Audio Mastering, Day 1

Here’s the second installment in the series about my fun-time classes at Robotspeak, this time switching gears from Audio Recording to Audio Mastering!

Tuesday, Audio Mastering, Day 2:

Mastering, Day 1 explored the correct equipment (including monitor speakers and off ear headphones) and dedicated mastering software (Ozone, Wavelab, etc.) for a good Mastering environment. And then we launched into the mastering effects chain: Low Band frequency EQ, Multiband Compressor, Broadband EQ, and Limiter.

Some of the key things I learned:

– Speakers are more ideal for mixing as this process deals with building the stereo image; while headphones is okay for mastering as this process is enhancing the stereo image. Being that I do electronic music, I see myself combining parts of mixing and mastering into one process (good or bad, that’s just what I do), so I find the need for monitor speakers vexing, but I am happy to discover that the Sennheiser headphones we have are actually quite nice for Mastering.

– Avoid the frequency clutter! We addressed this a tad in the Recording class. Emphasis!

– Trim the inaudible bass. How brilliant is this? You end up doing a slow sweep to find the point on the EQ when you start losing sound, then cut everything that you can’t hear. This keeps the bass awesome but cuts the fat (and the mud) on the mix. I love this.

– NEVER NORMALIZE. I want to make a t-shirt that says this. It sounds like a lesson for life as well as audio mastering ;) Ok, from what I gather, this is going to uniformly increase or decrease the amplitude of the mix, which is going to disregard the nuance of bass vs mid vs high. Kind of a clumsy unevolved move when you’ve put so much effort into mixing it properly.

– And on that note, don’t use Stereo Imagers. It’s going to have unpleasant effects.

– If there’s some buildup on your mix, you can use a narrow exaggerated Q and slow sweep to pinpoint what the offending frequency is, and then make a more subtle dip on the Q to “remove” it. Also, severe notches make the EQ sad :(

– As mentioned in the other class, generally try to stick with reductive EQ when mastering.

– AVOID THE SAUSAGE. Don’t be afraid of your dynamic range, that’s what keeps it snappy and alive. -14 to -0.2 is a happy kingdom :)


2 thoughts on “Audio Mastering, Day 1

  1. i love reading something like this which is written in simple terms…i will keep in mind what you say about rolling off inaudible low frequencies…makes complete sense….rave on!

    • I know! I just can’t get over it! So much of what I learned was just so common sense, I couldn’t believe it never occurred to me. I’m so glad you could get something out of it too :)

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