A lot of changes, balancing, and decision-making go into the production during mastering. The first stage is preparation. Preparation techniques include:
- noise reduction
- fading in/out
- signal restoration
The current mastering process is a big change in comparison to mastering techniques from before the 1940’s. At first, mastering was done in real-time. Instead of being recorded and then mastered, the production was sent straight from an acoustic horn or microphone to the mastering lathe where a wax or metal alloy disc was etched with the sounds. This is where the phrase “cutting a record” came from.
As the decades went by, much advancement took place. One of the biggest was the discovery of magnetic tape which allowed sounds to be recorded and then mastered later. This took away the real-time aspect of mastering and made it possible for the audio to undergo many types of preparation techniques before being transferred to the final storage device.
Currently, analog and digital mastering technologies are the most popular. Advanced analog tools have a much wider frequency, however, digital storage of the production is highly efficient. Because of this there is a debate as to which technology is the best for mastering. Digital technology is more widely used, however there are still some very talented mastering engineers who use analog tools and procedures.