Incorporating Mastering Within The Production Workflow

When I started recording my songs earlier this year, I wanted to do it in the most serious way possible without breaking the bank and without being unreal about my situation.

First, I have a condition that limits me to do any responsible stuff, at least, to a certain extent. Second, my pension limits me to budget highly my gear. So it ain’t pro level musicianship, but still, nowadays, you can almost do miracles compared to 20 years ago. Third, I know I have a certain talent, but I can only achieve something in the long term. Forget short term. If ever be. And still, last but not least, my mother helps me a lot (Thanks Mom! Love You!). She still believes I can do something with my life and I consider her to be a some kind of product manager (no Mom, I can’t do Aznavour stuff…).

So back to recording and mastering some serious stuff: music.

This year, In my early process of recording my music, I came across different articles about mastering. I had previous limited experience with studio recording and mastering was still a kind of blurry subject. Since I would be doing everything myself this time, I delved into all subjects doable with a modern DAW. As I choose Ableton Live 10 Suite as my main DAW for what I would be able to do, which is electronic music, I came across an article by Richie Hawtin where he spoke of early interactions with Avid’s Pro Tools for mastering.

Not waiting, I jumped on the renting wagon that Avid provided for the aforementioned tool and started to collect tutorials on the subject. Quickly it became apparent and mostly evident that Pro Tools was not in my budget for simply mastering my highly sought masterpieces (sarcasm, of course…). So I kept the workflow simple and went on to master within Ableton Live for a couple of months, until I stumbled across Ozone 8 on Yet again, renting-to-own can be your best friend when your budget is limited.

Mastering got really easy with iZotope’s Ozone 8 Advanced but became cumbersome the moment I used it with Neutron 2 Advanced and the Tonal Balance Control plugin. With effects and all plugins necessary for a simple tune, it lent to some stuttering while playing the tunes that evidently led to some necessity to find a solution. Mastering in the box within a recording Live set was too much for the CPU.

I had, prior to using Ozone, the usual workflow of recording in one set and master in another set. But with iZotope’s Tonal Balance Control tool, you can adjust the EQs you setup with Neutron Advanced through your tracks to find the middle ground between your mix and what’s out there. Ditching the all in one mix/master set, nullifies the use of Neutron 2, for me at least.

And it all happened at the same time that I came across Justin Perkins article on the Audio Pro Files website: The Importance and Benefits of a Mastering DAW. Along other things, Justin promotes the use of Steinberg’s WaveLab: a DAW used for audio manipulation along audio restoration, audio broadcasting and audio mastering. THE REVELATION!!!

Not only it simplifies the process of separating both recording and mastering, it eases the workflow of manipulating audio music in a very simple way. As my initial idea was to have a DAW dedicated to mastering, Pro Tools couldn’t be the one I was hoping for. But WaveLab is exactly what most of us are looking for: A simple environment for audio manipulation, and in this case, mastering.

WaveLab allows one to use their own VSTs along its own companion plugins. It is sold in two versions: Elements, a simple DAW for home production and podcasting purposes (my perfect choice), and a Pro version for the most serious jobs in audio publishing.

So what else to say. The word is out! I’ve found the perfect workflow. Recording in Ableton Live, exporting a 24-bit wav file, opening it in WaveLab and using Ozone for the simplicity of its use. Even though WaveLab 9.5 Elements (partially) and Pro comes with its own mastering plugins (Ableton Live 10 Suite also), I’m still using Ozone 8 Advanced for its convenience. For example, loudness control for most common online streaming is something that Ozone controls within it, but WaveLab Elements doesn’t offer. It’s within the Pro version.

Another cool thing about WaveLab is the different export formats that is possible; a feature very limited with Ableton Live.

A happy man I am!

Go take a look! If it suits your needs enjoy!

Ableton Live:
iZotope Ozone:
Steinberg WaveLab:
Audio Pro Files: