Mastering Services

I have happy clients ranging from death metal to bluegrass. Tell me about your project & call or email for rates or with any questions.

I get very good sounds using high-end analog and digital hardware. I also offer an affordable per-song flat rate, so you know exactly what the bill will be from the start.  You will NOT experience any nickel and dime charges for getting things sounding the way you want.  I do this because I love doing it and enjoy the satisfaction of people leaving with music that sounds like their intended vision.  I can give you my professional direction and technical input, but ultimately the “sound” is yours.

Accepted source delivery:

24/44.1 to 32-bit float/192k audio files on disk or optical media, or uploaded to my Dropbox account.

16-bit files and Standard audio CD’s are accepted but not recommended.


Mastering Equipment

I have several high-end options to choose from to find the right combination of flavors for your music…

A/D & D/A conversion

Apogee Rosetta 200,  Waves hardware L2,  Avid HD I/O,  iZ RADAR w “classic” converters

My Main Squeeze

Masalec MLA-3:  This is what does the heavy lifting in my analog chain.  Aside from it’s multi-band compression duties, it can be an extremely flexible broad-band buss compressor and its 3 bands have passive filters that act as super smooth broad-brush EQ’s.  If that all means nothing to you, all you need to know is that it’s like having sonic Silly Putty that lets me shape things in very particular ways without drawing attention to its own sound.

Vertigo Sound VSM-2:  This is a very unique box.  It’s a parallel & Mid-Side insert / router, plus has a very interesting harmonic distortion generator which can, yes, add distortion, but do it in very subtle ways that just give a nice sheen to things when desired.  I most often just use it for its inserts to do Mid-Side processing with my compression or EQ.


Hardware EQ & Dynamics

OK, I do a lot of mixing, so I have a lot of choices, but here are some of the units I often go to for mastering as well…

Summit Audio EQ-200:  Class-A solid state parametric EQ designed with Rupert Neve.

Daking:  A-Range style class A equalizers.

Pendulum Audio PL-2:  All class-A analog peak limiter.

Chandler Ltd / EMI TG-1:  Reissue of 60’s mastering limiter in Abbey Road Studios.  Mine has been heavily modified to my specs to work with a variety of signals.  I use this a lot.

TK Audio BC-1:  A more flexible iteration of the famous SSL style buss compressor.  Can be just as aggressive and punchy, or much more transparent.

Retro Instruments Power Strips:  Aside from the Pultec EQ’s, the Altec-inspired tube compressors can be really cool for the right music.  Great for warming up acoustic music.

DW Fearn VT-7 tube compressor:  Big, warm tone. Ultra-smooth compression.

Dave Hill Designs Titans:  These are about the cleanest, punchiest things I own, but they can get plenty colorful too.

Empirical Labs FATSO: Buss-compressor & saturator. For thicker, tape-like saturation.

ART Pro VLA:  Punchy tube opto limiter.  Mine has been heavily modified.  All the “guts” have been replaced with hi-fi components.

Waves hardware L2:  The better sounding hardware version of the famous (or is it infamous?) plug-in.



I have way too many to list, but I have several useful mastering & “fix-it” plug-ins by Universal Audio, Waves, Fab Filter, PSP, Brainworx, Sonnox, etc.  While I rely heavily on the analog gear, one or two of these can be very helpful if something in your mixes just needs a little help or a certain color.  I’m most commonly using some kind of de-esser, some kind of “coloring” box, and some kind of final peak limiter.


Editing, Sequencing, Delivery

I use a Pro Tools HDX system to play back your source audio and re-capture my processed audio.  The files are then exported and sequenced with either Bias Peak or Apple’s Wave Burner.  Here is where your track spaces and fades are set and Redbook masters are burned.  I can also deliver 24-bit wav files of your audio for digital distribution, or DDP 2.0 files for uploading a disk image of your master to a replicator.

Mastering FAQ, Do and Don’t

Q:  How should I name my mix files?

A:  A good formula for naming your mix files is:  SongName_1_Jun23.  Leave out spaces in the song name, followed by the number of the mix (in case you have 15 versions) and the date.  If your mixes cross the year, include the year as well, like:  MyHitSong_1_09Dec30, then MyHitSong_2_10Jan5.  I mixed my first version Dec 30th, 2009, and mixed my 2nd version Jan 5th, 2010.  Avoid using things like “Final, Last, Keeper, Best,” etc in your file names.  Inevitably there may be a mix revision or two, and I have 3 different mixes that all say “Final.”  Just stick with a number system, and you and I will be clear about what version I’m supposed to work from.

Q:  I’m mixing in my computer at home.  What settings should I use for my bounce to disk?

A:  Since I can use any sample rate for playback, I recommend that you bounce at 24-bit, and match your sample rate to that of your session.  This way your program isn’t introducing any artifacts by up-sampling or down-sampling or truncating the bit depth.  Always double check, because some programs automatically bounce to disk at 44.1/16-bit unless you change it, assuming you want to burn an audio CD with the resulting file.  Also, it’s generally preferred to select “stereo” instead of “dual-mono” audio files.  It’s just easier to handle the files in most cases when there are single stereo files to keep track of.

Q:  I’m mixing on an analog board back to digital.  What resolution should I mix down to?

A:  Definitely mix down at 24-bit.  Pick the sample rate that sounds good.  I mix a lot of rock, and in most cases, you’d be hard-pressed to hear much sonic benefit to mixing at 88.2 or 96kHz, but sometimes you can.  44.1 or 48kHz usually works great, but let your ears be the judge.  If you really hear an improvement, or you’re doing highly detailed acoustic music, or mixing directly from analog tapes, by all means throw it down at high res!  If you’re mixing back into inputs on your workstation, (very common with Pro Tools users) use a better 2-ch converter if one is available.  Export the mix tracks as a 24-bit stereo file at the same sample rate as your session, with no conversion.  The point is if I start with the best sounding file, it will convert to analog, pass through the gear, and return to digital in better shape.  But don’t mix at 96k just because someone told you it’s better.  Sometimes it’s not.  Listen and decide.

Q:  I have mixes on 1/2″ or 1/4″ analog tape, can you use that?

A:  God bless you!  You’re a dying breed.  Although I have an analog multi-track for recording, I don’t have a 1/2″ or 1/4 2-track deck.  Frankly I’d love to have both of those formats, but I’m out of space for more machines around here!  I can either take your tapes somewhere to be converted to 24/96 files I can work from, or I can recommend some other engineers who can handle analog masters, but will generally be much more expensive.

Q:  What kind of digital levels can I hit when I mix or bounce to disk?

A:  Since many people these days don’t have good RMS or loudness meters, we have to speak in terms of peak levels rather than loudness most of the time.  It’s ideal if you can leave a few dB of headroom above your peaks before you hit full scale.  You definitely DON’T WANT ANY clip indications (RED LIGHTS = BAD), and please don’t normalize your mixes.  The analog equipment will work better if there is some headroom and dynamic range to work with.  If there are a bunch of overs, it might sound fine on your system, but they could cause problems or reveal distortion at any stage in the mastering.  Work on a good mix, not on trying to make it loud.  If you do have a Katz, Dorrough or similar loudness meter, an RMS level of around -16 to -12 dBFS at the most is generally pretty good to work with.

Q:  When I do my mix or bounce to disk, can I use my favorite limiter plug-in on the mix buss?

A:  Use it after the fact for your own copy if you want to listen to it that way, but leave your delivered mix master unprocessed.  As a continuation on the above answer, I’ll have way more sonic options and the analog gear will sound better if I have some dynamic range to work with.  If you like, I can make your master plenty loud and with better, more musical results.  Mixes that come in too loud to begin with just get turned down before processing anyway.

Q:  What about using a buss compressor?

A:  First of all, use the right amount of compression on your individual tracks to get the relative loudness, layers and impact you want to hear in your mixes.  When using a buss compressor at a relatively gentle ratio, it can help glue things together a little.  I like to use one myself.  If you do use one, just don’t get greedy with it.  Use it subtly, but not simply to get loudness.  Again, I can make it plenty loud here if you want that.  A good rule of thumb is to try not to hit more than a dB or two of gain reduction during the mix, and don’t make the attack too fast, but you’re gunna do what you do.  Too much buss compression at once can shrink the impact and depth of the mix.  In an effort to make things louder, they can get loud but strangely smaller.  Find the sweet spot for the unit you’re using.  Some work great when you just skim things a little (like a FATSO), and some like to work a little harder (like SSL style units) before they sound cool.  When in doubt, deliver two versions, with and without the buss compressor in the chain.

Q:  What about using EQ on my mix buss?

A:  It’s generally best to stay away from.  If you’re working with an experienced guy who likes to mix through his special vintage this or that EQ for his signature sound, or to just add a touch of color, fine.  But if you find that a lot of tweaking is happening with that EQ, you should probably turn it off for a while and start fixing things in your mix.

Q:  Can you master from mix “stems?”

A:  Yes, but my easy flat rate kinda goes out the window.  Mix stems can open up creative possibilities, but also introduce a whole can of worms for the mastering guy, blurring the lines between mixing and mastering.  The mix should be the mix, with maybe a vocal up & vocal down version if you’re unsure.  If you ONLY have stems, and not a satisfactory composite mix to deliver, I can work with that, but it takes longer, and you will be required to attend at least the first few songs to make sure you’re liking what’s going on.  If you have more than Band / Vocal or Drums / Instruments / Vocal stems, forget it.  We’re calling this a mix project!