Our mastering process

Much of audio mastering consists of working the volume leveling and tone considerations of various audio tracks within a project into a consistent whole, then preparing the audio for distribution.

In any given project, the music itself will dictate the necessary steps to a complete master, which will be expanded on and refined by our discussions. If possible, we encourage clients to be present for the session or sessions…but certainly not required! We do the lion’s share of our projects corresponding online.

The studio hourly rate for mastering is $80, but for most projects (albums about 45 minutes in length and 8 to 12 songs) we work out a flat rate of around $500-$750, which includes one round of revisions.

Anything beyond a second round of revisions goes to the hourly pricing. Many of the projects that come out of Storybook end up not needing revisions at all.

For projects headed for vinyl, master side splits are prepared at higher-than-CD quality (44.1k sample rate, but 24 bits). These masters are an additional $80 for each album (2 sides).

We can also prepare hi-resolution vinyl masters that are 24 bit, and at a higher-than-CD sampling rate (88.2k sounds great, but we have done them as high as 192k for some). Hi-res side splits are an additional $200 over a quoted flat rate.

Another option is to have your vinyl master delivered on analog tape. If you’re interested, we should discuss how this impacts your plans for analog and digital distribution before quoting.

Physical production master CDs are sent via mail are $30 each…and usually only needed for short runs of replicated CD-Rs, or if you prefer them as an archive.

For recording and mixing, sessions are quoted with flat rates (by day or half day), determined after we discuss the scope of your project. These rates are lower than our mastering rate, but can be subject to limited availability.

Of course, we love our audiobooks at Storybook…these projects quote at $180 per finished hour.

Email us at info@storybooksound.com and include how many songs or tracks there are, a rough estimate of the running time of the entire project, and what you’re going to do with the master when done (CDs, iTunes, vinyl, etc.).

We’ll let you known if we have any more questions, and then send you a quote. If you’d rather do this on the phone, please let us know. Once we’ve settled on a price, we can accept PayPal or credit cards…cash or a check in the mail works, too.

To master your digital recordings, we prefer a single stereo .wav or .aif file per track made at the same sample rate (same kHz) as the mix session, at 24-bit depth or higher. Of course, any format you’ve got will work…

Please upload your audio files enclosed in a .zip folder via WeTransfer or Dropbox. Using a .zip folder protects your audio when transferring it online. Audio may also be sent via analog tape, FTP, YouSendIt, burned to a CD, carrier pigeon, etc. (please email to discuss.)

Then we’ll email a project details form to ask for exact song titles, song order, album title, performer name and genre for the CD-Text (mostly used by car CD players). Songwriter name, ISRC codes, UPC codes (bar codes), and copyright are other details for the CD or CD-Text can be added on a per title basis as well. Finally, include any notes for edits that may include fades, count-offs, noises, etc.

Projects done with a flat rate are delivered as a downloadable master called a DDP Image, a zip folder that contains everything you need to make CDs. This zip folder is your production master, and it contains the audio plus CD-Text. (Song titles, performers, songwriter names, and more…)

Along with the DDP Image we send a DDP Player…so you can listen to the master on your own computer, export 16bit wavs and MP3s, or burn your own CDs. Finally, we also send 24bit wav files, and a PQ Sheet.

To summarize, masters can be delivered as any of the following formats, to suit your needs:
· Production master CD – ready for duplication (typically larger runs of CDs) or replication (shorter runs of CD-Rs)
· Reference CD – for a listening test
· DDP Image – a zip folder that contains the audio master plus CD-Text (song titles, performers, songwriter names, and more…)
· Vinyl side-splits – 24 bit, 44.1khz to 192khz for the audiophiles
· 24 bit, high-resolution files – recommended for Bandcamp, iTunes, etc.
· Analog tape – preferred by many as an archive
· MP3, AAC, or other digital audio formats – for reference or internet delivery
· PQ Sheet – to reference CD-Text, ISRC codes, etc.

If you’re not sure which formats you want, let us know, and we can help you figure it out.

Finally…we check all masters before they leave the studio, but you should always listen to your production master on your choice of headphones – uninterrupted! – before sending it off for duplication or final download.