Useful Tips On Preparing Your Pre-Mastered Files
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
Avoid using limiters in the mix bus
Silence at the beginning and end
Read on for more information on the above.
WAV OR AIFF FORMAT (NOT MP3)
Although it is possible to master an MP3 file, there will be a loss of quality, which may also 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 much quieter than the final master, 24 bit is the recommended depth when bouncing/exporting 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? If yes, your song has phase issues.
Playing in mono may reveal some of these phase issues that are easily missed in stereo. This can be caused by adding an excessive amount of stereo widening, modulation or reverb. Try using the sends/buses for these kind of effects!
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.
If you're experiencing phase issues and would like to discuss it further, send me an email and your file so we can try to figure it out.
PLENTY OF HEADROOM
Try to keep the average peak levels between -3 to -6 dB, which gives plenty of headroom for the mastering engineer to work on - this will also avoid clipping (see image below).
AVOID USING LIMITERS IN THE MIX BUS
A good pre-master can vary from 10 to 16 dB quieter than the final master and it's the mastering engineer's job to add volume.
If you have used a limiter to get a loud mix, remove it - don't just reduce the volume in the mix bus to take the peaks down (see image below).
SILENCE AT THE BEGINNING AND END
Start and finish your song with a few seconds of silence at the beginning and at the end of your song. This is a safe measure to avoid any unfortunate cut-off and causing it to start and end too abruptly (see image below).