What Is Mastering?

Mastering is an art form.

The last critical and necessary part of the creative process before releasing your music, whether that be online or hard copy CD.

Recording
Mixing
Mastering
Manufacture and Release

Often you’ll find that when you play your mix in the “real world”, e.g the car, home stereo or iPod, it doesn’t have the same impact or overall volume level when compared to other commercially released music.

This is because you are comparing a flat mix with tracks that have already been professionally mastered. This does not mean your mix is inadequate or needs remixing, it simply hasn’t had the final touches applied by an experienced mastering engineer.

People often call mastering the “black art”. So how do we do this?

The process begins with LISTENING. Don’t laugh! This is probably the most important part out of the whole process.

Listening in an acoustically engineered environment, specifically designed for mastering, the mastering engineer can appraise the mix objectively and observe where and how improvements can be made.

At dB mastering, a range of world-class classic analogue equipment and state of the art digital processing tools are utilised, including equalisation to tonally shape the sound, compression to define the dynamics of your mix and stereo enhancement to add punch, clarity and definition. The processes and techniques will be chosen specifically for each and every track.

No set and forget plug-in algorithms!

At dB Mastering we understand the importance of the original vibe and intent of your production, as this will determine how your track/s will be mastered.

The musical sensibility of the mastering engineer is as important as the expensive knobs and buttons. A Ferrari in the hands of an learner driver could only end in tears!

When working on an album project, dB Mastering will bring uniformity to the whole production.

How do we do this? By balancing each track to achieve a flow, a consistent overall level and feel, whilst keeping in mind the dynamics of the genre. For example, the dynamic shape of a beautifully recorded jazz album will differ enormously from a slamming techno album and will inherently have more quiet passages. These need to be preserved or modified with a gentle touch where the opposite may be true for the techno album. Each decision, each process is carefully considered for each individual track with musicality being the most important factor.

The sequencing of an album can be simple or complex, involving creative crossfading from track to track, and the precise placement of track start and index points.

After you have approved the mastering and sequencing we then need to create and supply Production Masters for the required release formats. For example, hardcopy CD manufacture will require us to create a DDP file which will include PQ Encoding, ISRC codes and sub code information, which are all essential parts of completing the mastering process. Delivery formats for CD manufacture and online release must also meet critical industry standards.

What about iTunes?

If you’re planning to release your music in the iTunes store, we offer you the choice of supplying masters suitable for a standard iTunes release or for the MFiT (mastered for iTunes) format. There are important differences.

dB Mastering is very proud to be one of the few mastering facilities worldwide to be accredited and approved by Apple for supply of masters in the MFiT (Mastered For iTunes) format.

There is obviously a lot more that could said here about mastering but we encourage you to call us to discuss the specifics as they pertain to your next project.

To find out more call dB Mastering today on 0414 380 699.