Mastering

Mastering procedures

Mastering is the final process before replication, a single musical piece sounds more spacious, more defined, nicely ballanced, and overall, louder and punchier after mastering. An album, after mastering, sounds like a unified collection of songs that belong together in volume and tone in addition to the fact that each song has the characteristics mentioned above. Your tracks will undergo the procedures below, enhancing them to their fullest potentials during mastering.

Compression

Depending on the track more or less compression is applied to reduce the peaks and raise the overall level in order to make the track sound "bigger".

Equalization

Proper spectral balance is one of the most important characteristics of a good sounding track.

Multiband dynamics processing

applying compression to certain frequency ranges without altering the rest of the spectrum is most helpful in many tracks.

Bass management

Delicately enhancing the bass leaving other musical instruments unaffected.

Stereo enhancement

One of the reasons mastered tracks sound so full. The full stereo image potential of a good mix is gained in this stage.

Noise reduction

Removing unwanted noise from the audio.

Fades

applying perfect track beginnings, fade outs and proper silence in between tracks.

Level maximization

Boosting the overall level without overloading or distortion.

Examples

This is a sample of a great sounding mix (Many thanks to my good friend Rob Beaton), A nice recording and mix like this one takes at least 8 steps to get mastered, each step requires listening over and over, and tweaking the gear to reach a nice balance. For a mix that has not been recorded with pro equipment, and has not been mixed professionally, The steps and the time and effort taken are much more, It takes a long time to eliminate clicks and pops, to reduce noise, to automate the adjustments for different parts of the song (something that should be done in mixing), even to get a fair frequency balance and punch. So the steps below happen only on the luckiest day of a mastering engineer.

Originally it sounds like this (of course I have decreased the level a little to provide some headroom):

After listening carefully, and deciding what steps should be taken and which gear to be used, here we go:

  1. This is how it sounds after Stereo enhancement. Notice that the stereo image gets wider, but the tricky part is that the center should not be lost by overdoing.

  2. It seems that the song can benefit from a little cut in the high and high-mid frequencies,this is done by a couple of great sounding digital EQ's.

  3. Multi-band dynamics processing, this is done by a good digital multiband compressor and two digital uni-band dynamic processors. This is done mainly on the bass and low-mid frequencies, the high and mid-range frequencies can also benefit from this stage. the changes may seem subtle right now but after the compressors get in, it shows itself by the great sounding and punchy kick drum and the controlled and softened mid-range.

  4. We are still in the digital domain, two great digital mastering compressors are in now.

  5. Fasten your seat belts we're going out into the analog world. First in the analog chain there are two high-end mastering EQ's. we do the boosting with the analog EQ's. Bass, midrange and air.

  6. Two great analog mastering compressors come next.

  7. Alright we're back in the digital domain now with the help of an excellent A/d converter that also has a soft limiter great for mastering. Now we're going into a high-end digital limiter.

  8. Back in the box again, some mastering reverb to soften things up, parallel compression, a little tape emulation warmth and a final digital limiter and that's it.

Frequently Asked Questions