Asked about “at-home mastering”, I answered at TOMB:
You do realize your post may start a firestorm, right?
I’ll answer as a long-time bedroom recordist, too prolific to afford professional mastering myself, by telling you what I try to accomplish by engaging in what I call, “masturding”.
Your mileage will certainly vary, and what I do is certainly not “mastering” in the accepted sense, or mebbe even in any acceptable sense.
First, I shoot for as much congruity in the 2-mixes (mix-downs) as desired, and “top and tail” the tracks, such that extraneous noise is gone, fades are perfect, etc. I usually like .1 second of silence at the head of every track – it just works for me – and I like to end tracks on a whole second number rather than a decimal, as it’s easier for liner notes.
Then, I decide on sequence.
Next I shoot for consistent EQ on the 2-mix of each song in comparison to the others, or at least the ones right before and after in the sequence. Starting places include high-pass (I usually do 40Hz as a default, fairly gradual shelf slope), and then stuff like “air” (10-12kHz, sometimes, gradual shelf up, sometimes, sometimes a wide peak, sometimes none – depends on the track) and mebbe cut mud around 350 or 450Hz by a couple db, usually at a Q of 1.3 – these are just figures I find I adjust sometimes more than others, as a starting place, with my material, ears, and equipment … There’s nothing the matter with using using similar settings most of the time, BTW, but you have to find them according to your given material, ears and rig. And you might not be able to …
Next I go for peak-limiting (I personally don’t mix into or apply compression to the 2-mix), usually setting peaks at -.3db (which ensures no digital overs in my DAW if I convert to *.mp3 or FLAC later), but always listening to the tracks in sequence to make sure apparent level is correct, i.e., that they sound consistent when played in order. You can’t use digital data to set average loudness levels because the average loudness of an acoustic number, for example, is usually gonna be lower than an electric number, digital data-statistically speaking. So, listen.
Finally, I listen to everything on various playback set-ups, ex., in the car, headphones, I-Pod, the kitchen and bathroom and den stereos …
And I start all over, or just adjust, as necessary.
Hope that’s helpful.
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