Often misunderstood or overestimated, what is mastering exactly?
Audio mastering is the last step of an audio project before its release.
The purpose of mastering is to ensure that the mix will translate optimally on the different mediums, to quality check the project before its release.
It’s the place where you can eventually adjust subtly the audio content to the perfect balance, add some color if needed and optimize the release on all related systems and media formats.
You can think of mastering as the last polish & quality check that optimizes playback quality on all devices (from little in-ears to high-end audiophile monitors or huge club’s sound systems).
Mastering helps to ensure listeners will hear the sound as the artist meant it
Additionally, it’s at the mastering stage that you have your last chance to spot and fix the eventual clicks, pops, crackle or small issues that haven’t been addressed in the final mix (or earlier).
Mastering is also the place to ensure consistency and uniformity of sound over the multiple tracks of a project. Bring a cohesive feeling to it.
The name comes from the idea of a Master Print.
Which is then used to make all copies/duplications of the project. Copies, which are then distributed under multiple formats such as streaming, digital download, CD, Vinyl, Tape, etc.
Originally the mastering engineer was charged to transfer the final approved version on tape, to a Master Lacquer, then used to reproduce the vinyls for distirbution.
The goal of mastering is to ensure that your audio will sound the best it can on all platforms. Music has never been consumed on more formats and devices than today.
One of the main aspects of mastering is also to have your track reviewed by a fresh pair of ears, still objective on the project, with an accurate full range monitoring system. Who, if needed, will fix the issues or enhance it using carefully selected and well-mastered quality tools.
A good mastering helps to ensure an EP/Album is consistent and balanced across all tracks.
So what does mastering do?
Mastering is a complex process. Here are some of the techniques involved:
Fixing any small clicks, clips or other similar issues .
Using audio restoration tools such as iZotope RX
RESAMPLING & DITHERING
Ensuring best Sample Rate/Bit depth for distribution.
Ensuring Metadata & tracking codes (ISRC/EAN) are properly inserted in the final files.
Volume optimized & dynamics respectfull master.
Using Compression & Limiting.
Ensuring proper sequencing & spacing between multiple tracks in a same project.
Our piece of advice
If you came to know more about mastering to master your own projects, and arrived until here, you may have understood that mastering isn’t that easy and between the room for it, monitoring system, pristine converters, high quality tools, the amount of knowledge and the years of experience required to achieve a great master are far from what you expected. Indeed we are talking of many years and several dizains (if not hundreds) of thousands dollars in some cases.
That being said, if mastering is really something that you want to learn more about and eventually do for other artists, we all start somewhere, and we’ll be happy to get in touch with you to provide you with a few information and feedback that may help you to forge your own opinion and way of working/evolving in this domain.
At the opposite, if you feel already a bit overwhelmed with all the production & mixdown work, please do not go for a low quality/rushed solution that might compromise the quality of you projects and therefore waste a part of all the time and effort you invested in to the original performance and mixdown. Rely on us, see below 😉
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