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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Mastering is a final stage of production - AFTER mixing - to prepare audio for release. The main goal is to ensure that the audio playback is well-balanced in tone and volume to optimize clarity across a wide range of speaker systems. Generally this involves the careful use of EQ to shape the audio's tone and compression to control the overall perceived volume. (and sometimes none at all) To effectively master audio, a critical listening environment with highly detailed speakers, amplification and room acoustics is key. Most studios that offer "Mix and Master" services are using mixing environments that are NOT designed with this task in mind, and will often provide much lower quality masters as a result.

DDP (Disc Description Protocol) is a format for specifying the contents of a CD. While often referred to as a DDP "file", it's actually an archive containing everything that goes onto a CD including audio, track layout, CD-TEXT meta-data, and more. A DDP file is a complete lossless master copy of the CD, suitable for electronic delivery to replication or duplication houses. DDP files have taken the place of CD master discs (But I still provide master discs as a physical backup for your project). Along with the DDP you'll receive custom preview software (HOFA DDP Player) that lets you listen to and inspect your album in its entirety right from your computer or laptop.

ISRC ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is a unique international identification code for your recording. ISRC codes are per track - a 10 track album would have 10 individual codes. They are widely used by digital distribution companies (like iTunes, Spotify, etc) to identify recordings and track royalties. ISRC codes can be obtained independently, although the process can be confusing and expensive ($95 registration). However, 2Track Mastering is a registered ISRC manager, and I can provide codes for tracks I master at no additional charge. (Need a code for a track I didn't master? I can issue those too for a nominal $2 fee)

Apple Digital Masters Certified Formerly known as "Mastered for iTunes", Apple Digital Masters is a standard for audio quality and fidelity.
To meet the standards, the music must be mastered from a 24bit or better original source, and have zero clips or digital overages when converted to Apple's AAC format. Apple Digital Masters are distributed in a higher resolution format than the reset of the songs on iTunes/Apple Music. To have your songs distributed as Apple Digital Masters, they must be mastered by an Apple Certified studio.
2Track Mastering is certified for Apple Digital Masters.
(Your distribution company will often ask for the email address of certified engineer - use "booking@2TrackMastering.com" as that's how I'm listed with Apple.)
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I can accept any audio format for work, but there are suggested guidelines that will ensure your project's quality. First, a lossless format (such as WAV or AIFF) is highly preferred over a lossy format like MP3. This is because MP3 encoding discards audio information that cannot be recovered. While it may not be noticable in a high quality 320k MP3, it will certainly be noticable in lower-quality MP3 conversions. Second, don't convert the audio bit depth or sample frequency before sending your original files. 24bit (or 32bit float) files have more dynamic range than 16bit files, but if you didn't record and mix at that bit depth, send it as is. Same with the sample frequency - a 96kHz file can contain much more detailed high frequency data, but if you recorded/mixed at 44.1kHz don't upsample your final mix. I can accept files up to 192kHz.

Yes - let me know you're planning a vinyl release upfront if possible. I try to keep all masters as dynamic as possible and adhere to the best-practices needed for a successful vinyl pressing, but there are additional steps that may be necessary for a vinyl specific project. Unlike digital streaming, or even CD's, time constraints play a big role in a successful vinyl project - volume, bass response, and song sequencing can all be impacted by the length of each side on a vinyl record. If the lacquer cutter has any specific requirements, I can work directly with them to ensure a smooth project. I can assemble "sides" files with the proper sequence, gap timing, and a cue sheet for the cutting engineer.

I HIGHLY recommend get test-pressings made, and I'm more than happy to do test-pressing inspections for any project we work on. Always get at least 2 test-pressings to compare - test pressings are often done in a rush by pressing plants either when the press is still cold or dirty from another job - subsequently a speck of dirt that causes a skip on one test pressing may not be there (or move) on the other pressing - this generally isnt an issue (we can tell it was just a dirt/cold-press problem if it's not on both, and that it isn't a stamper issue)

ABSOLUTELY! The name "2TRACK" Mastering is because I got my start recording and editing on 1/4" 2-track analog tape.
I can accept projects on 1/4" tape, on reels up to 12" diameter, recorded at 7.5 or 15ips.
If you are restoring or re-mastering a project from older tape, there can be issues with "sticky shed syndrome" or other aging/deterioration - for tapes with only minor issues I can safely handle restoration in-house, but for tapes with excessive deterioration issues or tapes of historical significance I will refer you to a tape restoration specialist.

If you're preparing a NEW project on 1/4" tape (awesome!), I'd recommend the following practices:
  • Use NEW tape manufactured by ATR Magnetics or Recording the Masters. Don't use old tape.
  • Use 1.5mil tape (ATR Master, RTM 900/911/468) not the thinner long-play variants
  • Make sure your machine has been properly calibrated and aligned before recording
  • Include test tones on your tape - 100Hz, 1000Hz, 10kHz @ 0dbVU at least 10 seconds each
  • Separate test tones from program material with a few seconds of leader tape
  • Properly label your tape with: test tones at head or tail, test tone frequencies, recording speed 7.5/15ips, EQ type (NAB/CCIR), operating level in nWb/m, Noise Reduction if any, track listing/order
  • store tape slow-wound / tails out
  • 15 seconds of leader tape at head & tail
  • if possible, 2-4 seconds of leader between songs
  • if you have any questions, contact me to chat about your project!

Thanks!
If you have enough space (like albums or CD inserts),
Mastered by Joe Procopio at 2Track Mastering
or if space is tighter, either
Mastered at 2Track Mastering or Mastered by Joe Procopio
**Note: may seem dumb, but please NO SPACE between the "2" and capital "T"

Short answer: no.
Longer answer:
I'd have to charge alot more, but that extra price wouldn't be getting you a better product.
When I used to do attended sessions, it almost always took 3-5x as long to do each song - even if the client sat there silently.
We all know the feeling of "it's hard to do your best work when the boss is looking over your shoulder the whole time" :p

I understand the urge to be in the room and help make decisions about your project, or the curiousity to see how I do certain things - but the reality of it is generally more boring than you would expect.
Quite a lot of time is spent on very tedious but very import parts - like looping and listening to something over and over while I tweak an eq to find a particular frequency, or using noise correction software w/ headphones on to correct a click in your fadeout, or A/B testing noise reduction to remove amplifier hiss in your intro without changing the tone of your guitar.
These types of small details take a lot of concentration which is easily lost while distracted.

2Track Mastering

I'm dedicated to bringing affordable high-quality mastering services to independent artists and producers. Whether you have a single or an album, I can master your audio to professional standards for digital streaming, CD, or vinyl.

Contact me today to get started on your project!