PRODUCTION EXPO 2013: To master your own tracks, there are a few pieces of kit you need to do a decent job. Let’s have a look at the essential ingredients of a mastering meisterwerk then, starting with monitoring...
The point of mastering is to create a mix that sounds great anywhere you hear it, and such a feat requires a decent pair of monitors. There’s no point troubleshooting a frequency only to find out that it was your monitors at fault, or to completely miss a problem sound because your speakers didn’t reproduce it properly.
In general, the more you spend on speakers, the better they will be, so this is an area that will demand your cash. And just as important is the room itself, as even the best speakers won’t sound any good in a poor acoustic environment, which can cause poor stereo imaging, a bumpy frequency response, and general lack of detail.
"Even a pro who’s been using an exceptionally well-calibrated system and room for years will still check mixes on midfield speakers"
This is a whole topic in itself, but do take it seriously because without a decent-sounding room, you will struggle to create good mixes and masters. The things to look into are speaker placement and the use of acoustic treatment products such as bass traps and absorption/ diffusion panels.
Assuming that you’ve got all that sorted as best you can, listen to as much different material as possible until you learn the limitations and idiosyncrasies of your environment. When mastering, you should also listen to your tracks on many different systems.
Even a pro who’s been using an exceptionally well-calibrated system and room for years will still check mixes on midfield speakers and even iPhone headphones from time to time. If your master sounds awesome in your room but unbearable on earbuds, then it’s back to the drawing board!
If you’re really stuck, there are plug-ins that claim to compensate for flawed monitoring and poor acoustics, such as IK Multimedia’s ARC. While these work to an extent, they’re not a magic bullet, and you’ll get the best results using them in combination with a well-treated room and great speakers.