Mastering engineer expectations- what to bring

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by jmm22, Nov 16, 2010.

  1. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    I am working on my own mixes, and plan to bring them to a mastering studio. Ideally, what is he/she looking for? Would it be a stereo mix on a wav. file? What kind of levels are the best for the mastering engineer to work from? Do most mastering engineers mind if the client is present while the mastering is done, say on a three song demo?
  2. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I think it's best to talk with the engineer you're planning on working with to get their preferences. Generally 24 bit files in whatever sample rate you've been working in. wav files should be fine for anyone. On the question of sitting in, that depends on the engineer, schedule, budget etc... I would pick a place that you want to work at and pose these questions to them.
  3. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    And if you use the same DAW as the ME s/he may also like the original tracks and session files. Also likely ME specific.
  4. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    There is nothing to add but the advice to keep a healthy dynamic in the otherwise balanced mix.
    Be cautious with compression and limiting on the master channel... and let them hear the mix a day or two before the session starts.
    If he sees a problem you might be able to correct it with an alternative mix.
  5. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    It seems to me that keeping a healthy dynamic might be tough at times for the mixing engineer, since one is hunting for the best mix, and this might involve good amounts of compresson. I am right that the mixing engineer has to fight certain personal implulses to mix as though he was mastering?
  6. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    No instrument should be crushed by a comp period. Also, compressing doesn't mean you get to make something as loud as your fader goes and think that is mixing. Mixing involves balancing each element to provide cohesion. After there is cohesion then let the Mastering Engineer do his job cleaning up, tweaking, balancing the songs with each other, and finally making the whole CD as loud as requested/payed for despite the best judgment of the ME ;-)
  7. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Good amount of compression on an individual instrument. Maybe. On the final master output? Never.
  8. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    Lol..right, Jack, despite of what we say...

    jmm, yes, in the beginning it is a bit strange to mix to a sound that can be louder or fuller by adding compression and things, but once you have seen and heard the work of an ME on your productions
    it becomes more and more clear what is best for the mix and what is better done by the ME. You should try to attend a session, as well... you learn a lot and it makes it less painfull to tame your instincts...
  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I've read basically everywhere that bus compression is a no-no for the mix you give the ME. I've read that slight broadband eq on the bus is acceptable tho. J/W how you guys feel about mild EQ setings on the stereo bus. If i hired a ME i would think his eq, is leagues above my project studio room/equipment capabilities.
  10. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Probably better outboard, but more importantly, a better room in which to make good aural decisions.
  11. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    All that is true, but... m2c...
    I mix to a certain sound that I want to achieve before I call it ready for mastering.
    If I think, I can work that certain sound out and give it the flavour and musical direction I want it
    to go, I will give it the necessary compression and what ever else it takes.

    Being confronted with the occasional mastering nightmares, myself, I know how much FX can be applied to still keep the track "liquid" enough for decent mastering. Now, that is an advantage not too many have, but with the above advices and some common sense, as well as asking the ME you get there for sure.

    A big role plays, as mentioned by you and Jack, that at a decent ME studio you should have the most appropriate tools and room for best results. Not to forget the expertise of the ME... 'cause the rest is just ...cables, boxes, ones and zeros...
  12. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    I would add also that the objectivity (listening) of the ME followed by good communication with the clients.

    Compression on mix bus? I say why not if it is for an artistic /expression goal.
    Compression on anything for sake of volume? I say no.
  13. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    What about levels? What kind of mix levels are ideal for the mastering engineer?
  14. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    I make my RMS average between -22dB and -16dB. My peaks are no more than -6dB. Of course my type of music requires a great dynamic spread but those rough guides give a mastering engineer lots of headroom to do their job.
  15. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Peaks at -6dB was always what I was taught. However I've been hearing a lot that in fact going lower than this is now arguably more usable in digital audio. These seem to be mathematical in basis, -6 sounds and feels right to me.
  16. Big K

    Big K Well-Known Member

    Issa da dishital world..
    I have never cared about peak levels as long as there is a healthy dynamic and it is not going over. So - 1 dB is ok for me.
    In another thread about normalizing, I abused a cd track real bad by normalizing down by 15 dB and render, normalizing up by 15 dB and render ..
    for about 3 or 4 times and it nulled out compared with the original to zip nada nix in the reverse phase test. So, there is no sound degradation, at all ( at least with my audio engine Nuendo 5.1). If I think that a file is too hot I simply lower it a few dBs.
    If there is one thing a PC can do well, it is calculating a few numbers up and down...
    Sure, in the "old" days we had to watch out for headroom when tapeing and mixing AND still wanted to record as hot as still safe to overcome noise, etc. Now, if the quality of the recording or mix is good the level can be -15 dB or -1 dB in a studio standart DAW world... still bad craftsmanship, but no real problem.
  17. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    Good post. I agree with all. I am often asking for a + or - -3dB peak mix myself and this is for the less experienced clients just to avoid clippings all over. Frankly, I don't care if it is -3 or -6 or -15dB. A good balnced mix sounds good at any level.

  18. jmm22

    jmm22 Guest

    Thanks for the replies. What are the consequences or ramifications of being handed a mix that is (a) too high in level, or (b) inordinately low? My guess about the latter is that the noise floor will be higher, since one will have to boost things more. Is this right?
  19. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    In digital domain, too high is only too high if there is not enough dynamic contrast within the material itself. Otherwise you normalize down instead of up.

    Too low is not as bad as it was in the analog days when every piece of equipment added noise to audio track too. Nowadays, provided a track has peaks between -22dB and -12dB (not even RMS), that will be sufficient to bring up without issue.
  20. SASman

    SASman Active Member

    24bit file .wav of .aiff is perfect.

    No clipping

    With and without limiter versions.

    If you like your bus compression keep it, not our job to tell you otherwise.
    (unless of course you have seriously squeezed the life out with badly chosen time constants...
    that may prevoke a "heads up" email, lol)

    Headroom is largely irrelevant (as long as it's not clipping) except for analog chain gain staging
    which any ME can sort out transparently anyway.


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