FAQ’s – Here are some Frequently asked questions…

Which is the best format for me to send my Mixes on?
If you’re mixing in the analog domain (analog mixing board or summing amp) - If mixing to analog is an option for you, we prefer Analog Tape (1/2 inch or 1/4 inch) with a 1st generation digital copy if possible. We would like all digital copies to be as close to the first generation as possible (a copy from the best converters with the highest bit depth and sampling rate). Using Dolby A or SR is fine, just please include a Dolby tone. DBX is fine as well, but not recommended.
For Digital mixes (mixing inside a computer or digital mixing board) - Uploading your mixes is fine, but we can also accept DATa DVDs/CDRs, Firewire/USB Drives, Audio CDRs and DATs, just send us the most original – not just a copy. For digital mixes with higher sampling rates and bit depths, please do not convert your sample rate, dither or change your bit depth for any reason. Please also save a backup of your mixes. We are also equipped to handle DDP images, Mini-disc, Jazz disc, Zip disc , SCSI drives, AIT and DLT tapes. For any of these later formats and any other possible formats please call in advance to insure our software/firmware compatibility.

How should I send/label my Digital Mix Data to you?
Please label all discs with the band/artist name (adding the date/phone number could be helpful as well). Digital files should be WAV, AIF or SD2, in 24bit, however, as mentioned above, please do not change any sample rate or bit depth to convenience us – we can and will handle the files in the best way possible (use the sample rate and bit depth of the mix if you have any concerns – especially if you’re mixing “In The Box”). Please label all files clearly with song/mix name. For split files please label stereo files with a “.L” (for Left) and “.R” (for Right). We do accept Pro Tools session Files if you wish to sequence your mixes. Please include on a piece of paper all relevant session info with the song sequence (Read Me files don’t always open perfectly). Please make sure to create a backup copy of your DATa for yourself before shipping it to us.

How should I send/label my Analog Mix Tape to you?
Your Tape should be clearly labeled with each song having an approximate start time written next to the song/Mix name. Please specify playback speed and whether or not Noise Reduction was used (and which kind Dolby A/SR or DBX). Please print the following tones if possible – 1khz, 10khz, 15khz, 100hz and 50hz. Please call us if there is any confusion. If known, the make and model of the machine the master was recorded on may also be helpful. Please pack your tapes in a box with extra packing materials. We will use this same box to return ship your tapes back to you.

How should I prepare my Audio CDR to send to you?
Your CDR should be well labeled and the tray card (title sheet) clearly written or typed. If possible, a Start ID should be at the top of each track (If Ids are not possible, please designate song/mix name for each track with the start time from the CD player read out. The appropriate mix to use should be sent on a sheet of paper or underlined/checked on the label. If the CDR was written with an Alesis Masterlink please specify. Please make sure if you are using a non-computer linked CDR to finalize your CD. Please check your CD before sending it out as well to make sure there are no errors.

Do I need to attend the Mastering session?
Not at all, although many people do attend, and we suggest/recommend that you try to attend if you can. This is really up to you. Many of our sessions are unattended. Unfortunately, it usually takes longer to do a project while the band/artist is present. It’s just what happens. So when the budget is small, we may suggest that we do it unattended, and allow you to hear the progress and direction using the internet, via our secure ftp site for downloading.

How Much does a session usually cost?
There are many variables to go into making our price quotes, but through the years we have recognized that it usually takes about an hour to master each 10 minutes of audio, and then add one additional hour for editing, sequencing, SRC, dithering, etc. – it could take longer or it could go quickly, this is just a guide. If your CD is 40 minutes long, plan on 5 hours (90/hr x 5 hrs = $450), plus a mandatory $25 backup fee, and your choice of delivery options. So plan on $500 to $650. We always try to move the session along as quick as possible and we are always willing to work within your budget or PO limit. If there are problems, or we feel that it could take significantly longer, we would always call to talk things over before beginning any unusual or time consuming procedures.

Should I compress my mixes in an attempt to make them louder?
This can only be answered if we hear what your mixes are sounding like, and what you desire you final CD to sound like. Even then, compression used on a mix bus can be an essential part of the mix, and just “taking it off”, could make things worse. We can sometimes suggest that project studios not compress their overall mixes (especially if you are not familiar with what limitations are created by over using two-mix compression). It is sometimes done poorly (irreversible) and we may therefore achieve better results here. We can often listen to a reference mix (sent prior to final mixing) to evaluate the overall feel and compression of a mix. However if you are confidant in your ability to make this judgment, a great blend can be had on your own (if possible, print a mix with and without compression if you feel uncertain – that’s the best short answer).

What level should I print my Digital Mix at?
We suggest your mixes should be peaking at around 4dB on digital meters (always below 0 or dBFS Maximum). This gives us more room to work with to make your song sound better (however, please don’t feel the need to re-mix if your levels are lower or higher. Call us. This is just our suggestion if you are beginning or presently adjusting mixes). If overall CD loudness is a concern for you, have confidence that we can and will make your music as loud as possible (obviously within limits that can be discussed). Your brick wall (maxing out the headroom) may prevent us from using processing here (talk to us if you have any concerns about this). This also doesn’t mean just trimming your 2 mix master fader to -4dB. This may just take your flatlined mixes down 4dB (which happens a lot). Please call us if you’re confused about this.

What Level should I print my analog mix at?
OK, this is a tough one. Lots of people have various results with using Tape as a mixing tool or effect. Listening to your playback (repro head) and experimenting with tape compression is a great thing. But remember this is irreversible! If you have reservations about committing to this process, do a version with a lower recording level as well. We suggest you set your tape recorder to record at 320 nw/m (plus or minus 3 to 5 dB to your taste). If you are unfamiliar with calibrating your tape machines alignment, please call us. We can not easily do it for you, but we may be able to help or talk you through it.

How can I make my Attended mastering session go smoother/faster/better?
If possible, send in your mixes ahead of time. We will load all your data and listen to be sure there aren’t any problems that you may not have been aware of. Be prepared with sequence and spacing ideas already chosen. Have the mixes clearly labeled. Take note of any edits or problem areas beforehand. Check all the mixes and make sure everything is as you remembered it (and the correct versions). Call ahead with any unorthodox questions or procedures you may wish to try (we may need extra time to perform some post-production processing). It’s also a good idea not be bring un-necessary people along.

How can I make my Unattended mastering session go smoother/faster/better?
Please send in your mixes ahead of your scheduled session. We will take a preliminary listen to be certain there won’t be problems in begininng your session. Include all contact information with your mixes (cell/work/home phone numbers and email addresses). Be prepared with sequence and spacing ideas already chosen. Have the mixes clearly labeled. Take note of any edits or problem areas beforehand. Check all the mixes and make sure everything is as you remembered it (and the correct versions). Call ahead with any unorthodox questions or procedures you may wish to try (we may need extra time to perform some post-production processing).

What is Mastering and what does it actually do?
On a technical side, mastering will prepare a final master formatted for replication, duplication, digital delivery or vinyl cutting. A verified error-checked master can be provided that will ensure the highest possible quality will be reproduced. On an artistic side, the mastering engineer can analyze the audio and makes decisions as to the overall tone, level and dynamic range of the music as a whole, and provides a uniform balance for the entire sequence. By using processes like compression, limiting, equalization and other signal processing etc., we can help make your record sound the best it can. With EQ we can clear up frequencies to make your record sound clearer and/or bigger. By using compression we can help glue the mix together and give your record a sonic fullness that you may be looking for. This is all performed in an accurate control room with high resolution monitors. Using Digital editing we are able to cut out unwanted parts, making songs flow smoother while cleaning up beginnings and endings of songs and creating a more enjoyable sequence (we are also able to de-noise projects with a high noise level, talk to us before hand and we can make certain we will have all the right additional audio that may be helpful). There are also special effects we can add to your record. Let us know if you have any ideas initially. We would never add effects without consulting you first (Often these are production ideas that come about after the mix was completed, or that the mix engineer felt he could not adequately provide). Overall, the process should make your CD more listen-able on a wide range of playback systems, and bring it to it’s fullest potential.

Why should I get my music mastered?
One main reason many people desire a mastering process is for perspective… so your mixes and album stand up today, and, years down the line. Having a fresh set of trained ears go through a record has long been an essential part of the recording process. Many people spend a great deal of time agonizing over the details of their album. Mastering brings in the fresh perspective that many people involved in the recording process dont have. We also enjoy getting involved during your recording process, to ensure your mastering can be it’s best. Call us if your having concerns about your recordings. Remember, overall, the process should make your CD more listen-able on a wide range of playback systems. All this must be done with great quality gear in an accurate control room.

Can you bounce or record my Digital mixes to Analog tape?
Yes, although this will add to the time it will take to complete your project (usually about an hour). This is a wonderful process but it is not right for everyone. Talk to us, and we will be happy to let you know what we think.

Should I use a TC-Finalizer/Finalizer Plus/L1/L2/L3/MAXIM/Soft Limiter/Inflator/Brick wall limiting/Loudness maximization before I send my master to you?
Only you can answer this, and if you’re actually wondering about the answer, please do not do this! If you’re going to give us the opportunity to Master your music, don’t limit it too hard. This often should be the last stage of all the processing. You doing this makes it extremely hard for us to craft your mixes as best as we can. If you feel like one of these processes is an essential part of your mix, please give us a copy without it as well!

What are some common mistakes?
1. Don’t over-compress unless you’re certain you love what you’re hearing. Remember, you can always send us a copy with less compression as well.
2. Always verify your mixes and DATa if possible!
3. Leave some time in your production schedule to make changes. We do our best to get your project finished in the alloted time we’ve scheduled, but sometimes adjustments are necessary. Don’t rush what you’ve taken so long to get right.

Call us directly at 845-563-3094 or email us… wwsm@mac.com