What Is The Difference Between Mixing Vs Mastering?

To perfect a music product, Mixing Vs Mastering is an indispensable step. But are they the same? Or are they one? Let's see together.

by Derrick Reeves | Updated: August 14, 2021

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Mixing and mastering are two important steps in the process of creating soundtracks for movies, games, albums, or any other type of audio production. Mixing is the step that comes before mastering.

After mixdown, individual audio tracks are manipulated and combined to create a stereo file. When an album is played together, all the tracks on the album sound cohesive because the stereo files are mastered.

In this blog post, we will explore the difference between mixing and mastering as well as the benefits each one offers to your final product! 

Important Differences Between Mixing and Mastering 

Important Differences Between Mixing and Mastering 

  • Mixing has access to a plethora of plugins and effects that are used to put the finishing touches on an individual track, or all tracks together. Mastering has access to more advanced compression tools like brick-wall limiting which can change the dynamics of your audio so it never becomes distorted no matter what volume you play it at. 
  • Mastering also includes subtle EQ adjustments as well as other processes such as dithering (adding noise) to help minimize distortion during playback when converting from one format to another, while mixing doesn't have any need for this process unless converted files will be mixed again in some way later down the line. 
  • Mixing is often done before mastering because combining various tracks into stereo might leave space for sounds not meant for certain frequencies ranges - but these stray. 

Mixing Combines Multiple Recordings & Samples 

Mixing is the process of adjusting the levels and combining different instruments or vocals together to form a stereo file.

Mixing is done in two stages: first, you balance each track so that it has an equal share within the entire mix; then, you pan out certain tracks such as drums or bass so they can be heard clearly on one side of your speakers while other elements - like guitars or pianos for example - are audible on the opposite side. 

Mixing involves editing, correcting pitch and timing, automating instruments, adjusting fades, and tweaking track levels.

Mixing Combines Multiple Recordings & Samples 

Once the stereo file is mixed, it’s time for mastering to take place.

Here, you can use compression and limiting to make sure songs have a consistent volume level so they don't sound louder than others if played back-to-back on an album; equalization will also be applied here in order to balance out frequencies from low bass notes all the way up into high treble ranges. 

Mastering allows your music files to become more polished and refined by using effects such as reverb or delay which help them sound natural when heard in their entirety with other mixes of different types of audio tracks. 

Recommended Mixing Software: 

  • FabFilter Pro-Q 3 
  • Waves Renaissance Maxx 
  • Solid State Logic SSL Native Essentials 
  • iZotope Neutron 3 Standard 

Mastering Adds Finishing Touches To Overall Sound 

Mastering is the last step in the production process where audio files are refined and polished to form a cohesive whole.

The difference between mixing and mastering is that mixing happens before this stage, while mastering takes place after all of the individual tracks have been mixed together.

Mastering can be seen as an extension of mixdown, where more advanced equalization techniques may also be applied so that each song has its own space on the album without drowning out other songs with too much bass or treble. 

Mastering allows your music files to become more polished and refined by using effects such as reverb or delay which help them sound natural when heard in their entirety with other mixes of different types of audio tracks. 

Mastering Adds Finishing Touches To Overall Sound 

The mastering stage does more than just enhance the sound, however; it is also the stage where an album is assembled. This process ensures that every track sounds cohesive with one another, preventing any songs from becoming too loud or overpowering others. 

Mastering also includes compression and limiting to make sure your music never becomes distorted no matter what volume you play it at and subtle EQ adjustments are often applied as well so that there's a difference in tone for different tracks but it doesn't sound jarring when heard together. 

Recommended Mastering Software: 

  • Steinberg WaveLab Elements 10 
  • FabFilter Pro-L 2 
  • iZotope Ozone 9 Standard 
  • iZotope Insight 2 Essential 

And there is more Plug-In for mastering.

In Conclusion 

Mixing and mastering can seem less accessible to those who are new to audio than production or playing instruments. But mastering and mixing are both integral to shaping the final product. 

You may have a great song, but it won't matter if you don't know how to produce or mix it for an audience that can hear all of its nuances.

You might also want to consider hiring someone who is more experienced than yourself in order to ensure the best possible quality soundwise when releasing your music.

As long as everything you do is guaranteed to be thorough and of quality, there is nothing superfluous. 

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