Preparation

When sending or bringing mixes into us for mastering, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that the mastering session runs smoothly and that there are no delays in being able to provide you with a finished product ready for manufacturing or distribution. Please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions about the information below.

  • Mixes

    Please ensure that all of the mixes have sufficient headroom. If your mixes peak at -3 dBFS or lower,  there is sufficient headroom for the mastering engineer to process the track without introducing clipping. Also please make sure that no limiters are placed on the mix bus. While it can often be useful to check your mix with a peak limiter, the mastering engineer can’t restore the dynamic range that may be lost in the recording. Similarly, unless you’re using a compressor on the master bus for a specific sound or you mixed into the compressor, please leave it off the final mix. If you’re not sure you can always run off two mixes, one with and one without the compression, and forward both versions to us.

    Also please leave enough silence at the start and the end of the track to make sure that no audio is lost in these areas. For example, often at the end of a track the reverb tail may still be decaying further than you are hearing in your studio. Leaving an extra few seconds of silence at both ends will prevent this form happening. Any silence in the track can be easily cleaned up in the mastering session.

    File Formats

    While we will accept most file formats, we do prefer to receive stereo WAV files at a 24Bit wordlength. All sample rates at 44.1kHz or higher can be accepted. We also recommend that the tracks are left at the same sample rate they were recorded. Mixes may be uploaded to our online drop box or forwarded to us on a USB or hard drive. Audio CD’s that will play in a normal CD player are not desirable. While we can import tracks from audio CD’s, they can often import with data errors and are 16Bit. MP3’s should also be avoided if possible.

    Also please ensure that your tracks are accurately labelled. We prefer mixes to be labelled with the track number, followed by the artist name, track title, mix version and sample rate. For example:

    01 – Umpire – Green Light District – Final Mix – 48kHz 24Bit

  • Track Information

    Please provide all of the relevant track information for the recording prior to the commencement of the mastering session. This includes the final track order, final song names with the correct spelling and the release title. All of this information will be encoded into the final master as CD-Text. This information can be forwarded to us using our online booking form.

    International Standard Recording Code (ISRC)

    ISRC’s are a unique code that is used to identify each individual track of a release. The codes are useful as they can allow for automatic tracking of radio airplay, digital downloads and purchases through online distributors, resulting in the more accurate recording of artist royalties. As these codes are a unique identifier of each song, different versions of the same song will each require an individual ISRC. For example a radio edit of one song will have a different code to the non-edited album version. These codes can be assigned by a record label, distributor and can also be applied for by the artist. In Australia, ISRC’s are administered by ARIA. Please see ARIA’s website for more information.

    Barcode – UPC/EAN

    The UPC/EAN is the same number as the barcode that will appear on the final release. This can be embedded into the final master and can be useful for the tracking of royalties and digital downloads. A barcode is required to sell any music online and through stores. More recently the barcode associated with a recording has been used to track sales and to generate charts in many regions such as the Billboard Charts. This code will normally be allocated by the record label or distributor, however independent artists can also purchase unique UPC/EAN codes online or we can source one for you for a small additional fee.

  • All masters are usually completed for one primary format, however we can provide masters in multiple formats as required. The formats available include:

    CD & Digital Masters

    Most masters are usually delivered in the DDP format at 44.1kHz 16Bit and include our DDP Player Software. The DDP provides a versatile and accurate master that can be used directly for CD manufacturing with all of the relevant metadata, and also allows for the extraction of the individual tracks that can be used for online distribution. The DDP can be stored and archived for future use and forwarded to different regions where multiple pressings are being made locally.

    Some CD pressings may require a physical Red Book CD master. This usually applies for short run CD duplication. A physical CD master can be prepared on request for an additional charge.

    Vinyl Masters

    Vinyl masters are becoming more common with many artists choosing to release vinyl with the digital files available for download online. We can prepare a pre-master optimised for vinyl cutting delivered at a higher resolution than the digital masters. These masters are often more dynamic as vinyl doesn’t require the same pocessing to be as loud and competitive as digital masters. The volume of vinyl is determined by the length of each side and the amount of bass. We will also take into account any potential issues that may cause problems at the vinyl cutting stage such as phase and extreme high/low frequency content.

    Vinyl masters are delivered as high resolution wav files, one for each side of the record.

    Mastered for iTunes

    Mastered for iTunes is a relatively new initiative and involves optimising both the sound and volume of masters to take into account the processing that is applied to distribute the release through the iTunes store. These masters are auditioned and adjusted while monitoring through Apple’s iTunes+ codec and then delivered as wav files at their native sample rate and at 24Bit. This takes full advantage of the processing and ensures that the master is the best it can be when being distributed through the world’s largest online music store.

    Forensic Audio Mastering is approved by Apple to provide masters to be sold through the Mastered for iTunes store. Masters can only be provided by studios who have had their workflow approved by Apple and are on the list of approved providers. This differs from a normal iTunes release as masters intended for the Mastered for iTunes store need to meet certain criteria and they must come from an approved mastering studio. Clients choosing this option should confirm with their label/distributor that they can accept masters for the Mastered for iTunes store.

    Other Formats

    Other common formats include the mastering of instrumental versions and edits for use in publishing, advertisements, radio, film and television. Most formats can be provided, so please contact us to discuss your needs.

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    Final Production Master (DDP or Red Book Audio CD)

    Please advise us of the type of final production master that you require for CD pressing. We can provide two different types of masters for manufacturing. The type of final master that you require will depend on what the manufacturing facility will accept.

    A Red Book Audio CD is a physical CD copy of the final recording that is used by the manufacturer to reproduce your recording. Essentially they are making an exact copy of an audio CD that you provide to them. While this type of master is widely accepted, it is a physical format, meaning that the final production master will need to be provided to you and then forwarded to the pressing plant. The other downfall of this type of master is that CD’s are prone to data errors and take more time to prepare.

    DDP (Disc Description Protocol) is a type of data file that can be used to manufacture CDs. The DDP file format is much more robust than a Red Book Audio CD and can include data verification, ensuring that there are no data errors associated with the final master. In addition to this, because a DDP consists of data files, the final master can be uploaded online and can also be archived for future use.

    All of our masters are delivered in the DDP format as standard and include our software that will let clients open and play the master on their computer, as well as being able to burn their own CDs and extract the individual tracks for online distribution. There is an additional charge for masters that are delivered in the physical Red Book Audio CD format due to the extra time and resources required to prepare these. Please consult our rates page for further details and pricing.