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Old 10th August 2008 , 04:03 PM
whitecat
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To be slightly pedantic, I'm going to assume you're talking about premastering - technically, the act of mastering is the physical cutting/replication of vinyl or CDs. Surely I wouldn't want to cut my own vinyl. There's no doubt I'd destroy several lathes in the process, and those things cost a fortune.

Anyway...

It's a necessary evil sometimes. It can be done, but virtually 100% of the time you'll get a better job done by a third-party. It's somewhat to do with the tools, but it's mostly to do with the fact that not only are you getting a fresh set of ears, but you're hopefully getting a very experienced set of ears too. They can make decisions that are neutral and not biased from hearing the track a zillion times over already.

The most important things a good mastering engineer will bring to the table are ears, monitors, and room. All their other kit is secondary - many use hardware, some use plug-ins, lots use both at some stage of the process.

It's pretty much a safe assumption that you don't have monitors that are good enough for mastering, either. Even if you have the best nearfields money can buy for mixing, they probably aren't adequate to be true mastering monitors, and all of your decisions will be compromised as a result.

If you have to do it yourself (I do rather often out of necessity) the best thing you can do is check, check, check your mix on as many systems as possible. Listen to it on as many sets of monitors as you have access to. Listen to it on an iPod or similar. Listen to it on a home stereo. Make sure that little top-end EQ boost you made doesn't sound awful on a small set of speakers. Make sure that your dynamics processing isn't compromising the bass. Et cetera.

Bottom line: if your mix is good enough, doing any sort of self-premastering might not even be necessary. But exercise due caution.
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