Audio Mastering can be one of the most daunting elements of any release, sometimes appearing to be shrouded in contradiction and cost!
To answer some of the most common questions our account managers hear, we spoke with our in house audio team to find about the basics of audio mastering.
What is Audio Mastering?
Audio Mastering is a form of post-production that takes a final mix and enhances it ready for copies to be made. Essentially, it’s the final ‘Spit-and-polish’.
What does Audio Mastering Involve?
This involves subtle processes including equalization, compression, saturation, limiting as well as stereo enhancement. The goal is to balance the stereo mix, make all the elements within the audio sound cohesive together and (usually) to make it sound as loud as the output format can support without distortion.
Do I need my Audio Mastered? Do I need to send it to a professional?
Yes and No. If you are knowledgeable enough, and can do all the processes mentioned above, then maybe you feel your audio is good enough to not require a professional. However, if you’ve worked long and hard on your audio and want to give it the best possible chance of sounding professional, then you may want to consider getting it pro-mastered.
Are there different types of Audio Mastering for different media (CD, Vinyl, Cassette, etc)?
Yes. Depending what platform(s) you want your audio to be heard on, there will be different parameters of which mastering service you require –and in the way you submit your audio to a professional.
For example, mastering studios require audio to be submitted with ‘headroom’. This is the amount of space between the loudest point of your audio and 0dB. Audio that is to be mastered for cassette and vinyl requires more ‘headroom’ than CD. For a physical release, always check with both your manufacturer and mastering studio as to what requirements they have before proceeding.
Is Mastering Expensive?
Again, the answer is yes and no. To some extent, you get what you pay for. Undoubtedly, there are studios that have the latest equipment, extensive knowledge and experience –having done it for years- that will probably charge more than those that are just starting out. The best advice would be to know your budget and what result you want to get from audio mastering, then shop around! Research reviews, listen to examples on studio websites, and go from there.
Ultimately, by having some level of audio mastering, you’re giving the project you’ve been working hard at the best chance of sounding amazing and if ever in doubt, ask questions!