Mastering FAQ

What kind of files should I send?

Send final mixes in either WAV or AIFF format. The files should be 24 bit and the same sample rate as your mixing session. If you have digital files in another format or spec, just send them to me as they are. I can handle most options.

What kind of files will you send back?

Unless asked to do otherwise, I send 44.1/16bit WAV files for music releases and 48/24bit files for masters for use in film, TV or video games. If clients have specific delivery format specs, it is no problem to deliver whatever the client requests.

How will mastering change my mix?

The first thing I will do is address any issues that might create problems with how your music translates across various platforms and media. Beyond that, it is a judgement call. I will make whatever adjustments are needed to make your music sound its best, and, hopefully, nothing more. The mastering process is technical, but also subjective and creative. Most clients prefer that I go with my instincts, but some of my clients want me to make radical changes, while others want me to change as little as possible. If you have a strong opinion about how you want your final result to sound, makes sure to clearly express that to me or any mastering engineer you might work with.

Can you change the mix in the mastering?

Those of us with a lot of experience in mastering have lots of tricks up our sleeves to alter elements of a mix, but trying to deal with those things in mastering is rarely the best option. If you want the guitar solo to be louder, or the reverb on the vocals to be at a different level, etc., it is MUCH better to address those things at the mixing stage instead of at mastering.

What is your opinion on the “loudness war”?

My opinion on the loudness war is complex …. and irrelevant.  My job as a mastering engineer is to help you make the best sounding version of the record you want to make. If you want a very dynamic end result, or an insanely loud one, I am happy to do either for you. If you have a strong preference, just let me know.

Do you master from stems?

Most of the work I do is from final stereo mixes, but I am able to do stem mastering. If you plan on sending me more than an instrumental stem and a vocal stem, please contact me to discuss how this will change the rate for mastering.

Will one master work for all formats?

This depends on how that one master is made. The most important consideration is vinyl. If you want a very loud and bright master for CD or streaming, that will not translate well to vinyl. In that situation, it is strongly advisable to make an alternate master for vinyl.

Please keep in mind that all of the streaming services make adjustments to playback levels that often makes more dynamic masters sound better than loud ones, but many of the biggest artists in the world are still making very loud masters for streaming services. Both approaches are acceptable.

There is a small charge to create alternate masters.

Can you master the instrumental mixes?

Of course. If they are made from the exact same mix as the main mix, but with the vocal muted, I will master them at the same time, with only a small additional fee (usually $100 per album). If you deliver them at a different time than the main mastering session, they will be considered new songs and you will be charged full rate.

What is a DDP, and do I need one?

DDP stands for Disc Description Protocol. This is a special digital format for delivering CD (and DVD) masters to the manufacturing plant. The file(s) contains all the information related to track numbers, spacing, cross fades, etc., as well as meta data with song titles and more.

This file (or its physical equivalent) had been necessary to make a physical CD, but these days most CD manufacturing companies will allow you to upload the individual master files for each song and enter all of the metadata yourself at no additional cost to you. The big advantage of working with your mastering engineer to create a DDP is that it can allow you to dial in very specific song spacing or crossfades on your album. If you do not have very specific ideas about spacing and crossfades, you can save the money and upload the song files yourself. There should be no loss in audio quality.

Can I attend the mastering session?

Because of Covid-19 all sessions are currently unattended, but when it is safe to do so, clients are always welcome to attend sessions.

What processors/equipment will you use on my masters?

I cannot answer this because I have not heard your final mixes. I have a large collection of analog hardware and digital tools and every project is different. Some projects that already have a lot of analog character will often get a 100 digital master, and other projects that could benefit from additional “mojo” will get sent out to my high end outboard gear, from companies like Manley, Maag, A Designs and more. My digital converters are one of a kind, custom converters built by the team at Apogee, and my main speakers are one of a kind custom builds from a Belgian company called FAR.

Contact us if you have any additional questions.