One common (mis!)conception I see when people think of me, XARC, or other on-line mastering firms, be it in forums or elsewhere, is that they think on-line mastering is just for a “quick shot” – perfect for when they don’t have the time to go to a “real mastering studio,” or when they need a demo mastered “quick and cheap.” Thus, for the real mastering, they think they would go somewhere else. But…

On-Line Mastering is Real Mastering*
(* At least in the case of XARC!)

The difference between XARC’s on-line mastering and an equally-skilled “brick and mortar” firm – lets call them “Firm X” – is not to be found in the “usefulness” of the product. XARC and Firm X both use professional-grade equipment, and both employ professional, skilled and talented mastering engineers. Both have actual studios too, and both are in every way real mastering firms. The true difference is that XARC is simply not tied to certain constraints that exist with “Firm X”. We are thus in a position to deliver not equal, but rather higher quality. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

  • Having an on-line firm enables us to work within a global marketplace, rather than a more limited, local one. The advantages to this are huge, particularly in the realm of being able to work with such a wide range of musical genres. It’s never the “same old, same old.”
  • In terms of efficiency, there is far more flexibility too. For example, we can “pre-listen” to the clients’ mixes to see if they’re optimal for mastering. If any changes are required, those can be done and delivered very quickly, even if it has to be repeated several times. With snail mail, it’s impossible – or at least would take weeks to accomplish. The same applies in reverse – when it’s time to deliver the approval master, it’s just a download for our clients. Iterations at that stage again benefit from nearly instant delivery, rather than days back and forth.
  • Not being limited to having to go from mix to final master in a day or two (which is the typical practice when a mastering session is conducted at a “brick and mortar” mastering studio), also gives us the opportunity to refine the final product. We can get every last bit of perfection out of a track, and improve quality with the extra time, because we’re not as “rushed.”

So, on-line mastering really is real mastering. It’s just that the on-line aspect of the process creates the preconditions for what us mastering engineers are able to do; in the case of XARC that means we are able to provide a better product to our clients, that in every way matches (and I like to think at least typically exceeds) the quality of what is produced at Firm X. And, who knows – it may just be that in a few short years, it will be Firm X who will have to say, “but we’re just as real and good and as high-quality as XARC and the on-line firms!” 🙂