Q.WHAT IS MASTERING?
A.Mastering is the final creative step to the recording process and the first step to the manufacturing process. It is here that our engineers will enhance all of your mixes to obtain their fullest sonic potential. Editing, assembly and analog or digital processing will be added to improve the final sound of your mixes. If needed, the removal of unwanted noises, such as clicks, pops, rumble and hiss can be preformed at this time. We then produce a Master with PQ & ISRC codes and CD TEXT to be delivered to the manufacturing plant for mass replication. Sometimes mastering is a gentle enhancement of what you bring us, sometimes it is a major improvement and sometimes it is surgery!
Q. WHY DO I NEED MASTERING?
A.Your mixing process may take place over a period of days, weeks or even months. Sometimes at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning or 6 o’clock in the evening. During this time you primarily concentrate on one song at a time not having the opportunity or even the resources to A/B each song with another. Most of your listening takes place at the studio and not on a radio, in a car, or at the club. This can develop into many strange dips and bumps in the frequency curve of each song, thus the mix doesn’t sound anything like you remember it sounding in the studio. The final album sequence is never decided until all songs have been completed and then changed many times. As a result, many inconsistencies in equalization, level and compressions is unavoidable, even with the best of mixing engineers and studios. The mastering engineer offers a fresh pair of ears to objectively analyze your mixes. He/She will mold your many different songs into one final polished album. He/she listens in a completely different way than a mixing engineer does. Thus, looking at the overall picture of sound, not just the kick drum or guitars that you spent hours upon hours getting a sound on. An experienced mastering engineer understands many types of musical styles and knows how to achieve the sound that will be competitive in that market on radio, clubs and at home. He/she can give you valuable input as to the spacing between songs, the order in which they appear or if there is something unique about on song or another that might make it stand out. The engineer is sensitive to the direction that the producer and artist wants for his or her album and will always work with you in obtaining that finished FULLERSOUND.
Q.THE STUDIO THAT I MIXED AT SAYS THEY CAN MASTER IT. WHY SHOULD I GO TO FULLERSOUND?
A.Just because their computer has “Mastering Suite” plug-ins, does not qualify them as a mastering engineer. We have over 30 years at the art of mastering records. Every day of the week we master another project, bringing us continued experience at our craft. This is not a part time job of us. This is all we do! Apart from that, we continue to audition the latest equipment and when we find something exciting, we buy it. We, like them also have ProTools, but choose to use the many individual hand picked equalizers and compressors, made exclusively for high end mastering. Having the right listening environment is also of the utmost importance. Just about every client that comes to the session comments on the things in their mix that they never have heard before. Is it not obvious that if you spend so much time and money recording and mixing your project, that you owe it to yourself and the band to get the most out of what you’ve worked so hard to accomplish?
Q. WHY DO SOME CD’S SOUND BETTER THAN OTHERS?
A.There are a million reasons for that one. Performance, instrumentation, production, engineering, studio equipment and budget of course. But chances are, the ones that sound inferior, are the ones that thought mastering wasn’t important enough to do.
Q.SHOULD WE MASTER WITH ANALOG OR DIGITAL?
A.We feel there is no iron clad correct answer for this one. Each and every project is different. We treat each project as it’s own unique masterpiece. Upon reviewing your mixes we will audition both analog and digital processing and make a decision at that time as to which will create the better sounding master. This may result in an analog or digital patch only or a hybrid of the two. We really like analog though.
Q.SHOULD I OR CAN I ATTEND THE MASTERING SESSION?
A.Yes you can. We recommend that you keep attendance down to the producer and/or mixing engineer or a representative of the band. The more opinions at the session the more time gets spent. Remember, this may be your first time in the mastering room and have no idea of how the monitors sound. Your mastering engineer works in this environment day in and day out. You’re paying him for his experience and expertise so let him do his job. Bring with you a CD reference of something that you are familiar with or something that you hope you CD will sound like. Do receive a reference CDR for approval before the final masters are made so you can take it with you and review at your preferred listening room. This will give you a chance to make any changes before production begins.
Q.HOW CAN I BE SURE OF THE WORK THAT HAS BEEN DONE?
A.Please get a reference CDR of the mastering to take home. Review this where you are the most comfortable. Most times you will be satisfied with the outcome and nothing further will need to be adjusted before the masters are made. A reference CDR may mean an extra couple of days before you are finished, but consider this in the whole picture of the time you’ve spent up to now. It is a valuable tool to use.
Q.WILL YOU MAKE MY CD AS LOUD AS…?
A.We will do everything possible to give you a very loud CD. But remember, loud is not always better. Loudness comes from heavy compression and/or brick wall limiting. This sometimes sounds great and other times not so great. We, along with your input will make a creative decision on this topic.
Q.HOW LONG DOES MASTERING TAKE?
A.A typical 10-12-song album will take all day. Equalization, level adjustments and compression can take anywhere from 3 to 8 hours, depending on the quality of the mixes, the consistency between them, how close your mixes sound to what you want and of course your budget. After this is finished, we then transfer the final mastered versions in real time into our AC5 workstation. At this time we fine tune all fades, decide on spacing between songs, add CD TEXT and ISRC codes (if available) and transfer to the final master format (DDPi or AUDIO CDR). This typically takes about 2-3 hours depending on the overall length of the album and the number of individual tracks.
Q.HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
A.We offer two different pay scales. The attended sessions are billed by the hour. The unattended sessions are billed on a per song basis. Please call our office so we can best help you to determine an accurate estimate for your project.
Q.CAN YOU REMOVE NOISES FROM OLD RECORDS?
AYes. We use the Audio Cube restoration VPI’s for this. We have all available VPI’s.
Q.SHOULD I PERFORM TASK SUCH AS ASSEMBLY, GAIN ADJUSTMENT (NORMALIZE), EQUALIZATION, COMPRESSION (FINALIZER, L-2, L-3, etc.) TO MAKE THE MASTERING ENGINEERS LIFE EASIER AND SAVE MONEY?
A.No! No! No! And No! In the long run it ends up costing you more money. We have found from experience that all of these processes can diminish the original sound with graininess, harshness, loss of stereo imaging and depth when additional processing is added. Once you have “Maximized” your mixes, it can’t be undone. If you like the sound of your mixes with this maximized process, we suggest printing two mixes. One mix with the process and the other without it. That way we can determine at the mastering session which one will work best. It is not necessary to worry about fade in or outs; we can perform this for you. Your best bet is to always bring your original mixes without any mastering plug-ins being added by you.
Q.WHAT TYPE OF MASTER FORMAT DOES FULLERSOUND ACCEPT?
A.Analog tape: ¼” or ½”, 30ips, 15ips, 7.5ips. Dolby A, SR or dbx type 1. Tape should be slow wound, tails out and labeled completely and correctly with all titles and times. Include alignment tones of 1khz, 10khz, 15khz, 100hz and 50hz at 0vu. Place tones at end of real number one.
Digital: 24/16 bit SDII, WAV, AIFF, Masterlink CD24, 16/24 bit dat tapes, audio CDR and 1630. Data files can be on DVD, CDR, flash drive or hard drive. Files can be sent via Internet using our secure FTP site or one that your choose. Please include a cue sheet with name of client, artist, title of album, and song titles.