The Mastering Show

The Mastering Show Podcast

with Ian Shepherd and Jon Tidey

The Mastering Show # 60 - The loudness technique you need to start using TODAY

March 21st, 2019 BY Jon Tidey1 Comment 

This show is short & sweet - but essential listening if you’re interested in getting better results with online loudness - and balanced, musical dynamics for your masters.

In this episode Ian describes:

  • How he increased playback loudness on Spotify by 3.3 dB for a song by reducing it’s overall loudness by 1.5 dB, and why it sounded better afterwards
  • What to do if your song gets turned down more than you expect online
  • Why you have to be careful with contrast on Spotify
  • How reducing dynamics can make your music sound more dynamic
  • Why musical decisions work better than technical ones



Episode 44 - Loudness Units 101
Episode 51 - What is Loudness Penalty?
Episode 52 - Don't aim for LUFS targets online
Episode 54 - When loudness normalization goes wrong
Dynamic Range Day
Loudness Penalty

The Mastering Show #59 - More questions answered (Q&A 6)

February 15th, 2019 BY Jon Tidey2 Comments 

It’s been a while since we had a Q&A episode, so - here it is ! In this show we discuss:

  • Can a spectrum analyser make up for poor monitoring ?
  • Is allowing peak levels up to -0.1 wrong ?
  • Do speaker isolation pads work ?
  • Handling client payment issues
  • What to do when songs overlap (segued)
  • Do dynamic masters sound worse on a PA ?

Configuring Voxengo Span - by Dan Worrall
Inter-sample peaks versus loudness (video)
Ethan Winer on speaker isolation
Bob Katz on speaker isolation (Facebook)

The Mastering Show #58 - Mud or magic ? Managing the mids

January 14th, 2019 BY Jon TideyNo Comments 

We’ve all heard it - “the music is in the mid-range”. But what does that mean, exactly ? And if it’s true, is there anything we can do about it in mastering ?

We’ve talked about bass and high frequencies, but in this show we dive into the muddy, murky mess that is (often) the mid-range, and talk about how crucial it is for a great-sounding master.


  • How the mids help us hear bass
  • Common problems with the mid-range, and what causes them
  • How to open up cluttered mids in mastering
  • Our least favourite mid-range frequencies
  • Mids versus dynamics
  • The importance of linear phase EQ for the mids


TMS #55 - How bright is too bright ? Mastering top end
TMS #53 - Fear of bass
Leapwing Audio CenterOne
reFuse Software Lowender

Too Much 4k ?

The Mastering Show #57 - With great power…

December 7th, 2018 BY Jon Tidey3 Comments 


…comes great responsibility. And mastering engineers need to accept that.

If you take on the challenge of mastering someone’s music, you also accept a huge amount of responsibility for that music, and In this episode we tackle the question - what are the responsibilities of a mastering engineer - and even the ethics ?


  • Should a mastering engineer have a “signature sound” ?
  • Why the “B” word is at the heart of mastering - in many different ways
  • Something you should probably never do
  • How to supply files - for CD, online and vinyl pressing
  • Ensuring transfer integrity online
  • The golden rule of mastering


Popular distributors:
CD Baby

Related episodes
TMS #37 – Does gear matter ? And if so, how much ?
TMS #50 – Mastering on headphones ? (Glenn Schick interview)
TMS #45 – Jonathan Wyner
TMS #23 – Balance (or, how to master an album)

The Mastering Show #56 - Mastering Crappy Mixes

November 12th, 2018 BY Jon Tidey4 Comments 

It’s a question we get all the time: what do you do when the mixes you receive are more… “challenged" than you might ideally like ? How much can you fix in mastering if you really need to, and how much should you do ? In this show we cover a range of strategies for dealing with some of the toughest challenges when you’re mastering tricky mixes, including:

  • What is a crappy mix ?
  • Should we even try to master one ?
  • When not to master a crappy mix - and what you can learn
  • Techniques for “digging in” - from subtle to aggressive
  • A brand-new option for the very worst cases
  • The Golden Rule


Stereo width in mastering
TMS #25 - Stereo: width, depth and image – how to measure, monitor and master them
Centre that sub ! (A guide to mono-ing your low end) by Ian Stewart
iZotope RX
TMS #33 - BEFORE Mastering

The Mastering Show #55 - How bright is too bright ? Mastering top end

October 12th, 2018 BY Jon Tidey1 Comment 

Everyone wants that glorious, sweet, silky-smooth top end in their masters - but how do you get it ? How do you stop things sounding harsh, tinny and brittle ? And even if the high frequencies do sound gorgeous, how hard should you push them ? In this show we’re talking about treble, and our topics include:

  • What is “Newton’s 3rd law” of EQ ?
  • How do room acoustics affect how you hear high frequencies ?
  • How can you “calibrate” your ears so you’re aiming for the right amount of top ?
  • How do dynamics interact with high frequencies, and why does it matter ?
  • What’s a “spiderman” plugin ?
  • Which EQ plugin or hardware unit should you use for the best results ?


TMS #08 - You need this (Why acoustic treatment matters)
Building a home mastering studio - acoustics
7 crucial EQ bands to help balance your mix
Reference tracks - Ian’s “showreel” playlist
12 of Ian’s favourite albums for sound
Gearshoot - compare mastering EQ & plugins for yourself
Home Mastering Masterclass

The Mastering Show #54 - When normalization goes wrong

September 22nd, 2018 BY Jon Tidey2 Comments 

As you know, we think normalization is a Good Thing. But many people disagree. And often that’s because it’s not perfect yet - not by a long shot. In this episode we explain some of the quirks, bugs and problems of normalization in action, and how they can cause unexpected results when you’re trying to optimise your music for listening online.

Along the way we discuss:

  • Four really normal normalization mix-ups
  • How NOT to test normalisation on Spotify
  • Where to find YouTube’s actual normalization values
  • Why broadcast levels won’t work on YouTube
  • Whether we’re actually on the payroll for Big Normalization


TMS #41 - The problem with loudness normalization – and TIDAL’s solution

YouTube’s Stats For Nerds - and where to find them

Don’t use LUFS targets !

Discover the Loudness Penalty for your music

MeterPlugs Dynameter Plugin

How loud ? The simple solution to optimizing playback volume online – and everywhere else

The Mastering Show #53 - Fear Of Bass

July 4th, 2018 BY Jon Tidey2 Comments 

We all want great low end - deep, fat, solid and punchy. But it can be one of the hardest things to get right - especially knowing how much of it is needed. Too much bass can sound boomy, flabby, muddy or dull.

And as a result, it’s easy to be scared of bass. It’s easier to be cautious and avoid all those possible problems, right ? Well, maybe. Except if the low end isn’t working in your master, you risk the opposite problem - everything can sound weak, thin and harsh.

In this week’s episode we talk about ways to avoid all these problems, including:

  • The one thing you shouldn’t do - and why
  • The deceptively simple thing you should always do
  • Will a sub-woofer help, or hinder ?
  • How EQ for better bass can sometimes make things worse - because phase
  • Dynamic EQ versus multiband compression
  • How distortion might help
  • Ah, duck it


Home Mastering Masterclass
TMS #2 - The Three M’s of Mastering
TMS #8 - You need this
Acoustic treatment in a home studio
Home Mastering Compression

The Mastering Show #52 - DON'T aim for LUFS targets online

June 8th, 2018 BY Jon Tidey4 Comments 

All the online streaming services play music back at roughly -14 LUFS, so that’s the level we should aim for when we’re mastering, right ? Wrong.

That may sound strange, given how much we’ve talked about online loudness over the years - but we’re serious. In this show we dive deeper into one of the points we discussed in the last show: why you shouldn't be aiming for specific integrated LUFS values when mastering you music for online streaming. But, why it is still useful to know how your music will be affected.

Topics we cover include:

  • A quick introduction to normalization
  • How it works
  • Why peak normalisation is useless for matching loudness
  • Why mastering songs to a specific LUFS value doesn’t work
  • So why are LUFS measurements of streaming services useful AT ALL ?
  • When Spotify’s normalization fails
  • The biggest problem with normalization right now



TMS #31 - What IS loudness ?
TMS #44 - Loudness units 101
TMS #51 - What is the 'Loudness Penalty’ ?
TMS #41 - Eelco Grimm & TIDAL’s normalization upgrade
How loud ? The simple solution to optimizing playback volume online – and everywhere else

The Mastering Show #51 - What IS the Loudness Penalty ?

May 26th, 2018 BY Jon Tidey4 Comments 

"How loud will my music sound online ?" It’s the question everyone is asking these days, and the answer has always been “it depends”. Until now.

In this episode Ian Kerr from MeterPlugs talks about the new tool he has been developing with Ian Shepherd to answer this question. It’s a website called Loudness Penalty, and it’s free !

Along the way we also discuss

  • Why -14 LUFS isn’t the right target for online loudness
  • Why Ian Kerr decided to make plugins that won’t change your audio - but will make it sound better
  • How coding 3D computer game graphics helped him develop LCast and Dynameter
  • Why the Ians decided to make Loudness Penalty free
  • How to use Loudness Penalty to find out what your music will sound like online
  • Why different streaming services all manage loudness in different ways

Ian S demonstrates Loudness Penalty
Bob Katz’s K-System
MeterPlugs Perception
MeterPlugs Dynameter
Users prefer musical balances between songs - the proof
How to decide how loud to master




Thanks to Caeli Lohr for letting us use his song "Beautiful As It Could Be" as our theme tune - check out his music here.


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