What is mastering?

Mastering is the last step in the recording process befor ethe product reaches the pressing plant. The goal in mastering is to provide the finishing touch to the recording, much the same as a furniture finisher sand, stains and seals a finshed piece of furniture.

During mastering, the individual songs are balanced out in terms of overall tone, compression and level. Mastering is especially important if the songs have been recorded at different studios or mixed by different engineer, wherby they may have different tonal balances and levels.

Mastering is also the opportunity to have an independent experienced "ear" evaluate your product and make it competitive in the genre of music for which it is being marketed.

Other aspects of the mastering process involve song sequencing (the order) and spacing (time between tracks). This is also the best time to be placing song fade outs or crossfades (smooth transition from one song into another). In addition, song indexes and track numbers are added, as are song titles and other digital information. Last but not least, most unwanted noises can be removed such as rumble, air conditioning, page turns, floor squeeks, and music stand taps.

It has been said that without mastering, the project is only 90% finished. Mastering can make the difference between just a good product, and a professional product.

What formats do you accept for mastering?

Open reel 1/4" tape 1/4 track, 1/2 track
CD audio
CD SDII, WAV, AIFF  @ 44.1k, 48k, 88.2k, 96k

What is tape baking?

Certain tape brands and types froom the seventies and eighties were prone to absorbing too much moisture over a period of time rendering them unplayable. This is charactierized by the tape oxide "shedding" (literally falling off the tape or collecting on the guides) and squeeling during playback. Sometimes the tape is so bad it will not even physically move past the heads and pinch roller.

In order to restore the tape for immediate transfer, the tape can be "baked" or dehydrated. This process usually takes one full day and wll provide a two or three day window in which to transfer the tape to another medium. After that, the tape gradually reverts back to an unplayable state.

What is your recording philosophy?

I follow a combination of the "minimalist" school of microphone usage and the modern "close mic'ing" technique. The project requirements and the conductor/producer determine the balance bwtween the two techniques. Typically, I try to be faithful in capturing the sound of the ensemble from the perspective of medium to close distance, with close attention to ensemble section balance and and ambience. A spot microphone will be placed on instruments or sections that may require highlighting in post-production. This acts as an insurance policy for ensemble coverage in a condensed recording session. For a medium sized ensemble, you may find as many as ten microphones placed, but we rely mainly on the main front microphones.  I started my career recording stricly to stereo but found that multi-track recording is necessary to insure the greatest flexibility in post production where changes in balance are often requested.

What is your mastering philosophy?

Again, I use the minimalist philosophy of using as little manipulation as possible to get the job done. Everything is done in a subtle yet effective way. The goal is maintain the original mix, energy, and presentation of the tracks, yet make it sound better if it is needed, with consideration for the music genre and the goals of the artist. If large mastering adjustments are required to get it to sound better, I will discuss possible re-mix adjustments with the mix engineer. The primary mastering function is to prepare the final mix for commercial duplication/replication which encompasses track levelling, sequencing, spacing, fading, indexing, and noise removal, compression, and equalization, if needed.

How do I prepare for mastering?

• Make a complete log or que sheet showing all takes with index or track number, title, running time, and ant comments that will define what you want.
• Make a backup copy of your mixes. Don't send us the only copies you have. You never know what can happen in transit.
• Don't fade your mixes in or out. Leave all the tail you can. Mastering software has precision tools that can perform artistic fades and overlaps.
• Leave stereo buss compression and EQ to the mastering process. Don't equalize, comprerss, normalize, or use plug-ins on the final mix. Each one of these processes can degrade the sound and make it much harder to master properly.
•Leave headroom in your mix! Set your levels so that your peaks hit between -3 and -6 dbFS on your software meter. If you are mixing to tape, be careful not to over-saturate.

Do you use analog or digital processing during mastering?

In general, I prefer analog equalisation and compression over digital plug-ins, especially when it involves tubes. Both the Millennia EQ and the Manley Vari-mu use tubes, and the Millennia offeres J-fet as well. To further render the retro tapoe sound, I can process the signal through the MCI tape machine with extremely quiet Dolby SR noise reduction, if requested. If the client request digital processing only, I can bypass the analog chain and stay in the digital realm.

How long does mastering take?

A typical mastering session runs four to six hours or roughly fifteen to thirty minutes per track.

Can you recommend a disc replicator/duplicator?

We have a good working realtionship with Discmakers and I highly recommend them. They are accurate, prompt, and are very competitively priced. If you prefer another vendor, there are other companies our clients have used with success.

Can you transfer a tape or record to CD?

Yes, we can do both. The finished CD will be de-clicked, track spaced,  indexed, and labelled.


What do you need to know before recording my concert or recital?

In order to properly prepare and plan for the location recording, we need to know the names of the group/performers; conductors name; name and phone number of the contact person, the name of the venue, concert start time; load-in time; rehearsal time; the type of performance; the instrumentation; the stage plot; the entrance for equipment load-in; a possible location for our temporary control room and equipment.

Why is your attendence of the rehearsal necessary in recording my concert or recital?

For simple recitals, we can generally fore go rehearsal attendance if we are given a sound check sometime before the performance.

Even though rehearsal attendance raises the cost of the recording, it is virtually indispensable in establishing correct mic selection and placement for the venue, as well establishing recording levels and understanding the dynamics of the performance. This is particularly true in orchestra and large ensemble performances.

Can I get more than one copy of my recital?

Yes. Just let us know how many copies you will need. If you need more than ten, we will send it out for duplication which can add several weeks to the delivery time.

How long will it take to get a final copy of my performance recording?

For recitals, we can usually have your recording finished within a week.

For orchestral/ensemble recordings, it is a much more involved process that can take a little as two weeks for a mixed, mastered and un-edited recording; or as much as several months for
commercially released recordings that involve mixing and editing with a producer and/or composer. This is due to the amount of time delay when submitting trial mixes and edits for approval by all involved in the decision process.

For general orchestral/ensemble performances that do not require extensive mixing, editing and mastering, the turnaround time is less than thirty days.