For Mastering, we investigate the art and science behind professional mastering for electronic dance music and how you can accomplish great results at home. Since mastering is so heavily dependent on an understanding of what’s happening inside the music we begin our tutorial with an examination of bit rates, sample rates, weighting, levels, and meters. Here we introduce and discuss the differences in meters, why they’re so important for mastering and also introduce the different measurements such as LUFS (LKFS), dBFS, VU, R128, ITU-R B 1170 and the CALM Act. We then show how to set-up and begin to use your meters to accurately depict what’s happening with the music.
From here we move on to further important topics such as maintaining PLR, PSR and crest factors, the problems with inter-sample peaking, RMS vs Peak, and the importance of measuring true peak. We show how to follow AES Streaming guidelines, how to master properly for iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, Pandora and other online streaming services and how to ensure your mix sounds the best it can on all of them. We also examine the problems inherent with dithering, quantization noise, an explanation and the uses of mid-side and dynamic EQ, true peak limiting and multi-band compression.
We also cover how to gain objectivity, what to listen for and how to listen before finally mastering 5 tracks submitted by our DMP community. Here, we show how all this theory ties together and applies in practice, mastering the 5 tracks each from different dance music genres, and showing how to best use your tools and meters to produce professional results rather than the all too typical dynamically restricted noise that many would have you believe constitute a master.
During the course of the tutorial, we also examine the sonic differences between mastering in software and hardware. Using top-flight studio hardware including SSL, Empirical Labs, API and Chandler we compare the results to mixes mastered completely in software. Finally, we then run a comparison of LANDR’s automated mastering service against our masters to see if their service truly offers “professional” results