Updated: Nov 10, 2022
Wondering about the difference between mixing and mastering? Look no further, as this article will explain everything you need to know about these two important stages in music production. Though they may seem similar at first, there are a few crucial differences that you should be aware of in order to get the best results possible. By understanding what distinguishes mixing from mastering, you can make more informed decisions during the mixing process and end up with an even better master track. So let's dive right in!
In a DAW session, mixing is the act of combining and blending all of the recorded tracks. When you record multiple tracks, they accumulate on your master bus. If you don't have control over each track's frequency balance and dynamic range, your sounds will overlap; you won't be able to hear them individually.
To ensure that sounds don't interfere with one another, mix engineers use things like compression, EQ, and reverb. They also place a lot of attention on the track's level and pan position to produce a sense of balance and space in the song.
What is mastering?
The mastering process is the last step in creating a song. It's where your finished mix gets its professional touch before you release it.
Consider it the glue, varnish, and polish that ensures optimal quality playback on all platforms. Mastering engineers use the stereo bounce to prepare your mix for distribution across any device or platform.
Mastering a track usually involves tools such as EQ, compression, limiting, and stereo enhancement.
Here are some examples of the sound difference between a mastered and unmastered track.
What is the same between mixing and mastering?
At a basic level, mixing and mastering are similar processes.
The approaches and instruments employed in both are comparable. Many of the processes used in mixing are similar to those employed during mastering.
Engineers use technology to blend and polish songs so that they may become good recordings.
The differences may appear minor, but they are crucial in determining the function of each phase in a song's lifecycle.
What are the differences between mixing and mastering?
Let's move on to what distinguishes mixing from mastering since there are a lot of similarities.
Although it may be tempting to mix and master at the same time, here are five reasons why you should consider them completely separate processes:
1. A stereo mix is the result of a mastering process.
When preparing a song, you have direct access to all of the recorded tracks.
That means you have the power to change their volume, stereo positioning, or even take them out of the mix completely.
The process of mastering can only be done to a finalized stereo mix.
This implies that the mastering engineer has no say in the mix's contents. They can only impact the entire stereo track.
That is one of the primary reasons why mastering processors are capable of making significantly more transparent changes to the sound.
2. Mastering usually results in small changes.
During the mixing process, it's not unusual to make significant modifications to a track in order for it to work with your other components.
When mixing a kick and bass, you may sometimes need to high pass most of the low end to make room.
You may also use extreme compression to achieve a beautiful squashing sound.
The audio mastering process is the complete opposite of mixing. Where mixers use compression and EQ to make broad, sweeping changes, mastering engineers focus on smaller details.
The key to mastering is not to do any damage. You don't want to change the song's frequency balance or dynamics because those changes will be noticeable.
If you don't notice a drastic change in your track's tone after mastering it, that means you did a great job mixing it!
3. Specialized tools are required for Mastering
Тhе аudiо рlugins and hardware рrосessоrs used in mastering are similar to the ones used in mixing, but they have some key differences.
EQs and compressors are meant to be used with extreme high performance and transparency in mind. Consider this: if you're using an EQ on every sound in your mix, it should do the job as well as possible!
Some of the most costly gear you can come across is hardware designed for mastering. In certain instances, a single stereo channel could set you back more than $10,000!
Not to mention, if you want high-quality sound, you'll need to factor in acoustic treatments and studio monitors.
If you ask any seasoned engineer, they'll tell you that the space where you record and mix is just as, if not more important than the equipment itself.
This is even more important when it comes to mastering. Mastering studios invest a significant amount of money in order to provide the best listening experience feasible.
4. The goal of mastering is to ensure that everything is consistent and appealing.
When you master a song, the goal is to make it sound consistent no matter where it's played and to ensure that it sits well alongside other tracks in a commercial library.
Listeners now listen to music in more varied listening situations than they have in the past.
Your song has to sound as great as it does in your home studio no matter where your fans hear it. That implies it needs to be suitably optimized for playback on a variety of devices, from a pair of earbuds to a massive club sound system.
Achieving a balance is difficult, but mastering the art of goes a long way.
Creating a compelling balance of frequencies is one of the most crucial elements in learning. No matter what playback device you're listening on, nothing should stick out; it must all blend together.
It takes a keen ear and considerable experience to get it just right.
5. Technical specifications are delivered by Mastering.
The audio quality of the music you listen to on Spotify or Apple Music is held to high standards.
There are two vital metrics for sound-reproduction equipment: loudness and dynamic range.
It's easy to think that loudness is straightforward— it's simply a matter of how loud something is, right? Unfortunately, when you're dealing with audio waves, this isn't the case.
Our experience of loudness is shaped by our perception and cognition just as much as the intensity of sound waves.
For instance, sounds can appear louder or quieter depending on their frequency.
That's why the audio sector has created a few measurement standards to guarantee that mastering engineers are all working towards the same goal.
These standards are difficult to comprehend and require specialized plugins to measure correctly. Engineers use them to balance dynamic range, headroom, and perceived loudness.
Keeping all of this in mind while still appreciating the song musically is a major task! That's why hiring a professional mastering engineer may be so beneficial.
Mikes Mix and Master can take the pressure off your hands by professionally mixing and mastering your music to industry quality at an affordable price.
You've been schooled
Knowing the difference between mixing and mastering is crucial to comprehending how a song progresses from concept to finished product.