MUSIC AUDIO MASTERING
Because we offer affordable online mastering services to a worldwide client base, we accept ONLY 2-track (stereo) files in either .wav or .aif formats (up to 32 bit / 192 kHz resolution) and not physical CD's or tape. Because of the inferior quality, we generally do not advise .mp3’s as source files for mastering. However, exceptions may be made if an .mp3 file is the only version you have available.
If you wish to send us several tracks for stem mastering, please contact us for special pricing.
MASTERING PROJECTS – PREPARING AND SUBMITTING FILES ONLINE:
For mastering projects, export each song from your DAW as a 2-channel/track (L&R) stereo .wav or .aif file (up to 32-bit / 192 kHz resolution). Consult your DAW manual for information on how to accomplish this task. Mac users should be very careful to make sure that their files have extensions (wav or aif). Leave the tracks at whatever resolution they were mixed at. In other words, do not perform any sample rate conversion or word length reduction to the tracks. Do not apply any processing (compression, limiting, volume maximizing, EQ, enhancing) to the stereo buss.
Please zip (compress) all your songs into one folder before sending in order to reduce the size of the files and increase the speed of the transfer. If needed, instructions on how to compress a file are below.
Zip (compress) files instructions:
To ‘zip’ some files on a PC, simply place all the items you want to send into one folder – say on your desktop – give it a name, then right click and choose ‘Send to compressed (zip) folder’. The zipped file will appear in the same location as your original folder. Now you can upload the file using the UPLOAD MUSIC link below.
If you’re on a Mac it’s a pretty similar process. If the individual files are not already in one folder, create a folder and place them in it. Then right click on the file and choose ‘Create archive of “xxxxx”‘. Your compressed file will appear as a .zip file on the desktop.
Before you send your material out to get mastered, it is important to receive a sample and understand what mastering (or, more accurately termed, pre-mastering) can do for your project.
Mastering performed well can yield wonderful results. Handled by an experienced engineer using quality gear in a well designed room, mastering almost always elevates the quality of the final mix to ‘the next level’. Mastering is hard to describe in words, yet easy to hear once performed. In other words, you can listen to a track un-mastered vs. one mastered and hear the difference between the two.
Professional mastering can make a decent song sound more sonically polished and ‘glued’ together. The individual elements in the mix appear to fit together better with added dimension (width and depth), improved low end definition and power, reduced mid frequency mud, increased overall warmth, focused high-mid frequency energy and punch, and revealing high frequency sheen and clarity. Unwanted or distracting noises should be removed or minimized. Mono compatibility is checked. In addition, song sequencing is arranged, fade-ins and fade-outs performed, spacing in between songs defined, data integrity ensured, and identifying metadata (artist name, song titles, copyright info, ISRC, UPC, etc.) inserted, among other things.
All the above is reason enough to have your songs professionally mastered, yet is not all you need to know about mastering. For all the wonderful things mastering can do, it is important to be aware of what mastering cannot do (either easily, or at all). Many musicians have the misinformed impression that mastering is a magical wand that can fix ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that’s wrong with a mix. This is certainly not the case in many instances!
Following are some things that either cannot be corrected at all, or cannot easily or inexpensively be fixed during the mastering stage without (sometimes) adversely affecting the mix:
- Out of tune vocals or instruments. These include basses and guitars not properly tuned, or individual strings on a bass or guitar out of tune.
- Excessive effects (e.g., reverb, delay, flanging, chorus, etc.) applied incorrectly to a particular track in the mix (e.g., vocals, guitars, drums, etc.) and need to be reduced.
- The opposite of #2 above; a situation where processing is required to enhance individual tracks within the mix that lack ‘character’. For example, “can you add some distortion to my guitar solo?”, or “can we add a delay and some reverb to the background vocals?”
- Extreme volume or panning imbalances of individual instruments within the mix.
- Sloppy, out of time performances by the vocalists or musicians.
- Lackluster individual performances that need to be ‘spruced up’.
- Individual instruments with extreme phase issues.
- Excessive distortion on specific instruments in the mix.
- An over-compressed mix that has also been severely limited (volume maximized).
- Individual sounds within the mix that need to be replaced (e.g., snares, kicks, etc). For example, “I don’t like the sound of the snare in the mix. Can we replace it during mastering?”
Some of the things mentioned above can be addressed or minimized during mastering by using multi-band processors (e.g., compressors, expanders), utilizing M/S (Mid/Side) processing, copying good parts of the song from one section and pasting to another, using stems (separate tracks imported from the mix), and other techniques. However, even when/if they work, some of these techniques may dramatically alter the sound of the mix (sometimes for the worse) and increase the costs of mastering significantly.
Therefore, while mastering will do wonders for your mix, a terrible mix will almost always be improved with greater satisfaction and sonic accuracy by re-mixing the song. The key is to get the mix to sound as good as you possibly can before sending it out to be mastered. However, even if (for whatever reason) you are unable to re-mix your song, professional mastering will still make an impressive improvement to the overall mix.
Feel free to submit a song for a free, no-obligation sample mastering in order to get a sense of what professional mastering can do for your project. Please note that samples are offered time permitting.