FAQ


What is mastering?

Mastering is the last process in the production chain before media replication or electronic distribution. The job of mastering is to make the recording the absolute best it can be.

Why do I need mastering? / What can I expect from you?

– We make each track sound as good as it can. That can mean making it punchier, more transparent, warmer, bigger, wider, tighter and more controlled, airier, glossier, etc. Sometimes, it can mean changing as little as possible. Our aim is to bring each song to its full potential; what we do depends on what works best to that end.

– We make the individual mixes work as an album. The sound will be coherent between songs, the pause timing will create a natural flow, the levels will feel just right, the listener will never feel the need to reach for any controls. A good album will have you listen to the music, not the sound recording thereof. You should never have to think about the fact that there’s sound coming out of the speakers.

– We make sure the release works perfectly on the medium it is to be delivered on. That means that we know everything there is to know about the content delivery mechanism. We know what is possible and what can go wrong. When you receive your master, whatever the format may be, you can be sure that the replicated product will work exactly as you expect it to.

How are you able to do those things?

The mastering engineer combines experience, objectivity and precision with the creativity of an artist, helping you unlock the full sonic potential of your music. He will tweak your mixes with the best sound processing gear to give them their final finish.

At 24-96 Mastering, we work in a controlled environment specifically designed for the purpose: a highly conditioned acoustic space with the most linear speakers. This very neutral listening environment takes out as many variables as possible and lets us make informed judgments on the recording itself without having to worry about characteristics the acoustic space or playback equipment is introducing.

We use only the absolute best equipment to process sound. Actually, we test pretty much all of the high end gear out there, then buy what we think is the best equipment you can get and then, a lot of the time, we modify it because we find there’s still room for improvement. You’ll be amazed at the level of detail that we consider, both in the design of our work environment and when working on your recording. We care about the smallest details because we know that they in turn influence the big picture.

What is the eMastering process? How does this work?

1. You start at eMastering -> Rates & Booking. After you have filled some information about your project, you are given an instant price quote and can then go on to send us a booking enquiry. (If you prefer to contact us any other way, that’s great too.)

2. After we have received your enquiry, we will soon get back to you to confirm whether we can work to your deadline, and will instruct you on how to send your mixes and make the payment. If you want to, you can of course also send us some additional information, or talk to the mastering engineer before the session.

3. After the mastering session, you will receive the master in your preferred format.

Do you offer any guarantees?

Yes, we do. We guarantee that you will find our master awesome.

Do your standard prices include revisions, should I want any changes in the master?

Yes (within reason). We want your master to be perfect for you. If it isn’t, then we want to fix that without charging for it.

What formats, sample rates and bit depths should the tracks be in?

We can work with just about any audio file format, but the most foolproof is WAV or AIFF. If you can, please export 24 bit versions. If you have a choice, set dithering to 24 bit as well. Choose the sampling rate that your recording project runs in (if you record digitally). That is, if your project runs in 48 kHz, export the mixes in 48 kHz. If you record / mix non-digitally, i.e., if your project does not have a specific sample rate, we recommend recording the analog mixes in 24 bit 96 kHz, provided you have the option.

Please make sure that your mixes are clearly named. We suggest naming each track in the following way:

tracknumber_-_artist_-_trackname.wav

When all the mixes are checked and prepared, please pack them all into a single ZIP file before uploading.

For attended sessions, you can supply files or audio streams on any type of CD, DVD, USB sticks, Firewire & USB hard drives, laptop computer, media card or AIT tape.

If you bring a tape, DAT, DA88 tape, HD24, cassette tape, minidisc, vinyl, VHS, Protools or Sadie project, or any other format not mentioned here, please let us know well beforehand so we can have the right playback device here and ready when you arrive.

What information should I include with the mixes?

– Please include a track list, numbered, in the correct order, with track names in exact spelling and capitalization. Also include exact album title and artist name, please.

If you want ISRCs or UPC/EAN on your CD master, please include these also. (If you don’t know what these are, then you probably don’t need to worry about this.)

– If you have any thoughts or specific expectations regarding the overall volume of your album, we would love to know! The louder a disc is, the higher the distortion, so if you don’t need your disc to be as loud as your reference (if you sent us one), or as other popular albums of that genre, we’d like to know about it.

If you require specific edits, crossfades, spacing or fadeouts for your album, please either describe them (and include times), or even better, include an edit mockup/template as mp3.

– If you want to, you can of course also send us a sound reference track (or multiple, if you prefer), to communicate specific sound ideals. If you do, please mark them clearly as references and make sure they’re good quality audio.

We encourage you to send us any other information you also want to provide. Just write it up with the rest. And of course, if you’d rather talk about details on the phone, feel free to call anytime.

You can communicate all this any way (e-mail, phone, fax, chat), but it’s probably most convenient and reliable to put all info in a .txt or .doc file and upload it with the mixes.

What peak level should the files be? Should there be any loudness processing on them?

Your mixes should have a good level without ever reaching 0 dBfs. If you supply a 24 bit file, it doesn’t matter all that much whether the highest peak is at -1 or -10 dBfs.

Please do not apply loudness processing on the mixes you send us. There should usually be no limiter, maximizer, inflator, exciter, stereo widener, or such on the master output for the sake of loudness. Individual channel compression and deliberate mix bus compression is of course very much part of the mix, so don’t take that off. But pure loudness processing (as often used by mixers for client ref discs) on the summing bus can make our work very hard because it limits our options.

If you like the way your processing sounds on the mix bus, but aren’t entirely sure about it, we suggest you send/bring mixdowns with processing along too. Together, we’ll decide, if we want to work from them and even if not, they can be a useful indicator of your sound preferences. But please always also have a version without loudness processing with you.

How do I send you the mixes?

Pack all your mixes and accompanying info into a single, clearly labelled zip file and upload it here.

If you need any assistance, please let us know.

What master format do I need? What is best?

There are 3 standard master formats:

a DDP master image, delivered online: You will receive a link to a DDP image file via email. You can then download that image file, and use our free DDP application (also in the email) to play, burn a CD, or convert the tracks to wav files. Most pressing plants also accept DDP images as an input master format, so you can either send them the zipped DDP image, or just forward our link via email. The benefits of a DDP master image are low cost, fast transfer (there is no time lost in shipping) and high data safety (a DDP image can be guaranteed to be error free because of built in checksums).

master WAV files, delivered online: You will receive a link to a zip file containing individual WAV audio files via email. You can then download that zip file, unpack it, and play or use the WAV files as you please. Most computers have the ability to play WAV files or burn them to Audio CD without any need for conversion. Choose wav files if you don’t have or need a specific track order, don’t need specific pauses, want to be able to switch the songs around and don’t plan on having a CD professionally replicated.

a master on CDR, delivered by mail: You will receive an error tested master CDR and reference copy by snail mail, or courier if you prefer. You can use the reference copy to evaluate the master, and pass the master CDR on to the presing plant. Choose this if you are going to have a CD replicated, but your replicator / pressing plant does not accept DDP image files. This method takes longer because of shipping, and is more expensive to make because it requires physical manufacturing and error-testing.

Can you do separation / stem mastering?

Of course. Mastering from stems gives additional flexibility in processing, which may be beneficial for some mixes. If you feel this might be the case with your production, feel free also to supply stems with the mixes. However, be advised that mastering from stems can sometimes take longer than mastering from a stereo mix, and may produce some additional cost. (We will of course discuss this with you first.) If you are attending a session, why not bring both the stereo mixes and stems with you? That way, we have all options available.

For the preparation of the stems, please make sure that all stems summed at unity gain will result precisely in your stereo mix. Please record any effects onto the stems that the sending signal is on. That is, the vocal echo should be on the vocals stem, the snare reverb should be on the drums track. If you have any more questions about mastering with stems / separation mastering, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Can we come round for a free demonstration before we decide to master with you?

Of course. Come round for a coffee and we’ll see what we can do for your album.

Why aren't track names displayed on my computer when I put in my master reference disc?

Computer players such as iTunes or Windows Media Player generally do not read CD-text (see below), but instead get their information from an online database: the Gracenote music recognition service (formerly known as CDDB). To have your CD information included, you need to submit it. Click here to learn how to do this with software such as iTunes, Winamp, or QMP.

What is CD-text?

CD-Text allows for display of additional information (such as artist name, album and song titles) on capable CD players. (Home hifi systems and car players often have this functionality). However, computer software players such as iTunes or Windows Media Player don’t usually read CD-text and get their information from Gracenote instead (see FAQ entry above).

What methods of payment do you accept?

For remote payments, we accept credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, JCB ), PayPal, bank transaction (IBAN&BIC or Ktnr&BLZ), or Western Union. For attended sessions, we accept all of the above as well as EC / Maestro / Switch (debit cards) and, of course, cash.