Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
If you send me tracks one at a time to master, you’ll need to pay the individual track rate of $160 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.
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.
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?
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.
You’ve probably heard your mixes a thousand times, but please review them one last time to make sure that they are, in fact, final. If you’re not in a rush, a few days of vacation from the mixes will allow you to revisit them with a fresh perspective.
Since I’m dealing with pre-mixed stereo files, my mastering work is essentially confined to the areas of:
- Tonal balance
I can’t, for example, give you “a little more guitar in the second verse.” While mastering can affect the balance between elements of the mix in subtle ways, for the most part, the integrity of your mixes will be preserved.
If I hear anything way off that could be easily addressed on your end, I’ll request a new mix from you. That said, no mix is perfect, and mastering almost always involves some degree of compromise between my vision of how the track should sound, and the realities of the mix. I labor over 0.05 dB tweaks over the course of several sessions until I’m convinced I’ve found the best possible set of compromises for each track.
With that in mind, nearly any change to your mix requires that I start over from scratch.
My revisions policy is simple: if you are unsatisfied with the mastering for any reason, I will make changes – using the same mixes – at no charge.
REVISED MIXES WILL BE BILLED AT THE ADDITIONAL TRACK RATE OF $50 EACH.
If you know the mixes aren’t where they should be, but aren’t sure what to do about it, start by reviewing my mixing advice.
If that doesn’t do the trick, you might consider hiring me for mix consultation. For $140/hr, I provide precise and detailed suggestions for every track on your release. It typically takes me a half hour for a single track, up to two hours for a full album, depending on how far off the mixes are.
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.
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.
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 $140 per hour, it’s cheap insurance, and good bang for the buck, because the improvements can be more dramatic than the mastering itself.
Alternatively, you can hire me to mix it for you! Details and preparation instructions are here.
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.
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.
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.
Mastered by Brian Hazard at Resonance Mastering www.resonancemastering.com
…is ideal, but feel free to phrase it however you’d like. Thank you!
Anything I didn’t address here? Email me!