We will take 8-12 stereo stems of your mix and clean them up for the best mastering results. This is not multitrack mixing. We use what tools are needed to bring the best out of your stems. Once we clean the fuck out of those stems it will make that shit sound even more fire!
Once the stems have been cleaned up and approved by you we can start the summing process with one of our analog summing hardware pieces. As the summing bakes the stems into a sweet stereo cake we can start icing it with the analog focused mastering process in real-time from the analog summing output.
During this stage, we focus on using our mastering hardware to get the best sound out of your record. This includes things EQs, saturation, compression, imaging, color and limiting. We may do a bit of digital tweaking if it is called for but generally we want to keep the master as much in the analog domain as possible.
These stems when all brought into the DAW should represent your mix with at least 3-6db of headroom. Make sure your stems import into the daw, line up, and sound like your mix. Try that shit out before sending to us. The typical stems we see are like Drum stem, Bass stem, Vocal Stem, Melodic Stem, Effects Stem and so forth. We don't want the 70+ multitrack just the 8-12 groups/stems that make up your multitrack.
We bring the stems into Pro Tools for the cleaning process. The types of things we tend to do is control vocal sibilance, unmask overlapping frequency content, control tonal balances and whatever else the record needs. Once we think we have it tightened up for a better master result we will bounce a proof and send your way for approval. If you want additional adjustments we will make them until your happy with the sound.
Once we are locked in on the stem clean up there is no going back to the stems for adjustments. We may even request you sit on the cleaning proof a day or so just to make sure we are good to move forward. We are going to sum the audio with analog hardware and master it in real time. So if we get to the end and you want to change something in the stems the whole process starts over again and well....fuck.
Analog summing really opens up the depth of the mix with how it combines the stems to a single stereo source. Does it make a difference instead of just bouncing it? Fuck yeah, it does, a big difference! Digital summing is perfectly calculated 1's and 0's to combine the multitrack to a stereo file. Analog summing has imperfections to make it perfect.
This is where the mastering starts. We have probably heard your song like 50 times by now and have a good sense of what hardware is going to bring the music to life. We want to take our time finding the right hardware, settings, and order for your song. We have a lot of flexible options for really dialing in the analog master and plan to do just that with your song.
What does your song need? It could need our custom mastering toolbox EQs or the SPL passive eq. It might need color from some SSL shit or saturation with the Neve Tape. The song may need compression on the mid and side independently. Whatever the record needs we will apply the appropriate hardware to achieve the best sound including the loudness limiting.
Fuck no! Stem mastering in the analog domain is pretty much smoke and mirrors. Magic man type shit. The amount of work involved for stem mastering in the analog domain is insane. Timecode/Sync points for each stem, recalls for revisions, and recompiling is a nightmare of unthinkable horrors. Trust us, we have tried it and still sleep with the lights on.
Stem mastering is mastering with training wheels. If you are confident in your mix then you really don't need stem mastering. Sure it can be helpful to the mastering engineer to be able to turn up or down your vocal but it is also saying your mix isn't quite right. Plus it mainly keeps your shit in the digital domain.
We really want your stems so we can mainly sum the stems in the analog domain. Sure we are going to clean them up a bit for a better analog master but, we are mastering an analog stereo mix, not stems into a digital master chain.
This is a process. The entire thing takes hours for us to do properly. If you don't have at least a week available to work on this with us then it isn't for you. We think you spent so much time crafting the song you probably can spend a little more time finishing it in the mastering stage.
Yep! In each stage of the master, we will send you a proof for your approval to move on. The stem cleanup stage proof, the initial master stage proof (without the loud push), and then the final loudness stage proof. These are like save points in the mastering video game. We can make revisions during each stage.
We have proofing stages to avoid this shit but it does happen from time to time. If it does happen we got to start the process all over from the beginning. So lets be confident in our proofs before moving on. This does move you to the back of our mastering queue and will delay your master turn around time.
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