The science of audio mastering involves the forensic, detailed analysis of frequencies, gain adjustments, and aesthetic balancing of dynamics, to include any necessary limiting. Additionally, the mastering engineer will sequence and space tracks, employ fades and crossfades, and remove excess noise, hum and clicks. Traditionally referred to as a “pre-master”, the final mastered work is delivered on hard media such as DVD-R, electronically, or both.
To allow the mastering engineer the most liberty with audio, a natural stereo mix with acceptable dynamic range is desired from the mixing engineer. Overuse of compressors and other processing in the mixing stage can often limit choices and options in the mastering studio. It is preferred that the loudest part of the mix is delivered to the mastering studio with 3 to 6 dB of peak headroom, and without any limiting to allow for a workable soundspace. Prior to submission, assess mixes for clipping and distortion; such artifacts become hugely apparent in mastering. While clipping is most often manageable in the mastering stage, it can add unnecessary time to the process.
.AIFF and .WAV are the preferred lossless file types for your submission to Laminal Audio. Mastering engineers may sometimes augment or enhance the mixing process through Stem Mastering. For stem mastering, up to 8 tracks for a given song or piece are submitted, with the client careful to ensure that the audio regions of each stem begin and end at the same time. The additional control afforded in stems to the mastering engineer can be an alternative in yielding the highest quality in the final product. Laminal Audio regularly uses a number of file sharing utilities and sites freely available to the public, including WeTransfer, Copy, and Dropbox. Hard media can be mailed.
Slight noise reduction is sometimes required for the cleanest master possible. Additional silence at the beginning and end of your submitted tracks can allow for latitude in the choices of fades, and more importantly gives the mastering engineer a feel for noise floor levels in your mix. It is recommended that 2 to 5 seconds of silence (with noise floor intact) accompany the beginning and end of each submitted mix.
A source of controversy between studios, musicians, and the discerning listener. A valuable tool which, if overused in mixing, can limit the level of sheen and quality to the final master. Additionally, artifacts from excess compression in mixing are often brilliantly revealed in the mastering studio during analysis. For the best balance to the mastered product, it is requested that any level and type of compression used in mixing is noted during submission. Please ask for more info on this topic.
Complete information about your project is requested in an email or along with the submission of your media. While not all is required, such information may include:
- Your name and contact info
- Record label and contact info
- Contact at manufacturing plant
- Notes to the mastering studio
- Format we are mastering for (CD, LP, digital downloads, etc)
- Sample rates and file types provided
- Album or project title
- Catalog number, ISRC numbers, UPC code
- Song listing
- Any known issues with the mix you would like treated during mastering
The final masters will be delivered via mail on DVD-R in either DDP-image or Redbook CD-R format, in addition to standard electronic file transfer.