Master of One

Mastering is the final stage of your audio production cycle, but just how important is it – and can you really do it in your DAW?

Bring it all Back Home

There are a lot of nuances to mastering, and a lot of different opinions as to what is truly essential. Although the ideal scenario is to have a fully acoustically-treated space with high-end mastering monitors, in the end, if it sounds good, then it is good (especially if it sounds good no matter what speakers you play it through).

You can master an album in Ableton Live if you so choose; and if you’ve got good ears and plenty of experience, there’s no reason why you couldn’t produce an excellent end result this way. However, it is easier to use a dedicated piece of mastering software for this particular job; once you have your final tracks, getting the overall flow of an album right works much more easily, and you’ll be able to balance levels and frequency ranges between tracks more effectively.

In My Element

Personally, I find that Wavelab Elements has enough features and functionality for my requirements – and is considerably cheaper than the full version. It’s limited to two tracks side by side, but this is enough to align your crossfades between tracks, and most of the frequency monitoring functionality of the main version is still there (and you can use third-party plugins as you like). Wavelab is now a Mac-only prospect, but if you’re on Windows you might like to try Samplitude or Sadie.

Apart from mastering the audio, there are also a host of considerations around what your export format should be and how to include metadata (if you’re sending your work out for replication, for example). This article over at Pro Audio Files provides some useful tips on how to navigate the potential pitfalls of your mastering project


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