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FOCAL PRESS Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science

October 1, 2003
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BobKatz imparts the wisdom of the masters in his highly informative bookMastering Audio: The Art and the Science, published by FocalPress.

Grammy Award winner Bob Katz is one of the most uncompromising andrespected mastering engineers in the business. His book MasteringAudio: The Art and the Science ($39.99) is not so much a how-tomanual for do-it-yourself mastering engineers as a thoroughintroduction to the unique procedures and technical issues involved inmastering.

This book is poised to become the authoritative text on audiomastering. Because most of the top mastering engineers are unwilling todivulge their secrets to the masses, Katz's book is indispensable foranyone interested in mastering as a profession.

Beyond this admittedly narrow topic, Katz offers his personalperspective on rarely discussed topics such as critical listening, themonitoring environment, depth and clarity in recordings, anddigital-audio specifics (such as dithering and jitter). To his credit,Katz is also generous with informed opinions on the myths that permeatethe often misunderstood world of mastering, including his causecélèbre, the uses (and abuses) of compression.

Mr. Science

Divided into five parts — Preparation, Mastering, AdvancedTheory and Practice, Out of the Jungle, and Appendices —Mastering Audio begins with the basics. Part one offers anoverview of mastering philosophy and gear, along with useful tutorialson listening, monitoring, and the fundamentals of bit rates, dithering,and decibels.

Part two continues to lift the veil of secrecy that often obscuresthe mastering engineer's practices. In this section, Katz delvesfurther into the art, science, and philosophy of mastering, as well asthe practical applications of equalization, dynamics processing, noisereduction, and other types of mastering processes. In addition, heoffers opinions on some of his favorite high-end mastering gear andmanufacturers.

Don your pocket protectors for part three, as Professor Katz getstechnical on the topics of jitter and clocking, high-sampling-raterecording, monitor calibration, multichannel audio, miking techniques,and acoustics. The chapter titled “How to Achieve Depth andDimension in Recording, Mixing, and Mastering” will appeal torecordists at all levels of expertise, as will a grab bag of insidertips and tricks related to a variety of analog- and digital-recordingissues. This section also includes several deluxe color plates and adetailed explanation of the K-System approach to standardized meteringand monitoring.

Having convincingly played the role of Mr. Science, Katz shows hisphilosophical side in part four with a short essay titled “Out ofthe Jungle.” Here, the author addresses quality control,standards and the need for industry-wide education, and the thornytopic of mastering audio in nonprofessional or personal studiofacilities. He also includes a poetic meditation on the future of audioas he envisions it.

Part five collects useful information into appendices, includingtechnical specs, short papers, charts, a bibliography, and bios. Thebook also includes a handy foldout chart that equates musical pitch tofrequency (in hertz), referenced with the notes of the piano keyboardand common instrumental and vocal ranges.

Master of Audio

With the strong academic focus of his writing, Katz succeeds atbeing the college professor we all wish we could have had. At the sametime, he never loses sight of the importance of listening, the value ofexperience, and the enjoyment of music as the ultimate goal ofmastering.

By maintaining this careful balance, Bob Katz is an inspiration toanyone wishing to improve their recording projects and become, inKatz's words, “a master of audio.” As a mastering engineerand recording instructor myself, I would recommend this book withoutreservation to anyone in any sector of the audio industry.


Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 5

Focal Press (Elsevier); tel. (800) 545-2522
e-mail marketing@focalpress.com
Web www.focalpress.com

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