Mastering is the process of taking the complete mix or mixes from a studio recording or a live performance creating individual tracks, adjusting the level and tone of these tracks so they all “play well together” and then making further adjustments to try to make the whole performance play well on a variety of playback equipment. We want it to sound great on high quality systems but also on car stereos, ipods, and boomboxes. I take great care in this optimization to avoid too much compression and limiting which can quickly squeeze the life out of a recording.

Mastering – Before and After

Victim of the Blues – a tune recorded live in 2003 featuring Herb Smith on trumpet and vocals. This sounds good without doing much to it but the level is raised a bit and just a small amount of high end is added. Both files reach exactly the same peak level, -.2dB. Note the apparent volume difference.

Audio Before Mastering

Audio After Mastering

The process of mastering is to enhance just a little where needed, usually raising the apparent volume a bit, without losing any of the original character. Also the apparent volume of individual tracks on an album is adjusted to make the tracks play well together. If you overdo it, the result isn’t good.

Trying to make it too *LOUD*

Even if the initial impression is “wow!,” or “in-your-face,” in about 30 seconds you just want to turn it off. I try to be tasteful with mastering.