In the following you will find answers to a range of frequently asked questions:
The simple answer is: because we can make your music sound better. No track leaves our studio without sounding better than the original mix we receive. We can do this because we have the right listening environment, equipment, knowledge and experience. In fact, it is what we do all day long – we work to make music sound better. However, there is another reason why your songs need to be mastered. There are technical requirements which recordings must satisfy to be commercially released – for example, the Red Book standard. We make sure that your music conforms to this and other relevant standards.
Although no two projects are the same, the standard processes in online mastering are: receiving client files and checking them for errors and appropriate mix balance, checking for unwanted noises and artifacts, applying equalization for optimal tonal balance, applying compression to control the dynamic range of the music, increasing the level of inherent loudness to a commercial level, limiting to avoid digital clipping (distortion), trimming the beginning and end of the song, and fading it in and out, preparing the production master (song order, track spacing, inserting track information, Red Book compliance), and finally, delivering the mastered project to the client online or by post.
Many people argue that a dynamic master (i.e. one that is not heavily compressed and limited) sounds better than a loud master. Take a listen to the samples below and decide which one you prefer. To enable a fair comparison, both samples have been matched in perceived loudness. Hover your mouse over the answer to find out which one you picked!
Mastering has a technical and an artist side to it. The technical element (Red Book standard compliance) is manageable if you have the right equipment and know how to use it. However, from an artist point of view, it is normal better to let someone else master your music. There are two reasons. Firstly, you are likely to be too closely involved in the project to take an objective view on the sound of the recoding. A mastering engineer has this objectivity, as he will be listening as a neutral outsider. Secondly, you are unlikely to have the right listening environment to make good mastering decisions. Mastering studios spend a great deal of time and money optimising the acoustics and monitoring to achieve the most neutral sound balance. This is a pre-requisite for any form of professional mastering. After all, you want your music to sound great on any sound system – not just the one in your studio!
The main difference between online mastering and attended mastering is the presence of the client during the mastering session. With online mastering the client does not attend the session, which allows the mastering engineer to work more efficiently. It also reduces overheads, as the mastering studio does not have to provide client facilities. Because of this online mastering normally works out less expensive than attended mastering. In terms of the mastering itself, there is no difference in quality. The same equipment is used and the same level of care is taken as with any attended mastering session.
Stem mastering is a form of mastering based on several groups of instruments (e.g. drums, bass, guitars, keyboards, vocals) rather than a stereo mix. The advantage of mastering with stems is that it gives the mastering engineer greater control over the sound of the final master. The disadvantage is that stem mastering is more expensive than regular mastering. It is typically charged by the hour, since the amount of work involved varies depending on the number of stems used.
Unlike most mastering services at the affordable end of the market, we offer a level of quality and service that can compete with considerably more expensive facilities. We have a state of the art mastering studio, use industry standard analog and digital mastering equipment and our engineer is a trained professional with extensive experience in mastering a broad variety of musical styles. In other words, we offer exceptional value for money!
Individual songs can normally be mastered within 2 days. For albums we like to master over the course of 1 week. This gives us the opportunity to become familiar with your music, carry out the mastering, and several days later make any final adjustments. During busy periods it can take a little longer, so please check with us beforehand if you are working to a deadline.
If you are planning to sell hard copies of your music, you will need to provide a CD manufacturing facility with either a DDP master or a Red Book CD. We can provide both. However, we would recommend a DDP master, as it is the industry standard delivery format for both CD duplication and replication. We would advise against creating your own Red Book CD from the WAV file masters we send you, as most CD burners and CD-Rs are of a relatively poor quality. The resulting audio CD can contain errors, which may cause manufactured CDs to skip or not play at all. Needless to say, this can be a very costly mistake!
Once you have all the mixes ready (ideally 24 bit .wav/.aif files at the sample rate they were recorded with), simply put them into a folder, compress the folder and send us the zip file. It will save you the time of having to upload individual files. Upload Tracks
We require a 50% deposit before starting a mastering session. The remaining 50% is payable once you have approved the samples of the master files. We also welcome full payment in advance, as this allows us to work more efficiently and ensures a faster release of the master files. We accept payment by PayPal or bank transfer.
We understand that mastering can be quite costly, particularly if you need to have many songs mastered at the same time. If you are working with a limited budget, come and talk to us. We will do our best to help. For example, we may be able to offer you a lower price at a time when we are not fully booked. Alternatively, we can master your music using only digital processing. This is more cost effective than the standard analog/digital mastering.
If you wish to credit us on your release, you are welcome to use the following text:
“Mastered by Chris Bauer at Audio Mastering Service.“