What is Mastering?

Mastering is the process of putting the final finishing touches on an already-mixed stereo recording. As with mixing, this may involve the use of EQ and dynamics processing (Compression and Limiting), but usually the application of these devices in the Mastering stage is much more subtle. The use of dynamics processing in the Mastering stage also brings the loudness of the songs to a professional level, and matches the levels of each of the songs relative to one another. This helps to make the songs on an album sound like one cohesive collection rather than a group of separate songs that have been compiled together on a single album.

Finally, Mastering also may involve setting Fade-ins and Fade-outs at the beginning and ending of the songs, setting the proper gap length between songs, and determining the final sequence of the songs on the CD. When the Mastering stage is complete, the recording should be ready for duplication. Mastering can make the difference between a track that sounds good and a track that sounds great!

Mastering Rates

Prior to working on your project, we will evaluate your material to give you a firm quote in advance, and the price that you pay will NOT exceed our original quote. If it takes longer to complete the job, we will absorb the cost.

Mastering FAQ

  1. Can I get a sample / mastering demo before paying?
  2. How should I prepare my mixes for mastering?
  3. Which file format/s do you accept?
  4. Which format/s do you deliver?
  5. How do I submit my tracks?
  6. What is stem mastering?
  7. Do you offer stem mastering?

Can I get a sample / mastering demo before paying?

Yes. We're so convinced of the quality of our work that if you're a new customer, we will master a 1-minute clip of one of your songs up front for no charge. We guarantee that you'll be amazed at how good your music can sound!

How should I prepare my mixes for mastering?

Please send the final stereo mixdown of each song you want us to master in a separate file. Be sure that dithering is turned off, and do not apply any overall effects to the mixdown (such as reverb). Preferably, all processing on the stero mix bus should be turned off (no loudness maximizers, multiband or brickwall limiters, etc.). If your mix is already severely brickwall-limited when we receive it, there's not much we can do in terms of making the music louder without severely degrading the quality.

Before sending us your mixes, check to be sure that no clipping has occurred while recording or mixing. We recommend that you leave at least 3 db of headroom, meaning the peaks of the signal should never exceed the -3db mark on the peak meter of your stereo mix bus. To give us a sense of the sound that you're after, you can also include a sample of a previously-released track of your own, or a reference track from another artist.

Which file format/s do you accept?

For the best possible results, we need WAV or AIFF files in resolutions of at least 16-bit/44.1 kHz or better. 24-bit resolution is preferred. Please do NOT send any kind of data-reduced files like MP3, Real, or OGG-Vorbis. These are "lossy" audio formats which destroy harmonic content irreversibly, so they can't be used as source files for audio mastering.

Which format/s do you deliver?

The files we deliver depend on your needs, in most cases it's a Redbook-standard 16-bit/44.1 kHz audio CD. If needed, we can send the files to you in other formats (data CD or DVD), and at higher resolutions.

How do I submit my tracks?

You can either upload your files to our secure FTP server, send a data CD or DVD in the mail, or deliver them to us in person (if you are a local customer). Contact us for more details.

What is stem mastering?

Stem mastering is sort of a hybrid between Mixing and Mastering. Instead of sending a single, stereo Wav file, you send "stems", or separate files for different groups of instruments. As a simple example, you might send a "drums" stem, "guitars" stem, "bass" stem, and "vocals" stem. This gives the mastering engineer more control during the mastering process, and actually allows him to alter the balance of these groups of instruments relative to one another in the mix. Stem mastering is obviously a little more involved than regular mastering, and therefore requires more time and money.

Do you offer stem mastering?

Yes, we can provide stem mastering, if your material calls for it.