In any audio post-production, the last step is the mastering. The goal of mastering the audio is to bring a balance by mixing the sound elements and the playback into a stereo format which can be played in all formats and systems. Many tools can be used for this process, and there has been a sea change in the way the music is mastered. Also, the music listening public has moved from cassettes, on disc printing CDs to digital content. Likewise, there is also a shift in the way the songs are mastered using the latest tools and technologies.
Here is the list of latest trends followed by mastering engineers.
True peak: known as TP is a measurement of the loudness of the song file when played on a speaker. This TP is an improvement in the earlier used digital meter which does not accurately measure the peaks as they have a lag of 10ms which is the time taken for integration. That effectively means that when there are small transitions in music that is not measured correctly. There are also few more things that are not considered in these digital peak meter as they do not efficiently capture many and intersample modulations when the soundcard converts it to analog. All these issues are addressed and taken care of in the TP meter, and you can be assured of no pruning of audio during playback. Another significant advantage is that there is no need for a separate tool for measuring TP in LUFS meters.
The use of this in the mastering of the songs is the same as before where you can equalize the song as well as compress it to your liking. The only difference is while providing final touches to the audio; you will not need to squeeze the song which can make it feel distorted. Depending on the song you can apply limiting, the meter can be set so that the TP does not go beyond the set value. Ensure that you play the whole song to figure out what is the measure needed to fix the limiter output.
There are many audio formats which are still not mature enough to normalize loudness, and a 16 LUFS standard will be problematic. To overcome this issue, you can create two masterings one which can accept the latest standard format and another for the traditional formats like the CD. This dynamic approach will ensure that your music will be suitable for all playback formats.
MP3: There is a widespread misconception that the MP3 is gone but that is far from the truth. The fact is that the patenting rights for MP3 have expired and thus the developers can use it for free and can now use it to implement new things without having to shell out money for acquiring licenses. Contrary to the belief that the MP3’s are redundant there are many new and exciting algorithms for converting music into other formats. The mastering engineers and others should utilize these as there are very few drawbacks with compressed audio sounding closer to the original.
LUFS: The loudness Unit Full Scale, is the most spectacular invention in the past few years. It has revolutionized the way the music is promoted and released online. Earlier there was a problem while playing music from different albums which had songs of varying volumes and hence the volume used to be up and down. To overcome this, they mixed songs by playing soft music followed by loud ones to get a uniform volume level. That approach worked earlier as the range was myriad and the compression did not cause any problems to the music quality, the same is not true with the audio these days. The latest tools enable music engineers to produce loud volumes and hence the need for normalizing the loudness.
The LUFS is a measure that is much closer to reality the same way the human ear determines the change in volume. It takes into consideration the entire song and the volume associated and hence a better way to determine the loudness of the song. The algorithm also considers the human ear and the way it rejects short transients.
The above trends are new and can be used in mastering your music which can help in creating the final output as close to the original but sounding much better.