"I'd go as far as saying the best-sounding mastering I've had done was by you - and I've had stuff mastered by the likes of George Marino and Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound NYC. "
NIK HODGES - CHAS & DAVE, VIKTORIA MODESTA
AS FEATURED IN THE
MAY 2022 ISSUE OF
Mark has recently been working on re-mastering, from new transfers of the original master tapes, the entire back catalogue and some previously unheard gems from jazz, rock, pop and mod legend Brian Auger, one of the most exciting musicians ever to have graced planet Earth.
This material is being released on Soul Bank Music throughout the year and here is what Mr Auger himself had to say:
"I'm delighted to be working with some of my best friends across the music industry, from Bill Smith's (United Archiving LA) diligent work on transferring my master tapes, to Mark Ashfield who is making it all sound fantastic for the 21st century. I can barely wait for all these new releases to hit the marketplace!"
"Thank you so much for the fantastic feedback and for your spectacular work on the masters. I'm completely blown away by your treatment on all five tracks, you've absolutely brought them over the top."
SAM HANLAN - BERLIN
"Thanks so much for your test master. It sounds fantastic and the adjustments you have made are spot on. I really appreciate you taking the time to critically listen and not just send it through a conveyor belt of mastering."
JON MILES TAYLOR
JoCee - Give Me My Love Back
You are listening to:
What Is The Free Test Master And How Does It Work?
The test master is a high resolution (320kbps) mp3 of the mastered track. It is watermarked, but will give you a very good idea of the sound of the master. To buy the full quality wav file, Apple certified, and ready for whichever distribution platform you have in mind, simply click on the link in the email and you will have instant access to the full quality download.
What Sample Rate Should I Send My Mix To You At?
Simple. Whatever sample rate you recorded and mixed it at.
Should I Remove Any Mix Bus/Stereo Bus Processing?
Sometimes! Some compression and limiting plugins re-render the audio file with the peaks chopped off, and this means that any processing I apply after that may bring out any distortion they are adding. But if you’ve mixed into stereo bus processing then your mix can fall apart if you remove it. So the best plan is to send me two versions - one with, and one without.
How Much Headroom Should I Leave?
If there is no mix bus processing on your track adding any heavy compression, then ideally between 6-9dB. If your track is heavily compressed or limited and there’s nothing you can do about it, then it doesn’t really matter. A waveform that looks like a sausage looks like a sausage - if you turn it down to leave 6dB of headroom then we just have a sausage with 6dB of headroom and can’t do much about it!
What Information Should I Include With My Track?
Please name the track with the artist name and track title, let me know what sample rate and bit depth it is bounced at, and what the intended distribution platforms are.
In What Format Will My Track Be Sent Back To Me?
Your test master will be a 320kbps mp3, paid masters will be in suitable formats for the distribution platforms you specified, and clearly labeled as such.
Do You Charge Any Extra For Extra Formats?
No. If you specify tracks for digital, CD production and vinyl, you’ll get three versions at no extra cost. In the case of an album or EP I can also compile DDP images for CD production, again at no extra charge.
Are You An Apple Music Masters Approved Engineer?
What Are Some Of The Most Common Mix Pitfalls?
Over-compression, and the start and end of a track being pruned too hard - the track may begin halfway through the first transient of a kick drum, or the reverb tail may be truncated at the end, for example. When I load in an audio file and there is a few seconds of silence (or noise) at the start and end of a track, and the waveform doesn’t look like a sausage, then I instantly feel this has been mixed by a professional. So do that!
I Need A Fade Out On My Track - Should I Do It Or Leave It For Mastering?
There is no technical reason why I should do it rather than you, but there is often an emotional reason why you should do it rather than me. If you perform it manually (as automation using the output fader) then you can ‘play’ the fade out and it often sounds so much better than just applying a linear or logarithmic fade to the audio file. Play around with it!
What LUFS Level Will My Masters Be Sent Back At?
I won’t know, and you shouldn’t care! Unless there is a very specific reason (broadcasting standards for example) that a very specific LUFS level should be observed, then I measure loudness on your track by listening to it, not by metering it. I run all tracks through software that lets me know how it will sound when uploaded to the popular streaming services, and usually tracks end up at around the recommended -14LUFS, but not always. Ok, so I do use metering, of course! But it’s all about how it sounds and not how it looks. So if your track is at -12LUFS it’s because it sounds better once it’s been uploaded, and sits better with tracks from other artists in a similar genre. Having said that…
...Can You REALLY Crank My Master?
Erm, yes, but no! Some mastering engineers pride themselves in still being full-on in the loudness wars. I pride myself in dynamic integrity, and most of the commercial work I do is music that you’d want to listen to on a damn good hi-fi. So I always aim to give that listener the best experience I can. If you just want your track smashed, then I’m probably not for you.
What If I Don’t Like What You’ve Done?
It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen! If that's the case, then please let me know and I can try again and learn from it, and sometimes we just might not be a good match.
Do You Master In The Analogue Or Digital Domain?
Usually a bit of both. Most commercial label mixes I get through are excellent and need little, if any, processing. My approach to these is always “Do I need to do anything to this at all?”. Mixes I get through from most home producers can often benefit from a little bit of analogue ‘mojo’ that an expensive piece of gear such as a pair of Pultec equalizers, or a vintage Fairchild compressor can add, or even a modern piece such as the SSL Fusion. There are certain pieces of hardware that can just make a master sound more ‘expensive’ in a very subtle way, and in a way that plugins still often struggle to achieve. The perception of depth can be enhanced, as well as subtleties in the stereo image, and all the other cliched words we love to describe audio with!
Can You Give Me a Vocal Up And A Vocal Down Master?
To a certain extent, yes. But these kinds of changes in level are best done at the mix stage. Simply send me a vocal up and a vocal down version, and if I only need to process one version and simply run the other through the same chain, then you only pay for one track.
Do You Offer A Discount For An EP Or Album?
At full rate, yes! But it depends on the project. If you have a full EP or album ready to go then get in touch and I can send you a quote.
Do Existing Promotional Codes For Subscribers To The Present Day Production YouTube Channel Still Work?
No. Instead we’ve dropped the price across the board while we launch this new service. How long we keep it at the discounted rate depends on workload and a number of other factors.
I’ve Used You For Mastering For Ages Now, Do I Still Have To Go Through The Test Master Process?
Yes, but it’s really no different - you just get to hear the track before you pay!
What Monitors And Converters Do You Use?
Monitoring is taken care of by ATC SCM200ASL main monitors in a dedicated, fully acoustically treated mastering suite designed and built for audio from the ground up. Secondary monitoring is courtesy of Quested Q115s in our main control room. Monitoring conversion is from Focusrite and/or Solid State Logic, and D/A A/D for outboard uses Lynx Aurora converters.
How Do You Perform Sample Rate Conversion?
Sometimes in the box (it's VERY good these days), sometimes old-school-style from one rig to another. It depends on what best suits the material.
I have been mastering music since 1988 for all kinds of artists, labels and broadcasting houses. A lot of my commercial work is almost like an "office job" - most of the mixes sent to me are so good they need very little processing at the mastering stage.
Since we launched the YouTube channel in 2020, many of our audience have sent me their music to master and this can often be more challenging as the mixes may not be at such a high standard. I've had great pleasure from working on projects such as these, but the point of friction for the client is that often they may not understand mastering or may not want to part with the cash to hire a professional mastering engineer if they're not sure what the outcome will be. So we're offering this free test mastering service to eradicate that uncertainty.