Our head mastering engineer Richard Addison has been an audio engineer for over 30 years. Since 2003, he has mastered over 1500 albums and several hundred singles for artists and producers from Europe, the United States and Canada.
We would like to hear your material before the session in order to give you our comments. Communication is one of the keys to getting a great master. Let’s talk about your project, your musical tastes and vision so we can target your needs and expectations in a quick and effective way.
Q1: What is Audio Mastering?
It is the last step making a recording into a final audio product. This includes assembling the tracks and using the best-available audio equipment such as equalizers, compressors, limiters etc, if needed. A great monitoring environment is a MUST. This includes the acoustics of the room as well as having exceptional audio monitoring equipment and years of experience.
Q2: How does it change the sound of a track?
Balance! The mastering process gives the recording whatever it is lacking. For example, if it’s too bright, mastering can tame it down, if it’s not punchy enough, mastering can make it thump! It can change the texture of a track by a little or a lot, depending on what is necessary and what the potential of the mix is. The mastering process also adjusts the overall volume and tonal balance of the entire CD project.
Q3: What are the benefits of having an album professionally mastered?
Presentation! Whether it be a single or an entire album, mastering makes the sound of the project more impressive and commercially competitive. If the CD is played on the radio, in a club, on TV or in your living room, it will sound as good as it possibly can. The goal of mastering is to bring the sound of the project to its highest possible level, a great presentation and to create a quality-controlled master CD that is ready for mass replication or duplication.
Q4: What can you do to improve my music?
Nothing! The music is what it is. The mastering process can only make the presentation « commercially ready », more accurate, impressive and sounding as good as it possibly can.
Q5: What should I do to my mixes to get them ready for Mastering?
Have it recorded and mixed at the highest affordable quality with the peak level hitting about + or – -3db at the most. This will leave enough headroom to achieve the widest range of sonic possibilities and allow the engineer to manipulate the dynamic range of the song effectively. Make sure the audio does not clip (hitting 0db) anywhere on any individual track or on the final mix. Do everything you can to make your mix sound its best WITHOUT worrying about the final volume.
Q6: What I should NOT do to my Mix to get it ready for mastering?
Do not use any compression, limiting or maximizing on the final mix FOR THE SAKE OF VOLUME. This really limits the available mastering techniques and the dynamic range of the final product. In short, do not try to « pre-master » your mixes.
Q7: What about the volume?
Do not have your mix too loud. Overall volume level or apparent loudness is always an issue with today’s releases. This is commonly referred to « Loudness war ». Louder audio material always seem better in comparaison with softer ones but if the comparaison is made at equal apparent volume, the later won sonically and dynamically as well. Unfortunetely, it has now gotten to the point where many artists end up sacrificing sound quality for volume level. Therefore, if you still want LOUD, we certainly can take care of it.
If an album is too loud, it has lost some of its dynamic range. This means that the quiet sections of a song are just as loud as the loudest sections. This creates a two dimensional sound that doesn’t represent the emotion that was intended by the artist anymore. The creative impact of the moment is then lost for the listener. It’s a fine line where volume is at its optimal level and where it begins to compromise the quality of your project. Let’s talk about the final « levels » for your project before and we will find the best of both worlds for your music.
Q8: What is the best resolution and format my stereo mix tracks should be at?
The files should be sent in STEREO WAV or AIFF format with a minimum bit- and sample-rate of 16/44.1kHz. The result will be even better if the final mix is printed at the same native resolution of the recordings. Do not use any dithering if the bit rate has not changed.
Q9: How long is a Mastering session?
It depends, it usually takes between 6 and 8 hours to complete a full-length project (10-12 songs or around 40 minutes). A larger number of songs will take more time even if the total length of the project is the same. On average, an individual song can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes to complete, not including the time it takes to finalize the project/song alignment and order, fades, CD-Text, ISRC and UPC codes. Finally, the master must be listened to from beginning to end as a final quality control before it is sent for replication.
Q10: Do you charge by the hour, per tracks?
For an attended, full-length session, the cost is per hour. If the session will be unattended, we can agree on a fixed price after hearing one or two tracks from the project and going over some other details, such as the number of tracks. This way, it makes it easier for unattended clients to know the total cost before work is started on the project. Please contact us for our rates for your specific project.
Q11: When and How do I pay?
Unattended Mastering: Payment is usually due after the session and approval process, but before getting the mastered tracks or master audio CD. We prefer PayPal for unattended sessions, it is fast and safe.
- A deposit of 50% is required.
- You upload your files/mixes.
- Mastered samples are made and sent to you by e-mail for your approval.
- After your approval, a PayPal invoice is sent to you.
- When payment is received, you receive an email with a link to download your mastered files or the master is shipped to you or to your preferred duplication or replication company.
Attended Mastering: Payment in full is due at the end of the mastering session and you leave with the master tracks or the master audio CD.