Mastering FAQs

Below are a few questions I find I get asked most but if you have one that’s not in these FAQs then please email me here: info@musiklab.co.uk

Do you have some mastered examples to listen to?

No. Where there can be a use for listening to A/B examples (only if they are balance matched so not instantly louder and more impressive) I prefer to offer a no obligation sample of your own music so you can personally judge the impact my mastering will have on your project.

Shall I use a limiter or just clip it?

No Headroom In The Mix Is Bad!
Don’t use a limiter on the stereo buss or allow it to clip.

Which leads to the next question…

Do you want headroom?

Every mastering engineer loves to see a mix with headroom!
Absolutely!! This will give me space to make adjustments to the mix without it clipping (or me having to turn the track down first). Leave some headroom when you bounce down your mix, around 6dB for 24bit is good place to start. The most important thing is that the signal doesn’t clip.

If your stereo/master out is clipping in the 0 fader position then, preferably, select all your track faders and lower them until you have around -3dB to -6dB peak. If your tracks go to busses first, and they’re not clipping, then simply pull all those down. Lastly, there is always the option to pull the master fader down.

What bit depth and sample rate shall I use?

Work at a consistent bit depth and sample rate to maintain quality; i.e. if you are recording and mixing at 24 bit 48kHz then take this right through to the mixes for mastering.

Can I use a compressor on the stereo buss?

Use stereo buss compression to benefit the mix, not just to make it louder. If in doubt supply compressed and uncompressed versions.

How can I test my mixes?

Listen to them on as many audio systems as you can before sending them to me. Do your tracks sound as you intended?

Should I compare my tracks to commercial releases?

Compare your mixes with commercial releases as a guide but keep in mind that yours probably won’t be as loud!

Can you remove noises and clicks from my tracks?

Yes I can. These are best found and removed at the mix stage but if this isn’t possible then I should be able to fix it. If there are only a few problems in a track I will usually fix them for no extra charge.

Should I do fade ins and outs?

Avoid fade ins, or outs, on your tracks – a better job can be done at the final stage.

Shall I leave some space?

Leave a second or two at the start and end of your tracks – this protects the first beat transient, and the end note/reverb tails, from being chopped off. It can also help if I need to make a noise profile to clean parts of a track.

Can you de-ess the vocal?

Yes, but it is advisable to de-ess vocals (when needed) during mixing as it is more difficult to focus on one particular part when mastering without affecting other parts.

What about alternative versions?

Mix one or two vocal up and down alternative mixes of your songs – changing the vocal part by +/- 1dB can make quite a difference – just in case it is needed. Takes only a few minutes during the mixing process and can be well worth it.

Who Needs Dynamics?

Mastering is not about making the music ‘loud’, though it is possible! The hyper-compressed loudness war that rages on can only be bad for music as it adds irreversible distortion to the music which becomes fatiguing for the listener.

It is a myth that, to be radio ready, you must have your music really loud (squashing to death all the dynamics you had during recording and mixing) as the radio stations multiband compressors/limiters are going to do that for you – consider, for example, how a superb dynamic track from several decades ago will sound just as loud on the radio as a modern track and probably sound better!

Also, now with online playback these services are generally turning the loud tracks down so all are played at a reasonable and average loudness. Keep the dynamics, your listeners will thank you!

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