Mastering, a form of audio post production, is the process of preparing and transferring recorded audio from a source containing the final mix to a data storage device (the master), the source from which all copies will be produced (via methods such as pressing, duplication or replication). In recent years digital masters have become usual, although analog masters—such as audio tapes—are still being used by the manufacturing industry, particularly by a few engineers who specialize in analog mastering.
Mastering requires critical listening; however, software tools exist to facilitate the process. Results depend upon the intent of the engineer, the skills of the engineer, the accuracy of the speaker monitors, and the listening environment. Mastering engineers often apply equalization and dynamic range compression in order to optimize sound translation on all playback systems. It is standard practice to make a copy of a master recording—known as a safety copy—in case the master is lost, damaged or stolen.
In sound recording and reproduction, audio mixing is the process of optimizing and combining multitrack recordings into a final mono, stereo or surround sound product. In the process of combining the separate tracks, their relative levels are adjusted and balanced and various processes such as equalization and compression are commonly applied to individual tracks, groups of tracks, and the overall mix. In stereo and surround sound mixing, the placement of the tracks within the stereo (or surround) field are adjusted and balanced. Audio mixing techniques and approaches vary widely and have a significant influence on the final product.
Audio mixing techniques largely depend on music genres and the quality of sound recordings involved. The process is generally carried out by a mixing engineer, though sometimes the record producer or recording artist may assist. After mixing, a mastering engineer prepares the final product for production.
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