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AUDIO MASTERING
 
Mastering is the process of taking all of the songs that were mixed down, and assembling them in order onto a CD for duplication.



BASIC MASTERING SERVICES
These steps are always performed when we master an audio project.

  • Transfering the songs from your medium to our computer
    • If your recording project was not mixed at Polkasound, then we'll need to transfer your songs to our computer for mastering.  Acceptable mediums include flash drives, CD/DVD, audio cassette, DAT, and 33 or 45RPM record.
  • "Cleaning up" the beginning and end of each song
    • Using our high-end software which provides us with a detailed, graphical representation of your recorded audio, we can "zoom in" to the beginnings and ends of the songs to find and delete unwanted noises such as count-offs, coughs, drum stick clicks, etc.
  • Placing the songs in the proper order with blank space between them
    • It doesn't matter the order in which your songs were recorded and mixed at the studio. Simply write down the order in which you'd like them on your CD, and we'll take care of the rest. We'll put an appropriate amount of blank space between each song. We can also blend (crossfade) the beginnings and ends of adjacent songs together.
  • Maximizing the audio levels of each song
    • Using multi-band digital compression, we'll bring up the overall volume of your CD to professional levels. This process is an industry standard for radio play, because it guarantees your recording won't sound "wimpy" when compared to any other recording played over the radio. Because the compression is digital and multi-band, there is no "pumping" effect typical of full-bandwidth, analog compression.
  • Fine-tuning the levels of each song for volume consistency
    • With our professional software, we will preview exactly what your CD will sound like, from beginning to end, before we burn the CD. We'll make sure the volumes of the songs and the spaces between them remain consistent throughout the entire recording.
  • Creating a CD Master
    • This is the disc your duplicator will use to duplicate your project. We can encode your tracks with ISRC codes as well as CD text, if desired.


ADVANCED MASTERING SERVICES
These services are applied wherever needed per your instructions, or at our discretion if desired.  (Please also see Audio Restoration)
  • Equalization/Enhancement
    • We have a full arsenal of graphic, parametric, and paragraphic equalization software at our disposal.  We also have programs that digitally generate -- not just amplify -- needed bass or treble.
  • Noise Reduction
    • Does your recording suffer from a background hum, buzz, or hiss?  Our high-end software samples the background noise, then uses the sample to digitally remove the noise from the music.  The result has to be heard to be believed.
  • Spatial Enhancement
    • If you have an older recording that lacks a full, stereo image, a little spatial enhancement might do the trick.  Combined with a light touch of reverb, it can add quite a bit of life to an otherwise flat-sounding recording.
  • Reverb/Effects
    • Like spatial enhancement, a touch of reverb can add life to your music.  We have every reverb you can imagine at our fingertips, from underground sewers to gothic cathedrals, as well as chorus, flanging, and phasing effects.
  • Pitch Adjustment
    • This feature allows the pitch of your music to be raised or lowered from a few cents to a full octave or more.  Typically a song will speed up with a raise in pitch and slow down with a decrease in pitch, but our software can maintain the original speed of the song.
  • Time Compression/Expansion
    • Your songs' tempos and lengths can be finely adjusted, either with or without affecting the pitch.
  • Dynamic Compression/Limiting
    • We have a full compliment of software programs to give us detailed control over the dynamics of your music.  We can compress your music to make the overall volume smoother, and we can zero-in on particular frequencies and bandwidths for more precise control.  For example, if the bass is too loud, we can compress just the low-frequencies so that the rest of the music is not affected.
  • Sound Effects
    • Do you need an air raid siren in your song?  No problem!  We have an extensive library of sound effects.


A Note About What Mastering Does NOT Do:


Sometimes a client will give us a recording to remaster and ask us, for example, to make a harmony vocal brighter or bring up the volume of a background organ. Such requests require remixing of the project, not remastering, because the mastering process cannot isolate and adjust the individual instruments or vocals on a recording. Audio that has been mixed together cannot be unmixed. The best analogy to explain this is paint. Once you mix several colors of paint together, you can't un-mix them. The same is true for recorded audio — once you mix instruments and vocals together, you can't un-mix them. Mastering software can process specific frequency ranges where various instruments are found in the audio spectrum,
but where instruments or vocals need to be individually processed or adjusted, remixing the music from the studio multi-track recording would be required.



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