Mastering is the process of taking what are considered to be completed mixes, and putting them into the final format to be delivered to the audience/listener/consumer. This involves setting the final listening/dynamic level for each track , making any sonic changes necessary, including repairing technical problems in the mix or adding sonic enhancements or “excitement” if the client and/or mastering engineer deem it necessary, deciding the space between tracks and the fades in/out of each track, applying any dithering when reducing resolution from the mixed resolution to the desired format(s), adding any CD-TEXT, ISRC information, or metadata to mp3/m4a that the client requests, and finally outputting and delivering the master in the client’s requested format, usually either DDP 2.0 (for delivering online) or Red Book-compliant PMCD physical disc (for sending in the mail).
I strongly recommend anyone investing the time and expense in having me record and mix a full length album project to bring the done mixes to someone who’s primary area of expertise is mastering. It’s always helpful on a big, longer-term project to have another experienced set of ears involved in the process, giving us another experienced perspective in the sound and shape of the album. The main reasons to use a different mastering engineer than mixer is that good mastering engineers have an extremely well-tuned listening environment dedicated specifically to working on completed mixes and identifying problems or areas of possible improvement, will bring an outsider’s perspective on a mix, as well as years of experience they have working with many music and recording styles, and have a highly specialized selection of gear, signal path, converters, metering and tools to sweeten, correct, saturate, or stay out of the way of your work, depending on what you want or what the project demands.
At Tonal Park I’m extremely fortunate to be surrounded by world-class mastering talent, so my first suggestion on mastering will always be one of the following:
Randy LeRoy and Charlie Pilzer (Tonal Park staff page is: here)
I’m always happy to do facilitate the interaction with the mastering engineer, including listening to references, suggesting revisions, and signing off on the master, as much as you would like to have my involvement. We also have several preferred engineers to suggest for making vinyl masters if that’s something you’re considering for your project.