This is where the mastering process comes in. There are no set rules when it comes to mastering and the process can be complicated. After the process is completed the tracks can then be transferred to some kind of data storage, normally CD for reproduction or reformatted for distribution across the internet.
The process I use, is to firstly get to a final mix I'm happy with without using any compression, limiting or eq on the master channel and leaving enough headroom so that the mastering process can be more effective. If a mix is too loud with too many peaks the mastering process will be that much more difficult to obtain great results. An optimum level for a mix would be around -8db.
I've done quite a few mastering jobs over the years and I use mainly digital plugins. Here they are briefly and in the order I use them.
1. High Pass Filter: to get rid of unwanted low frequency noise and rumble
2. EQ : done to suit the track and bring out good or quash harsh frequencies
3. Compression - to tighten up the mix and gel the music together
4. Limiting - to bring up the overall volume levels of the track.
5. High Pass Filter: Again to take out any low rumble if left by the processes above.
6. Spectrum Analyser in real time (at the end of the chain) for a visual look at the track as it plays to see where any problems maybe occuring.
Other processes that may need to be done include, noise reduction, signal restoration, editing, levelling and fade ins/outs
As you can see it can be a difficult job and no doubt if we all had the money we could spend a couple of hundred quid per track sending them to a dedicated mastering engineer.
The bottom line is you should be driven by what sounds best, how you get there is irrelevant, but with a little knowledge and experience you can achieve industry standard results .With this in mind I hope to set up an affordable on-line mastering service in the near future.
Feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to enquire about having your tracks mastered.
Musical Thoughts For Nought