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What is audio mastering | What is mastering
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Stem mastering
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Mastering engineer questions and answers
Advantages of online mastering
The case for professional mastering
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Welcome to: What is audio mastering? / What is mastering ?

 

What is audio mastering.com | What is mastering,  is a website with the goal of explaining what audio mastering is. This will be explained with informative texts that help musicians, producers and record labels comprehend what mastering is capable of doing and offer advice and insights into why audio mastering is an incredibly valuable and necessary procedure in audio production.


Historically a mastering engineer was a person who ensured that a musical programme was successfully committed to a musical release medium such as vinyl or cd. This much is true today and yet the mastering engineers role has changed to some degree to involve a cross over into other areas of audio production. Mastering engineers have had to adapt to the changes in the music industry and the world at large.


Mastering audio comprises of a number of processes that predominantly apply to stereo interleaved audio files, what is mastering is going to explain these common adjustments :


1)Ensuring audio files and pre-master medium are free from both physical and sonic defects.


2)Ensuring the best possible reproduction of music on a wide range of play back systems.


3)Enhancement of audio material using the engineer's objectivity, equipment choices and clients input. 


4)Expression of fresh opinions if requested, technical advice related to any issue relavent to the clients stereo bus processing or file export procedures, plus mix assessment if requested.


5)Mastering engineers will apply fades, adjust relative track levels, apply track gapping, increase perceived volume if required with minimal side effects and compile a high quality pre master format such as DDP (Disk Description Protocol) or CD-R pre-master disk. These will be created using specialized software and hardware and be error checked to ensure the pre master is error free and will duplicate or replicate correctly at the CD duplication plant.


6)Inputting of data related to the music release on digital formats.

 

"What is audio mastering?/What is mastering?" fact :  Professional audio mastering is not the application of a limiter on a piece of music to increase perceived volume within an inappropriate monitoring environment.


Mastering engineers are usually very experienced audio engineers. They should have had tangible practical experience within the music recording and mixing industries so their skill set is wide and varied. This experience filters down to the decisions made when mastering the music and gives the experience required to interpret the sonic information that is produced by using the very finest high resolution audio equipment available. Truly professional audio mastering  does not utilize small sized mixing speakers. (bookshelf type near field monitors) A mastering engineer requires accurate and complete sonic information to perform their work. Large scale, full range, highly accurate loudspeakers manufactured by a well respected speaker building company are a pre-requisite for making the correct final decisions on a musicians, producers or record labels musical productions. A mastering engineer should take care to preserve his or her hearing and ensure that they are not subjected to potentially damaging sound pressure levels. Every decision made during audio mastering will be based on the engineers hearing acuity.


Additionally a mastering engineer requires accurate acoustics. This means the acoustic of the room music is being mastered in must not favour or under represent any specific audible frequency.This allows the mastering engineer to fully understand what is actually present in the music mix. Without this accuracy any processing would be without basis. A mastering engineer cannot fix or enhance that which he or she cannot hear.


Mastering audio is distinct from mixing because the engineer will predominantly be working with the stereo mixdown that has been provided by the client. This is ideally a .wav or .aiff file at 24 bit resolution.As such it is imperative that the music mix balance is as good as the client can possibly achieve as good mastering will rely on it. Mastering does not usually have the flexibility afforded by multi track recording mix downs and is akin to adding the icing on the cake of a well produced musical mix.


Stem mastering is an exception, stem mastering uses groups of instrumentation that are exported such as lead vocal, backing vocals, drums, bass, synthesizers, percussion and guitars. It accounts for a small proportion of mastering engineers work as it is usually discussed when there is a continued issue with any given set of mixes. Stem mastering allows some additional flexibility for the mastering engineer to make small adjustments to balance in the interests of a better stereo master. As a mastering engineer myself there is a fine line between stem mastering and mixing. Stem mastering is a little more costly as there is extra work involved. Clear client communication becomes imperative when working with stems.


The equipment used in mastering studios will be very high quality analogue and digital audio processing equipment. Typically but not exclusively these will be, parametric equalizers, compressors (dynamic range control), limiters and stereo width manipulation tools. There are often 2 goals with this equipment. The first type of equipment is transparent when audio passes through, only influencing the audio when the controls are adjusted intentionally by the mastering engineer. The second is equipment that has a design which adds some specific colouration to the audio even if the equipment parameters remain at zero.  The synergy between the equipment choices, monitoring, acoustics and engineering experience should add together to be a subjective improvement of the audio before release.


The audio processing adjustments used in mastering procedures can be slight or more substantial. If a client has clear aims and no recourse to an adjusted or revised mix then the engineer may have to apply all his or her knowledge to using tools in an almost creative manner. This is so the results are as close as possible to what the client expects, within the realms of practical possibility.


So to summarize, audio mastering is quality control, enhancement, objective listening and correction and ensures your music sounds as good as possible when it is released on CD or via digital distribution systems online. I hope "what is mastering" is going to be a valuable site to you in explaining what audio mastering is really about.


©Copyright 2011 Barry Gardner
what is audio mastering.com / what is mastering

 

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