With technology constantly improving and becoming more affordable, more and more artists are finding that it is possible to record amazing sounding albums from home studios. This saves a lot more time and money as opposed to going to a professional studio. There is some debate of whether or not sending music into a professional mastering studio is a necessity. If the mix does not need any modifying : it is at a perfect volume level, fades are well done, EQ is consistent throughout, compression is right on, etc.; then there is no need for mastering. In reality, this is hardly ever the case. Even some of the best mixing engineers in the world benefit from the advantages of mastering. A lot of artists spend loads of time and money on gear and recording, so why not go the extra mile to further improve the sound: especially with competitive rates that are offered from various mastering houses.
There are generally 5 major steps in the process of ultimately creating a finished CD:
- Writing and arranging the music.
- Recording the instruments and vocals into a digital format or on tape.
- Mixing the music so all the tracks create a uniform, clear song. This is usually achieved by adding compression, adjusting EQ so the frequencies fit well in the spectrum, adding fades, and also adding and experimenting with various plug ins such as reverb.
- Mastering audio further polishes the mix by improving compression, EQ, limiting, and adding tops and tails to the song to make it more cohesive.
- Duplication is the final step where copies of the master disc are made which allows the product to be ready for distribution.
All of these steps are of equal importance which is why mastering should not be left out of the process. By taking a deeper look at the specifics that the mastering process can add to your music, there is no question that it is indeed a necessity.
- Raise or lower the overall level of the tracks and makes each track on the album uniform in volume level. This allows for listening to at entire album through a stereo at one volume level instead of having to adjust the level for each song. This will also allow the music to be played from a variety of sound systems whether its a car stereo, home stereo, headphones, or ear buds.
- EQ is leveled out to give the album its own consistent sound throughout as opposed to each song sounding like it was recorded and mixed at different times and places.
- Adjusting the EQ can also improve imperfections in songs that were not dealt with correctly in the mixing process such as adding or subtracting low or high end.
- Better fades are implemented for smoother transitions.
- Space can be added at the beginning and end of tracks to add a customized feel for the album.
- Album sequencing, track names, and ISRC codes are added.
There is no doubt that adding mastering to your project will improve the quality of your music. Without it, your chance of making it in the highly competitive music industry decreases dramatically. For less than 40$, there is no argument: mastering is a necessity.