Feel free to download the entire manual detailing the mastering process from Har-Bal complete with pictures of all the tools needed to create a great sounding mastered cd .
Please remember that you can experiment with different presets in Waves LMB. If you want light limiting use the "Adaptive Multi Electro Mastering" preset and follow the same process..
Whichever sound editor(Sound Forge, WaveLab, Cool Edit) you are using you should have a method to look at the statistics of your track.
Sound Forge ....Tools/Statistics
Wavelab Analysis/Global Analysis
I am sure there are others in the forum that can give you the path in their editors
You want to pay special attention to your RMS levels. You should adjust these based on the genre of the music.
I know there are a few mastering engineers out there that hate the loudness war (rightfully so) happening with certain types of music. But the fact remains, if your music isn't matching in volume to another song in your genre it will appear weak sounding. These are just the times we are living in.
1. Check your RMS level in your mix....lets say the average RMS is -17.34 in your track.
2. We need to get it to -10 or -11 to suitably fit in with other similar songs.
3. Take out your calculator and input 17.34 and now subtract 10.00 you should get 7.34
This is the number we are shooting for. and will probably be the number you feed into your limiter.
(Remember with RMS levels the lower the number the louder the song)
You can input this number as a negative into your limiter and your RMS level for your overall loudness will be -10.00
For example: Which song is louder RMS level -18.23 or -12.16
-12.16 is louder
Quite a few mastering engineers use what they call a mastering chain and during the course of building or fattening the song they already have an idea what they would like the end result (RMS) to be.
As you get into mastering deeper you will find that it is more than just sticking a number into the limiter and your done.
A mastering chain should consist of the following: (Below are some options)
1. When you are finished mixing a track, input it into Har-Bal and check for peaks and valleys.
2. Open a wave editor (wavelab, sound forge)
3. Place the following plugins into the chain in this order and save as a preset.
a) Waves Q10 Paragraphic EQ (or something similar)
b) Linear Phase Multiband Compressor
c) Stereo Imager - Correct any phase issues and RMS mismatches
d) Limiter - Always use this and set the outceiling for -0.1
Now keep in mind that you may not need to use every one of these each time and can simply bypass any of them.
Always, always listen to your song at 85db while mastering. This is not loud and it enables you to darn near HEAR your music almost flat. You can pick up a sound pressure meter from any Radio Shack (roughly $30.00). If your song is too bassy or trebly you will know immediately at this volume. I am sure there are some more engineers in this forum who can elaborate on this concept a little more scientifically.
Three meters you should always have open are: All software included with Wavelab
Phasescope - To check the stereo image
Level Meter - Checking the peak and rms levels constantly (Make sure you are buliding up the song without clipping) How is it sounding....constantly keeping the levels at 85db by bringing down my main volume. In other words even though I am increasing The overall volume I am still maintaining my listening level.
Spectrum Analyzer - checking for sudden spikes and overall patterns
You should get into the habit of taking any commercial song and studying them while these meters are running. It will open a whole new world of understanding.
If you master your next project better than the last, you are only getting better. Get used to it. You will discover on a daily basis the real concept of mastering and the real reason why there are no perfect settings that can be used with every song.
The trick is to listen to a song completely and KNOW which tools to use. This knowledge comes from an understanding of the functionality of those tools.
Earle Holder is well known to American music artists, and is one of the few top legendary award winning mastering engineers who have managed to gain worldwide recognition for his work and is a rare individual, born with "golden ears", a definite prerequisite to becoming a great mastering engineer.
His home site is http://www.hdqtrz.com