Mastering formats

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Deafen, Feb 4, 2002.

  1. Deafen

    Deafen Member

    My band is ready to hand off our self-produced CD for mastering. Several of us have done recording projects before, but they've all been provided to mastering on DAT; this time around, the whole record has been done (and kept) in 24-bit on a PC DAW.

    The first guy that we talked to, someone that I've had positive experiences with in the past, told me that he'd rather have me dither to 16 bit and then take an audio CD as his source material, since he'd run it in through an analog front end anyways. When I asked about using the actual 24-bit final mixes (as WAV files), he made it sound like it would be a huge hassle for him and even implied that he'd charge us extra for it.

    The next guy gave pretty much the same response, saying that it would be a great big deal and I'd have to bring in my computer (!) to use my 24-bit mixes. (Umm...I have WAV files on CD-R, ya know.) When the bandleader told him (via voice mail) that we're planning on using someone else, he blew up and sent a nasty email accusing us of "wasting his ^#$%ing time." After a little back and forth, he insulted our musicianship and lack of label sponsorship -- keep in mind, he's never even heard us.

    Okay, all turd-polishing jokes aside, we've poured heart and soul into these recordings. I know that in the end, it's a miniscule difference between a UV-22 dithered 16-bit audio CD as a source and a 24-bit WAV file. But am I wrong to think that we should at least have the option? I really didn't like to hear that I'd have to throw away 8 bits of resolution that I've painstakingly kept along the way, just to make things more convenient. There's also the issue that using an audio CD as a source can introduce jitter and uncorrected errors, since audio CDs don't have the same level of error correction as data CD's -- WAV files on a data CD-R are guaranteed to be bit-for-bit identical with my final renders.

    Now, I'm not mad at the first guy; he's got the way he likes to do things, and far be it from me to tell him how to do his job. But the second guy, well, I guess he's got enough business that he doesn't need our money.

    I guess my question boils down to this: How do you professional mastering folks view the source format issue? Do you have a way that you prefer to work, and shepherd your customers into doing things that way, or do you provide a list of options and pros/cons?
     
  2. Studio B

    Studio B Guest

    It's been my experience that most serious mastering houses would like to have the 24-bit files any day of the week. All of your points are perfectly valid and you should be able to get along great with most mastering engineers since you obviously have a pretty good handle on the situation. I prefer to work with the highest resolution possible before squashing it down to CD specs. For analog processing it allows for smoother, more accurate control and for digital it just plain adds up to prettier math. If somone inquires about formats before they've mixed I will give advice as to my preferred format taking into consideration the options available at the mixing facility, but other than that I'll generally work with whatever format is presented. I like to keep the room booked and try not to let technical issues get in the way of getting the job done.
     
  3. MadMoose

    MadMoose Active Member

    It sounds like you aren't dealing with either real pros or real mastering houses. I'll take 24-bit files when I can get them. I have ways I prefer to work just like everyone else but I'll bend to suit the project if need be. Any good mastering house or professional engineer would do the same thing.

    My guess is that these places don't have 24-bit converters or software and either couldn't open or play your files. The one guy probably wanted to charge extra to cover the rental cost.

    OTOH, bringing your computer in the mastering house might be a good move if the guys knows his stuff. You could make last minute mix tweaks right there which would make a difference in the outcome of the project. Just another thought.
     
  4. Deafen

    Deafen Member

    Okay, I'm glad to know that I'm not being overly critical. We've now made an appointment to meet with someone who's being much more accomadating, and it's likely that they'll end up with our business. (We've already heard their mastering demo CD, and couldn't find any real problems with it.)

    Jay, that sounds like a great idea (bringing in the computer to allow final mix tweaks), but it's a shame that the guy who thought it was the best way to go was such a jerk. :)

    On another note, I prepared the premaster as follows: two copies of the data CD, with 24-bit .wav files, plus production notes, song order, and fade requests in a text file; and one copy of an audio CD as a last-resort backup. Is that reasonable?
     
  5. Ronny Morris

    Ronny Morris Guest

    Sounds like you are prepared.
     
  6. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Hey Deafen - from everything I've read/heard on this subject (a fair amount, since I live in "sticksville" and do a lot by mail/net/phone) I would think that your "last resort" audio CD would get more attention by the REAL mastering guys helping out here than just "last resort" - It will also give them a better idea of where YOU want to go with your songs. Slap me if I'm wrong, pain helps me remember... Steve
     

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