Mastering is a crucial process, but it’s not always all that well understood by the average musician…so let’s deal with some of the basic issues.
Your tunes are done, and you’ve decided it’s time to create a CD — which brings you to the subject of mastering, where all the tunes are assembled and optimized for the best possible sound. You really don’t want to make any mistakes at this crucial stage. Indeed. Mastering can make or break a record, so there’s a lot of interest in doing it right. Here are the ten most common questions I hear from people who are about to get their work mastered.
Q. What’s the best piece of gear for giving me a professional, “radio-ready” sound?
A. The best piece of gear is a professional mastering engineer who has done this process before for hundreds, if not thousands, of recordings.
Q. So do I just send an audio CD with all the cuts, and the engineer masters them?
A. That’s one option, but certainly not the most desirable. Although you should always check with the engineer for specific requirements, if you recorded your music in high-resolution audio, then it’s best to provide those high-resolution mixes, as WAV or AIFF files. The mastering engineer will likely do some processing, and 24-bit files give more “calculational headroom.”
Steinberg’s Wavelab includes excellent
dithering options, but don’t apply these
if you plan to hand off your file to a
Q. Wouldn’t it be better to send a dithered version of the 24-bit files, as the files are going to end up as 16 bits on a CD anyway?
A. No. Dither is always applied as the very last stage of mastering, when the higher resolution signal gets downsized to the 16 bits required by Red Book audio.
Q. I want a couple of cuts to crossfade into each other. Should I do the crossfading myself and send the combined cut?
A. Probably not. Fades can be dicey, and again, the mastering engineer will likely have tools that provide the best possible audio characteristics when creating fades. Also, that will insure dithering happens to the combined file — you don’t want to dither two files, then crossfade them. Just make sure that you include full documentation on where you want the fade to begin and end for the two cuts.
To read the full detailed article see: 10 Questions about Mastering