Mastering preparation and delivery
This document is made to help you to make the right decisions when delivering your mixes for mastering. This document contains some practical tips and tricks to make things just a little bit easier for the both of us. Always keep in mind that the better the mix is, the better the master will be.
Delivery of mixes, what to do and what NOT to do
The short version
- Mixed down stereo Wav or AIF files in 24bit or higher. No mp3 or other lossy format.
- Make filenames as short as possible without becoming confusing. 01 Yellow sugar v2.3.wav
- Your mixes should have a decent level without exceeding 0 dBfs (digital clipping)
- Don’t use limiters on your master-bus. If you use it to make things louder, remove it!
- Make sure your starts and ends are OK, so no missing attack or reverbtail
- Quality check: after bouncing, always listen to the complete track from beginning till end!
The long version
We prefer 24bit or 32bit float files, 16bit is also acceptable. Print/bounce/render your project in the sample-rate that you worked in. Let’s say you did your whole project in 96khz, print in 96khz. If necessary, we will take care of the Sample Rate Conversion (SRC). File formats should be mixed down stereo WAV or AIF. MP3’s or other lossy formats are NOT suitable for mastering.
Please make filenames as short as possible without becoming confusing. The most desirable filename is simply the song number, title and mixversion (if applicable). Please remove any information not relevant for mastering.
Correct filenames could be something like this:
01 Yellow sugar v2.3.wav
02 Another song v1.4.wav
03 This is a hit v3.1.wav
In case of an (CD) album with ISRC codes, CD text, UPC/barcode etc, please use this excell sheet to give us all the information we need.
Your mixes should have a decent level without reaching or exceeding 0 dBfs (digital clipping). Digital clipping can NOT be undone during mastering. When the damage is done, there is no way back..
Don’t be afraid to print your mixes ‘not loud enough’, in the digital world there is plenty of headroom and it doesn’t really matter whether the highest peak is at -1 or -20 dBfs (and please forget about the unwritten -6dB rule).We will take care of the final loudness.
This is what a clipped/limited file looks like. NOT suitable for mastering.
This is what a zoomed in digitally clipped file looks like, notice the ‚clipped off‘ waveform?
Even though the max peak is at -6dB, it is still limited/clipped and NOT suitable for mastering.
This is what a proper level mix looks like, no clipping, never touching 0dB and enough headroom.
Master/Mix Bus processing
A lot of people use masterbus processing nowadays, which could come in handy sometimes to get a rough idea of what the mix sounds like after mastering. But beware that for mastering, masterbus processing is not always the way to go. When it comes to some subtle buss compression or EQ that adds something to the sound, don’t worry too much, that could be fine. When it comes to limiting/clipping on the masterbus, that is far from fine and it will be really hard or even impossible to make a decent master.
If you really like the way the processing sounds on the master bus, we suggest you send those mixdowns together with the un-processed files. They can sometimes be a useful pointer as to your sound preferences.
A general rule for processing on the master bus is: if you use it to make things louder, remove it!
Starts and ends of your music
Most DAW’s let you have 0 seconds offset at the start of a track when printing. This can sometimes lead into the problem that, for instance, the attack of the first bass-drum is missing.
It’s best to print/bounce with some silence in front of the track. The same goes for the end of a track. It’s better to have some silence at the end, then missing that really important reverb-tail. Starts and ends will be taken care of during mastering.
Send us the files in the bit- and sample-rate you recorded, don’t up or down-sample and don’t use dithering. Dithering is something that we take care of during/after mastering in the correct way.
After you printed your mixdown with all the tips we just gave you, it’s time to double check before sending it out! Do this check by actually LISTENING to the complete mixdown from start to end, preferably on a decent set of headphones. Check for mix/edit mistakes, muted stems, glitches, noise, distortion and everything else. It won’t be the first time that after printing there are ‚hickups‘ in the audio or you hear things that only show up after doing the final mixdown. If you are 100% sure that everything is OK it’s time to send it to us. But before doing so, make sure you listen to it again..
Don’t just print your mix and consider it done.
Keep in mind that YOU are the only one responsible for problems in the mixes you send to us. If you found a mistake in your mixdown after the initial mastering we will have to charge you for that.
Delivery of masters
In the digital era it’s no exception that we deliver 4 or 5 types of masters for one project. The list below will give you an idea of file formats that could be delivered.
- 24bit 96khz hi-res
- 16bit 44.1khz
- Mastered For iTunes (we are a certified MFiT provider)
- Vinyl masters
Please tell us before we start mastering what formats you will need so that we know what to do. Some formats will be free of charge, some other formats we will charge. Check our rates page for more info. If we didn’t hear what file formats you want, you will receive masters in 16bit 44.1khz and in the original file-format. For instance if you delivered 24bit 96khz, you will receive a 2496 file next to the 1644 file.
File naming of delivered masters
Depending on the types of masters you asked for and what format you delivered the mixes in, the mastered files will be named something like this. In this case let’s presume the delivered mix was in 24bit 96khz and was named 01 Songtitle.wav. The (mastered 17-4) line means it’s mastered at the 17th of april (17-4). That way there will not be any miscommunication of version numbers.
01 Songtitle (mastered 17-4).wav (24bit 96khz master, just like mix)
01 Songtitle (mastered 17-4) 1644.wav (dithered 16bit 44.1khz master)
01 Songtitle (mastered 17-4) MFiT.wav (Mastered For iTunes master in 2496)
01 Songtitle (mastered 17-4) VINYL.wav (vinyl master in 2496)
01 Songtitle (mastered 17-4) STREAM.wav (streaming master with the right LUFS value)
01 Songtitle (mastered 17-4) mp3 320kbps.mp3 (320kbps mp3 from high res master)
If you read all info and you are still not sure if what you are doing is the right thing, please contact us and ask. We are here to help you!
With kind regards,
Jeffrey de Gans | Da Goose Music