Sontec MEP-250EX Parametric Equalizer

Frequently Asked Questions

1.  What do I need to provide you (file format, submission info, etc.)?

All digital audio file formats are accepted.  Lossless audio files (i.e. WAV, AIFF, etc.) are greatly preferred over lossy formats (i.e. MP3, AAC, etc.) as better results will be achieved when working with lossless audio files.  Likewise, 24 bit (or 32 bit) files are preferred over 16 bit files.

Files can be sent for free using our WeTransfer Plus page.  We can also work from data CDR’s, data DVD-R’s, audio CD’s, USB flash drives, external hard drives or any device with analog, S/PDIF coaxial, S/PDIF toslink or AES/EBU outputs.

When submitting files please include the following:

– Artist Name

– Album Title

– Track Title(s)

– Track Order

– ISRC codes (optional)

– Your release plans:  Digital download, online streaming, CD, vinyl, cassette or some combination thereof?

Feel free to include any other information you think would be helpful:

Does your album have to be the loudest on the block or are you more comfortable preserving the dynamics?  Are there any specific fade-ins, fade-outs, or cross-fades that you would like on any of the tracks or track transitions?  Is there a particular noise, click or pop in a track(‘s) that you would like to try to have removed?  Etc.

2.  Do you have any advice on preparing a mix for mastering?

Please do not use a peak limiter on your 2-bus (master fader) or clip your mixes.  This processing can’t be undone in mastering and gives the mastering engineer much less opportunity to work with the mixes.

There should be some headroom in your mixes.  Shoot for a maximum peak level of anywhere between -24dBFS and -3dBFS.

24 bit (or 32 bit) files are always preferred over 16 bit files.  Even if you are working with 16 bit source material it’s recommended that you bounce your mixes at 24 bit.

Do not up-sample or down-sample your current file format.  For example, if you’re working at 48kHz please provide files at that same sample rate.

Avoid compression on the 2-bus for the sake of making the mix louder.  If you’re using compression on the 2-bus as part of the aesthetics of a given mix however that is fine.  When in doubt submit two versions, one with 2-bus compression and one without.

3.  How long will it take you to master my album?

This largely depends on studio scheduling at the time of receiving the final mixes or the booking of an attended session.  Our workload can vary.  Sometimes we’re completely booked several weeks in advance, other times your album, EP or single can be worked on within 72 hours or less.  Due to this it’s highly recommended that you send in your final mixes or schedule an attended session as far in advance as possible of any deadlines you may have.  We do our best to accommodate rush projects whenever able but the more leeway given the better for everyone involved.

4.  What is a Production Master CD and what is a Reference CD?

A Production Master CD is a Red Book formatted audio compact disc.  Production Master CD’s are burned at optimum speed using a high quality burner onto high quality blank media.  Any meta-data such as ISRC codes, CD Text or a UPC code can be embedded.  They are error checked for C1, C2 and CU errors using the PlexTools Professional XL software and a Plextor optical disc drive.  Production Master CD’s are intended for replication/duplication only and should remain safely stored in their case until then.  A PQ sheet and CD error report print-out are included.

A Reference CD is a copy of the Production Master CD but without the extra step of error checking.  Reference CD’s are intended for listening purposes and not replication/duplication.  One Reference CD is included free of charge with your Production Master CD.

5.  What is a DDPi?

DDPi stands for Disc Description Protocol image.  A DDPi is essentially a digital file set version of a Production Master CD.  All PQ data including CD Text, ISRC codes and a UPC code can be contained within the digital file set.  Since a DDPi does not require any physical media it’s priced less than a Production Master CD.

6.  What are ISRC codes?

ISRC codes are a 12 character long digital signature that allows for the tracking and management of songs in the digital domain.  If you would like ISRC codes embedded on your Production Master CD or DDPi you must provide them to us prior to your Production Master CD or DDPi being created.

To obtain ISRC codes in the USA contact the US ISRC:

US ISRC

To obtain ISRC codes outside the USA contact the IFPI:

IFPI

7.  What is CD Text?

CD Text is often confused with the CDDB (Gracenote database).  It includes basic information about your album (artist name, album title, track titles, year, etc.).  It’s used by only a small percentage of CD players; primarily car and home stereos that have an LCD display and are CD Text enabled.  CD Text is not commonly used by software media players.

If you would like CD Text embedded on your Production Master CD or DDPi please provide a text document or email with all your album info (artist name, album title and track titles) exactly as you would like it to appear with attention to spelling and capitalization.

8.  How do I get my album information to appear in iTunes or other digital media players?

To get your album information to appear in iTunes (and certain other digital media players) you need to upload the info to the CDDB (also referred to as the Gracenote database).  The CDDB is a user-updated online database.

The easiest way to go about this is to insert one of your replicated CD’s into the optical media drive of an online computer, fill out all your album information in iTunes and then click “Options” in the upper right hand corner of the window (“Advanced” pull-down menu in earlier versions of iTunes) followed by “Submit CD Track Names…”.  Your album’s info will then be uploaded to the CDDB and anyone using iTunes (or similar programs that connects to the CDDB) will retrieve your album’s info upon inserting your CD into their online computer.  Please note it can take a few days for the listing to become “live”.

For more information visit:

Gracenote

9.  What’s the deal with vinyl mastering?

We can provide you with 24 bit “for vinyl” masters.  When mastering for vinyl special attention needs to be given to overall level in a way that is a bit different than mastering for a digital release.  If your album is going to be released both in a digital format (digital download, online streaming, CD, etc.) as well as vinyl it’s recommend that you get separate masters specifically tailored for each medium.

Pricing for vinyl masters along with masters intended to be released digitally is an additional $5 per track.  If your project will be released on vinyl only and will not be available in any sort of digital format at all there is no need for separate masters.  Simply tell us your project is going to be released on vinyl only and this will be taken into account during the mastering process.

10.  What is “Mastered for iTunes” (MFiT) all about?

In 2012 Apple released some documentation and software tools for mastering engineers in order for us to achieve the best results when mastering music that is to be released in the iTunes Store.  All music in the iTunes Store is encoded with Apple’s AAC codec.  This codec performs best with 24 bit files with a max peak level no greater than -1dBTP.  If your music is going to be released in the iTunes Store let us know and we will provide you with MFiT masters free of charge.

Full Circle Mastering is an Apple certified Mastered For iTunes studio.

11.  What is the cost for mastering an instrumental, radio edit or alternate edit version of a track?

$20 per track.  That is assuming the mix is identical to the “full” version but just with the vocals removed, profanity edited, a portion edited out to cut total track length, etc.

12.  Do you offer stem mastering?  If so, how much?

Yes.  Rates for stem mastering vary according to the number of stems and the nature of the mix.  Please contact us to get a quote.

13.  A)  My album is 25, one minute long tracks.  B)  My album is two, 30 minute long tracks.  Are your rates still the same?

The listed per track rate applies for the vast majority of projects.  If your album has an abnormally large track count or consists of many very short tracks or interludes please get in touch for the possibility of a reduced rate.  Likewise, if your album is just a few very long tracks an appropriate rate will have to be determined.  Any pricing changes outside of what is listed on the rates page of this website will be discussed and agreed upon prior to any work being done.

14.  I have decided to go back and rework some things in a mix that you already mastered, can you master it again?

No problem, however this is subject to a fee.  When you send mixes out for mastering you should be finished with the mixing process and ready to hand things over to the next stage, mastering.  If however you decide that you would like to go back and adjust or change something within a mix that has been previously mastered here and then resubmit it for mastering a charge between 50% to 100% of the standard per track rate will be applied depending on the nature of the mix changes.

15.  Can you make my album louder than a rocket launch?

Sure, but it’s definitely not recommended.  Over the last 20 years or so you have probably noticed CD’s (and all other digital audio formats) have been getting progressively louder.  The problem with this is that digital audio has a fixed volume capacity.  A popular trend over the last two decades has been to use extreme amounts of peak limiting and compression in order to increase perceived loudness.  By doing this, there is a huge sacrifice resulting in loss of dynamics, depth and clarity.  All of these downsides simply for the purpose of making an album slightly louder than the next persons.

At Full Circle Mastering we like to walk the balanced path regarding the “loudness war.”  We will help you achieve both an optimal volume level while keeping dynamics, depth and clarity in tact so your music sounds great on all playback systems.

For more information on the topic of loudness please visit:

Wiki – Loudness War

Spectrum – The Future of Music

Bob Ludwig – Loudness Wars

16.  Do you offer any other services?

We offer forensic audio services for lawyers, attorneys, law enforcement agencies, state and federal police, private investigators and personal individuals.

Being equipped with an extremely accurate and high-fidelity listening environment, coupled with the best audio restoration and processing tools available, Full Circle Mastering is the perfect place for forensic audio work.  Rates vary from project to project so please inquire to get an estimated quote.