The Mastering Show

By Ian Shepherd

Listen to a podcast, please open Podcast Republic app. Available on Google Play Store.


This is the show where we cover all aspects of mastering. If you're interested in mastering, want to learn how to get better results mastering your own music, or even want to be a mastering engineer, this is the show you want to hear.

Episode Date
The Mastering Show #52 - DON'T aim for LUFS targets online
All the online streaming services play music back at roughly -14 LUFS, so that’s the level we should aim for when we’re mastering, right ? Wrong. That may sound strange, given how much we’ve talked about online loudness over the years - but we’re serious. In this show we dive deeper into one of the points we discussed in the last show: why you shouldn't be aiming for specific integrated LUFS values when mastering you music for online streaming. But, why it is still useful to know how your music will be affected. Topics we cover include: * A quick introduction to normalization * How it works * Why peak normalisation is useless for matching loudness * Why mastering songs to a specific LUFS value doesn’t work * So why are LUFS measurements of streaming services useful AT ALL ? * When Spotify’s normalization fails * The biggest problem with normalization right now Full show notes and links at
Jun 08, 2018
The Mastering Show #51 - What IS the Loudness Penalty?
"How loud will my music sound online ?" It’s the question everyone is asking these days, and the answer has always been “it depends”. Until now. In this episode Ian Kerr from MeterPlugs talks about the new tool he has been developing with Ian Shepherd to answer this question. It’s a website called Loudness Penalty, and it’s free ! Along the way we also discuss * Why -14 LUFS isn’t the right target for online loudness * Why Ian Kerr decided to make plugins that won’t change your audio - but will make it sound better * How coding 3D computer game graphics helped him develop LCast and Dynameter * Why the Ians decided to make Loudness Penalty free * How to use Loudness Penalty to find out what your music will sound like online * Why different streaming services all manage loudness in different ways
May 26, 2018
The Mastering Show # 50 - Mastering on Headphones ?!
You can’t master on headphones, right ? Well, let’s see… This year’s Dynamic Range Day Award-winner broke all the streaming records in it’s first week, debuted at Number 1 in the Billboard chart and... it was mastered on headphones. In this episode we talk to Glenn Schick, the engineer who mastered KOD by J Cole about his decision to become a “mobile” mastering engineer, including: * How (and why) he closed his analogue mastering studio to go mobile * Why he thinks it actually helps him to get better results... * And makes his job easier * The type of headphones he uses, and why * His mastering process for KOD, and * The decision to master with more dynamics Full show notes at
May 10, 2018
The Mastering Show #49 - Great Audio Podcasts
As well as running our own show, we’re huge fans of other podcasts too, and in this show we take a little time to wander off-topic and recommend some of our favourite audio-related shows. We each choose four podcasts, and suggest great episodes of each to get started with. If you listen to all the episodes we recommend, you’ll get to hear hours of useful, interesting and amusing content, including things like: * A podcast with higher production standards than ours (gasp!) * Career advice from Andrew Scheps * How to turn a studio mistake into a win * How to cope with Imposter Syndrome * One of Ian’s biggest heroes * Why it’s good to fail - and much much more. Seriously, it’s a great list !
Apr 18, 2018
The Mastering Show # 48 - How to become a mastering engineer
Our guest in this episode is Katie Tavini, who shares the inspiring story of how she got into mastering. It’s something we’re asked all the time, and Katie is a great example of one way to start in the industry, in a time when internships and junior positions are becoming less and less accessible. She also talks about the great network of engineers she’s discovered through Red Bull’s Normal Not Novelty initiative. Other topics include: * Why Katie got into mastering * Do you need expensive gear to master effectively ? * Katie’s favourite piece of gear * Does understanding classical music help with mastering ? * The challenges of being a female engineer * The pros and cons of attended sessions Full links and show notes on the website
Mar 29, 2018
The Mastering Show #47 - What’s the best DAW for mastering ?
It’s a question we get asked regularly, and our answer may surprise you. To answer the question, we put together a “shopping list” for the ultimate DAW, and then discuss which of the applications is the best fit, and why. Topics include: * Which DAW sounds best ? * What does that mean ? * Do all digital EQs sound the same ? * What’s a DDP file ? * Pro mastering applications * Workflow versus features Full show notes and links on our website
Mar 09, 2018
The Mastering Show #46 - Answering questions again (QnA 5)
Another chance for us to catch up with some of the questions you’ve been asking us. In this episode we talk about: * Bass - where does it start, where does it begin ? * How to use an analyser to assess EQ balance * When NOT to use an analyser to balance EQ and * What to do instead * Adding saturation in mastering - should you do this, and if so, how ? * The most difficult projects we’ve each worked on * How to extend an abrupt fade-out Full show notes and links
Feb 23, 2018
The Mastering Show #45 - Jonathan Wyner
Many of you will already know Jonathan from iZotope's excellent educational videos on mastering - he's also an experienced producer and recording engineer, head engineer at M-Works mastering (, a lecturer at Berklee and has written a book on mastering. In this interview we talk about many different aspects of his career, including: * The delights (and perils) of analogue tape * Re-mastering David Bowie * Digital mastering tools - and the risk of over-using them * Humans versus machines in mastering (again) and * Getting the best of both worlds Full show notes and links
Feb 09, 2018
The Mastering Show #44 - Loudness Units 101
LUFS… WTF ?!? (And why aiming for -14 isn’t the right answer for online loudness) We talk about loudness all the time on this show, but how do you actually measure it ? How big is a “loudness unit”, and why are there three different kinds ? What does LUFS stand for, anyway ? How do you loudness match two files using LUFS measurements, and what free software can you use to get started ? In this show we answer all these questions and more - plus Ian explains the simple technique he uses to optimise loudness for all the online streaming platforms, and why it isn’t about aiming for -14 LUFS. If you find the show helpful, please share it with your friends, and leave us a rating and review : Full show notes
Jan 24, 2018
The Mastering Show #43 - The Christmas Episode
Something a bit different to celebrate the festive season this week - we invited a group of cool audio guests to join us on the show, and asked each of them to bring a “gift” to fill an imaginary "Christmas Stocking” for you. So, you get a pile of cool, interesting and funny little treats to keep you amused in the run-up to christmas - or, just to amuse you, if you don’t celebrate it ! There are SO many great bits & pieces in this show, there’s sure to be something for everyone, we hope. If you enjoy it, please leave us a rating and review : Our guests on the show are: Lij Shaw - from the Recording Studio Rockstars podcast Mike Hillier - audio engineer and writer for Music Tech magazine Sigurdór Guðmundsson - mastering engineer & mixer from Skonrokk Studio Chris Selim from Ian Stewart - mastering engineer & mixer Matt Boudreau from the Working Class Audio podcast Full show notes and links to everything we mentioned at:
Dec 22, 2017
The Mastering Show #42 - Man versus machine - automated mastering
Can robots really master our music ? Kenny Gioia set up poll on Facebook to see, asking people to choose between six different masters of the same song - three by humans (including Sterling Sound and Steven Slate) and three by machines (LANDR, Aria and iZoTope Ozone). The great thing is, the test was blind, and loudness matched - so no-one knew which master they were listening to, and loudness didn’t influence the way the masters sounded. And the results of the poll were fascinating. In this show Kenny reveals which master was which, and we discuss the results - including: * Why this is not a scientific test * Ian’s blind comments on the masters, including his instincts about which was which * Why the poll results are probably skewed * When automated makes sense * What the robots still can’t do - and maybe never will Full show notes and links:
Nov 24, 2017
The Mastering Show #41 - The problem with loudness normalization - and TIDAL’s solution
This is huge. There’s a problem with loudness normalization, and TIDAL asked Eelco Grimm to find a solution for them. What he found in his research was unexpected and exciting. Eelco has been involved with loudness measurement and the LUFS standard from the very beginning, and in this show we also talk a little about his story and how it involves: * Technology versus emotion in music * The origins of loudness research * Eelco’s TIDAL research findings (which you should know about, even if you’re not interested in normalization !) * His advice to TIDAL and * How they reacted * The future of normalization STOP PRESS Since recording the show we've heard that TIDAL have implemented all the changes we discuss in the show by default, in all new installs of their iOS and Android apps, with desktop to follow. For more information, click here: Full show notes and links at
Nov 10, 2017
The Mastering Show #40 - Your Questions Answered - Live
A Q&A episode with a twist - we recorded it live, with questions arriving all the time we were recording. We’ve added them all to the list for future episodes - here are the ones we had time to tackle this time: * How has mastering changed over Ian's career, and where is it going next ? * Is there somewhere out there with reference tracks for mixing and mastering ? * Are there any tips for avoiding the trap of "mastering with your eyes" ? * Should you use compression when mastering classical music ? If so, when ? * Why you shouldn’t make master everything at -14 LUFS for online streaming * Is absolute polarity audible ? Does it matter ? * Is “AI” mastering like iZoTope Ozone 8 any good ? This episode is sponsored by the Home Mastering Masterclass. If you enjoy The Mastering Show, take a look ! Full show notes and links at
Oct 13, 2017
The Mastering Show #39 - Digital Gain Staging: what’s the point ?
Gain staging used to be a crucial consideration for analogue recording and mixing - but you’ll hear plenty of people saying it doesn’t really matter, in a modern digital audio workstation. And they have a (floating) point. But you’ll also hear lots of other people, me included, saying it IS important to understand what gain staging is and how it works, even in a digital environment. So who’s right ? In this show we dig into the details, and discuss: * How much peak headroom should you leave before mastering ? * What IS gain staging, anyway ? * Why do people say it doesn’t matter in digital ? Or: * What’s the point of floating point ? * How does it work ? * When digital gain staging does matter Full show notes on the website:
Oct 03, 2017
The Mastering Show # 38 - If you can't hear it, does it really matter ?
If something is technically wrong but inaudible, is that a problem ? When is it OK to break the rules ? What is “audibility”, anyway ? Topics include: * If everyone else is listening is listening on earbuds and phones, why shouldn’t we ? * If music is art, it’s just a matter of taste - so how can anything be wrong ? * Ear training - how do you learn to listen ? * Are the answers to any of these questions different for mastering engineers ? * Plus: The secret super-power of Stealth Tambourines Full show notes and links
Sep 19, 2017
The Mastering Show #37 - Does Gear Matter?
Gear: does it matter ? And if so, how much ? And if gear DOES matter, does it define your sound ? And how ? In this episode we’re joined by Mike Hillier to talk about the significance of gear in mastering. Topics include: * Is a wide selection of gear essential to success in mastering (and mixing) ? * What are the “essential” pieces of gear we just couldn’t live without ? * If two pieces of gear can be made to sound almost identical, does that mean there’s no worthwhile difference ? * Is that even a question worth asking ? * Do mastering engineers have a “sound” ? What defines it ? * How does your gear shape your “sound” ? Full show notes on the website
Jul 17, 2017
Extra - Introducing HMM
If you enjoy this podcast, you may also enjoy the Home Mastering Masterclass course ! Here's a quick introduction to the course, and also an exclusive offer for Mastering Show listeners. For all the details, click here:
Jul 10, 2017
The Mastering Show #36 - Compression versus compression (and sponges)
In which Ian probably goes too far with his analogy explaining compression using sponges. And in which Jon describes the concept of “sloppage headroom” and inter-sample peaks, and in which we also discuss: * Why lossy data compression doesn’t affect dynamics, except * When it does. And * Why dynamic compression doesn’t affect lossy compression quality, except * When it does. Plus * mp3 or AAC ? VBR or CBR ? Do we care ? * The ultimate mp3 encoder stress-test Full show notes
Jul 05, 2017
The Mastering Show #35 - Even More Questions Answered
You asked questions. We answered them. Or tried to, at least! Featuring another mind-mangling guest appearance by Ian Stewart - although he’s not the one to blame for any confusion :-) Questions include: * What are LUFS loudness units, and are there any guidelines for using them ? * What is the K-System, and how does it relate to LUFS ? * Should you always use low and high-cut filters while mastering ? * What’s the best bit-depth to supply for mastering ? 24-bit or 32-bit float ? * Can Ian’s Perception plugin be used while mixing ? * How do you manage payments and file security when working for clients ? * Phase-linear EQ in mastering - what, when, why and how Full show notes:
Jun 15, 2017
The Mastering Show #34 - What ARE dynamics ?
Dynamics. I talk about them ALL the time. “This song has great dynamics”... “make sure you keep plenty of dynamics”... “your music NEEDS balanced dynamics”… but what actually ARE they ? Just like everything else we talk about on this show, dynamics are more complicated than they might seem at first glance. For example, there are at least two different types ! In this show we unpick the topic and try to shed some life on the truth about dynamics, including: * Why the loudness war hasn’t reduced loudness range * Why “DR” measurements don’t measure dynamic range * Why “crest factor” is a better term, and how it relates to the two types of dynamics * The natural dynamics of different sounds, and * When you don’t want to hear them * What Ian really thinks of the Prodigy, Skrillex and the Chemical Brothers - and their dynamics * How to measure dynamics Check the show notes for links
May 25, 2017
The Mastering Show #33 - Before Mastering
How should I prepare for mastering to get the best results ? It’s one of the things we get asked most often, and it often seems like the answers are really straightforward. But then you record a 50-minute podcast answering the question and realise maybe it’s not quite as simple as it seems, once you get into the details... (And even if you’re planning to master your own music, keep listening - almost all these points still apply !) In this show we cover topics like: * Seven deal-breaking mistakes that can halt the mastering process in it’s tracks - before it’s even started * The best file format to use for exporting your mixes * How to send files - is it safe to “zip" audio ? * Dynamics for mastering * What can (and can’t) be fixed in mastering * Ian’s "Mastering Maxim” for getting the best results when working with a mastering engineer
May 08, 2017
The Mastering Show #32 - Bob Ludwig
Bob Ludwig is a mastering superstar. This show starts out with the interview I did with him for this year’s Dynamic Range Day, after which Jon and I dig a little deeper into some of the topics we touched on: * Why some of Bob’s clients ignore his advice (!) * The #1 problem with many of the mixes being sent to him lately * How he used to cut really hot masters for vinyl Plus we branch out into a few other subjects, including: * Bob's approach to client requests for loud masters * What is Loudness FUD ? * How to use a loudness meter in mixing Bob Ludwig: Show notes & links:
Apr 25, 2017
The Mastering Show #31 - What IS loudness ?
Everybody wants their music to sound loud. But does it need to be loud in order to sound loud ? What does that mean ? Well, it takes us about 30 minutes to really nail the answer to that question in this Dynamic Range Day themed episode, but we get there eventually - and we cover some pretty interesting ground along the way ! For example: * How to make things sound loud without making them (much) louder * The trick of balancing loud and quiet songs against each other * When to turn things down * What is "loudness potential" ? * How to get the right balance of loudness before mastering * The most common loudness issue Ian faces when mastering, and * The 100% successful strategy he uses to solve it Full show notes Dynamic Range Day Dynameter
Mar 27, 2017
The Mastering Show #30 - More Questions Answered
The first Q&A show got a great reaction, so we decided it was time for another one ! Questions this time: - Re-mastering - opinions about the 2009 Stone Roses re-issues - Do young people find clipping and other distortion more acceptable ? - Should a clipper ever be used after a limiter ? - Should bass sounds always be in mono ? How do you treat them ? - Does speaker or headphone calibration software really work ?
Mar 13, 2017
The Mastering Show #29 - Mastering Live Sound
Some of our favourite albums are live recordings - and some of the most challenging and interesting mastering projects are also recorded live. In this episode we discuss - The most common problems with live sound, and the mastering rules you’re allowed to break to solve them - What is the “ideal” live recording ? - How restoration tools can be useful for mastering live sound - Two of Ian’s favourite live albums - Techniques for mastering live classical music - How to preserve the most important aspect of any live recording in mastering Links:
Mar 03, 2017
The Mastering Show #28 - Remastering & Restoration
What is re-mastering ? Why would you want to do it ? And how ? And even - should you ? Topics include: * The ultimate goal of great remastering * Why getting an ideal source isn’t always as simple as it sounds * Restoration tools for mastering, and how to use them * When remastering goes bad - the remastering backlash * One of Ian’s most challenging remastering projects Full show notes
Feb 18, 2017
The Mastering Show #27 - Mastering Audio For Games
How do you master audio for games ? Can you master audio for games ? Is it even a thing ? It turns out the answer is Yes, but it’s complicated. In this episode we talk to Jay Fernandes about audio in games, including: * Why audio is critical to the gaming experience * How “mastering” works in games * Challenges and solutions in gaming audio * How to measure the loudness of a game, what to aim for, and why it matters * Some of the best games for audio * Why Jon hates "3D sound" Visit the website for all the links
Jan 30, 2017
The Mastering Show #26 - Clipping: What is it, and is it ever acceptable ?
Some people say clipping distortion is inaudible, some say it’s the true secret of really “loud” mastering, some say it’s a powerful creative effect, others that it’s the spawn of the devil. So who is right, and why ? In this show we talk about: * What clipping is, and the difference between the analogue & digital varieties *When and why we use it *Whether you can repair clipping damage *The difference between clipping and limiting *Why clipping & saturation are NOT the secret of "analogue warmth" Full show notes and links
Jan 16, 2017
The Mastering Show #25 - Stereo: width, depth and image - how to measure, monitor and master them
It’s amazing how much control you can have of the stereo image in mastering, even with quite simple tools. In this show we explore: * What is stereo ? The simplest and most sophisticated types * Ian's new favourite mixing plugin for creating stereo from a mono sound * How to measure stereo width and control it * How to influence reverb levels in mastering * What is M/S processing - and why it's probably not exactly what you think * The power & problems of M/S processing * Recommended stereo processing plugins Our guest this week is Ian Stewart Links: Ian Stewart's Blog Flux stereo tool Jerobeam Fenderson - music made for oscilloscope Voxengo MSED - mid/side plugin VUMT - VU meter emulation (new version) Fabfilter Pro Q 2 Stereo width in mastering – how to measure, monitor and modify it (Video includes demos of a simple correlator and the Nugen Visualizer 2 with 'correlation by frequency' display)
Dec 12, 2016
The Mastering Show #24 - Mastering for online streaming (including Mastered for iTunes)
How do you optimise your music for online streaming, when there are so many different services and standards out there ? Specifically: * What’s the best file format to submit ? * What about the specifications ? * Can you compensate for the sound of the encoder ? * How do you know how loud to make your music ? * Should you make separate masters for every service ? * What about Mastered for iTunes ? To get the “Black Friday” discount on Dynameter or any other MeterPlugs product, use this link and the coupon code TMSBLACK in the shopping cart: Ian Shepherd’s Dynameter, by MeterPlugs Links Why mp3 sucks, and how to hear it Sample rate conversion comparisons TMS - The Dither Episode Online streaming loudness infographic TMS - The Loudness Episode Mastered for iTunes - the saviour of great sound ? Online streaming loudness petition
Nov 24, 2016
The Mastering Show #23 - Balance (Or, How to Master an Album)
The most common question I’ve been asked since starting the show is - “how do I balance songs against one another ?”. Especially balancing quiet and loud songs, or when they’re from diverse genres. So in this show, we try to answer that - and touch on many other topics, too: * The mastering tip that’s almost too simple to say - but embodies the heart and soul of mastering * Why Ian doesn't master single songs any more (if he can help it) * Do all digital EQs sound the same ? And Ian’s new favourite (free) EQ plugin * Why we need "Album mode” to stop loudness management sucking the heart out of our music * The first thing Ian does in every mastering session * A ninja loudness trick when balancing quiet & loud songs * Should you use automation when mastering ? Links The Heart & Soul of Mastering iTunes Sound Check has “album mode” - finally ! TDR Nova EQ Multiband compression – the mastering engineer’s secret weapon ?
Nov 14, 2016
The Mastering Show #22 - Your questions answered
Your questions answered. Well, some of them, anyway ! It’s been over 20 episodes, people seem to be liking the show, and have been asking lots of questions - it seemed like a good time to answer some of them. Topics include: Do we really NEED mastering ? - Why you shouldn’t master on the mix bus (if you want to be good !) - Dealing with clients (and why you should make yourself expensive) - The best way to burn a master disc, and which brands to buy - How to mix and master drums LOUD And many more... Links The three Ms of mastering (including Mindset) - TMS Episode #2 Limiting - TMS Episode #3 Why your EDM will sound better with more dynamics – and 6 places to find them Mastering in Reaper Interview with Jon about Mastering Jon's Mastering session setup tips Jon's new Reaper mastering workflow video The Home Mastering Masterclass
Oct 17, 2016
The Mastering Show #21 - Why digital “resolution” doesn’t exist - because dither
Yes - it’s The Dither Episode ! But hang in there, it’s not as bad as you might think. My guest host this week is Jon Tidey from, who *hates* talking about dither, so I had to work hard to keep it interesting. And I think I succeeded, mostly! We cover loads of topics, like why the analogy of hi-res digital audio with digital photos is wrong (or at least deeply misleading) and why dither means digital ‘resolution’ is NOT a real thing. Plus: - Why dither helps prevent your audio from 'sounding digital’ - How the right kind of dither can make even 8-bit audio sound OK - Why it works - and what that has to do with my lava lamp - Whether we can *really* hear the difference - How to test yourself using “Gangnam Style" - Why you should stop worrying and just dither ! Visit the website for links
Sep 27, 2016
The Mastering Show #20 - Steve Lillywhite
You’ve already seen who my guest is this week, so why are you still reading this ?!? Click Play now ! Seriously though, a guest whose discography includes U2, Dave Matthews, The Pogues, The Stones, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, Morrissey, The Psychedelic Furs, The Las, The Killers and 30 Seconds to Mars plus about 500 others *really* shouldn’t need any further introduction from me ! There are SO many great anecdotes and useful nuggets of wisdom in this episode I can’t even begin to list them, but just in case you need any more persuading, here are a few sample topics we discuss: - How Steve became a music producer, and why he did it mostly out of fear - What he hates about the production of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” - Why he always mixes the records he produces - The secret of his success (which anyone can steal) - His feelings about the Loudness War, and whether stem mastering is a good idea or not Now stop reading this and listen ! Links Steve Lilywhite (Wikipedia) Steve on 10 records that changed Steve’s life - some may surprise you ! Documentary teaser
Aug 17, 2016
The Mastering Show #19 - Sylvia Massy
In this show Ian talks to the fabulous Sylvia Massy about her fantastic new book, "Recording Unhinged" - and how perhaps mastering could be a little more unhinged sometimes, too. Topics include: - Ian's first ever mastering project (although he didn't know it at the time) - Recording underwater brass - Why gaffer-taping Peter Gabriel to a column wasn't such a bad idea - How to make a REALLY hidden track on CD - How to record like Harry Potter - What Sylvia does to prepare her music for mastering, and why Links
Aug 04, 2016
The Mastering Show #18 - The Emperor's New Ears
In this show we give a conclusive answer to all those heated online debates about what audio gear sounds best. Mics, converters, cables - you name it. And we tell you how to find out for yourself. But why you probably shouldn't bother. And along the way we discuss: - When data-identical files sound different (and why) - What the Three Fingered Mouse Click is, and why you need it - The ultimate audio test: "5000 dollars or your house" ! - Why you really shouldn't move your head when working on audio - When expensive cables really CAN sound better, and why - even though they actually don't And plenty more ! Links Can you trust your ears ? Does it matter whether or not pain medication is branded? Ronan's Drum Recording Bootcamp More about Ronan
Jul 18, 2016
The Mastering Show #17 - Hi Res Audio (New science proves...what?)
A new study proves that high sample rates really DO sound better. Or does it ? As usual it's a little more complicated than that... in this episode we investigate why, and also discuss how to test this stuff for yourself, plus - when you might choose NOT to mix at Abbey Road, why all CD players don't sound the same, and why Ian hates the sound of swirling ultrasonic birdies. And, what that actually means! Links: AES Paper: A Meta-Analysis of High Resolution Audio Perceptual Evaluation Intermodulation distortion Test files for intermodulation distortion The importance of loudness matching Why mp3 sucks - and how to hear it The amazing Record Production Dot Com website Russell Cottier's site
Jul 10, 2016
The Mastering Show #16 - Podcasts (Mastering, recording & mixing)
How to get great results mastering audio for podcasts - AND record and mix them. Plus - how to build a studio from hay bales (and why you'd want to), what really IS a "home" studio in the 21st century, and the mic Ian uses to record this show. Links The Mastering Show - Acoustic treatment The Mastering Show - Loudness Streaming Loudness Recommendations Recording Studio Rockstars Podcast
Jul 01, 2016
The Mastering Show #15 - Perspective (How to know what your music is SUPPOSED to sound like)
In this episode I describe a simple, straightforward strategy to make your masters sound more like those of your favourite artists – whether you’re a beginner or a pro. I explain how to decide how loud you want to master your music, and how to make sure you achieve that without becoming a victim of the loudness war - and, using this method you’ll be able to asses objectively what you want your music to sound like, and figure out how to get there. Links How to read the new loudness meters What does a mastering engineer do ? My mastering process Using Perception with reference tracks More info on Perception
Jun 24, 2016
The Mastering Show #14 - Distortion (The good, the bad and the ugly)
In this show we talk about distortion. Good distortion, bad distortion - and how to tell the difference. Find out what Ian REALLY thinks about distortion, how you can use it effectively in mastering - and when you should. What is soft clipping - and how do you use it ? Plus Ian explains why ALL audio processing is distortion, strictly speaking - and the benefits (and costs) of using it. Links: Fab DuPont on Death Magnetic What is 'aliasing' and what causes it? When in doubt, dither Why you need amazing monitoring The Home Mastering Masterclass
Jun 17, 2016
The Mastering Show #13 - Vinyl (This may ruffle a few feathers !)
How to master for vinyl, including key problems to watch out for, plus: why Ian loves everything about vinyl (except for one thing); is vinyl better than CD; why most vinyl in the 80s was actually digital, not analogue (!); why hiss is your friend; what "HD vinyl” is, and why it might help fix that one thing Ian doesn’t like Links Why custom mastering for vinyl isn’t necessary It’s a kind of magic – Or: It’s not about the f****** format ! Why you can’t measure vinyl with the TT Meter The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Sound Engineering Star Wars: The original radio drama Patents filed for HD Vinyl
Jun 10, 2016
The Mastering Show #12 - NOT Mastering
Why you might NOT want to master your music - or get it mastered; what I think of LANDR and other online "mastering" services; when mastering ISN'T mastering; plus the problem with re-mastering; a brief tangent on Dave Grohl; can you master on the mix buss? And why deciding not to master is STILL mastering. Links LANDR: Automated online mastering – but is it any good ? My test How the Loudness War is crushing Dave Grohl’s analogue ambitions The heart and soul of mastering
Jun 03, 2016
The Mastering Show #11 - You're going to love this
Full-length interview with Matt Colton from Alchemy Mastering, who mastered James Blake’s Dynamic Range Day Award-winning “The Colour of Anything”. Topics include the processing chain Matt used (and why it possibly doesn’t matter as much as you think it might); the limiter he used (which you may already have) and his favourite default settings for it; the unique story of how he became a mastering engineer - and why vinyl really DOES sometimes sound better than CD Links: Matt Colton Alchemy Mastering The Dynamic Range Day Award James Blake and the dynamics of The Colour In Anything Pop goes the loudness war
May 27, 2016
The Mastering Show #10 - Dynamic Range Day
Why “Dynamic Range Day” is a really bad name. And come to think of it, why “dynamic range” probably isn’t what you think it is. And neither are “dynamics”! And why the Loudness War hasn’t changed them. At least, not one kind – or not in the way that you think. Because physics. It’s complicated! Plus special bonus topics: Autotune and Taylor Swift (!) Links: Dynamic Range Day How to use the TT ‘Dynamic Range’ Meter – and where to get it The ‘Dynamic Range’ Database Dynameter Did they REALLY just auto-tune Aretha ? SERIOUSLY ? So Taylor Swift is louder than Motorhead, AC/DC and The Sex Pistols… – wait, WHAT?
May 12, 2016
The Mastering Show #9 - Analogue versus Digital
Can digital really sound as good as analogue ? Should you use analogue or digital gear when mastering ? Could higher sample rates be hurting your music ? What’s wrong with the phrase “in the box” ? Why is a digital photograph NOT a good analogy for a digital audio file ? Why does Ian think recorded sound is miraculous, and what does that have to do with the answers to all the previous questions ? Links: There are no “stair steps” in digital audio How to test for intermodulation distortion When to use dither Monty’s superb analogue versus digital demo video
May 05, 2016
The Mastering Show #8 - You Need This
Some people may think this week’s topic is dull - but DON’T skip it ! If you follow Ian’s advice in this show it will have the single biggest impact on the quality of the results you can achieve in every area of audio work, not just mastering. It’s affordable, it’s simple and you need to do it. Listen now, then follow the links below ! Links How this method transformed Ian’s home studio Where Ian got the stuff he used A free tool to help you find out if you need to use it too A way to run that tool on a Mac, if you want to The DIY alternative
Apr 28, 2016
The Mastering Show #7 - Advanced Techniques
At it’s heart, mastering is simple - but there are plenty of more sophisticated techniques available, too. In this show we talk about some of these - and why you might not want to use them. Topics include: - Stereo width & M/S (mid-side) processing - An impossible EQ challenge - Stem mastering - Mix buss processing - Tape emulation & saturation - Creating a production master Links Stereo width in mastering – how to measure, monitor and modify it Should you use a buss compressor on your mix? The heart and soul of mastering
Apr 21, 2016
The Mastering Show #6 - Loudness
Loudness is still one of the hottest topics in mastering. In this episode we discuss why louder is better, but Too Loud is worse. And... - Why you must set the gain FIRST - How your plugins are fooling you - Optimising dynamics for online loudness - How loudness matching can be liberating - 90% of mastering in nutshell Links: Audio Bloggers Live Radio loudness – the Truth Loudness research Perception plugin Spotify loudness Dynamic range database Dynameter
Apr 14, 2016
The Mastering Show #5 - EQ
Mastering EQ is about balance, not matching. In this episode we explain what the difference is, why it matters and and ways you can get it right. Topics include: - Why “radio ready” sound is a mastering myth - How you can affect the balance of instruments in the mix, even within a stereo file - A simple but crucial point of mastering technique - The pros and cons of phase linear EQ - Ian’s recommended EQ plugins Links Loudness means NOTHING on the radio - the proof The Heart And Soul of Mastering Phase linear EQ demonstration Rock music and gynaecology
Apr 07, 2016
The Mastering Show #4 - Compression
Compression explained - using pillows and punchbags. Yes, you read that right ! And in this show we also talk about: - Why mastering compression is all about loudness. Except it’s not. - How compression in mastering is different than in mixing - How to make mastering compression invisible - Ian’s suggested starting-point settings for mastering compression - Why you might want to use multi-band compression Links Using compression to add punch, warmth and power to your mix What is compression ? Sponges hold the answer Multiband compression – the mastering engineer’s secret weapon? Gregory Scott - Demolishing Compression Myths Cheers !
Apr 01, 2016
The Mastering Show #3 - Limiting
In this show we take a deep dive into the topic of limiting. We explain why you need limiters, important Do’s and Dont’s, recommended plugins – and why there’s a good chance you’re using them wrong… Links: Are brickwall limiters nothing but pure evil ? Video demonstrating inter-sample peaks and how they affect Mastering for iTunes Intersample peaks and why they matter - more about why you should leave at least 1 dB peak headroom when mastering, with audio examples
Mar 23, 2016
The Mastering Show #2 - The Three M's of Mastering
We’re kicking off the show with a short mini-series covering every aspect of the mastering chain in turn – levels, EQ, compression, limiting and metering. We’re going to be starting at the end and working backwards – and in case you’re wondering why, Ian explains during the show ! So in this episode we cover the “Three M’s” of mastering- and to find out what they are, you’ll need to listen to the show. Show Links: The acoustic treatment material we talked about in the show is Owens Corning 703, sometimes known as Rockwool. To find out more about using acoustic treatment to improve the sound of your studio: For more about loudness meters: To assess the EQ balance of your music: More about the mindset of mastering:
Mar 23, 2016
The Mastering Show #1 - The Basics of Mastering
In this first introductory episode, we introduce ourselves and talk about what we have in store for the show. We then cover some mastering basics that will give you a solid grounding for the rest of the shows. Not sure what mastering is ? Start here ! Show links: What is mastering ? Photoshop for audio LUFS, dBFS, RMS… WTF ?!? How to read the new loudness meters
Mar 23, 2016