Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Jay Hodgson


In this dissertation, I demonstrate that audio mastering is a musical competency by elucidating the most significant, and clearly audible, facets of this competence. In fact, the mastering process impacts traditionally valued musical aspects of records, such as timbre and dynamics. By applying the emerging creative scholarship method used within the field of music production studies, this dissertation will aid scholars seeking to hear and understand audio mastering by elucidating its core practices as musical endeavours. And, in so doing, I hope to enable increased clarity and accuracy in future scholarly discussions on the topic of audio mastering, as well as the end product of the mastering process: records.

Audio mastering produces a so-called master of a record, that is, a finished version of a record optimized for duplication and distribution via available formats (i.e, vinyl LP, audio cassette, compact disc, mp3, wav, and so on). This musical process plays a crucial role in determining how records finally sound, and it is not, as is so often inferred in research, the sole concern of a few technicians working in isolated rooms at a record label's corporate headquarters. In fact, as Mark Cousins and Russ Hepworth-Sawyer (2013: 2) explain, nowadays “all musicians and engineers, to a lesser or greater extent, have to actively engage in the mastering process.” Thus, this dissertation clarifies the creative nature of audio mastering through an investigation of how mastering engineers hear records, and how they use technology to achieve the sonic goals they conceptualize.