WHAT EXACTLY IS MASTERING AND IS IT REALLY WORTH IT?
Within a typical musicproduction there are three important sound shaping steps: recording, mixing and mastering. The recording and mixing steps usually deal with the sound of an individual song detached from the sound of the whole album and detached from all the other reference that are out there.
Good mastering lifts your mixes to the same stage your favourite bands play on. It takes care that your music sounds good wherever you play it - on a small stereo or in a big club.
We aim to push the limits of your mixes to make them sound as good as internationally renowned platinum productions while still maintaining the character and individuality of the production.
Because an intimate singer/songwriter doesn't need all the power metallica needs. Before you enter the mastering stage you have a loose collection of different sounding mixes without a common look. Especially with regard to the level.
Another very important aspect of mastering is to insure that the correct 'production parts' are supplied to the pressing plant or the online distributor - they all require different formats.
WHAT'S THE RIGHT FORMAT AND LEVEL TO DELIVER THE MIXES?
The Mixes should be send in the best possible resolution. We prefer 24 Bit in the sample rate of your original mixsession. There is no point to upsample the mix on the very last bounce.
Please don't send us MP3 files to master from - however they are fine for referencing or for listening purposes. The labeling of the mixes should be clearly marked and include all important information like "Vocal up, Radio Edit or No Comp". Please mark your favourite mix. All mixes or stems of the same track should have the same starting point.
These are the formats we accept: WAV, AIFF, SDII, 44,1 - 192 kHz 16 and 24 Bit, MP3, Apple Lossless, WMA - if there is no other sourcematerial, Audio CD, DAT 16 and 24 Bit; 32, 44,1 and 48 kHz, 1/4" and 1/2" analog tape, Vinyl 33,3 and 45 rpm, Tape
CAN THE MIXES BE COMPRESSED OR LIMITED?
Hmmm, good question. In a perfect world we'd prefer mixes that are not really compressed or limited, but there are two different answers to this question. A lot of mixers and producers like to mix very hot into their compressors or limiters, and those mixes can sound really good. So why tell them to change their mix setup.
If the mixes are fine and there's not much that needs to be changed then it's ok to deliver heavily compressed media. But if there is a lot that needs to be repaired then it's easier to work with an uncompressed mix. If you're not sure - send us two different versions - compressed and uncompressed.
In a perfect world - send us the mixes at an early stage of the mixing of your album, so we can have a listen and find the best mutual way.
WHAT ELSE MAY BE IMPORTANT OR USEFUL?
A couple of words to describe your individual visions would be very useful. For example 'warm vs. crisp' or 'loud vs. dynamic'. By sending references you can help us find the right direction and sound for you. It is also very helpful if you send us the final running order as soon as possible.
Furthermore it's important to know whether vinyl will be pressed from the mastering we make.
STEM MASTERING - WHAT ARE THE OBJECTIVES?
First of all - but this also goes for stereo mastering - please send your files in the same resolution your mix session is in - no sample rate conversion or data reduction. You can send the stems in stereo interleaved or splitt stereo, wav, aif or sdII format. Please label them with songname and stemname so we’re not getting confused with ten different drumstems we have to link to a certain song.
All stems should have the same starting point regardless of the bar the instrument comes in. Then we can just align them and have the correct mix – without shifting soundfiles from left to right and back. Please always bounce with all effects and with the original levels. Please always include a complete mixfile - then we have the mix as you heard it in your studio.
Now what’s a smart way to group up your track. Or better to chop down. You should separate instruments that run in the same frequency range. Let’s say drums and bass because bassdrum and bass interact with each other quite a bit, the same goes for guitars and keys. They all play in midrange. I’d say 4-8 Stems are a normal for stem mastering. Of course you can make more stems if you’re not sure about the grouping, but please limit yourself to 10-12 stems.
So for a normal rock/pop track stems would be Drums - Bass - Guitars - Keys - Strings/Brass - Vocals. But obviously there are more ways to do it. If you’re unsure of how to do it drop us a mail and we will find the best way.