Listening session and digital analysis of the frequency spectrum, mid-side balance and loudness is always the first step before deciding whether your premaster is ready for mastering. Sometimes asking back for some changes in the mixdown can be of crucial help for the best mastering output.
The mastering process begins by
importing your premaster into Izotope RX Audio Editor where I firstly examine the quality of the file and fix phase, azimuth or DC offset imbalances where necessary.
The next step is upsampling the premaster
to higher sample rates in order to utilize the maximum capabilities of my analog chain later on.
With the prepared file I move to Logic X Pro where I start the hybrid session of digital and analog audio processing. I use digital graphic dynamic EQs and dynamic multiband compression for the more detailed cleaning of the harsh and resonant frequencies and also for in depth mid-side balancing.
After the “surgical” stage in digital domain the mixdown is ready to go out of the box into my analog chain of mastering grade conversion, tubes saturation, compression, EQ, tape emulation, imaging, transformers and more. After applying some, or sometimes all of the mentioned processors and finding the sweet spot where the mixdown shines, the track goes back into the Dangerous AD+ (analog to digital converter) where I tend to use it’s known high quality clipping capability. After gaining desirable colour, balance and loudness I print the master back into the Logic X Pro.
In the last stage “master print” file goes back into Izotope RX Audio Editor for final touches like fade ins and outs, as well as another check for possible phase, azimuth or DC offset imbalances. During the last step, I downsample, limit, dither and finally export the master file.
stem mastering | mixing
Stem mastering involves working with groups - molecules, while mixing delves deeper into individual, fully separated channels - atoms within the whole mixdown - organism.
Both stem mastering and mixing encompass all the essential stages of the stereo mastering process, but they incorporate additional steps such as hybrid mixing and analog summing. Here's how it works:
Upon analyzing the audio files and potentially resampling them, I integrate the audio stems or channels within the Logic X project. Here, I initiate the mixing process utilizing the tools of the DAW, along with third-party digital plug-ins. Throughout the mixing phase, I often integrate my analog chain to enhance specific stems, such as vocals or drums, for instance.
Once I am satisfied with the mixdown I split it into four stereo groups that I spread across four stereo channels of analog summing, facilitating a more organic separation of musical components. While the choice of the first three groupings can vary based on the project—for instance, drums, vocals, basslines, or synthesizers—the fourth group consistently caters to all effect sends featuring spatial treatments like reverbs, choruses, doublers, and wideners. This approach contributes to a broader yet natural and pleasing stereo separation and depth of the mixdown.
Following the analog summing phase, the summed signal undergoes processing through the remaining analog components in my signal chain, culminating in the final mastering touches.