Mastering engineers are responsible for transferring recordings from one format to another. Historically, recordings have been made on half-inch or quarter-inch tape and released on eight-track cartridges, compact discs, and vinyl records. In this article, we will discuss the job description of a mastering engineer and the different tools used in the field.
A mastering engineer is responsible for the start and end points of individual tracks on an album. This is important because the gap between tracks affects the flow of the album. They are also responsible for the fidelity of the audio, which is crucial for a great listening experience. A mastering engineer must have a keen ear for detail.
Upon completion of an education in audio, you can work as an assistant or associate mastering engineer in a recording studio. You will be able to work with a variety of musical genres and gain experience in different styles and techniques.
Tools used by mastering engineers
One of the most common tools used by mastering engineers is an EQ tool. This tool is crucial to the sound of movies and broadcast audio. It lets you adjust the loudness of each track and the mix to make the overall sound louder and more natural. Its main advantage is that it doesn’t cause distortion and doesn’t add unrealistic or heavy changes to the sound. It’s essential to mastering engineers and must be incorporated into their workflow.
The tools used by a mastering engineer are not limited to equalizers, but they are still vital. For example, a compressor can make the peak frequencies in a track quieter, while an automated volume fader turns down peaks in a track and makes it easier to turn up in the mix.
Audio engineers who specialize in mastering audio use specialized equipment, dedicated acoustically-optimized playback environments, and audio-signal processors. These tools are nearly dedicated to the task, and often feature low signal-to-noise ratios, parameter-recall capabilities, and digital controllers. Many plug-ins are also available, and some advocates say they are capable of processing audio in the mastering context without signal degradation.
While mixing engineers are responsible for making the mix sound as good as possible, mastering engineers have an entirely different job. They need to ensure that a mix sounds great in multiple rooms and on various systems. This means that mastering engineers must be adept at making music sound its best across different systems.
Using reference tracks can be very helpful during the mastering engineering process. It will help you compare your master to other music to make sure you’re hitting the mark. You can find reference tracks at record stores or streaming sites. As a general rule, you should stick to genres that are similar to yours.
You’ll need to pay close attention to many aspects of the reference track, such as volume, stereo-image, and low-end and bass frequencies. This way, you’ll be able to mix better. For example, when mixing a track, you can use a low pass filter to isolate the low end.
It’s important to note that a reference track will be louder than the track you’re mixing. However, you should equalize the reference to the volume of your project. Importing a reference track into your session will allow you to control the reference track’s volume.
Before mastering a track, the engineer must prepare the necessary documentation. These documents describe the information that should be placed on the audio file. For example, ID3 tags should be added to MP3s of mastered songs. These tags include information about the writer, copyright, and ISRCs. The mastering engineer will also need to prepare DDPs, or detailed manufacturing procedures, which outline how the CD should be setup.
While there are no formal qualifications for mastering engineers, it’s always a good idea to have a great deal of experience and knowledge of audio technology. In addition, working with experienced mastering engineers can help you refine your ear and enhance your sensibilities.