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Mastering audio is the final stage in music production, where the final set of mixed songs are turned into a cohesive album through a variety of processes that make the music sound the best it can, wherever it's played. Join author and producer Bobby Owsinski in this course, as he teaches essential mastering concepts and techniques used by experienced audio engineers. Follow along as he works at Oasis Mastering, a real-world mastering facility, and learn how to apply these techniques to your home or studio setup and make your projects sound better than ever.
First, discover how to configure your monitoring setup, optimize your listening environment, and prepare and print alternative mixes that will allow you to make quick fixes during mastering. Bobby then reviews a selection of dedicated mastering tools that give you precise control over select signal parameters, from compressors to de-essers. He'll discuss the differences between mastering for CD, online distribution, and specifically for iTunes, and how to achieve the best results for each medium. The course wraps with lessons on mastering for high-resolution formats like Blu-ray, as well as delivering and archiving the master recording once the project is complete.
iTunes uses the Advanced Audio Coding, or AAC file format, as a standard for all the music in its store. Contrary to popular belief, it's not a proprietary format owned by Apple. In fact, it's part of the MP4 specification and generally delivers excellent quality files that are about 30% smaller than a standard MP3 of the same data rate. All new music destined for the iTunes Store is now encoded at a constant bit rate of 256 kilobits per second and a sample rate of 44.1 kilohertz.
The iTunes Store discontinued selling 128 kilobits per second music files in April of 2008. While the iTunes Store does the encoding for you after the songs have been submitted, here are some of the parameters of the AAC Encoder that are available if you do your own encoding in iTunes. The settings can be found under iTunes > Preferences > General. You click Import Settings, choose Import Using AAC Encoder and then under Setting choose Custom.
The first setting is Stereo Bit Rate. This allows you to select the bit rate for your AAC encode. The highest quality setting for this format is 320 kilobits per second. The next is Sample Rate where you select the sample rate you like to encode at. If you're using an Encoder other than the one in iTunes, never use a higher sample rate than the rate used for the source. In other words, don't use 48 kilohertz if your source is 44.1 kilohertz, doing so will make the file larger without getting anything in terms of quality.
The Channels pop-up menu enables you to choose how you want the music to play through speakers, Stereo or Mono. You can leave Channels set to Auto if you want the Encoder to keep the same channel settings as the file you are encoding. Check the box next to Variable Bit Rate Encoding. This option keeps the file size down and increases the audio quality. VBR varies the number of bits used to store the music as a song gets more or less complex. High Efficiency Encoding tailors the AAC Encode to provide a better sounding and smaller file when encoding at lower sample rates.
So we probably won't choose it if we're encoding music. The Optimize for voice option is meant for podcasters and filters the audio to favor the human voice, which is obviously not something you want for music. To make things really simple, it's best to select the highest bit rate in the Stereo Bit Rate pop-up menu and leave the other two pop-up menus set to Auto.
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