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Mastering at home - still an oxymoron?

A Record-Producer.com visitor shares his views on mastering in the home recording studio. Controversy stirs?

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Dear David,

RE: Mastering at home - an oxymoron.

I am a BSc music and sound technology graduate who specialised in mastering and the education of the process to music technology students. I recently read the above article and felt that you did not give any justification for the statements made. Telling your readers that mastering should not be attempted at home because the results wont be any good is a little off putting for many budding engineers out there.

However I do understand your reasoning. It has been said that mastering your own music (or indeed mixing it) can not be achieved effectively because you are to involved in the track to take a step back and listen to it like Joe Public will. I also agree that professional mastering engineers have a wealth of experience, top of the range equipment, and do nothing else but master CD's. However, I do not see this as cause to discourage anyone for trying.

A few quotes here that I used in my final project sum up my point well:

"The most important advantage to mastering as home is educational."
Gibson, B. (2003) Sound Advice on Mastering. ProAudio Press, Vallejo, p.10.

"Experience has to start somewhere"
Ivories. (2004) Mastering Audio: can it be taught?. Sound on Sound Forum: Music Recording Technology, 10 December 2004 [Internet discussion list].
Available from: http://www.soundonsound.com/forum/showflat.php?session=58a0dadb8539d59e316b6543796ab5f0&Cat=&Number=60123&page=10&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=&fpart=1#60123 [Accessed 20 December 2004]

"If it sounds good, and translates well across any playback system, then it is mastered well"
Nimhbus. (2004) Mastering Audio: can it be taught?. Sound on Sound Forum: Music Recording Technology, 11 December 2004 [Internet discussion list].
Available from: http://www.soundonsound.com/forum/showflat.php?session=58a0dadb8539d59e316b6543796ab5f0&Cat=&Number=60123&page=10&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=&fpart=1#60123 [Accessed 20 December 2004]

"Good-quality mastering requires a dedicated room with refined acoustics and accurate reproduction. But with good audio equipment and a talented engineer, a typical project studio can produce a good-sounding master"
Katz, B. (2002) Mastering Audio: the art and the science. Focal Press, London, p.263.

The question 'can mastering be done at home' is a debate that will continue on. I for one feel that mastering at home can be achieved well, as long as the engineer understands the limitations that may be involved; commonly, poor monitoring equipment in an acoustically un-sound room. As long as the engineer is aware of the principles and pitfalls of mastering, then why not begin gaining experience on the process at home.

Regards,

Mike Thrussell.

Further comments are welcome

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By David Mellor Monday August 22, 2005
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