What You Need To Know About Computer Audio Mastering

Ways To Achieve Classy And Sophisticated Results


Most home recordists have hopes of perfecting their productions in the way of conducting mastering using their own studio computer. Yet only some achieve classy results that they are after. You may be wondering what you can achieve realistically by doing this on your own, along with what methods to use to obtain high-quality results.




Audio Mastering In Your Computer

Mastering is an essential portion involved in recording processes, to such a great extent that a high level of mythology happens to be linked to it. You have probably heard about the stories of the high-priced master engineers that use proprietary and mystical gear that is based on the old vacuum-tubes which were salvaged from an ancient Russian submarine, or something else along those lines. Yet you might have also heard about the computer home studio owners that use a dual track editor along with a couple of plug-ins that have learnt to master their own materials. What gives?

Are You Able To Do Mastering On Your Own At Home?

Before the age of the current Digital Revolution, audio mastering was associated with a defined and specific function set. You would give your completed mixes on a tape to a skilled mastering engineer. This professional would then bounce the mixes onto another tape using different types of signal processes which worked on sweetening the audio playback. The songs were then arranged into a desired order, while acetate style test-pressings were used to analyze a final product before mass production of the albums. Mastering at this stage was regarded rightly as a mystifying and arcane art. Not many musicians had available access to expensive and high-end tools required to conduct mastering. They also lacked the experience of a person that listens to countless recordings and had the skills to turn them into something for the real world.

However, today tools required for high-quality digital mastering are now within technical and financial reach for anyone that is serious about learning about mastering. Yet 95% of mastering has nothing to do with tools but rather it is about the ears. Unless you’re one of those people who have a trained ear like the mastering engineers, you cannot expect any type of ‘plug-in’ or software to offer this skill for you. The main objective for using mastering engineers has to do with an ear set that is objective to conduct any changes that are needed before the release.

This Buss in the Steinberg Cubase SX has a dedication to high-quality mastering effects. This is displayed in routing views of these inserts, an EQ1 equalizer plug-in will go before a L1 Limiter, just after a fader (displayed in white), and then comes a Double Delay with a UV22HR dithering software plug-in. These processes will ensure level-control will not cut the reverb-tail off or cause interference in the dithering.


Does all of this mean that only the experts should attempt to conduct mastering? No. To begin with, not every mastering situation will require that professional touch. Perhaps you have your own live recording that you plan to sell at a gig or give to your friends. You can choose to just duplicate the mix, yet a mastered %u201Cveneer%u201D will offer your listeners with a much better experience.

Or maybe you have recorded a number of tunes and you would like to conduct a test on how they will come together in the form of an album. You can choose to master these yourself. Once you have decided on the order and any other details, you can then take individual mixes or a mix to a professional mastering engineer. You can then talk to the mastering engineer about what you need in terms that are more educated. This is because you have started to familiarize yourself with these processes, and you would have listened to the mixes from the viewpoint of mastering.

As with anything else in life, you can only start to master a skill with practice. For many years, I would only use a professional mastering engineer, and I never entertained the thought trying to do mastering on my own. Yet I have since learnt much just from observing these professionals. I then started with mastering my materials. Today people are hiring my services in order to master their own records as they enjoy the results I have achieved. If you have doubts about your skills, rather hire a professional that will represent your work in a professional manner.

Most of the mastering is performed with the use of specialized Digital-Audio editing programs like Sound Forge, Sonic Foundry, Bias Peak, Steinberg, Adobe Audition, and more. These provide exceptional navigation facilities, abilities to zoom-in on the waveforms, pencil tools used for drawing out the clicks, and the plug-ins for the mastering tasks, and abilities for hosting third-party plug-ins.

If your requirements are not too demanding, today there are numerous ways for mastering with the use of multi-track, conventional recording programs. Interestingly, some are able to perform tricks that the conventional types of digital-audio editors are unable to.

Getting Started In Digital Recording

If you’re a language teacher, then the abilities to both make and edit various audio recordings will prove to be fundamental skills that you need.

Recently, doing audio recording has gotten more standardized than it used to be, but it’s simultaneously a little more restricted, so it’s relatively agnostic in terms of platforms.

This content is going to cover a number of the basics you will need to know when getting started.

difital mastering on a PC or laptop

There are plenty of tutorials you can find online, but if you’re looking for a specific recommendation, then the Audacity manual at http://manual.audacityteam.org/o/ is a good place to start.

At our language center, we utilize a broad variety of devices, from a Zoom we use to do test prompt recordings, to a small Sony used for placement testing, and even a Peak 7 on our Mac Pro for doing test constructions. My personal favorites in terms of classroom materials include an Olympus LS-10, and I do editing using Audacity. Smartphones do work out pretty well, and basic recording is possible with some feature phones, although the quality isn’t great.

Olympus LS-10On top of making recordings of other people or just yourself, it can be handy to have some audio clips from online or local media. That used to be pretty simple, in Windows XP at least, but now it’s, unfortunately, harder to record any audio that your computer is playing into another application that’s running on that same computer. It’s not physically impossible, but Apple and Microsoft have both pretty much wiped out nearly every way in which we used to do this.

On the other hand, while you’re not going to get totally perfect digital copies of audio, you can still get recordings that are adequate enough. The trick is having access to a secondary device for the recording and then having a connector that builds a link between the audio source output to the input of the recording device. Adjusting the source output so it doesn’t wind up overwhelming the recording device’s input can be rather tricky, and actually, it can be downright difficult to occasionally impossible, especially if the recorder’s input level is too high and you can’t adjust it. It can also help out a lot if you’re able to somehow monitor the source, either via some recording device output or just directly.

As I mentioned earlier, I like to use an Olympus LS-10. It’s useful for recording things off of both my iPad and my laptop. The LS-10 offers a level meter on its display, and on top of the volume level control, there’s also an input level control, which means I can keep track of the source through my earphone jack, even if I’ve paused recording. Just make sure that you shut down all the other applications on your source that might make some noise, such as email alerts or instant messenger notifications.

Recording Settings

A lot of devices have settings, if you take the time to look for them. Using them frequently helps if you want to adjust them to your own needs. Be mindful of the fact that most recording software applications have defaults that are intended for music, so their sampling rate might go as high as 44,000 times per second. On the other hand, if you just want to record voice sounds, then your sampling rate only needs to be in the range of 12,000 to 20,000 times per second. You can adjust various settings, such as the compression ratio, in order to fit your needs in terms of file storage. Simply put, as you go about compressing your encoding, the files you save are going to be smaller, but you’ll get worse sound quality. Be sure that you’re using settings which fit your needs. In short, try to use a recording to see if the quality is sufficient.

Having said that, one of the most crucial things in terms of making the recording that you’re going to share with others is being sure you don’t make a file too big. If you just use the default settings Music mixerof the majority of software applications, then you’re going to end up with a file that could be multiple megabytes, even if the content is just a minute or two in length. On top of the sampling rate, be sure that you the settings are aligned for mono if you don’t want to record in stereo. Also, aim for as low a bitrate as you possibly can. For instance, when I record on my laptop, I don’t have the microphone jack that can do stereo, so I have little choice but to do mono recordings. For voice files, I put the sampling rate at 11025. When I save the file in a .mp3 format using Audacity, I do have options in terms of making it a variable or constant bit rate. Typically, I go for the constant bit rate, often dropped it to 32kbs or even less. Consider that most CDs with quality sound only have 128kbs. Given those settings, a few minutes of recorded sound winds up under a megabyte, typically just a few hundred kilobytes even. However, you must test these sounds to be sure that the quality is right and the size is okay.

Regardless of what operating system you have running, you need to be sure that the microphone you’re intending to use is, in reality, the one the recording software connects to. There is frequently an integrated microphone that comes with the laptop’s built-in webcam, and that’s typically the default microphone. If you’d like to use a USB headset or mic that is actually studio-level quality, then you need to be sure that microphone gets clicked on as the input, and then you can adjust the input level so that you’re getting a reasonable level. Not that your microphone input level isn’t the same as the speaker volume for that device. Such settings usually prove a bit unfamiliar to many users, so it might be necessary to hunt around the preferences and control panel in order to locate them.

Editing Notes

Depending on which audio recorder you choose to use, as well as the connecting cables and computer used for both exporting and editing, you might just have yourself a stereo file. In a case like this, then you should look at your file in Audacity. Here, you’re going to see a pair of tracks. Stereo is wonderful for music, and it works well for high-quality video voice-over. However, for most intents and purposes, you’re only going to need a single channel. In Audacity, you’ll rid yourself of one channel when you select Split to Mono somewhere in the waveform interface.

Just a hint: you should choose the louder of the two available.

Other software is able to accomplish this in many other ways, but after you split your tracks, you can just go in and delete whichever one you want. That can cut down your file size quite a bit without really reducing your quality at all.

Well give that a go and feel free to leave a comment. Let us know what you think of the Olympus and Audacity.