FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the best format to send my mixes in?
ANALOG TAPE: 1/2 inch or 1/4 inch tape with a first generation digital copy if possible. For more details, see “How to send my Tapes/CDs”
DIGITAL: Please send .WAV, .AIF, or .SD2 files in your session’s original bit depth/sample rate (DO NOT covert sample rates or dither!!) You may send using you’re file sharing site of choice (Hightail, WeTransfer, Dropbox, etc). If necessary, we also accept DATa DVDs/CDRs, Firewire/USB Drives, Audio CDRs and DATs, just send us the most original – not just a copy. We do accept Pro Tools session Files if you wish to sequence your mixes ahead of time.
LABELING: Please label with the proper song title and .L/.R if sending split files.
Do I need to attend my 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?
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. If your album is 35-40 minutes long, plan on 4.75 hours (150/hr x 4.75 hrs = $715), and your choice of delivery options (DDP, Vinyl, MFiT, HD etc). So plan on $625 to $850. 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 Album 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 often listen to reference mixes (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 Mix at?
DIGITAL: 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 album 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.
TAPE: 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.
So.. what is mastering anyway?
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 Album more listen-able on a wide range of playback systems, and bring it to it’s fullest potential.
Sending/labeling analog tape and cd mixes to be mastered.
Tapes: 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.
CDs: 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.
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 allotted time we’ve scheduled, but sometimes adjustments are necessary. Don’t rush what you’ve taken so long to get right.
Have More questions?
If you have any more questions feel free to reach out to us and we’ll get back to you asap.