What is Mastering?
We get a lot of questions about mastering, so we thought we’d share this post Trevor Norris put together with everyone.
Mastering is the final step in the recording process. It’s the final polish that can make a song jump out of the speakers, or if not done properly, make people scramble for the Treble and Bass buttons, or worse, press Skip or Delete.
Mastering is more important than ever due to the effects of modern technology. Here’s why:
1) Compression & Reformatting: These days, songs have the hell kicked out of them. Files are compressed at different bit rates, using various technologies, sometimes repeatedly, user after user. Files are imported, converted, compressed, exported, broadcast, shared, burnt and then reformatted for the next user experience. There are dozens of public and proprietary music formats used by various digital retailers, subscription services and internet radio.
The point is, each of these reformats and compressions change something. They sometimes exaggerate things such a messy high end (cymbals will sound more brittle) or eliminate some low end (bass and drum warmth) or just make the whole thing seem flat and lifeless.
2) Playback: OK, take all those variables above and multiply them by all the headphones, ear buds, car stereo systems, iPod docks, computer speakers, home stereos and TV speakers.
Will that song sound great on Dr Dre headphones and Apple earbuds? On a Bose iPod dock and in the car?
3) Professionalism & Impartiality: A fresh set of ears, using a different set of speakers and gear in a new environment, ensures the professionalism and impartiality required to prepare songs for this technological world. It’s less about opinion and artistry, and more about ensuring survivability and maximizing sonic potential.
Furthermore, it is important to address inconsistency of volumes between tracks, EQ problems such as too much low or high end, apply fades and appropriate gaps between songs, encode important items on the CD master itself such as CD TEXT and IRSC codes, and attempt to match an overall sonic quality as it compares to other artists within the genre.
All to say, Mastering is more important than ever and every artist should master every release before unleashing it to the world.