Something I hear and read on forums from time to time is the issue if someone should do the final mastering oneself, or send it to an external mastering engineer or site. Some services, like the new Sony one, are also not that expensive.
Well, my take is, if you are interested, do it yourself. You will read about all kinds of objections such as the mastering site having a decent monitoring equipment and the right engineers that hear tiny decibel changes, as well as it’s good to have an external reference for critical listening.
So, to go through my own points. If someone is interested to learn to master, they should go ahead and learn it. It helps all across audio productions to know how to do a final product. What you learn from such critical listening will help you anyway to grow as an artist and producer.
Secondly, yes, big studios have fine-tuned listening environments. Anyway, you could achieve quite a lot by rendering temporary audio files to CDs and take them on a tour across various listening environments, car stereo, boom box, computer monitors, 5:1 stereo system, and if you are a lucky one, a club setup. Few listen to music in such perfect environments, anyway.
Nearfield monitors could handle a lot of the issues with wrong acoustics, and there are plenty of articles about how to make your studio sound better. Some new nearfield monitors have even built-in correction software to compensate for odd environments.
Finally, if you know your monitors inside out, you know their sweet spot and bad spots, and you could compensate based on this.
As for an external reference, I’m always worried that they would not understand let’s say the need of the extensive brick-wall compression that is needed for modern underground dance music, and instead master it based on the huge amount of work they get anyway from guitar-based music, and so on.
Finally, a lot of the postings are FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) postings from existing mastering services, in order to get more customers. Such marketing is for me very ugly, so why would I trust them if they have such negative attitude about someone who wants to do their own mastering? If someone really wants an external mastering job, they know when they need it, and then usually we know which mastering engineer we trust, anyway.