Preparing for Mastering Help

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by brad3e, Jan 4, 2005.

  1. brad3e

    brad3e Guest


    I am recording at home with Cubase SX3, & RME fireface, and want to prepare properly before sending my final mixes to get Mastered.

    If any of you pros can provide a basic checklist , that would be great! I am new to recording so I have to start somewhere.

    Also, is it best I leave things like Group Effects like Reverb on for mixdown? And, do I leave the Waves L2 plug on in the Master output to avoid clipping? I'm new so I need to learn the basics.

  2. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    TURN IT DOWN to avoid clipping (scratch the L2). If your PEAKS are well below 0dBfs, that's fine. You can peak at -3, -6, -8... If you're in 24-bit, you're in great shape.

    Other than that, there's a PDF called "getting the most out of your mix" at the MASSIVE site. It covers a lot of what you're probably looking for, and it's a quick read.

    Hope that helps... 8)
  3. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Here's how to get it right every single time, down to the last detail. CALL YOUR ME. If you don't have one yet, find one you like and ask the questions. They should be able to tell you better than anyone how to prep and deliver your mixes. We can tell you how we like to get them but that doesn't help you and your ME.
  4. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    There's also a FAQ on my website.

    In general, leave headroom as John recommends; listen to the mixes in many enviornments as possible before mastering; if you are still uncertain about the mix then bring/send a couple of options to the session; attend the session with the ME if possible: this will make you aware of how the choices are made & give you a direct voice in the mastering process.

    Try to establish rapport with your ME so he/she is aware of your tastes in EQ, etc.

    Bring a couple of CDs that you know really well to the session to get an idea of how the mastering room "sounds". Don't be afraid to speak up! Communicate!! Have fun. We are here to make you sound great.
  5. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

  6. I have the pleasure of loading in masters every day, and at the most basic level these are the mistakes people make and things I'd recommend from my experience to save the most time...

    1) send 24 bit files, preferably wav or aiff interleaved. don't change your sample rate.

    2) put all your files on one CD-ROM or DVD if you can.

    3) DO NOT CUT SHORT THE BEGINNING AND END OF THE MUSIC, please! leave 1-2 seconds before the downbeat/after the tail. preferably leave all fade outs to the ME.

    4) go ahead and make lead vocal up and down 0.5 dB versions and send those to the ME as well. they can come in handy and save time if they're all together. and label these files "vox up" "vox down" in the file name.

    5) at the very least include track order and song titles on a separate sheet, and IDEALLY name your files with the order and title: "01 This Song Will Rock Your F'in Socks Off.wav" please order them with numbers and not letters... you won't believe some of the "organization" methods we receive around here...

    6) include any other notes about noises and anything of concern, as long as it is relevant to the mastering, ie a treatise on what mic you used on the Didgeridoo is not relevant to the ME 99% of the time.

    a note about what you are looking for and what you expect from mastering is also good to give the ME an idea as to how to approach your music.
  7. brad3e

    brad3e Guest

    HELP for peaks

    Ok, thanks for all your help and suggestions! peaks on my input buses seem good, all about
    -3db to -5db on the various tracks so I figured this is sufficient headroom, but I notice that on my Master output bus, I am clipping like +3db or so, what am I doing wrong?

    Is it ok to be clipping on the master output? I doubt it but please help if possible, I don't want to record at such a low level as I figure this would produce a weak final product or am I just making that up?
  8. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    Re: HELP for peaks

    what's going on is that you recorded everything at a good level, but you're overloading the mix bus when you're summing the tracks together. I'm guessing that you're mixing in the box, and if you are, it should be relatively easy to bring all your faders down (except the master fader). Do NOT use a master fader to bring the level down. Do it to all the INDIVIDUAL tracks.

    If you are busing any of the tracks to groups, check your group buses too, often they overload as well.

    Seems like you're on the ball, asking a lot of the right questions, so I think you'll be fine if you just take your time a little bit (you've got it this far, don't cut corners now). Good luck.
  9. brad3e

    brad3e Guest

    Thanks mixandmaster,

    so, I should just leave the master fader at 0db?

    also, when you say mixing in the box, I am mixing within Cubase, is that what mixing in the box means?
  10. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Yes, "In The Box" (a.k.a. "ITB") just means that you're not using analog summing or going through an external processing - Basically, just using the digital summing in the box - er... the computer.

    In Cubase you should be able to link all your faders and drag them down together if you need to.

    Don't worry if your peaks are a little low, either - If you're in 24-bit, there's plenty - PLENTY of room. Headroom is good room.
  11. brad3e

    brad3e Guest

    Analog summing, I've seen this term used around these parts, I've also seen that Dangerous Music box thing for summing, would this make a big difference in Mix Down before I am sending it over for Mastering, how is Analog Summing done, the Dangerous box just looks like it has 16 buttons, seems a little scary if you don't know what you are doing. Anyway, how necessary do you feel Analog summing is instead of digital? Thanks for all your help!
  12. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Personally (and many find this surprising), all things being equal, I actually prefer digital summing most of the time. Some would rather go analog. There's been study after study... Some like this one, some like that one. You're basically sending several signals (groups, channels, effects and what not) out through the DAW through an equal number of DA converters into the box, where the signal is summed in analog instead of digital.

    I'll sometimes go through an analog "tweak" chain - An EQ or the VariMu or something for "flavor" during mixdown - Essentially, just an insert on the two bus. Still, you're adding another series of conversions there - Something to be avoided unless called for.

    Basically though, if you're happy with the mixes in the box, there's no problem leaving them there. A decent analog summing chain (such as the DTB and several channels of superior DA) can easily have you taking out a second mortgage.
  13. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member


    Don't be afraid to leave the -3dB headroom level on your master. Your ME will then have more opportunity to do EQ/Comp/etc. without overloading the level.

    It will not result in a weaker product at all. Actually, it should sound better.

  14. brad3e

    brad3e Guest

    Thanks Don,

    So to sum up what all you experts have said, please advise if the following is correct going forward for the different buses:

    INPUTS: Record as hot a level as possible without clipping or like around -3db on each input bus?

    OUTPUT Master: If output is clipping after all tracks recorded, bring down input faders until my master bus reads about -3db, and I should not touch the Master fader, correct?

    Sorry, I just want to get it as right as possible for mastering, I am recording in 24bit/48K, trying to use as little effects as possible on each track. But would no effects at all be the best way to go?

    Also, do you Mastering Engineers apply Reverb or is that something I'm supposed to do? Thanks for all your advice.

  15. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member


    Why are you recording at 48k? If it's going to CD, it might be best to record at 24/44.1 to avoid sample rate conversion, unless the ME will go direct into an analog chain to do EQ, etc.

    I like to avoid adding reverb here; best to be a recording / mix choice.

  16. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    Yeah, Don's right about reverb. And the sample rate.

    To better explain the master fader thing (this is how it works in ProTools, and I'm guessing Cubase as well):

    Here is the signal path for a simple mix to a stereo output (I'll call this the 2-bus bus). You record on to all your individual tracks. Now you go to mix. All the audio from these channels go through their individual faders to the 2-bus bus. This bus can get very "crowded" with level quickly. For instance, if you recorded your kick drum to peak at -5dB, set that fader to 0, pan it in the center, then add the bass guitar on top of that, you're probably going to clip the 2Mix bus right off the bat. So watch your levels right from the get go.

    Next, that 2-bus bus feeds the master fader. Since the signal passes through the bus BEFORE the master fader, the master fader has NO effect on signal level of the 2Mix. It ONLY controls level to the outputs of your DAW.

    To summarize a simple path of audio:
    Input of DAW.
    Record Audio to track.
    Individual channel (track) faders.
    2Mix bus.
    Master fader.
    Output of DAW.

    I apologze for not being better able to explain it, but I hope this helps.

    I tend to agree with Massive about analog summing. If your heart is set on it, just take your tracks to a studio and run them through an SSL or something instead of buying all that gear. It will be a LOT cheaper, and if you can keep from tweaking, won't take that long.
  17. brad3e

    brad3e Guest

    Thanks for your replies,

    Regarding using 48K or 44K, but don't most pro ME's like yourselves go into an analog chain for EQ, compression, etc?

    If I would be sending my tracks to people like yourselves, would you rather receive it in 44K?

    Please advise.
  18. Reggie

    Reggie Well-Known Member

    I'm a little unclear on the reasoning for not touching the master fader. Is this something applicable to digital, or just an old habit from an analog board? Or, does lowering the master fader adversely affect the sound/bit depth/something I don't know about...? I just find it easier to just bump the master down in CubaseSX2 if I am a little over. I think someone else came up with the idea to clear the peak reading, play back the entire mixed song, and then at the end decrease the master fader by the amount over 0 and call it good.

    Just curious if anyone has any further info
  19. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    Like I said, I'm not sure about Cubase, but I'd be willing to bet it works this way. If you're clipping the bus, you're clipping the bus.
  20. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    SO many places to clip - Most plugins don't have crap for headroom, either.

    On the rate, you'd be best off contacting the engineer and finding out their preference.

    However, you really can't go wrong with 44.1 - No one will argue with receiving a 44.1kHz file. At least no one I can think of...

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