While stereo mastering is the most common type of mastering, there’s another method to consider: stem mastering. Stereo mastering is the easier, faster, and more affordable option, but because only a single two-track stereo file is being worked on, the result may be flat, with disappointing sonic results. For more dimension and depth, choose stem mastering.
How Stem Mastering Works
Instead of only working with one track, stem mastering uses several tracks made up of single or grouped instruments. By dividing the track into these elements, we can master each one individually. With stereo mastering, any changes made must be applied to the track as a whole. Stem mastering allows us to make one aspect of a song louder, another quieter, etc. This is not the same as mixing, however, because stem mastering uses little automation in the process and its primary purpose is to make small refinements and tweaks to produce the desired results.
Why Choose Stem Mastering
Because stem mastering takes more time than stereo mastering, it also costs more. Not every song needs stem mastering, but if, upon listening to your mix, you can’t help but feel something isn’t quite right, stem mastering can help. It allows us to listen in a linear monitoring environment so we can help you pinpoint where your mix is lacking.
Changes that can be applied during stem mastering include adding warmth, improving EQ, introducing width and depth, and increasing the punch in a track. Stem mastering also allows sound engineers to adjust how different elements in a mix interact with each other––how the vocals compare with the guitar, for example. It might be counterintuitive, but the kind of precision stem mastering offers lets us have more flexibility in working on a mix.
To the untrained ear, there may not be a huge difference between stereo and stem mastering, but the result of stem mastering is better sonic quality. If your goal is to end up with the strongest mix possible, opt for stem mastering.
Where to Get Stem Mastering
Mercury Mastering’s sound engineers are acclaimed for their work in the industry, having worked on Grammy award-winning and certified platinum albums. We use our legendary Trident console to master your songs and we have experience working in every genre of music. Our pricing is affordable and transparent, so you’ll never have any unexpected surprises or upcharges––and with our 100% satisfaction guarantee, you can rest assured that we won’t call it quits until you’re completely thrilled with the results.
Learn More About Mercury Mastering
The best way to experience the Mercury Mastering difference is to hear it for yourself. Submit your track for a free mastered sample. If you don’t like what you hear, there’s no further obligation; if you do like what you hear (and we think you will), you can purchase the full mastered track. Start your project with Mercury Mastering today.