The last creative step in the production chain of a song is the mastering process.
It is the step between mixing and publishing.
Mastering has the main goal to finally optimize the sound or to correct the last problems in the mix.
The basic question for many home-producers is whether you do the mastering yourself or assign external mastering engineers.
This article will clarify whether the investment is worthwhile for external mastering.
“It’s not about how loud you do something, but how to make something loud.” – Bob Katz
When deciding whether to mastering or outsourcing the mastering by yourself, the following four aspects can help you:
Point 1: The experience and the know-how
Probably the most important success factor for a professional mastering is the mastering engineer himself.
As a music producer, you have many-sided tasks, including recording, mixing, arranging, composing, and more.
It takes many years to build up the experience and skills of a specialized mastering engineer.
With the help of reference CD’s, good engineers could “get to know” in foreign or suboptimal environments and achieve professional results.
If you live in a big city you can find at least one recording studio where you can go and ask for their mastering services.
An even more comfortable method is to choose to master your track by using an online mastering service, such as Abbey Road Studio. How well does that sound? Top engineers that will bring out the best from your tracks. At the end of the article, you’ll find a list with some of the best online mastering services.
Point 2: The room acoustics
Any space, whatever size, form or surface, creates acoustic problems (keyword: standing waves, spatial modes, …).
In order to make the right acoustic decisions during mastering, you need an unadulterated, linear listening option and directing.
This requires acoustic construction measures (diffusers, absorbers, furniture, installation of the equipment, etc.). The perfect space does not exist in reality and a “usable” room acoustics costs time, much money and know-how.
Point 3: The equipment
The inventory of the mastering engineers on the web seems to be endless.
High-quality mastering studios offer expensive hardware devices and controllers, converters, compressors, equalizers, monitor systems and mixing consoles.
Hardly a home studio will be able to afford these massive hardware investments. The characteristic sound of much analog hardware studio equipment can not be reproduced in detail with today’s digital VST plugins.
Although you can still get great results. Here are some of the best plugins for mastering:
- Mix & Mastering Bundle
- Mastering FX Bundle by FabFilter
- Master Pack FX Bundle by NUGEN Audio
- Ultimate Mastering Bundle FX Bundle by XStudioToolz
- Mastering Bundle by Voxengo
- Blue Cat’s Master Pack FX Bundle
- MMastering FX Bundle by MeldaProduction
Having any of these mastering plug-in suites is a good start to learn to master your tracks, plus you’ll save a lot of money, in comparison to buying all the hardware equipment.
Point 4: The mix
Mastering is the icing on the cake. Therefore, large differences between the volumes should be eliminated when mixing. The more balanced your mix, the better the final result will be.
Most mastering studios have the following requirements for your mix, which should be followed urgently:
- Do not apply compressors or limiters on the sum track
- Leave at least -3dB headroom
- Save the data uncompressed as WAV or AIFF
- Export the files if possible with 24 bits
- Select a sampler rate of 44.1 kHz or higher
If you choose an external mastering, we recommend you to check the next websites: