This post is a general checklist – preparing a mix for mastering. It is geared for engineers with some experience and assumes a basic level of mixing terms and concepts.
- File types: All files should be recorded as an uncompressed WAV or AIF file. MP3,WMP,mACC files are not acceptable.
- File size: The bigger the better! If possible record at a sample rate of 96khz or greater and at a bit depth of 24. If your workstation is not capable of recording at that file size then a minimum of 44.1khz sample rate and 24 bit depth should be observed. This is the minimum files. *Note: You should never up-sample to create a larger file size.
- Headroom in the mix! You should leave 2-3 db of headroom in the mix. This means the highest peak in the mix should top out at around -3db. There should be no clipping or distortion in the mix. Be careful here! You are not just watching your overall VU meter. You should watch every meter in between including your pre-amp meter and any other piece of outboard gear in the signal chain, any plugin that you have associated with the track, all auxiliary sub-mixes and buses, all sends, and finally the master fader. If you push the level too hot at any one of these stages you will get distortion regardless of what your master fader is telling you.
- Cracks/pops/unwanted noise – From the individual tracks in your session remove anything that is unwanted because once you mix it down it will be too late!
- Compression & Limiting: Do not have any compression, limiting or EQ on the master fader!!! It is fine to do any processing on the individual tracks but do not touch the master 2-bus!
- Balance: Equalize your mix relative to itself. For example, do not solo the vocal channel to judge if the voice is “bright” enough. Rather compare it to another track in the same EQ range such as an acoustic guitar or possibly cymbals and overheads. The key is consistency within the mix. If the entire track is too bright but is sounding good relative to itself then the mastering engineer can easily and very capably correct the mix.
- Don’t “Fix it in the mastering” Mastering will bring out the good with the bad in a mix. Mastering will not correct fundamental flaws which need to be addressed during mix down. What mastering can do I make a great mix sound fantastic.Contact Andrew Mitchell with any questions and/or comments: