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Audio Mastering Frequently Asked Questions

Explore The SoundLAB

Why is CD mastering necessary?

In the recording studio, you record one song at a time, and the focus of the recording or mixing engineer is to make each song great. The result, however, is generally a collection of songs that all peak at different levels and may have different EQs. In the post-production phase (called Audio Mastering), a professional engineer unifies the CD by using EQ, compression, and other dynamics processing to give it a consistent sound from track to track.

What does audio mastering do for my album’s sonic quality?

Mastering can raise your album's overall level through the careful use of compression, so your album can compete with any major label release. The mastering engineer also ensures that your music will sound great - whether it's being played through a car stereo, a portable CD player, or a top-of-the-line stereo system. In mastering, the sound of your CD will be optimized, making it sound punchy, warm, and full, while raising the overall level (volume) and highlighting details that aren't already apparent. Mastering is also helpful for addressing issues such as "pops," out-of-phase tracks, and overall noise reduction. Hear what audio mastering could do for your music.

How does having the SoundLAB review my master help me?

A fresh pair of ears can be the difference between a good-sounding CD and a great one. A real advantage of mastering is that an unbiased sound professional has the opportunity to evaluate your master and determine how to get the most out of your production. After you've spent weeks or even months in a recording studio listening to your CD over and over again, a fresh pair of ears can put the project into perspective for you and let you know whether or not your CD will benefit from post production. After all, you only have one chance to make your music sound its best.

What formats of audio master do you accept?

We can accept your master on one of the following formats:

  • Audio CD
  • Data files (wav, aiff, FLAC, etc.) on CD-R, DVD-R, flash drive, or via upload.
  • Digital Audio Tape (DAT)
  • DDP file set (on CD-R, DVD-R, flash drive, or via upload)
  • 1/2" or 1/4" Analog Tape
Handle all masters carefully, both before and after recording. Touch CDs only by the edges and keep them free of fingerprints and scratches that can cause data errors. Make sure your master is clearly with your contact information. Learn more about preparing a physical master for replication.

Doesn’t CD mastering cost a lot?

It doesn’t have to. Disc Makers' SoundLAB is the best value in the workflow of making a CD. The mastering that costs you $75 per track at the SoundLAB can cost you anywhere from $800 to $2,500 at other post production studios. For a fraction of the cost of other major mastering studios, the SoundLAB gives you access to equipment that will help make your music sound like the pros - our engineering staff has the gear and the talent to rival the best studios in the country. We'll make your music ready for commercial release and your project will receive the individual care and attention it deserves. See all of our pricing.

Do I get to listen to my CD after the mastering is done?

Absolutely. We’ll send you an audio reference CD or electronic proof online for you to listen to and review. It’s the perfect time to compare how much mastering can do for your album. Listen to your original CD master after listening to your audio reference and you’ll hear the difference. Crisper highs, thundering lows and punchy mids bring your vision to life.

Can I master my own CD?

Yes, but unless you’re a mastering engineer it’s not recommended. It takes a highly trained ear and years of technical expertise to properly master an album. But you’re in luck. Our mastering engineers are some of the finest in the industry. With extensive knowledge in both the newest gear and numerous styles of music, you’re in good hands. Meet our audio mastering engineers.

Should I keep a copy of my original audio master?

Yes. It is always recommended that you keep a copy of your original master; this is called a safety copy. A safety copy can be crucial if you master is damaged during shipping to us. Plus, it’s great to compare against your new master after the mastering process.

Will you preview my master for Free?

Absolutely. We're so confident that our Mastering can make a huge difference in the majority of recordings, that we are offering a FREE Master review - upon request - when you place a new CD replication order. As part of our mission to make your CD project a success, a SoundLAB engineer will preview your Audio Master to determine whether or not your CD would benefit from post production. Call us and we'll give you our honest opinion, with no sales pitch.

What else do you need besides my audio master?

You must complete a SoundLAB Questionnaire and Track Listing Form with your audio master. Required information on the Track Listing Form includes a complete and accurate running time log listing all events (tones, silences, songs, outtakes, noises, etc.) as they occur. The SoundLAB questionnaire gives you the opportunity to provide us some important information that we can reference when mastering your project. Things such as overall volume, EQ, editing, and spacing preferences, or other artists or recordings you like the sound of, should be provided here for the engineer working on your project. For CDs, the maximum length is 79:45 minutes. For programs over the industry recommended 78:00 total time, you must submit a signed disclaimer form with your order. Click here to download the Track Listing Form.

Why should I choose the SoundLAB over another mastering studio?

There are a number of reasons to choose the SoundLAB for your mastering. With years of experience on the highest-quality industry gear, we’ve mastered both the techniques and equipment in order to provide you with a superior service. Plus, you’ll pay a fraction of what you would at another mastering studio all while receiving exceptional service and attention to detail.

Will mastering help me get an advantage in the marketplace?

You bet. A properly mastered CD gives you radio-ready sound that is sonically equivalent to any major label release. By having mastering done to your album you provide a higher quality product with consistent tonal quality across the board, something radio DJs expect and discerning fans appreciate.

What if I’m not happy with the audio mastering after it’s done?

No problem. We are so confident that you’ll love your mastering that if you’re not satisfied you pay nothing. We’ll just do a straight transfer of your original master.

What type of gear do you work on?

The SoundLAB at Disc Makers has consistently remained at the forefront of technology so your album will sound its best. Our industry-leading mastering studios offers you access to some of the most advanced mastering gear ever produced, at a fraction of the price of the world's other leading Mastering houses. After mastering, your project will have the professional edge needed to compete with major label releases. See our gear.

Equalizers: Massenburg Labs, Avalon, Sontec, Weiss, Mellennia Media, Pultec
Compressors: Daniel Weiss, Focusrite Blue 330, Millennia Media
Monitors: B&W, Dynaudio, Genelec, Audix
Tube Gear: Giltronics
Converters: Lavry Blue, Apogee
Digital Audio Workstations: Sequoia 11, Bias Peak

Do you have to order replication or duplication to use the SoundLAB?

Absolutely not! The SoundLAB at Disc Makers’ world-class mastering services are available to all artists, even if you are not ordering a replication or duplication package with us. However, Disc Makers does offer the highest quality products and the best guarantee in the business for all of your post-mastering needs. See our disc packages.

Is mastering relevant if I'm distributing my album digitally?

Without a doubt, yes. Mastering is always an important part of the creative process, and when your music is downloaded by a listener and loaded onto their MP3 player your songs will often be added to playlists with recordings from many other artists. Any deficiency in the Mastering on your songs will be readily apparent. Things like lack of level, EQ issues, noise, etc. can be quite noticeable when your songs are played alongside releases from major label artists. Learn more about digital music distribution.

Can I use the Master Uploader app if I'm uploading content to be mastered by the SoundLAB?

Yes. The files created by the Master Uploader App can be used by The Soundlab for your mastering project, however, if you have 24-bit master files you should use our Online File Uploader to preserve the higher quality of your 24-bit files.

What is Mastering for Apple Digital Music and do you offer it?

Mastered for Apple Digital Music is a process developed by Apple that mastering engineers follow in order to submit the highest quality master to Apple for sale through iTunes. Learn more about mastering for iTunes.

Can I supply a new version of a song if I change the mix after The SoundLAB has already mastered my project?

Yes, you can upload the re-mixed song and we will master the new version. There is a $25 charge to master a re-mixed song. This covers the time for the engineer to recall the session, set up the analog gear we use, evaluate the new version, make any adjustments necessary to EQ, compression, etc. and create a new master and proof. Please contact the Customer Care department to have the Project Center unlocked so you may upload your new file.