Sending music off to master. I have a few questions.

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by philipjent, May 31, 2009.

  1. philipjent

    philipjent Guest

    Im getting ready to send a album of 14 tracks to get mastered. My questions are.

    1. How much head room should I give the person mastering?
    2. Just to be clear do not dither before mastering?
    3. What should I look for in a place when looking for mastering music?
    4. How much can I expect to pay going in with 14 tracks?
    5. How should I bring the tracks to the person mastering? Wav format on a data cd or a audio cd?

    If theres anything else any other advice you would like to add please do.
  2. DirkZuber

    DirkZuber Active Member

    Home Page:
    Hi, there

    1. Your highest peaks should be around -6 Dbfs, that leaves enough space for messing around

    2. Yes, don´t dither .... its the last step, so leave it to the ME !!!

    3. Look if the ME did some stuff that is in the same music genre you do. A ME that does mainly Jazz won´t do a good job on a Heavy Metall piece (maybe he can) , get some soundfiles for listening (befor/after). Best thing is to know somebody who was happy with a specific Mastering House !

    4. Hard to tell ......... Look for pricerates at different houses in your area

    5. Data CD (in what ever format you mixed the tracks)
    if you would give them an Audio CD they have to extract the Audio first and convert it again and .......

    Another Tip
    ... TALK TO THE Mastering Engineer TELL HIM WHAT YOU WANT....
    Tell him what you expect from mastering.
    If you want it loud tell him , if you want him to make everthing come together and tighten it all up, but leave the loudness alone ...TELL HIM
    Some Mastering Houses let you fill out a Checklist, so they know what you want !

    Dirk Zuber
  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    Just a couple of thoughts.

    Most mastering engineers are multi genre and can do a good job on anything but as the previous poster said if the mastering engineer specializes in Jazz you may not want to send him Heavy Metal for mastering.

    Costs can vary. 14 songs would normally take about 7 hours to do so if you know the mastering house rates you can get a ball park figure. If you are an unsigned artist most mastering places will have a lower rate for you.

    Are you looking for an attended session or an unattended one?

    Good communication with the mastering engineer is the best way to get the best possible job from the mastering engineer.

    Best of luck!
  4. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    North Vancouver
    I would ask your mastering engineer these questions directly. The only dumb question is the one un-asked. If they can't give you a staight answer, they may not be the mastering house for you.
  5. philipjent

    philipjent Guest

    Thanks for replying. But I'm new to mastering so when you say leave anywhere from 3-8db for head room I'm not sure how to do it. Can you please give details? I work in Logic 7 and when bouncing I lower the output 1-2 fader so it doesn't peak into red. But even when I stay in the yellow or below yellow at some points in the song it will peak into red, it doesn't peak much but it does peak just alittle. I could go alttle lower on the fader but will that make it to low for matering?
  6. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    North Vancouver
    Lower the fader so peaks at least 3-6db below 0dbfs- Give the mastering engineer some headroom to work in.
  7. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    You're probably in the "hotter is better" camp - Not entirely your fault - Seems to be the 'in thing' over the last decade ("as hot as you can without clipping" for pretty much everything when that's actually some of the worst advice you could follow).

    Leaving headroom is just that - Don't mix so hot. You'll never be "too low for mastering" -- If you're *PEAKING* above -30dBFS or so, you're not "too low" by any stretch.

    "Mixing hot" isn't normal - Nor is tracking "hot but without clipping" -- No matter what anyone might tell you, no matter what it might say in an owner's manual, no matter what so many *teachers* are shoving down their student's throats (even at some reasonably worthy institutions). Headroom is good room. More is almost universally better than less at every single conceivable stage in the process.

    Sure - There's no reason to peak at -30dBFS. Not an entire mix, anyway... I track plenty where it's rare for a peak to go above -30dBFS and that's fine. But I wouldn't actually "shoot for" mix levels that low. THAT SAID, I'd rather have a nice clean, clear mix that's far too quiet than even a little too loud...
  8. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Sorry I don't have much to add, but I never listen to your music and yours sounds really well done. Really good quality. On fully loaded, I get really sick of the gun cocking after the first few times though. I wouldn't listen to it on my own, but good work
  9. philipjent

    philipjent Guest

    Thanks for the adivce guys I was just really confused on where to go with headroom. Your absolutely right about me thinking that it needs to be barely touching red. So just to be clear the level needs to peak at 3-6db below 0db? And here I thought that was way to low.

    sarNz thanks for listening. And thanks so much for your feed back. I'm glad you liked the mix.Did you listen to the mp3 on myspace or the Aiff file on my website? Over the last year I'm finally starting to get the art of mixing. I'm confident mixing hip hop records but I have no clue about mastering. I can do a quick matering with eq, limiting & some compressing but have no clue about frequency range and all that stuff. I have Peak Pro 5 but really need to start digging in there with out getting stressed. Anyway thanks a lot. This all really helped.
  10. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    Almost dangerously high. Anything but way too low. 6dB in the grand scheme of 24-bit digital audio is spit in the ocean.

    The FAR more important part is during *tracking* -- When summing digitally, you're not really doing much damage being reasonably hot. When you're tracking too hot, that damage is easily overlooked, additive and permanent.

    (Dead Link Removed)

    When you're mixing, if you're getting "close to the red" it's not the end of the world. When you're tracking, you shouldn't even be in the same ballpark as "close" -- Personally? When I'm tracking if something peaks above -15dBFS, I tend to back off the input level.

    Granted - My tracking converters are calibrated to -20dBFS. So -15dBFS peaks are pushing it already. Still, I'd rather have WAY too much headroom than even gamble with not having enough. You should still have a decent amount of headroom even if a rouge transient pops its way in somehow.

    In any case - Get out of the "hot is good" thing (seems especially prominent in the HH/Rap crowd - No idea why. Just like "condenser mics are always used for vocals" -- That one still gives me a good laugh every time I hear someone with a Blue Bird and an Avalon complaining about how their vocals "don't sound like 'pro' vocals" - but I digress).

    Comparing tracking volumes or mixing volumes against "on the shelf" discs (that have generally been horrifically abused during the mastering process) is --- I can't think of a good analogy...

    Let's just sum it up as "really hot" is ANYTHING but "normal" as far as levels go. And you can bet that those recordings that ARE 'really hot' had absolutely obscene amounts of headroom at every possible stage in the process to get them to the point where they had the potential to BE "really hot."
  11. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    Cincinnati, OH
    Home Page:
    That's some great advice.

    I was always told that the -12dBFS to -6dBFS was the optimal range for tracking (I've heard -6 to -3, -15 to -10, and "around -8 to -6"). Interesting to hear you want it lower than that.
    I'm assuming the differences have to do with your use of a summing mixer and other quality analog mastering gear (i.e. your ability to do more).
    How does that relate to tracking re: the balance between a weak tracking signal (esp. regarding S/N) and a "too hot" signal?
    What about someone NOT working with say, AKG/Neumann and Neve/API?

    I know this is a mastering forum, but...
    There are a lot of myths perpetuated when it comes to recording/mixing/mastering, and I know I've been a partner in a few.
    Do a search on my name, and you'll probably find a post about the Bluebird not performing well on vocals. Maybe two.
    This forum has dispelled more myths for me than all others combined.
    Hoping to knock down a few more here.
  12. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    The levels have nothing to do with further analog processing - It's all about capturing the absolute best source signal. Most decent gear has a pretty wide range of "nice" - With most gear, that "nice band" is at or below line level.

    If your converters are calibrated to -18dBFS (-0dBVU) then there you go.

    Add gain - Add noise, add distortion, lose focus, lose clarity. Then during mixing, you take that noisier, more distorted, less focused track and turn it down so the mix doesn't clip and - I'm sure you see where I'm going here... One track, not a huge deal in many cases. A bunch of tracks together and all that crap adds up quickly.

    Set your input levels somewhere around where you'd want them to be during the mix and you'll be absolutely shocked how much better your mixes sound - how much easier everything accepts compression, how much more reactive everything is to minor EQ adjustments, (etc., etc., yada, yada and so on).

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