Mastering From Stems

Stem mastering is when, instead of sending a stereo mix for mastering, you divide the mix up into groups of tracks, or stems, and export those stems separately and send them for mastering.

The simplest example is exporting the vocal and separately to the backing track.

The main advantage of sending stems instead of a stereo mix is that it gives the mastering engineer more power and flexibility, for example in the case above we could compress or EQ the vocals separately from the backing track.

The disadvantage is that doing so can be time consuming and can push up costs.

Mastering From Stems checklist

Tick every one of these boxes before sending us stems for mastering. We may not be able to proceed if these are not checked:

  • Send us a stereo WAV of the finished mix - it may be that we can master from this, which will save us time and save you money!
  • All stems should start from the same point and should when summed should peak below 0dBFS (maximum digital peak level) on the mix bus.
  • Same as stereo mastering, send us the stems at 24 bit at the same sampling frequency (44.1, 48 or 96kHz) that the project was recorded at.
  • Include all effects (reverbs, delays etc) in the relevant stem.
  • When the stems are summer together they should sound exactly like the stereo mix.
  • If you have a test master/rough master that you have been listening to then please send that too.
  • If you are sending stems because there’s a certain part of the mix that you’re unsure about, please tell us in detail about that so we can figure out how how to help.

When should I not use Mastering From Stems?

If your mix is good and you are totally happy with it then there is no advantage to be gained by sending us stems instead of the stereo mix.

If everything sounds good and in balance then normal stereo mastering tools are all that are needed to get a great sounding master.

When should I consider Mastering From Stems?

There are a number of circumstances where stems can really contribute to a fantastic sounding master:

  • If you’re not 100% happy with your mix and can’t quite nail the final sound, then BAss, Drums, Vox and Rest stems would give us more options.
  • If you’re mixing in a less-than-perfect listening environment, for example in a small room you may be unsure about the low end so Bass, Kick Drum and Rest stems may help.

We may contact you to ask for stems if we there’s something about the mix that we are finding difficult to resolve with just the stereo mix.