Mastering FAQ

Q. What is mastering?

Mastering is the process of taking the final stereo mixes produced by a recording studio, and creating an album (or single) master ready for duplication. It is the final creative stage in the music recording process.

During this process, extra sound processing is usually applied in order to get the sound just right,
to achieve a consistency between the different tracks and to fix any problems from the recording stage.

It's what makes a record sound like a record as opposed to a collection of songs.

For more details about the mastering process read all about mastering.

Q. Why should I have my music professionally mastered?

Put simply, mastering makes it sound as good as possible.

Professional mastering engineers have years or decades of mastering experience. They have mastered hundreds, perhaps thousands, of projects. They work in great sounding mastering studios with top-of-the-range mastering equipment. They know exactly what to do to make your music sound better.

It’s not just a case of making your tracks loud before pressing copies. Mastering is a process that gets the best possible sound out of your music.

Q. Can I hear demos of Mastering World’s work?

Yes you can.

Click on Example Tracks in the left hand menu for a number of ‘Before’ and ‘After’ mastering examples.

Our mastering engineers' pages also have specific examples of their work.

Q. How does “Any Studio” work?

If you are happy for any of our online mastering engineers to master your tracks, select Any Studio to get our best prices.

You will receive the same personal service that Mastering World is famous for, your music will still be mastered by one of the world-class engineers featured on our Studios page, you just won't know which one until they contact you.

Jobs are distributed around our mastering studios on a "round robin" basis, so you have an equal chance of your music being mastered at Hafod Mastering, LOUD Mastering or Super Audio Mastering.

Q. How do I upload my music to Mastering World?

Click Master Tracks Now in the menu bar on the left.

You will be taken through several easy steps to enter your details, pay us and then upload your mix files.

Once that’s done you will be able to log in at any time to upload more mixes, update your order
or communicate with your chosen mastering engineer.

Q. Do you master for Mastered for iTunes?

Yes we do!

As we are now all into the digital generation, the digital domain is where everything seems to exist, we now offer mastering for specific applications such as iTunes.

Hafod Mastering, LOUD Mastering and Super Audio Mastering are approved audio mastering facilities for creating the Mastered For iTunes format. The Mastered For iTunes (MFiT) format is the new standard for digital releases within Apple's iTunes store. All music purchased through iTunes is not in an MP3 format, iTunes encodes it as an AAC (Advanced Audio Encoding), with the resulting file extension of .m4a. The AAC format is at a higher than CD resolution, allowing for better audio quality.

If you want to master to the iTunes format then you will need to record and mix your tracks ideally at 96 kHz. Once your tracks are mixed, get in touch with us to arrange your mastering for iTunes session.

Q. Which file formats can I upload?

Most of our clients send us their mixes as stereo 24 bit WAV files.

We will accept any format audio files (within reason), WAVs, AIFs etc, but please don’t send mp3s!

We’ll use mp3’s if we have to, but they simply don’t sound good enough.
Use the highest resolution that you can, not the lowest resolution that you can get away with.

Q. How should I best prepare my mixes for mastering?

Bounce or render your finished mixes straight off the mix bus with a few dBs of headroom.

If you have any limiters or finalisers on the mix bus, please remove or bypass them before running off the mix.
Overall bus processing of the mix is best left to the mastering stage.

For a more detailed discussion on this, please read our blog here. How to prepare your mixes for mastering.

Q. Why shouldn't I use a Finaliser before sending the tracks to be mastered?

A Finaliser will apply multi-band compression and limiting to your track.
It automatically applies algorithms that can change the sound of your music significantly.

We much prefer to use our ears to decide what needs doing to your music during mastering,
and use the best mastering equipment in the best listening environment to do it.

Q. Can I speak to the engineer who is mastering my tracks?

Yes you can.

The mastering engineer will contact you by email to discuss your needs before he begins your job.

You can also email mastering engineers about your enquiries at any time.
Click Contact Us in the navigation menu for the email addresses.

Q. Can I attend the mastering session?

Yes you can.

Please contact us if you wish to do so, though please bear in mind that some of our mastering studios may not be able to offer web prices for attended mastering sessions.

Q. How long will it take for my music to be mastered?

Check the mastering engineers’ pages for turnaround times. These times should be used as a guide only.
We will always do our best to get your mastering done promptly.

The mastering engineer will contact you as soon as he receives your job. He will let you know when he has scheduled time to do the work.

If your schedule is critical, select ‘48 Hour Turnaround’ on the ordering page, but please contact us first just to confirm that we’re able to honour that turnaround time.
This will incur an extra charge.

Q. In which format will I receive my mastered tracks?

We can deliver your mastered tracks in two ways - online or by courier.

Most clients ask us to return their mastered music as WAV files online.

We can also make a CD Master, compiled in order with great spacing between the tracks and also with your ISRCs and CD Text encoded.
This can be delivered as a physical CD Master by courier, either on Exabyte or on CD, along with a reference CD of the CD Master.

We can also deliver the same master as a digital file in DDP (Direct to Disc Protocol) format online.
DDP is the format that all CD replication factories use to create a glass master before pressing up CDs. If you send them a physical master then chances are the first thing they'll do is convert it to a DDP file.
If you decide you'd like your mastered files in DDP format, we will also send you an app that will open and play the DDP file, and also let you burn audio CDs directly from the DDP.

Q. What do I do if I’m not happy with how it sounds?

In the unlikely event that you are not satisfied with the sound of your mastered music, please contact us.

If there is a problem due to an error on our part, then naturally we will aim to correct it free of charge.

If you require changes or amendments to the final masters, please contact your mastering engineer.
Often, minor amendments to the mastering are done without any extra charge, though this is at the discretion of the mastering engineer.
Complex or repeated changes may incur an extra charge.

Q. Why are the different mastering engineers/mastering studios different prices?

There are many reasons for the range of prices on offer.

Different mastering studios have invested different amounts in the mastering equipment and studio design, and there will be variations in the overheads that they have.

There is also a range of experience on offer, for example at LOUD Mastering: Jason Mitchell has 16 years’ experience, but John Dent has been mastering hit records for nigh on 40 years. John and Jason will use the same mastering room and equipment to work on your music, but it costs more to use John Dent because he is more in demand.

Q. I'm on a 56K modem, can I post/DHL etc. my mixes to you?

Yes you can.

Please register and pay for the job using the Mastering World website as normal, then send your masters to the relevant address on the Contact Us page.

Q. How am I protected against piracy if I upload my tracks to you?

We take the security of your music very seriously.

Our Secure Transfer facility is based on 128-bit data encryption, the same level of security that banks use on the internet. Our Secure Server is protected to the hilt by modern security software.

However, your music is only as safe as your password or passphrase.

Use the following guidelines, and your music will be as safe as your bank account.

When devising a password or passphrase, use a few words.
Mix upper and lowercase letters, and add numbers for a very strong password.

Never reveal your password or passphrase to anyone.

Q. How do I pay for my online mastering job?

You can pay by credit or debit card, or by PayPal for your mastering session.

If you live in the UK and would prefer to pay by electronic bank transfer, please contact us to arrange it.

Q. Will I be charged tax on my purchase?

Most users of Mastering World will not have to pay United Kingdom Value Added Tax (VAT) for using Mastering World's services. This will depend on where you live, and on whether or not you are using our mastering services for business purposes.

1. Customers outside the European Community (EC), for example the United States, Japan, Australia, India, can use our services tax free.

Simply register your address on our website in your account details, and make your purchase using a credit or debit card registered at that address outside the EC.

2. Customers in the EC (except those in the UK) will not pay VAT if, like most of our customers, you use Mastering World's services for business purposes.

Examples of business purposes might be:
producing a CD to sell in shops or at gigs;
producing an album as part of a record contract;
recording a demo to send to promoters to get gigs;
making a recording to send to record companies in the hope of getting a record contract or a distribution deal.

To make sure that you do not pay VAT needlessly, please enter your business name and VAT number (if you have one) in your account details to reflect your business status. If you want to change your details, click >My Account, >Change Business Name.

Mastering World's payment system will take account of these details and, if eligible, you will not be charged VAT on your bill.

3. Customers in the UK have to pay VAT at the current rate of 20%. If you believe you shouldn't have to pay VAT, for example if you live in the Channel Islands, please contact us and we will adjust your bills accordingly.

Note: The details you provide when registering with Mastering World will determine if you will be charged VAT on your job. Your country of residence, as you enter it on your account details, will be checked against your credit card details when you pay us. If you have entered a business name when registering with us then we will assume that you are using our service for business use.

Mastering World is registered for VAT with the United Kingdom's HM Revenue and Customs. Our VAT number is GB855974567.

Q. What is your Cancellation/Refund Policy?

In compliance with EC regulations on distance selling over the internet, you have the following rights to cancel.

To cancel you must contact us either
a. By phone at Mastering World, or
b. You must email the mastering engineer who is due to master your music directly.

You must contact us either
a. before we start work on your job, or
b. within seven working days of the contract starting.

The contract is assumed to have started the moment you have placed your order.

Your chosen mastering engineer will contact you soon after you have placed your order to give an indication of when he will start work on your job.
Once we have started work on your job, you may no longer cancel the contract.