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Book Review: Audio Mastering In A Project Studio

A Practical Approach For A Professional Sound By Hugh Robjohns
Published May 2023

Audio Mastering In A Project Studio: A Practical Approach For A Professional Sound

Music mastering seems to have gathered a unique aura of mystery, both in its outright concept and in its practical implementation. Of course, none of that matters if you can afford to employ an experienced professional mastering engineer, but for many project‑studio owners self‑mastering is the only option. And that’s where Simon Taylor’s latest book comes in, presenting an easy‑to‑follow approach to in‑the‑box mastering aimed at the novice or nervous would‑be mastering engineer. Audio Mastering In A Project Studio (Inspire Publishing, ISBN 978‑1‑7391670‑0‑4) is available in paperback and eBook versions, and contains simple technical and workflow explanations, lots of down‑to‑earth practical advice, and plenty of real‑world examples, too.

This 160‑page book is divided into 10 chapters that build a knowledge base and help the reader to gain experience and confidence in a logical process. It starts by looking at the concept of mastering — how the process prepares and optimises well‑mixed audio tracks for the intended replay medium, and how it represents the last chance to correct any minor problems and to polish mixes to make them as good as they can be.

Next, Simon describes what’s needed for a workable mastering room, starting with the placement of monitors, room acoustics, and so on. He even mentions Sound On Sound’s bass staircase test tones to help identify room mode problems, which is nice!

Chapter 3 dives into the idea of a reference listening level and how it can be related to various metering systems. Loudness normalisation is also mentioned briefly in passing, but most of the focus here is on using the Bob Katz K‑meter solution — although I would quibble with Simon’s adherence to Katz’ default 83dBC acoustic reference level, which I think is too loud for a typical, compact project studio room, at least in the UK and Europe. Chapter 4 explores the acquired skill of critical listening (what to listen for and how to analyse what you’re hearing), along with some techniques and tools to assist, such as listening to the stereo difference signal.

Audio Mastering In A Project Studio provides a solid grounding in a professional approach, helping to build the required skills and knowledge to achieve the very best from your mixes.

With most of the underpinning technical knowledge in place, chapter 5 looks at the basic mastering process, starting with examining how automated online mastering systems analyse and process tracks, as a comparison to what the novice mastering reader might think of doing. This comparison helps to hone critical listening further and develop a skill set to deliver even better results manually.

Next, Simon describes a range of core mastering tools (in plug‑in form), such as the much‑underrated VU meter, compressors, equalisers, EQ matching systems, harmonic exciters, multiband dynamics, stereo imagers, reverb, limiter/maximisers, spectrum analysers, phase‑correlation metering and loudness/dynamic range metering. He explains how these tools work (in the generic sense) without getting bogged down in details of any specific plug‑ins, although many of his preferred options are highlighted in the images, if not explicitly mentioned in the text.

The last quarter of the book sets out a practical mastering process and technique, starting with the concept of establishing a mastering template within a DAW. This template uses different tracks to carry different stages of the mastering process, and while it might initially seem complicated it’s actually quite a clever and versatile way of working. The longest chapter in the whole book details precisely how to work on real projects using this template system.

Chapter 9 discusses the practicalities surrounding archiving and exporting finished masters considering things like word length, sample rate, channel formats, dithering, metadata, file formats, loudness and peak normalisation, and using hosting sites. Bringing the book to a close, the final chapter explores what is involved in mastering a complete album, discussing things like track order, gaps, relative track levels, and so on.


I found this book easy to read and very informative, with some new workflow ideas to help build a versatile and reliable mastering process for anyone interested in mastering in the box. Audio Mastering In A Project Studio provides a solid grounding in a professional approach, helping to build the required skills and knowledge to achieve the very best from your mixes.


Paperback £18.99. Kindle £9.99.

Paperback $24.99. Kindle $9.99