We have recently been getting asked some questions that we find have been asked to us more than once, so we compiled a list of frequently asked questions we receive about audio mastering and thought we’d share in hopes of helping you with your sound and future mastering projects. Also, we have some changes coming to our website including a redesign of our website for 2012 that will include improved navigation, a better layout, a blog, new services that will include analog mastering, and an improved clients page where you can potentially meet and connect with other artists based on your genre of music. If you have any ideas please let us know. We would really like to hear from you.
Ok, on with the topic of discussion. Here are some frequently asked questions we receive about mastering.
Q: I have been told that the lower in volume I export my track the more “headroom” you will have to master and therefore better quality.
Technically this is true. However, you do not want to go too low in volume as the lower you go the more signal you will lose in the inital export, which can ruin your track in the maximization stage in mastering. Generally -3db is the ideal level you want to export with the intention of having your track mastered; meaning that the volume of your track should not exceed -3db in volume. The empty space on top is called “headroom.” If you are working with a good sound engineer (cough cough) they will adjust the volume during the mastering process to ensure you have enough headroom to master the track. We usually find ourselves adjusting tracks to anywhere from -5db to -6db peak volume for mastering. In other words, you want to export at the loudest possible volume to ensure you get all the signal through while still leaving enough headroom for the mastering process. So, when working with us you want to export as close as you can get to 0db without actually touching 0db.
Q: Can you send me a preview of your mastering before I pay.
Yes. We provide anywhere from a 2-3 minute 320k/mp3 master preview of your track depending on the original length. This allows for quick file transfers in case you want any tweaks made before sending the final wav and mp3 versions.
Q: Can you send me an MP3 duplicate along with the mastered WAV file after I pay.
Yes. We provide an MP3 duplicate version alongside with the mastered WAV for convenience as we know artists like to share mp3 copies for download and promo purposes and converting WAV to MP3 properly can sometimes be tricky.
Q: Should I send you my track as one single WAV/AIFF file or separate each individual channels/instruments into their own audio files for mastering?
Currently we only provide mastering for single WAV or AIFF files. When sending individual “stems” or instruments on each channel as an audio file you would be looking to have your track mixed. We will soon be providing professional mixing services.
Q: I have a track with vocals on it but can’t seem to fit it just right. Can I send you both versions and have you mix them?
Yes, we can do this as long as the music that the vocals are going over isn’t already compressed or mastered in any way. Some vocal artists we work with usually get a mastered version of a song to put their vocals over for a final mixdown. This is not good as there is no chance of getting a proper master out of a track that has already been compressed/maximized. If you are putting vocals over tracks make sure the music you’re putting vocals to isn’t already compressed/maximized.
Q: How long does it take for you guys to send the first draft of final draft once I’ve sent it to you?
Masters typically take anywhere between 24-48 hours per track. We try hard to have a master version for you within 48 hour of reviewing your track for mastering starting on the next day of when you send your project. So if you send your track at 11pm at night it will be 48 hours from 12a the next morning that you can expect to have your track ready.
Q: Should I not use any EQ/Compression/Stereo Imaging on my final master output?
That is correct. However, processing like eq, compression, limiting, and stereo imaging is ok on individual channels. Just not on your master output channel for export. Some artists will use compression and limiting while producing but this is bad practice as it ruins your ability to properly mixdown your channels and tracks. The goal is to get it how you want it to sound BEFORE it his the master output channel. But, if you deem it necessary to use maximization and compression on your master channel it is always best to keep it at a minimum amount!
Q: Do you guys do analog or digital mastering?
Right now we are an all digital facility which is why we are able to cut our prices compared to more expensive studios. We do have plans to integrate analog mastering very soon.
Q: What will happen if I’m not satisfied with the mastering results? Are you going to load & change it several times?
We provide a 2-3 minute mp3/320k preview of your track before sending the final WAV copy in case any tweaks or changes need to be made. We offer a 1 time tweaking at no charge and ask that payment be made if a 3rd version is requested.
Q: I like the mastering but there are a few changes I want to make on my end. Is it possible to send a new mixdown?
Yes. We charge an additional $9 for new mixdowns if the mastering has already been completed on the original mixdown.
Q: “I can’t believe you don’t use real hardward for any of your mastering (big metal tube boxes) I’ve compared with other mastering companies on Soundcloud and yours seems to sound the best.”
Q: I’m from outside of the U.S. Can I still use your services?
Yes, we cater to musicians all around the world. We use Paypal to send and receive transactions which you can use worldwide.
Q: I don’t have Paypal, how can I make a payment?
You do not have to have a Paypal account to make a payment. During the checkout process there is an option to use a debit or credit card as a Paypal guest.
Q: Should I use normalization or dither when exporting my pre-mastered mixdown?
No. Leave these off. Leave these to the mastering engineer.
Q: We have a continuous album to be mixed, should we send you the tracks without the transitions or send the whole album with the transitions separated into individual tracks?
It depends. I your album is already mixed how you like and you are happy with the mixed album it would be best to send the tracks with the transitions separated into individual tracks. Be sure to include the tracklist names and order so we can properly match the next tracks together. We can then send you the full mixed album or send it back to you how we received it (individual tracks)
Upcoming & To Be Noted..
– As mentioned above we will have a new website redesign coming in early January 2012 and will be offering new services like Professional Mixing, Analog Mastering, and also will have a new layout and better navigation with improved site performance and information. Also it will have a better organized clients page for making new connections to other artists like you who produce similar music.
– Also, please let us know if you have any other questions about mastering. We will always get back to you and give your our professional advice.
– We may or may not have a new years day promo coming up so keep your eyes open for that!
– Please also let us know what you would like to see our new website.
Hope this has answered some of your questions and helped you in your pursuit of sound,