What Is Mastering?

Mastering is the final stage at which to create the highest quality sounding song, ready to distribute out to the world.

There are two stages in the mastering process:

  1. Polishing the mixed sound
  2. Preparing the track for distribution

Polishing the Mixed Sound

Polishing the mixed sound is achieved by correcting any mix imbalances and enhancing particular sonic characteristics.

To get the most out of the mastering process, it is essential to have prepared your mix properly.

Mastering can involve a number of steps, including:

  1. Equalization to add a final touch of polish to the sound and rectify any rouge frequencies
  2. Compression to manage overall dynamics and increase the overall loudness (if required)
  3. Stereo enhancement for a more impressive sonic sound
  4. Removal of pops, clicks and other mistakes missed during the mixing process

A mastered track should always sound better than a finished mix. The end goal is to ensure the sound is at its absolute best.

Distribution

The second step in the mastering process usually involves preparing the finished song or album for manufacturing/download. The finished product should be optimized for playback across all systems and media formats.

In the case of the now ageing compact disk, it can mean converting to 16 bit/44.1 kHz audio through re sampling and/or dithering, setting track indexes, track gaps, PQ codes, and other CD-specific markings.

For online distribution, you might need to adjust the levels to prepare for conversion to MP3 (or other formats) and include the required meta data.