The idea of mastering for free sounds great after you’ve put in a ton of work writing, producing and mixing your music.

You’re one click away to finish your track. Unfortunately, these ‘free’ solutions have the potential to do a ton of harm to your music.

You can tell by looking at the difference between a track mastered for free, and a professional master:

Remember that mastering is the final step in music production before potential fans, managers, and labels hear your music.

Mastering is the finishing touch that finalizes all of your hard work, however, if it’s not done properly you could lose out on potential listeners, fans and opportunities. Luckily, professional mastering has never been more accessible.

Remember that mastering is the final step in music production before potential fans, managers, and labels hear your music.

LANDR launched the world’s first automated mastering service in 2014.

Since then, our team of mastering engineers that work with labels like Warner Records, Disney Music Group and Atlantic Records meticulously update and teach our engine to continuously produce professional quality masters.

In this article, I’m going to explain the difference between LANDR and free mastering. I’ll be demoing comparative audio examples, and explain why you should think twice before trusting a free service with your final master.

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Free mastering is too good to be true

This saying will always be relevant, no matter the context. ‘Free’ comes with drawbacks most of the time, and in fact, when it comes to free mastering, these drawbacks will often hurt your mix.

It’s a fine line—there are plenty of great free plugins for mixing available to download online. They’re often made by creative developers working on passion projects in their spare time, but, there’s a reason you won’t see too many free tools in a pro mix engineer’s plugin folder.

Pro quality software takes time and resources to develop—and that comes at a price.

1. Faster isn’t better

If you’ve spent hours fine tuning a mix, why would you need the mastering process to be lightning fast? You should question any type of audio processing that spits out a new audio file in seconds.

Mastering engineers take the time to listen to your music, and determine what it needs to sound professional on any sound system. They make fine tuned adjustments so that the loudness of your mix will compete with other music on streaming services, while still adhering to audio guidelines.

The same goes for LANDR. Our proprietary genre recognition technology actually understands your music, and makes decisions based on what it’s hearing.

These important decisions take time to make. Speed comes at the expense of two things; quality of analysis, and quality of processing.

With LANDR, you’re getting a professional master in just a few minutes, which is still blazingly fast compared to a real mastering engineer.

Our development team is constantly working on the LANDR mastering engined to ensure you get a master as quickly as possible, without compromising the quality.

2. Limited Processing

Free mastering services use a web-based signal path, which means your music never leaves the webpage for processing.

Web-based processing often involves very poor quality web based ‘plugins’, which often involves some sort of EQ preset and low quality limiter to raise the volume of your music.

This type of corner cutting will cause collateral damage, for instance. Smeared transients and imaging, brittle high end, distortion and pumping are all artifacts that can damage your track.

Free mastering services use a web-based signal path, which means your music never leaves the webpage for processing.

Mastering engineers often use the best plugins and gear on the market, which means they’ve made serious investments in their craft.

The same goes for LANDR. We use state of the art processing on dedicated servers that your music moves to after you begin the mastering process. All adjustments are made with a pro grade, high quality signal path then ported back to the website for you to listen to.

3. Static Presets

There’s a reason why LANDR comes out on top of most ‘mastering shootout’ sessions. Our proprietary technology is able to react to music like a human would, and gets better with every master. Over 20 million tracks have been mastered using LANDR which gives you more precise, genre-specific results.

Your music doesn’t deserve a one-size-fits-all mastering solution. In fact, treating each track exactly the same can do more harm than good. Mastering is about details. And generic processing isn’t flexible enough to hear the nuance. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.

You can tell by viewing the waveforms how ‘free mastering’ isn’t actually mastering. It’s just a subtle volume boost with presets.

Competitive Comparison

I tried to remain unbiased throughout the comparison, so I selected the most neutral sounding presets for both platforms.

Unmastered


Free Master (Clear Preset)

Right away you can tell that the free master isn’t mastered properly. As a result, the sound is very weak, and their cookie cutter presets didn’t do the song justice. At best, it added some color and turned the volume up slightly. The amount of loudness would not compete with commercial releases. You can tell by viewing the waveforms how ‘free mastering’ isn’t actually mastering. It’s a subtle volume boost with presets.

LANDR Master (Balanced / Medium Setting)

The LANDR Master is competitively loud without any distortion or artifacts. The sound is clear and full of depth compared to the unmastered version.

What’s even better is that if you wanted to make any subtle changes, you could use LANDR’s Mastering Revisions to get closer to your ideal sound.  Just like with a real mastering engineer, your feedback will help refine the final product.

Superior Mastering. Quality Results.

The bottom line is if you released the free master, it wouldn’t be commercially competitive. That could cost you potential listeners and fans.

Your music deserves to sound the best it possibly can. Don’t settle for less, especially after all the hard work you put into creating it. Try LANDR Mastering today to get a genuine, professional sounding master.

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