Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Mixing and Mastering

Mixing and mastering are the two base components used in professional audio production. Audio production is a delicate balance of knowledge, experience, and equipment and together they help you create perfect recordings. Audio engineering is layered with many disciplines such as physics, technology, acoustics, equipment and music. Each layer presents its own theory and set of challenges. Making the production sounds professional is the most important stage in the recording process. Making great mixes requires practical understanding of the process of building a mix and a little creativity. Preparing for final masters is a bit tedious process which requires clear understanding of the goals of mastering and putting in final touches. Both play an important role in audio production but sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between the two and line between them gets blurred.


What is Mixing?

Mixing is the process where each of the individual tracks is blended to create a final version of the song in its intended format. Mixing is the art of listening. The idea is to deliver the emotional context of a musical piece. It is a process in which multiple layers of audio – whether recorded, sampled, or synthesized – are balanced and combined into a multichannel format. It is the responsibility of mix engineers to craft the sonic aspects of the final mix. The end result of this phase is the mix.


What is Mastering?

There is more to mastering than meets the eye. Mastering is the final stage of the production process where each of the mixes is processed and organized so that a finished product can be distributed. Another important aspect of the process is as a final level of the quality control over the sonic quality of each mix so that to maintain uniformity. Mastering engineers have to amend the mixes as little as possible if the mix engineers did a fairly good job with the mixes.


Difference between Mixing and Mastering

  1. Basics of Mixing and Mastering

Mixing is used quite a lot in the recording process. It is the process where the musical vision and the audio reality come together. When multiple layers of audio are combined together to create a final track or when an existing track is to be modified, the process is called mixing. Mastering refers to the final stage in the production where the final mix is taken and prepared for distribution. A final version is created after all the individual elements of music, which have been mixed already down to their final format, are balanced to sound professional.

  1. Process of Mixing and Mastering

Mixing is the step that is done before mastering that involves balancing individual tracks and combining them together to create a stereo audio file in its intended format. The mixing process starts after all parts of a song have been recorded and edited. The format is typically a stereo file, but it might be surround sound or even mono. Mastering is when primary adjustments are made to provide the best compatibility between different audio materials. It can also be used to fix the problems with the mix because it occurs with the audio that is already mixed.

  1. Steps in Mixing and Mastering

Mixing is like solving a puzzle – you have to combine the parts you’ve recorded to make sure everything fits together. The first step is organizing and grouping your tracks into relative labels. Then comes the part of blending, editing, EQ’ing, and other processing using effects, after which each instrument can be distinguished. Then sound engineers can use automation to create changes over time. Manipulating effects and fades throughout the tracks with automation will help the audio engineer maintain a good balance between the instruments, vocals, and other sounds. The volumes are then adjusted to an appropriate level and clipping is removed before exporting the project.

After the audio sounds as good as it can be after the mix, mastering comes into effect. This is where the mastering engineer fits right in. The first step in mastering process begins with adjusting the level of each musical piece to make them sound as they are essentially the same volume. The levels of the tracks have to be similar throughout so that they all sound relatively similar. The engineer will then adjust the low frequencies of one or more tracks to ensure uniformity so that they sound great on a variety of playback mediums such as loudspeakers, hi-fi systems, headphones, etc.

  1. Significance of Mixing and Mastering

Mixing is both an art and a science. While both mixing and mastering engineers have their own methods and views on how a project should be approached, there’s an unique purpose of each process. Mixing engineers change levels and add effects to each individual instrument separately so that busses can be used on each. Mastering engineers focus on the relationship between multiple audio elements such as tracks so that to add effects to everything in a mix to maintain the right balance between the loudness and the frequency.

Mixing vs. Mastering: Comparison Chart


Summary of Mixing Vs. Mastering

The audio production process is usually comprised of three phases: tracking, mixing, and mastering. Mixing is the process that comes before mastering and involves organizing and combining multiple layers of audio together to create a final track for mastering. It is the process of creating the final placement and transferring the piece to its intended media format. The ends result of this phase is the “mix”. Then comes mastering – the process where each of the mixes is processed and organized so that a finished product is ready for distribution. The idea is to get the best recording, which means the sound has to be right at source. A finished product is a collaborative effort of both mix engineers and the mastering engineers.

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References :

[0]Izhaki, Roey. Mixing Audio: Concepts, Practices, and Tools. Abingdon: Taylor & Francis, 2017. Print

[1]Dowsett, Peter. Audio Production Tips: Getting the Sound Right at the Source. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2015. Print

[2]Elmosnino, Stephane. Audio Production Principles: Practical Studio Applications. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Print

[3]Savage, Steve. Mixing and Mastering in the Box.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Print

[4]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/mixing-table-mixing-music-musician-1584267/

[5]Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f6/Estudio_de_mastering.jpg/640px-Estudio_de_mastering.jpg

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