Overview of Audio Mastering Formats

Not that long ago record labels managed production for artists.  But these days marketing, duplication, and distribution are the responsibility of individual performers.  We know a good deal about the inner-workings of digital and physical distribution.   This page provides an overview of the most common audio mastering formats.  If you still have questions, please contact us for more information.  


CD and Digital Distribution

This is all that most artists need.   It provides files for both digital distribution and CD manufacturing.

Our standard mastering package includes individual WAV files for distribution as well as final outputs in DDP format.  The  CD-quality PCM wav files that are suitable for virtually all digital distribution channels: iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, et al.  Meanwhile, the Disc Description Protocol (DDP)  file(s) are needed by manufacturing plants that create CDs.  Since computers can not automatically open a DDP set,  we  provide a license for a professional software package that will allow you to burn a CD on your Mac or PC.  (This saves so much time and money in overnight shipping fees!).   

Should your project require a reference or master CD, they are available at an additional fee.  We stopped including these three years ago when blank reference CD media stopped being produced.   Master CDs are time consuming to create and and use up our limited supply of media.  Please only request these if you are 100% sure you need them and have budget to add them to the project.  

Finally, the digital distribution files will work for iTunes unless you want to do the extra Mastered for iTunes program.  


Radio 

In the event some songs contain language that would not be suitable for broadcast, we can offer Radio masters, provided the mix engineer sends us a specific radio-edit mix.  If no radio-edit mix is available, two other options exist: if we have the instrumental music and a separate vocal mix (sometimes called stems) we can edit a radio version for an additional fee.  Another option is to allow us to try to smear or erase the offending words in the regular mix.  This rarely sounds ideal, costs extra, and is the least preferable way to proceed. But it can be done.   

If you simply want to have your song played on the radio, the CD / Digital mastering versions are what stations want.   This type of master is only important if a song contains prohibited language.


Instrumental 

Instrumental masters are very common and are an absolute requirement for placing songs in film, broadcast, of commercials.   We need an instrumental mix from the mixing team in order to create the masters.  There is no machine, plug in, or trick to remove vocals from song. (Not one that sounds professional, or would be accepted by agencies).


If you think there is any chance for a vinyl release, you need to order vinyl-premaster files.  CD masters are NOT suitable for vinyl cutting.  There exist several technical differences between a CD master and the audio needed to cut a lacquer. 

Some important considerations for vinyl premasters:

First, vinyl is limited with respect to play times for each side of a platter.   There is only so much physical space to cut grooves on a lacquer blank.  The longer (in minutes) the lower the volume and more noise to the cut.  Try to keep each side closer to the 'best' value below

RECORD SIZE   SPEED   BEST   MAXIMUM

12 "    33 1/3 RPM   16 min/side     20 min/side

12 "     45 RPM          9 min/side      15 min/side

10 "      33 1/3 RPM   9 min/side      14 min/side

10 "      45 RPM           7 min/side      11 min/side

7 "        33 1/3 RPM     5 min/side      6 min/side

7 "        45 RPM             3 min/side      5 min/side

 

Second, if you think you need vinyl-premasters, order them at the time of mastering.  Although we can do them at a later date, there will be a delay since we'll have to obtain the master files form our archival service.  This also adds to the cost of this work. The rate we charge for vinyl premasters is much lower if you order it during the initial mastering stage.

Other Audio Mastering Formats can include:

 

Cassette masters (in digital output) - $10 per song

High Resolution Mastered for iTunes (MFiT) - $10 per song

MP3/AAC made from high-resolution sources - $ 5 per song

Sequencing / META data only - $30 to $50 per song

 

Vinyl Pre-Masters