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Mastering for iTunes- Latest Technique to Improve Sound

The mastering for iTunes from Apple is creating the latest buzz in the recent years. Even, there are lots of confusion regarding this matter among the musicians and the music composers. Mastering music for the iTunes is a common process yet it is gaining importance due to its wide acceptance among the music lovers. There are four ways through which the mastered iTunes can be discussed. Have a look on them in brief-

  • Mastering Sound for iTunes is Set of Rules and Guidelines

You will happy to hear that the easiest way to know the guidelines of the iTunes mastering is by reading this article. Mainly, it is a set of rules for the people to go through, for ensuring that you are getting the best versions of the tracks that are available in the iTunes Music Stores. Companies like Apple include the free guidelines that help you to preview how your tracks will sound after encoding. These rules are great. They will certainly encourage you for submitting the high-standard files and then suggest how you can avoid facing the traps that affect the sound quality. For instance- you can avoid the clipping and the over-cooking of the music level for the Loudness wars.

At this particular moment, the final tracks are still having 44.1 KHz kbps AAC files. So, they are actually the encoded files those use the lossy compression and the high-class mp3s. The concept of feeling the difference of submitting 24 or the 96 version of the sound is debatable. I think there is not much difference in both. But companies like Apple gives hint that in the upcoming years, the audio mastering professionals will certainly use high-standard masters to get better downloadable versions in the future. Professional mixing and mastering studios will be having all the equipments for high quality masters.

  • Mastered for iTunes is the Part of iTunes Store-

Here the concept gets a little messy. The Apple has made a particular section of the iTunes stores for the tracks that have completed the process of mastering according to the concept of ‘mastered iTunes’. But, here are some of the examples that do not follow the rules. Take into account the example of the title like Metallica’s beyond magnetic and Red hot Chilli Peppers’s I am with you. Both the tracks are having the loudness wars. They are mastered at high levels, and thus there are many distortions. They may be revealed as the hi-resolution file, but when the vinyl sounds even better, you can feel that there is something wrong.

  • Mastered for the iTunes is a Matter of Chance

Just think if the mastered iTunes version of the song “I am with you” followed the guidelines of the Apple. It will definitely sound like the vinyl mastering. In this particular case, I would be having no such restrictions in declaring that this process is quite vital. The disadvantages of the lossy encoding are completely overweighed.  Here, little to be done with the sample rates and the bit depths at the initial source. CD mastering services in the form of itunes are gaining importance.

  • Mastered for iTunes will use the New Lossless Format

When I was writing this post, I came to know information that Apple is upgrading the iTunes library. As a whole, Apple is using the new HD-AAC format that allows us to get the fully lossless access to the tracks that will be mastered in iTunes in the upcoming years.

These four points will help you to know about themastered iTunes. The part from these, you should all know that mastered for iTunes is a professional audio mastering process as well as the distribution format. The mastered for iTunes technique ensures all the artists that they are getting the benefits from this format and the premium format of this type of mastering helps in mixing and mastering engineers for publishing music in higher fidelity.

The same mastered for itunes technique that the mastering engineers follows is applied to the “Apple Music” stores. We all know the process is geared to the AAC format used by the itunes, any type of streaming service that uses any somewhat lossy encoding will get the benefit from the mastered itunes process.

It is obvious that the Mastered for iTunes sound will sound better than the uncompressed master will. There is a reason behind it. The “mastered for iTunes” use the lossy format. Thus, if you want to get a better sound, try the “mastered for iTunes”.

Audio Mastering Explained at Red Mastering Studio London

Audio Mastering
Audio Mastering at Red Mastering London

What is Audio Mastering?

Audio mastering is the final and last step in the process of creating that perfect sound that we so often hear everywhere. While to us mere mortals, it may only be seen as a complex post-production behind-the-scenes step, the actual process of mastering audio is a lot more interesting and intriguing than it sounds. Simply put, audio mastering is the process of taking a mix and preparing it for distribution, but as we all know, nothing is as simple as it seems and there are many factors that feature in audio mastering.

Audio mastering as we know it was first born into the music industry with the introduction of the first commercial tape recorder (Ampex 200 model) in 1948. Prior to this, all audio recordings were made by printing directly to a wax disc in real time and the role of the mastering engineer was not a separate discipline but that of the recording engineer. But with the appearance of the tape recorder, a new era of audio mastering was born.

And if 1948 was not exciting enough for the music industry, Columbia records also introduced the Long Play (PL) Vinyl record that same year, which meant that each vinyl could play for more than 20 minutes per side compared to less than 5 minutes per side previously.

As the entire record industry was quick to move with the emerging technology everyone soon adopted recording on tape as a new industry standard and a separate engineer was needed to transform the tapes to a master.

The Mastering engineer (or transcription/transfer engineer at the time) was given the difficult task of preparing master discs from the tapes they were given by the recording studio from the recording sessions. Since the belief at the time was that the tape-to-disk transfer was a technical step, many industry professionals had the view that a mastering engineer had to simply replicate the sound on the tape and was not allowed to use any creativity or artistic license during the mastering process.

Pop Music and Audio Mastering

During the pop music boom from 1950’s to 1980’s, audio mastering became seen as a highly prized skill allowing the mastering engineer to use creativity and more freedom as it was found that by making simple adjustments to the equalisation (amplitude of sound at different frequency bands) prior to the cutting of the master, the record would sound much better.

Before the 1990’s all form of audio mastering had to be analogue and done using electro-mechanical processes, but since the creation of digital technology, audio mastering can now be done in a studio using a digital audio workstation (DAW), and while there are still many engineers in the music industry that specialise in analogue mastering, the use of the digital audio workstation is proving to be one of the most popular choices in the industry today.

Audio mastering requires experience and critical listening, in this modern age of technology, there are many software tools that exist in order to make the process easier and clearer. A good mastering engineer needs to have technical knowledge as well as great equipment. The accuracy of speaker monitors as well as the listening environment will have a huge factor in the outcome of the final master. Experience and skill is needed to apply corrective equalisation and dynamic compression in order to achieve a well-balanced record with optimum translation for all playback systems.

Having an organised audio mastering engineer is always a good idea too as it’s always worthwhile making a copy of the master recording in case the original master is damaged or lost (in the industry we call this a safety copy).

With all the technological advancements in the music industry, the process of audio mastering has become a lot more creative and the role of the audio mastering engineer has now become to shape and enhance the music instead of simply replicating it. This makes audio mastering a far more interesting and creative process that is seen as a crucial step in the production of audio and music.

Let’s see what modern-day digital audio mastering entails here.

Audio Mastering, Mixing and Creating Great Music!

Audio Mastering And Music Creation

Whether it is commercial music or audio for other purposes such as movies, you can be sure that the audio has been through quite a long process of being created, recorded, edited, mixed and finally, mastered. While the creation of music by artists still remains the most important element of the process, the music would not exist on record without the behind-the-scenes work that goes on to release this music in many different formats which can be played on modern technology.

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Red Mastering London Studio

So let’s have a look at what the process of creating music involves and what role audio mastering plays in it…

Audio Mastering Explained

Step One – Rehearsing and Recording Audio in the Studio

The first step is for the artists to rehearse and record their sound at the studio with the help of the producer and recording engineer. The recording engineer can enhance the talent that already exists and can add extra spice to the vocals or instruments that are being played. Usually this is done through the knowledge and understanding of the studio as well as choosing the correct equipment for each individual piece of music. This is why it is very important to choose the right studio and recording engineer as whatever your sound may be, you want it to come out sounding the best that it can. By choosing an experienced recording engineer that has good extensive knowledge of the studio equipment, you can ensure that it will do just that!

Once the audio is rehearsed and recorded, it then goes to the next stage of the process; audio editing.

Step Two – Audio editing and DAW

Nowadays, audio editing is mostly done on the computer using a Digital Audio workstation (DAW) by an experienced audio editing engineer. This process ensures that the audio is “cleaned” up and allows for the editing of any flaws such as clicks, hums and hisses.

A digital audio workstation is commonly found in many audio editing facilities and is the centre of the studio. It will usually be a desktop computer with a graphic user interface (GUI), at least one mixing console, a control surface as well as an audio converter and data storage. DAW is the interface where all your equipment is connected and all your files are stored and its primary job is to simulate studio equipment.

Most of the audio editing is performed using software such as Avid Pro Tools, Steinberg Cubase, Steinberg Nuendo and Logic Pro.

This prepares the audio for the next phase of mixing which is done by an audio mixing engineer.

Step Three – Mixing Audio and the Audio Mixing Engineer

Choosing the right audio mixing engineer is extremely important as during this process, depending on the taste and style of the sound that the client is trying to achieve, there is a level of creativity that can be added. The audio mixing engineer can add subtle changes to the music and make small tweaks to give it a flavour of a particular style of music.

Once the mixing process is completed, there should be no more changes made and this should be seen as the final version of the music. Once everyone is happy with the final result, the audio then goes on to its last and final stage of the creation process and is passed on to the audio mastering engineer.

Step Four – Audio Mastering and the Audio Mastering Engineer

When music reaches the audio mastering engineer, their main job is to listen to what they have been given. They will usually listen to the audio a few times; maybe first just to listen, then to analyse and then to decide what must be done to meet the client’s needs and requirements and enhance the audio. Depending on how the audio is recorded, edited and mixed, it may not require a lot of input from the audio mastering engineer and may only need the very basic enhancements.

As this is the first time the mastering engineer has heard the audio, the advantage is that it will be heard with a fresh mind and fresh ears allowing for very critical listening.

After listening to the audio a few times, the idea and picture of what must be done to the audio are created and from that stage, the audio mastering engineer knows what steps must be taken to achieve this, allowing the engineer to be organised and precise when mastering. Once the mastering engineer knows the correct steps to take and can get practical with mastering that sound we all love so much!

Previously audio mastering did not involve much creativity and the mastering engineer’s job was to produce a transparent master that was a replica of the original sound, but with the advent of technology, the role of the mastering engineer has grown and now there is a demand and requirement for creative input during audio mastering.

This can breathe life into the audio and bring that something special to an already finished mix. By listening to what’s already there in the audio, an experienced mastering engineer can quickly tell what is missing. For this, state of the art equipment is required as well as a good ear and years of experience. By finding out what the emotion, rhythm and vibe of the song is; the mastering engineer can use his knowledge to add depth and colour to the audio and enhance it. Of course, as every piece of audio is different and individual, the creative process of audio mastering can be different for each client.

The mastering engineer will master the audio in his studio using his Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) specifically designed and set up for audio mastering. This has many benefits and allows the engineer to do many different things such as apply noise reduction to eliminate clicks and dropouts, adjust stereo width, add ambiance, adjust volume, etc. Removing any minor issues is usually the first point of call and is done before any other adjustments to the track are made.

If the track contains any faults that may be bigger, sometimes the mastering engineer will need to go back to the mixing engineer and isolate the problem.

The importance of having good quality equipment and monitors is also extremely important at this stage as this allows for a much finer tuning system to find all those little mistakes that previous engineers may have missed. Once the issues are resolved, the creativity can start to flow, which can be anything from changing the EQ, the base or anything else that may improve the quality and sound of the audio.

The mastering engineer can ensure that there is balance throughout all the instruments and no part of the audio becomes overbearing so that there is equality throughout the music. Sometimes the client requires more creativity and sometimes they need more transparency which must be followed down to the ‘t’ to ensure a happy and satisfied customer.

If more transparency is required during the mastering process, then there will be less changes made to the audio and if more creativity is needed, well, how long is a piece of string!

Once the mastering is completed, the engineer will usually go back to the beginning and simply listen to the track to make sure everything is as it should be and sounds just right, sometimes even leaving the track for a few minutes to have ‘fresh’ ears again and really be able to hear any last minute issues.

When the mastering engineer has decided that the audio is the best that it can be, CD markers will usually be inserted along with the International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) and any other information that is needed to replicate the CD.

Audio Mastering and mixing at our Red Mastering Studio London

Mastering Audio at Red Mastering studio London

Red Mastering studio London is an audio mastering studio specifically dedicated to high quality audio mastering and mixing. We have created a professional audio environment that allows us to work in the fast-paced and ever-changing music industry, and allows us to provide only the best service to our clients at affordable and competitive prices.

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Red Mastering studio London

Red Mastering studio London has audio mastering engineers with over twenty years of experience in the music industry and as such, we are able to meet the demands and requirements of all our customers whether they are already established in the business or just starting out.

Find the Right Audio Mastering Engineer

We understand how difficult it can be to find the right audio mastering studio for your needs and we aim to provide a friendly, professional and relaxed environment where you can get the most out of your music. Whether you require transparent audio mastering or an injection of creativity, we can help to master your music in a way that reflects you and enhances your sound so you have that perfect finished product.

Through the hard work and growing reputation of Red Mastering studio London, our clients have come to expect only the best service software that is personalised and competitive.

Music Mastering is an art and we have a wonderful team and studio to support you through every stage of your journey with Red Mastering London for all your online audio mastering and mixing needs.

Whether you are simply looking for information, technical advice, or need our services for mastering and mixing, please feel free to get in touch through our website Onlinemastering.org.uk or browse through our pages to find what you are looking for.

A warm welcome from Red Mastering Studio London and the team!

DIY Audio Mastering Software for Your PC

Many myths surround mastering a recording, even in this, the internet age. Tutorials, online resources, and audio mastering software exist to make it possible for a diligent person to perform decent masters, but most cannot produce results above a mediocre level. So contrary to much hype, more possession of a mastering app on your PC does not turn you into an expert.  The patient, detail oriented approach of a skilled professional working from a studio is still the ‘secret sauce’ for successful music mastering, and is the preferred route to go to get the right results.

But a determined person can accomplish much on their own using a properly equipped computer with online access, and after committing to some self-training. The first distinguishing mark of a person who is on the right road to doing so, is to see them shake off the idea that a computer program they are running is doing the key work during mastering. The primary processor in any mastering project, in actual fact, is the human brain, in particular the ears critically listening to the sound, then making decisions on the fly as to what is good, and what is not.

The job of an aspiring DIY engineer is to duplicate the mindset of a professional in objectively evaluating sound, and making your changes to improve a master. With this understood, the use of tools or audio mastering software can then be constructively utilized. It’s advised to look at several such products discussed on the web, and lean toward trying out the free or free trial programs first, to get a feel for what set of features is most helpful to one’s projects, and which offer the most easily navigable or intuitive interface.

A good program will have enough functionality to handle jobs at a pro level, yet be understandable enough not to get in the way of getting a mastering job done.  The mixing capabilities should be quite flexible, distortion free, and able to be backed up to protect work in case re-mastering must be done. The software should support real-time mastering within the sequencer, and support integration of both digital and traditional analog sound elements. It would be helpful for the program to accommodate plug-ins where possible, so that the maximum number of effects can be supported.

When in doubt, consultation with a real mastering professional on a project is recommended, so that the DIY person can learn enough from hiring an expert to do a real job to comprehend what is needed to do subsequent projects on their own.