Holy Tapes! Mastering


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Holy Tapes! is a mastering studio in Jersey City NJ that focuses on enhancing and finalizing your project for release.

contact:  nick@holytapes.com 201.314.9480

Guide to mixing, exporting and submitting audio for mastering



The most important idea behind mastering preparation is that you’re happy with the mixes. The technical specifications below are not requirements, just designed to point you in the right direction.

Every project is different so don’t think of these as rules and experiment every chance you get. Some of these suggestions are for beginners, some for more experienced engineers.

Contact me if you have any questions.



MIXING

(If the mix is already finished skip down to exporting or delivery)

Mix to a specific loudness target (RMS or LUFS) and a specific maximum peak level. This keeps mix elements within a consistent range from track to track. Engineers have their own preferences when it comes to mix levels but I ask that digital peaks don’t exceed -1dBFS, lower if possible. Ideally, your mix should not exceed -14 LUFS.

Make sure you can clearly hear the bass, kick drum, and/or any other low frequency information. To clean up this area (20hz - 160hz) try using an equalizer to high pass instruments that may be getting in the way at between 80hz and 160hz. Low mids (160hz - 400hz) are where many tonal instruments have their fundamental, so it’s also usually overcrowded. If the mix sounds muddy use a parametric EQ to lower some of this region from instruments that won’t miss it.




Besides paying attention to lows, also be careful with sibilance which is most commonly a problem with vocals and cymbals. If an eq isn’t working, try using a de-esser to tame loud moments of high frequencies without making instruments sound dull.

I have some great tools to adjust these areas, but if a lot of the instruments are sonically stacked it limits my options. If you’re having trouble with separation or masking, I’m always around to listen and help out.

Also, if you have specific track spacing needs, either create a spacing guide or render a single track of the entire album with spacing included for me to follow.


Holy Tapes! Mastering Bass and Low Mid FrequenciesBe careful with the energy in the bass and low mid. Too much build up here can destroy your mix’s excitement, too little sounds thin.


EXPORTING


Most importantly, make sure to export your mixes in the highest resolution possible. My suggestion is to export as stereo WAV files in 24 bit. Any sample rate at or above 44.1kHz will work. The point is to export high resolution, uncompressed files.


This is a good time to make sure the audio is in no way clipping. It’s often nice to audition your mixes with a brickwall limiter to get an idea of the finished sound, but always remove it before exporting finals. Also double check your sends and groups to make sure inserts have enough headroom. Many plugin emulations of hardware processors like to be sent signal within a specific range, so keep an eye on your gain staging.

And going off the last point its best to remove or minimize all master bus processing before exporting the mix. If there’s a master bus effect that the mix can’t live without its best to export two versions- one mix with the effect and another without. This way I can work to duplicate the effect within the mastering process which will often sound clearer and give us more options. This is mostly the case if you love a specific type of mix compression or saturation.

Finally, be careful when selecting your export regions. Its not uncommon for me to receive a mix that ends with a cut-off cymbal decay or reverb tail, so leave a few seconds of space at track starts and ends.



Holy Tapes! Mastering LimitedThis mix has already been limited. You can tell quickly since drum hits are squared off and peak evenly. This seriously limits my ability to master the track.

Holy Tapes! Mastering Not Limited The drum transients are varying in amplitude on this mix which lets me apply compression and limiting on my end. Receiving an un-limited mix also allows for cleaner eq adjustments.


DELIVERY


If possible, I prefer digital file delivery over physical media shipments. Compress all mixes into a .zip file to avoid possible file corruption. Make sure to clearly name files and only include the final mixes unless we’re auditioning effects.

Also send an email or text file with the following
- Spellings and punctuation of the band name, album name and each track title
- Album order, including side endpoints for cassette and vinyl release
- Any specific track spacing notes (or a reference audio file of the entire album including track gaps)
- ISRC codes (see links section for metadata and ISRC info)
- Any other special instructions you have

I use a Google Drive business account but have Dropbox too. If you don’t want to become a member of either of those services, WeTransfer offers up to 2GB file transfers for free without signing up.


If you’ve mixed to a physical format (tape or cassette usually) and don’t have a high resolution digital capture device, I can accept most formats- just reach out and we can talk details.




Google Drive
Dropbox
We Transfer