In Are You Listening?—an iZotope video series—professional mastering engineer and iZotope Education Director Jonathan Wyner guides you through audio mastering principles.
In Episode 6, learn how EQ in mastering can help correct and restore the clarity and intelligibility of a track, why you should prep before applying EQ, why filter shapes matter, and how to make thoughtful subtractive and additive EQ decisions. Practice your skills at home by downloading a free trial of Ozone, iZotope's mastering software!
A great rule of thumb when determining whether a tool is best served when mastering or mixing is to consider the UI and how you engage with it. The tools themselves aren’t that different between mixing and mastering, but how you engage with them is.
Mixing and mastering are two different workflows, something mightily apparent when you consider Neutron and Ozone. There is a noted difference in scale between measurements, and in how the tools are laid out.
There main reason one might use an EQ in mastering is to correct and restore the clarity and intelligibility of a track.
Consider your average pair of studio monitors. They are not always full spectrum. In fact, some of the most ubiquitous studio monitors, Yamaha NS-10s, are deficient in allowing the audio engineer to hear the full frequency spectrum. This means it can be hard to critically judge the tone of a song when mixing.
In mastering, we’re trying to restore the clarity of the tone rather than creatively alter it. Use correction as a guiding principle whenever you next use an EQ.
Trust your ears, but don’t discount your eyes. Visualizations can be incredibly helpful. Use visualizations to help identify problem areas and navigate the task at hand.
Make notes about the track at the outset, what you like, dislike, and might want to change later. Immediately do this at the start of your session to ensure you capture exactly what your non-fatigued ears hear.
Is the track too bright? Not bright enough? Too dense? Listen for mix elements that are more audible than others: Is the vocal too loud? Is the kick cutting through? What about that high hat? Learn more about tonal balance.
Yes, that’s right, every single one! Use your ears and your eyes (visualizations) to choose the correct option for your task at hand.