What is Audio Mastering?
Many people don't really know what audio mastering is. Of course you can do a quick search on what it is and what the process is, but too many people don't utilize this service like it should be used. Audio mastering is the last step in the recording process. The order usually goes pre production, recording of basic tracks, editing, overdubs, editing, mixing, then mastering. Mastering is the process of making your mixed tracks and making them sound like they belong in the same album.
When receiving the tracks the first thing the mastering engineer will do is listen to the tracks and make sure that he or she has enough headroom in the tracks. If there is not enough headroom then there is no space on the top end of the volume level to place EQ and compression or limiting. The engineer will also look at the sample rate and the bit depth, one of the major components of professional mastering is the quality of the audio to digital and digital to audio converters. So the sample rate and bit depth help shape the sound of your finished album. These components should be discussed in the pre production stage.
The next part in audio mastering is sequencing the track in the album. That would mean putting them in the correct order that the artist or band would like them in. While doing that engineer will will listen to the beginning and the end of the tracks. This will decide on the what kind of fades the engineer will go with. If the track ends decide to go on and on the engineer might place a long fade on the back end of that track so it will just slowly get softer in volume. After the fades the engineer will place the proper pause space between each track, the standard is around two seconds per space.
The engineer will then listen through each tack and adjust the volume of each track to make sure that the track are about the same level. The next steps are the crucial and creative part of audio mastering, this is where the better engineers express their art. This step is when the engineer uses Equalizers, Compressors, Limiters, Dessers, and other tools to help shape frequencies and amplitude, along with adjusting phase and stereo width.
The last steps include adding dither and making sure the AD or DA conversion is happening properly to create the best sound quality for you finished album. This is very important part of the process that can be overlooked by amateur engineers or home studio equipment.
I hope that this article helps you understand the process of audio mastering a little better. If you are a songwriter or a band making an album, Consider pricing out how much audio master might be for your album. Even if you are recording in a home studio, having a professional master your album will bring out the best of your music and if you price it out you can find many professional mastering engineers that will do a great job at an affordable price.