Mastering is the final step of the production for a piece of music, the last filter before a song is ready for its releasing, this point is very important because is the last chance to fix those errors that have taken place during the mix, correcting the weak points and standing out the best ones, adding room, punch, depth, brightness, glue for a more homogeneous listening along a single or a full disc, definition and also that unique sound that brings up an intelligent/experienced use of top class analog gear combined with the best of the digital world. All this into an acoustically treated room controlled by an experienced engineer with extensive knowledge of their studio and a proper full range sound system. It doesn't matter if destination is either an Audio CD or digital distribution, your music will sound more competitive and it will translate much better on most audio playback systems.
Tools as linear phase equalizers, dynamic EQs, compression or MS processing (Mid/Side) are often helpful when working on those mixes that still need a bit more before the main mastering session, they're tracks that still don't meet the standard to go into mastering. In such cases, the best solution is usually a process halfway between mixing and mastering, called "Stem Mastering".
When the client requests this service, either on his own or advised by the mastering engineer, he provides to the studio a number of tracks, which can be single tracks as "Kick", "Pad", Lead, Vocal... or several group tracks.
Unlike what happens in a mix, each track is not worked from scratch but processed from the settings done by the client, ie, each single track or group of tracks will retain all the processing you did during the mix, (eq, compression, delays, reverbs, etc), regardless of whether they are inserts per channel or bus sends, the engineer will work from them unless he asks to remove some specifically.
Stem Mastering ensures you a higher quality final result on those mixes that aren't sounding as great as to be mastered yet in comparison with the result you would achieve on a regular/standard stereo mastering session. Please, make sure the stems are correctly aligned between them, so the engineer can load them into the project with no bad surprises. Once loaded they should play in sync from the very beginning to the end.
While it's true that in most cases a mastering for digital distribution or CD can also be transferred to vinyl, due to the peculiarities of this medium we can make the most out of the session if we make the process by keeping in mind the advantages and limits of the format. When we are performing a mastering for vinyl, some factors like dynamics, low-end or stereo image are treated on a different way, which alongside another number of steps result on a more proper master for this medium. If the sound of your record was intended to sound on a 7", 10" or 12" vinyl, don't hesitate to request this service to make the most out of the sound of your music.
ANALOG TAPE TRANSFER
This is a new service we're providing for you all lovers of the unbeatable real analog tape sound, you can now transfer your tapes to digital or your digital files to analog tape, in order to benefit of that unique warm saturation, harmonic distortion, thickness and natural glue feel of the analog tape prior to mastering. Available tape machines are: Studer A810, Telefunken M15, Otari MX80 with Merging Technologies converters. If you are interested in this service, we can get you in touch with a reliable partner studio we work with for this type of requirement.
DDP - Disc Description Protocol
It's a disk image of the premaster for replication, which offers a number of advantages over the PMCD (premaster Compact Disc), such as faster and more convenient to send, greater security against all types of errors not being a physical media, no additional shipping costs, etc... DDP is the most accepted format for many replication plants these days.
A DDP contains 4 files: Audio image (.DAT file), DDP Identifier (DDPID), DDP Stream descriptor (DDPMS), Subcode descriptor (PQDESCR)
Optionally, (in DDP 2.0 format), a text file containing track titles and lenght can be included, this kind of file is called "CD-Text" and is supported by all those audio players, (soft o hard) capables to read this format.