"Mastering is the last creative step in the audio production process, the bridge between mixing and replication - your last chance to enhance sound or to repair problems in an acoustically designed room - an audio microscope. Mastering engineers lend an objective, experienced ear to your work; we are familiar with what can go wrong technically and aesthetically." B. Katz


Recording is the process of capturing musical performances onto a physical media like analog/digital tape, compact disc or a computer hard disk.

Mixing is the process of taking multiple recorded tracks and blending them together using a mixing console. The final result is usually a two channel (stereo: L and R) or six channel (5.1: L, C, R, LS, RS and LFE) performance.

Mastering is the technical and creative act of enhancing, equalizing and balancing, analog or digital sources to achieve maximum musicality and competitiveness in the marketplace. A mastering studio must be both extremely creative and technically perfect, since the master is the template for thousands of CDs and DVDs produced for commercial release.

Replication is the process of taking a digital audio master and transferring it to a glass master where thousands of copies can be made.

[Strictly speaking, "mastering" describes the glass mastering process that takes place only at the CD pressing plant. However, mastering has also come to mean the last opportunity to check and adjust the audio before the CD is pressed.]


At Steps Ahead Sound we take pride in helping you achieve your musical vision to produce a great professional sounding CD.

We can give your recording greater cohesion, better timing, more clarity, air, depth, warmth, punch, power, or whatever your material may require with a fresh, skilled set of ears listening through the ultimate monitoring system. We use state-of-the-art digital & analog equipment to refine and polish your mixes, to create an album with a consistent feel in terms of level, tonal balance and musicality. Whether it is rock, pop, jazz or ethnic, we can give you the sound you are looking for using the latest mastering techniques.


Mastering sessions
involves the following:

- we listen to your project from top to bottom, analyze it, and decide what and where challenges are.
- we shape its tone to bring out the character of each song: with our extremely accurate monitoring system, we can hear the bumps and clips that went unnoticed in the mixing environment. These are corrected, to ensure that your project sounds at its best in all listening environments.
- we control dynamic range of each song, so that your CD will be as loud or as dynamic as your genre demands; if required, we also control the dynamics of individual frequency groups.
- we devote special attention to any aspect you may want to focus on: noise reduction, spatial enhancement, effects, etc.
- we finally evaluate the CD as a whole: we want to ensure it sounds like a unit. We adjust relative volumes, tones and space between songs. If crossfades were required, they are also done at this stage.


Mastering can make a your CD sound complete and ready for production; better, with equalization and dynamics changes; cohesive in terms of level and equalization and make something that sounded “OK”, sound extraordinary.


Philosophy



Mastering is the very last step of correction and enhancement in the process of record making, the final refinement touch that, simply stated, makes the difference between a good recording and a professional CD.

Recording and mixing often last several weeks, involve different recording conditions and entail a number of takes, which may result in a heterogeneous product. Steps Ahead Sound is thought as an accurate monitoring room, the ideal listening environment to evaluate your tracks, and more importantly, it is the place where subtle differences in stereo image, dynamic range and tonal balance are revealed, even while you're still at the mixing process. Furthermore, mastering engineers can help you overcome the fatigue usually associated with this process. Far from the recording studio, they can propose what should be done to improve your mixes before mastering, providing valuable advice on clarity, life and breath.

During mastering, the mixing focus on detail gives way to coherence and wholeness. Mastering is not only compensating or optimizing, but also appreciating and assembling your sound to get your tone, your color and your message at its best. Mastering state of the art equipment assists not only in editing, crossfading, cleaning up, polishing and sweetening your material; it prevents significant mistakes, effectively removes undesirable noises and distortion, and translates best to the whole sort of real listening environments.

However, mastering is not all about the right tools. The key to professional mastering is to know how, when, and which ones to use. This is when mastering becomes more art than science, when experts employ their gear as craftsmen, enhancing every aspect that makes your music stand out, individualizing every piece as a part of a unique whole, singling out its distinctive voice, increasing or attenuating only what it needs to sound best.

This is why mastering is mostly about expertise and a feel for the music. Mastering engineers make all the difference: a good pair of ears and years of listening and working with music. They are musically qualified to understand character and style; they are fluent in both the artistic and technical realms of music-making. They can guide you into listening to your tracks as you have never had before, and they can discuss your music in the right terms.

Excellence in mastering is great ears, extensive technical and musical experience, good communication skills, top-notch tools and a commitment to excellence to bring out your sound, enhance your depth, punch, sense of air and detail, increase your emotional intensity and give you that competitive edge you’re looking for.