Mastering is the final step before your album release. It’s the last chance to correct issues and enhance your mixes. Mastering is also responsible for setting track spacing, encoding metadata and processing the audio for specific release formats.
Often times projects are recorded and mixed by the same engineer, in the same room. This means that acoustical issues in the control room can translate to the mixes. It could be that the engineer listens on typical studio monitors that can’t reproduce bass or translate to larger systems, or that the mix room itself has issues with reflections or room resonances which can cloud the engineer’s ability to accurately hear the recording.
It’s also common after days of recording and mixing that the mix engineer is too familiar with the music. It's somewhat counter intuitive- you'd assume listening to a song a hundred times would be helpful, and it is to some extent for fixing guitar flubs or editing vocals. But over-listening can also make it very difficult to objectively evaluate the overall mix and finalize the album.
This is where the mastering engineer's new ears and tools can help. Checking the mix in a different, acoustically-neutral room with full range monitoring is an important final step. It is the last chance to address tonal balance, resonances, dynamics, overall level, etc. so your album will translate well across all playback systems. And since the mastering engineer usually hasn’t heard the album before, he/she is in a unique perspective to notice overlooked problems and correct them unobtrusively.
I have a collection of mastering-grade analog processors that can correct issues without introducing digital artifacts or distortion and add pleasant, subtle coloration when necessary. Using analog processors with tubes and transformers can result in more cohesive sounding recordings, and can increase clarity, punch, weight and harmonics.
I create separate masters for each format you will be releasing, and process them individually to optimize audio for each medium. For instance, the audio requirements for vinyl pressing are different than Mastered for Spotify. I also encode digital files with metadata and create DDP images for error-free CD duplication.
Many of the amazing bands I work with record + mix themselves, or will track in smaller studios. DIY recording is much cheaper and keeps strangers out of the creative process. It also allows the flexibility to experiment with new sounds without stressing about the hourly rate. In these cases, mastering can help bridge the gap between DIY recording and commercial studios. If you’re in this camp, check out my preparation guide for help getting your recordings ready for mastering. I also offer mix evaluations which can help if you’re unsure or need an unbiased opinion.