It's only fair to provide our clients the opportunity to compare what we have done not only to their raw mixes, but also to the work of any other mastering facilities and commercially available CDs in the same genre.

Please, note that "critical" here does not stand for "judicial", let alone "damnatory"! It means listening intently with an empirical ear and coming to logical conclusions.

We have really great respect for all the musicians out there, from the massively successful ones to those who have some daytime job for a living, but write and record amazing songs to spread over the internet and sometimes give away for free.

The music business nowadays is dominated by tons of electronic equipment and we always keep in mind that the recorded music can easily be degraded by such devices, especially when not used properly. That's why one should depend on their ears for the final decision when it comes to the question: "Is the sound quality excellent, acceptable or crappy?"

Well, as most people in the music business obviously know well, the real high-end mastering has very little to do with the sound quality as such - it must be there in the mix, one can only preserve it and present it properly for the targeted media. But when it comes to macro-dynamics, atmosphere, finer details, soundstage depth, natural ambiance, proper presentation of the cyclical build-and-drop musical dynamics - then the real good Mastering Engineer can show their broad musical background, deep scientific knowledge about physical processes, technical expertise and overall artistic taste!

Here are some sound quality parameters to pay closest attention to, especially when evaluating a mix or a master:

Dynamics – one of the most important parameters when evaluating recorded music! The most common mistake during mixing and/or mastering is to ruin the overall dynamics, often called macro-dynamics. When compressors and limiters are overused or used with inappropriate settings you can hear some instruments “drowning” when other powerful ones come into play: one simple check is to listen carefully if the snare drum has the same power and tonality during the mighty chorus as it’s had during the intro and other softer parts of the song! The same applies to vocals, guitars, etc. It’s important to have the passing loudness exactly corresponding to the musical dynamics.

Fine Details – Apparent (perceived) resolution can tell a lot about the sound quality. Try to estimate how clear you hear the release part of single notes and the tales of natural or artificial reverberation. An inferior mix (or master) can sound as if lacking details although technically the resolution is always the same (e.g. 16-bit for CD audio)

Depth - is there only one dimension to the tune (left-to-right) or you can clearly recognize the different distance from instruments and voices to your listening position?

Atmosphere - can you recognize the room where the recording has been made, though it might be artificially added applying additional reverberation?

Midrange Clarity - the easiest way to estimate is judging the intelligibility of spoken/sung words, but string instruments also can be an object to judge.

Naturalness – concentrate on a single instrument first (not the whole mix) and listen carefully – close your eyes and try to imagine the player. It’s important to find it as if he/she is in the same room with you! Then do it again with other instruments, and only finally try with the whole mix in your mind.

Transparency – that’s how accurately you can estimate the distance and positioning of any instrument in regard to your listening position. Try to imagine and distinguish clearly the different “rows” of musicians. They should not blur each other: the lead vocalist in the first row (closest to the listening position), then the guitars, keyboards, brass, etc. and finally the drums and the bass should be perceived as if behind them all, just the way they are positioned in a real concert situation.

Focus – can you hear and define every single instrument's position clearly or they are non-descript and obscure?

Transients Reproduction – pay a close attention to the way fast transients are represented in the mix – such as the attack of the notes played by percussive instruments (drums, percussion, plucked string instruments, etc.) and try to estimate how natural these attacks are reproduced.

Bass Resonances – quite similar to what we’ve done with the midrange clarity, this time we do it for the most powerful instruments in the lower register.