Please refer to the general topics below for a fairly straightforward overview of what we’ll want from you and some information on formats and technical requirements.
Please supply your files in their native resolution. Don’t upsample or downsample them. We prefer to work with 24-bit files, but we accept any combination of bit and sample rates, and virtually any file type, though Wave and AIFF are the most common.
There is no specific requirement as to how much headroom there should be in your files. It could be -12dBFS or it could be hitting 0dBFS. What is required, is that your songs haven’t clipped. This means no peaks exceeding 0dBFS in your DAW. When in doubt, give yourself at least a few dB above the highest peak in the song. Avoid sending songs that have been squashed using limiter plug-ins. In mastering, we can get it just as loud, and usually much louder while retaining more punch and transient clarity. Bypass any plug-ins that exist on the main output channel that you are using solely for loudness.
That’s not to say you should remove everything on the master channel, just the final limiter. If there are plug-ins on the master channel, such as compressors or EQ’s that you feel contribute to the songs character and feel, by all means leave those there. But it’s important that you don’t clip the master channel, not only to allow us room to work, but also to allow for as much clarity as possible in the finished product. And as a reference, if you mixed into a limiter, you can also send the version with the limiting or clipping so we have an idea of the loudness you were shooting for.
It’s helpful if you can point out anything specific about the songs you’d like addressed that you couldn’t accomplish in the mixing stage. Include these in the track-notes field located on the project form.
Please include fade-out times if you have a specific requirement, otherwise we will use our own discretion when truncating and adding fades to the beginnings and ends of files. If you’ve already done the fades and/or trimmed the files, let us know and we’ll preserve them.
If your project includes cross-fading between songs, send songs that have already been cross-faded and then cut into separate tracks. We can maintain their seamless transitions during mastering. Or, provide us with a mockup session where you’ve done the fades in your DAW and send us an Wave or MP3 of the entire thing.
Stem mastering can be a great way for us to correct problems or make changes without affecting other components of the mix. Essentially, we’re still just mastering it as we would a stereo file, but because everything is separated into groups, we have a greater degree of control over how we make changes. The main problem we run into is that this process can be mistaken for handling some or all aspects of mixing the song, which we don’t do. So you want to get everything exactly as you think it should sound before you print stems. If for some reason we end up delving into mixing aspects, please note that stem mastering is billed hourly, and can end up costing significantly more than our standard mastering rates.
*Pro-tip: If you’re using compressors on the master channel, you can preserve the compression in your stems by feeding the whole song to the side-chain of your master compressor.
When supplying stem mixes, make sure they are synchronized, beginning at the same timestamp. Each stem represents a submix of song components. For example:
Stem 1: Percussive elements.
Stem 2: Bass instruments.
Stem 3: Guitars, lead synths, etc.
Stem 4: Vocals, chorus.
Stem 5: Background layers, incidentals.
INTERNET & STREAMING FORMATS:
AudibleOddities is an Apple approved supplier of MFiT masters. If you’re selling your music on iTunes and would like to take advantage of Apple’s new “Mastered For iTunes (MFiT)” format, you’ll need to supply us with 24bit mixes. Ideally, the sample rates should also be higher than the standard 44.1kHz with 96kHz being preferred, but currently, only the 24bit specification is mandatory. We’ll retain this high resolution through the entire mastering path, and carefully prepare the masters according to the MFiT specifications. Masters created for this format can be up to 1-2dB lower in volume to account for inter-sample-peaks (ISP’s) and clipping which can become distortion during playback of the AAC format. Put simply, files prepared for MFiT will play distortion-free, providing the end-listener the highest fidelity in a lossy format.
We have a lot of experience mastering for vinyl and work with a trusted cutting engineer with decades of experience that can cut your lacquers and ship to a pressing plant of your choice. This puts quality control and a direct line of communication in our hands. But you’re welcome to use the pressing plants in-house cutting services as well. Sometimes price will be the determining factor.
Our vinyl specific masters have all the dynamics, color, and equalization processing of the digital & streaming formats, but we typically back off on the final limiting to allow more transient clarity and punch. This gives your record more life and dimensionality. We’ll get more aggressive on sibilance and excessive high-end as these can end up as distortion on the record. And be careful with excessively wide low-frequencies, as these will often cause cutting issues. We’ll analyze and check your mixes for that during the mastering process, and if we find it to be problematic, we may ask you to revisit the mix and make corrections there.
Once we have a set of masters that best represents the final sound we’re after, we’ll hand them over to our cutting engineer who will do their best to get a flat transfer (no additional processing). If for some reason they run into issues, they may make additional adjustments. The same applies if you’re using in-house lacquer cutting at your chosen pressing plant.
Always get a test-pressing so you can hear exactly how the record will sound before you’ve had a full order pressed. This can be an opportunity to revisit the mastering or cutting to correct issues that may not be apparent until we near the end of the process.
Our vinyl masters are supplied as a 24-bit single Wave file for each side of the record accompanied by a CUE sheet listing the start times for each track.
Cassette masters are supplied as 16-bit files, one for each side of the cassette. If your duplicator/replicator can accept 24-bit files, let us know and we’ll provide them.
CD masters are supplied in the DDP format. This is a folder of files delivered as a single compressed Zip file. Before sending to your replicator, you’ll use the included DDP player (PC & Mac) to see and hear the CD exactly as it’s going to be once manufactured. You can even use the player to burn reference discs (Note, these discs should not be sent in for replication) as well as export individual 16-bit Wave files. Check all the song titles, album title, artist name, ISRC’s, and UPC for accuracy. If everything is perfect, you can send the original zipped DDP folder to any CD manufacturer of your choice and they’ll be able to replicate perfectly from it.
ISRC, CD TEXT, AND METADATA:
ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is the international identification system for sound recordings and music video recordings. Each ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording, independent of the format on which it appears (CD, audio file, etc.) or the rights holders involved. ISRC’s are widely used in digital commerce by download sites and collecting societies and they provide the means to identify recordings for royalty payments. In mastering, we can embed your ISRC’s into the DDP master as well as your Wave files. You can get your codes by applying here: https://usisrc.org
CD Text is different than what you see when you load a CD into iTunes and the information automagically loads. CD Text is stored on the physical CD for the purpose of displaying album information in compatible CD players. But the information that shows up in iTunes is pulled from online databases, like CDDB or Gracenote. We handle CD Text here in mastering but this online information can be submitted by anyone using iTunes or any equivalent program supporting submissions to online databases. We recommend you take a CD that you get back from replication, insert it into the CD drive in your computer, and then with iTunes, tag the album exactly the way you want it to appear for others. Choose “Submit CD Track Names” from the advanced menu and this ensures you are the first to submit the info to the online database so the information will appear for everyone just the way you intended it.