Below are answers to some commonly asked questions.
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Mastering is the final stage of audio production before the music is released/manufactured/distributed. Through the use of EQ, limiting and other audio processing tools, a mastering engineer will ensure that the music delivers a cohesive listening experience from song to song. Even music that is heavily scrutinized in the mixing process can benefit from mastering – it’s one last set of experienced ears that will hear the album in it’s entirety, then help determine the best overall loudness/level, spacing between songs (on all mediums) and overall sound of the music.
WAV or AIFF files in the sample rate and bit depth of the mix session. (Most commonly 24bit and 44.1k or 48k sampling rates, but anything up to 192khz). Note that upsampling your mixes will not add “quality” to your music. If your project has mixes in different sample rates, still deliver them in the native session settings and I will determine the best course for mastering.
Ideally -20 to -15 as a LUFS or RMS reading, peaking somewhere around -4dbfs. If you don’t have a way of confidently measuring loudness or level, I might suggest importing and viewing the mixes in your DAW. Your goal is to preserve some of the dynamic range that occurs naturally in most music which would provide ample “headroom” for the mastering engineer room to maneuver.
Feel free to send files before the mastering session and I will give you more specific direction. And sometimes you just have what you have in which case I’ll do my best to work with whatever is provided to me.
I will provide for you the following:
- WAVS in highest sample rate that was delivered to me, because that’s most likely how I mastered them.
- WAVS 1644 – CD “quality” – still some online distributors insist on this file type.
- MP3 – 320kbps – for email, promo, friends/family, etc.
- DDP – Disc Description Protocol – is a collection of files (delivered in a .zip folder) for upload to the CD manufacturer. It is also an excellent way to preview your entire CD: audio, spacing, CD-TEXT and ISRC. I recommend this free DDP player for both Mac and PC: Steinberg DDP Player
Spacing will be consistent across all file sets. For VINYL releases, let’s talk.
An ISRC Code (International Standard Recording Code) is a unique 12-digit number issued per song that acts as a permanent identifier for a specific sound recording. ISRC are used by digital platforms and collecting agencies for royalty collection and categorization.
DO I NEED ISRC CODES TO HAVE MY MUSIC MASTERED:
No – not to do the audio portion of the mastering work. And also yes. Assuming your project will be distributed online, you will have to provide ISRCs to the aggregator, or better yet, have them assign them for you. Streaming services require them. The reason ISRC is confusing is due to the CD format. Mastering engineers can add ISRC to the metadata in the DDP/CD-layout, not to the files themselves, but usually the mastering work is completed prior to the digital distribution gets going.