song on your own project. We want the listening experience to be as cohesive as possible. This loudness is usually achieved through the functions of a mastering grade compressor, limiter, or both! This compression/limiting reduces the dynamic range of your mix, allowing for the overall level (RMS) to be increased. Hopefully without sucking all the life out of your record, it’s this increase in RMS (average) level that makes your mix sound louder.

   So why should you have someone else professionally master your mix? Well the mastering process is where the technical and artistic skill set meet. It requires a certain skill set and experience to knock it out of the park, preferably done in a perfect listening environment to ensure it sounds good great on all playback systems. On top of that its usually better to have someone who has not been intimately involved with the making of the record. They’re your unbiased ears, who can more accurately judge the broader overall issues that may be hidden to the mixing engineer who has been a part of this record from conception. They are your second pair of ears and, we all know four ears in our case are better than a pair!

                So, I hope this has cleared up a little of the mystery shrouded around mastering. The facts are mastering is nothing more than a double check that everything in the mix is in order, sometimes nothing has to be done and the mix can be given a clean bill of health. Other times this is not the case and adjustments must be made. If your in need of mastering services for your next record, we can take your mix to the next level head over to our mastering service here. Until next time, keep making those records! 


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