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Mastering, a form of audio post production, is the process of preparing and transferring recorded audio from a source containing the final mix to a data storage device (the master); the source from which all copies will be produced (via methods such as pressing, duplication or replication). In recent years digital masters have become usual although analog masters, such as audio tapes, are still being used by the manufacturing industry, notably by a few engineers who have chosen to specialize in analog mastering.
Mastering requires critical listening; however, software tools exist to facilitate the process. Mastering is a crucial gateway between production and consumption and, as such, it involves technical knowledge as well as specific aesthetics. Results still depend upon the accuracy of speaker monitors and the listening environment. Mastering engineers may also need to apply corrective equalization and dynamic compression in order to optimise sound translation on all playback systems. It is standard practice to make a copy of a master recording, known as a safety copy, in case the master is lost, damaged or stolen.
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