For a long time the mastering process was a bit mysterious. Musicians knew little about what went on in a mastering studio, except that it made their tracks sound better. But thanks to all the information available about mastering online, home-recording musicians are able to learn about the process a lot more easily. And with a number of affordable mastering software packages now available, recordists have been dipping their toes into the world of DIY mastering. The question is: Is it a good idea?
I've found, with a lot of years of doing my own recordings - tracking, mixing, and mastering - that the most important things are fisrt, good songs, second, good performances on the recording, and third, a good mix. If you have a really good mix, then the final volume of the mastering is actually less of an issue. If you have a good song and a good mix that catches the listener's ear, they will actually turn up the volume of the player, just to hear the song better. If the song and recording are not so great, the listener will tend to skip listening, no matter how hot the track level is recorded. So while professional mastering can do good things for a recording, if the song and recording aren't good, just pumping up the level with whatever method is available won't make it any more memorable than if it was good to start with.