Important Tips for Preparing Your Tracks for Audio Mastering
FIRST: Provide a high quality audio fileFor best results bounce down (export) your mixes as stereo interleaved .wav or .aiff files. Choose a bit depth and sample rate comparable to the resolution settings you used when doing recording and mixing. So, for example, if you did your recording and mixing at 16-bit/44.1kHz then you should provide us with a stereo .wav or .aiff file at 16-bit/44.1kHz resolution. As another example, if you did your recording and mixing at 24-bit/48kHz then you should provide us with a stereo .wav or .aiff file at 24-bit/48kHz for mastering.
Don't send us .mp3, .m4a, or .wma files for mastering unless you have no other option as these file types have reduced frequency spectra and won't produce the best quality results.
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In order to obtain the best possible quality from audio mastering, you need to start with a good mix. Here are some hints for preparing your recording or audio mix.
Don't over-compress!Please remove or at least reduce any master output compression/limiting/maximizing effects intended simply to boost the volume of your mixdowns. It seems everyone these days wants to make their sound louder and louder so they put as much compression as possible on the master output. Once you've done this, there's nothing we can do in mastering to undo the compression side effects. If you resist the urge to make it as loud as you can get it and let your mastering facility adjust your final track volumes then we can make it loud enough in a way that avoids the bad side-effects of strong master output compression and keeps more of a sense of natural dynamics and punchiness. True artists know that loud music does not necessarily equal good music. Concentrate on making a good, solid, clean mix and let us set the final track volume during mastering. Don't worry - we'll make sure your final volumes are consistent with the industry standard levels for your genre.
Watch for volume level clipping.During recording AND mixing take the extra time to set proper gain without overdriving your recording system's maximum levels. Also, be sure your final stereo audio mixdown isn't clipping. If you're unsure, set the master output level to -6dB, or even lower if necessary, so that the maximum master volume level peaks are between -1dB and -3dB. We will maximize the volume levels appropriately in the mastering process, so don't worry if it comes out a little quieter doing this. Once digital audio data is clipped it can't be recovered so it's safer to err on the quiet side.
Don't overdo reverb and other effects.Reverb and other similar effects are nice for smoothing out some of the rough edges in your songs, but they also can make your songs sound muddy and the mastering process cannot completely undo excessive muddiness. When in doubt, lean toward cleaner and drier sounds versus more reverb. For the master output it's better to either completely avoid effects or keep your reverb and other effects to a minimum. If you want a more reverberant overall feeling to your track you can always request it in the notes section on our online CD mastering order form.
Get rid of noise.The less hiss/hum/background noise we have to eliminate in the mastering process, the cleaner, fuller, and brighter your songs will be. Watch open mics during recording. Are fans running in the background? Are there fluorescent lights on? Planes, trains, cars, trucks running outside? Computer fans? Amps not grounded properly? Using correct cables and correct gain settings? Consider using noise gates and/or noise filtering on each track in a song. This will limit the total amount of noise in your final mix giving you a cleaner, stronger song for mastering.
Fade your dubs and clips.Don't use mute or other sudden on/off in your mixes! If dubs or clips turn on and off suddenly within your song, there will more than likely be an audible click. It may be quiet in your version, but the mastered version is often much louder. We can certainly remove or reduce most clicks in the mastering process, but why take chances? Make it clean right from the start!
Followed all these hints but still unsure whether or not your mix is good enough?If you've done the best you can with your mixes but you're still not 100% confident that it's as good as it can be and ready for mastering, we offer several solutions to assist you. In these cases we highly recommend that you submit one of your tracks for free sample mastering to hear for yourself an example of the final outcome as mastered by Crazy Daisy Productions. In many cases people hear the mastering sample and find that they are quite happy with the results from mastering and now have confirmation that their mix is ready.
On occasion it may be that after hearing the mastering results and reading our feedback accompanying the sample you realize that your mixes still need some work. Often we will note the mix adjustments that are needed when we return the free mastering sample and these may be things you can easily attend to yourself. However, if you find our mix recommendations are either beyond your skill level or if you simply wish to have a new set of ears attend to your mixes, we offer two different levels of additional services to accompany mastering that may be of assistance. Vocal and Instrumental Separation Mastering is a mastering option available if your primary concern is balancing the vocal versus instrumental parts in your mix. Touch-up Mixing is available as an add-on to your mastering service if you would like a mix engineer to fine-tune your primary mix components prior to mastering to help optimize the final playback or just to have another engineer double-check it all for you. If you feel you may need even more mixing work than what these options offer you can find out more details about our mixing services on our mixing options page.
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