Q: How does a mastering job usually work? A: We agree the time frame and the cost, specific details of how the mix will be delivered, as well as your sonic ideas. Then, you can either drop off your mix in person or send it online. Upon completion, we post the masters online for you to download, and then you can listen to them in your usual listening environment. If you wish to request any changes, just let us know. As soon as you sign off the masters, we prepare everything for the distribution.
Q: What format should I deliver the mix in?
In 24 bit or 32 bit floating point WAV/AIF, please. The files can be stereo interleaved or spilt stereo, although 24 bit WAV stereo interleaved is certainly the standard. The sample rate should correspond to the frequency of your project. So if you recorded and mixed at 96 kHz, please send me the mix at 96 kHz. It makes no sense to bounce a 44 kHz project to 96 kHz.
Where there are several tracks, please integrate the order into the file name, for example:
Q: What level should the mix be at and what about master bus compression?
With a 24 bit mix it makes no difference whether the mixes have a level of -0.1 dbFS or -10dbFS. I recommend a level of approx - 3dbFS . This, however, should only be taken as a guide. As long as the level remains below 0dBFS everything is ok.
All master bus effects that are there to purely to increase loudness should be removed before the mix down. This applies to all types of limiters, enhancers, exciters, clippers, etc. In contrast, a moderate amount of compression on the master bus can be part of the mix and, indeed, should remain in the mix if it is being used to create a particular sound feel.
Also, if, you have used a master bus compressor or a certain effects chain that has shaped the sound considerably from the very start of creating your track, it often makes no sense to completely disable them for mastering. This is because the track will probably sound quite different without them. With tracks like these the final limiter should not be used or at least reduced, so that the mix still has headroom.
If in doubt, please give us two versions - one with master bus processing and one without. We can discuss and decide which the best version to use is after checking the material.
Q: What additional information should I provide?
If there are clear guidelines for the mastering, such as comments on individual mixes, specific requests about loudness, dynamics, frequency image or sound reference titles, then please send them along with your mix. If you have created your own "listening masters", on the basis of which the mix has been approved by all parties, please send them, too.
With albums and EPs, please specify the track order, as far as it has been decided. If CD text (see "What is CD text") is on the master, we need a list with the following, correctly written, information: artist name, album title or release, all song titles and, if applicable, the ISRC codes.
Please let us know what format or formats the final version will be published in. Will it be made available on CD and/or vinyl and/or as an online release? Do you require "Mastered for iTunes" masters (see "What is Mastered for iTunes?")?
Q: Where can I upload the mix? A: You can send us the mix on our WeTransfer channel (https://hpmastering.wetransfer.com), via your own FTP server or via other file sharing services of your choice (Dropbox link, Hightail etc). I politely ask that you please ensure that, as far as possible, the service you choose is ad-free and does not drive people crazy with pop-ups.
Q: How and in what format will I receive the masters?
You will be sent a download link to the masters, which will be in the appropriate format for your release.
If is it a CD release, you will first receive all the masters as a WAV. Upon your approval, we use the WAV to create a so-called master DDP image (Disc Description Protocol), which is then digitally sent to the pressing plant. The pressing plant then uses the DDP to create the CDs.
With vinyl, some pressing plants also use the DDP as a template, but 24bit WAV files (one file per side) are more commonly used. This should be discussed with the vinyl pressing plant of your choice.
For online releases, you will receive the mastered WAV files.
Q: What is Apple Digital Masters (former "Mastered for iTunes")?
Created by Apple, the ADM standard is used for coding the AAC final format used by Apple. The ADM standard uses the higher-resolution 24 bit for coding masters, rather than 16 bit. Apple also recommends that masters are of a slightly lower level, so that no codec clipping arises.
HP Mastering is officially registered with Apple as an approved supplier for ADM masters.
Q: How are revisions dealt with? A: Revisions are usually included, free of charge. However, if new mixes of tracks that have already been mastered are delivered after mastering, our charge is dependent on the amount of time required and the scope of the change.
Q: Do you offer stem/bus/separation mastering?
Yes, we do. If the mix is good, that is not necessary, but stem-mastering offers more possibilities for problematic mixes. The effort and the associated costs, however, are higher. Should it arise, we will discuss whether stem mastering would be a good idea and if so, to what extent.
One example of a possible stem separation is: main vocals, backing vocals, bass, drums, guitars, keyboards. The important thing is always that all stems have the same starting point and that, when superimposed, they reproduce your mix perfectly and without the need for any further volume adjustments.
Q: What is ' CD Text'?
Some CD players support so-called CD text, displaying artist’s names, album titles and song titles. This information can be integrated into a DDP image or an audio pre-master CD.
CD text has nothing to do with the displaying of track names and other information in iTunes. iTunes pulls this information from the Gracenote database. It is very easy for you to input your information into the Gracenote database yourself. A tutorial on how to do this using iTunes and other programs can be found here: http://www.gracenote.com/about/FAQs/#upload
Q: How do I pay? A: Payment can be made by bank transfer or Paypal. The relevant information is on the final invoice.
Q: What if I want to mention the mastering in my credits?
If you would like to mention the mastering in your credits (thank you!) then please use this wording depending on the engineer:
Mastered by Hans-Philipp Graf @ HP Mastering, Hamburg
Mastered by Tom Woznik @ HP Mastering, Hamburg