I know this will open a can worms for all the professionals out there, but I master with a $300 program called Reason. I have consumer speakers my friend gave me when he got surround sound and two pairs of cheap headphones. I know all three sets very well. Not a single person who I've shown my masters to, compared to the professional version, have ever noticed a difference. Sure, about 1000 mastering engineers out of a world of 6 billion would notice something, but no one has a mode-treated car with Genelec speakers in the doors. No one turns on their iPod and listens with mastering headphones... Sorry if that came out a bit harsh - I really just wanted to put some perspective on the amount of money that is spent on mastering. If someone can convince me that I am wrong, feel free to let me have it! To start out, I have the feeling that some people think that I am talking about a good final mix, and not about mastering. To clarify, these are the devices and processes I use when mastering within Reason 3.0: multi-band compressors, stereo imagers, high frequency harmonic enhancers, master reverb, dynamic filtering, upward expanders, plus all the usual devices: compression with side chain input, EQ, limiter, volume maximizer with soft clip. I'm currently working on a Reason patch to emulate the sound of the Vitalizer hardware. Aztec clarified this for me, thanks! Now, on to the debate. I know experts are passionate, and I really do appreciate your input. Yes, they are! Business 101: If you want higher profits, don't raise prices, rather cut your costs. My girlfriend can't either, despite my attempts at teaching her... For that matter, neither can 99% of my target audience. If I marketed my CDs to mastering engineers, sure, my masters are horrible. Luckily, I've decided that a target demographic of mastering engineers is too limiting and too demanding an audience. No one but mastering engineers cares about that level of quality. No one but mastering engineers can even hear that level of quality. Mastering the business of subtlety, and subtlety isn't noticed by the average ear. I'd bet $15,000 that your masters beat the socks off of my masters, but I'd also bet that people like our girlfriends wouldn't be able to tell the difference. People like our girlfriends are the consumers. The cost of improving a master from 'good enough' to 'professional grade' increases exponentially. $15,000 just so some professional mastering engineers will say, "that's a good master!"? I have better ways to spend my money. I feel like this is a bit of an old school vs new school issue. It's not that I settle for crappy quality, I just have some relatively new technology (Reason 3.0) that allows me to get 'good enough' masters when previously I couldn't dream of having the cash for pro mastering gear. I think the devices and processes listed at the start of this post is a decent list of gear. All I lack is a treated room and expensive monitors. But if I listen to reference material on my consumer speakers, and try to emulate the sound, will the result be close enough? I know answers to that question in this forum might be biased since if it is close enough, your jobs are suddenly threatened. The same way musicians in the early part of the twentieth century felt when recording became possible. Their unions banned members from recording thinking it would put live musicians out of jobs. I’ve always wondered if there’s been any research on whether or not there is a significant psychological advantage to professionally mastered music when compared to ‘good enough’ mastered music to justify the costs of pro mastering. I haven’t charged anyone yet for my ‘good enough’ mastering services, but I feel like this cost-effective-for-the-quality method could fill a consumer demand in semi-professional recording. I really don't mean for this to be a flame or an attack on the usefulness of mastering engineers. The way technology is going, I think this is an important topic for everyone interested in mastering to discuss. I am perfectly willing to be convinced that my $300 methods really stand between me and a sucessful career. Let's hear the evidence!