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The history of audio mastering

From: Audio Mastering Techniques

Video: The history of audio mastering

Until 1948, there was no distinction between different types of audio engineers, since everything was recorded directly onto 10-inch vinyl records that played at 78 RPM. In 1948, however, the age of the mastering engineer began when Ampex introduced its first commercial Magnetic Tape Recorder. With most recording now using magnetic tape, a transfer had to be made to a vinyl master for delivery to the pressing plant to make records. Hence the first incarnation of the mastering engineer was born, although he was called a transfer engineer at the time.

The history of audio mastering

Until 1948, there was no distinction between different types of audio engineers, since everything was recorded directly onto 10-inch vinyl records that played at 78 RPM. In 1948, however, the age of the mastering engineer began when Ampex introduced its first commercial Magnetic Tape Recorder. With most recording now using magnetic tape, a transfer had to be made to a vinyl master for delivery to the pressing plant to make records. Hence the first incarnation of the mastering engineer was born, although he was called a transfer engineer at the time.

There was a high degree of difficulty in this transfer process, because the level applied to the master vinyl lacquer when cutting the grooves was so crucial. Too low a level, and you get a noisy disc, hit it too hard, and you destroy the disc and maybe the expensive cutting stylus of the lathe too. In 1955, Ampex released SELECTIVE SYNCHRONOUS RECORDING or SEL-SYNC, which now gave the multi-track recorder the ability to overdub and changed the recording industry forever. At this point, there became a real distinction between the recording and mastering engineer, since the jobs now differed so greatly.

1n 1957, the stereo vinyl record became commercially available and really pushed the industry to what many say was the best sounding audio ever. Mastering engineers were now known as cutters found ways to make the disc louder, and as a result less noisy by applying equalization and compression. Producers and artists began to take notice that certain records would actually sound louder on the radio, and if it played louder, then the listeners usually thought it sounded better, and maybe the disc sold better as a result. Hence, a new breed of mastering engineer was born.

This one with some creative control and ability to influence the final sound of a record, rather than just being a transfer jock from medium to medium. An interesting distinction between American and British mastering engineers developed, though. In the US, mastering was and still it considered the final step in the creation of an album, while in the UK they look at it as the first step in manufacturing. As a result, American mastering engineers tend to have much more creative leeway and what they are allowed to do to the audio than British engineers.

With the introduction of the CD in 1982, the cutting engineer was now finally known as a mastering engineer was forced into the digital age using a modified video tape recorder called the Sony 1630 to deliver a digital CD master to the replicator, but still utilizing many of the analog tools from the vinyl past from EQ and compression. The 1989 introduction of the Sonic Solutions Digital Audio Workstation with pre-mastering software provided a CD master instead of a bulky 1630.

Now mastering began to evolve into the digital state as we know it today. In the first half of 1995, MP3s began to spread on the Internet and their small file size set about revolution in the music industry that continues to this day. This meant that the mastering engineer had to become well versed in how to get the most from this format, something that took many mastering engineers years to get the hang of. In 1999 5.1 surround sound and high-resolution audio took the mastering engineer into a new uncharted but highly creative territory. And by 2002 most all mastering engineers were well acquainted with the computer, since virtually every single project was edited and manipulated in a digital audio workstation.

Today's mastering engineer doesn't practice the black art of disc cutting much, but he is no less the wizard, as he continues to shape and mold a project like never before.

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This video is part of

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Audio Mastering Techniques

56 video lessons · 11206 viewers

Bobby Owsinski
Author

 
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  1. 1m 39s
    1. Welcome
      1m 39s
  2. 7m 7s
    1. Introducing mastering
      1m 22s
    2. The history of audio mastering
      3m 30s
    3. Mastering professionally versus doing it yourself
      2m 15s
  3. 10m 10s
    1. Mixing with mastering in mind
      6m 41s
    2. Mastering session documentation
      53s
    3. Printing alternative mixes
      2m 36s
  4. 6m 21s
    1. Evaluating your listening environment
      1m 33s
    2. Beginning with the basic listening technique
      3m 19s
    3. Deciding between monitors and headphones
      1m 29s
  5. 18m 13s
    1. Overview of mastering tools
      22s
    2. Exploring the dynamic ranges of different music genres
      2m 40s
    3. Understanding compression
      3m 20s
    4. Understanding limiting
      1m 25s
    5. Understanding equalization (EQ)
      1m 44s
    6. Using a de-esser
      1m 14s
    7. Metering while mastering
      3m 57s
    8. Exploring the mastering signal path
      1m 11s
    9. Listening in your digital audio workstation (DAW) using the A/B method
      2m 20s
  6. 33m 10s
    1. Making a loud master
      3m 7s
    2. Compression tips and tricks
      2m 4s
    3. Achieving competitive level
      2m 2s
    4. Understanding the pitfalls of hypercompression
      2m 10s
    5. Balancing frequencies
      3m 20s
    6. Reducing sibilance with a de-esser
      2m 2s
    7. Inserting fades
      1m 37s
    8. Eliminating noise and distortion
      43s
    9. Using multiband limiting
      4m 23s
    10. Adjusting the stereo image
      3m 24s
    11. Bringing out specific elements in a mix
      8m 18s
  7. 8m 17s
    1. Using dither
      1m 40s
    2. Using the appropriate workstation
      1m 27s
    3. Adjusting the spreads
      1m 28s
    4. Using International Standard Recording Codes (ISRC)
      1m 14s
    5. Using Universal Product Codes (UPC)
      1m 10s
    6. Creating CD-text discs
      33s
    7. Delivering or receiving a DDP master
      45s
  8. 12m 44s
    1. Encoding using the MP3 format
      3m 43s
    2. Understanding MP3 metadata
      1m 44s
    3. Creating a great-sounding MP3
      2m 46s
    4. Generating a FLAC file
      1m 18s
    5. Submitting music to online stores and services
      48s
    6. Submitting music to online song databases
      2m 25s
  9. 17m 23s
    1. Understanding AAC, the iTunes file format
      2m 28s
    2. Mastering for iTunes tips and tricks
      1m 36s
    3. The Mastered for iTunes format
      1m 29s
    4. The Mastered for iTunes tool package
      54s
    5. Using the iTunes Plus tools: iTunes Droplet
      1m 51s
    6. Using the Mastered for iTunes Audio To WAVE Droplet
      49s
    7. Using the Mastered for iTunes AURoundTripAAC Audio Unit tool
      6m 48s
    8. Using The Mastered for iTunes tools Test Pressing Feature
      1m 28s
  10. 3m 30s
    1. Mastering for high resolution
      1m 36s
    2. Mastering for television
      1m 54s
  11. 1m 19s
    1. Delivering the master to the replicator
      28s
    2. Archiving the project
      51s
  12. 50s
    1. Next steps
      50s

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