Mastering for Physical Mediums Versus Digital

Audio mastering for a physical release can be a very different process, particularly depending upon the medium. Let’s talk about how mastering for digital versus mastering for CD versus even mastering for vinyl all differ and what goes into each.mastering for physical versus digital

Mastering for a digital release is the most straightforward of all mediums because the goal is solely to make the audio sound as good as it can. You may need to master for different bit depths or formats such as WAVE versus MP3, and each format can differ slightly, but essentially the main goal is to just make the audio sound better. The mastering engineer applies processing to the completed and typically rendered down, singular file mixes using analog and or digital processing to sculpt the sound in a positive direction.

Different plugins and tools will yield different results. For instance, compression is a powerful tool for bringing a sense of glue and unity to a lackluster and otherwise weak track. EQ lets you pick and choose frequencies to boost or diminish in regards to their influence over the mix as a whole to yield markedly different results. Stereo imaging is great for giving a one dimensional mix more presence.

Of course, each of these tools needs to be used artfully and in moderation. For instance, too much compression will squish the dynamic range right out of your mix so that the stereo image just looks like one giant blob of audio, taking on that all too typical sausage look which a lot of popular music today is guilty of. Too much EQ in the wrong places can make your song sound tinny or weak. In the hands of a competent engineer, however, these tools can work magic.

When mastering for physical releases, this first step remains the same, but there’s more work to be done with a physical release. When you’re set to release for a physical medium, you have to remember that the finished master will be reproduced time and time again, so everything has to be perfect on that master. A mistake on the master copy can yield embarrassing and costly mistakes when that album gets replicated in either CD or vinyl.

Mastering for vinyl is slightly different from an aural standpoint, as well, because of the limitations of the medium. Vinyl can’t hold as much dynamic range as a CD, so that has to be taken into consideration. The sequencing may even differ on a vinyl release, because as the record gets closer to the middle, the wavelengths get smaller and smaller out of necessity, so you have to put your more exciting, or louder tracks which cover a lot more ground at the beginning of the record.

Mastering for CD means you also have to program the start and stop times of the sequencing of your record in order. This is important so that when someone goes to the fourth track of your album, the fourth track starts playing. A mistake here can again yield a costly and embarrassing mistake.

First thing’s first, however. You want your music to sound as good as possible, and audio mastering is the best way to accomplish that. Start with a free sample to experience how much better your music could be sounding in the capable and competent hands of our engineers today.

The Purpose of Mastering

Mastering is all too often misunderstood in terms of its purpose as the final aspect in the audio production chain. purpose of masteringYou’ve written the songs, recorded them in a studio or at home, then mixed the various tracks which make up each song. All of these tracks are mixed and rendered down to a single file, represented commonly in a WAVE format. It’s that final mix in a singular file format which is sent off to a mastering engineer who can make that song sound even better than it did in its final mix form. Let’s talk about the purpose of mastering, what goes into it, and how it makes your music sound better and ready for release.

I mentioned that the mastering engineer takes your final mix and makes it sound even better. But how do they do this? Through the artful application of different plugins and effects which you may have used during the tracking process, the mastering engineer can effectively unlock the true magic and potential of a finished mix. Using their fresh set of ears (a very important distinction to make) effects like EQ, compression, and limiters are used to bring out the best possible for of your song. For instance, EQ can be used to make a muddy recording sound cleaner, whereas a bit of compression can make your mix sound more complete with more presence by giving it the glue and consistency that it needs. About the only thing which many people think of when they think of mastering is that it makes your music sound louder. This is typically the work of a limiter, which is often the last piece used to bring your music’s levels up to be at parity now only with the other songs on the album, but with contemporary music level standards of the day.

The engineer also readies your music for a physical format if you plan on releasing it either in CD or the ever resurgent vinyl format. They do this by getting the sequencing in order, setting the track breaks (for CD) so that each track plays on time with the table of contents of that album, meaning when someone queues up track four of your album, the fourth song immediately begins playing. Other information can be written to the CD as well as MP3 files, as well, including artist information, production information, and track information such as ISR codes.

Mastering for vinyl is a different process because of the limitations of the medium you oftentimes can’t translate the exact same master to vinyl. Vinyl has less dynamic range built in as compared to CD or especially digital formats. It also doesn’t have the bass capacity which the other mediums have, as lower frequencies create larger grooves in the wax, and too much bass can cause the record to get off its track when it plays. You also have to pay special care to the sequencing on a vinyl album because as the record plays and gets closer to the middle, the high response drops off and you can’t accommodate for quite as much dynamic range the closer you get as well, so you have to put your more dynamic songs earlier on the album or further outside to accommodate for where there’s more room to operate, putting your quieter, less exciting sounding songs closer to the end of each side.

Again, the main purpose of mastering is to make your music sound better, and the best audio mastering engineers like ours offer free sample masters without your having to risk a dime, so why not submit one of your own tracks to us to experience our difference today on one of your own songs.

What Mastering Music Will Do For Your Audio

In this article I’m going to bust a couple of major mastering music myths and talked about seriously what having your music mastered will do for it.

The biggest myths and rumor I think associated with mastering music is that it is done to boost the volume of the final product. While this is true that mastering oftentimes boosts the volume of the final mix presented to the mastering engineer, oftentimes this is the byproduct or at the very least not the sole purpose of mastering.mastering music

The true purpose of music mastering is to improve and enhance the actual quality itself of the audio. This is done through band editing, Breaking up the audio into different frequencies and boosting or diminishing their influence in particular ranges over the final next overall and through the use of other effects like impression and limiters to boost or put ceilings on the audio, respectively.

A seasoned and skilled mastering engineer knows how to artfully and sparingly used these effects to gain and achieve the full potential out of that music which they receive. Mastered music needs to be boosted volume wise in some cases to be on par and equal with current contemporary standards as well as ensuring that every song on that particular record is at parity with every other song in terms of volume. But any mastering engineer who talks up or talks exclusively about boosting the levels is now worth your time or money.

Mastering music also works to create the final album file which can be reproduced in a physical format either vinyl or on compact disc. I already mentioned ensuring that every song on that album is at a similar volume with every other song on that record but other aspects of making the album go into this process such as creating a table of contents and sequencing for the record, the space in between the tracks, and writing any kind of data or information to the record like registration codes or album, artist, song, or lyric information even.

When an album is to be replicated in a physical format, it is up to the mastering engineer to ensure that there are no problems in the finished product which they send off to the replication plant and to basically ensure that the final product which they send off is a faithful reproduction and that there are no errors whatsoever as it can prove to be a very costly financial mistake if you send off a mastered record with errors on it to the replication plant prematurely without catching those errors.

A skilled and quality mastering job will significantly step up the overall professional quality of your music and practically every legitimate and label roster artist has their music professionally mastered so if you want to release the best possible quality music for your fans you should be no exception.

Your Audio Mastering Online Checklist

Audio mastering online means that you are having your music mastered via an online mastering studio. Nowadays it’s simpler than ever for artists to connect with mastering engineers without even having to do anything beyond shooting an e-mail and their song files themselves along with payment to that engineer.audio mastering online

Also the recent boom in technology means that practically anyone with a computer thinks that they can be a mastering engineer so there are more options and people with audio mastering online studios vying and begging for your attention than ever before which can make it difficult to differentiate one from another when they are all promising roughly the same things.

This is why I have put together this audio mastering online checklist of things which you should consider before starting a relationship with an engineer.

First, make sure that you get a taskmaster from the engineer talking with. I know a lot of artists who will simply listen to the samples on that engineer’s website and decide that this person knows what they’re doing. Just like that they trust them with their music and money before understanding what their own music would sound like in that engineers care.

Any legitimate mastering professional will offer a free taskmaster to all new clients so that they can experience first-hand before and after effects of that engineers handiwork. There is no substitute for hearing your own music master by a particular engineer so do not pass this opportunity up.

Next, make your own checklist of what you want to accomplish with that engineer. How many songs do you need master and what format do you plan on releasing your music? These are two of the most important questions to be able to answer when you are conversing and interacting with a mastering engineer because they need to know these things in order to narrow how much it will cost you and to ensure that they have time to work on your project.

Additional measures need to be implemented and taken when you want your music mastered for a physical release here it some artists opt to forgo releasing their music in a physical format altogether and instead exclusively release it online in digital format. In this case, you don’t need to sequence the record or worry about creating an album file with spaces in between each and every song on that record.

It’s also important that you’re able to contact and get a hold of your engineer whenever you have any problems or issues and you want to have an open communication with them. The last thing you want is to achieve your music back and have problems with it only to find out that the engineer doesn’t have time to work on it or it’s going to cost you more money. These are all things to establish before any money changes hands or work has been done so that there are no uncomfortable moments to ensure they are both on the same page at the end of the day.

What to Look for in a Mastering Engineer

A mastering engineer is someone who is charged with the task of creating an album out of a number of tracks and mastering the audio itself, thereby improving its quality. Not all mastering engineers are the same which is why there are number of things to consider when hiring someone for their mastering services.mastering engineer

First, you could limit your search to mastering engineers who offer a free test master to all new clients. Even if it’s the most respected and decorated engineer in the world, I wouldn’t trust my audio with them before hearing what it’s going to sound like, especially for the cost which is likely associated with hiring the most decorated mastering engineer in the world.

Any reputable engineer will offer a free test master so that you can experience how much better or hopefully not worse your audio will sound in their hands. If they do not offer a free test master to new clients and that’s a red flag which likely suggests that you could have problems down the road if you went with them.

Second, you should consider the cost associated with that mastering engineer. Some engineers charge by the hour or the track whereas others will give you an estimate for the entire project. It’s obviously best to get a quote upfront from that engineer so that you know exactly how much you can expect to pay.

By the same token, you should and need to clearly lay out exactly what you want from that mastering engineer. Some artists these days are concerned with CD or vinyl replication and only want individual tracks to be mastered for online distribution. There are obviously great number more costs associated with creating an entire album file so you need to clearly lay out all of this initially and that will of course dictate how much the entire project will cost.

The engineer will likely have some requirements for you, as well, in terms of the kinds of formats which your audio needs to be in before they will work on it. Many engineers prefer not to or will abstain from working on certain inferior file formats such as MP3 when a wave file is much more preferred.

Ultimately you want to have a good feel and feel like you have a good read on your mastering engineer moving forward with him or her that you know that if there are any issues which need to be addressed you can access them quickly and easily. This is especially helpful in the case of needing to their work after you have receive it back. This is just something else which you should establish with your mastering engineer early on in the process so that there are no surprises moving forward with them.