Why Not To Master Yourself

The reasons not to master yourself or master at the same studio you’ve 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, that’s 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. You know the old saying “Jack of all trades, Master of none” (Pun intended!)

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.

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

Most of the song’s 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 (and we all want that!)

These are just some basic examples. Of  course a good mastering engineer will also know when to not make unnecessary adjustment to a song, if you or your mixing engineer have already nailed it (if it ain’t broke!)

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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.

Don’t get me wrong, I also use high quality plug ins in my mastering chain, as they have the ability to be very precise and have an amazing recall facility 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.

You’ve spent so much time, passion & money  getting your songs to this almost complete stage but they just don’t sound like your favourite CDs or songs, silky smooth & polished.
The mastering stage is the crucial final step in getting your songs to gel, sound amazing like your favourite CDs and have that professional sound to them.

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