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Mathew Vaughan

Mathew Vaughan

September 1, 2022

What is Mastering?

Processes involved in music production, mixing and mastering are essential to the world of music. Although, the most misunderstood service that I provide is with mastering. This blog post aims to show you why quality masters are a key part of your music’s success.

What is Mastering? Why should I care?

Mastering is the final step in the production process for published sound work. This includes music, audiobooks and podcasts. The process involves signal processing using frequency and dynamics modification to optimise an audio file for distribution. This is to say that mastering will turn your song into a releasable record and also can act as a quality control process to ensure the loudness and tonal balance of your music is in-line with industry standards.

Woman mastering music.
Woman Listening on Headphones by Burst – Pexels

Stereo vs stem mastering.

When releasing music, stereo mastering is the most common technique. Although effective, this method is limited. For example, you can’t lower the loudness of vocals independently of other elements within the track. This is where using stems becomes useful.

The stem format offers more control to the engineer. This is because the stem format involves individual components of your track. This may include individual tracks for drums, vocals, bass and synthesisers. The mastering engineer can then control these files independently as well as together. As a result of this, stem mastered songs sound better than a regular stereo master.

Why is mastering important?

The reason why mastering is important is simple. You are enhancing the already edited and mixed music — or podcast — so that it translates to various file formats without clipping as well as sound systems. This means that no matter what sound system you listen to your audio file, it sounds as good as the artist intended it to sound.

In addition, modern methods make sure that your music will sound its best across all streaming platforms such as Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer and Amazon Music. Mastering also enables music to be translated to other formats such as vinyl, tape and compact-disc.

Apple Digital Masters Logo
Apple Digital Master logo – Apple

What is an Apple Digital Master?

Apple Digital Masters is the format used by Apple Music to release music with the highest possible quality audio. This means that users of Apple Music can listen to a file format which is not audibly different from the original 24-bit wave file studio master. Recently, Apple Music now offers lossless versions of these masters thanks to the Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC).

With the above said, Apple has certified myself so that I am able to author Apple Digital Masters to clients. Get in touch today to find out more.

DIY vs a mastering engineer?

With music technology becoming extremely affordable and accessible, anyone can master music. Whilst there are mastering tutorials, and even artificial intelligence readily available, nothing beats the ears of an experienced professional engineer. Similarly, whilst mass-produced chocolate can taste good, nothing beats an independent artisan chocolatier.

Professional engineers tend to have an ear for what sounds really good or not. Most importantly, mastering engineers have the specific tools and abilities to ensure that your music sounds its best on a bespoke artisan basis.


Whilst mastering can be achieved simply by yourself, the use of a professional engineer can enable you to take advantage of experienced ears, the best formats such as Apple Digital Masters as well as the confidence that your music or podcast sounds its best across multiple sound systems and across all digital and physical formats.

I also provide mastering services for music and podcasts to a variety of budgets and needs. Contact me to find out more about mastering and how I can help you make sure your music or podcast sounds its best.

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