Mastering Importance

Mastering Importance
I have lots of friends that swear the importance of ponying up the big cash to get their studio or home recordings professionally mastered. However, more and more people I know have different audio mastering programs that run it through and "master" it in minutes. Is professional audio mastering really worth the hype and cash? And what range should I expect to pay for your typical band that just wants to have some good quality recordings?
John Early, Saskatoon SK

At the risk of pissing off every engineer and producer that I know, I would hazard a guess that most people can't hear the difference between an average final mix and a mastered version of that same mix. Then again "most people" probably thought the Black Eyed Peas were awesome at the Superbowl, while you and I know they were, in fact, relentlessly horrid. So, whether you should shell out for professional mastering depends on a number of things. For example, how good is the recording and the mix? If they are really top notch, then you might be able to sneak by on a home mastering job. Another factor is how "pro" you are trying to be with your release. If a legit record label is putting it out, they'll almost certainly demand a proper mastering job. An improperly mastered album might sound feeble when compressed for radio or streaming, so that's a concern. The point is, a pro mastering job can make the difference between a record sounding good and it sounding really great, and I believe we should aim for great at all times. The cost can vary but the range for a full album is around $1,000 to $3,000 depending on the engineer and how much she or he likes you.

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