SERVICES provided at Lydian
Now that we have it all balanced and sounding good to us, how do we get this quiet, high quality infinity-track song to a 2 track CD format piece that sounds commercial/professional? Simple, we master it. Mastering is the last stage of recording and usually involves some of the best ears in the industry.
Modern mastering really involves 2 key components that are vital to the quality of the recording. Mastering helps fortify the mix by bringing another pair of ears into the situation that have not been biased by months of listening to (and as a result becoming numb to) each track. This takes a bit of the strain off the mixing engineer and allows the mastering engineer to make more precise adjustments to the overall mix output using specialized fine-tuning tools. The second purpose of mastering is ensuring that the mix translates well sonically to as many different playback systems as possible as not everyone in the audience is listening on $10,000 studio reference monitors. In the modern age this means making a mix sound good on a Hi-fi stereo, typical headphones, bluetooth portable speakers, car audio systems and even reduced response systems like laptop speakers, smartphone speakers and bedroom clock radio squawkers.
Once again, at a basic level, mastering is simply preparing the pieces to be burned to a disc or whatever medium they are to be sold. As a matter of fact, back in early days of vinyl records, mastering was actually the process of stamping/pressing the radial musical grooves of the album into the shards of polyvinyl chloride and preparing the music for this process was known as pre-mastering. Over time, the mastering process itself grew out of the name and now the preparation is known as mastering. Pre-mastering involved adjusting groove width, volume level, groove angles, bass phase and the application of RIAA equalization. Now this mastering process has definitely changed but is definitely still the same amount of hard work, if not more. Mastering is usually done by a separate mastering engineer to ensure that there is no bias by the mixing engineer. After a song has been heard for hours at a time by one person, that person can become numb to many jagged edges in the song which is why a set of fresh, objective and most importantly new ears is best for mastering. Mastering in a way can be seen as re-mixing a piece except in 2 track format.
The mastering process involves many fine-tuned adjustments including final EQing , dynamic range compression and expansion, stereo imaging, reverb, tonality imparting, harmonic saturation, DC offset compensation, volume maximization and dither. Mastering is usually done to the entire record at once so that it is easier for the mastering engineer to be consistent in the sonic outcome of the entire album. Sometimes multiple instances of each processor type as different model units will be added in to the signal chain to further refine the final sound balance. A piece of equipment may be added into the chain making no other modifications than the electronics themselves. For instance, a Fairchild 670 might be added into the chain with the threshold set to as high as possible (or inactive) so that it is simply adding the tube warmth and the sonic characteristics of the circuitry. Another very important stage of mastering nowadays is volume maximization (sometimes called the final limiting). This stage involves making the volume as loud as possible without creating unwanted clipped signal. This sometimes involves very high-ratio/fast-attack compression to get that radio ready sound.
The reason this is done is because to the naked ear, louder usually sounds better. In order to compete with the competition, many commercial mastering engineers have been forced to compress their records highly and thus removing any dynamic variation in the music yet making it seemingly louder. This is now referred to as the loudness wars and is usually frowned upon.
Volume maximization is now commonly referred to as quality minimization due to its detrimental effects on the final product. We know this at Lydian Studios which is why our mastering engineers focus on finding the best of both worlds. Giving you a track that is still loud enough to compete with the loudness wars but that has the same dynamic richness and warmth that you would expect from a quality recording.
The Lydian studios mastering rate is based by song. The rate is $100/song if done separately not part of a package lump sum. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at any time to get a quote or to discuss your project.