Mastering: Frequently Asked Questions
The mastering process aims to provide the finished recordings with a “polish” so that they sound as balanced and consistent as possible when played back on any sound system. It is the last step that’s done before playback, broadcast, replication and distribution.
Having an impartial set of ears on a recording also never hurts.
Here’s one way to think of mastering: When a farmer takes a fresh apple to the grocer, mastering can be seen as the process of cleaning that apple to a shine and wrapping it in vacuum packaging so that it remains fresh, leaving an attractive appearance to the shopper.
For those more familiar with film & video production, it is the audio equivalent of ‘grading’.
To find out more, take a look at our What is Mastering? blog post.
You can book quickly online by going to this link where you can upload your mixes and provide payment.
You’ll receive a mastered WAV file ready for download.
We prefer interleaved Stereo WAV files to work from. AIFF and/or dual mono LEFT and RIGHT files can also be accommodated.
Bit Rate: 24Bit is preferred however 16Bit files are fine if a 24Bit source is unavailable. 32Bit Floating Point files offer no benefit but can also be used.
Sample Rate: Please submit to us in whatever sample rate your track was recorded at. Leave any downsampling to us. If you require masters outside of the standard 44.1Khz sample rate, please let us know.
Peak Level: There is a lot of advice around saying that -3 is a good target which is fine, however as long as the audio isn’t clipped (unless a deliberate effect), or very low level, then the mastering engineer can adjust the gain as needed.
Master Buss Processing: This is often case-by-case, as it’s easy to overdo compression/saturation/limiting on the master buss. We don’t advise removing it completely however, as it may lose the intended vibe. If you are unsure, you can provide us with both a version with master buss processing on, and a version with it off.
It averages 2 business days, if you have something urgent please call us and we will try to deliver more quickly.
If you upload your project via the online bookings form and your chosen engineer is unable to meet the deadline, we will get in contact to advise of their next availability, or suggest an alternative engineer.
Strictly upfront payment. We cannot send any mastered files before payment has been processed.
GST stands for Goods and Services Tax, which is only charged to customers within Australia. If you are outside of Australia, GST will not be added to your mastering fees.
Formerly called “Mastered For iTunes”, Apple’s new spec for delivering higher resolution masters.
Apple Digital Masters are optional – Apple Music and other digital distributors will accept standard 16Bit masters.
Most of our sessions are client unattended, which allows our engineers to work efficiently and to their own schedule – and we pass the saving onto you. However, we enjoy our clients attending sessions and your music has our undivided attention whilst you are here (hence the hourly rate).
Yes we can master alternate mixes which are charged at $50+GST each. It is best to supply these at the time of mastering the main mix so everything can be done together and more quickly.
We are happy to listen to your song before booking in mastering, please contact us to discuss. Any way of improving the mix will enable us to improve the final master.
Definitely! This is usually done on an hourly rate, please contact us to discuss.
Currently our engineers offer only stereo mastering in an unattended session. We do have engineers available to stem mix so please get in touch to discuss.
A production master is the “master” copy of the CD that all the manufactured versions are made from. You need a master when you want to have a run of CDs produced at a production plant.
The major difference between the two formats is that a PMCD master is the physical disc, where as a DDPi master is a file, that can be burnt onto a DVD, sent via the internet, or backed up onto a hard drive. We recommend the DDPi format because a DDPi can be backed up onto multiple hard drives, so with this format you will only ever need to pay for one master. With a PMCD master, the master is a physical item and if it is lost or damaged you will need another.
CD-Text is information such as release and song name that be encoded on a PMCD or DDP master. Some, but not all, CD players (such as DJ and car systems) can read this text.
The DDP player software will play a DDP master, allowing you to audition it exactly as it will be as a commercially manufactured CD, including gaps, track names and ISRC’s. You can also burn your own reference CD’s using the DDP player. This is available to all clients for free – please contact email@example.com.
Please make sure you follow the instructions for installation carefully.
1. Launch the DDP player software
2. Drag and drop the entire (unzipped) DDP folder we have provided you into the yellow window of the DDP player software.
It is likely that the sample rate is set incorrectly. To fix this, go to the Tools Menu > Settings > Audio Settings and set the Sample Rate to 44100Hz.
iTunes uses an online Database called Gracenote to display the info about an audio disc, and is not relevant to CD-text encoding.
Simply enter the name, artist, and other relevant info into iTunes and then go to the Advanced menu > “Submit CD Track Names…”. This will update the Gracenote database (see above) which all iTunes users will be able to access.
ISRCs are a 12 digit code that identify a sound recording. iTunes and other digital distributors use them to track sales and radio stations use them to track the number of plays to calculate royalty payments.
UPC (sometimes also known as EAN) stands for Universal Product Code and is a 13 digit code that is a type of barcode. They can be encoded into CD Masters (either DDP’s or PMCD’s), although they are not required.
CD masters require the code to be 13 digits however some UPC’s are supplied as 12 digits. In that case we can ensure compliance by adding a 0 to the beginning of the code.
Check out the following resources and services:
For CD manufacturing, talk to Mad CD’s or Media Movers in Sydney, and Implant Media in Melbourne.
For online distribution and promotion (including upload to the iTunes store), contact the team at DITTO Music.
For other advice and ideas, peruse MusicNSW’s resources , APRA’s Music Industry Contacts and the Arts Law Centre of Australia website.
We are happy to help, please contact us on +61 (0)2 9698 5888 or firstname.lastname@example.org