Digital Audio CD Mastering

cd mastering quote

CD Mastering?

CD Mastering is the crucial last step in the recording process, before CD duplication or replication can take place.

You can get a price here: Mastering Prices (from just £9 per track).

This is the stage where the track order is finalised, cross-fades or pauses between the tracks are set, copyright details, the artist's name and other technical information are added. The finished CD is encoded in such a way that it can be used as a master for duplication and replication, and the final maximising and enhancement of the sound is performed. The result is a stronger, usually considerably louder audio product which is well represented in all the important frequency bands, making it play back satisfactorily on many different audio systems. All the tracks will play back at a more consistent volume across the CD and will sound much more like the professional products that you would buy in a shop. Frequently Asked Questions about CD Mastering

CD Mastering Engineers: A fresh set of ears...

So many producers, engineers and artists know the pain of going through a lengthy, tiring recording process with an equally meticulous mixing process. It can be quite demoralising when, after this effort-intensive time, the result just doesn't sound as good you had hoped for. This is exactly the point where the fresh, trained ears of one of our mastering engineers can put that smile back on your face.  A fresh set of experienced ears mean that we can instantly tell where your track is out of shape, and the good news is that there is often a solution to improve the situation. Even a very recording can be made better by mastering, and an excellent recording will only be tweaked where necessary. Our mastering engineers are trained and have years of experience, having access to all the necessary 'tools of the trade' to add definition, warmth, loudness, intensity, smoothness or whatever your audio requires.

Technical Aspects of CD Mastering

Most duplication and replication plants require you to submit a Red Book standard CD with zero jitter. They may also require your mix to be correctly P/Q encoded. The 'Red Book' is the CD standard that all CD players are designed to play. If your CD is not 'Red Book' compliant, it may not play on all audio CD players. 'Jitter' is the measure of digital timing accuracy. Only a system that has the most stable master clocks can produce a CD that is acceptable to most reproduction plants. P/Q encoding is the correct format for adding timing information to the disc, including countdown information for CD players that have this feature. There are other technical things that need to be done, such as producing a correct program and table of contents. Also, CD text can be added to display the track name and artist name for CD players with this feature, and much, much more.

Sonic Aspects of CD Mastering

Equal to the technical aspects of CD mastering, is the sonic side of the process. A mastering engineer can instantly tell in which ways the audio is lacking; maybe it sounds too hollow, undefined, muddy or lacking low-end warmth; maybe it needs that professional 'sheen' and polish, or an increase in the overall strength of the sound. These subjective things can be quantified by a good mastering engineer, who will then know the process necessary to achieve the desired results. Finally, the tracks are raised to shop-standard volume, with all the tracks set at the same level. Any cross-fades, fade ins/outs, gaps between tracks and track order can be finalised, and a master disc is finally produced.

What do we require from you to master your work?

We will need a mix that peaks at -3dB. The whole mix should not be compressed, unless by a very experienced engineer using a very good compressor - too many mixes are submitted to us that have been over-compressed using a cheap plug-in. This cannot be removed, and whilst we will still do our best to master your work, it will not sound as good if this damage has been done. The mix should not have been passed through any limiter, normalizer or 'maximising' tool, for the same reason. The peak value for the track of -3dB should only be achieved by using the master fader. We would rather receive a track that is too quiet than too loud, and we would rather have something that peaks at -10dB, than one that peaks at -3dB but has been passed through a cheap volume-enhancing product of some sort.

You should give us the artist/band name and the names of the tracks, together with the running order. You should also specify the gap you wish to have between each track (the standard gap is 2-3 seconds). If any of the tracks run into one another, you should specify which ones you wish us to perform the cross-fade, and state a gap of zero seconds between them. You should also forward any details of 'bonus tracks' or other special features. You can have a maximum of 99 tracks on any given CD, with a minimum track length of 4 seconds.

Send us your mixes on a CD-R, either in audio, WAV or AIFF format with a minimum resolution of 16 bit, 44.1kHz. Make sure you keep a backup copy of your mix CD, as we cannot be held responsible for loss of your disc either in the post or in our possession. We will soon be introducing a secure FTP server, which you will be able to upload your tracks, for us to master.

Frequently Asked Questions about CD Mastering

How long does it take to do CD Mastering?

On receipt of your mixes and payment, we will usually send the master disc to you within a few of working days, but try to allow as much time as possible in case there are any problems with the postal service or the job itself. If you have a specific deadline, we can work with you to achieve this so give us a call and we'll have a chat about it.

How much does CD Mastering cost?

Please visit our CD mastering quote page to get prices and order mastering services.

How can I pay for my CD Mastering?

You can either send us a cheque with your mix CD, made payable to "The Little Bazaar", or you can pay by card when you order online. Payment must be received before the job can start.

Can I attend the CD mastering session?

At these prices, we are unable to offer a facility where clients can attend the session. We can offer rates this cheap, because we have the flexibility of scheduling the work at our own convenience, we do not need a flashy-looking reception area, nor do we have the need for insurance to cover visitors to our premises. So, unfortunately, you will not be able to attend the session.

How do I know I will be happy with the results?

We have never had a customer go away unsatisfied. Once we have sent you the master, you can evaluate it. If you want us to make any adjustments or other changes, we will do this free of charge. We will continue to do this until you are happy.