When I was first introduced to audio, I didn’t even know that mastering was a thing. Actually; I was more of a music addict than someone that knows what’s exactly going on with sound and its properties. As I didn’t know a thing about mixing, mastering didn’t seem much more of a challenge. It was like another step on how to make a record.
I was told that only good mixes could result in good masters and that only a few people were heading into mastering.
It seemed like something that you would never do or that you would only do, and if you look at the industry it’s kind of like that. The mastering engineer is now a full-time position in some major companies and they barely do anything for mixes and vice versa. Some mixing engineers are sometimes been given some 2 tracks to master but it isn’t prominent.
Of course, the expansion of freelance sound engineers in the industry makes mastering more available and better known within itself.

I personally find mastering quite interesting. I like the idea of having a second experienced ear in your mixing projects. It is understandable that sonic issues can happen in any environment even treated ones. Mastering would address these issues with different critical listening reference points and also different rooms. Mastering engineers tend to listen to a diverse range of genders they are able to draw upon their experience to apply appropriate adjustments in context with the piece of music. It is true that mastering can’t fix everything and a lot of times, mastering engineers are sending back mixes with generally some helpful and appropriate feedback.

Mastering also implemented a lot of standards in the industry especially in terms of levels and formats; here ‘s a list inspired by The Pro Audio Files website:

iTunes (standard), Spotify, and other online stores — 16-bit/44.1k WAV files
Mastered For iTunes — 24-bit/96k, 88.2k, 48k, or 44.1k sample rate WAV files
Bandcamp and SoundCloud — 24-bit WAV files (sample rates above 44.1k)
Compact Disc — DDP image or audio CD-R master
Vinyl — 24-bit WAV files (sample rates higher than 44.1k if available) with limited low end

Cassette — 16-bit WAV files (sample rates higher than 44.1k in some cases)
Music Licensing — 48k WAV files (with 320kbps reference mp3)

Here is also a quick guide to levels for digital distribution sourced from masteringthemix.com.

iTunes Store    

-0.1dBTP

-9 to -13 LUFS

>9DR

iTunes Radio

-0.1 dBTP

-15 to -16.5 LUFS

>9DR

Youtube

-0.1 dBTP

-12 to -14 LUFS

>9DR

Spotify  

-0.1 dBTP

-11 to -13 LUFS

>9DR

CD 

-0.1 dBTP

> -9 LUFS

>9DR

Club Play 

-0.1 dBTP

-7.5 to -9 LUFS

>8DR

Soundcloud 

-1 dBTP

-9 to -13 LUFS

>9DR

I haven’t been practicing mastering as much as other audio disciplines but I really enjoyed it every time I’ve done it. Sometimes it is a pain to work with too many tracks and mastering gives you the opportunity to see your music differently. The all-in-one plugins like Ozone from Izotope are really making the all process enjoyable even though there is a lot of different ways to achieve different results. Analog mastering is something that looks too hard for me at the moment and I want to understand more sound engineering before heading towards it. I’ve been really impressed with mid side processing techniques; a lot of producers tend to use more and more mid side properties in their music and it makes sense that these techniques can make the difference on the appropriate track.

Regarding my work this trimester with mastering. I’ve been having rough times with some of it and mint moments with the rest. The Sound Exploder project has been quite tricky to master even it was my own work. I wanted to get more low mids in the track but the vocals sometimes got in the way so I had to make fairly small changes not to affect it too much.
I really enjoyed mastering the jazz band, I think that when I like the music everything is going a lot better and I achieve better results. I was happy with the mix and the type of sound I went for so the master was just an extra step to achieve what I had in mind for this project. I also enjoyed the modules we had in class. It was a really good exercise to perform mastering in a certain domain or in a certain amount of time. It was fun to combine learning and challenging;

To conclude, I’d say that mastering is something I will practice in the future and that I enjoy doing. I just have different priorities regarding my audio learning and that this would be one of the final touches on my progress. I’ll probably need mastering during my career and I’m sure it will help me getting better results and closer to best standards.

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