A topic about mastering in general.

Interested in people’s angles on this in any sense really.

Just to spill my current guts (from my perspective of musician/recorder/mixer):

My experiences have varied massively, and not particularly directly relating to cost/reputation. Had stuff from very experienced/respected people that has sounded terrible, other stuff from people who don’t specialize in it that has sounded great.

Stuff with actual mistakes in it from seasoned professionals.

Records (not mine) that have sounded great (to my ears) mastered by amateurs.

To me, the idea of using a mastering engineer is to place an idiot-check at the end of the chain in case I’ve messed-up. If the ME sends something back that is clearly, almost objectively bad (or has audible mistakes, such as clipping), my faith is lost and I find their purpose immediately redundant.

Equally, I have massive respect for people who DIY it, and theoretically I might be able to (ignoring hearing damage and monitoring limitations), but then the idiot check is gone.

What do you reckon about mastering?


a good mastering engineer is worth their weight in gold, and is why they charge so much per day. a lot of clowns out there but you’d expect that. i only really had one bad experience with a well known pro and that’s because they went for full ear bleed loudness. tbf, that is what most people want. i think i’ve come to realise that they expect there to be several rounds of notes, so small mistakes and stuff slip through because it’s a first pass and they expect to do more.

also, if something is mixed badly then there’s only so much they can do. mastering shouldn’t be the “fix the mistakes” stage, all that should be done in mixing, or tracking even. bothers me when people say they do nothing except make it louder. aside from the obvious limiting eq compression etc. they can also improve the phase relationship and the sense of space in a recording and use the stereo field more pleasingly, that’s mainly what i’m looking for.




Seem to recall Bob Weston will do it if you send him your stuff.

We had a good friend master our two vinyl releases for that specific purpose.

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Yep, I know somebody who did exactly that, but by crikey it aint cheap!

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Paging Dr @McGarnagle

I’ve only ever had good experiences with mastering engineers. Probably because I’ve generally only released on labels dedicated to ambient/drone stuff and so have had all my mastering done by people who make their own stuff in the same ballpark. Which is good as my attempts at doing it myself have all been dreadful. I’m convinced it’s basically voodoo.


Oh really? Last time I heard I thought it wasn’t that much. Might have been in the days when £ to $ wasn’t near 1:1 too.

Tbf, I’m looking at this from a DIY, zero budget perspective, so a grand plus (what Bob W costs for average album length) is expensive to me, but probably doable for loads of people.

Yeah deffo wasn’t in the 1000 quid area when I heard about it or else I completely misheard. Was like 200ish?

pretty sure witchcraft has summat to do with it


$150 for 5 minutes of music.

Possibly still very cheap compared to top-tier LA people; I don’t have a clue what that stuff costs, but I guess it’s 99% just billed to a major label anyway…

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weston is mainly (only?) analogue, no real point going to someone like that unless you’ve recorded to tape. analogue is expensive.

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Got a couple of friends who are mastering engineers. One is spectacular and well-respected worldwide, and I’ve seen him at work recently and he does such a caring job. That’s worth its weight in gold I think. The other is good when he wants to be but also tosses off jobs if he doesn’t care that much which is a real bummer.

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Michael Scott Wink GIF


I’ve done the vast majority of the Disintegration State releases and a few other paid commissions (including DiS faves Worriedaboutsatan and others) and largely people seem to have been pleased with the results, but there’s definitely something in the fact that - as per what @colossalhorse has said - everything I’ve done has been within loose genre boundaries. I reckon I’d do a terrible job with genres outside of my comfort zone TBH, not least because I would have less of a feel for what “good” should sound like, if that makes sense.

Also if something’s being mastered for vinyl, because that requires some different considerations, particularly around bass frequencies. At least that’s my understanding anyway.

I got the Bob Katz Mastering book for Christmas a few years back, and it definitely helped demystify some of the process and understand a bit more what techniques you need to use to get the results you’re after. Definitely worth a read if anyone’s interested in the process. I also think it’s helpful for understanding mixing techniques a bit better too.

And with regard to mixing, as has already been said here, mastering might be able to make a shit mix sound better, but it’s never going to make it great simply because you’re making adjustments to the whole thing at once rather than individual tracks so even subtle parallel processing can have big unintended impacts elsewhere on a track.

What that’s meant for me is that getting a feel for and being able to predict what else you’ll be impacting if you do something to process a particular frequency or section of a track has been really important. As has needing to really know your room and gear - monitors in particular - and to be able to trust your ears.

And honestly after spending what must be a few hundred hours doing it I still feel like I barely understand what on Earth I’m actually up to a lot of the time. Can totally see why the best can charge an absolute fortune.


Anyone browsing this thread wanting a quick & obvious example of professional mastering

Silver Threaded Crystal Beads that I mastered for the Plasticine Pyramids album

Silver Threaded Crystal Beads that that Matt Colton mastered for Intergraded

Exactly the same mix

This is why the pros get the paycheques


Incidentally, I was always a bit disappointed with the final mastered version of the Django Django ft Self Esteem remix I did - also mastered by Matt Colton - as it sounds pretty crap on the 12"

by coincidence I was going through some PRS stuff this morning and happened upon the digital version sounding pretty great

…and realised that the vinyl sounds crappy for 2 reasons

  1. I’m doing a lot of stereo stuff in the bass ranges for this remix which doesn’t translate well to the limitations of the physical format of vinyl
  2. It’s the last track on a 12" which has more than the optimal running time so the grooves overall don’t have the definition that they should and nearer the center they’re even worse

physics eh?

Ref ‘make it louder’.

Been reading loads about this stuff recently after an aborted mastering (no names), and it seems my experience isn’t unusual; send mixes off, receive master that is SLAMMED and over bright, point this out and get reply ‘thats what most people want, but I agree’!

I’m (obviously) not a ME, but it seems a strange situation if default setting is SLAM. Must be hugely disheartening for them.

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People perceive louder as sounding better and with so many people listening to streaming on headphones probably already on full volume…if your track comes on and it’s “quieter” then it’s perceived as worse

I’m not saying I agree this is the correct thing to do but here we are. On a home hifi a well mastered track with great dynamics sounds mile’s better and can simply be turned up if it’s quieter …it’s not how the majority listen these days


Thoughts and prayers for those using their headphones at full volume every day. Those hair cells don’t grow back