So, what is Mastering?
Mastering is the final polish on a project. We take a collection of songs that may have been recorded at different studios, on different dates, and/or mixed by different engineers and help give it uniformity. We use state-of-the-art equipment in a controlled listening environment, balancing your project’s overall tone/EQ and volume levels, while preserving your original concept of how the project should sound.
Why do I need Mastering?
In order for your project to be successful in today’s market you need the trademark “Major Label” sound that everyone is capable of recognizing. Volume level is commonly mistaken for quality. If someone puts your project into their CD player and then has to turn it up, they’ll instantly assume that it’s not professional quality. On the other hand, raising the volume alone is not what constitues “good mastering…” This is why you need someone who is professional and experienced enough to put your project on an even playing field with today’s Major Label releases.
How do I prepare my mixes for Mastering?
Most importantly, do not supply us with mixes that are too loud. It’s a common mistake that severely limits our ability to master your album. Make sure to provide mixes that peak at least 6db down from digital 0. Feel free to contact us if you or your engineer would like more detailed information. Please also supply detailed notes and track information;current song order, intended song order, fade start and end times etc. This will help to expedite your turn time and decrease the chances for mistakes.
How do I supply my mixes?
We accept the following formats:
Redbook Audio CD
Data Files can be supplied on CDr, DVDr, DAT, Retrospect VXA, and Mac/Windows formatted Hard Drives.
.wav 44.1kHz – 192kHz
.aiff 44.1kHz – 192kHz
.sdII 44.1kHz – 192kHz
ProTools Sessions 44.1kHz – 192kHz
SADiE Sessions 44.1kHz – 96kHz
Cassette 1 & 7/8″
Open Reel ½”, ¼” 2 Track 7.5ips, 15ips, 30ips
Our Mastering Philosophy, and Solid Sound Studio
For those wanting a quality audio project of any kind, mastering is a key step that should never be overlooked. Properly done, it will make your project shine like every other major release on the market today, reflecting a professional quality on both you and your product. Your choice of studio and engineer makes the difference between a professional sounding recording and a basement studio production. (Don’t worry, if “basement” or “garage” is the sound you’re after, we can do that too!)
For over the past 30 years Solid Sound has been the choice of thousands who accept nothing less than the best for their projects.
The Solid Sound Process
Upon receiving a project at Solid Sound for mastering, the first thing that we do is listen to it in it’s entirety. Surprised? We don’t want to just jump right in and start making changes. We try to get a sense of what the “big picture” is. In this way, we hope to preserve the vision of the artists and their engineers. We’re here to enhance, not recreate. Being musicians ourselves, we understand the amount of work and dedication it takes to create an album. So rest assured that what you give us is what you’ll get back…only with that extra “something” you were hoping for!
Over the years we’ve have found that a hybrid setup of analog and digital hardware paired with top shelf digital software allows us to deliver the best overall quality to our cliental. Using corrective equalization from the likes of Neve, T.C. Electronics or WAVES we can address trouble spots in mixes, making them fuller and brighter without the muddiness found in many of today’s independent releases. To smooth out dynamic issues such as a vocal that “sticks out” a bit too far, or to help a mix that needs a “lift,” we’ll use compression. We can also add a little “punch” and “warmth” to your mixes, as well as increase overall volume, without making things sound two-dimensional. We’ll also address things like level imbalances between the left and right channels, phase issues in the stereo image, and sibilance if it is present in the mix.
Overall volume level or apparent “loudness” is always an issue with today’s releases. This is commonly referred to in the audio industry as “level wars”. The battle began in the early days of radio. Artists were constantly vying to have their song be the loudest playing on the airwaves. The louder it was, the more likely people would take notice of it. So, mastering engineers began developing new techniques to squeeze more volume onto an album for their clients. The war still rages on today but it has now gotten to the point where many artists end up sacrificing sound quality for volume level.
If an album is too loud it often loses it’s dynamic range. This means that the quiet sections of a song are just as loud as the loudest sections. This creates a two dimensional sound that doesn’t convey the emotion that was intended by the artist. The creative impact of the moment is then lost for the listener. It’s a fine line where volume is at its optimal level and where it begins to compromise the quality of your project. At Solid Sound we lend a pair of professional “extra ears” that can help bridge the gap between “Radio-Ready” and sonic quality.
The Solid Sound Edge
Once we have addressed the creative and technical issues, we then record the project onto our SADiE digital audio workstation. This is a specialty PC system that is bit for bit accurate; meaning that what you’ve recorded into the system is what you’ll hear when you play it back, with no unwanted changes in equalization or stereo image, guaranteed! Using this system is another way that Solid Sound ensures the integrity of your vision for the project.
We also have a listening environment to work in that has been designed and built for acoustic accuracy. We have the honor offering a room to our clients that was designed by the famous acoustician George Augspurger. One would have to travel to New York, Nashville or Los Angeles to find another of his signature rooms. It’s also a really comfortable place to work. As many of our clients say: It just feels good out there!
Why Master with Solid Sound?
A fresh perspective is another much needed benefit that we provide for our clients. If an engineer works on every stage of a project, from the initial recording, to the editing, mixing and finally the mastering, some issues may be overlooked due to the engineer’s closeness and familiarity with the project. Allowing a fresh set of ears in on a project, as well as a new listening environment can help provide some incredible insights and reveal important things you might have missed along the way. Mastering at Solid Sound ensures that your project is handled by people with great ears and years of experience, in a truly professional, yet comfortable atmosphere. The importance of proper mastering in today’s industry can not be stressed enough. It’s a small investment when you consider all the benefits you’ll gain.
How Much Does Mastering Cost?
Fees for mastering can range anywhere from $50.00/hr to $1500.00/hr! Luckily we are able to offer special rates for this World Class service when you manufacture your discs with us!*
Replication packages of 500 pieces or more receive the first 2 ½ hours of mastering for $100.00—that’s $112.00 off our regular studio rate of $85/hr!
Duplication packages orders below 500 pieces or more receive the first 2 ½ hours of mastering for $127.50—that means you’re getting an hour for free!
*Mastering at Solid Sound is normally billed at $85.00 per hour. Manufacturing with World Class Tapes enables you to receive a flat rate for this service, typically 2 1/2 to 3 hours of time. Included is one revision to adjust level and or EQ as needed. Projects that require us to go beyond 2 1/2 hours will finish up at a lower rate of $65/hr, which is $20/hr off of the regular rate!
Anyway you look at it, it’s a great deal!
What’s a Glass Master?
A glass master, also referred to as a ’stamper’ is the final stage before replication and is actually a physical piece of glass used to make your CDs! All that hard work in the studio is now being converted into a batch of chemicals in a process that is really quite incredible… The reason why it is called a glass master is because the digital information is copied onto a special chemical coating on a circular block of glass. This is used to punch all of the data pits into a CD or DVD during the process of replication.
For more information regarding this process, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD_manufacturing. It’s really quite interesting!