Gateway of Sound: Reassessing the Role of Audio Mastering in the Art of Record Production


  • Carlo Nardi Rhodes University


production, sound, dynamic compression, senses, participant observation,


Audio mastering, notwithstanding an apparent lack of scholarly attention, is a crucial gateway between production and consumption and, as such, is worth further scrutiny, especially in music genres like house or techno, which place great emphasis on sound production qualities. In this article, drawing on personal interviews with mastering engineers and field research in mastering studios in Italy and Germany, I investigate the practice of mastering engineering, paying close attention to the negotiation of techniques and sound aesthetics in relation to changes in the industry formats and, in particular, to the growing shift among DJs from vinyl to compressed digital formats. I then discuss the specificity of audio mastering in relation to EDM, insofar as DJs and controllerists conceive of the master, rather than as a finished product destined to listening, as raw material that can be reworked in performance.

Author Biography

Carlo Nardi, Rhodes University

Carlo Nardi received his PhD in Musicology from the University of Trento in 2005. He is Research Associate at Rhodes University. His work has focused on the use of technology from a sensory perspective, authorship in relation to technological change, the organization of labour in music-making and screen sound. Between 2011 and 2013 he was General Secretary of IASPM, the International Association for the Study of Popular Music.