While the mix is the processing of the individual tracks, mastering is the final processing step after mixing. Usually, in audio mastering, only the mix is processed, which is available as a stereo-file. In between is the stem mastering. In a stem-mastering, the final mix is usually divided into a maximum of 4 audio files. For example in a grouping like drums, bass, instruments, and vocals. A stem mastering offers the engineer more possibilities. The processing then goes beyond the usual sound correction of a stereo mastering. You should be satisfied with your mix, before sending it to mastering. All sound improvements done by the mastering engineer are additional. In addition to the high loudness achieved by mastering, mastering is the final refinement step of music productions.
No. Depending on the source material and its quality, the master may or may not be very similar to the mix. This is also due to how much freedom the engineer has to make decisions. In a stem-mastering, bigger changes can be done to the material. There are a few pleasant side effects by making a song loud, a key aspect of mastering. During the many little processing steps, a lot of tiny sound corrections can be done to the material. This is why the music can sound a lot better after the audio mastering, with more assertiveness, “volume” (“loudness”), and a greater potential to satisfy the listener. Go to www.mastering-engineer.de/en/ab-samples and you will find three before/after examples of successful audio masterings. Compare the original mix and that Master also in adjusted loudness to each other.
Usually, an audio mastering takes about 2 hours. No later after two to three days, you should get the first mastering version. Usually, you will get a first version on the same day I received your mix.
Depending on your settings for the project, you can either choose a sample rate of 44.1 kHz/for 48kHz/s. Both are suitable. For the export choose the same settings as in the project. If you are in doubt, select 44.1 kHz/s and a bit depth of 24 or 32 bit. Second mentioned results in an extra headroom in the file, which enables the removal of potential clipping of the file. After the mastering process, the file will have a bit depth of 16 bit. As file format choose a lossless format. Ideally the wave format.
Multitracks are the raw tracks of a mix, so the original audio files without any editing. A normal song can easily have up to 80 tracks in the multitrack.