Perfection Mastering offers an extensive list of mastering and mixing services. Sometimes clients have questions about our workflow and mastering process. In light of this we have detailed descriptions of the services we offer below. Keep in mind that there is no need to understand these concepts if they are foreign to you, as we will analyze your mix and process it according to what is needed to achieve the best master possible.
Although any superfluous noises should have been removed during the recording stages, occasional clicks, pops, hiss or hum can slip through, thus it is important to listen to the mix thoroughly and carefully on both monitors and headphones to see if there is any noise present. This is another instance where a mastering engineer will have an immediate advantage, as we will use subwoofers and loudspeakers with an infrasonic response to detect and eliminate any unwanted noise or distortion from a mix.
Mid Side EQ/Harmonic Balancing
Mid-side equalization and harmonic balancing consists of correcting any severely unruly frequencies that may have slipped passed the mix engineers ears, due to either less than ideal room acoustics or a poor monitoring environment, and then applying overall EQ adjustments to the mix in order to achieve an overall tonal balance that is sympathetic to the style and genre of the music being mastered.Mid-side processing may be carried out during production of a mix, though it is also an essential to the mastering process. Such processing can be employed to correct any frequency spikes whilst also used to widen the stereo field, give the drums and bass more presence or reduce any problems with effects such as reverb washing the sound. This process is then followed by a much broader application of EQ to create tonal balance. Each genre of dance music will employ a different overall tonal balance that presents the music in the best way to the listener. For example, music that has a high emphasis on the lead instruments will often tend to feature a less cuts in the mid-range whereas genres such as techno, tech house or dubstep will commonly exhibit a larger dip through the mid-range frequencies.
During the mastering process most experienced engineers will apply dynamic manipulation to the mix to add punch and clarity. This cannot be accomplished by simply strapping a standard compressor across the entire mix, however, since the loudest parts of the track will drive the compressor and this can result in the entire mix pumping excessively. While it could be argued that electronic dance music does often pump, this should be employed during the mixing stage through side chaining. During the mastering stage, more precise dynamics processing is achieved via multi-band compression and mid/side compression. By applying multi-band compression it is possible to alter the dynamics at different frequency bands and stereo positions that can result in a clearer sounding mix.
Harmonic excitement will brighten the upper mid and lows of the mix. This is purely personal preference and some engineers view any harmonic excitement with disdain believing that it creates a mix that appears artificial. Both arguments have valid points and it is up to the engineer on the project as to whether it should be applied or not. The reason for the application of psychoacoustic enhancement is due to the nature of modern recording techniques. Throughout the production stages clarity and detail of music is often compromised, particularly in the higher frequencies. This results in the various frequency content appearing lifeless. Correctly applying harmonic excitement will assure that these lifeless frequencies are restored, an effect which we believe results in a clearer, brighter and crisper sound overall.
During the mastering process an engineer will often widen the stereo image. This works on the principle that sounds that are shared in both left and right channels can appear to be in the middle of the mix rather than panned to either side, even if they are. However the overuse of stereo widening effects often have a detrimental effect on music so they must be applied carefully. As you widen the spectrum further, the phase adjustments can create a hole in the middle of the mix and as the bass, kick drum and vocals are usually located here it can result in a distinct lack of energy.
The purpose of maximization is to reduce the volume level of any peaks so that you can in turn increase the relative volume of the rest of the mix without fear of overloading the signal. Rather than employ a limiter it is more common to use a maximizer since these are designed to produce a more natural sound by rounding off peak signal rather than just cutting them short. This is the preferred approach to simply normalizing the file in a workstation since this can introduce unwanted artifacts. That said we suggest one never normalize their stems or final mixdown as tempting as it might be.
Equalization is principally a frequency-specific volume control that permits the producer to attenuate or increase the gain of a specific band of frequencies. This application can be in the context of an individual timbre or more often in the context of a complete mix to provide each instrument its own space to breathe and be heard. As basic as this premise is, however, EQ is an incredibly difficult processor to master and despite the relatively small amount of parameters offered the theory behind its application can be quite complex.
In order to create a successful mix, the instruments should be placed around a virtual soundstage in order for them all to be heard clearly. In order to do this, it can be useful for the producer to imagine they are working with a virtual soundstage, on which the producer will position various instruments. Sounds placed on this virtual stage can be positioned anywhere between the left or right using the panning parameter, they can be positioned at the front or back, or anywhere in between. The concept behind approaching a mix is to ensure that each sound occupies its own unique space within this room. In electronic dance music certain instruments such as kick, bass and leads will often take priority over others in the mix. Achieving a proper balance of instruments in a mix can be incredibly frustrating and has the ability to make or break a mix.
Side-chain compression is often used in electronic dance music production as a sound design tool to modify the dynamic envelope of individual timbres. This type of side-chain application has a number of practical uses during mixing by ducking instruments to allow others to sit over the top more easily. For example, in a typical electronic dance mix, a kick drum will often occupy the same frequencies as the bass. This results in a mix that can appear muddy making it difficult to distinguish the kick from the bass. Placing a compressor onto the bass track and using the kick as a side-chain signal can help avoid this. By carefully setting the compressors ratio, attack and release parameters appropriately, every time the kick drum hits the compressor will activate and lower the gain of the bass permitting the kick to be heard clearly.
Bass lines are some of the most important and memorable parts of dance music and is often considered a main element of a track. When working with ultra-low and near-subsonic frequency ranges, it can be incredibly difficult to achieve a proper balance. With electronic dance genres, the problem areas are often felt more than heard, and you will have to have quality monitors as well as a quality subwoofer with finely tuned crossovers to reliably incorporate sub-bass into your mixes. A qualified mastering engineer will employ state of the art monitoring and frequency analysis equipment in order to perfect the low end of a mix. Getting the bass to sit just right in a mix is vital to electronic dance music.
Transient design allows you to adjust the attack and sustain portions of an audio signal, regardless of the dynamic level. So, unlike compressors, expanders, and gates, which act on the level of the signal passing through them, transient designer settings affect the attack and sustain portions of the signal at any volume level. Unlike a compressor, expander, or gate, a transient designer allows precise control in shaping the dynamic characteristics of individual sounds which when used correctly can greatly enhance the perceived punch of an instrument.
Though it is most commonly used to enhance live drums, drum replacement can often have dramatic effects on electronic dance music as well. Altering the timbre of your drum kit is one of the most dramatic changes you can make during a mix. To this end, EQ and dynamics processing, i.e., gating, expansion, compression, transient-shaping, have always been standard procedure. However, troubled recordings often necessitate some first aid. By triggering drum samples to replace or augment recorded drum parts, engineers are able to restore punch and precision to a mix. When used properly, drum replacement can make a world of difference to a mix.