More About Mastering

My History

Some of my old cassette mastering jobsI'm Henry Smithson, and for around 20 years before going solo in 2010, I was co-owner and director of Sounds Good. That company started out as a cassette duplication company manufacturing for bands, artists and some major independent labels.


My first experience of mastering was creating all the bin-loop masters for cassette jobs, including chart hits for Oasis, The Smiths, The Sundays, The Levellers, Brian Eno, Carter USM, Edwyn Collins, Elastica, KLF, Placido Domingo, Leslie Garrett, Divine Comedy, The Orb, etc. So on a typical day I might have mastered a couple of cassette albums by lunchtime!


I got involved in CD mastering back in 1993 when we pioneered the concept of low-cost but high quality CD Mastering for our CD manufacturing customers, and anyone else who needed it. We bought one of the first SADiE digital editing systems ever sold, so I was one of the first in the world to use a Digital Audio Workstation. Since then I've mastered literally hundreds of CDs in just about every musical genre.


Because I've heard all this different music, and under critical listening conditions, I know what a good mix sounds like - which puts me in a unique position to help you get the best out of your studio mixes and turn them into Masters.

My Promise To You...

'Mister Master' is like Online Mastering on steroids. It can be handled totally online with minimal contact - or you can take advantage of my legendary personal service and consultation to get feedback on your mixes before mastering, discuss your project in detail with me, and get advice on duplication and replication. As for the actual Mastering, my promise is to always over-deliver, and to get the best results I can, regardless of how long it takes me.

Maximum Emotional Impact what I aim for. First I use my experience to listen to a client's mixes until I've formulated an overview of how the tracks could potentially sound. Then I focus in on the detail of the processing required in order to achieve it.


I've always approached audio mastering from the musical viewpoint, so I notice things about dynamics, the ebb and flow of a track, and how it's affected by the relationships of the different sections of a track to each other, as well as the more technical issues of EQ balance and level.


I don't agree with maximum loudness being the main aim of mastering. Loudness is important, but so are balance and clarity. To me it's all about enhancing what's already there to achieve Maximum Emotional Impact.

The 'Loudness' Issue - Latest News

Things have changed recently in the mastering world with regard to the Loudness issue. Regarding streaming, changes to the playback volume algorithms on the various leading platforms mean that going for maximum loudness by squeezing the dynamic range is unnecessary and actually results in the tracks sounding WORSE on playback than ones with a greater dynamic range.


With tracks destined for Vinyl, obviously there are no issues of algorithms to worry about. So going for maximum loudness is pointless, unless your music is likely to be played up against other vinyl tracks in a club environment. It makes sense to go for a dynamic sound that the cutting engineer can work with.


However, there may still be an argument for more loudness if the tracks are intended for CD or download and have to 'compete' up against others in their genre. So it's important for clients to have a clear idea of what they're going to do with their mastered tracks, as I'll need to take the destination format(s) into consideration when doing the mastering.


Normally, I'll go for a compromise that works fine for everything. But if you really want, for example, something that's super-loud on CD, but also works well on streaming or vinyl, then two different versions of each track might be necessary - which will mean that the two versions will inevitably sound slightly different, and it will involve extra charges!

My Studio

Home and budget studios are great for recording, but dubious monitoring and dodgy acoustics can mean that if you've never heard your music in an accurate listening environment, then you may not know how your mixes really sound. But here, in addition to the acoustic tuning - bass traps, acoustic tiles and corner absorbers, the studio is equipped with the amazing TACT room correction system, giving me a time-aligned flat frequency monitoring environment in which to make accurate sonic decisions. Here's the techy stuff...

  • Neumann KH310A active 3-way speakers, renowned for their astonishing sound quality and performance.

  • DAWs: SADiE 24/96 and Magix Samplitude & Sequoia via RME 192K interface. Plugins: SADiE & Magix native, UAD, Steven Slate, Voxengo & Waves. Dynameter loudness meter.

  • Analog outboard - Ted Fletcher P9 cmastering EQ, and P38 'Edward The Compressor,

But don't forget - it's about ears, not just equipment! So let's not get too hung up on the gear - because Mastering is much more to do with the knowledge and expertise of the person using the gear.

Free Trial Offer!

If you want to give me a try before committing your profect, then sign up for the Free Mastering Trial offer. You can then you can send me one of your tracks and I'll master it and send it back. I may fade it out early or just give you the first few minutes, as the object is to give you an idea of what I can do, rather than give my work away for free. There's no obligation and no charge. All I ask is that you give me the whole project if you like what I've done.

How To Send Tracks

What I need for mastering is full resolution WAV or AIFF files in any format between 16-bit 44.1K up to 24-bit 96K. Because these files are way too big to email, you can send them via an upload/download service like WeTransfer, YouSendIt or DropBox.

Or you can use the low-tech method of posting me the files on a USB stick, or on a CD-R or DVD-R disc. I can also handle masters on DAT or MiniDisc. I've even got reel to reel machines and cassette decks in a cupboard somewhere!


Please DO NOT send MP3 files, mixes that are overloaded and clipped, or mixes that have already been treated with heavy compression and/or limiting over the stereo buss. Thanks!

What You Get Back

My normal thing is to supply mastered tracks as 16 or 24-bit 44.1K WAV or AIFF files. 16-bit is standard CD quality, and 24-bit is a good basis for dowmsampling to MP3 or AAC for download. Also, a lot of download sites these days allow you to upload the WAV files so that a purchaser can choose the download format they want and the site automatically takes care of the conversion to that format. I can also accomodate most other common audio formats if you have any special requirements.


If you are having CDs manufactured I can supply you with a Red Book CD Master disc suitable for short-run Duplication, or DDP Files which are required for bulk Replication (that's runs of 500 or more pressed CDs). With these master formats ISRC Codes and CD Text can be encoded into the master if required. I can handle manufacturing for you - check out the 'Replication & Design' page.

Other Services

  • Audio Restoration - DeNoise, Dehiss, Declip, DeClick, Decrackle for audio cleanup.

  • Editing.- Radio edits, assembly of music or voiceover recordings from multiple takes.

  • Transfers - Professional transfers from older digital or analog formats.

  • ISRC Coding - I can add ISRC codes and / or CD Text to existing masters if required.
Listen to Some Tracks I've Mastered


Thanks for reading so far. While you're here, you can have a listen to some Music tracks that I've Mastered, read some Testimonials from delighted clients, look at my Gallery of CD covers from some of the hundreds of albums I've mastered, and find out about getting CDs made. Hope to hear from you soon - and don't forget the FREE Mastering Trial offer! Cheers,

The Top !0 Mix Mistakes and how to avoid themP.S. Check out another website of mine - this is where I'll share with you the 10 most common mistakes that people make when they're mixing their tracks. I've collected these from my years of mastering, and I'll tell you what they are and how to avoid them in your mixes. Because better mixes mean better masters!

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