Mastering Audio

Before the mastering stage some files may be mixed less bright, louder, quieter, more compressed or much more dynamic than others. Some clients get too close to their project and, with time, become less objective. Some tend to mix on small bookshelf speakers, and while they may be great for mixing, they are not good for mastering. It also becomes difficult trying to make adjustments in rooms with sonic anomalies to accurately make comparisons.

Our mastering prepares individual files in an acoustically neutral room whereby we:

  • Fine tune fades – fading out / in, as well as editing minor flaws
  • Apply noise reduction to eliminate clicks, hum and hiss
  • Individual volume adjustments
  • Equalize – to solve common problems like boomy bass, harshness or dullness, and to add that final “mastered” sheen on your project.
  • Adjust stereo width and if necessary add ambiance
  • Compress & peak Limit to raise the average level as we are aware of the different streaming engines’ benchmarks so they don’t alter your dynamics.
  • Add metadata such as titles and ISRC codes.
  • Use our Analog chain to master Hi res PCM and DSD files.
  • Provide Apple Digital Masters files. We are an approved Apple Digital Masters Provider and comply with the Apple Digital Masters’ requirements

Mastering prepares the audio for CD duplication by:

  • Adjusting track spacing – the gaps between songs.

This affects the pace and feel of a CD.

  • Individual track volume adjustments

Very important for the song to song perspective of the entire CD. Normalization cannot not do this!

  • Adding metadata such as CD text and ISRC codes.
  • Creating PQ information such as Start of Track and End of Track.
  • Delivering DDP masters either physically or by uploading directly to the CD Plant.

Removing Noise:

Hum, buzz, clicks, vinyl crackle?

Single outside noises such as a slamming door, a car horn, leaf blowers etc.?

Removing hum is fairly straightforward, narrow‑band notch filters tuned to the fundamental and its harmonics will reduce the hum while minimally affecting the overall audio.

Buzz can be more serious.

Lighting dimmers are a common cause of buzz, as they reshape the mains waveform, leaving square edges with a lot of harmonics. Buzz can be addressed by a more extended series of filters at multiples of the mains frequency.

Digital clicks caused by clock‑sync.

An individual click can often be edited out, We use software that can replace the sample(s) causing the click. De‑clicking and De-crackling software such as Sonic Solutions Manual Declick and Izotope RX Pro have become quite sophisticated and effective. Vinyl crackles and clicks are a little harder to deal with.  Algorithms have been created, which can usually discriminate between these artifacts and intentional percussive transients.

In the case of de‑crackling software, we make adjustments to find the best compromise between side effects and noise reduction.

We will provide you with a link to our servers for uploading your files.

  • Please try to upload the highest bit rate files you have.
  • Make sure you provide a sequence for your material.
  •  Please have your song order printed as a .pdf as to how you’d like your CD text to read including artist and CD title.

If we are encoding ISRC codes in your master please provide your 3 digit artist code.

For Information regarding ISRC codes and/or applying on line visit our Links page or contact: RIAA, 1025 F Street NW, 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20004 Tel: +1 202 775 0101, Fax: +1 202 775 7253 https://www.usisrc.org/

  • Please provide us your code If you have a UPC code you would like to embed in the master.
  • If you have a track that you love the sound of and is in the style of your music, please share it with us.

Master of the Mixes When Mixing:

  • Use the highest bit rate and sampling rate you have available.
  • Always check your mixes in mono for phase issues.
  • Never normalize, over compress or severely limit or up sample. It is best to leave 2 to 3 db of headroom.
  • If you are referencing your mixes with mastering EQ and limiting, create a separate un processed pass and upload both versions so we are aware of what has been approved.
  • Check your mixes in headphones in their entirety for any problems like drop outs, distortion and noise.

Formats We Work With:

Digital:

  • 16/20/24/32 bit WAV or AIFF files at sample rates of 1 kHz to 192 kHz
  •  
  • DSD 11.2 MHz (DSD256), DSD 5.6 MHz (DSD128) and DSD 2.8 MHz (DSD64) delivered as DSDIFF / DSF files (dff or dsf file extensions). We are equipped to playback DSD files directly into our analog mastering chain.

Analog:

  • Analog 2-track stereo (1/2 inch or 1/4 inch tape), at 30, 15, or 7.5 ips.
  • Please provide alignment tones (ideally 1kHz, 10kHz, 15kHz, 100Hz, 50Hz minimum, 40Hz and 30Hz are helpful too), and label with eq type, tape speed and reference fluxivity (for example: NAB EQ, 15ips, 355nWb/m)

Other Formats: 

  • We can transfer DAT, cassette, vinyl 33, 45 & 78rpm, and many other non standard formats for cases where the original mix no longer exists for some reason (archival transfers, re-releases, live recordings, etc).  Please contact us for details.

What are ISRC codes?

 An ISRC is a unique and permanent 12 character alpha-numeric code assigned to each song on an album (or single). 

ISRC stands for International Standard Recording Code, and identifies the country of origin, the copyright owner, the year, and includes an individual 5 digit number per song used to track radio airplay.

We encode ISRCs to provide the means to automatically identify recordings for royalty payments.  Although it is not a requirement to encode ISRCs on your master files, they will be needed to place your songs with streaming services.

ISRCs are assigned by the master rights owner of the recording, usually the record label or independent artist.  

For Information regarding ISRC codes and/or applying on line visit our Links page or contact:
RIAA, 1025 F Street NW, 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20004
Tel: +1 202 775 0101, Fax: +1 202 775 7253
https://www.usisrc.org/

What is CD-Text?

CD-Text includes information about your album (artist name, album title, and track titles). It’s used in CD players; primarily car and home players that have LCD displays and are CD-Text enabled.  If you would like a CD-Text Master, please provide us text with a track order including track titles, artist name & album title exactly as you would like it to appear as CD text.

How can I have my Album info appear in iTunes or other digital media players?

For iTunes and others, you need to upload the info to the CDDB (Gracenote database).  The CDDB is a user-updated online database.

You can use a digital distributer who can do this for you or you can insert one of your replicated CD’s into an online computer, fill out all your album information in iTunes and then click “Options”  and “Submit CD Track Names…”.  Your album’s info will then be uploaded to the CDDB and anyone using iTunes and similar programswill see your information.

For more information visit:

http://www.gracenote.com/

For our advertising clients we offer remote VO recording services.

  • We run Source Connect Pro and record talent from NY to LA, with low latency anywhere in the US and Canada.
  • We go over the talent’s connection and tweak for optimal performance.
  • We run the session and help direct the talent.
  • We have developed a conference link whereby producers, agency people, clients, copy editors etc. can all join the session and comment as needed.
  • We reference video thru a shared screen link when needed.
  • We edit, spot and mix with music for final output and QC before delivery.

Remote Session Checklist

Procedure for VO Talent

Please note that in order to have a technically non challenged Source Connect session:

  • You should have a robust Internet service with at least 3 Mbps up and down minimum.
    Check your speed with 
    https://www.speedcheck.org/
  • If you see that you are connecting with Source stream your ports are not mapped.
    You should contact SC support and map your ports.
  • You should use an Ethernet cable connection to your router and not a Wi-Fi connection.
  • If you have SC Standard/Pro you should know how to connect with Q manager. Unless you run a PC as Q manager is not supported on PCs.
  • Source Connect has a good support team:
  • It is a simple once click process to log on and use your Q manager.**
  • We will send a link to connect one half hour to 1 hour before the session begins, for setup plus Q manager setup and testing.
  • We usually use a 48Khz sampling rate especially when video is involved. Please make sure your DAW and Source Connect (mono) are referenced to a 48Khz sampling rate.
  • In order to access video reference thru our conference app it may be necessary that the talent have a secondary device.
  • In ear buds must be inserted into secondary devises, as this is the only way to mute the device speaker on the conference call to eliminate echoes. (You will NOT be listening thru these earbuds
  • (see talent hints and suggestions below)

It has been our experience, especially with someone we haven’t connected with, that it is always good to just do a very quick Source Connect connection sometime before the setup to make sure we connect without Source Connect server or other Internet issues.

** With Q manager and Auto-Restore we get every take while it automatically identifies dropped packets, recalls them from the remote system and restores them into the recorded audio.

Procedure for Producer

  •  Please provide approved scripts and videos before the session. We set up DAW files for the session when we receive final elements.    
  • Please be aware that very last minute delivery of sources may take up some of our session time if  we cannot schedule setup before the session.
  • We will set up a conference for you and talent on the session date.
  • Talent and our engineer will do preliminary set up. We will text you to join us before the session so we are all  comfortable with the monitoring environment.
  • Please share the conference link for everyone else to join us at the start time of the session.

Notes:

  • Producers, agency and clients; Please use a computer or laptop with an Ethernet connection when at all possible.
  • Use a Chrome  browser  to open the link provided.
  • Please use in ear bud and mic to avoid echo.
  • iOS devises will guide you to download the app
  • Click on stop video to maintain good bandwidth
  • Click on the lower right to engage the chat function.
  • There will also be a call in number but the audio will be sub par telephone sound.

Producer

Have all attendees know to turn off their video to preserve bandwidth and to ALWAYS mute their microphone when not commenting.

  • Please provide the script (Not Story Board) and reference materials before the session.
  • Please provide a list of all attendees at the meeting.
  • Please provide 720p 15 fps videos as there will be less latency for a smoother session.

Notes:

Echos can happen for a couple of reasons;

The most common cause is if someone is listening to the remote person over speakers with their microphone close enough that it is picking up their audio and sending it back to them. This usually results in an echo that is lower in volume or somewhat faint. To avoid this, it is recommended that all connecting parties listen over headphones and mute their microphone when they are not speaking. Sometimes, this can still happen even if headphones are being used, especially if using blue tooth earbuds like AirPods. If that is the case, try lowering the volume in your headphones to avoid the microphone from picking up the audio. Closed-back headphones tend to work better for this.

Talent hints and suggestions

During the session, if there is a technical glitch with Source Connect:

1- Log off Source Connect,

2- Quit Source Connect,

3- Reboot Source Connect,

4- Log on Source Connect,

5- Wait for the engineer to send you a connect request.

If you do not have an acoustically-treated booth/room? Try hanging a couple of heavy duty moving blankets in your walk in closet and run your ethernet cable directly to your modem.

And unless you have an acoustically-treated booth/room, we suggest the use of broadcast dynamic mics for home studios! These mics are ruggedly user-bulletproof, less sensitive to the room, etc.

Some very good dynamic mics for voiceover are: Sennheiser MD 421, Shure SM7B, Sennheiser 416, and EV RE20.

Just keep in mind that dynamic mics require a higher amount of gain compared to condensers. While a lot of preamp/interfaces can provide “enough” it often means maxing-out the gain trim with the noise floor making itself heard.

Therefore we recommend an in-line preamp like the FetHead, or CloudLifter that will add +25dB of clean gain, BEFORE it hits the interface preamp.

Headphones:

You may have a few, but they should not be: consumer-grade, use bass-boost, or be noise/canceling.

You should use closed-back with large, over-the ear pads (not smaller on-ear pads) to get a good seal and reduce headphone-bleed into the mic.

A recommended and reasonably priced go-to is the standard Sony 7506 or MDR-V6.

In ear buds must be inserted into secondary devises, as this is the only way to mute the device speaker on the conference call to eliminate echoes. (You will not be listening thru these earbuds)

Source Connect Standard 3.9 manual:

https://documents-sourceelements.netdna-ssl.com/media/documents/Source- Connect%20Standard%203.9%20User%20Guide.

What is “Mastered for iTunes” ?

Recently renamed “Apple Digital Masters”

“Apple Digital Masters” is based on your main high definition digital master with a few adjustments to optimize for the iTunes Store/Apple Music AAC format.

Bang Zoom Mastering is an approved “Apple Digital Masters” mastering studio. What this means is that Apple has certified us to ensure we are creating “Apple Digital Masters” files to their standards. “Apple Digital Masters” files are auditioned through the same encoder in which they will be eventually processed by Apple so proper testing and adjustments can be made to avoid problems, and optimize audio masters for distribution via the iTunes Store.

The master files must follow guidelines that Apple has developed for “Apple Digital Masters”

https://www.apple.com/itunes/mastered-for-itunes/

  • A DDP image is a digital image of a CD that contains the audio, and metadata like track ID numbers, CD-Text, ISRC codes and UPC codes.
  • DDP is not prone to errors that can occur with physical CDs such as read/write errors and bler errors. This is the main reason why you should use a DDP image for your CD production master.

If you will be duplicating a limited run the duplicator will likely use a CD as it would not be financially prudent to create a glass master from the DDP master.

We recommend separate masters specifically tailored for each medium if your project is going to be released both in a digital format as well as vinyl.

We prepare a vinyl pre-master, where we recommended removing songs from your CD, or shortening some songs to avoid long sides. The longest side usually determines the overall level and tone of the entire record, so creating the shortest sides will produce the best audio results.

We will provide you with individual per side 24-bit masters that are edited for the length limitations per side of vinyl and optimized for the dynamics of vinyl cutting.

Please be aware that lacquer cutting is the most important step in the vinyl process after your master leaves our studio. If problems arise, It’s much quicker and less expensive to fix issues with your vinyl pre-master at the lacquer cutting stage rather than at the test pressing stage.