What Mastering Really Is

Hey, all,

It’s your friendly neighborhood audio engineer, Nick Elle.

I have been seeing a lot of people putting the tag “remaster” on their tracks, but without actually knowing what a master actually is.

Well, I’m here to explain a bit.

In modern audio engineering, you have three parts: Recording, Mixing, and Mastering. But, for production, you really only have two parts: Mixing and Mastering, so I’ll skip recording.

Mixing is basically what it sounds like.
It’s mixing a lot of sounds together using tools like gain, EQ, compression, saturation, limiting, etc to create a full mix, which is the stereo (left and right channels) master audio.
Pretty straight forward.

But, mastering is what gets most artists.
Most of the time, they don’t know what it is.

Mastering is taking the mix (master audio) that just came from the mixing stage, and making it sound better.
Using the same tools as mixing: EQ, compression, saturation (if needed), limiting, and some stereo widening, on the mix, you get a mastered song. It will sound much better than the original mix, resulting in a better sounding song.

And, a remaster is a mastering job done after the first one, in the event that the former wasn’t up to standards.
For example, a remaster would be done by a modern audio engineer for a song made in the sixties, when audio wasn’t as pristine as it is now, to make it sound better.

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I hope that clears up the misconceptions about mixing and mastering.

If some more OGs, like @akabillposters , @iammane , @blakkaz have something to add, that’d be great.

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Thanks for this post.
Fwiw, I’m just as much a newb about mastering as anyone here. I’m just now dipping my toes in.
I’m happy to for you and @blakkaz - also an audio engineer, iirc - to lead on this topic. :+1:

 
On remastering… would that ideally be done using the original, unmastered mix (if available) or the mastered version?
(Using the original, unmastered mix seems like it might be optimal, as it starts with the cleanest and most complete sound information. Is that correct?)

 
Another thing I’m curious about…

If mastering uses the same tools and fx as mixing, how/why did it become a separate process? Why hasn’t mastering been absorbed into mixing - i.e. why doesn’t the industry aim for master-level quality and characteristics during the mix stage?

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I look at it this way- I can sheet rock a wall, but if I have a contractor come in and do the job it’s going to be light years ahead of my capabilities.

I don’t think it’s IMPOSSIBLE for people to marry the two, but there’s no doubt it’s a separate discipline. I’d also venture to say with how software has been progressing over the last twenty or so years the gap is much less wide than it used to be, especially if you’re not recording audio.

Budding producers (and vets alike) should be more concerned with the mix. Get ya levels straight :slight_smile:

At the end of the day, you can’t polish a turd. Well you can, but- it’s still a turd :poop:

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Quick question, How long would you need to wait before reproducing a mastered track? If the original already released?

As far as remasters, it would be best to to remaster to the original mix, but sometimes, the mix is unavailable (In the case of the sixties tracks, the tapes could be destroyed from age and erosion).
And, it is still possible to remaster over an ancient master, because the ancient master might not be that much of a master at all.

You don’t release an unmastered and then a mastered one.

You have to skip the unmastered and just release the mastered.

Or wait 50 years, then release the mastered.

Ok got that :ok_hand:t2: Looks like a long way to go heheh

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There are lots of helpful mastering tools online for artists who really want their tracks to have much better quality, but don’t necessarily no how to master tracks themselves. I’ll share a few here for you all to check out.

LANDR.com - My tool of choice.

and there’s so much more if you just browse.

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For iOS only a few of us have been kicking the can on Klevgrand’s Grand Finale app. I’m pretty satisfied with it and would recommend!

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Do you also use them for release and distribution?

If so, would be good to have your thoughts on them as an option added here.

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Well, I guess I missed that when I made my Re/Mastered Project xD

A very interesting read though, definitely appreciate this post as I learn more about actual mastering, and about mixing as well.

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Mastering? Nah, put a compressor on it and boost those levels boiiis

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Get out. :angry:

Just kidding. :joy:

Don’t listen to that.

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nin_waveform

What’s even sadder is where this came from. I don’t even wanna say because they’re one of my all time favorite artists, and this is SUPPOSED to be the audiophile version :sob:

With that said. Please don’t do the above. It makes babies cry and angels lose their wings…

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:nauseated_face::face_vomiting:
That waveform is gross.

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Haha! Someone got lazy :joy:

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People also should spend time learning hoe to mix and master as it is so much cheaper and easier in the long run. Although it can help for a professional master to listen to your track (fresh pair of ears). This can show your track in a new light which is sometimes better.

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How*

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literally a sausage wtf :joy:

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