Adventures In Audio with Audio Masterclass
Mastering - ignore the advice and throw away the rule book!

Mastering – ignore the advice and throw away the rule book!


The logic behind having your mastering done by a professional is that it can put the icing on the cake of a good mix. And if your track is mastered by someone who doesn't really know what he is doing (i.e. you), then it can be completely ruined.

This is the advice given by mastering engineers, and is often repeated in recording websites (including this one), magazines and books.

But you know what the best thing to do with advice that is repeated so often that it becomes true simply because no alternative viewpoint is ever presented?

Trash it.

OK, the advice to have your mastering done by a professional is duly trashed. Now, you can do your own mastering with a clear conscience.

Let's unpick the advice normally given on mastering. Pro mastering engineers always complain about the eternal pursuit of subjective loudness. You can get that by compressing, limiting and then clipping.

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Well I'd say there is no such thing as excessive subjective loudness. Just go for it and make your track as loud as you dare. Then make it louder.

Mastering engineers also say that you should master on a neutral, high-quality monitoring system.

Nah, just do it on your normal monitors. Presuming you chose monitors you like the sound of, then master your track so it sounds good on them.

Mastering engineers say that faults such as clicks, distortion or noise should be carefully and precisely edited, filtered or processed so the result is a clean, fault-free recording.

Really? How come that every hip hop track has vinyl surface noise in the samples as an upfront feature? Clicks, distortion and noise are artifacts of the medium. Just like an artist doesn't try to conceal his brush strokes, you shouldn't try to conceal the characteristics of the medium you work in.

Mastering engineers also say…

Well they say lots of things, but in your studio, with your music and your equipment – just do it the way that feels good to you.

Don't let anybody say that you can't master your own tracks, prove them wrong and just go ahead and do it!

David Mellor

Acoustics & Studio Design

Acoustics & Studio Design

The NLE AudioPedia series, our video-based audio encyclopedia, is an invaluable resource for sound engineers, musicians, students, educators and all audio enthusiasts. This second installment is about Acoustics & Studio Design.

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David Mellor