Mastering is the step beyond where your recording
sounded good in the studio, making it sound great over the radio, at a low
volume, on a cheap boom-box, then sound incredible on an audiofile multi-media
system. How's this done? Knowledge, experience and equipment!
Audio Mastering was the process of transferring
audio recordings on magnetic tape to a phonograph lathe for the production
of vinyl records. Mastering was a process
to get audio louder and more consistent to vinyl without distortion. The mastering process was performed in real-time to disk, with
any mistakes appearing on the master lacquer disk. With the advent of the
Compact Disc, the lathe was replaced with a digital encoder and recording
Once upon a time, there was a standard in
the U.S. called the "NAB Standard." All radio stations output
the same frequencies and volume levels. All reproduction systems were very
similar. Now, every radio station sounds different. They're all fighting
to out-due one another. Some sound good while others sound horrible. Stereo,
surround and car audio systems have pre-set EQ's, different Bass boosts
and user adjustable settings that the normal Joe can't figure out. Then
we have mp3, SACD, low-fi, hi-fi, differing multi-channel surround systems
etc, etc...Mastering properly in this environment is a challenge to say
the least and not for the novice!
Steps of the process
1. Sequence the recorded audio as it will
appear on the final product.
2. Correct any problems with the audio, such
as volume level, tonal balance, or undesirable artifacts.
3. Transfer the audio to the final master
Examples of possible
actions taken during mastering:
1. Apply noise reduction to eliminate hum
and hiss issues.
2. Normalize the tracks to set the highest
peaks in audio volume to a preset level; the overall audio should never
exceed 0 dBFS.
3. Equalize audio between two tracks to ensure
there are no jumps in bass, treble, midrange, volume or pan.
4. Apply a compressor (for example, 4:1 starting
at -6 dB) to compress the peaks but to expand the softer parts.
5. Apply a dynamics compressor to compress
only specific frequencies that generate the audio peaks.
6. P&Q code editing - Applying the start
and timing cues within the data section of a CD.
7. Spectral enhancement - A process of widening
the stereo image and enhancing the sub-harmonic frequencies.
8. Cross-fading - Manipulating a song or section
to fade under while another song or part starts.
9. De-essing - Removing the sibilant factors
of a vocal within the mixed audio. (Harsh frequencies that occur with improper
vocal miking techniques.) Should be done in the mixing process.
The above, are not specific
instructions but some processes that could be applied. This is determined
by the source media, They are simply general rules.
If you are not sure if you
want us to master your material, let us master a song for free before you
decide to use our services.
We charge a flat fee for audio mastering and
it's included with our most popular CD packages.
Please check out our extensive list of credits. We're very
proud of the folks we've had the opportunity to work with over the years.