I have a question for the pros among you about mixing prior to mastering. I've been trying to find an answer and haven't been able to turn anything up. I've been working up the courage to post here for days, because I'm in awe of you guys and I know I'm an idiot by comparison. I hope this isn't too stupid... I was researching various mastering studios, and nearly all of them specify that mixes sent in for mastering should have no compression, EQ, or limiting. However, in a tiny sentence at the very bottom of one studio's site, it said something more specific: "For best results, DO NOT add any compression, EQ, or limiting to the final mix. Individual tracks can be processed, but the mix should not." This changes everything — saying it's okay to use them WITHIN a mix, just not to apply them to the FINAL MIX as a whole — but now I'm even more confused. So should mixes have absolutely no compression, EQ, or limiting anywhere in them at all, period, or is it okay to have them on some of the elements WITHIN a final mix? The thing I'm most concerned about is vocals. I often use effects (as most vocalists do), and up until now I've always mixed and mastered my own stuff. As much as I hate to admit it here, I've spent years looking at it as a single process — mixingandmastering — rather than two separate things. I was in the habit of doing both simultaneously as I went along, so now I'm having a hard time making sense of what I'm supposed to do to keep the "mixing" separate from the "mastering." Because I'm confused, I suspect I'm still inadvertently trying to do both. I've been tearing my hair out trying to figure out how to get the sound I want without using any EQ at all. I can take the EQ off of an effect and the effect still sounds the same, but the mix changes completely; the vocal will be on a different plane and I'll need to raise or lower the level to get it back into alignment with the other elements. But I'm thinking that's probably the POINT ... that I'm just supposed to be getting the level where it needs to be in the mix and from there it's the realm of the ME to EQ the vocal to either soften the edges or make it pop. Is that correct?