Mastering File Preparation
- Supply original, unprocessed stereo mixes. Please avoid processing your final output with peak limiting, excessive compression, or level maximization, and if possible leave the fades to us. You can always supply 2 versions, one unprocessed, and one with processing and/or fades for reference purposes if you have specific ideas about the final product.
- If producing a compilation CD, please supply the original master discs.
- Leave ample headroom with no clipping or digital overs. Please, no red lights on the master output during export. Try to aim for peaks to end up around -3dBFS.
- Please do not supply mp3s or other compressed formats as unmastered sources. Once they enter the mastering phase they invariably turn into a flat, grainy mush.
- Be as detailed as possible with labeling your files. If possible, label songs in order of appearance on the CD, (i.e. “01_SongTitle.wav,” “02_SongTitle.wav,” etc.)
- Supply a text file or printed list of all album information. Proper titles, song order, artist and album name, ISRC codes, crossfade requests, equalization and dynamics ideas, etc. No piece of information is too small!.
- If in doubt, bring 24-bit wav or aiff files at the sampling rate you recorded at. CD-Audio (44.1/16) masters are acceptable, but we would rather have the extra bits to work with if the option is available. Avoid any sampling rate conversions if possible.
- Upon delivery, please do not play your final master CD excessively. Listen to it once with a keen ear and then seal it up and send it off. The included reference copy is supplied for repeated listenings. If you need additional listening copies or masters, we offer them for a modest fee.
- Please do not make changes to your final master CD. Some disc-ripping applications can perform unnecessary gain changes, format conversions, and other atrocious acts when not configured properly. This can seriously screw up the integrity of your master! We understand that sometimes a track needs to be removed or added, the song order needs to be changed, etc., sometimes at the last minute. This is why we have free revisions built into our mastering packages.
Considerations for Vinyl
- Avoid excessive high-end (treble) when mixing for vinyl. Use a de-esser to tame “sibilance” (sss sounds in vocals) and overly-bright cymbals, hi-hats, and shakers. If not properly treated, excessive high-end can end up distorted or hashy-sounding when it reaches the cutting stage; it can even damage the cutter head! These issues can be addressed somewhat in mastering, but it’s always best to treat individual instruments at the mixing stage rather than treating the whole mix in the mastering phase.
- Watch excessive, stereo, or phase-incoherent low-end (bass). Excessive bass can shorten the length of time you can fit on a side, and phase-incoherent low-end can actually cause skips when not properly treated. Avoid hard-panning heavy low-end elements such as bass and kick drums, and be careful with those stereo phasing bass-synth patches. As with high-end issues, low-end issues can be treated in the mastering phase, but it’s better addressed at the mix level.
- Be aware of the time constraints of vinyl. Vinyl records can only hold a certain amount of audio, and the length of each side determines how loud the music can be on that side. For a 12″ 33rpm record, we will have to start dropping level if the side is over 20 minutes. For a 7″ 45rpm record this will happen after about 4 minutes. If you are planning an album side over 25 minutes or a 7″ over 6 minutes, please contact us first.
- Q. Will you give me a free mastering sample?
- A: Yes, if you are a first-time client and are curious about our services, you can send us an unmastered song and we will gladly give you a taste of what we can do for your music. Two caveats: we are at the mercy of our workload with these requests and cannot always guarantee a speedy turn-around time. In addition, the sample will contain short, periodic beeps to protect out work. There is more information on our samples page. Check it out!
- Q: Will it cost more to master a record for vinyl than it will for digital download?
- A: No, our prices are fixed, regardless of your destination format. That said, if you are releasing your record in more than one format, there are additional fees for preparing different masters. See our rates page for more information.
- Q: Can I sit in on a mastering session?
- A: Typically we do not book attended mastering sessions, but we are more than happy to schedule a meeting or listening session to discuss your project.
- Q: What is the turn-around time for my project?
- A: Mastering projects can usually be delivered in a week or two, depending on our workload. We may be able to fit your project in as a rush for an additional fee, but it’s best to contact us a few weeks out from your deadline.
- Q: When is payment due?
- A: Payment is due in full upon delivery of the first master. Additional fees (if applicable) are due upon delivery of each subsequent master.
- Q: What forms of payment do you accept?
- A: Cash, Check, or PayPal (sent to adam at caulifloweraudio dot com).
- Q: Do you offer ftp services?
- A: Yes, we can set up an FTP for your project at no additional charge. We may also use DropBox, YouSendIt or a similar service for smaller projects.
- Q: What is your revision policy?
- A: We have free revisions built into all of our mastering packages, and after these have been exhausted a studio rate of $75/hour applies.
- Q: I lost my master. Can I order another? Or, it’s been a few months since we finished up and I’d like to make some changes…
- A: We guarantee that your project will be on file for up to one month after your final approval. If you are concerned about archiving your work, we strongly suggest that you order extra production masters or, better yet, your own back-up of all session files on archival quality DVD-R. It is relatively inexpensive and just may save us all a lot of heartache in the long run.
- Q: I want my song titles to show up in iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc., when I pop my CD into my computer. Do you do that?
- A: Short answer: no. Long answer: we will encode your master with CD-TEXT upon request, which is not the same technology, but we do not by default since the use of CD-TEXT has never been standardized and we will not guarantee its proper implementation. CD-TEXT is what is used by certain car stereos and stand-alone players to display artist/song title information. iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc., reference online databases to display album information. It is a relatively simple process to submit the information to these databases, but we strongly suggest the client performs this function on their end to avoid any potential data-entry errors. For more information: CDDB/CD-TEXT INFO
- Q: What side do you fall on in the whole “Loudness War” debate?
- A: Our credo is to serve our clients’ needs, not our own. Certain recordings lend themselves better to crunchiness and limited dynamic range; others, not so much. We personally think most music sounds better without being severely limited… it just hits harder and has more depth, especially when you turn it up louder. There’s usually an acceptable balance we can strike by sounding modern without sounding destroyed. At the end of the day, we will do our damnedest to give you a product that you are 100% satisfied with.
- Q: Who are you?
- Q: Why ‘Cauliflower Audio?’
- A: The cauliflower is Mrs. Boose’s favorite vegetable.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
A: Head-engineer Adam Boose has been mastering records since 2000. Beginning with a lengthy tenure at Cleveland’s A to Z Audio Services, Adam learned the finer intricacies of mastering for a wide array of styles and formats.
In 2007, Adam left to begin work at Iron Mountain Digital Studios in Pennsylvania, where he archived and mastered audio for the likes of Universal Music Group, Sony, and Codigo, in addition to preparing stem mixes for the gaming market (Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Scratch). Concurrently, Adam founded Cauliflower Audio, a high-end mastering facility in Lakewood, Ohio and grew the business in his spare time.
Fast forward to August 2012. After 5 successful years of business, Adam partnered with Well Made Music to offer professional lacquer cutting services, and in turn left Iron Mountain to focus on studio work full-time.
Since its inception, Cauliflower Audio has established itself with a growing discography spanning three continents, world-class gear, and projects featuring Dean and Britta, Ed Rose (Get-Up Kids, Appleseed Cast), Rae DiLeo (Filter, Henry Rollins), Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie), and Sonic Boom (Spectrum, MGMT), to name a few. Adam cut his musical teeth playing in bands like Brandtson (The Militia Group/Deep Elm), Furnace St., Swarm of Bats, and a brief stint with Filament 38 (Negative Gain).
In his spare time, he can be found spending time with his beautiful wife and cat, and/or espousing the virtues of IPA’s, drum machines, bike riding, weird comedies, and living in Cleveland, Ohio.
We want to show you what a
difference Cauliflower Audio
can make on your project
Check out our budget-conscious Digital Mastering Packages
10 songs: $250