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Mastering is an often misunderstood process. It's done after the mix process and it is the last step the song or songs see before going out into the world, whether they are going to go to the Internet, CD or even a Vinyl record. I'd recommend mastering your work with a professional mastering engineer. They are going to have the know-how, experience, equipment, and proper listening facilities to make your mix shine in all lights. That said, some budgets and timelines call for self-mastering jobs. Logic can do that. So, here are some tips. This is how a mastering session would look in Logic.
You could have one or two stereo audio tracks with each song checker-boarded or you can do what I did here for three songs and have a separate track for each song. I would recommend this as long as you have enough system resources to run a lot of mastering plug-ins on it at once. Each track has a chain of mastering plug-ins in this Channel Strip. Let's go over some of those. First, we have Gain. Gain can give us control over the gain initially. Remember, part of mastering is getting the level just right. So, this is the first plug-in we have inserted in our Channel Strip.
Then we have a linear phase EQ. This is a mastering grade EQ where can do subtle EQ curves. Remember, at this stage, we don't want our EQ moves to be too dramatic. This is a mixed stereo file, or program material, as it's called. Notice there are some plug- in presets made for mastering. I am using the Final Mix - Dance setting for this. I thought it sounded good for this song. These are the EQ curves that go along with that. Again, they are pretty subtle. Next, we have a Multipressor plug-in. This is a multiband compressor that can apply different compressions to different frequency bands.
The Multipressor is like a compressor that uses EQ to determine which parts of the sound it will compress, more or less. Notice there are mastering presets in this plug-in settings as well. I am using Final Rock Compressor. Next, we have the AdLimit or the Adaptive Limiter. This is a mastering grade final high ratio compressor that actually looks ahead in the audio stream to avoid digital overs. A digital over when you clip and you want to avoid that at all costs when you master. I am using the Add Density preset here and some Gain changes to avoid clipping.
Finally, on the Output channel Strip, there's a MultiMeter, which gives you some ideas of the final output levels and it gives you a view of all the frequencies at one time. So, you can see where your audio is landing on the frequency spectrum. When I play this song, I will be able to see the MultiMeter in action. (Music playing.) As you can see by our main output meter, I am just .1 away from clipping.
That's just about right for mastering. Again, you are trying to get it as loud as possible without actually clipping. So, what you are trying to do in mastering is get the settings and all these plug-ins balanced over all frequencies. You want the sound to be loud but still dynamic. It's a very subtle art. You are also trying to make them translate well to all mediums, headphones, small speakers, and large ones too. So, if you can test your audio on all of these as you work, that would be best. The other challenge is that if you're mastering a record, you want to get all the songs to play sequentially at complementary levels. You don't want one song to end and have another one start and have it sound like it's on another record because it's too loud or soft.
Once we get our settings right, we are going to bounce like in the final mix video. Set your start and end points by making a cycle region, as we have in this Nathaniel track. Now I will click the Bounce button in the Out 1 -2 Channel Strip and we get our Bounce dialog. This time, if our source files are at higher bit depth than 16, we should go down to 16 for Resolution. That would be if we're making CD-quality audio. Also, for CD-quality mastering, we want to change our Sample Rate to 44100. We will leave the File Type Interleaved, but again, if you are moving from 24 to 16, you want to explore our Dithering options.
When you dither your audio from a higher to a lower bit depth, something called Quantization error occurs as a side effect. Noise Shaped dithering, like POW - r#2, can help deal with this. So, these are the challenges of mastering. Again, it's both difficult and rewarding to have the final say in how your music sounds, so good luck.
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