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Why you want to pay a real mastering engineer.

Last week we talked about A.I. mastering services. They do provide a value service but with the cheaper cost comes some areas were a human ear is needed. Taking your mix to a professional mastering engineer will give the absolute best quality and translation that your mix can get. How does a professional mastering engineer differ from A.I. mastering? What does a mastering engineer do differently from an algorithm based mastering processor? First and foremost-a mastering engineer knows when to make processing moves and when not to make processing moves. His decisions are based off of technical knowledge and experience. When a mastering engineer brings an EQ into use he knows why before bringing it to use. Also a mastering engineer may change his mind with certain EQ changes if things sound different during the mastering process. This decision making is the key reason A.I. mastering is not yet on par with a professional mastering engineer. Let's talk about some "tricks" that mastering engineers can use to fix or enhance a mix. Automation A mastering engineer can use automation to increase dynamics or fix problematic areas of a mix without affecting other parts of the mix. For example a mastering engineer could automate an EQ or compressor to act a certain way at a certain point in the song. A mastering engineer could also automate levels to make a dull sounding build sound full and intense. Noise reduction Back ground noise in a mix can be intentional or not intentional. Oftentimes it is not intentional and most times the client will want the master to be clean of any noise. A.I. mastering cannot decide if the noise is intentional or not. A mastering engineer will ask how clean do you want it to sound and carry out the necessary processing. Spectral Repair Mastering engineer's can also fix something that is in the mix but is not supposed to be in the mix or vise versa. He can use spectral repair to remove unwanted stick clicks from the drummer. Or if the singer accidentally bumped the mic stand the mastering engineer can remove these noises and others and replace them with the expected sound based off of what other noise is around the sound to be removed. A.I. mastering simply cannot know what sounds are right or wrong. Resonant Frequencies Zeroing in on resonant frequencies can be an art all in itself. Knowing what's not good takes years of practice to learn. Once the resonant frequency is identified, it needs to be removed but once it is removed it should sound like nothing was removed yet sound clearer or cleaner. This kind of attention can be difficult for a mastering engineer to learn let alone an A.I. mastering software. Now that being said software is getting better all the time. DDP Meta Data Another thing that hadn't fully been implemented in A.I. mastering, is full album mastering. Yes all individual tracks are mastered individually but they all come together to make an album sound a certain way as a whole giving the album a signature sound. A mastering engineer will listen to all the songs to get an idea of the flow and feel of the album. A mastering engineer will also, if requested, organize all the song data in a DDP file for disc duplication factories. To process or not Sometimes all that a final mix needs is limiting to bring up the level and that's all. Knowing when not to process is a gift that takes discipline to learn. Using the new fancy tools you have may not be necessary and having the ability to know when not to process is more important than just processing because you have the tools. Conclusion Getting your music mastered by an automated software service or a real mastering engineer really depends on your needs as an artist/ producer . Ask yourself, are you going to be needing mastering several times a month? Are your mixes really really good? Is there specific repairs you want done? Do you need DDP file organization? It comes down to, you get what you payed for. Yes a real mastering engineer is more expensive but you are getting a thorough inspection of your final mix so that the master will sound it's absolute best on all playback systems.

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