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Mixing, Mastering, Engineer, Studio

What is Mastering?

Mastering is the final stage of a professional audio recording once the mix is completed. The main purpose is to get the audio to translate the same way as it did in the studio environment in the “real world”, when played back on the vast number of different audio systems, broadcasting and digital streaming providers out there. It turns the final mix of a track into something that is ready for consumption at the standard needed and compared to in today’s music industry. Ensuring things are balanced tonally and hitting the correct target loudness levels required. 

When working with a collection of audio recorded at different recording studios, with different mix engineers and at different times, Mastering can be used to bring the collection of tracks together to sound more like they are from the same recording sessions as each other. Helping them all fit together more convincingly to the ears of the end listener.

When working with problem mixes, some things can be fixed at the Mastering stage. However some things can just never be fixed regardless of how much treatment is applied. For this reason it is always best to be in a position to be able to go back to the original mix sessions to make any adjustments that could be highlighted in the Mastering stage.

Mastering can involve different types of EQ treatment, multiband and stereo compression / limiting, mono and stereo balancing, stereo width enhancement, de-essing, harmonic saturation, noise reduction and much more. It is also at this stage where the final track order is constructed, ISRC codes and track text information is added, and produced onto the formats needed for duplication and distribution of the final product.

When working together you receive a truly personal service, starting with me listening to your material and providing mix feedback that can be invaluable for improving the final product, allowing me to focus on using the Mastering process to fully push for the limits of sonic enhancement, rather than fixing things with more invasive processing.

What type of final mix format is best for Mastering?

There are two ways for the final mix to be sent for mastering. The first is a Stereo WAV file of the final mix, which I always prefer to work with if the mix itself is of a professional standard.

However, for more control over the different aspects and instruments of a mix, the “Stem Mastering” process can be used. This is multiple Stereo WAV files that contain the mix broken down into individual instruments, which once put together recreate the final mix exactly how it was. Stem mastering is recommended for achieving better results with problematic mixes.

I like to work with 48kHz/24bit WAV files, but 44.1kHz/16bit and 96kHz/32bit is also accepted if the project has been recorded/mixed in that sample rate. What is most important is I work with the same sample rate files as the project has been created with. Please inform me of these details when sending the files.

When rendering/printing final mixes and stem files for mastering, please keep peaks on the main mix/tracks between -10 dB to -4 dB, but no higher than -3 dB. If your mix is pushing these limits, please lower the master output level on the console or DAW. If the meters are peaking over 0 dB, please lower the individual mix elements to remove the overload. By sticking to these guides, this will ensure I have the headroom needed for professional mastering. If any processing has been done on the overall mix (for example Compression and EQ), please inform me of what has been used. If a version of the final mixes can be rendered/printed without this processing, please include these as extra options for mastering.

Reference Tracks?

Please include any reference tracks you may have of other artist’s material to demonstrate what kind of sound you are aiming for in regards to the final production.

Mastering can be done for CD, Vinyl, Digital, iTunes formats, and can be completed to “Red Book” standards.

Mastering Rates:

  • Stereo Mix Mastering – £10.00 (GBP) per Minute Of Audio.

(For example a 4 minute song would cost £40 GBP, and £450 GBP for a 45 minute album.)

No Revision Limits (within reason).

Final Delivered Mastered Files Include – 24bit Digital WAV, 16bit CD WAV & Highest Quality MP3 formats as standard.

Stem Mastering and other formats (including DDP) are available at additional costs.

Please use the Request A Quote form to get in touch to discuss your requirements.