So what is mastering exactly?
Mastering is the final process before the record is sent to the vinyl or CD duplication plant or rather nowadays before it is put on iTunes, Spotify or Youtube.
What mastering originally did was to make sure that songs within an album sounded cohesive when the record played from start to finish. This meant to make sure the general sound balance (treble and bass tones) roughly matched, the levels of the songs matched and it was an overall pleasant listening experience.
Of course mastering also made sure of the technical elements of the record – too much bass might mean that the record needle in long players might jump out of the grooves or peaking in digital realms would cause distortion.
Over the past 25 years digital recording has gone through some general trends about loudness levels. In the 80s where CD’s were still an expensive and niche product, mastering still followed the classic vinyl (and later tape) practices. During the 90s the sound engineers leaned towards the practices of getting the most volume out of their final product so it would stand out among competition – because to the human ear, louder is always better and more exciting.
However this came to a point where “louder” meant “more distorted and tiring”. Notoriously loud records such as Metallica’s Death Magnetic are now infamous examples in what is commonly called the “loudness war”. Fans of Metallica went through the trouble to extract the Death Magnetic album from the Guitar Hero game files because it sounded less crushed and more dynamic.
This was a kind of an awakening and soon mastering engineers around the world started to advocate for more sensible loudness levels. Afterall radios and TVs always limited their playback levels and all music would be at the same level when played on these mediums.
Right around 2010’s as streaming services became the main way of consuming music and all of them implemented their own algorithms to moderate loudness. Spotify, iTunes, Youtube, Tidal and most of the other streaming providers have their own way of making sure that all music played is roughly at the same level.
This has allowed music producers to create music which did not have to be loud and dynamically crushed (the intro and the climax of the song did not have to be the same level anymore) as their music levels would be moderated by the platform anyway.
The mastering services I provide are in-the-box, using the latest and best in class processing tools on the market today; therefore fast and efficient and (unless you have recorded your tracks in Abbey Road studios in the UK and do not want to compromise) will get you where you want to be quickly and competitively.
Contact me to start the discussion on how I can help you on your project.