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Frequently Asked Questions & Tips

 

Tips - DON'T

DON’T:

- Don't just mix in a 16 bit session because you recorded at 16 bit or mix in a 24 bit session because the audio was recorded at 24 bit. Always mix at the highest bit depth you can.

- Don’t distort the mix buss, unless you specifically like that sound. (Some mix busses add a bit of crunch when they distort a db or so and this can be desirable). Mostly, it doesn’t sound good.

- Don’t put any processing on the mix bus to make it louder or correct for deficiencies in the mix. If there’s a deficiency in the mix, go and fix it.

- Don’t export a 16bit file as 24bit thinking it’s the same thing. Your DAW will just add 8 bits of zeros to the audio and it will sound the same, but be a larger file. If you can, rebounce/rerender the mix as 24 bit or 32bit float.

- Don’t send MP3s thinking they’re “CD quality”. They’re simply not. The better the file we get, the better the final master will sound.

- Don't neglect what happens next! Think about distribution, streaming, artwork, CDs, promotion. We're happy to advise on duplication and replication.

 

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Tips - DO

DO:

- Fill in the submission form with correct spelling, capitalisation and ISRC codes so we can process your order quickly and efficiently

- Record at 24 bit and mix at 24 bit, or higher if you can. Even if you've recorded at 16bit, there's an advantage to mixing at a higher bit depth.

- Export / render / bounce at 24 bit, or 32bit float if you can, with no effects on the master buss that you didn't mix in to.

- Do leave a second or two of silence at the start and the end of each track. (This is where errors typically occur).

  Note: Don’t forget that the sound doesn’t necessarily stop at the end of an audio region – reverbs may still need a few seconds to die down.

- Do name the tracks with correct spelling, and if you know the running order, name them “01 songname”, “02 songname” etc…

- If it’s a live show, please leave plenty of sound before and after each piece and provide plenty of applause, room noise etc.

- If you know what CDs you like the sound/volume of, feel free to say. Do realise though that mastering can’t work miracles. If there’s a problem with the mix, fix the mix. - Be realistic. A demo done in a day in a mate’s bedroom simply won’t sound as good as a commercial release.

- Feel free to specify if you want short or long gaps between tracks. This will help the engineer space the tracks using his discretion. There are no rules here, but experience combined with your preference should be close to ideal.

- Start thinking about what happens next. Will you want CDs? Will you want your music on iTunes? Soundcloud? Bandcamp? Will you need radio edits? Will you want versions with no vocals for TV performance?

 

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Can you check my mix?

Send us a song and we will let you know if we feel it needs remixed or tweaked.

Mastering can correct a few problems such as too much bass or rogue frequencies but we’ll know from a listen what can be done and have the integrity to tell you so rather than just take your money and make do.

Our aim is to present our work well by presenting your work well.

 

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Should I use a buss compressor?

It’s very easy to tie the mastering engineer’s hands by compressing the stereo mix.

We'd say that if you mixed into a buss compressor for sonic reasons, that's fine.

If you're using it to gain extra volume, then we suggest that you send mixes without it.

 

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What about the future? What's an archive?

An archive simply refers to the totality of a project. Our archives can contain 96/32 files - suitable for release in future high quality formats. By way of reference, Apple are archiving in 24/96. And an archive would also contain a .DDP file - like an .iso or .rar / .zip of a CD. The .ddp enables an identical CD to be burned in the future.

 

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Can you work from a .pts, .ptf or ptx file?

If you’ve got a ProTools session file, you need mixing, not mastering.

Please contact Producer Alwyn Walker or any other reputable studio for more information.

 

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Can you make it really LOUD?

Of course we can, but after a certain point the sound quality of your music will deteriorate.

EVEN WITH EXTREME FORMS OF MUSIC LIKE METAL, THE LISTENERS' EARS WILL GET TIRED AND THEY WILL HAVE TO REACH FOR THE VOLUME CONTROL TO TURN IT DOWN.

 

Without quiet, there can be no loud.

Our advice is to let the experienced mastering engineer use his professional judgement to do the best job he can, but feel free to state a preference.

 

PLEASE NOTE: If the mastering engineer is forced to make changes which he disagrees with either for aesthetic or technical reasons, he reserves the right to not be credited for his work, either on the CD or CD sleeve, the band’s website or anywhere else.

 

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What are ISRC codes?

The ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is the international identification system for sound recordings and music video recordings.

Each ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording. Encoded ISRCs can provide the means to identify recordings for royalty payments.

Registration is free and has no downsides. Have a look at the PPI website to find out more: PPI ISRC codes

 

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Can you make track titles appear on my computer?

If your computer, music player or car are connected to the internet, then your tracks should appear if you requested that service. While we embed CD-text on CDs, many players don't read it! We can submit directly to various databases that iTunes and other services rely on for metadata, ensuring your listeners don't have to wade through hundreds of incorrect or misspelled tracks. Please see the rates page for costs.

 

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What file formats should I send to MSB?

We love FLAC files as they’re small and high quality, but we can work from many formats (FLAC, WAV, AIFF etc.)

We’d rather work from 24 bit or 32 bit float files at whatever rate the material was mixed at if at all possible.

Please notify in advance if you’re bringing ¼” tape.

 

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What's the process for approval?

If you're wanting to approve a CD, we will send you a .DDP which will not only allow you to burn your own CD to check, it will also let you see all the embedded meta data on a computer screen. We can also send a Table of Contents as a .rtf file, which will be readable on Mac or PC showing the CD contents. Should you require a physical CD, this can be error-checked both in Samplitude and in Plextools Pro XL for jitter and C1 / C2 errors. We take our QC process seriously.

 

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Can I attend the mastering session?

You're more than welcome.

MSB Mastering is in “the Westland Building” at 5-6 Lombard Street East, Dublin 2, beside Paddy Power.

Attended mastering makes liaising with the engineer easier. You’ll also get to see what’s being done and can disagree at any point.

However, co-ordinating your schedule with Darrell’s own schedule for booking the session may slow your project down.

Please bear in mind that ideally only one member of the band should attend the session as a lot of critical listening is required and the mastering engineer can easily be distracted by people talking.

 

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What difference will I notice?

- Clearer & more detailed

- Wider (if necessary)

-The gaps between tracks should feel natural and not draw attention to themselves

-Some times, songs will segue into one another. This is obviously a delicate process, so consultation is sought

-Details like artist name, ISRC codes, formats and distribution can also be taken care of.

 

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What is Mastering?

The mastering process can include:

- A fresh perspective: Frequently, the producer and band are too close to a project to be able to be objective

- Advanced compression & EQ

- Stereo image adjustment (possibly multiband)

- Setting the gaps between songs to let the album or EP flow smoothly

- Adjusting overall level to commercial standards while maintaining overall dynamics and ensuring an appropriate level change from song to song (not the same level, but an appropriate one)

- Removing or reducing noise (tape hiss, clicks, pops, etc.)

- Removing (or adding!) background noise between tracks

- Adding CD Text & ISRC codes

- Assembling and burning your master CD to a high quality disc for duplication and checking it for errors

- Creating a .DDP file to make sure that your end product is the same as what you were sent, and save valuable time in the production

- Converting your music to lossy formats such as MP3 or .Ogg using the best selected encoders for the delivery medium

 

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