So I read the entire thread and still have no clue what exactly mastering is or how this thread got sticky. I did however learn that an individual TRIED to answer one of my questions and got ripped apart by people who didn't offer any usable answers themselves. In sum, this whole thread is very humorous but otherwise worthless.
My question is rather broad...what is "mastering"? Without going into all the how-to, could someone please define what the action or process is? I understand it's near the end of a road that looks something like this:
Musician(s) perform > we record on one (or more) tracks > the tracks get augmented (adjusted levels, effects, basic EQ, whatever the situation calls for) > the tracks get mixed and combined (bounced) > the bounced tracks get mastered > the final mastered product gets formatted > the albums are printed > the band develops addictions > they somehow live forever (see McJagger and Steve Tyler)
Can't believe what I just read. Go back to the beginning and read through all the posts. I was very interested in mastering my music until I read this post. Now, I'm finnally convinced that, with a good music background, some savy tracking and mixing skills (honed over 35+years of recording) and a lot of common sense. The "mastering" process is better left to the artist who wrote, performed, tracked and mixed the music. In other words, that "finished sound" can get royally screwed up if left in the hands of someone who calls his self a mastering engineer and can't even sing on key him or herself.
And, I have to agree that the best mastering tools are your own ears. Again, all the plugins in the world won't deliver what a pair of talented ears will do. So, forget about your "mastering" tools and get the best performance, recording and mix you're capable of. First. Then, maybe introduce a bit of leveling/comp.
Now, go back and read what I just wrote again.