Mastering  


Fact:

Many recording studios do NOT specialize in mastering, in effect they do NOT posses the proper
mastering environment, mastering gear, or monitoring signal path, do NOT be fooled by studios that
offer attractively low prices for mastering, most of these studios are inexperienced and do NOT have
skilled certified mastering engineers.  
"Mastering is a complex process that can make or break your songs."


What is Mastering?

Mastering is widely misunderstood and sometimes mistaken for mixing.
So, what is mastering? It's the "radio quality" audio step that comes just before manufacturing a CD.
Some people would even say it's a crucial step.
Once you have finished recording and mixing your songs, the tracks are shaped, sculpted, scooped,
equalized, compressed, and finessed into sonic splendor through the audio process known as
mastering.
Mastering is what gives depth, punch, clarity and volume to your tracks.  


Every major label release is mastered
to prepare it for radio play and retail sale. The reason? A
CD mastering engineer can unify your album with skillful use of EQ, gain, and compression to give it a
consistent sound from track to track. This process also allows the engineer to pump up the volume of
your overall album so it’s as hot as can be and sounds unbelievable.


Mastering is the crucial, critical, and final creative step in the process of making an audio
recording. When your work is in the hands of a mastering engineer, that is when all the ultimate sonic
judgments are made, all necessary aural enhancements are applied, and the definitive content of
your project becomes a coherent and sophisticated artistic creation.
A mastering engineer can
literally separate the hits from the rest of the songs in the music market.



What Do You Get?

In almost every Mastering Session, the following actions are performed:

  • Optimizing average and peak volume levels for proper relative loudness
  • Raise the overall level.
  • Correct minor mix deficiencies with equalization.
  • Signal processing
  • Apply Digital / Analog - Mastering Compression & EQ
  • Establish a sonic "field" for all tracks
  • Place track markers at head of all tracks
  • Remove unwanted noise like clicks, pops, hiss
  • Clean-up start and ending of each audio track (including fades)
  • Arranging tracks in final sequence
  • Timing of the space between tracks
  • Insert Master Track Log – the PQ codes required for replication
  • 24k Gold Red Book Quality Master CD



How Long Does it Take?

Although there is no limit to the time or money that can be spent on mastering, many people in the
business state that a good rule of thumb would be an average in the neighborhood of one hour for
each song. This assumes that the audio was well recorded and no additional processing
requirements are specified. Additional time will be allocated depending on the condition of the original
recording, a client's specifications and any unusual or custom needs.



24k Gold Audio Cd.

For a limited time only!
Mastering Rate includes a 24k GOLD Master Audio Cd. Our 24k Gold Cd's are AAA rated in reliability and
compatibility,
and
Certified Swiss Quality!  This media incorporates a 24k gold reflective layer that provides maximum resistance
to degradation caused by environmental factors such as corrosion, a major cause of failure in standard media,
making it the ideal solution for applications requiring
long-term storage of sensitive data, video, music or images!
These
24k Gold Cd's reflect just how valuable your long-term information really is.
Click here to see the 24k Gold Cd.


"Loud vs. Proud."

Contrary to popular belief, mastering is only a little about making a hotter sound. While it's true that
the gain, or volume level, is boosted during mastering, it may be that raw decibels are the least critical
aspect of the process. What's important is the way mastering makes songs sound. Because in the
end, mastering is less about "loud" and more about "proud."

Mastering is the fine-tuning and final equalization of the music for broadcast quality status. It puts all
the frequencies in the correct ranges so that the bass isn't too loud, the highs don't hurt and the
levels are constant with other CDs on the market.  Mastering is the final stage of preparing mixes for
production and replication. It's the last step in the process of making a music release.



Online Mastering:

Phantom City Studio's Online Mastering service offers musicians and producers worldwide the
opportunity to have their recordings mastered in one of the world’s most famous studios.

Have your songs mastered over the internet with Phantom City Studio's top of the line mastering
engineers. We have years of experience in the recording industry, including working on tracks for
Sony, Emi, Virgin, American Idol, and many other productions.  Our certified engineers compliment
each individual artist with their own unique touch to match their style.  
Let our mastering engineers put the finishing touches on your album.  We will make sure your songs
have the finished professional sound needed to be sent to record labels and radio stations.

The online audio mastering service gives you access to the same excellent mastering engineers and
equipment available to those who attend mastering sessions here at Phantom City Studio.

Our Online Mastering Service is now only $75
per song for digital formats.  Click here to Get Started!  




Demo Mastering:

Mastering demo's is becoming a standard practice in the hyper-competitive music market.
It's easy to see why record label A&R departments are overwhelmed by demos from aspiring artists.
Mastering of demos can be an important step in giving an artist an extra edge over the competition.  



Preparing a mix for Mastering:

One of the most frequent questions we get from new clients is how best to prepare their mixes for
mastering and what format they should supply them in. Whether you intend to use a mastering
service like Phantom City Studio, tackle it yourself, or just want to keep a copy for archive there are a
couple of simply steps to ensure that the mix you have is fit for the job.

1. Bit Depth and Sample Rate
Though a standard Audio CD can reproduce only 16Bit 44.1kHz digital audio it makes sense to work
at the best resolution possible throughout the recording, mixing and mastering stages to ensure
maximum quality of the end product. Most soundcards, software packages and hardware recorders
now support 24Bit 96kHz recording and while there is still some debate about the benefits of higher
sample rates most engineers would agree that 24Bit is the way to go. When it comes to mixing down
even if you’ve recorded at 16Bit then there are still benefits to bouncing down your mix at 24Bit. The
combination of multiple 16Bit elements will most likely have created a signal with a greater dynamic
range. At 24Bit the low level detail, which will be brought up during mastering, will also be more
faithfully reproduced. Regarding sample rates, your best bet is to mix down at the same resolution as
you recorded. There won’t be any benefit from selecting a higher sample rate and the resulting
conversion and re-conversion at the mastering stage may affect quality. If you’re not sure then opt for
44.1kHz.

2. File type
There are often lots of options here (wav, aif, SDII etc.) and most mastering houses will be able to
work with whichever format you provide. But for maximum compatibility we would recommend a .wav
(broadcast wave) file. Certainly you should try to avoid compressed formats such as MP3 or AAC, but
if you’re forced to work in one of these then try and use a data rate of at least 256kbps. Often you will
also be presented with the option of ‘split’ or ‘interleaved’ stereo files, with ‘interleaved’ being the
preferred option.

3. Headroom
A degree of headroom (the gap in level between the maximum possible and that of the audio) is very
important. If a signal clips at any point, even if distortion is inaudible on mixdown, it can become
evident during mastering and will limit the processing options. Generally all that is needed is to pull
the master fader down so that the meters no longer jump into the red at any point. If you’re mixing
down at 24Bit then you can safely leave as much as 3dB headroom. If you’re working at 16Bit then
you’re going to want to maximise dynamic range so closer to 0.5dB is recommended.

4. Mix processing
Most engineers like to add a touch of overall compression, EQ and maybe even limiting when they mix
down. This essentially goes some way towards creating that mastered sound and can help mixes
sound louder and play better across a range of audio systems. However, this kind of processing can
again create problems at the mastering stage, especially if they have been overdone. If possible all
overall mix processing should be avoided in the copy destined for mastering, as these processes can
be better applied using the specialist equipment and experience available to the mastering engineer.
Certainly they should be free from limiting, which can have a similar effect to clipping. If overall
processing must be applied then it should be done as conservatively as possible, avoiding large EQ
cuts or boosts and compression gain reduction of more than 3dB.

5. Burning questions
If you’re mastering the mixes yourself then job done, you’re ready to master. But if you’re passing
them on to a mastering house then you’re probably going to need to burn a disc. You can’t go far
wrong here, just ensure that you burn a Data CD rather than Audio CD or all your mixes will get
converted down to 16Bit 44.1kHz and will need to be re-ripped at the other end. When burning your
disc be sure to use one of the write speeds recommended on the disc to avoid data errors. Also try to
avoid touching the surface of the disc before and after burning and refrain from using the disc more
than once to verify its contents before sending it off.

Summary
Now if you’re relatively new to music production then all that might sound a bit daunting. But don’t
worry, even if you aren’t able to meet every criteria in this list that doesn’t mean that mastering can’t
make a massive difference to your mixes. Most mastering studios, including Phantom City Studio can
help talk you through the best options for your particular project and help you prepare your mixes.
What our recommendation represents is an ideal format that will maximise the benefits of the
mastering process. i.e. a 24Bit .wav file at whichever sample rate your recorded with around 2dB
headroom and free from overall mix processing.



What is the ideal source format for mastering, and in which format will I receive my
mastered material?

Acceptable formats for mastering are AIFF, WAV, and, MP3 files. MP3 is lossy compression process
and thus, not ideal for mastering. If you want to supply us with MP3 files, please make sure that they
are coded in at least 192 kbit/sec (stereo, not joint stereo).

We recommend you send us your files as a WAV format in any sample rate and bit rate.

Your song is good to master if you had no equalizer, compressor or limiter in the sum signal, because
a little bit of headroom helps our work.

You will receive a master as a 16 bit/44.1 khz WAV file, which is a common reproduction format to
make an audio CD. Upon special request you will receive your files in other formats.

There are several free programs to convert AIFF to WAV, e.g. Switch for Windows or SoX Wrap for
Apple/Macintosh

In Apple Logic Pro you can convert an aiff audio file under: Audio Window –Audio File– Convert to
WAV Stereo

For further information please send us an email to info@phantomcitystudio.com. We are happy to
answer any questions.




What is the Red Book standard? Do I need to use it? Why?

Even in the age of digital downloads, the CD is still surprisingly popular. Some would say that you
haven't 'arrived' until you have produced a CD, manufactured by injection molding, bearing a
barcode, shrink-wrapped and in the shops.

To have a CD manufactured from your music, you need a master in a suitable format. There are a
variety of formats that CD pressing plants will accept, but the easiest one to work with in the recording
studio is in fact...

A Red Book Quality CD!

Yes, the master for a CD is itself a Red Book Quality CD.

There are however some important rules that we must play by...

There are many round objects, shiny and 12 cm in diameter, that are not CD's. A CD-ROM is not a
CD. Also, any disc that deviates from the official CD standard is not a CD and is therefore unsuitable
as a master for manufacturing.

And the standard to which a CD-Audio disc should conform is laid down in what is called the 'Red
Book'.

The Red Book dates back to the early 1980's when the CD format was first standardized. It specifies
every feature a disc must possess to be able to call itself a CD-Audio disc.

Initially, CD's could only be made by complex and expensive manufacturing processes. But in the
1990's it became possible to burn one's own CD-Audio discs.

CD-Audio discs burned in a CD writer are not identical to manufactured CD's. But as long as they
don't flout any of the Red Book standards, then they are indeed CD's.

So if you would like to receive a CD that is suitable as a master for manufacturing, you must make
sure that your CD is Red Book standard, otherwise you will produce a CD-Not-Quite, rather than the
required CD-Audio disc.



Thank you for choosing Phantom City Studio Recording Studios in Orlando, Florida     
Phantom City Studio 24k Gold master cd mastering studio in Orlando, Florida
Phantom City Studio Recording Studios in Orlando Florida
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