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Demystifying the Dark Art of Mastering: A Conversation With Paul Logus

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So there's this audio nerd meme starring a promising young ingénue named Scarlett Johansson that perfectly illustrates the three main stages of producing music: before mix, after mix, and after mastering. In each picture, Johansson looks progressively glamorized – an evolution that begins before makeup and ends in a stylized portrait. That is, until the fourth picture – MP3 – that finds the "mastered" photo vulgarly pixilated. So it goes.

Mastering is the final step in getting your album ready for manufacturing. It's a service that’s both practical and mysterious: the former because you'll have to be settled on your mix, the track titles, the running order, the space between songs – the things that make the audio journey complete. The latter because this is where the last bit of sonic polish is applied to your music. Like that stylized portrait, this is where every last detail is put perfectly in place. It's the icing on your aural cake.

3 Mixing and Mastering Tips From Veteran Audio Engineer Daniel Wyatt

Daniel Wyatt. (Image via

A version of this article first appeared on Splice Blog.


Splice, a cloud platform for music collaboration, has really changed the way I work with clients and students alike. I created a working mix project to demonstrate a few tips and hopefully clarify a few common questions. While I do tend to use a good amount of third-party plugins in my work (iZotope, Soundtoys, UA, Fabfilter, Sonnox, Altiverb, etc.), I thought it would be cool to demonstrate some of these techniques with the indigenous Ableton Live plugins – both for compatibility and simplicity.

Here are some tips and tricks for upcoming producers and mixers that you might find helpful. I have broken them down into sub-categories for organizational purposes. To follow along, sign up for a free Splice account and download the project below:

Is Instant Online Mastering Worth It?

Guest post by Jay Heiselmann, a sound engineer with over 15 years of experience working in studios of all sizes. Jay is also a musician who plays in various bands including Grooms, The Immaculates and French Miami. He currently works in Brooklyn's Death By Audio and specializes in mixing and mastering.

A quick fix for your mixes or a scam?

Want to master your tracks for almost free in just a few minutes? Well, companies are popping up claiming to provide "intelligent" or "instant" mastering using complex algorithms to analyze the waveform and create high quality masters. We saw this technology a couple of years ago in audio plugin format, but these new companies are upload-and-go – all you need is the file. Some are free and others cost only a couple of dollars a track, which is very inexpensive especially if you consider that professional mastering can cost hundreds of dollars. But how good are these "instant" masters? Is it worth cutting corners on this piece of the process? Is the difference noticeable?