How should I prepare my mix for mastering?

It is very important that you or your mix engineer follow the rules below if you want the best quality and you want your mastering engineer to get the best out of your music.

Record in 24 bit at either 88.2 or 96 KHz
We can work at any bit depth or sample rate, so don’t despair if your mix audio files are at lower rates.  However you will get a better quality master, and we will be able to do more to improve the sound of your music if it was recorded and mixed at 24 bit and at higher sample rates.

Use modern high quality plugins in your mix
The sound quality of plugins varies enormously and huge advances in the quality of plugins have been made in the past few years.  Avoid old or cheap plugins and avoid 32 bit plugins, you should be working with 64 bit plugins only.  Splashing out on high quality plugins is worth the investment.  Your music will be around for a long time, don’t cut corners now by using cheap or old plugins.  The loss in depth and quality these cause in your final mix can never be undone.  Examples of good plugin brands are: Waves, SlateDigital, Softube, Flux, Native Instruments, UAD, PSP.  There are a million free and cheap plugins out there, as a rule, avoid them.

Do not use compression or limiting on the master bus
You are better off leaving that up to the mastering engineer, that’s what they specialise in.  We have a range of world class bus compressors and limiters and vast experience.  If you have already compressed and limited your master bus, there will be a lot less we can do to help your mix.  If you really like the sound of your bus compression then send us two mixes, one with and one without the compression.  Don’t use a bus limiter at all, you’ll simply be tying our hands if you do.  Same with bus EQ or multi band compression, leave that up to us.

Leave some headroom
With 24 bit files there is no need to keep the levels near 0 db on your mix.  It’s better to give us a few db headroom so we can bring the level up during mastering using our specialist tools to make it sound great.

Dither your bounce
You should bounce to a 24 bit wav file and stay at the same sample rate as your session was recorded at.  Turn on dither in your DAW when bouncing or use a high quality dither plugin (Like PSP or Ozone) as the last plugin in your master bus chain.  Why do I need to dither if it’s a 24 bit file?  Modern DAWs work at internal rates higher than 24 bits, so truncation will occur when bouncing to 24 bits (even if the original audio is 24 bits).  This truncation is minor and it’s no big deal if you don’t dither to 24 bits, but it will improve the quality if you do.  Keep in mind 24 bit dither is miles below the noise floor of even very high quality DACs so there is no concern about the noise floor.

Don’t upsample your mix
If your mixed file is at a lower sample rate, don’t upsample it yourself, let us do that here, we have world class tools and will get a much better result.

Zip your files
If you are sending us your mixes via the internet alway zip them first.  If there is some file corruption during transfer the zip file will not open at our end and we can ask you do send it again.  If it’s not zipped and there is transfer corruption, it may still play back at our end but there may be degradation.

Send us concise notes
In order for us to work with your mixes we need a text document which includes a list of the file names of all the audio files you’ve sent us.  Next to each file name we need the actual name of the song exactly as it will appear on the final album.  We also need the IRSC code (unless this is provided by the pressing plant) for each track.