The Mastering Show

By Ian Shepherd

Listen to a podcast, please open Podcast Republic app. Available on Google Play Store.

Category: Music

Open in Apple Podcasts

Open RSS feed

Open Website

Rate for this podcast

Subscribers: 107
Reviews: 0


This is the show where we cover all aspects of mastering. If you're interested in mastering, want to learn how to get better results mastering your own music, or even want to be a mastering engineer, this is the show you want to hear.

Episode Date
The Mastering Show #72 - Off-topic but SO good !
This is so good it just needed it’s own episode. It’s a groundbreaking, unique new way to make music online - and everyone should try it out ! It’s not just bleeps and beats, either - there are plenty of people using it to make fantastic acoustic and sample-based live-looping music as well. I’m talking about Endlesss, the new live-looping-jam-with-friends-online iOS app developed by musician Tim Exile that I mentioned at the end of the last episode - and now it’s going to be available on Mac & PC ! I loved chatting to Tim for this episode, and there’s a ton of interesting ideas here even if you’re not that interested in the idea of Endlesss. We talk about: * The problem of perfectionism in music production, and why it’s a mastering engineer’s super-power * The best way to develop a new musical instrument * How to fit 40kg of music tech in an iPhone - and why it’s worth it * How not-live can feel live and how THAT can overcome anxiety and imposter syndrome * And how Endlesss got Ian back into creating music after a 20-year break as a result Full show notes on our website
Jun 16, 2020
The Mastering Show #71 - Remote audio - mixing, mastering and more
Real-time remote audio work IS possible - with surprising quality and flexibility ! In this show I’ll describe techniques and strategies to help you mix, master, teach and even record remotely - and even suggest some ways to jam live. Kind of. Amongst other things I’ll describe how to: Stream lossless, low-latency audio to any DAW or browser, for up to 40 people Combine this audio stream with multi-user video chat Screenshare in sync for easier collaboration during mixing, mastering and even recording Take control of someone else’s screen for teaching or training purposes Use other people’s analogue gear in your project “Jam” virtually online - on an iPhone ! Thanks to Ian Stewart and Lij Shaw for help with ideas and testing for this episode. Check out the website for full links and show notes
Apr 07, 2020
The Mastering Show #70 - Mastering Billie Eilish - Loudness versus Art
Our guest this episode is LA mastering engineer John Greenham who just won a Grammy for his work on Billie Eilish’s album. We talk to him about how he came to work with Billie, and dig into his work on the album in depth, discussing topics including: * John’s mastering chain and philosophy * Whether “Xanny” is the loudest song ever * How to get RMS levels above zero (!) * Loudness, confidence and client relations * Are loud mixes a problem for mastering engineers ? * What it’s like to win a Grammy
Feb 29, 2020
The Mastering Show #69 - Good versus GREAT mastering
We talk on this show about making a master sound great all the time - but what does that mean ? How can you tell the difference between a good or a great master, or whether you’re doing great work yourself, or not ? In this episode we discuss all these questions, plus: * Is it even possible to tell a good or a great master ? If not, why not ? * Is it about great sound, or great work ? * Why “great” doesn’t have to mean “perfect” * What about great re-masters ? * How to know if you’re doing great work * The only person who can really decide Full show notes and links on our website
Jan 28, 2020
The Mastering Show #68 - Restoring Dynamics
I often get asked if it’s possible to restore dynamics to a heavily limited, clipped or compressed source, to achieve a more dynamic master. The answer is… it’s complicated ! So in this episode we do our best to answer the question. Topics include: Why you shouldn’t do this When you might have to do this When doing this is a bad idea How to do it (the simple way, the complicated way and the really messy way) How compression can sometimes add dynamics What these techniques can never do Full links and shownotes on our website:
Dec 20, 2019
The Mastering Show #67 - Minus 14 LUFS - or NOT ?
People are talking about minus 14 LUFS loudness more and more these days, but why ? What does this number mean, where does it come from, and why should you care ? In this episode we answer all these questions and more, including: * Which streaming services are using -14 LUFS * Why Spotify aren’t using -14 LUFS, and why it matters * Why you shouldn’t use minus 14 LUFS as a target (or any number) but * Why it’s still important and useful to know about anyway * Will mastering to -14 LUFS make your music sound bad ?!? Full links and show notes on the website
Nov 15, 2019
Bad News and Good News
Hello The bad news is there is no regular podcast for you this week. There will not be a new episode until Ian's voice improves but in the meantime we'd like to let you know about two excellent podcast episodes where Ian was a guest for Twenty Thousand Hertz. (that's the good news) The [COMPRESSED] History of Mastering The Loudness Wars Dallas from 20K was our guest on episode 63 If you're a fan of The Mastering Show we're sure you'll also love these episodes.
Oct 30, 2019
The Mastering Show #66 - Good Questions
Time for another Q&A episode ! As always you’ve been asking great questions, so in this episode we discuss: * Why Ian talks too much * How dynamic is too dynamic ? * Fade-outs - before or after compression ? * How has the loudness war changed production and arrangement styles ? * Mastering for gaming streams (like Twitch TV) * Mastering in different genres
Sep 19, 2019
The Mastering Show #65 - Making money from mastering
Can you make money from mastering ? And if so, how ? If you’re already charging people for your work, how can you be more effective and productive ? Our guest in this episode is Graham Cochrane from the Recording Revolution website, which has been so successful that he’s started helping other people use some of the same ideas and strategies to get them started making money in the audio business themselves. You don’t have to be an audio blogger or YouTuber to achieve this - in this episode we talk about strategies anyone can use: * How to get started charging money from mastering * How to decide how much to charge * What makes you different - why people really might choose you to master their music, even though you don’t have a million-dollar studio or a legendary credit list * Simple strategies to become more effective and efficient with almost everything you do in your business * Why telling some clients to use online mastering instead of you might actually be a good business strategy
Aug 23, 2019
The Mastering Show #64 - Aliasing - is it digital audio's Achilles Heel ?
There’s been lots of buzz and discussion about aliasing online recently, and lots of confusion, too. Is it a flaw in the whole idea of digital audio ? Does it explain why analogue modelling plugins can never sound exactly like the real thing ? Or is it just inaudible mathematical theorising ? In this episode we try to answer all these questions, plus Ian attempts to give an easy visual explanation of what aliasing is and how it relates to audio, with - er… questionable results. Along the way discuss: * What wagon wheels have to do with audio sampling * And vinyl turntables * And digital audio * How (and why) to avoid aliasing * Why high sample rates may help and * Why all this is important when using plugins Full Show Notes
Jul 22, 2019
The Mastering Show #63 - Mastering (and mixing) for broadcast - with Dallas Taylor
Usually on the show we’re talking about mastering music for CD, download and streaming, but there’s another important final destination for the audio we work on - broadcast. And the difference with broadcast audio is - there are standards. Having said that, often there isn’t a dedicated mastering stage ! In this episode we dig into the whole fascinating topic with our guest Dallas Taylor from Defacto Sound, and host of the superb Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast. Dallas has a wealth of experience in sound design and mixing for broadcast on trailers and ads for shows like Game Of Thrones and games like Fallout, amongst many others. In a wide-ranging conversation we talk about: * Why sound design is like being a conductor * American versus British mixing style in drama * What are “emotional FX” ? * The loudness wars in broadcast * Dialnorm - what and why ? * How to make dragons talk
Jun 24, 2019
The Mastering Show #62 - How to master audio that SURVIVES streaming
Everything gets streamed these days, and almost all streaming platforms use lossy data encoding: mp3, AAC, OGG etc (OMG!) And these lossy codecs do a pretty remarkable result of preserving the quality, considering they strip out anywhere between 60-90% of the original data. But it’s not perfect - far from it ! In this show we talk about: * How your audio can be damaged by lossy data encoding * Why this happens * How you can test for it yourself * Why it’s worth doing * How it can help you hear the artefacts for yourself * Whether we should optimise our audio to avoid them and (most importantly!) * The two simple steps you can take to minimise these problems and help your audio SURVIVE streaming Full show notes on our website
May 29, 2019
The Mastering Show # 61 - Learn without listening
You might argue that reading about audio is like dancing about architecture. Or something. But you’d be wrong! In these days of podcasts and YouTube it’s easy to forget how many great books there are about audio, and what a fantastic resource they are for getting inspiration, ideas and learning new topics and techniques. in this show we share some of our favourites, including: * The book that took Ian several years to read, how to access it's Secret Bonus Content, and why * A book that tells you how to use a potato as a filter, amongst other things * Books about a band that Ian says you NEED to read * The only two books about mastering (that we know of) * The books we haven’t read but know we should * Invaluable writing about audio that isn’t in books * Several things that aren’t books at all See full show notes on our website
May 03, 2019
The Mastering Show #60 - The loudness technique you need to start using TODAY
This show is short & sweet - but essential listening if you’re interested in getting better results with online loudness - and balanced, musical dynamics for your masters. In this episode Ian describes: - How he increased playback loudness on Spotify by 3.3 dB for a song by reducing it’s overall loudness by 1.5 dB, and why it sounded better afterwards - What to do if your song gets turned down more than you expect online - Why you have to be careful with contrast on Spotify - How reducing dynamics can make your music sound more dynamic - Why musical decisions work better than technical ones full show notes at
Mar 21, 2019
The Mastering Show #59 - More questions answered (Q&A 6)
It’s been a while since we had a Q&A episode, so - here it is ! In this show we discuss: * Can a spectrum analyser make up for poor monitoring ? * Is allowing peak levels up to -0.1 wrong ? * Do speaker isolation pads work ? * Handling client payment issues * What to do when songs overlap (segued) * Do dynamic masters sound worse on a PA ? Full show notes on the website
Feb 15, 2019
The Mastering Show # 58 - Mud or magic ? Managing the mids
We’ve all heard it - “the music is in the mid-range”. But what does that mean, exactly ? And if it’s true, is there anything we can do about it in mastering ? We’ve talked about bass and high frequencies, but in this show we dive into the muddy, murky mess that is (often) the mid-range, and talk about how crucial it is for a great-sounding master. Including: * How the mids help us hear bass * Common problems with the mid-range, and what causes them * How to open up cluttered mids in mastering * Our least favourite mid-range frequencies * Mids versus dynamics * The importance of linear phase EQ for the mids full show notes
Jan 14, 2019
The Mastering Show #57 - With great power…
…comes great responsibility. And mastering engineers need to accept that. If you take on the challenge of mastering someone’s music, you also accept a huge amount of responsibility for that music, and In this episode we tackle the question - what are the responsibilities of a mastering engineer - and even the ethics ? Including: * Should a mastering engineer have a “signature sound” ? * Why the “B” word is at the heart of mastering - in many different ways * Something you should probably never do * How to supply files - for CD, online and vinyl pressing * Ensuring transfer integrity online * The golden rule of mastering full show notes on our website
Dec 07, 2018
The Mastering Show #56 - Mastering Crappy Mixes
It’s a question we get all the time: what do you do when the mixes you receive are more… “challenged" than you might ideally like ? How much can you fix in mastering if you really need to, and how much should you do ? In this show we cover a range of strategies for dealing with some of the toughest challenges when you’re mastering tricky mixes, including: * What is a crappy mix ? * Should we even try to master one ? * When not to master a crappy mix - and what you can learn * Techniques for “digging in” - from subtle to aggressive * A brand-new option for the very worst cases * The Golden Rule
Nov 12, 2018
The Mastering Show #55 - How Bright Is Too Bright?
Everyone wants that glorious, sweet, silky-smooth top end in their masters - but how do you get it ? How do you stop things sounding harsh, tinny and brittle ? And even if the high frequencies do sound gorgeous, how hard should you push them ? In this show we’re talking about treble, and our topics include: * What is “Newton’s 3rd law” of EQ ? * How do room acoustics affect how you hear high frequencies ? * How can you “calibrate” your ears so you’re aiming for the right amount of top ? * How do dynamics interact with high frequencies, and why does it matter ? * What’s a “spiderman” plugin ? * Which EQ plugin or hardware unit should you use for the best results ?
Oct 12, 2018
The Mastering Show #54 - When Normalization Goes Wrong
As you know, we think normalization is a Good Thing. But many people disagree. And often that’s because it’s not perfect yet - not by a long shot. In this episode we explain some of the quirks, bugs and problems of normalization in action, and how they can cause unexpected results when you’re trying to optimise your music for listening online. Along the way we discuss: * Four really normal normalization mix-ups * How NOT to test normalisation on Spotify * Where to find YouTube’s actual normalization values * Why broadcast levels won’t work on YouTube * Whether we’re actually on the payroll for Big Normalization
Sep 22, 2018
The Mastering Show #53 - Fear Of Bass
We all want great low end - deep, fat, solid and punchy. But it can be one of the hardest things to get right - especially knowing how much of it is needed. Too much bass can sound boomy, flabby, muddy or dull. And as a result, it’s easy to be scared of bass. It’s easier to be cautious and avoid all those possible problems, right ? Well, maybe. Except if the low end isn’t working in your master, you risk the opposite problem - everything can sound weak, thin and harsh. In this week’s episode we talk about ways to avoid all these problems, including: Topics we cover include: * The one thing you shouldn’t do - and why * The deceptively simple thing you should always do * Will a sub-woofer help, or hinder ? * How EQ for better bass can sometimes make things worse - because phase * Dynamic EQ versus multiband compression * How distortion might help * Ah, duck it
Jul 04, 2018
The Mastering Show #52 - DON'T aim for LUFS targets online
All the online streaming services play music back at roughly -14 LUFS, so that’s the level we should aim for when we’re mastering, right ? Wrong. That may sound strange, given how much we’ve talked about online loudness over the years - but we’re serious. In this show we dive deeper into one of the points we discussed in the last show: why you shouldn't be aiming for specific integrated LUFS values when mastering you music for online streaming. But, why it is still useful to know how your music will be affected. Topics we cover include: * A quick introduction to normalization * How it works * Why peak normalisation is useless for matching loudness * Why mastering songs to a specific LUFS value doesn’t work * So why are LUFS measurements of streaming services useful AT ALL ? * When Spotify’s normalization fails * The biggest problem with normalization right now Full show notes and links at
Jun 08, 2018
The Mastering Show #51 - What IS the Loudness Penalty?
"How loud will my music sound online ?" It’s the question everyone is asking these days, and the answer has always been “it depends”. Until now. In this episode Ian Kerr from MeterPlugs talks about the new tool he has been developing with Ian Shepherd to answer this question. It’s a website called Loudness Penalty, and it’s free ! Along the way we also discuss * Why -14 LUFS isn’t the right target for online loudness * Why Ian Kerr decided to make plugins that won’t change your audio - but will make it sound better * How coding 3D computer game graphics helped him develop LCast and Dynameter * Why the Ians decided to make Loudness Penalty free * How to use Loudness Penalty to find out what your music will sound like online * Why different streaming services all manage loudness in different ways
May 26, 2018
The Mastering Show # 50 - Mastering on Headphones ?!
You can’t master on headphones, right ? Well, let’s see… This year’s Dynamic Range Day Award-winner broke all the streaming records in it’s first week, debuted at Number 1 in the Billboard chart and... it was mastered on headphones. In this episode we talk to Glenn Schick, the engineer who mastered KOD by J Cole about his decision to become a “mobile” mastering engineer, including: * How (and why) he closed his analogue mastering studio to go mobile * Why he thinks it actually helps him to get better results... * And makes his job easier * The type of headphones he uses, and why * His mastering process for KOD, and * The decision to master with more dynamics Full show notes at
May 10, 2018
The Mastering Show #49 - Great Audio Podcasts
As well as running our own show, we’re huge fans of other podcasts too, and in this show we take a little time to wander off-topic and recommend some of our favourite audio-related shows. We each choose four podcasts, and suggest great episodes of each to get started with. If you listen to all the episodes we recommend, you’ll get to hear hours of useful, interesting and amusing content, including things like: * A podcast with higher production standards than ours (gasp!) * Career advice from Andrew Scheps * How to turn a studio mistake into a win * How to cope with Imposter Syndrome * One of Ian’s biggest heroes * Why it’s good to fail - and much much more. Seriously, it’s a great list !
Apr 18, 2018
The Mastering Show # 48 - How to become a mastering engineer
Our guest in this episode is Katie Tavini, who shares the inspiring story of how she got into mastering. It’s something we’re asked all the time, and Katie is a great example of one way to start in the industry, in a time when internships and junior positions are becoming less and less accessible. She also talks about the great network of engineers she’s discovered through Red Bull’s Normal Not Novelty initiative. Other topics include: * Why Katie got into mastering * Do you need expensive gear to master effectively ? * Katie’s favourite piece of gear * Does understanding classical music help with mastering ? * The challenges of being a female engineer * The pros and cons of attended sessions Full links and show notes on the website
Mar 29, 2018
The Mastering Show #47 - What’s the best DAW for mastering ?
It’s a question we get asked regularly, and our answer may surprise you. To answer the question, we put together a “shopping list” for the ultimate DAW, and then discuss which of the applications is the best fit, and why. Topics include: * Which DAW sounds best ? * What does that mean ? * Do all digital EQs sound the same ? * What’s a DDP file ? * Pro mastering applications * Workflow versus features Full show notes and links on our website
Mar 09, 2018
The Mastering Show #46 - Answering questions again (QnA 5)
Another chance for us to catch up with some of the questions you’ve been asking us. In this episode we talk about: * Bass - where does it start, where does it begin ? * How to use an analyser to assess EQ balance * When NOT to use an analyser to balance EQ and * What to do instead * Adding saturation in mastering - should you do this, and if so, how ? * The most difficult projects we’ve each worked on * How to extend an abrupt fade-out Full show notes and links
Feb 23, 2018
The Mastering Show #45 - Jonathan Wyner
Many of you will already know Jonathan from iZotope's excellent educational videos on mastering - he's also an experienced producer and recording engineer, head engineer at M-Works mastering (, a lecturer at Berklee and has written a book on mastering. In this interview we talk about many different aspects of his career, including: * The delights (and perils) of analogue tape * Re-mastering David Bowie * Digital mastering tools - and the risk of over-using them * Humans versus machines in mastering (again) and * Getting the best of both worlds Full show notes and links
Feb 09, 2018
The Mastering Show #44 - Loudness Units 101
LUFS… WTF ?!? (And why aiming for -14 isn’t the right answer for online loudness) We talk about loudness all the time on this show, but how do you actually measure it ? How big is a “loudness unit”, and why are there three different kinds ? What does LUFS stand for, anyway ? How do you loudness match two files using LUFS measurements, and what free software can you use to get started ? In this show we answer all these questions and more - plus Ian explains the simple technique he uses to optimise loudness for all the online streaming platforms, and why it isn’t about aiming for -14 LUFS. If you find the show helpful, please share it with your friends, and leave us a rating and review : Full show notes
Jan 24, 2018
The Mastering Show #43 - The Christmas Episode
Something a bit different to celebrate the festive season this week - we invited a group of cool audio guests to join us on the show, and asked each of them to bring a “gift” to fill an imaginary "Christmas Stocking” for you. So, you get a pile of cool, interesting and funny little treats to keep you amused in the run-up to christmas - or, just to amuse you, if you don’t celebrate it ! There are SO many great bits & pieces in this show, there’s sure to be something for everyone, we hope. If you enjoy it, please leave us a rating and review : Our guests on the show are: Lij Shaw - from the Recording Studio Rockstars podcast Mike Hillier - audio engineer and writer for Music Tech magazine Sigurdór Guðmundsson - mastering engineer & mixer from Skonrokk Studio Chris Selim from Ian Stewart - mastering engineer & mixer Matt Boudreau from the Working Class Audio podcast Full show notes and links to everything we mentioned at:
Dec 22, 2017
The Mastering Show #42 - Man versus machine - automated mastering
Can robots really master our music ? Kenny Gioia set up poll on Facebook to see, asking people to choose between six different masters of the same song - three by humans (John Longley, an anonymous engineer from Sterling Sound and Steven Slate) and three by machines (LANDR, Aria and iZoTope Ozone). The great thing is, the test was blind, and loudness matched - so no-one knew which master they were listening to, and loudness didn’t influence the way the masters sounded. And the results of the poll were fascinating. In this show Kenny reveals which master was which, and we discuss the results - including: * Why this is not a scientific test * Ian’s blind comments on the masters, including his instincts about which was which * Why the poll results are probably skewed * When automated makes sense * What the robots still can’t do - and maybe never will Full show notes and links:
Nov 24, 2017
The Mastering Show #41 - The problem with loudness normalization - and TIDAL’s solution
This is huge. There’s a problem with loudness normalization, and TIDAL asked Eelco Grimm to find a solution for them. What he found in his research was unexpected and exciting. Eelco has been involved with loudness measurement and the LUFS standard from the very beginning, and in this show we also talk a little about his story and how it involves: * Technology versus emotion in music * The origins of loudness research * Eelco’s TIDAL research findings (which you should know about, even if you’re not interested in normalization !) * His advice to TIDAL and * How they reacted * The future of normalization STOP PRESS Since recording the show we've heard that TIDAL have implemented all the changes we discuss in the show by default, in all new installs of their iOS and Android apps, with desktop to follow. For more information, click here: Full show notes and links at
Nov 10, 2017
The Mastering Show #40 - Your Questions Answered - Live
A Q&A episode with a twist - we recorded it live, with questions arriving all the time we were recording. We’ve added them all to the list for future episodes - here are the ones we had time to tackle this time: * How has mastering changed over Ian's career, and where is it going next ? * Is there somewhere out there with reference tracks for mixing and mastering ? * Are there any tips for avoiding the trap of "mastering with your eyes" ? * Should you use compression when mastering classical music ? If so, when ? * Why you shouldn’t make master everything at -14 LUFS for online streaming * Is absolute polarity audible ? Does it matter ? * Is “AI” mastering like iZoTope Ozone 8 any good ? This episode is sponsored by the Home Mastering Masterclass. If you enjoy The Mastering Show, take a look ! Full show notes and links at
Oct 13, 2017
The Mastering Show #39 - Digital Gain Staging: what’s the point ?
Gain staging used to be a crucial consideration for analogue recording and mixing - but you’ll hear plenty of people saying it doesn’t really matter, in a modern digital audio workstation. And they have a (floating) point. But you’ll also hear lots of other people, me included, saying it IS important to understand what gain staging is and how it works, even in a digital environment. So who’s right ? In this show we dig into the details, and discuss: * How much peak headroom should you leave before mastering ? * What IS gain staging, anyway ? * Why do people say it doesn’t matter in digital ? Or: * What’s the point of floating point ? * How does it work ? * When digital gain staging does matter Full show notes on the website:
Oct 03, 2017
The Mastering Show # 38 - If you can't hear it, does it really matter ?
If something is technically wrong but inaudible, is that a problem ? When is it OK to break the rules ? What is “audibility”, anyway ? Topics include: * If everyone else is listening is listening on earbuds and phones, why shouldn’t we ? * If music is art, it’s just a matter of taste - so how can anything be wrong ? * Ear training - how do you learn to listen ? * Are the answers to any of these questions different for mastering engineers ? * Plus: The secret super-power of Stealth Tambourines Full show notes and links
Sep 19, 2017
The Mastering Show #37 - Does Gear Matter?
Gear: does it matter ? And if so, how much ? And if gear DOES matter, does it define your sound ? And how ? In this episode we’re joined by Mike Hillier to talk about the significance of gear in mastering. Topics include: * Is a wide selection of gear essential to success in mastering (and mixing) ? * What are the “essential” pieces of gear we just couldn’t live without ? * If two pieces of gear can be made to sound almost identical, does that mean there’s no worthwhile difference ? * Is that even a question worth asking ? * Do mastering engineers have a “sound” ? What defines it ? * How does your gear shape your “sound” ? Full show notes on the website
Jul 17, 2017
Extra - Introducing HMM
If you enjoy this podcast, you may also enjoy the Home Mastering Masterclass course ! Here's a quick introduction to the course, and also an exclusive offer for Mastering Show listeners. For all the details, click here:
Jul 10, 2017
The Mastering Show #36 - Compression versus compression (and sponges)
In which Ian probably goes too far with his analogy explaining compression using sponges. And in which Jon describes the concept of “sloppage headroom” and inter-sample peaks, and in which we also discuss: * Why lossy data compression doesn’t affect dynamics, except * When it does. And * Why dynamic compression doesn’t affect lossy compression quality, except * When it does. Plus * mp3 or AAC ? VBR or CBR ? Do we care ? * The ultimate mp3 encoder stress-test Full show notes
Jul 05, 2017
The Mastering Show #35 - Even More Questions Answered
You asked questions. We answered them. Or tried to, at least! Featuring another mind-mangling guest appearance by Ian Stewart - although he’s not the one to blame for any confusion :-) Questions include: * What are LUFS loudness units, and are there any guidelines for using them ? * What is the K-System, and how does it relate to LUFS ? * Should you always use low and high-cut filters while mastering ? * What’s the best bit-depth to supply for mastering ? 24-bit or 32-bit float ? * Can Ian’s Perception plugin be used while mixing ? * How do you manage payments and file security when working for clients ? * Phase-linear EQ in mastering - what, when, why and how Full show notes:
Jun 15, 2017
The Mastering Show #34 - What ARE dynamics ?
Dynamics. I talk about them ALL the time. “This song has great dynamics”... “make sure you keep plenty of dynamics”... “your music NEEDS balanced dynamics”… but what actually ARE they ? Just like everything else we talk about on this show, dynamics are more complicated than they might seem at first glance. For example, there are at least two different types ! In this show we unpick the topic and try to shed some life on the truth about dynamics, including: * Why the loudness war hasn’t reduced loudness range * Why “DR” measurements don’t measure dynamic range * Why “crest factor” is a better term, and how it relates to the two types of dynamics * The natural dynamics of different sounds, and * When you don’t want to hear them * What Ian really thinks of the Prodigy, Skrillex and the Chemical Brothers - and their dynamics * How to measure dynamics Check the show notes for links
May 25, 2017
The Mastering Show #33 - Before Mastering
How should I prepare for mastering to get the best results ? It’s one of the things we get asked most often, and it often seems like the answers are really straightforward. But then you record a 50-minute podcast answering the question and realise maybe it’s not quite as simple as it seems, once you get into the details... (And even if you’re planning to master your own music, keep listening - almost all these points still apply !) In this show we cover topics like: * Seven deal-breaking mistakes that can halt the mastering process in it’s tracks - before it’s even started * The best file format to use for exporting your mixes * How to send files - is it safe to “zip" audio ? * Dynamics for mastering * What can (and can’t) be fixed in mastering * Ian’s "Mastering Maxim” for getting the best results when working with a mastering engineer
May 08, 2017
The Mastering Show #32 - Bob Ludwig
Bob Ludwig is a mastering superstar. This show starts out with the interview I did with him for this year’s Dynamic Range Day, after which Jon and I dig a little deeper into some of the topics we touched on: * Why some of Bob’s clients ignore his advice (!) * The #1 problem with many of the mixes being sent to him lately * How he used to cut really hot masters for vinyl Plus we branch out into a few other subjects, including: * Bob's approach to client requests for loud masters * What is Loudness FUD ? * How to use a loudness meter in mixing Bob Ludwig: Show notes & links:
Apr 25, 2017
The Mastering Show #31 - What IS loudness ?
Everybody wants their music to sound loud. But does it need to be loud in order to sound loud ? What does that mean ? Well, it takes us about 30 minutes to really nail the answer to that question in this Dynamic Range Day themed episode, but we get there eventually - and we cover some pretty interesting ground along the way ! For example: * How to make things sound loud without making them (much) louder * The trick of balancing loud and quiet songs against each other * When to turn things down * What is "loudness potential" ? * How to get the right balance of loudness before mastering * The most common loudness issue Ian faces when mastering, and * The 100% successful strategy he uses to solve it Full show notes Dynamic Range Day Dynameter
Mar 27, 2017
The Mastering Show #30 - More Questions Answered
The first Q&A show got a great reaction, so we decided it was time for another one ! Questions this time: - Re-mastering - opinions about the 2009 Stone Roses re-issues - Do young people find clipping and other distortion more acceptable ? - Should a clipper ever be used after a limiter ? - Should bass sounds always be in mono ? How do you treat them ? - Does speaker or headphone calibration software really work ?
Mar 13, 2017
The Mastering Show #29 - Mastering Live Sound
Some of our favourite albums are live recordings - and some of the most challenging and interesting mastering projects are also recorded live. In this episode we discuss - The most common problems with live sound, and the mastering rules you’re allowed to break to solve them - What is the “ideal” live recording ? - How restoration tools can be useful for mastering live sound - Two of Ian’s favourite live albums - Techniques for mastering live classical music - How to preserve the most important aspect of any live recording in mastering Links:
Mar 03, 2017
The Mastering Show #28 - Remastering & Restoration
What is re-mastering ? Why would you want to do it ? And how ? And even - should you ? Topics include: * The ultimate goal of great remastering * Why getting an ideal source isn’t always as simple as it sounds * Restoration tools for mastering, and how to use them * When remastering goes bad - the remastering backlash * One of Ian’s most challenging remastering projects Full show notes
Feb 18, 2017
The Mastering Show #27 - Mastering Audio For Games
How do you master audio for games ? Can you master audio for games ? Is it even a thing ? It turns out the answer is Yes, but it’s complicated. In this episode we talk to Jay Fernandes about audio in games, including: * Why audio is critical to the gaming experience * How “mastering” works in games * Challenges and solutions in gaming audio * How to measure the loudness of a game, what to aim for, and why it matters * Some of the best games for audio * Why Jon hates "3D sound" Visit the website for all the links
Jan 30, 2017
The Mastering Show #26 - Clipping: What is it, and is it ever acceptable ?
Some people say clipping distortion is inaudible, some say it’s the true secret of really “loud” mastering, some say it’s a powerful creative effect, others that it’s the spawn of the devil. So who is right, and why ? In this show we talk about: * What clipping is, and the difference between the analogue & digital varieties *When and why we use it *Whether you can repair clipping damage *The difference between clipping and limiting *Why clipping & saturation are NOT the secret of "analogue warmth" Full show notes and links
Jan 16, 2017
The Mastering Show #25 - Stereo: width, depth and image - how to measure, monitor and master them
It’s amazing how much control you can have of the stereo image in mastering, even with quite simple tools. In this show we explore: * What is stereo ? The simplest and most sophisticated types * Ian's new favourite mixing plugin for creating stereo from a mono sound * How to measure stereo width and control it * How to influence reverb levels in mastering * What is M/S processing - and why it's probably not exactly what you think * The power & problems of M/S processing * Recommended stereo processing plugins Our guest this week is Ian Stewart Links: Ian Stewart's Blog Flux stereo tool Jerobeam Fenderson - music made for oscilloscope Voxengo MSED - mid/side plugin VUMT - VU meter emulation (new version) Fabfilter Pro Q 2 Stereo width in mastering – how to measure, monitor and modify it (Video includes demos of a simple correlator and the Nugen Visualizer 2 with 'correlation by frequency' display)
Dec 12, 2016
The Mastering Show #24 - Mastering for online streaming (including Mastered for iTunes)
How do you optimise your music for online streaming, when there are so many different services and standards out there ? Specifically: * What’s the best file format to submit ? * What about the specifications ? * Can you compensate for the sound of the encoder ? * How do you know how loud to make your music ? * Should you make separate masters for every service ? * What about Mastered for iTunes ? To get the “Black Friday” discount on Dynameter or any other MeterPlugs product, use this link and the coupon code TMSBLACK in the shopping cart: Ian Shepherd’s Dynameter, by MeterPlugs Links Why mp3 sucks, and how to hear it Sample rate conversion comparisons TMS - The Dither Episode Online streaming loudness infographic TMS - The Loudness Episode Mastered for iTunes - the saviour of great sound ? Online streaming loudness petition
Nov 24, 2016
The Mastering Show #23 - Balance (Or, How to Master an Album)
The most common question I’ve been asked since starting the show is - “how do I balance songs against one another ?”. Especially balancing quiet and loud songs, or when they’re from diverse genres. So in this show, we try to answer that - and touch on many other topics, too: * The mastering tip that’s almost too simple to say - but embodies the heart and soul of mastering * Why Ian doesn't master single songs any more (if he can help it) * Do all digital EQs sound the same ? And Ian’s new favourite (free) EQ plugin * Why we need "Album mode” to stop loudness management sucking the heart out of our music * The first thing Ian does in every mastering session * A ninja loudness trick when balancing quiet & loud songs * Should you use automation when mastering ? Links The Heart & Soul of Mastering iTunes Sound Check has “album mode” - finally ! TDR Nova EQ Multiband compression – the mastering engineer’s secret weapon ?
Nov 14, 2016
The Mastering Show #22 - Your questions answered
Your questions answered. Well, some of them, anyway ! It’s been over 20 episodes, people seem to be liking the show, and have been asking lots of questions - it seemed like a good time to answer some of them. Topics include: Do we really NEED mastering ? - Why you shouldn’t master on the mix bus (if you want to be good !) - Dealing with clients (and why you should make yourself expensive) - The best way to burn a master disc, and which brands to buy - How to mix and master drums LOUD And many more... Links The three Ms of mastering (including Mindset) - TMS Episode #2 Limiting - TMS Episode #3 Why your EDM will sound better with more dynamics – and 6 places to find them Mastering in Reaper Interview with Jon about Mastering Jon's Mastering session setup tips Jon's new Reaper mastering workflow video The Home Mastering Masterclass
Oct 17, 2016
The Mastering Show #21 - Why digital “resolution” doesn’t exist - because dither
Yes - it’s The Dither Episode ! But hang in there, it’s not as bad as you might think. My guest host this week is Jon Tidey from, who *hates* talking about dither, so I had to work hard to keep it interesting. And I think I succeeded, mostly! We cover loads of topics, like why the analogy of hi-res digital audio with digital photos is wrong (or at least deeply misleading) and why dither means digital ‘resolution’ is NOT a real thing. Plus: - Why dither helps prevent your audio from 'sounding digital’ - How the right kind of dither can make even 8-bit audio sound OK - Why it works - and what that has to do with my lava lamp - Whether we can *really* hear the difference - How to test yourself using “Gangnam Style" - Why you should stop worrying and just dither ! Visit the website for links
Sep 27, 2016
The Mastering Show #20 - Steve Lillywhite
You’ve already seen who my guest is this week, so why are you still reading this ?!? Click Play now ! Seriously though, a guest whose discography includes U2, Dave Matthews, The Pogues, The Stones, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, Morrissey, The Psychedelic Furs, The Las, The Killers and 30 Seconds to Mars plus about 500 others *really* shouldn’t need any further introduction from me ! There are SO many great anecdotes and useful nuggets of wisdom in this episode I can’t even begin to list them, but just in case you need any more persuading, here are a few sample topics we discuss: - How Steve became a music producer, and why he did it mostly out of fear - What he hates about the production of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” - Why he always mixes the records he produces - The secret of his success (which anyone can steal) - His feelings about the Loudness War, and whether stem mastering is a good idea or not Now stop reading this and listen ! Links Steve Lilywhite (Wikipedia) Steve on 10 records that changed Steve’s life - some may surprise you ! Documentary teaser
Aug 17, 2016
The Mastering Show #19 - Sylvia Massy
In this show Ian talks to the fabulous Sylvia Massy about her fantastic new book, "Recording Unhinged" - and how perhaps mastering could be a little more unhinged sometimes, too. Topics include: - Ian's first ever mastering project (although he didn't know it at the time) - Recording underwater brass - Why gaffer-taping Peter Gabriel to a column wasn't such a bad idea - How to make a REALLY hidden track on CD - How to record like Harry Potter - What Sylvia does to prepare her music for mastering, and why Links
Aug 04, 2016
The Mastering Show #18 - The Emperor's New Ears
In this show we give a conclusive answer to all those heated online debates about what audio gear sounds best. Mics, converters, cables - you name it. And we tell you how to find out for yourself. But why you probably shouldn't bother. And along the way we discuss: - When data-identical files sound different (and why) - What the Three Fingered Mouse Click is, and why you need it - The ultimate audio test: "5000 dollars or your house" ! - Why you really shouldn't move your head when working on audio - When expensive cables really CAN sound better, and why - even though they actually don't And plenty more ! Links Can you trust your ears ? Does it matter whether or not pain medication is branded? Ronan's Drum Recording Bootcamp More about Ronan
Jul 18, 2016
The Mastering Show #17 - Hi Res Audio (New science proves...what?)
A new study proves that high sample rates really DO sound better. Or does it ? As usual it's a little more complicated than that... in this episode we investigate why, and also discuss how to test this stuff for yourself, plus - when you might choose NOT to mix at Abbey Road, why all CD players don't sound the same, and why Ian hates the sound of swirling ultrasonic birdies. And, what that actually means! Links: AES Paper: A Meta-Analysis of High Resolution Audio Perceptual Evaluation Intermodulation distortion Test files for intermodulation distortion The importance of loudness matching Why mp3 sucks - and how to hear it The amazing Record Production Dot Com website Russell Cottier's site
Jul 10, 2016
The Mastering Show #16 - Podcasts (Mastering, recording & mixing)
How to get great results mastering audio for podcasts - AND record and mix them. Plus - how to build a studio from hay bales (and why you'd want to), what really IS a "home" studio in the 21st century, and the mic Ian uses to record this show. Links The Mastering Show - Acoustic treatment The Mastering Show - Loudness Streaming Loudness Recommendations Recording Studio Rockstars Podcast
Jul 01, 2016
The Mastering Show #15 - Perspective (How to know what your music is SUPPOSED to sound like)
In this episode I describe a simple, straightforward strategy to make your masters sound more like those of your favourite artists – whether you’re a beginner or a pro. I explain how to decide how loud you want to master your music, and how to make sure you achieve that without becoming a victim of the loudness war - and, using this method you’ll be able to asses objectively what you want your music to sound like, and figure out how to get there. Links How to read the new loudness meters What does a mastering engineer do ? My mastering process Using Perception with reference tracks More info on Perception
Jun 24, 2016
The Mastering Show #14 - Distortion (The good, the bad and the ugly)
In this show we talk about distortion. Good distortion, bad distortion - and how to tell the difference. Find out what Ian REALLY thinks about distortion, how you can use it effectively in mastering - and when you should. What is soft clipping - and how do you use it ? Plus Ian explains why ALL audio processing is distortion, strictly speaking - and the benefits (and costs) of using it. Links: Fab DuPont on Death Magnetic What is 'aliasing' and what causes it? When in doubt, dither Why you need amazing monitoring The Home Mastering Masterclass
Jun 17, 2016
The Mastering Show #13 - Vinyl (This may ruffle a few feathers !)
How to master for vinyl, including key problems to watch out for, plus: why Ian loves everything about vinyl (except for one thing); is vinyl better than CD; why most vinyl in the 80s was actually digital, not analogue (!); why hiss is your friend; what "HD vinyl” is, and why it might help fix that one thing Ian doesn’t like Links Why custom mastering for vinyl isn’t necessary It’s a kind of magic – Or: It’s not about the f****** format ! Why you can’t measure vinyl with the TT Meter The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Sound Engineering Star Wars: The original radio drama Patents filed for HD Vinyl
Jun 10, 2016
The Mastering Show #12 - NOT Mastering
Why you might NOT want to master your music - or get it mastered; what I think of LANDR and other online "mastering" services; when mastering ISN'T mastering; plus the problem with re-mastering; a brief tangent on Dave Grohl; can you master on the mix buss? And why deciding not to master is STILL mastering. Links LANDR: Automated online mastering – but is it any good ? My test How the Loudness War is crushing Dave Grohl’s analogue ambitions The heart and soul of mastering
Jun 03, 2016
The Mastering Show #11 - You're going to love this
Full-length interview with Matt Colton from Alchemy Mastering, who mastered James Blake’s Dynamic Range Day Award-winning “The Colour of Anything”. Topics include the processing chain Matt used (and why it possibly doesn’t matter as much as you think it might); the limiter he used (which you may already have) and his favourite default settings for it; the unique story of how he became a mastering engineer - and why vinyl really DOES sometimes sound better than CD Links: Matt Colton Alchemy Mastering The Dynamic Range Day Award James Blake and the dynamics of The Colour In Anything Pop goes the loudness war
May 27, 2016
The Mastering Show #10 - Dynamic Range Day
Why “Dynamic Range Day” is a really bad name. And come to think of it, why “dynamic range” probably isn’t what you think it is. And neither are “dynamics”! And why the Loudness War hasn’t changed them. At least, not one kind – or not in the way that you think. Because physics. It’s complicated! Plus special bonus topics: Autotune and Taylor Swift (!) Links: Dynamic Range Day How to use the TT ‘Dynamic Range’ Meter – and where to get it The ‘Dynamic Range’ Database Dynameter Did they REALLY just auto-tune Aretha ? SERIOUSLY ? So Taylor Swift is louder than Motorhead, AC/DC and The Sex Pistols… – wait, WHAT?
May 12, 2016
The Mastering Show #9 - Analogue versus Digital
Can digital really sound as good as analogue ? Should you use analogue or digital gear when mastering ? Could higher sample rates be hurting your music ? What’s wrong with the phrase “in the box” ? Why is a digital photograph NOT a good analogy for a digital audio file ? Why does Ian think recorded sound is miraculous, and what does that have to do with the answers to all the previous questions ? Links: There are no “stair steps” in digital audio How to test for intermodulation distortion When to use dither Monty’s superb analogue versus digital demo video
May 05, 2016
The Mastering Show #8 - You Need This
Some people may think this week’s topic is dull - but DON’T skip it ! If you follow Ian’s advice in this show it will have the single biggest impact on the quality of the results you can achieve in every area of audio work, not just mastering. It’s affordable, it’s simple and you need to do it. Listen now, then follow the links below ! Links How this method transformed Ian’s home studio Where Ian got the stuff he used A free tool to help you find out if you need to use it too A way to run that tool on a Mac, if you want to The DIY alternative
Apr 28, 2016
The Mastering Show #7 - Advanced Techniques
At it’s heart, mastering is simple - but there are plenty of more sophisticated techniques available, too. In this show we talk about some of these - and why you might not want to use them. Topics include: - Stereo width & M/S (mid-side) processing - An impossible EQ challenge - Stem mastering - Mix buss processing - Tape emulation & saturation - Creating a production master Links Stereo width in mastering – how to measure, monitor and modify it Should you use a buss compressor on your mix? The heart and soul of mastering
Apr 21, 2016
The Mastering Show #6 - Loudness
Loudness is still one of the hottest topics in mastering. In this episode we discuss why louder is better, but Too Loud is worse. And... - Why you must set the gain FIRST - How your plugins are fooling you - Optimising dynamics for online loudness - How loudness matching can be liberating - 90% of mastering in nutshell Links: Audio Bloggers Live Radio loudness – the Truth Loudness research Perception plugin Spotify loudness Dynamic range database Dynameter
Apr 14, 2016
The Mastering Show #5 - EQ
Mastering EQ is about balance, not matching. In this episode we explain what the difference is, why it matters and and ways you can get it right. Topics include: - Why “radio ready” sound is a mastering myth - How you can affect the balance of instruments in the mix, even within a stereo file - A simple but crucial point of mastering technique - The pros and cons of phase linear EQ - Ian’s recommended EQ plugins Links Loudness means NOTHING on the radio - the proof The Heart And Soul of Mastering Phase linear EQ demonstration Rock music and gynaecology
Apr 07, 2016
The Mastering Show #4 - Compression
Compression explained - using pillows and punchbags. Yes, you read that right ! And in this show we also talk about: - Why mastering compression is all about loudness. Except it’s not. - How compression in mastering is different than in mixing - How to make mastering compression invisible - Ian’s suggested starting-point settings for mastering compression - Why you might want to use multi-band compression Links Using compression to add punch, warmth and power to your mix What is compression ? Sponges hold the answer Multiband compression – the mastering engineer’s secret weapon? Gregory Scott - Demolishing Compression Myths Cheers !
Apr 01, 2016
The Mastering Show #3 - Limiting
In this show we take a deep dive into the topic of limiting. We explain why you need limiters, important Do’s and Dont’s, recommended plugins – and why there’s a good chance you’re using them wrong… Links: Are brickwall limiters nothing but pure evil ? Video demonstrating inter-sample peaks and how they affect Mastering for iTunes Intersample peaks and why they matter - more about why you should leave at least 1 dB peak headroom when mastering, with audio examples
Mar 23, 2016
The Mastering Show #2 - The Three M's of Mastering
We’re kicking off the show with a short mini-series covering every aspect of the mastering chain in turn – levels, EQ, compression, limiting and metering. We’re going to be starting at the end and working backwards – and in case you’re wondering why, Ian explains during the show ! So in this episode we cover the “Three M’s” of mastering- and to find out what they are, you’ll need to listen to the show. Show Links: The acoustic treatment material we talked about in the show is Owens Corning 703, sometimes known as Rockwool. To find out more about using acoustic treatment to improve the sound of your studio: For more about loudness meters: To assess the EQ balance of your music: More about the mindset of mastering:
Mar 23, 2016
The Mastering Show #1 - The Basics of Mastering
In this first introductory episode, we introduce ourselves and talk about what we have in store for the show. We then cover some mastering basics that will give you a solid grounding for the rest of the shows. Not sure what mastering is ? Start here ! Show links: What is mastering ? Photoshop for audio LUFS, dBFS, RMS… WTF ?!? How to read the new loudness meters
Mar 23, 2016