Stem mastering is a great option for those mix engineers who are not confident in a certain mix or part of that particular mix. A mix may sound great in your home studio room yet the low-frequency content may lose its punch in different listening environments. The instrumentation may sound great yet the vocals don’t have a specific high-end sheen and clarity that is common in vocal tracks within the genre. A professional mastering engineer often works in well-balanced acoustic environments. A mix engineer can use the superior environment for specific parts of their option during stem mastering. These sections are instruments with low frequency and vocals.
Although the goal of stereo mastering is the same with making the mix translate great in every playback system, the process of stem mastering can allow for further treatment on certain sonic aspects with less treatment on the rest.
Creative options by a mix engineer can stay intact, with the master engineer working with better precision. The mix engineer will not just specifically the sections of the mix which require additional treatment as they will also specify the sections of the mix they prefer to leave untreated. The engineer probably loves his mix options for a snare track. In the same way that the engineer stemmed out or separated the low or sub frequency vocals and content for additional treatment, he can also separate snare track for it to stay untreated in relationship to the rest of the stems.
Aside from the better acoustic environment, a mastering engineer is usually equipped with reliable analog gear often out of the budget of home studio professionals and hobbyists alike. A skilled mastering engineer doesn’t only have the gear but also has a great working relationship with that gear. They know how a gear is best used and which specific source signals it is ideal to use for.
High-quality multiband processing, limiting, stereo compression, harmonic distortion, EQ, magnetic tape, non-linear analog summing mediums, and saturation are the usual tools that master engineers use.
Once these tools have been utilized on stems, they get very powerful. For instance, sonic magic which can ensure once vocal stems run through the traditional magnetic tape machine is complex, natural, and difficult to describe in common mixing terms. Similar magic can be true for systems combined with the ideal mix of analog goodness.
Even though you don’t have plans to put your mix through stem mastering, this process of stemming remains to be extremely beneficial. Make it your habit to stem out the mixes after these are complete. Why is that? Five years in the future once an engineer launches a process, it is possible to have compatibility concerns between new software, old plugins, and enhanced operating systems. When the engineer has stems, he need not worry that he will waste intellectual which could not be accessed in the future.
Stems always stay intact, which gives an engineer the choice to accurately revise or recreate a mix once project compatibility concerns arise.
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