By Rob Stewart - - December 21, 2013

Just Google "Audio Mastering Software" or "Mastering Plugins" and you will find hundreds if not thousands of software products that are all geared towards finalizing your mixes and helping you create your own masters. In fact, I recently came across a Mastering App for iPhone. Many music mastering software products are excellent, and are even used by top mastering engineers around the globe. You may be wondering what additional value an Audio Mastering Engineer can bring to your music.

Obviously I have a biased view on this, but in my view, audio mastering gear (hardware), mastering software suites, or plugins are simply tools. If you plan to self-master your music, spending $500-$15000 or so on some good audio mastering software, or hardware, can help you do the job to a point. There are many other things that a great mastering engineer offers you that go well beyond the tools, though. Read on to find out more, and as always, please contact me any time if you have any questions!

Note: This comparison chart is based specifically on the services offered here at When considering any mastering engineer for your project, I suggest asking the engineer a lot of questions to confirm that whomever you choose offers the services you are looking for.

Mastering Software Mastering Engineer
Identifies and addresses quality issues with your mixes such as the balance of the instruments and other elements, or problems such as plosives and glitches.

(there is software available today that can address pops and clicks, or air noise for example, but it cannot address all issues, or tell you how to resolve them)
Makes decisions based on your goals,  the genre and mood of your music, your artistic personality and aesthetic.

(in the sense that you, using the software can make those decisions for yourself)
Gives you specific advice on how you can improve your recordings and mixes.

Processes your music in various ways (compression, EQ, limiting) when needed.

Will allow you to see/hear your mix for what it is by giving you an objective opinion via a mix check or mix analysis.

Works to stay on top of current trends in the industry (for example, where is "Loudness" headed).

Will alert you to issues that will create problems for AM/FM radio broadcast or streaming sites such as SoundCloud or YouTube.

(Many mastering software packages feature sophisticated metering that can highlight some of the issues, but not all of them)
Collaborates with you on your production and mixing, is available to you to bounce creative ideas around, or to discuss solutions to challenges with your mix.

Can teach you some production and mixing techniques to help you achieve the sound you are looking for.