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Online Mastering - Good or Bad Option?

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Almost done with the initial mix of the 1st of 10 songs that I'll be throwing into a CD compilation. Seems the law of the land is that one should always consider using an external mastering individual or studio so as to lend the unbiased views & input.

During my initial search for local options in the Austin area I also saw places like this:


and this:


Has anyone used this type of remote service and, if so, is it something recommended? Seems fairly convenient but I'd hate spend the money on that type of service when the local, personal, face-to-face option is available.

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You have the ability to upload wave files to data storage sites like Dropbox and others

so having the files on line for a mastering site to download has never been so easy.


Mastering companies should have state of the art monitor systems and gear so they can hear many flaws and correct them

to some extent. Most Home studios cant afford what they may use to get good results.

You could upload one song and have samples of the mastering companies send you a sample to compare

before commiting to a whole project.


I'd also try mastering them yourself, especially if this is your first set of recordings. Mastering can polish

a good mix but it wont make stinkers smell like roses. Even if you just use a brickwall limiter to bring the

recording up to commercial levels, it can reveal all kinds of issues you may not have heard.


Heres a tutorial that I used to master my mixes and it made all the difference in the world.

I use the same plugins as the tutorial and it works very well. You can use substitute plugins

or skip the ones you dont need except the brickwall. You have to use that to prevent overs

even if you dont limit the tracks.


By running the mastering plugins, you'll find things that can only be fixed in your mix.

What you thought was a great mix may have major issues for good mastering. If those

issues are identified and corrected, then a mastering studio nshould be able to get even

better results for you instead of performing RX to fix issues that are preventing good results.


You'll also find mastering plugins can add alot of brightness, snap and punch. If you have too much

of that in the mix, it can work against you and make the master edgy. In general, Mixes wind up mastering best

when the mixes are fairly bland sounding. They need to be balanced, panned and gained properly, but much of the track

compression can wind up being unnessasary. If you do have your songs pro mastered, you may get requests to remix things,

(If the mastering studio is worth their salt)


I'd try this tutorial. It surely cant hurt to try.

The worst that can happen is you fail and have someone else do it.

I always found mastering much easire than mixing because theres only two tracks to deal with.




By the way, the EQ program this tutorial incorporates is an excelent program to use mastering,

and they have a recent update which is excelent. Its not an easy program to learn though.

I been using it for about 6 years and I've pretty much gotten the hang of it.

Its "The" tool for finding frequency issues mixing and is a must for getting all the songs

on a CD to have equal "Perceived" loudness so your arent turning the volume up and down with each song.

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Pay careful attention to the parts that talk about analizing the mix at the beginning.

If you can get the mixdown to come in at around -12~-18db, those mastering plugins will function

with maximum efficiancy.


A big problem in analog recording si having the tracks too quiet and you hear tape noise. In digital,

hot tracks work ahainst you because you have to flaten more peaks limiting and you loose dynamics.


Its not hyper critical, but try and target it if you can till you learn the methods and then you can just use your

ears and know whan things are right by how the levels look. I can pull a song into an audio editor and tell you

pretty much what the DB level is just by looking at the waveform to know if its in the ballpark.


The other item I suggest you get is an audio editor program for mastering.

Sound Forge, Cool Edit, Wavelab, Gold Wave and others have specialty tools built in thet will

fix many problems with mixes and they will let you fix problems much more accurately than you can in a DAW program.


It also makes you put on a different hat for a different job. it makes you focus on fixing a stereo file instead of

trying to fix individual tracks like you do mixing. Export the mixdown to a stereo file at the same recording sample rate

you recorded at. If you recorded at 24/44.1, keep it that way and dont apply any dithering.


Import the mixdown to the audio editor, apply your mastering plugins, clean up intros so you have the same amount of

silence at intro and endings. Then when everything si done, you can down sample to CD quality and apply dithering then.


Some even up sample to 24/96 when they mix down. They say the wave files ecperience less lossy/noise issues by doing this.

Most of the work I do is at 24/48 which is fine for just about anything I do. its a trade off of disk space vs audio quality for me.

I may run 32bit when I mix down. I honestly cant say it helps much though. When you lived a life in music and had allot of

brutal drummers crashing cymbals in your ears, super fine details may exist, but I sure as heck cant hear them nor detect them

with any teast tools I may use.

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Yea, I'm at a disadvantage here in two ways:


1 - I am apparently in dire need of some theory & knowledge infusion with regard to all this fun stuff.

2 - I am what one would call "hearing-challenged" :) I was the subject of botched ear surgeries as a youngster and so I have prosthetics for my middle ear in both ears and both ear drums are collapsed. Interestingly enough, though, I have perfect pure-tone hearing, the sound just has to be loud enough for me to hear. So, yea... fun... :)


So, for number 1, I would really appreciate any online or book-type reading that could enlighten me on what all these terms mean, how they tie in together, etc. I could probably put the pieces together and make them work but I prefer to understand why I'm doing the things I'm doing.


For number 2, it is what it is and I make the most of it.... :)

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