Frequently Asked Questions

Click a question to gain a better understanding of your query. If you have any more questions, feel free to contact us. We’d love to hear from you!

You’ve been in the studio concentrating on each track, probably one at a time, with the same solid focus to each one. Each song is composed and performed to the same high standards that you expect from you and your production team. When it comes to putting out your individual tracks, or putting a collection of them on to CD or on a playlist, it is important that they all ‘flow’.
Just take any seminal album that you know and love and consider ‘perfect’ in every way. That album, whether or not you’re thinking as a musician, engineer, producer or manager, will simply flow. Flow from one track to the other building your anticipation to the next track and satisfying you, the listener. Reading the sleeve notes, that album might have been recorded by several production teams in differing studios across the world on different equipment and at different stages of an artist’s career. Nevertheless, the music still ‘flows’ doesn’t it?

That so-called ‘flow’ is down to the mastering engineer making sound judgements on each of the tracks to ensure that the album does indeed flow. Each track and album needs individual attention to detail to perhaps make the changes necessary. These might be making things the right level (more on this later), matching the equalisation between tracks, making the tracks sit together side-by-side by adjusting the gaps between tracks (or taking them out all together if required), repairing sonic deficiencies such as hiss, rumble, wow and flutter where possible, adding the PQ, ISRC, UPC/EAN codes and preparatory information for the master and simply making your music sound as good as is possible.

Mastering can take between one to two hours per track and an album can be completed in a full day’s work. However, we like to take a little longer over things and give you time to listen to the mastered material on your own equipment in your own time (payment required) and we’ll keep working on it until its ready. How quickly we can turn around your album will depend solely on studio and engineer availability and how many changes you might want. We’ll be able to discuss a definitive date for completion when we take the booking.

Dynamic range is an important part of music, and compositions come with their loud bits and also their quiet bits. As the decades have gone on, this dynamic range has been getting more and more squashed. This is not necessarily for any technical deficiency, but because sonic tastes require it. Each record that is put out is expected to be loud. However it is not as simple as making things ‘one louder’ (Nigel Tuffnell in Spinal Tap, 1980) as we now live in a digital world where the loudest we all can go is 0dB. There are two schools of thought here. We, as mastering engineers, understand that there is a legitimate need to ensure that our client’s music is as loud as it needs to be as it improves radio play potential and also in some forms of music, it must stand side by side with the competition. However, there is the other side of the argument that says, if it is that loud, then the life and soul of the music is altered and can be considered an alteration or distortion of the original.

Output Processing
We are sympathetic to both sides of the loudness coin, and as such, request that your music comes to us with as much dynamic range as you can allow. We understand that mixes need to be representative, but would prefer that no extreme master buss compression be applied at the mix stage, and no peak limiting.

Why do we ask this? Some mixes come to us with compression applied to the master buss already. In some cases these settings are very good and are integral to the overall mix, but at other times this can cause problems; we may need to unpick heavy compression to get the desired results over an entire album. We would ideally prefer for a mix to come to us uncompressed, but the mix sounding excellent. We can then compress and limit your music using our mastering grade techniques to obtain the best results. Alternatively, please provide us with both the compressed version and a version without. Either way, make sure there is no peak limiting applied to your master buss (this should be turned off before rendering your files).

For consistency, we prefer your tracks to have a max peak around -6db, but as long as the master output is not clipping 0db, we can work from there. Also ensure there is at least 2 secs of silence before and after your audio begins and finishes (including any reverb/delay tails), as this will give your engineer room to make appropriate fades (including any long fade outs, or transition fades between tracks), and to reference any background noise needed for restoration or noise reduction purposes.

If you are unsure about anything above, please contact us before submitting your files.

File Formats
We’d love your music to come to us in a digital format that can either be uploaded to our FTP server, or via a file transfer service of your choice. However, should you have something a little different in mind, please contact us to discuss how you’d like to send us your project files. When uploading and sending your material, please ensure that it is in one of the following formats:

Ideally your audio should be rendered as a stereo interleaved file, either as a .AIFF or .WAV, or Sound Designer II file (mp3 or mp4a etc files are not accepted). It’s best to render your files in the native sample rate of your mixing session (44.1kHz or above), and at the highest supported bit rate of your DAW (minimum 24bit, 32bit float is ideal).

If you have some variation on the above, or need further clarification or assistance in rendering your tracks, please contact us before submitting your files.

Quality Control
Please listen to your rendered files before sending them to us for mastering. Check to make sure all elements are where they should be, and that all desired processing is active. Also check for any audible anomalies such as bad edits/crossfades between regions, clicks, pops, hiss, or any un-intentional noises. This will be spotted by your mastering engineer, but it will save time and create a better result if these can be addressed beforehand.

If you are unsure about any inconsistencies in your audio, please take note of the time stamp for each item in the track and inform your engineer.

Labelling
Please be sure to label your tracks appropriately, and update any future versions so they can be distinguished between.

Some examples could be:

01 – My First Song – My Band – Final Mix 1

02 – My Second Song – My Band – Final Mix 4 (Vocal Up)

03 – My Third Song – My Band – Final Mix 2 (Buss Compression On)
03 – My Third Song – My Band – Final Mix 2 (Buss Compression Off)

Alternative mastered versions will be labelled accordingly by your engineer.

Stem Mastering
You could simply send us a stereo file of the mix and we can set to work mastering. However, there are some other alternatives such as stem mastering that might provide a more detailed approach should a specific track require further attention. Essentially stem mastering or mixing means that you provide the engineer with your mix rendered out into sub groups or stereo pairs (containing all the mixing engineer’s EQ, compression and effect settings), and there are a few ways in which this can be broken down.

An example of stem groups (to address specific elements) might be as follows:

– Drums
– Bass
– Guitars
– Keys
– Backing Vocals
– Vocal

An alternative stem system (to address vocal levels) could also appear like this:

– Your Mix
– Main Vocal (no backing vocals)
– No Main Vocals (with backing vocals)
– No Vocals at all (instrumental)

Either system will depend on the requirements or issues of the specific mix, however the use of stems should be treated as a last resort (it is always preferable to go back and make changes to individual elements/tracks within the mixing session). If in doubt, your mastering engineer will be able to provide detailed notes and help guide you to an improved result before attempting a stem session. Some additional information may also be useful to provide such as track tempo and key.

For more details and to discuss further options, please contact us.

ISRC stands for International Standard Recording Code and is a way by which each released song is given a unique identifier. This unique identifier is a string of numbers embedded into your CD. The idea is that as songs are played on the radio etc. the ISRC codes can be logged and any royalties can be collected for that song automatically. At the mastering stage of the production process, we encode these ISRC’s into the CD master alongside the UPC/EAN Barcode (explained later).

This is not a service we can provide as this is managed internationally and operated nationally by appointed operators. For the UK this is PPL. To obtain your ISRC codes, please go to PPL’s ISRC website – http://www.ppluk.com/I-Make-Music/Why-Should-I-Become-A-Member/What-is-an-ISRC/. They will ask you to provide them with certain bits of information… Once you have the producer code part of the ISRC please pass that to us.

Obtaining your codes does not usually take a great deal of time to obtain and are free to the user. It would be best to be prepared and consider these at the beginning of the mastering so they can be ready when we complete our CD image for you. PPL will make you aware of your obligations as the owner of these recordings and ISRC codes.

We will always provide an DDPi of the mastered work for your reference. This is included in the price.

Whilst we’d like to offer this service we are unable to act on client’s behalf. The barcode association would prefer we did not do this on your behalf. To get your own Barcode, please visit and telephone them on +44 (0) 20 7092 3500 saying that you would like to purchase a barcode for an audio CD. These were £25 when we investigated, although prices may alter from time to time. These take a little time, so we would suggest that you get in touch with GS1UK as soon as possible at the start of the mastering project so that the code is ready for when we burn your CD image. For more details, do not hesitate to contact us.
Licensing from PRS for Music In the UK it is wise to discuss with PRS for Music (formerly the MCPS-PRS Alliance) whether you need a licence to sell to the public. If you’re a band or solo artist start here. Alternatively for a wider range of options for other areas such as production music etc. please look here.

Terms and Conditions are there to show what we offer and what you can expect. We also advise that all clients listen through to their audio in full and check every element of their masters before sending them for replication, copying or uploading for distribution. MOTTOsound accepts no liability for any errors. Please view our Terms & Conditions here.