Useful Tips On Preparing Your Pre-Mastered Files
(click image to enlarge)
The above image is only a visual of what a good mix / pre-master and a successful master typically looks like. You must never rely entirely on the appearance to make decisions on how good your mix is. Using your ears is crucial!
The following is just a guideline in order to achieve the best possible end results for your final masters and to ensure that they get the best possible chance to compete in today's competitive market.
For best results, your pre-master file must meet the following:
WAV or AIFF format (not MP3)
24 bit depth - or higher
44.1 kHz sample rate - or higher
Plenty of headroom - as shown in image above
No limiting on the master output
Silent gap at the beginning and end - as shown in image above
Read below for more information on the above.
WAV OR AIFF FORMAT (NOT MP3)
Keep in mind that although you can send an MP3 file, the quality of your final master will suffer. This may affect the mastering engineer's ability to work effectively on your song.
A lot more can be achieved if the pre-master is a WAV or an AIFF file.
24 BIT DEPTH
Because a pre-master is normally quieter than the final master - 24 bit is recommended in order not to lose depth.
16 bit is OK, but choose 24 bit if possible.
44.1 kHz SAMPLE RATE
Your pre-master must not be lower than 44.1 kHz.
If you're sending multiple songs for an album, it's recommended that they all have the same sample rate.
Most people send their files at 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz.
Listen to your song in mono - it may sound great in stereo, but how does it sound in mono? Have some elements gone quiet? Playing in mono may reveal some issues that are easily missed in stereo.
When played on systems with only one speaker, mono-compatibility is crucial - make sure your song/mix sounds as you would expect it to in mono.
DON'T FORGET to switch back to stereo after testing for mono compatibility.
PLENTY OF HEADROOM
Try and keep the average peak levels between -3 to -6dB, which allows plenty of headroom for the mastering engineer to work on. Avoid clipping!
NO LIMITING ON THE MASTER OUTPUT
The loudness of your pre-master will not determine the loudness of your final master and may affect the engineers ability to work effectively.
A good pre-master is normally 18 to 10 dB quieter than the final master!
SILENT GAP AT THE BEGINNING AND END
If your song starts the moment you hit play and you bounce/export it like that, you may lose some important detail that the mastering engineer can't fix - this problem can easily be avoided by allowing a few seconds of silence at the beginning and also at the end of your song.