Frequently Asked Questions
David Mackie Scouller has created this page to provide some useful information and guidelines about online mastering. If you have any questions of your own please get in contact.
Please download the Preparation & File Delivery Guidelines for future reference. The pdf contains hyperlinks. You may need to allow your reader to access the links.
PDF updated 14/03/17.
What is audio mastering?
Audio mastering is firstly a fresh set of experienced ears on your project involving critically listening on a high resolution monitoring system in an accurate room to quality check for possible inaccuracies in the frequency spectrum of your mixes including listening for any sounds that shouldn't be there such as unwanted distortion, clicks, vocal pops and correcting them or advise on possible adjustments at the mix stage. Work can be carried out on your individual tracks to correct problems in frequency response, optimise RMS levels and match the perceived volume of the tracks to work together as a project such as an E.P. or Album release.
What is stem mastering?
Stem mastering, is closely related to mixing. Several recordings of grouped instrumentation can be supplied such as Drums, Bass, Synths, Vocals, which can be mixed together and adjusted with much greater control than mastering a completed mix can offer.
What format should my project be?
The recommended format is 24-bit versus 16-bit. 32-bit files are also accepted. The file type should be WAV or AIFF at your project sample rate. 16-bit files are not recommended where 24-bit is available and MP3s will not be accepted unless absolutely necessary where possibly all other recordings of the music have been lost (it does happen!).
Can I send my tracks one at a time?
Tracks can be sent one at a time for mastering and returned after completion but please be aware that any tracks destined to be on the same release should ideally be mastered at the same time. A copy of all individually mastered tracks will be kept until the complete project is finished where a final check on tonal balance and relative volume levels can be made.
What should I do to prepare my files for mastering?
It is very important that you name all your tracks correctly so it's easy to tell which file belongs to which project. Related files can be put in a folder with the project name including a Word document with track order, ISRC and any special instructions. Numbering the tracks in the file name to highlight track order is very useful.
When exporting your files from your digital audio workstation create a one bar gap at the start of your recording. Select the area to be exported starting one bar before the track starts playing and one bar after all audio has stopped and the fade has completely gone to silence this includes reverb tails and effects such as delays. Export to 24-bit Interleaved WAV stereo or AIFF and apply a simple dither such as Triangular or POW-r 1 to eliminate quantisation distortion when exporting at 24-bit or 16-bit. Do not apply Dither when exporting at 32bit FP.
Ensure the true peaks of your final mix do not exceed -3dBFS (the main goal here is to ensure your peaks do not reach 0dBFS where clipping can occur) this leaves some headroom to play with and will benefit the resulting mastered track. Recording at 24-bit allows low levels without lowering signal to noise ratio or sound quality!
There is no need for any processors on your master channel such as compressors and especially limiters when you are sending your music to be professionally mastered. High end analogue equipment will be used where necessary. If you have mixed into a compressor or limiter please ensure that the required headroom still remains after removal. Processing that is an intrinsic part of the sound of the mix (such as compression) can be left on but it may be preferable for an additional mix to be supplied with the processing removed.
When exporting stems it is important that the exact same start point is used on each stem with no gain changes. Mute only the tracks you do not wish to hear. This way any reverb or processing across the full mix will remain in the stems. Do not worry if there are large sections of silence in your vocal stem this is normal and having all stems the same length is vital to make alignment easier. The sum of all your stems at unity gain should produce the full mix on playback. A compressor should not be used on the mix buss when exporting stems as the compressor will not react the same to the stems as it will to the whole mix being passed through it. If a compressor has been used on the mix buss the integrity of the mix must be checked once it is removed.
You will need to apply for your own ISRC codes. Find everything you need to know about ISRC codes.
Upon request ISRC data can be embedded into a Broadcast WAV (BWF). The files are essentially WAVs but with the additional data embedded. As the audio portion remains the same any player that can’t read the ISRCs will just ignore that part of the data. Although the Broadcast WAV format has been around for 20 years and is used in cinema and Film Post Production the format has been coming into play in the audio World during 2014 to help with tracking royalties etc.
What information can you embed into an MP3?
The following information can be embedded into your MP3: ISRC: (you will need to provide this) Artwork: Title: Artist: Album: Composer: Website: plus more...
If I want to embed artwork into my MP3 what size should it be?
300 x 300 pixels is the preferred size to provide a reasonable picture quality in most players.
How do I register my CD with Gracenote?
You mastered my project. What should I write in the credits?
Mastered by David Mackie Scouller at Dynamic Mastering Services
How do I send my project to you?
Your project can be sent via the internet using services such as Wetransfer which is free up to 2GB. Your project should be archived using RAR (.rar) as this provides checksum error detection to help ensure that what you send is what is actually received. Projects archived with ZIP (.zip) can also be accepted.
Your project can also be sent via post on CD/DVD please get in contact for details.
Free Online Mastering Sample
Experience the clarity that professional online mastering will bring out in your music. Simply upload your finished mix. Your song will be mastered and a 1-2 minute sample emailed to you.
Turnaround can be 48hrs for singles and a little longer for albums. Available to work weekends. Satisfaction is guaranteed. Revisions will be made quickly and are free within reason.