First things to do before Mastering
- Check and note the True Peak Level(dB) of the original track.
- Check and note the Total RMS Level(dB) of the original track.
- Check and note the Integrated Loudness(LUFS) of the original track.
ps: the "Short Term" (Average Loudness measurs in 3 sec time frame, this is a good meter for mixing), the "Momentary Loudness" (Loudness at the moment).
- Asking the owner of the track a refenrece track.
Pop, Rock & Metal
- -14 dB LUFS : Too quiet
- -13 dB LUFS to -10 dB LUFS : Usual safe
- -09 dB LUFS : Risky but it can be ok if you take care
Hiphop & Bombastic Music
- -12 dB LUFS : Too quiet
- -13 dB to -10 db LUFS : Usual safe
- -08 dB LUFS : Risky but it can be ok if you take care
- -11 dB LUFS, - 10 dB LUFS : Too quiet
- -09 dB LUFS, -08 dB LUFS : Very safe
- -07 dB LUFS, -06 dB LUFS : Usual safe
- -05 dB LUFS : Risky territory
- -14 dB LUFS : Too quiet
- -13 dB LUFS : Very safe
- -13.5 dB LUFS : Usual safe
- -12.5 dB LUFS : Risky territory
- Avoid Fade In/Out in the mix, this process will better done in the mastering
- Having the True Peak at -1dB for the mastering is a good start in general.
- Mastering a song is a different process than mastering a complete album
- Know on which platform the master will be heard eg :
- Apple Music :
Apple Music and the iTunes Store converts audio to AAC (Advanced Audio Coding). For the best result, bounce your audio at 24 bits with a maximum peak of -1.0dbTP (decibels true peak). You can use the free AAC Roundtrip plugin to preview your audio as AAC. -9 to -13 LUFS would be a good target for the iTunes Store (even though they don’t normalize music before it’s purchased).
Apple Music streams audio around -15 to -16.5 LUFS.
Youtube is still one of the main places people discover and enjoy the music they love. Youtube normalizes music to around -14 LUFS so the ideal settings for your YouTube master would be -13 to -15 LUFS with the dynamic range reading on LEVELS not lower than 9DR and with a safe true peak of -1 dBTP.
With over 270 million people using Spotify, it’s crucial to make sure your music is heard in its best light. Consider this, the loudest your music will ever be heard on Spotify is about -14 LUFS. So why submit a CD master or Club Master measuring -9LUFS when it’s just going to be turned down. It’s better to make good use of the opportunity to provide a more dynamic master. Lay off the limiter and go for a setting of around -13 to -15 LUFS with the dynamic range reading on LEVELS not exceeding 9DR and a true peak of -1 dBTP.
Soundcloud has over 175 million users. Most artists utilize the Soundcloud platform to present their audio to their fans free of charge.
Soundcloud streams audio in MP3 format at 128 kbps (I hope they change this soon as 128 kbps is extremely poor quality…) You’re able to upload a high quality 24 bit Wav file to Soundcloud but it is transcoded to MP3 to make streaming faster for its users.
To make the best of this situation Headroom is more important in this scenario than any other.
I would recommend mastering your track to -1dbTP for Soundcloud to minimize the artifacts that WILL happen when your track gets transcoded to MP3. Regarding loudness, A good setting would be from -9 to -13 LUFS with the dynamic range reading on LEVELS not exceeding 9DR.
- CD is the only time you’ll want to use a ‘16bit’ bit depth. This is just the technical configuration of the CD, for other purposes you should use 24 bit.
CDs obviously are not subjected to any normalization so you could push the loudness a bit further if you wanted to.
I would recommend not breaching a threshold of -9 LUFS and -8DR as this is the point at which the audio can start to sound distorted and lifeless. A good setting would be from -9 to -13 LUFS with the dynamic range reading on LEVELS not exceeding 9DR.
- Mastering audio for clubs would be an exception where you could push the loudness a bit further. (club tracks will be the last to submit to the end of the loudness wars UNLESS there were loudness/normalization guidelines brought into clubs…) The louder club tracks sit around -4 to -6 LUFS during the drops. I master club tracks to about -6 to -9 LUFS for my clients and they work perfectly in their mixes. They might not be quite as loud as other tracks in their genre but they have superior dynamics & transients which make them hit harder and sound punchier. So I would recommend a setting of about -6 to -9 LUFS with the dynamic range reading on LEVELS not exceeding 8DR.
- Movies (USA: -23LUFS, EU: -24LUFS)
- etc ...
- Put songs in order before to start the process of mastering
- Level match the soft songs from the loudest song
- Eq / Tonal Balance : Middle freq to High End freq balance are the most important for the tonal balance (nb: it s different curve for every style)
- On Stereo Mastering : To correct an instrument try different Eq on the Left vs Right Channel (note: this technic work only for one instrument)
- On Stereo Mastering : If a song can not be remixed you can try M/S (Mid/Side) Eq
- HPF below 40Hz
- 1 till 3 dB limiting on maximum 3ms = Transparent to the Ears
- Dithering Quality: 24 bit No Dither > 16 bit Dither > 16 bit no Dither
- Dithering Rule 1: Always use 16 bit Dither when creatin a 16 bit file
- Dithering Rule 2: Always use 24 bit Dither when creatin g a 24 bit file
- Dithering Rule 3: If you need to create a 16 bit file, you have to use Dither only once.
- Mixdown - > Render 24 bit file with 24 bit Dither = Ok
- Master - > Render 16 bit file with 16 bit Dither = Ok
- Rule 4: Always Dither at the end.