Mastering - Why you should get YOUR CD Mastered!

Ah, Mastering – There seems to be somewhat of a mystique surrounding this finalizing process in the audio world! CD Mastering, what is it? Who does it? What is involved? How is it done? Why is it done? When should mastering be applied to your final CD? When shouldn’t it be done? Why should you pay to have this fairly expense process done to your music project? Let’s examine the answers to these questions and more.

CD Mastering, what is it?

I’ll try to give you a concise general definition of mastering. It is the process by which one or more musical recordings are prepared for commercial replication by any number of audio processes, determined by a mastering engineer, which will bring the recording up to commercial standards.

Who does it?

It must be “determined by a mastering engineer” because there are so many variations in the sonic fabric of a recording that only a seasoned recording engineer can best make the judgment on how to proceed to attain the final master. Making musical decisions is one thing (best left to the recording artist or producer), but making final sonic mastering decisions is another (best left to a professional mastering engineer). It is also a plus to have another “ear” listen to your work of art and help make the final product as good as it can be.

Send Your CD to for CD Mastering

What is involved?

You know, it would be hard to list all the possible scenarios of audio or digital mastering and the processes that would be used to accomplish the task. But, there are a number of basic things that are addressed during mastering. So let me outline what typically might be done upon receiving a recording and processing it into a final CD Master.

1. First it is transferred into a digital audio workstation (DAW). In doing this, you keep it at the highest resolution possible (maybe 96kHz @ 24bits).

2. Then the songs are arranged in the final CD order.

3. Each song is check for sonic quality, and judgments are made to optimize frequency response, clarity, low end, crispness, high end, mid frequency mud, etc. Then the processes are applied to correct or improve these sonic elements. This could include, but is not limited to, EQ, compression, peak limiting, multi-band compression, aural exciting, de-essing, volume, pan, parametric EQ, notch filtering, expansion, glitch removal, noise removal, and so forth.

4. Each song is optimized for volume. Consideration is made for the genre of music and what volume level it must be to compete with other similar commercially available CDs that are out there.

5. Transitions are established. This would include fade-ins, fade-outs, cross-fades, spacing between songs, and removal of any noises between songs.

6. Song markers are set for each song.

7. Titles and artist credits are imbedded with the CD and each song.

8. Final CD masters are created, CD back-up and file back-ups are archived.

9. A final CD master is sent to the client for approval.

10. Upon approval, a CD master might be sent directly to the CD manufacturing plant for replication.

How is it done?

Mastering uses any and all of the best audio tools available. Mastering engineers may use any number of high-end outboard rack mount hardware processors or audio software plug-ins to analyze and correct sonic deficiencies. Their aim is to draw out the best possible results with the tools they have. This takes experience and some of the very best equipment available.

One thing for sure is that the monitor system that is used to measure and evaluate the sound being manipulated is a trusted and fine tuned instrument itself. Monitor systems used are known entities that are calibrated to a fine detail. They are used every day with intimate knowledge of how they reproduce certain frequencies and how their reproduction will equate to reproduction on other systems in the “real world”. In other words, if it sounds great in the mastering studio, it will sound great on most any system (within reason of course). That is the goal. Sometimes the mastering process will make a vast sonic difference. Of course some times very little needs to be done. Many times a little goes a long way to help put the final touches on an awesome product that needed a little extra polish to make it sizzle!

Why is it done?

After reading the above, it might seem obvious why mastering is important. But, let me list the benefits lest you have doubts.

Mastering allows a second objective audio professional with a “golden ear” to make improvements to your masterpiece.

It will bring your musical product up to a commercial standard so it will compare to competing professional CDs.

The mastering process will hopefully correct any sonic problems before releasing it to the public.

Besides the fact that these days mastering is an almost required step in the process of cutting an album or CD, most artists just want an edge on their competition - anything that will help set them apart and make their recording better. The converse, of course, is also true – those that don’t master their CDs usually don’t sound as good. Why take a chance?

It is a small price to pay for such a great improvement. Mastering is truly “the final step” in producing a professional CD. It should not be overlooked!

When should mastering be applied to your final CD?

Answer – ALWAYS! It’s as simple as that.

Send Your CD to for Professional Mastering

When shouldn’t mastering be done?

When the stereo mix is so compressed that little or nothing can be done to help the recording.

Or, when the original recording is of so poor quality even miracles can’t help it.

Or, when the source material or media has digital glitches or audio damage that can’t be fixed.

Or, ------ you get the idea. Sometimes one must face the music and realize it’s back to the mixing board and time to re-record what can’t be repaired. Mastering is not magic! And mastering engineers are not miracle workers. There’s an old saying that you can’t polish a turd.

Why should you pay to have this fairly expense process done to your music project?

Because it’s worth it! Again it’s a small price to pay for the reassurance that your project will stand up to other CDs on a commercial level. Airplay will only be given professional artists that come up to snuff and meet the standard that everyone else has met. Let’s face it, this is a business and no one wants to fool around with amateurs. Mastering is part of the process of recording and delivering music to the marketplace! It’s worth every penny you pay for it.

Return to Home Page