Three important processing tools which mastering engineers use are compression, EQ, and stereo imaging. In this article, we’re going to talk about how each individually shape your music’s sound and can be used in moderation to significantly improve the overall quality of your music when used and employed in the hands of a mastering engineer who knows their field.
Compression – Compression is a powerful tool which compresses the highs and lows of your mix in terms of volume, so the quietest and loudest points, to achieve a more powerful overall final mix. Dynamic range refers to the difference between the loudest and quietest moments of a single song. You want a good bit of dynamic range to keep your listener’s ears refreshed, but you don’t want to go overboard to a fault where they have to adjust their volume to make out the quiet bits and turn it down for the louder parts. When used properly, compression provides a healthy meeting point between the two, taking a bit off of each extreme in order to boost the overall presence of the track. A bit of compression can go a long way in bringing a much more professional quality to your music, but abuse compression and use too much of it and you’ll get that oh too familiar sausage shape from your audio image where everything in the song is basically at the same level with itself, causing your listener’s ears to become exhausted.
Stereo Width – Stereo imaging or stereo width is a good way to make a one dimensional and flat sounding image sound more encompassing. If your mix sounds too flat when you listen back in the speakers, you might think about pushing its reach further left and right in the image. Stereo imaging is a quick fix for making your mix sound like it’s all around you if you think it sounds too think in the headphones or speakers.
Equalization – Equalization has a lot of practically applications when creating music as well as in the mastering stage. From an aesthetic point of view, equalization can be used to isolate different frequencies of a track. It’s used a lot on vocal tracks, especially, to achieve an effect as if they vocals were coming through a tin car or a phone receiver. On a mastering level, equalization is used in a similar way, but more to emphasize or de-emphasize the effect of different frequencies in your mix. Doing this yields dramatically different results. If you want to bring up the highest ends of your mix’s frequencies, you’ll achieve a cleaner, glossier sound. Bringing up the mids and warming those ranges gives your mix a nice minimal wooden improvement. It’s imperative that you use this tool wisely, however, because of how markedly different the results can be with the softest touch.
A good mastering engineer knows precisely how to use these tools to get the most out of a rendered mix. If you want to hear the dramatic effects which the artful application of these tools can have over your mix, submit your song for a free test master and discover our difference today without spending a dime.