About Mastering

Mastering is the final stage of fine tuning all your hard work. Getting all the levels and tone of your songs matched, adjusting fade ins & outs. Overall volume raised without sounding squashed to death and putting energy, tone, warmth and clarity back into your music.

This can be achieved by putting your music through a chain of high quality analogue and digital mastering equipment, such as digital to analogue converters, compressors, equalizers, stereo expanders, tape compression, tube excitement and limiters.

Not all of these need to be used at once. Some songs may only require a couple of processing tools used very lightly, others might need a bit more of a helping hand.

Each song is listened to individually and massaged into shape gently, bringing out its very best sonic quality. Your music is listened to through high quality and very revealing monitors & ears! Songs are compiled into the right order, tracks are PQ encoded, ISRC (International Standard Recording Codes) for worldwide song tracking can be added and a Red Book Standard PMCD Master or DDP file with track listings & times sheet is supplied ready for your pressing house.

The end result being a professionally finished or polished sounding album or songs, that sounds great on all different kinds of playback systems. i.e. car stereo, mp3 players, hi fi system, internet streaming, vinyl records etc. Keep in mind that most of the albums or songs you listen too have been mastered. More often than not, there is an extreme difference in the sonic quality of songs that have been mastered, to those that have not

Why Not To Master Yourself

The reasons not to master yourself or master at the same studio youíve recorded and/or mixed at, is because your mix engineer (which might be yourself) has a huge job of compiling all the recorded tracks, EQing processing etc. trying to get everything to sit well together. There might be a few tracks or 100 tracks, thatís a lot of crucial listening over days, weeks or months.

They should be concentrating on this alone, to make it the very best they can, without the added pressure of mastering, which can also be a huge job.

A mastering engineer brings a fresh perspective, fresh trained ears and specialised processing equipment, monitoring and tuned room.They can pick up on problems that the mix engineer has missed, or the problems that can arise from small or low budget home recording systems or poor acoustics in rooms  

A mastering engineer's experience & equipment enables them to hone in on problem frequencies. For example, harsh top end frequencies from cheaper microphones, converters or preamps in a lot of digital based recording systems, can be replaced by much nicer, smoother tape sounding qualities.

Most of the songís energy comes from the mid & low frequencies. These can be worked to reduce boxy sounding qualities from your songs, giving a more open & spacious sound. The bottom end can be tuned to reduce muddiness or mushy sounding bass and given a tighter, round, warm & more energetic bottom. 

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There are some good mastering plug ins available nowadays. Some try to emulate the sound, even the look of high end analogue equipment but they are not analogue and in my opinion, do not have the depth or 3D quality that real circuitry has.

The problem with recording, mixing & mastering all in the box (within your computer) is that each process is happening with the same sound engine (i.e. interface or soundcard).
This can cause songs to sound flat or a little lifeless. More depth as well as other wonderful tones can be achieved by putting it through external mastering devices.

I find high quality plug ins in my mastering chain, very useful for when I require very precise surgical style edits but they are only part of the entire process. Often I find the best results are achieved using both high end analogue & digital processing in the mastering chain.

Youíve spent so much time, passion & money  getting your songs to this almost complete stage but they just donít sound like your favourite albums or songs, silky smooth & polished.
The mastering stage is the crucial final step in getting your songs to gel, sound amazing like your favourite albums and have that professional sound to them.

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"Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't - you're right! Henry Ford"

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