When you have a ready mix, all that’s left to do is master it. Audio mastering brings the loudness to the necessary level and opens up the beauty of the sound of your audio recording even more, making the song ready for release.
Professional artists and producers don’t even think about applying automated mastering software to their songs. They work with the song in a studio, and their favorite mix engineer prepares the mix, and then they have the music mastered by the same mix engineer or a professional mastering engineer.
However, there are a lot of artists who mix music themselves and then, looking for a quick and cheap solution for audio mastering, turn to automated mastering application options. The applications are quick, most of them work on a monthly or yearly subscription basis, which is usually not expensive, and you can receive mastered audio files in minutes.
Moreover, as we are rapidly entering the artificial intelligence era, a lot of automated mastering applications claim to be AI-based. So, if it’s smart and cheap, then what’s the catch?
The problem is that there are definitely lots of flaws with automated audio mastering services, both algorithmic and AI-based.
In this article, we’ll analyze the strong and weak points of automated mastering software. We’ll discuss in what cases you may want it for mastering audio and when you absolutely should not use automated mastering services. So keep reading, you’ll find out.
What automated mastering services offer
Automated mastering websites offer you the ability to master your song within minutes. Will it solve your problems, and is it efficient?
How much does automated mastering cost?
Almost none of them are free, though you may receive one free master option, but you’ll not be able to have all your songs mastered for free.
You’ll need to buy a monthly subscription, sometimes even with unlimited masters per month.
The price for a month is usually similar to or lower than what professional audio mastering costs for a song. So, if you are producing a lot, an automated service seems like a good deal.
However, the point is what you get for your money. What do automated mastering services do?
What does the automated mastering process include?
As a rule, the processing that your record undergoes inside a web mastering service is kept secret, so you don’t receive a description of how exactly compression, limiting, widening, and other audio processing tools were added or how the program made the decision on the parameters.
Most of the time, it’s like a black box, and your audio track passes through it, and you receive a loud master record as a result. What parameters are most often checked and corrected by regular mastering software?
The main parameters that automated online mastering services usually take into account:
- The genre and style of the song (other parameters depend on them)
- Peak level
- Integrated LUFS
- Frequency curve
- Stereo width
A set of presets for compression, limiter, and other digital signal processing tools are programmed into the application. The program analyzes the song that needs to be mastered and applies the most suitable presets.
With automated mastering, you can’t control the outcome
At the same time, you can’t change anything in the master record, you get what you get.
For example, you have received your master from an automated mastering service and don’t like something. Maybe you want it brighter, less distorted, wider, with more harmonic distortion, more energy in the bass, or anything else. Automated mastering services won’t be able to help you. Maybe you want some reference track feature to also appear in your song. But in a mix mastered automatically, you can’t do that.
If you mix yourself and your music requires mastering, you can easily learn to master at the level of an automated mastering service, but in this case, at least you’ll be in charge of the process and can remaster and improve the master to achieve a better result.
Who will benefit from using automated services for mastering
There are many ways people can use automated mastering software. Hundreds of thousands of new records are uploaded to streaming services every day, and most of them are done quickly without paying the necessary attention to the product. They are not going to become popular or win anything. Many of them have been quickly mixed and automatically mastered.
Also, automated mastering can be used for different demo audio files when you are a new artist, just learning, and want to bring your song close to the industry’s loudness and frequency response standards and see how it will sound.
So, musicians may benefit from using automated mastering services as a learning tool, because it’s definitely not for professional artists or music producers who are serious about competing and winning in the music world.
If you are aiming to become a professional artist whose career means something in the music world, professional sound engineers must prepare your music. There is absolutely no way around it.
Can AI mastering be the future of mastering?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is conquering the world so quickly these days. One day we’ll wake up and half of the human professions, including artists, will be gone because AI is doing everything, right? I wouldn’t jump to conclusions so quickly.
When will artificial intelligence replace artists?
Now we see that artificial intelligence is doing great in technical jobs, like analyzing information coming from sensors. Face and image recognition, different types of data analysis, making predictions based on the data, and so on. In the fields of creation and art, AI has also made substantial progress.
Now the deep learning AI can talk, create images and videos, and, what is more important to us, create music.
Today, you can find AI-generated songs and albums, beats made by AI, AI-generated vocals, and musical instruments. AI can imitate the voice of any singer you choose, and you can transform any vocal part using some AI applications into your favorite singer’s voice.
However, artificial intelligence still has a long way to go before reaching perfection. For example, no matter how much people would love to resurrect the 27 Club, the AI-made album The Lost Tapes of the 27 Club, created with Google’s AI platform called Magenta, couldn’t even come close to doing it. And though the album has received a lot of publicity and views, the whole point of creating it was to show that nothing, even the latest AI, can replace an actual genius human being.
What happens now is that AI-generated music is forming a separate niche in the industry and does not seriously compete with human-made music. This happens because it appears that the art produced by deep-learning AI substantially differs from products made by actual artists.
So, don’t worry, AI can’t compete with your unique personality as an artist and music producer, at least with the current algorithms, at least for some time.
But what about online mastering? Can AI systems do that well? We won’t talk about mixing because mixing is an even more complicated task than online mastering. And as the topic of our discussion in this article is online mastering, let’s check if AI-based audio mastering automated services do the trick.
Are AI-based mastering websites what they say they are?
First of all, AI-based online mastering services still keep the audio mastering process hidden from the customer most of the time. So in every particular case, we’ll have to trust the developers’ description of the app, whether it’s AI-based or algorithmic.
They could say you are using AI-based mastering, but inside could be just an algorithm of compressor, EQ, limiter, and other mastering tool presets. We don’t say that it’s necessarily this way with every AI-based audio mastering, but how would you know?
Is AI automated mastering better than algorithmic audio mastering?
AI mastering is not necessarily better than algorithmic one. The developers may successfully program the mastering engine by creating multiple choices of settings for the mastering chain plugins. They may base the choices on the advice of a professional mastering engineer. In this case, the result may be better than when trained AI audio mastering software makes its own decisions.
So today we don’t have to pay much attention to whether the app claims to be AI mastering or not, the quality of the final master might not depend on it.
Can you talk with AI the same way as with your actual mastering engineer?
Today, we can definitely say no. With the thriving Chat GPT and applications based on the technology, you still can not explain what you want to an AI-based automated mastering service, and neither can you influence its mastering process much.
So AI mastering feels almost the same as regular automated mastering.
There are a few AI-based mastering websites, though, that have an easy-to-use interface and offer you a little freedom to set some parameters before mastering. This way, you can establish how you want your song to sound and influence the mastering process a little.
For example, you may be given the possibility to choose a reference audio file, and the automated mastering will try to match the parameters like loudness, width, and frequency curve of your audio file to the reference. However, even with this feature, the process still has all the disadvantages of automated mastering.
Will you benefit from AI-based mastering?
Again, to conclude, all automated mastering, AI-based, as well as algorithmic, are quick and cheap solutions but not high-quality ones.
Sure, after the processing, your record will have the needed LUFS and RMS, a different frequency curve, and may seem wider and with greater emphasis on the vocal, but it will still miss a human touch.
It may also contain substantial mistakes like unwanted distortion, wrong emphasis, enormously enhanced mixing flaws, and other poor mastering choices because, AI mastering or not, automated mastering services provide only a computer program that can not see the individual human aspects of your song.
As we said earlier regarding automated mastering apps, AI-based online mastering is something you can play with, explore, and use for amateur demo versions. But it will not help you make high-quality music as a professional musician and artist.
You’ll need professional audio engineers to assist you in high-quality content production to make an impact in the music world.
AI tools help in music production
However, AI has definitely entered our lives as a quick and affordable solution to help us in all aspects of our lives and in music production as well.
Professional mastering engineers will more and more do AI-assisted mastering, delegating some functions or routine tasks to AI, which will speed up their work and help them achieve even more professional sound and different mastering styles.
Music creators use AI to help. But at the same time, professional musicians want full control over their own music and the mixing and mastering processes. You want your songs to win on Apple Music and other streaming services, and in this case, it should be of the highest quality.
Why you need a professional mastering engineer
The professional mastering engineer is the person who ensures that everything about the record is great. This person brings your record up to industry standards, but at the same time, they thoroughly check your mix.
At first, your mastering engineer will check the mix
There is a rule that mastering can not correct the flaws a mix has, it enhances them. And this is true. Imagine, for example, that you have a little extra noise or a specific sound that doesn’t belong at some point in your mix. Or some small details in your mix are just poorly done. They are tiny and inconspicuous, who cares, right?
Mistakes may not be obvious in the mix, but as online mastering will pass them through compression, saturation, and other enhancing processing, a little noise may make your record really muddy, or a little hidden wrong part will come forward and stand out in the mix.
This is one of the reasons why you need a human to master your record.
The first reason you need a professional mastering engineer
The engineer will know which sounds you want to emphasize in the mix, and which should be attenuated.
Most of the time, algorithms and even AI mastering software have no clue about what is important in the song, what is not, and what is just a mistake.
What is obvious for a professional audio engineer, for example, the engineer sees that this element needs to be corrected and that element needs to be brought closer, an algorithm doesn’t see any of it.
So if you want your mix to be improved with online mastering and not just blindly enhanced, human audio mastering is your only choice.
But this is not the only reason why you need professional human audio mastering.
The mastering engineer will do mastering according to the specifics of your song
Music is created by people, and professional mixing and professional mastering service are important parts of music creation.
At each step, a producer and an engineer add something to the song to make it more beautiful and open it up. They add embellishments and a lot of unique little features we like so much in music.
If the first notes do not sound interesting, many people won’t listen to the song. And this interesting and unique sound is what is created by humans. Algorithms, on the contrary, will standardize the music and make it fit the rules that are present in thousands of other songs that were used to train them.
The process of song creation starts with a great song idea, but recording, mixing, and mastering grow the song from the idea. If any of the steps are given to a machine to perform, the song loses a part of its beauty.
What an engineer can do for you that automated mastering can’t
By now, you understand that working with a real mixing and mastering engineer is not just adding a human touch to a song, it’s a completely different and more beneficial way of song creation.
So, what a professional mastering engineer will do:
- Check for mixing mistakes.
- Correct mistakes.
- Look at your song as a musician and advise on how to improve your mix.
- Ensure they make the right mastering choices for this particular song. (The choices automated apps make are based on estimations of an average song.)
- See the individuality of your song and emphasize it with mastering.
- Make sure your song sounds great on all audio systems.
- Communicate with you, understand your ideas and how you see your music, and master it accordingly.
- Do revisions.
- Do stem mastering if necessary to improve your music sound quality even more.
Sadly, not one of these points can refer to automated online mastering yet.
Major Mixing Studio will support your career!
If you are growing your career in the music industry, we invite you to use our help. Professional mixing and mastering engineers in our Major Mixing studio have helped many artists like you succeed.
With us, you’ll produce captivating and beautiful songs that satisfy all the industry requirements and, at the same time, are different from all the rest.
Also, if making music is just your hobby, we are here for you. Our professional mixing and mastering services will bring your creation to a new level of sound quality. And, who knows, maybe with time you’ll decide to give your music a chance to be more than a hobby.
In any case, don’t hesitate to contact us with your project, we are here to help you succeed!