Signs of a Quality Mastered Mix (Cubase)

Signs of a Quality Mastered Mix (Cubase)

These are some of the characteristics that I think are pretty true of different types of recordings, for those who are still wondering what all this mastering stuff is really about:

Good final mix, not mastered:

- sounds quieter than commercial recordings.
- songs sound different from one track to the next. The listener frequently adjusts tone and/or volume controls on the playback system to compensate.
- recordings sound noticably different on different playback systems.
- compared with commercial recordings, highs seem to lack "sparkle" and "shimmer." lows sound sometimes dull, weak, or boomy.
- dynamic response may be uneven from one song to the next, or within songs.
- Overall sound of individual tracks is generally good.

Good final mix, well mastered:

- Frequency spread and level is comparable to commercial recordings.
- All songs have a consistent, high-quality "sound" that translates well regardless of playback system or listener's preferences vis-a-vis tone/eq controls.
- highs, mids, and lows are tight, clear, and smooth.
- Dynamic response is natural and musical. Pads are clean and lush, drums are punchy, instrument balance sounds natural.
- Frequency spread is balanced and clear. The "sound" is transparent, it doesn't distract from the musical content. "Depth" and "airiness" sound natural and smooth.

Good final mix, poorly mastered:

- Frequency spread is uneven and distracting. Highs may be sibilant and grating, especially at high volume. Lows may be thumpy or excessively boomy. Mids are noticably lacking.
- Dynamic response is unnatural and over-compressed.
- Sound is generally consistent from one system to the next, and from one track to the next. Listener adjustment of tone controls does not alter the "sound" of the recording.
- Overall, sounds generally more "pro" than the raw mix, but slightly sterile, and possibly unpleasant after extended listening.
- Sound may be gritty or overly "digital."
- Cymbals have a white-noise sound to them. Electric guitars may sound fizzy and harsh. Bass instruments do not seem well "seated" in the track. Drum sounds are weak, boomy, mushy, or inconsistent.

Between the rough mix and the bad master, I'll take the mix every time. Have fun.