Contents

Preface

Acknowledgments

Credits/Gratitude/Disclaimer

INTRODUCTION

Mastering Defined

Major Label Mastering: Professional Mastering Process

    Part I • The Key Competencies and Understandings of a Mastering Engineer

CHAPTER 1  The Mastering Engineer

Competencies

Become an Audiophile

A Note on Sampling Frequency (S) and Bit Depth (BD) in High-Resolution Audio

Musical Genres

Musicality

Deliberate Listening and Subjective Assessment

Become a Critical Listener

The Image or Soundstage

Playback System Considerations

Become Aware of Recording Methods and Technologies

Become Knowledgeable About Audio Mastering Tools

The Primary Colors of Mastering

Electronic Components and Circuit Design Topologies

Know Audio Frequencies

Understand Panning

Know Loudness Metering/Level Measurements

Become Knowledgeable About Acoustics and Listening Environments

The Effect of Acoustics on Sound

Become Proficient With Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)

Become Adept at Quality Control (QC) Methods

Become Able to Generate the Audio Master

Implement Recallable Workflow Approaches

Mastering Notes and the Capitol EQ Rundown Card

Notes on Recalling Settings

Naming Conventions

Become Personable and Entrepreneurial in Demeanor

Key Understandings to Possess

Sampling Theorem

Analog Domain vs. Digital Domain Considerations

Conclusion

Exercises

CHAPTER 2  Listening Experience: The Mastering Engineer’s Primary Concern

The Eleven Qualities of Superb Audio Fidelity

Level/Apparent Loudness

Image

Transient Response

Depth

Definition

Clarity

Detail

Extension

Correct Dynamics (Musicality)

Vocal (or Featured Instrument) Halo

Blossom

Conclusion

Exercises

    Part II • The Mastering Studio and Fundamental Mastering Tools

CHAPTER 3  The Mastering Studio

A Critical Listening Environment

The Room

Common Design and Treatment Approaches

Acoustic Properties and Sound

Common Acoustical Issues—Standing Waves, Flutter Echo, and Comb Filtering

Acoustical Testing and Treatments

Speaker Monitor Calibration

Front/Back Treatment Approaches

Power and Grounding

Speakers and Power Amplifiers

Soffit-Mounted

Freestanding

Near-Field Monitors

Off-Axis Listening (OAL)

Power Amplifiers

Monitor Path/Monitor Control

Signal (Channel) Path

Mastering Console vs. Point-to-Point Considerations

Cabling/Interconnects/AC Cords

Digital Clocking and Dither

The Anatomy of a Professional Mastering Studio

The Three Zone Mastering System

Conclusion

Exercises

CHAPTER 4  Fundamental Mastering Tools and The Primary Colors of Mastering

Analog-to-Digital and Digital-to-Analog Converters (AD and DA)

Mastering Reference Levels

Equalizers (EQ)

Equalizer Configurations

Compressors/Limiters

Varieties of Analog Compressors

Expanders/Gates

Brickwall Limiter (BWL)

BWL Safety—User Tips

Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)

Conclusion

Exercises

   Part III • Professional Mastering Process: The Five Step Mastering Process

CHAPTER 5  Step I: Objective Assessment

Verify the Sampling Frequency (S), Bit Depth (BD), and File Type

Measure the Decibels Full Scale (dBFS) RMS and Peak Levels of the Audio File

VU Meter Reading

Target Levels of Mastered Audio

Waveform Inspection

Conclusion

Exercises

CHAPTER 6  Step II: Subjective Assessment

Deliberate Listening Revisited

Three Questions That Frame Subjective Assessment

Is the Listening Experience Pleasing, Effective, and Genre-Appropriate?

Are There Mix Issues?

How Present or Lacking Are the Eleven Qualities of Superb Audio Fidelity?

Musical Genres

Subjective Assessment Before Mastering

Subjective Assessment After Mastering

Conclusion

Exercises

CHAPTER 7  Step III: The Mastering Game Plan

Setup—The Mastering Game Plan ‘Flight Check’

Select Sampling Frequency (S) and Bit Depth (BD) of Mastered Audio

Select Signal Path

After You, Kind Sir: Compressor or Equalizer First in the Mastering Chain?

Monitoring Positions in Signal Path

Oscillator Sweep the Signal Path

Verify L/R Integrity Through Mastering System

Select the Critical First Mix to Master

The Best Sounding Mix

Organize the Mixes

Execution of The Mastering Game Plan

Gain Structure

Gain Distribution in The Three Zone Mastering System

Compression/Limiting (Dynamics)

EQ

Capture

Conclusion

Exercises

CHAPTER 8  Step IV: Assembly—Links in a Chain

Tops/Tails Editing and Song Spacing

PQ Encoding/Indexing

Metadata

CD-Era Shenanigans: Hidden Tracks

Conclusion

Exercises

CHAPTER 9  Step V: Delivery—Generate the Master

Plant Master Compact Disc (PMCD)

Disc Description Protocol (DDP) CD Master

Digital Audio Files (.wav, .aiff, .dsd, .flac, .alac)

High-Resolution Digital File Formats (.dsd, .flac, .alac) Overview

Mastered for iTunes File (MFiT)/Apple Digital Masters (ADM) File

Streaming Services

Files for Vinyl Mastering

Generating the Master

Dither/Render/Burn

Quality Control (QC)

Check All Song Starts and Transitions

Listen to the Entire Album

Information to Verify

Audio Integrity to Approve

For Digital File Masters

CD Master Designations

Conclusion

Exercises

    Part IV • Professional Mastering Process—Macro Considerations

CHAPTER 10  Before the Mastering Session

Preliminary Dialogue With the Client

Genre-Specific Considerations

Experiment Regularly

The Mastering Shoot-Out

Pricing

Conclusion

CHAPTER 11  The Inner Game: Mindset Approaches

Mastering Is Either Effective or Not

Psychoacoustics

Lead the Listener by Embracing Macro-Dynamics

Work Habits

Be Meticulous

Documentation (Notes)

Listen Universally

Manage Problems With Humility and Professionalism

Conclusion

CHAPTER 12  Session-Saving Mastering Tips

Mix Evaluation—Reject a Subpar Mix or Project

Oscillator Sweep the Signal Path Redux

Spectrum Analyze the Mastered Audio

When In-the-Box (ITB) Mastering Is Your Friend

What If Your Client Is Difficult?

Conclusion

    Part V • Professional Mastering Process—Micro Considerations

CHAPTER 13  Detailed Guidelines for Processing Audio

Select Converters and Signal Path

Equipment Sequencing Considerations

The Three Zone Mastering System (Detail Moves)

Zone 1 Moves—PBDAW Adjustments

Set Optimal Mix Playback Level

Write Macro-Dynamic Automation

Preserve Leading Edge Transients

Advanced PBDAW Adjustments

Zone 2 Moves—Analog Signal Path

The Mastering Console (Gain and Other Features)

Zone 3 Moves—After AD Conversion and in the RDAW

Adjustment Sequence: Gain Structure, Dynamics, and EQ

Match Mix and Master VU Metering

Conclusion

CHAPTER 14  Advanced Mastering Chain Tools and Techniques

Side-Chain Compression (s.c.)

Multiband Compression/Limiting (MBC/L)

Serial Peak-Limiting

Dynamic EQ

Saturation

Analog Tape Compression

Clipping

Parallel Processing (Compression and EQ)

Mid-Side Processing (M/S)

Hybrid Domain Mastering (Both Digital and Analog)

Line Amps and Transformers

Stem Mastering

Intercuts (Mastering Moves by Song Section)

Adding Reverberation

Conclusion

Exercises

CHAPTER 15  Mid-Side (M/S): An Elixir of Mastering Hope

M/S at Capitol Mastering

M/S Stereo Recording Technique—History and Origins

Microphone Signals

At Console Input

Signal Summing Matrix at Console

In a Mastering Context

Encoding From Stereo Into M/S

Decoding Out of M/S Back Into Stereo

Creating an M/S Matrix in Pro Tools

Encoding (DAW Example)

Decoding (DAW Example)

Practical Applications of M/S in Mastering

M/S Hardware Processors for Mastering

M/S Plug-Ins for Mastering

Conclusion

Exercises

CHAPTER 16  In-the-Box Considerations

Drawbacks

When to Use ITB Mastering

Basic and Advanced Setups

Digital Hardware Options

Sampling Theorem and ITB

Conclusion

Exercises

CHAPTER 17  De-Noising/Audio Restoration (Out, Damned Spot!)

Sonic Solutions NoNoise

Izotope RX7

Cedar

Options Onboard Your DAW

Conclusion

Exercises

CHAPTER 18  Conclusion and Summary

Appendix I: Common Mastering Acronyms and Terms

Acronyms

A–C

D–F

G–L

M–R

S–Z

Appendix II: Awards and Notable Projects

Awards and Notable Projects

Appendix III: Mastering Biography

Index

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