We believe that to present your music professionally you should have your material mastered on some level. At 7A West, we pretty much always do some degree of mastering to all of the projects we record as a part of the recording process. In it's simplest form, mastering consists of cleaning the beginnings and endings of tracks. Evening out the fades, copying the material onto a CDR (or DAT) for duplication with the proper amount of space between takes. In the olden days, mastering consisted of physically cutting the tape and then measuring and cutting leader to sit between each take (at 15 inches per second of space!) this was a job for a highly skilled engineer! In the studio today, the advent of low cost, extremely high quality digital editing makes this a much easier job, and as a result, studios should be able to provide this service as a part of the basic recording process.
In terms of more intense mastering processes, as we said in the last section, a good mastering engineer can take an average mix and turn it into an amazing one! Our general rule regarding mastering is that if you are producing a demo, or if you are developing material for future production, then the most basic form of mastering is appropriate. Any type of commercial release whether for radio airplay, shopping to labels/attorneys/agents or selling from the bandstand could benefit from more in depth post production mastering.
There are any number of high quality, moderately priced mastering units available today. The TC Electronics Finalizer 96K is probably the Rolls Royce of stand alone units. It allows you to perform all of the usual dynamics adjustments (more on the actual processes in a second) in one 1U box. There are also any number of affordable, high quality plugins available for your DAW which can further polish your material. While it's smart for you to learn the processes yourself, and set up a home mastering system, all of the programs and boxes in the world can't replace a trained set of impartial ears!
At 7A West, we firmly believe that the revolution in home recording is a wonderful thing. It brings us clients who are more comfortable with the process of recording. They are also more aware of what goes into making a record, and the necessary steps involved. We also believe that it's important to have a trained set of ears working for you and that it doesn't have to cost a fortune to get them! We have a variety of the latest cutting edge software tools as well as the Finalizer 96K and several amazing vintage analog pieces in our mastering arsenal. We will use the appropriate technology for your mix to make it sing, like we have for hundreds of clients in the last 3 years.