Hi, I am new to this forum and wanted some advise from the pros. I am going to be recording a CD in the next month or so and wanted to know is it worth mastering it? I ask this not because I am an idiot but because the whole thing is going to be recorded on my digital 8 track (Fostex vr800/vm88). The only tools I really have are on-board DSP effects (mixer), a nanocompressor, a sonic maximizer and a 9 band eq (on a PA mixer, it has an in/out for the eq). I guess my question really is- Is it worth mastering something thats not going to sound great? I mean, it won't sound terrible but it's not going to sound great. Should i just get like T-racks and master it on my computer? or should i send it somewhere? I have almost no money, i'd prefer to go in to a real studio, but thats not going to happen anytime soon.
First of all what mastering really is in a nutshell is taking your project out of the professional domain and putting it in the consumer domain. The project to be acceptible in terms of sonics must sound really good on everything from a cheap walkman and headphones to a 30,000 consumer 2 channel Hi Defintion/Hi Fidelity system...AND with many (all) other systems and rooms. Don't be too quick to discount the quality of your work. If the mix is balanced and good taste is used in panning, Mastering can bring out the very best your project has to offer...BUT can also in non experienced hands ...make it worse and too "Blended" or "Masked" together.
I have had some less than stellar work cross my desk and come out shining. It can happen. Listen to your mix on a typical CD boom box and walk into another room with it playing about 10 feet away. Does anything stick out too much? Can you hear the vocals even with the bass boost on? Does the highs sound clear and balanced or tizzy and sizzley?
This is a mixes' acid test for folks that do not have a full scale facility. If you can get a good balance during that trial you will be able to get really good mastering. One caveat: I have heard good mixes ruined in mastering so you must choose someone who will do it from the heart and know your feel by instinct. You do not have to spend 3 grand to get your project mastered.
Programs such as T-Racks do a novel job at some of the mastering skills but the compressors defalt settings may not do any good with your works and you may have a tendency to overcompensate. I have used it and it is not a quick fix for precision mastering. It is a nice little toy but really cannot compete with the power of a full scale analog console and vacuum tube preamps and power amps conneted to serious monitoring systems. I picked it up to test it..for what it is and what it cost, it does nice for a demo project that really does not have to be autioned to the next level.
I give it it's merit and I think the designers of T-Racks did an excellent job at what it is But...Well it is a learning tool for those who want to see what it can do.
Knowing the alternatives keeps it out of the loop for me.
For the 300 dollars that you invest in T-Racks, that would be a very healty down payment on some great mastering. Get the mix right, (best you can)always use a CD..NOT a cassette tape (too many varables with cassettes) and try the just outside the room down the hall a few feet from the boom box test and make detailed notes to revisit your mix. Save each take so you do not second guess yourself to death. Find one that has good musicality and wrap it. Don't worry about the levels, worry about being distortion free, having plenty of headroom and clear fatigue free sound. The mastering engineer will tastfully balance your levels, eq, and compression to make your project as good as it can get. Mastering cost depends on scheduling, running time, engineer...well how much has to be done. It varies big time.
I hope this helps, If you have any questions as to this, feel free to email.
(Did I cover everything guys?)
Thank You Mr. Roberts for your reply. I have decided to take your advice. When I finish recording, i will send it somewhere to get mastered. I'll worry about where and who after I finish recording. Thank you a lot.