You’ve finally mixed all the tracks in all the songs, added all the effects and made all the edits, time to burn a CD right? Wrong! There’s an important step that many people forget when working on a project, mastering.
Mastering is the process of level and tone matching, arranging the CD is usually done too. So just like you mixed your tracks in a song now you need to mix your songs in the CD.
Dynamics play an important role in the mastering process. A song can song very out of place if it is noticeably louder or quieter than the rest of the material on the CD. Compressors are used to smooth out the dynamic differences within the source material. Now keep in mind that you do not want to destroy the dynamic range of the CD, just smooth it out, so do not use a very aggressive ratio like 4:1 or higher with a low threshold. Try using a 2:1 ratio with a mild threshold like –5dB. This will be just enough to smooth things out.
In Pro Audio 9 insert all the songs(which will be Wav files at this point) into one file using markers to denote where each song begins, then simply patch Audio FX 1 into the master out patch point. Once you have the compressor set you van use the markers to jump to different sections of the song to make sure that you have the right level of overall compression.
The second step in mastering in tone matching or what most people call Eqing. Just like you Eqed your tracks in your song you will do the same for the songs on the CD. Earlier I touched on a track being too loud or quiet compared to the rest of the CD, here’s where you fix too much or too little bass on one song compared to the rest of the CD. Again the goal is to make subtle changes to help give the entire CD a tonal feel, this is not the time or place to fix in the mix! Using the Parametric EQ included in Pro Audio 9 is a safe bet since you will be able to add shelving EQ to boost or cut large batches of frequencies like bass or treble, and if you have to you can use the Q setting to notch out an offending frequency.
Before you start Eqing your song try listening on different speakers and environments, just like when you mix your songs. What may sound right on your studio monitors may not translate to your car stereo, so keep that in mind when you are mastering since you want the give the majority of environments the best possible sound.
If you want to change a fade in or fade out open the wav file in the Audio View of Pro Audio 9 and use the Envelopes to add new fades. Audio FX 2 can add a nice analog warmth when you use the TapeSim, since it simulates the tape saturation/compression that occurs when recording to analog tape.
When you are happy with the final touches you have made you are ready to export the files out to you favorite CD burning software. If you are using a third party CD duplication facility, make sure you can give them the media and format that they want, some houses only except DATs others CDs with WAVs and still others accept both, and always remember that a CD is 44.1 KHz 16 Bit if you have the wrong format you may get charged to convert the files over.
Remember that there are no rules to mastering or to recording just guidelines. Once you feel comfortable with the guidelines don’t be afraid to experiment.