Our Abbey Road engineers have been mastering music for decades, helping artists from all genres get their music ready for release.
These experts use a multitude of techniques and a variety of equipment – from original ‘60s analogue mixing desks to the latest plug-ins – in a professionally designed and treated audio environment to create a final master that sounds the way you want it to.
Recently however, mastering platforms have been launched which use intelligent algorithms and machine learning to automate the process as much as possible.
Here we look at what AI mastering is, how it works and what the differences are between it and mastering with our engineers at Abbey Road…
What is AI mastering?
Firstly, let’s take a quick look at what mastering itself is.
Mastering is essentially the last stage in the process before you release your music. After your track has been mixed, a mastering engineer will listen to the track and give it a final polish.
At this stage an engineer can make tracks sound deeper, fuller, louder and balanced, as well as fix frequency and other issues surgically as the last stage of quality control – it’s an essential part of the production process to ensure your track sounds as good as it possibly can for release and consistent across playback formats and mediums.
So, what is AI mastering? It’s basically the above but instead of using mastering engineers, a platform will use artificial intelligence algorithms, often a combination of supervised machine learning and deep learning algorithms, to automate the creation of a final master.
This is done without human oversight, although users are given choices like presets or other variables to tweak.
How does AI mastering work?
Each AI mastering service will have a slightly different way of doing things and provide a different degree of control to the user.
A person will firstly upload their track and specify some of its attributes, like genre, to guide the platform, which then analyses the track's auditory features and determines the extent of and type of processing to apply to the track.
AI mastering vs online mastering: what’s the difference?
The biggest difference between AI mastering and online mastering is the fact that while AI mastering platforms use algorithms and data, online mastering uses the expertise our engineers have built up over decades in the industry including their ears, feeling and emotional intelligence, something that AI can't mimic or be trained to do accurately.
Abbey Road mastering engineer Alex Gordon says: “With an actual human engineer, you get someone who has spent their career listening to pretty much every different style of music. We can contextualise and have a genuine emotional response to what we’re hearing.
“There is an element of artistry in engineering. It isn’t a 100% technical affair – it can involve a lot of human decisions that are based on ‘feel’ rather than what is technically ‘correct’.
“Every mastering engineer is different. We all have different ways of working and we all approach a piece of music differently.
“When you find an engineer that really gets your music and is happy to work their guts out to help you realise the potential of your music, then that’s invaluable.
“You can have a real conversation with them and build a strong working relationship – not to mention the fact that you get access to a bunch of incredible and expensive outboard gear.”
Fellow Abbey Road mastering engineer, Geoff Pesche, agrees, adding: “When it comes to AI mastering the most important thing that is missing is human interaction.
“Traditional mastering or online mastering enables you to get feedback from someone who has spent their whole life listening to music and understands what needs to be done.
“There is also the benefit of knowing that your music is being mastered in a stellar musical environment that’s geared to making tracks sound as good as they possibly can.
“To have your music checked and hopefully enhanced by someone with a vast experience in a controlled listening room is invaluable.”