mastering / FAQ
- What is mastering?
- Mastering is the final creative step in the recording process. It's about refining the sound to allow the project to realize its full potential, and optimizing the finished product for all possible environments. Peerless' skilled mastering engineers can make all the necessary adjustments to achieve the best possible sound for every project in the widest variety of listening environments.
- What should you expect from mastering?
- By the time a project gets to the mastering stage, it has already been recorded and mixed. Consequently, any adjustment to one element of the sound will affect other elements as well. For example, an adjustment to the lead vocals may also affect a horn section or guitar. Peerless' mastering engineers spend years perfecting the art of the subtle compromises required to make these adjustments without impairing the overall sound. The end result is greatly improved sound quality and a cohesive finished product, in which each song or section of a song works with the whole to create an optimal listening experience.
- What are your rates?
- Please contact us for information about our rates. We will do our best to work within your budget and provide the highest quality mastering and service available. Click here to contact us.
- Why should I choose Peerless to master my project?
- At Peerless Mastering, we listen to our clients as closely as we listen to their work. Too many studios try to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to the mastering process, instead of adapting to the individual needs of each artist. Our engineers are flexible enough to understand what each client seeks--from a highly polished commercial product to a low-fi indie sound--and skilled enough to make that vision a reality. That's because our engineers have dedicated years to studying the art and science of mastering. We approach each project with the same care and individual attention.
- What is quality control?
- Every project we work on goes through a quality control phase after it is complete. In the quality control phase another engineer listens to the project from start to finish, judging it by our strict quality standards. If he/she finds that something isn't working, the album is sent back to the mastering engineer to make a revision. Quality control also includes artifact removal, which means restoration tools are used to remove unwanted noises including digital pops and clicks, distortion, mouth noise, click track, anything that detracts from the intended aesthetic of the song. It's basically another close listening to be certain that everything sounds the best it possibly can. We provide this service to add another check and balance and make sure we provide our clients with the highest quality mastering.
- How will making my music loud effect its quality?
- For the past 10-15 years albums have seemed to get louder. This trend is sometimes referred to as "The Loudness War." Some people seem to feel that the louder their record sounds, the better it is. This is a trend that we hope to help reverse. It's surprising how little understanding there is of the compromises that have to be made in order to make a recording louder. Unfortunately, there is no “11” on the knob. Nonetheless, people often ask us to turn it up without compressing it any more. The loudest any digital signal can be is digital zero. So there are basically two ways to make something that peaks near digital zero louder, one is to compress it heavily, then add makeup gain to get it as close to zero as possible and the other is to clip the peaks transients off of the wave form. Both are destructive to the natural dynamics of the music. A good site for further information on this issue is http://www.turnmeup.org.
That said, if having a loud album is important to you, we will do our best to get the album to the level you desire with the least amount of negative consequences. We have a lot of experience mastering both loud and dynamic albums and we will work with you to get the sound that you desire. We will do our best to educate you about the pros and cons of making your album loud, but we will not stand in the way of your creative vision.
- Will you do a free mastering sample for us?
- Unfortunately, the first song we master in a session usually takes an hour or two of work. There's no quick way to give you a good-sounding sample demo that will represent the work we can do for you as a paying client. Our schedule is very full so it's not viable for us to commit that kind of time to offering free demos, particularly given the volume of inquiries Peerless receives. If you are in the Boston area, we'd be happy to give you a tour of the facility and play you some before-and-after examples.
However, we will do whatever we can to make sure you are comfortable with our work. We want you to be happy with the end result, so we encourage you to get back to us if there's anything you feel could be done better to achieve your sonic goals. We offer free sonic revisions on the mixes we master. Though we don't get a lot of requests for revisions, we are committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure our clients are completely satisfied with the finished product.
- Will you give us feedback on our mixes before our mastering session?
- Before you even submit your final mixes for mastering, we will listen to your mixes and provide you with our opinions and feedback, hopefully helping you get a better mix before mastering. We provide this service free of charge.
- What do I need to do to prepare for a mastering session?
- For the mastering session, we will need:
• Your song order
• Any notes you have about what you'd like to achieve
• Any song spacing notes
We'll also need to know which mix take you like best, and it's important that your files be well labeled.
- What digital file formats do you prefer?
- For digital source files we prefer stereo interleaved wave files, where the left and the right are in a single file. We can work with pretty much every digital format, including stereo and split wave, aif, sd2, sonic solutions files, .au, .caf, .mat, and .paf. When sending us files, it's helpful to label them with both the song name and file format extension that you are using.
- How should we label the digital files?
- It's always a good idea to label your files in the most descriptive way possible, so that we can be sure that we are working on the correct file. We suggest that you label your files in this format:
For example, a stereo mix of the song "Sample Song" by the band Random Band, which will be song 5 and has a sample rate of 88.2K would be well-labeled as: RandomBand_pm_05_SampleSong_Mix3_882.wav
For a split mono version of the some song, it would be best to label it: RandomBand_pm_05_PeaceOut_Mix3_882.L.wav and RandomBand_05_PeaceOut_Mix3.R.wav
- How do I prepare an analog tape for mastering?
- It is very important to label an analog tape correctly, providing us with all the calibration information including:
- the equalization curve (AES, IEC, or NAB)
- Reference Fluxivity (nWb/m)
- Tails in or tails out
- Tape speed (30, 15, or 7.5 ips)
- Tones at beginning or end
- Track order with times
If possible, put a fair amount of leader tape at the beginning of the reel and between each song on the reel. This will aid us in locating tracks and will help you avoid bleed through between your songs. For tones, it is always best to provide us with 30 seconds of these frequencies, 1K, 10K, and 100Hz at zero VU in repro. Including 16k and a low end sweep is also helpful. We've found that many tape decks in use today are not in very good working order. Many of these decks will degrade the audio quality of a mix in a number of ways. We recommend that you always keep a digital version of your mixes to reference and compare to the mixes you record on tape. Please also provide us with digital mixes as a reference.
- Should we print our digital mixes to tape before mastering?
- If you are mixing all digitally in the box, we recommend that you don't print your mixes to tape before the mastering session. With each digital to analog and analog to digital conversion a mix will lose quality. If you like the sound of hitting tape, we can do that for you in the mastering session as part of our analog processing.
- Do you want multiple mix versions of the song?
- If you are unsure of the levels of an instrument in your mix, it is often a good idea to print multiple versions. For example, clients often provide us with a vocal up mix in addition to the vocal normal mix. Please let us know which mixes you like best and why. If you are undecided, we will offer you advice.
- Should we have instrumental mixes mastered also?
- We recommend that you print instrumental mixes of all of your songs with vocals. A lot of our clients have had songs placed in movies, advertisements, and in NPR pieces. This is a great alternative revenue stream for recording musicians. We will be happy to master the instrumentals for a small fee if you have them at the session.
- Do you accept examples of other artists to reference?
- Absolutely. If there is another album that sounds similar to how you'd like your album to sound after it is mastered, we would definitely like to hear it. This will help us understand your creative direction and sonic preferences.
If you are providing an example, please provide us with the original CDs or with wave file ripped from the original CD. MP3s or CDs made from MP3s will not be helpful, as they do not have very good sound quality.
- What kind of notes are helpful?
- Any notes that you feel will help us in understanding your creative direction will be very helpful. Please let us know about anything that you're hoping to accomplish in mastering. We are not expecting your notes to be technical. Please describe what you'd like in whatever words work for you. If we have questions we will contact you.
- Should we attend the mastering session?
- If you are able to attend the mastering session, we highly recommend that you do. Your feedback will be invaluable in assisting our mastering engineers during the session. We do not penalize artists or stakeholders for attending sessions.
However, we realize that attendance is not possible for all clients. We will do our best to make the experience as personal as possible for those who are unable to attend. Since we work with artists from all over the world, many of our sessions are unattended.
- Would we get in the way if we attended the session?
- Not at all. We would enjoy your feedback. We also have a great lounge if get bored. If you attend the session you will be able to approve the mastering song by song as it is completed, which can be very helpful to the mastering engineer.
- How will I be able to access my music after the mastering is completed?
- We will send you an email with all the information on how you can download and audition your mastering. We will post CD quality wave files so you can listen to the mastering at the same resolution as the CD format and give us feedback.
- When will my songs be ready?
- The mastering will be completed in 1-3 business days after the session. After the mastering session, your songs will go through a complete review by another mastering engineer, who will verify that they meet our quality standards. If any mastering changes are needed, they will be done by the mastering engineer you worked with.
- Will you be sending me CDs?
- When you approve the mastering, we will prepare your PMCD and reference and you can either pick them up or we will mail them to you.
- Will you send our PMCD directly to replication?
- We will, but we don't advise it. We recommend that you listen to the physical copy first so that there are no surprises when you receive your final CD.
- Should we listen to our PMCD?
- We recommend that you do in order to re-verify that everything is perfect before you send it off to replication. Be sure not to get any dust or fingerprints on the PMCD. We recommend only listening to it in a clean tray loading CD player or computer, as the slot loading systems tend to mark up the discs.
- How is a PMCD different from the Reference CD?
- A PMCD is a verified CD. Before a PMCD is ready, it must be checked for low level C1 and C2 errors and if it passes, it goes through a listening test. This insures that a PMCD will be error free for replication.
- How do I approve my project?
- If you are satisfied with the mastering, just send us an email or call us to let us know that you are signing off on the project.
- What happens after i approve my project?
- We will prepare your master parts and let you know when they are ready to pick up or mail.
- How do I request changes?
- Please send us an email or call us if you'd like any revisions to the mastering. We want you to be one-hundred percent satisfied and encourage you to contact us if you have any questions.
- What if I am not happy with how my project sounds?
- We will take care of it. This doesn't happen very often, but if you are not happy, we will do whatever we can to address the problem for you. Please contact us and we will discuss the next steps with you. We are committed to ensuring your satisfaction.
- What is an ISRC Code and how do I get one?
- ISRC, the International Standard Recording Code, is the internationally recognized identification tool for sound and music video recordings. In the United States, you can register and obtain the code here: http://www.usisrc.org. If you already have a code, we will embed it on your CD. We recommend having your own ISRC code.
- How do I get my CD titles to show up in iTunes?
- In order to get the CD titles to come up correctly in iTunes and on any other computer based platform, all you need to do is:
1) Insert a copy of your CD into a computer
2) In iTunes, enter the CD Artist, Track Names, Artwork, Album Title, just as you'd like them to be stored in the CDDB/Gracenote database
3) In iTunes versions 6 - 10, under the advanced menu, chose "Submit CD Names"
In iTunes 11, under the options tab on the right side of the screen, choose "Submit CD Names"
4) The CD titles will be uploaded to the database and available to everyone within a few days.