Master Bus vs Stereo Mix

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by JoaoSpin, Mar 8, 2017.

  1. JoaoSpin

    JoaoSpin Active Member

    Jan 16, 2011
    Florianópolis, SC Brazil
    Hi guys,
    First of all thank you for maintaning this excelent forum. I have a question about mastering. Is there a considerable difference in the audio quality of the final result if I bounce the mix onto a stereo file and then load it up again and master, as opposed to simply applying the mastering plugins on the master bus? If so, why? I find that when I'm mastering my own projects, issues come up in the mix and I go back to the mix and fix them. This is made a lot easier by just having the plugins right up on the bus (and then bounce straight into 16bit, 44100). Am I losing audio quality? Is it a normal practice to fix the mix in the mastering stage? Thoughts on this please.
    Have a great week,
  2. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

    Feb 21, 2013
    Quebec, Canada
    Home Page:
    There is two things to consider:
    The use of computer ressources impact on the sound VS the possible quality loss of exporting to stereo file.

    We can't know for sure because DAW maker won't say anything about it, but some of us believe that when playing a busy mix live, the computer may not render to full quality if it's ressources are very busy. So if you live play the song and record it to a new track, there is a chance the quality won't be at its max. If this is true, adding mastering Tools to the masterbuss will just make things worst.

    On the other hand, it's quite a common belief that everytime you process audio, its quality will degrade. (I'm not talking about changing the resolution, just bounce to file or process live effects)

    In any case, with a dense mix, my computer won't cope with mastering processing on top. So what I do is, I export my mixed songs to a folder and load them to a new project on which only mastering Tools are loaded. It gives me the ease of comparing each songs and make sure they fit well together (a big part of what mastering is about)
    Note that I record, mix and export at 24/96 and then master from 24/96 to 16/44 for cd and 16/48 for video. My goal is to retain the maximum resolution until the final export.
    As of today, I'm happy with the results, but I keep my eyes open for scientific explanation to do otherwise.

    Some of RO members do it with dual DAW setups. I will let them explain how and why.
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Nov 25, 2012
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
    Home Page:
    I agree with Marco... trying to mix and master in the same project file usually overtaxes my system ( and I've got 24 gig of RAM).
    Plus, I like having the original mix file to work with. If I do mastering in another project file, and things start to head south of the suck line, I've always got that original 2-mix file to fall back on.
    I also think that there's something to be said for letting the mix "sit" for a few days, and then coming back to it later, and working on it in a fresh project file dedicated to 2-Mix mastering only.

    And if I'm working on an album, I never master each song as it's finished. I wait until all the mixes are in the can, and then use the continuity of a song-to-song layout as the foundation. A big part of album mastering that many people aren't aware of, is the order in which the songs will play.

    I don't consider myself to be a Mastering Engineer, but there are times I'll do some basic mastering for clients who don't have the money for a pro M.E.
    When they do have the budget, I have a couple tried and true M.E.'s that I will send them to.

    That said, I don't ever mix and master in the same project file.
    I export the mix, usually between -18dbfs and -16dbfs (or so), allowing myself lots of headroom to work with, and then I'll open that 2-mix into a totally new project file, dedicated solely for mastering.

    Even if I was mixing to a separate DAW, I'd still master separately, using just the final 2Mix as the foundation.

    I'm not saying that you can't mix and master within the same project file/render... I'm sure there are cookers who do, and likely even successfully.
    I'm just saying that I'm not one of those guys. ;)

    IMO, of course.
  4. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Jan 23, 2010
    Boulder, Colorado
    Home Page:
    Right, real time playback in DAWs is a preview mode. By design, it's the exported stereo file that will have the full quality. Which is why I export mixes to 2-track files the way the designers of the system intended.
    pcrecord likes this.
  5. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

    Feb 21, 2013
    Quebec, Canada
    Home Page:
    My thought exactly ! ;)
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