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Are You Listening? Episode 6: EQ in Mastering

by iZotope Team March 21, 2019

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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!

How do you choose a tool when mastering?

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. 

Why use EQ?

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.

NS-10 frequency response

Master tips from Jonathan Wyner

Visualizations matter

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. 

Prep for your session

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.

Tonal balance matters

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.

A/B all EQ changes you make

Yes, that’s right, every single one! Use your ears and your eyes (visualizations) to choose the correct option for your task at hand.

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