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6.2.3. Mastering

Mastering is the process through which a version of the final mix is prepared for distribution and listening. Mastering can be performed for many target formats, including CD, tape, SuperAudio CD, or hard drive. Mastering often involves a reduction in the information available in an audio file: audio CDs are commonly recorded with 20- or 24-bit samples, for example, and reduced to 16-bit samples during mastering. While most physical formats (like CDs) also specify the audio signal's format, audio recordings mastered to hard drive can take on many formats, including OGG, FLAC, AIFF, MP3, and many others. This allows the person doing the mastering some flexibility in choosing the quality and file size of the resulting audio.
Even though they are both distinct activities, mixing and mastering sometimes use the same techniques. For example, a mastering technician might apply a specific equalization filter to optimize the audio for a particular physical medium.