Will you master the first track for free, or at least provide a sample of my mastered track before I decide to pay?

For my first few years as a mastering engineer, I spent nearly half my working hours preparing test masters, usually for amateur musicians who were curious to hear what their music would sound like mastered. I’ve reached a point in my career where I don’t need to do that anymore. Cutting out the freebies means lower prices and faster turnaround for everyone.

If you are unsatisfied with your master for any reason, I’ll cheerfully provide alternates based on your feedback until you’re 100% happy.

I found a site that will do it for cheaper. Can you cut me a deal?

Are there cheaper options? Yes. Will they save you money in the long run? Maybe not. My rates are extremely competitive considering my years of experience, gear, and room.

In fact, I challenge you to find someone with as many album credits who charges less. It is my sincere belief that a great mastering job will more than pay for itself in the long run.

Out of fairness, everybody pays the same rate. I don’t do “friend deals” or bulk discounts, so please don’t try to negotiate a price cut.

How much do you charge to master alternate versions (extended mixes, radio edits, instrumentals, etc) of the same tracks?

Nothing — it’s on the house! As long as the basic mixes are the same, and I can apply the same settings, I’m happy to run through as many mixes as you want.

Can I pay you now for my next release, and send you each track to master as I finish it?

If you send me tracks one at a time to master, you’ll need to pay the individual track rate of $149 each time. It’s a lot more work to do them separately, and they won’t necessarily sit well with each other unless we agree on a reference ahead of time. Even then, it won’t be as tight as it would be if I mastered all the tracks at once. If necessary, I can always go back and fine-tune on an hourly basis.

How long will it take once I get you my mixes?

Standard turnaround is one week, and your project is guaranteed to be completed within two weeks. If you need it sooner, let me know! I can usually turn around a single in a couple of days.

Do you do stem mastering?

Stem mastering is a fancy name for mixing with one hand tied behind your back. It always involves compromise. The most common example is a drum stem with a crazy loud hi-hat. Sure, I could aggressively EQ or de-ess, and it will only affect the drums rather than the whole mix — but doesn’t it make more sense to just ask you to turn down the hi-hat?

Can I attend the session?

Not if you want me to do a good job! I love talking shop in the studio as much as the next guy, but presumably, your mixes sound perfect to you already. If I’m to provide effective quality control, it’s best that my decisions not be influenced by your perceptions.

My workflow isn’t conducive to client attendance anyway. I’ll work for 20 minutes, then rest my ears with some email, then jump back in for 15 more minutes, then take a walk around the block. I devote many sessions over multiple days to EPs and albums.

What if I need to change a mix after you’ve already mastered it?

Please see my revisions policy.

What gear do you use?

My chain is 100% digital, because I value transparency over “warmth,” which is an audiophile euphemism for distortion. Some processes, such as linear phase EQ and brickwall limiting, are only possible in the digital domain. To my ears, the signal degradation from D/A and A/D conversion doesn’t justify any potential advantage of analog compression.

If you’re looking for a vintage analog sound, I can do that! It’s just not my default, unless your recording has an obvious digital sterility and coldness that demands it.

I use a combination of commercially available plugins, both mainstream and boutique. I don’t list them by name because some people figure they can just download cracked copies and do it themselves. Or they ask for my presets. I don’t use presets!

I do not use Ozone, T-RackS, Waves, or any other all-in-one suite. Not because I’m an audio snob. Okay, I am, but I’ve tested them, and they don’t sound as good as the stuff I use.

Do you use a matching EQ to match my track to my reference?

I don’t use any sort of spectral matching, because the results are entirely dependent on the arrangements of the two mixes. I ask for a reference so that I can A/B your mastered mix against it, to ensure that it has the tonal balance, punch, and volume you’re looking for — by ear, always.

You say you’ll let me know if there is anything wrong with my mix, but also offer mix consultation. What’s the difference?

If I hear problems with your mix, and can provide actionable steps you can take to correct them, I’ll always let you know.

That said, just because I don’t suggest changes doesn’t mean your mix is perfect. I’ll have plenty of ideas to make it better, and that’s where mix consultation comes in.

I can provide precise and detailed suggestions for every track on your release in one to two hours. Many artists and labels routinely hire me for mix consultation in order to fine-tune their mixes prior to mastering. At $120 per hour, it’s cheap insurance, and good bang for the buck, because the improvements can be more dramatic than the mastering itself.

Do you have any tips on mixing?

Plenty! I’ve written several articles worth of mixing advice at my blog, Passive Promotion.

Why can’t I compress the master bus? The mix sounds wimpy when I take it off.

I strongly recommend against mixing through a compressor, limiter, or any sort of tape/tube emulation. Sure, it may sound more “like a record,” but I guarantee that it won’t sound as good post-mastering as it could have.

First off, the order of operations is wrong. EQ is almost always performed before compression. If there’s too much energy in the low bass (which is the case in about half the mixes I receive), the compressor will be driven primarily by those frequencies. That phenomenon even has a fancy name: intermodulation distortion. Adjusting the bass before compression allows me to get the proper punch and density out of your mix.

Furthermore, compressing the master bus permanently imprints your compressor’s attack/release characteristics on the mix. Adding more compression on my end means superimposing the attack/release characteristics of my compressor on top of yours, which seldom produces the desired punch. It’s best done once.

By my definition at least, mastering is any processing done on the entire mix. Compression is the one essential process that distinguishes a mastered track from an unmastered track, and it’s the hardest to get right. That’s why you’re hiring me to do it.

If you’ve already mixed your album through a compressor and/or limiter, and removing them ruins the mix, please send me both versions: a processed one and a clean one. In most cases, the processed version will serve as a reference as I master the clean version.

Why should I render my mix at 24-bit if it was tracked at 16-bit?

Because it will sound better. Modern DAWs operate at 32 bits or higher internally, which means a 16-bit render is missing at least half of that data. If there’s absolutely no way to provide 24-bit files, your 16-bit source needs to be properly dithered. If you need help, just let me know and I’ll walk you through each step.

What sample rate should I record at?

44.1 KHz. There’s no point in going beyond that, and it may actually sound worse. Any samples you use are probably at 44.1 KHz already.

How would you like to be credited in the liner notes?

Mastered by Brian Hazard at Resonance Mastering www.resonancemastering.com

…is ideal, but feel free to phrase it however you’d like. Thank you!

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