Frequently Asked Questions:

In this section we will try to answer any general questions you might have regarding our policies and the art of music mastering. Click on any of the questions to the left or right and the corresponding answers will be displayed here.

We cover a lot of issues here, but please fell free to contact us if you would like more details or have a specific question. We will be happy to walk you through the preparation for your session!

We now charge $100 per hour for mastering, but we have eliminated all archival fees. There is a charge of $5 for each CD - most people get two if they get any at all. We can usually master 2-4 songs per hour. Please contact us for a more accurate quote!

Sorry, we do not offer album packages. Let us know if you are on a tight budget and we can move more quickly during the session in order to reduce your costs.

Payment is due each day at the end of the session. There are only three exceptions:

  1. If NO mastered versions leave our facility. We will be happy to archive and store your masters until you can make payment.
  2. If you are from out of town. For long distance work we require a deposit of 50% of our original job estimate. Upon completion of your album, you will be mailed your final masters with a bill for the remainder of the balance due.
  3. You are a recognized record label. You will typically be billed under a standard 30-day net.

We accept cash, checks, Paypal, Venmo, Chase Quickpay, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. There is a $25 returned check fee.

It's usually pretty easy to predict how long your session will last. In general, it takes about a half-hour or less per song to master an album. For example, a two song session will usually take around an hour, while a twelve song album would probably be around 5 hours or maybe less. This does not include interludes and skits! These must usually be mastered separately. Interludes will increase your time although usually not near as much as a standard song would.

Note that these estimates are for a typical session of good quality organized material. It is important to make sure you have all your material ready to go before the session. Time spent searching around a tape for the right mix adds up!

We can also move faster or slower according to your budget and time constraints. For instance, some of our clients prefer to spend more time getting every little detail exactly right, while for others it is more important to get the project done quickly and under budget. Spending a little less time per song is one of the main ways to lower the bill. The quality will usually not be quite as good as a slower paced session, but it's a good way to get an album done under budget. Remember, it will still sound better than what you could do at home!

Sound effects are no problem, but remember it takes time to put them in and will add time to the session.

Of course! We actually prefer that you attend, although you don't need to. If you can only be present for part of the session, the most important part is at the end. This is when the final commitments to sound, order, and spacing are made.

Our preferred way to work is to have you drop off or send in your material ahead of time and schedule a few hours to finish up within a week. We do the load-in and get a chance to have a look at the material before your session, so that when you arrive everything is all ready for you to listen.

If a weekend or night session is required, at least 75% of your materials must be dropped off at least three days prior to your session.

Usually only around two weeks ahead. Contacting us three weeks ahead will guarantee you a spot, but we can usually fit you in as long as you contact us at least one week ahead.

Call ahead and we can make arrangements. PLEASE make clones of your masters before you send them! The post office does lose things, and we will not be responsible for your masters until they arrive at our facility.

ANYTHING! We have a wide array of clients in all genres of music. If you think your sound is unlike anything we've ever heard, bring a couple of discs to the session that have the sound you want.

Mastering is the process of taking a group of mixes, polishing them up, and compiling them on a master CD that your pressing plant will make exact duplicate copies of. We usually adjust the level and frequency balance of each song individually and in comparison to the rest of the album. We can also perform noise, click, and hum removal.

Mastering is like auto paint and detailing. You can design the most beautiful car in the world, but if it doesn’t have a good paint job, no one will buy it. In mastering, we take your raw mixes and prepare them for the showroom floor! Your songs will sound bigger, louder, and more consistent while retaining the clarity and warmth of your original recordings.

Your tracks should be mixed down to stereo (or mono if you like!) to any one of a number of formats.

Analog:

1/2” tape, 1/4” tape, or audio cassette with or without Dolby A,B,C, or SR noise reduction

Digital:

WAV files, AIFF files, audio CD, data CD, data DVD, hard disk drive, USB thumb drive, and Alesis Masterlink CD24 discs/p>

Even if you have a format that is not listed here we can usually accommodate you. Just call!

Analog:

1/2” 30 or 15 ips with at least three tones: 1K, 10K, and 100Hz

Digital:

24 or 32 bit stereo WAV or AIFF files

If you have a variety of different formats, don’t worry about it. It happens all the time and usually doesn’t increase the time your session will take. Please do NOT copy everything to one format as you will usually lose quality when doing so. The best way to save time when you have lots of different formats is to be organized! Knowing where every correct take is will make your session run more smoothly and will save you a lot of studio time.

No. It really won’t save you any time, and your audio will usually suffer. Just carefully check every tape or disc to make sure you know exactly which mixes you want to use BEFORE you come in for your session. Take careful notes so that we will be able to find everything quickly.

We want to get mixes that are as close to first generation as possible. Every time you make a copy, your quality gets a little worse and the chance of things getting screwed up increases.

Probably not. If there’s one section on this page that you should read....this is it!

The main thing to remember is that EVERY time you send audio through any processing, digital or analog, the quality of that audio gets a little worse. You may not be able to hear the adverse effects that processing can have on your audio until you are at the mastering session.

If you send your audio through “mastering” processors on your master fader, you are essentially mastering your own record. Why master your own record if you are already paying us to do it? It’s like cleaning up before the maid comes!

There are three situations when you may want to break this rule.

  1. You are mastering your own record. If you can’t afford to have your album professionally mastered...then go for it!
  2. You are making reference copies for the band.

    It happens to every mix engineer. You make the perfect mix, but when the band plays it at home or in the car, it sounds quiet and dull. The solution is to print two versions: run off the band’s copies through some form of mastering processing and also print the final mixes for the mastering session with no mastering effects.

    Just make sure you don’t go overboard on the listening refs. Just bring up the level a few (3 to 6) dB and put on just a little “sparkle” if you like. This way, everyone can hear the album at home more like it will sound when finished, and the mastering engineer will get the most pristine copies possible.

  3. The processing is vitally important to the sound of the mix. It should be fine if you have been running the mix through an SSL or some other high quality mix compressor. Just don’t overdo it! You should only see two to three dB of gain reduction on the meters.

Remember that we are not talking about compression on your individual tracks, but compressors or limiters across the entire stereo mix.

No. This will not save you any time. (In fact it could make your session take longer!) We treat every song separately, so we will be pulling them apart anyway.

You are in effect doing a “mini-mastering” job. Why do it when you are bringing the album to us anyway? Every time you process any audio, even including volume changes, you are damaging your audio slightly.

No! It doesn’t do you any good!

In the course of your session, we will be balancing all songs against each other both in terms of volume and frequency response. Normalizing will not help us in any way, and will not save a single second of studio time.

It isn’t the end of the world if you normalize, but remember this: every time you process any audio (analog or digital!) you lose quality. The mixes that are normalized before mastering will sound worse than the mixes that are not.

A computer’s normalizing function does not make your songs sound more even. That can only be done by the human ear.

This is something that is usually done in the mastering session. Don’t worry about doing it in the mix. We have dedicated processing that will bring your music up to major label levels while preserving the quality of your audio.

A dedicated mastering facility offers several advantages:

  1. We bring a fresh ear to your project. We haven’t heard your songs a thousand times, so it is easier for us to make objective judgments about the sound of your album.
  2. We only master records. Mastering is a very intense process that requires years of training and experience. We have specialized techniques that can enhance the power and punch of your music without sacrificing warmth and clarity.
  3. Mastering requires an audiophile quality reproduction system and room. The speakers and power amp in our mastering suite represent about 1/3 the cost of our entire gear list, and our room has been treated by a professional acoustical engineer. You need to be confident that the changes you are making won’t have any adverse effects that will be revealed on other systems.
  4. We have specialized mastering equipment. Almost all of our gear is built exclusively for mastering or has been heavily customized for it. No audio is run through a patch bay in our studio, which although necessary in a complicated tracking/mixing studio, can add noise and reduce the clarity of your music.

Not really. Remember, this is a mastering studio, not a recording and mixing studio. Your audio should be mixed down to stereo. We cannot mix multitrack sessions here - you need a recording/mixing studio for that!

Some clients like to supply a session with the audio files in order. A better idea is to give us your 24 bit audio DATA files on it, and make a single long MP3 in the correct order with your desired spacings; we will listen to the MP3 as a reference and match your data files to that.

Yes. We offer full tape restoration services. Just call!