What Mastering is?

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May be you have heard about mastering, but what exactly mastering do? Does it matter who and what gear use for mastering? Depending on the knowledge and experience, this can improve, or definitely spoil the result of a good mix. After a finalized mix, it is necessary to perform the mastering. The process consists in standardizing the overall equalization of an audio mix, in order to give it the precise amount of presence, bass and treble, as well as the dynamic control (compression), the level and the final sonority so that the result is consistent with the musical industry standards.

Three essential elements are required for mastering: 1. A good monitoring system, capable of faithfully reproducing the entire frequency spectrum of the musical program. 2. The right equipment to achieve the desired result. 3. An experienced engineer specializing in the subject, capable to make a careful analysis of the audio material. If any of these items do not meet the requirements, the result can be a lottery.

Mastering can be done with analogue or digital (software) gear or combination of both.
The hardware process adds the warmth of the "analog" to the result. Mastering with plugins is not so far from what can be achieved with hardware, because nowadays it is possible to find plugins that emulate very accurately a wide variety of professional hardware. I’m working with a Universal Audio UAD2 DSP card with high standards plugins like Massive Passive EQ of Manley Labs, Neve compressors, Teletronix and the magic of the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor, among others.

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