What is audio mastering?

Mastering is the final stage of audio production before a record or single is released into the world. I take your finished mixes and use some of the best analogue / digital equipment available to bring their overall sound in-line with music that is already released. If I am mastering an album or EP, I will also sequence each track with the perfect gaps of silence and with balanced tone and loudness. As a result, the overarching character of your project will be enhanced, finessed and polished. I will also make sure that your music sounds amazing on all systems, from full-range ATC studio monitors to cinemas to laptop and phone speakers. Mastering is a crutial time for you to view your project in the exact way that it will be heard once it is released. You will hear if any corrections are needed and we can work out the most effiecient way to make these either in the mastering domain or by revising the mix. Once the masters are approved, I can create a myriad of master files for every audio platform, from online distribution (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify etc.) to vinyl and cassette.

Do you offer free test masters?

Yes, of course! I totally understand that handing your creation over to a stranger is a pretty daunting prospect… So, as a courtesy to all my new clients, I will master ONE track of any length totally free of charge. This is for you determine whether my style / approach to mastering your project is what you want. If you like my master, then we can discuss moving on to the next steps in the process. And if you don’t like my master, then no harm done! If you do decide to hire me to master the rest of your project then this first test master will always remain free. All you have to do is fill in this form and upload your track via the link provided. I will typically get a sample master back to you in 1-2 working days.

How do I send you mix files to master?

You can securely upload mix files via the upload link I provide here (there is no size limit). Your mixes are then automatically downloaded to my studio computer and I receive an email notification to let me know. Alternatively, you can use a file sharing service such as Google Drive, WeTransfer or Dropbox.

Can you review my mixes for free?

Yes. If you are unsure whether your mixes are ready for mastering then feel free to send them over prior to booking a session. I'll gladly have a listen and be able to give you a couple of suggestions on how elements could be enhanced before we move onto the mastering stage. However, the last thing I want to do is step on or 'water down' your creation. If I do suggest anything, it'll either be purely technical or simply a way to ehance certain elements that may feel slightly lacking musically. In any case, it's a conversation we can have with everyone involved and at the very least will give me a deeper understanding of your vision and artistic intention moving forward.

In what format should I send you the mix files?

Sample Frequency: Always keep the sample frequency at the rate that the audio was recorded / mixed. Because all of my work is done in the analogue domain, I can 'pitch' a mix at any sample rate (up to 192kHz) and then capture the master at the delivery sample rate (up to 96kHz) without using any sample rate conversion. This avoids all of the unwanted artifacts that SRC introduces, which ultimately changes the tone and impact of your music. Bit-Rate: Keep the bit-rate as high as you can. If possible it should be no lower than 24-bit, however, 32-bit floating / fixed point files are even better. Try to avoid sending 16-bit files if possible. All files must be sent as uncompressed .WAV / .AIFF files. Do not send compressed lossy or lossless files such as .MP3 / .FLAC / .AAC etc...

How much headroom should my mix have?

My only request regarding headroom is that there are no peaks at 0dBFS (no clipping) and peak normalization is turned off. Send me the mix that you love the most regardless of how much headroom it has. As long as I am working with the mix that sounds the best to you then I am happy. Ultimately, do what serves your music the best. If your mix does have heavy mix-buss processing, then it's often useful to send two versions; one with these processors on and one with them bypassed. This way we can decide together which approach best serves the final result. For those who would like a general rule of thumb, mixes should aim to have peaks above -20dBFS and should never clip at 0dBFS (when working with 24-bit files). This leaves a healthy amount of headroom for any processing that may be needed in the mastering domain.

Should I apply dither to my mix?

Dither is only relevant when you move from a higher bit depth to a lower bit depth. If you are sending 24-bit mix files it's a good idea to dither when rendering in order to avoid truncation distortion as you move from the internal resolution of your DAW (most likely 32-bit floating point or higher) to 24-bit. It is less important than it is for rendering 16-bit files but there are arguments that say it's good practice. Use flat/TPDF dither for this when possible. Dithering is not necessary if you are sending me 32-bit floating point files.

How quickly will I receive my masters after I have booked a session and sent you the files?

The average turn around for most mastering projects is approximately 2 - 5 working days from the time you upload the mix files. However, this timeline is subject to change depending on how much work I have on. To make sure that your project is sent back to you in time, please contact me at least 10 working days before your release date / production deadline. Sample masters are delivered 1-2 working days after mix submission.

How do I pay for your mastering services?

Once I have finished mastering your project, I will send you the masters as a DDP image that you can audition using a secure DDP player. The player allows you to listen to the mastered album as it will be played back from a CD. You will hear exactly what I hear in my mastering studio with the correct legnths of silence between each track. If you are happy with the way that it all sounds, then you will receive an invoice which you can pay via bank transfer. Once you have paid, I will then send you an upload link to the full resolution master files which are yours to release and distribute. The DDP player only allows you to audition the masters. You will not be able to use the masters in any other way until I have received payment and sent you the final master files. Just as a side note, the DDP file that you will listen to is fully encrypted and can only be played using the DDP player that I will supply. This is to protect your music from falling into the wrong hands and ending up somewhere you didn't expect.

What about international payments (currencies other than GBP)?

I use TransferWise for all international payments. Any major currency can be used and all associated conversion fees are much lower than a standard international wire transfer. Please add roughly 1% to your total to cover fees. If you would prefer to use PayPal for international payments then please add roughly 3% to your total to cover transfer fees.

What if I need changes to the masters?

Sometimes revisions are required. If so, I am more than happy to make these to the best of my ability within reason free of charge. However, if you need to make revisions / tweaks to the mix you originally sent me then a charge of £15 for each new mix sent will be added to your overall bill. To avoid any unexpected additional charges, please make sure that the final mixes you send are the best that you can achieve. Also please be certain that all mixes have been approved by everyone involved before sending. If you are unsure whether your mix is ready for mastering then feel free to send it over prior to booking a session. I'll gladly have a listen and, if necessary, be able to offer any advice on how it could be improved before we move onto the mastering stage.

In what format will I receive my master files?

Once your payment has been processed, the masters will be delivered as stereo WAV or AIFF files at any sample rate up to 96kHz / 24-bit. High quality MP3s can also be delivered up to 320kbps. Any number of file formats can be authored at no additional cost. If you do not request specific file formats prior to booking, the masters will be delivered as full resolution 44.1kHz 24-bit WAVs. If you are releasing CDs, you will also receive an 'unlocked' DDP image that can be sent directly to the CD duplication factory. All files are delivered via Google Drive unless requested otherwise. If you require additional masters that are tailored to specific platforms, such as vinyl, cassette and radio, please see pricing or contact me via email or phone to discuss. I'll get back to you as quickly as possible.

Do you offer Apple Digital Masters (was Mastered For iTunes)?

Yes! We are proud to be a certified provider of Apple Digital Masters and can author these files for you whenever requested. Apple Digital Masters is a program that ensures the highest quality playback on Apple's streaming and download services. If a song or album is badged as an Apple Digital Masters release then listeners know they are hearing the best quality audio that Apple can offer. The program now also includes CD-quality 'Lossless' playback from Apple's ALAC (FLAC equivalent) encoder. However, a few key rules must be in place prioir to the mastering stage for an Apple Digital Masters release to be successfully recognised by Apple. All recordings have to be made at 24-bit and at any sample rate between 44.1kHz and 192kHz. The mix also needs to have been done at 24-bit or higher and there should have been no sample rate conversion at any stage in the process. If all of the above applies to your project and you're interested in doing an Apple Digital Masters release, then feel free to get in touch and we can have a quick chat about what is involved. As a side note, only studios that are certified by Apple can provide files for an Apple Digital Masters relase.

For any further questions or to discuss your specific project contact us here