Audio mastering is the first step of manufacturing, and the final creative step of recording.
When several recorded songs are ready to be an album, mastering might adjust the relative loudness of each song, or one song might be equalized for being “too boom-y”…and then the timing between tracks and fade-outs are finalized. The overall volume of the album is then decided upon for making a CD, or streaming online.
Mastering might require preserving or restoring audio, or helping an artist find something different or new to hear.
A common consideration in mastering is how the audio might sound when heard in different environments (car speakers, in a theater, turntable, earbuds, etc.).
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.
Before 2020, we encouraged clients to be present for the session…but attendance was never a requirement! We’ve always done the lion’s share of our projects corresponding online.
Mastering is offered at $90 an hour, but for most projects we recommend a flat rate; 10 song albums are usually $780, singles are $90.
The completed master will be downloadable, and include:
- DDP Image: A zip folder with mastered audio and master text.
- DDP Player: Software and instructions for working with the DDP Image…listening to the master, proofreading the CD-Text, burning a reference CD, and exporting master MP3s.
- High resolution wav files.
- A round of revisions to the master sequence (if needed).
Work beyond a second revision is at the hourly rate.
Mixing is $50 an hour, or a flat rate of $500 per song…but super-negotiable.
A vinyl master is most often prepared as a single, high resolution wav file for each side; this audio file is called a side split. Vinyl masters are prepared at an hourly rate, usually $135 for two LP-length side splits (one album) and a timing log (to be used by the cutting engineer).
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 available (usually only needed these days for archive, or to reach someone not online).
Getting a quote
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and include how many songs or tracks your project includes, a rough estimate of the running time of the entire project, and plans for the master (streaming, vinyl, etc.).
We’ll let you known if we have any more questions, and then send you a quote. If you’d rather call, please let us know. We can accept PayPal, Venmo, credit cards, or a check in the mail.
Sending your audio
For digital masters, please send a single stereo wav or aif file per track that is the same sample rate (same kHz) as the original recording/mix session, at least at 24-bit depth (most common), preferably 32-bit.
Of course, any format you’ve got will work…reels of tape (no matter how ugly), 16-bit wav files, MP3s, or cassette tapes.
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.
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 what formats you need, 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.