To quote George Martin 'all you need is ears'.
We listen to your music and apply years of experience to enhance what you have already spent time perfecting. Although we start with favourite plugins we are not frightened to change them if the music requires it, and presets are a definate 'No'. Asking some software for it's comments is also a 'No'.
Music is to do with human emotions, not computers.
There are two main reasons to master your mixes. If you have more than one track, then mastering can make them flow together tonally and with similar loudness. This makes the listening experience more pleasurable. The second reason is that most people work in compromised listening environments. A mastering engineer will have a good listening room with high quality speakers to be able to make corrective judgements.
About OUR mastering service
We listen. We care about your music. We will use our skills and high quality tools to help you produce something you can be proud of.
Although some people like to attend mastering and we have a large enough room to accomodate 4 or 5 people, apart from Covid, there are reasons why it might not always be a good idea. Attended sessions are likely to take longer with discussion along the way. We charge that by the hour, but unattended sessions are a fixed fee. You also will not be familiar with our speakers, so you really are going to rely on our judgement. Even if you attend we will always ask you to take the mastered tracks and go and listen to them on speakers and headphones you use every day. See 'What we actually do' below.
Regardless of whether you attend or not we follow the same sequence of events. First, we assemble your tracks in our DAW in the order you think you are going to want them. After listening to the tracks we make adjustments with the following aims:
Once we have something that we are happy with, we send you an encrypted DDP* listening copy along with some software to play it on. You can now listen to exactly the same quality as the finished master on whatever devices you are used to listening through. The DDP also has all the CD text so this is available to be checked as well. Next, you give us any comments on things you would like different, we make changes accordingly and then send another listening copy. Hopefully this will produce a master that you are happy with, but if not, we repeat the process until you are; within reason.
The unencrypted DDP is now either sent to you, or the factory if we are producing your discs. See the Replication / Duplication / Packaging page for more details.
If your audio needs repair (de noise/de hum etc.) then we have the skills to do that as part of the mastering process. See the Audio Repair page for more details.
*DDP: Disc Description Protocol. (A folder with audio or video and instruction/data files.) This is the only recommended format for glass master input to produce CDs.
The easiest way nowadays is via the internet. A file transfer service like WeTransfer can be used. Sharing folders in Google Drive or Drop Box is alright, but it has been known for customers to update their files AFTER we have downloaded them.
The format can be WAV or AIFF. 16 bit or 24 bit. Sample frequency of 44.1k or 48k. Higher sample rates can be accomodated but will have to be downconverted anyway to 44.1k for CD release or 48k for digital release. Please do not 'normalise" your files, leave at least 2dB of headroom, and keep any stereo buss processing to a minimum. Please aim to mix the song as you would like it and don't have in the back of your mind that mastering will 'fix it" in some way. The ideal is that mastering is making small changes between tracks to make them all flow together.
Please send (preferably in an email or text document) the CD/project title, the artiste's name and an accurate list of the song titles. If the audio files do not have the same name as these please make sure it is clear how the two relate. If using ISRCs these would be also useful at this stage.
We are able to work from a range of legacy formats, so please ask if you are wanting some older material remastered.
This is not a lesson in mixing! These are just some things that would help get the best results from the mastering.
Please make sure that your peak is 2dB below absolute. Digital release in particular cannot cope with intersample peaks that go above 0dB. These are not read by most meters so you probably won’t detect them. Leaving that 2dB margin gives us the opportunity to control them without distortion. Please DO NOT NORMALISE.
Don’t overcompress your mix buss. A little compression is alright if it helps achieve the sound you want. If you do use compression on the mix buss, send us a version without as well. Part of the mastering art is adding compression, so it might be best to let us decide how much.
Try and make your mix as dynamic as you dare. Too much music comes to us very flat. Also listen to make sure there aren’t any frequencies that are too prominent. Finally, try and mix using the full stereo width. It is amazing how many tracks we get for mastering where all the instruments are stacked up in the centre. Do check your mix in mono though, as a lot of people listen on mono smart speakers.
If you have some music you listen to that you think sounds really good, try playing it through the speakers that you are mixing on and use it as a reference track. Use it as a guide but don’t be a slave to it.
Now here’s a hot potato!
There are lots of opinions published on the internet so we won’t add to them. One good thing about music streaming is that the platforms have set loudness levels in the same way that TV broadcasters did. Consequently the requests to make tracks sound louder has a negative return. The streaming platforms just turn the track down to their transmission level and the track now sounds weak in comparison. Trust us, the years of having to deal with loudness in TV and Film post production has given us the ability to make the best of loudness issues.
We can output files for digtal release in a variety of formats. Metadata (text and ISRCs) will be added to file formats that will take them if you have supplied it to us. We charge per batch, so if you can come up with a list of everything you need first time, you only pay once. The common formats are WAV and MP3. WAVS can be at either 16 bit or 24 bit and 44.1k or 48k. The format information should be obtainable from your digital agregator.
We are authorised to supply Apple Digital Masters as part of the Apple Digital Masters program, (formerly known as "Mastered for iTunes" or "MFiT").
The ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is an identification system for sound recordings and music videos. Each ISRC is a unique identifier for a specific recording. They can be added to CDs at the mastering stage and edited into the data part of WAVs and MP3s to give a product it’s digital fingerprint. ISRC’s provide the means to automatically identify recordings for royalty payments, and may be necessary for distribution on digital downloads and streaming.
To obtain ISRCs you only need to register yourself or company once. Here is where and how to do it ppluk. You then let us have the codes you have decided on for each of the tracks. It is usual to increment the numbers with the tracks on the disc. There are 5 numerals (the designation code). Some people just keep working through their songs each year adding one number after another. However, a neater way is to have your catalogue number as the first three digits and the track number as the last two. There is a maximum number of 99 tracks on a CD so you will only ever use two digits for this. Please note that a music video requires a separate designation code from the audio only track for which it was created.
You will find more information about Copyright/PRS/MCPS and Catalogue Numbers in the FAQ on our Replication Duplication Packaging page.
A few of the CDs we have mastered
What Our Clients Have To Say...
"Sounding great Dave - I’ve sent it all over to the client."
"The Fat Cats Master sounds amazing, brilliant job as always."
"My expectations have been more than met and given the fact that many of these recordings were made under variable conditions in a variety of studios/locations on 2 track analogue recorders of the period, you've achieved quite remarkable results.......sounds really great!"
"By the way, the CD sounds absolutely awesome and the cover print has turned out beautifully accurate! Cheers"
"Thanks so much Dave… as always, your work transforms the song!"
"Really pleased with the mastering, sounds really good."
You Can Trust Us
The Digital Audio Co is a partnership owned by Dave and Sharon Aston. Although the company is run on Christian principles, we are happy to work with all faiths and none. We are often the last creative process in the chain, and understand the responsibility and trust that clients place in us.