The science of audio mastering involves the forensic, detailed analysis of frequencies, gain adjustments, and aesthetic balancing of dynamics, to include any necessary limiting. Additionally, the mastering engineer may sequence and space tracks, employ fades and crossfades, apply noise reduction as necessary, and insert appropriate metadata specific to the release. Traditionally referred to as a “pre-master”, the final mastered work is may be delivered on hard media, electronically, or both.
.AIFF and .WAV are the preferred lossless file types for your submission of stereo mixdowns to Laminal Audio. The mastering engineer may upon request augment or enhance the mixing process through stem mastering. For stem mastering, up to 8 tracks for a given song or piece are submitted, with the client careful to ensure that the audio regions of each stem begin and end at the same time, and are in the same conversion format. The additional control afforded in stems to the mastering engineer can be an alternative in yielding the highest quality in the final product. Laminal Audio regularly uses a number of file sharing utilities and sites freely available to the public, including WeTransfer, Google Drive, and Dropbox. Hard media or thumb drives can be mailed, including 1/4” or 1/2” tape.
A source of controversy between studios, musicians, and the discerning listener. A valuable tool for the coloring of specific tracks, instruments, or vocals which — if overused in mixing (and especially in the mix master channel) — can limit the level of sheen, dynamics, and quality to the final master. Additionally, artifacts from excess compression in mixing are often brilliantly revealed in the mastering studio during analysis. For the best balance to the mastered product, it is requested that any level and type of compression used in mixing is noted during submission. Please ask for more info on this topic.
The final masters will most often be delivered via electronic file transfer. Formats include individual lossless audio files, as well as DDP files. Hardcopy of your work can be mailed to you upon request on DVD-R or CD-R.
To allow the mastering engineer the most liberty and latitude with audio, a natural stereo mix with acceptable dynamic range is desired from the mixing engineer. Overuse of compressors and other processing in the mixing stage can often limit choices and options in the mastering studio. It is preferred that the loudest part of the mix is delivered to the mastering studio with 3 to 6 dB of peak headroom, and without any limiting to allow for a workable soundspace. Prior to submission, assess mixes for clipping and distortion; such artifacts become hugely apparent in mastering. While clipping is most often manageable and can be addressed in the mastering stage, it can add unnecessary time to the process.
Slight noise reduction is sometimes required for the cleanest master possible. Additional silence at the beginning and end of your submitted tracks can allow for latitude in the choices of fades, and more importantly gives the mastering engineer a feel for noise floor levels in your mix. It is desired but not required that 5 to 10 seconds of silence (with room tone noise floor intact) accompany the beginning and end of each submitted mix.
Complete information about your project is requested in an email or along with the submission of your media. Such information may include:
Your name and contact info / label name and contact info
Pressing plant to be used
Notes to the mastering studio
Format we are mastering for (CD, LP, digital downloads, etc)
Sample rates and file types provided
Album or project title
Catalog number (ISRC numbers are assigned at Laminal)
Any known issues with the mix you would like treated during mastering