Any Question? I’m answering you...
In this page, you'll find answers to everyday’s questions about "Audio Mastering".
Maybe this could help to better understand what Audio Mastering really is ?... Happy Reading !
What is Audio Mastering ?
Audio Mastering is the last step in the production of an audio project of an artist (Album, EP, Single...) before being released to the public (CD-Audio, Vinyl, Streaming, Blu-Ray Audio, Web, etc...)
That stage is Key because the audio engineer who’s in charge of the project is able to improve the music in many important aspects. In that regard the work involved in Mastering will impact the consumer's experience through any given format.
One other goal in Mastering is to bring consistency of the sound across all the songs of a given project. And importantly it permits the tracks being played correctly across all playback systems. After being mastered, your audio project will gain in competitiveness for the music market. In other word, Mastering is the last technical and artistic step which brings your audio to the next level. It resumes as a sonic improvement though a real manual work which only human ears can guide.
Last but not least: Mastering means bespoke engineering which uses technical skills, emotional connection and artistic/creative implication.
What is the Added Value of having a "Mastering Engineer" finalizing your Music Project ?
Actually, the Mastering Engineer enhances the Sound of your Music in order to make it more musical and more impactful to the audience. He’s running a Bespoke Service consisting of finding the best process that deserves each one of the tracks of your Project. He’s using dedicated (and delicate!) use of very specific processors in an appropriate environment. Apart from having specific & technical skills, he has a good Critical Listening experience which is also very useful when listening to the project for the first time. In that regard his impartiality is favored amongst producers. He has a good knowledge in Music & Audio Engineering. In the end he’s providing his emotive contribution to your Sound. There’s always a Creative part in his process.
Why a "Professional" Mastering is important ?
Audio Mastering which is performed in a professional environment (Studio Acoustics, Gear, Monitoring, ...) is the best way to guaranty a quality product. Professional Mastering is a Bespoke service involved with the finest expertise in the technical side, along with a good communication. At the end of the process your music will stand out in the Music Market as being competitive. Your project will translate well on all playback systems within all possible formats that you may ask.
Why having a "real" Mastering Engineer working on my Mixes instead of Uploading my Mixes to an Online Automatic Mastering Service ?
An "Automatic Online " service is using AI (Artificial Intelligence) and it CANNOT replace a Human expert. In a Mastering situation the engineer is using his Emotiveness. His sensitivity is guiding him to take the right decisions to enhance the sound qualities of the content.
Those decisions are made in harmony with his inspiration, and he’s also taking in account any requirement of the Team (Artist, Producer, Mixer, Label, etc…). One of the main goals for a Mastering Engineer is to improve what the audience would feel as a positive and emotive impact.
Total Human Craft which serves Music.
Why not asking the Mastering work to the Mixer who's in charge of my recording or mixing sessions ?
The "Mixing" stage requires so many working hours for the same person (as known as the "Mixer"), that ear fatigue and lack of fairness come into play. It is an important reason to submit the project to some (experienced) "Fresh Ears" to make the right decisions. Thus, when starting his listening the Mastering Engineer is not influenced by dint of dependency like an Artist / Producer / Mixing Engineer can be. Indeed, an objective & fair assessment is crucial, it permits having a clear idea of how the music can be enhanced.
Furthermore, a Mastering Engineer uses dedicated tools which are very different from those used by the Mixer. You won’t never find those tools in a Mixing Studio (and vice-versa you won’t find Mixing tools in a Mastering Studio…). Indeed, a Mix is the result of the summing of all instrument tracks which have been treated separately (*). Since in Mastering we process the full Mix at once, we need Tools with a much higher level of accuracy. The latter is such that they can modify a particular property of the audio signal without audibly affecting another in a detrimental way. In Mastering analog devices have Stepped controls, which is decisive in the case of having to recall a hardware setup.
Not mentioning that Monitoring systems in Mastering Studios are of the same.
(*): mono & stereo tracks, stems, bus, inserts… in a Mixing Session.
What are the Personal & Overall Conditions in order to Master properly ?
Mastering is the final technical and artistic step in the production of a Music Project. It resumes critical listening and careful sound adjustments by the person responsible of bringing the Project to the next level. He’s called an “Audio Mastering Engineer”. He is manipulating the audio signal according to some elaborate techniques that he uses. His goal is to make the Music more impactful and musical to the listener via all Playback systems & format. Thus, as you can imagine, the process requires a few conditions. First off, the Mastering sound engineer has a very specific knowledge in science and has a solid technical background in Audio Engineering. This is due to the requirements imposed by the gear he’s using and Physics in the Audio field. Of course, in addition to his auditory faculties, he must also have a good knowledge of music and be aware of the codes of the different musical genres & styles of Music.
The Mastering Sound Engineer performs his work in a neutral and controlled acoustic environment. His listening system must be extremely transparent, as wide as possible, calibrated. His monitoring system must be able to translate all types of sounds from the lowest to the highest range. It must be able to withstand large dynamic range differences without distorting and be able to reproduce a detailed and dynamic "stereo image".
Those conditions are necessary to produce a great Master.
Should I ask one master for each of the format to be released ? Or only one Master suffice for all formats ?
Usually there is one optimized master version for each one of the formats. The reasons behind this are the technical limitations of the medium, and/or inbuilt characteristics of each format. More on this when we'll speak if you consider multiple formats for your release... Let's talk about your needs, Contact Me.
What is "Metadata" ? What is it For ?
"Metadata" represents all forms of data which is written into audio files. These data include names of artist, project, songs, genre of music, year of release, etc... as well as identification codes (ISRC, EAN/UPC), PQ codes for the CD-Audio, readable content of the CD-TEXT, etc...
Is it relevant using Analog today when mastering for Digital releases ? (Streaming, Cd-Audio…)
Yes it IS important because in Mastering we combine Analog with Digital ! When our selective analog devices are used properly, they can bring results that digital can’t do when using digital-only gear. Analog has its own strength that digital has not. It doesn’t mean that Analog is better than Digital: both are complementary. Using both Analog + Digital can speak for itself versus using Digital-Only tools. Of course, assuming that the Analog chain has some nice and interesting options that digital don't offer. Also, in Analog be aware that there's always the sought-after analog interaction between the different parts of the equipment. That is an important consideration which makes a real difference versus ITB (In The Box) Mastering. The real question would be: Which tool(s) – or interactive tools - do we need in a Mastering session since it’s tailored on a track-to-track basis? The answer is: the best available option(s), being Analog, Digital or both.
What is "Loudness Normalization" and what is it for?
On the technical side, the concept of Loudness Normalization has been introduced since the rise of the Online Streaming services (Spotify, Apple Music, etc...).. The first intention was to be able to listen to any streamed songs without being annoyed by drops of volume from one track to another. In the Music Industry there is no rule in terms of Loudness in the production process: some albums/songs are mastered excessively loud, and some are not as loud… Each one of the platforms is using its own algorithm whose action is to reduce the volume of your master to a defined global (lowest) target level. This fixed target is the same for any song being streamed whichever artist genre or song it is. The louder is your mastered song that you send to the platforms, the highest drop of level will affect your song when played-back. Also, Loudness Normalization encourages the return of Dynamic Music since a loud song will be more reduced in volume compared to a quieter and more dynamic song. So chances are that the later will stand out much better in comparison. More details on my Blog about the “Loudness Wars” and its consequences and of course the obvious genre-dependent practice in Mastering.
What is « Remastering » ?
Remastering is a new "Mastering" process by starting from the exact same audio material that have been used during the first /original /previous Mastering Session. Of course, the original audio Mixes can be files (digital audio), but they can be Analog sources like Tape or Vinyl as well…
Interestingly, as technology continuously improves (*), Remastering can lead to much better results comparing to the sound of the first or previous masters. Today Remastering stands as a real advantage.
(*): Actually, processors which are used in a Mastering context are more and more accurate and innovative, whether being Digital or Analog devices. Worth mentioning Audio Converters which improvement has been very significant over the past 20 years.
Any more questions?
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