Mastering FAQ

What Is Mastering? +

Mastering is the final stage before a record is released to the public. Prior to mastering, a record goes through the tracking and mixing stages. Once mixed, the stereo mix is sent to a mastering engineer to apply the finishing touches to truly make the record "shine." We implement specific techniques learned and developed though many years of experience to achieve a desired result. For example, we can make a recording deeper, wider, taller, brighter, darker, warmer, louder, etc. It is our job to interpret the artists' final vision and create an appropriate master that is optimized for all listening environments.

What Should I Expect From Mastering? +

Once a recording reaches the mastering stage, it has already been mixed to stereo format. Consequently, we do not have independent control over specific instrumentation. If we make an adjustment to one element of the sound, something else will be affected. For example if the vocals need to be louder, any adjustment to that frequency range will affect any other instrument that also occupies that frequency range. At New Alliance East, we have spent many years learning and developing the skills and tools needed to appropriately and artfully make these adjustments without compromising the overall sound. The end result is an improved sound that is rich, vibrant, and organized! We will work through three stages of mastering with you.

  1. In the first stage we will work with you to create a mastered version of your recording. Once created we will send these masters to you for approval.
  2. In the second stage, we will work with you on any revisions that you feel would better suit your vision for your music.
  3. In the third stage, we will work with you to make sure that the track order, spacings, and fades between songs are all exactly the way you want.

Once you have approved every stage, only then will we consider your masters complete and ready for delivery.

How Does Loudness Affect the Quality of My Recording? +

The perceived 'loudness' of the final product is one of the most important considerations we think about on a daily basis in the mastering studio. Along with matching the volume and impact of each song within a record, we regularly reference other mastered music to make sure that our decisions will pinpoint the perfect final sound for each specific project. The key is to achieve a healthy balance where the record is competitively loud but doesn't suffer from loss of musical dynamics due to over-compression. One of the most common feedback notes we get from clients is: "We love the energy and dynamics but can you make it louder without changing or compressing it any more?". The answer to that is yes and no. Because CD's can't be any louder than digital zero, we are left with two options. One way is to compress it more and turn it back up to digital zero which can take away from musical dynamics and energy. The other way is to clip the audio or cut off the transient tops of the waveform so the audio can be louder which adds raw distortion to the sound. Over the last several years recorded music has continually been pushed louder and louder because in the short term, i.e. the first 30 seconds of the first song, louder appears more pleasing. But mastering too loud can also cause the listeners' ears to fatigue and lead them to stop listening quickly, often before the first song is even complete. We strive to get the right balance of loud and dynamic for each project and are always willing to try to meet the creative vision of our clients! If you decide that you want your recording louder, we'll make it happen!

Preparing to Master with NAE

How to Prepare Files for Mastering +

If possible, please keep the mix files at the same bit depth (16, 24, or 32bit) and sample rate (44.1, 48, 88.2, or 96kHz) as the mix session.

It will also be helpful to have the following information at the start of the mastering session:

  • A list of all songs in correct order
  • All final song titles
  • Album Title and Band Name
  • Any sequence notes regarding spacing between songs
  • Mailing Address and Name
  • A song by another band that you think is an appropriate reference for the sound you're looking to achieve—mp3's are okay for this

Can I Provide You with References for Mastering? +

We encourage you to send us references along with your mixes. This will help ensure that we stay on the same page during the process. A reference song should be appropriately chosen as an example of the sound you'd like to achieve. This can be an mp3 if necessary.

Can I Attend the Mastering Session? +

We generally do not book attended sessions. Over the years we have found that we create better masters during unattended sessions and artists are generally happier with our work under these conditions. We make sure that every artist still has the opportunity to listen to the masters and ask for revisions before anything is finalized. There are no additional costs for revisions. We also welcome everyone to attend the sequencing portion of the process where track order, spacings, and fades between songs are all determined. In certain instances we will book an attended session, however there is a significant increase in cost.

Session FAQ

Can I Attend the Sequence Session? +

Yes! We welcome everyone to attend the sequencing portion of the process. This is where track order, spacings, and fades between songs are all determined. Once you approve the sound of your masters we will book time for you to come in and sequence with us. There is virtually no wait time for a sequence session. Sequence sessions can be booked Monday–Friday (8am–7pm).

Can I Ask For Revisions On My Masters? +

We are happy to provide you with revisions to your masters at no additional cost! It is of utmost importance to us that you are completely satisfied with your masters, and we will work with you for as long as needed to make sure that happens.

Will You Mail Me Final CD Masters? +

Yes! We can provide you with several formats for your masters. We can mail you final hard copy CD masters complete with PQ sheet for replication / duplication, or we can provide you with uploaded WAV files and PQ Sheet. We can also create DDP file sets! DDP's are most reliable method for delivering masters to a pressing plant for CD replication. It's also the fastest and easiest way since they can be uploaded!