Vinyl Mastering Advice

When sending physical masters to us like Hard Disks, DVDs, CDR or Analogue Reels of Tape(s), it is crucial that everything is labelled correctly and clearly.

 

Please ensure you also send us label copy, detailing correct track titles and appropriate running orders for the designated format along with Catalogue Numbers and UPC/EAN codes if they are required.

 

It is imperative to have a catalogue number for your vinyl release as this number is etched into the edge of the lacquer immediately it is mastered and prior to being sent to the factory for manufacturing. Without this form of identification, most pressing plants would probably refuse to press your record!

 

It is a very good idea to have already organised a pressing plant and manufacturing prior to booking a mastering session to cut a record. Mastered lacquers deteriorate quickly so we like to ship lacquers direct to the pressing plant immediately they are cut. If you supply us with the contact and shipping details of your manufacturer we can arrange to send the lacquers straight to them.

 

We would also make aware that many pressing plants are extremely busy and often have a backlog of work to attend to. With this in mind, it would be prudent to have everything organised in good time so that you will make your release schedule deadline!

 

We'll also need to know what speed you're expecting your record to be cut at as you will no doubt be including this information on the label (45 RPM or 33 1/3 RPM).

 

Please refer to the chart on the Vinyl page. This will give you an idea of what to expect from different lengths of vinyl sides. As a very rough guide it's usual for a 2 track 12” single (one track on each side) to be cut at 45 RPM and a 4 track (two tracks on each side) to be cut at 33 1/3 RPM.

 

 

Digital File Delivery Formats

We accept .wav and .aiff files of up to 96 kHz sampling rate with a bit depth of up to 32 Bits. Please ensure your files do not exceed this sampling rate and bit depth.

 

If you are sending digital data files make sure the track(s) and / or variation(s) of each mix are clearly identified with proper, sensible filenames. It's very frustrating when files arrive labelled with random numbers and letters which don't relate to any information we've been given about the tracks we're mastering in the session.

 

Bad labelling and file administration always results in much confusion and it's not an ideal way to commence a mastering session.

 

If you're sending a number of tracks, particularly if they're on a Hard Disk deep in the file-system of the disk please make a new Final Mixes for Mike Marsh Mastering folder and place all the relevant and correctly labelled mixes in this folder.

 

It's common to be asked to carry out mastering to mix variation passes. For example, Vocal Up Mixes / Instrumental Mixes / TV Mixes / PA Mixes. When supplying these extra and alternative mixes please ensure they've been clearly labelled so they're easy to identify.

 

If you're making mix variations and passes, make sure that they are at the same level as the 'Main Mix' that's been supplied for mastering. If they are not equal to the same process of the main mix, each extra pass will be counted as a new track.

 

Make sure that all files have a few seconds of silence at the start and end of each track and ensure that no audio has been clipped. This ensures neat topping and tailing of tracks is possible when putting together the final master.

 

We can work from either stereo interleaved files (which we prefer you to send) or split mono L and R files. It's possible to work from stems but we do not encourage this as the mastering session also becomes a mixing session and will usually incur extra cost.

 

We also accept CD / DVD Data Discs, Audio CDR, DATs and 1630 Umatic Video Tapes. Again, please ensure these formats are clearly labelled and that the files or tracks contained upon them are also clearly labelled.

 

Analogue Delivery Formats

We accept half-inch and quarter-inch analogue tape and can accommodate Dolby A and Dolby SR formats too.

 

Please ensure tape boxes are clearly labelled with the track titles and that each reel, or at least the lead reel from the session, contains proper alignment tones at the head of the reel.

 

Alignment tones of 1 kHz, 10 kHz and 100 Hz are requested as a minimum requirement, with at least 30 seconds of each tone recorded on your reel.

 

We also need to know the tape speed (7.5 / 15 or 30 ips), the recorded reference level of the material (nWb) and the equalization standard of the tape (CCIR / NAB / AES).

 

It's also a good idea to name or number your reels, especially in the instance of a large number of reels being involved.

 

It's common to be asked to carry out mastering to mix variation passes. For example, Vocal Up Mixes / Instrumental Mixes / TV Mixes / PA Mixes. When supplying these extra and alternative mixes please ensure they have been clearly labelled so they are easy to identify.

 

If you're making mix variations and passes, make sure that they're at the same level as the 'Main Mix' that's been supplied for mastering. If they're not equal to the same process of the main mix each extra pass will be counted as a new track.

 

Recording to analogue tape is far less common than it used to be. Consequently, many of the analogue tape machines still in use today are poorly maintained. Mike Marsh Mastering recommends you also send digital backups of your mixes in case of any problems encountered with masters on analogue tape.

 

Poorly maintained analogue tape machines can sometimes influence the frequency response resulting in a lower fidelity recording. They can also be running at the wrong speed which is un-noticed whilst recording and playing back on the same machine but becomes apparent once set up on a different playback tape machine that is running correctly!