Preparing Your Audio
Here are some basic recommendations for preparing your audio for mastering.
Main stereo output channels –
We all know it’s tempting to put some ‘polishing’ plug-ins on your stereo mix outputs, such as a compressor, limiter, or EQ enhancing. The short answer is DON’T! The more natural and dynamic your final mix is, the more opportunity there is for final finessing during the mastering process. As a simple example, if you add a heavy limiter to your whole mix that flat lines the output signal, then there is no coming back from that to reintroduce any needed light or shade, or alternatively give the mix extra punch.
Also, watch that your main output levels never red line, risking distortion or clipping. In fact, try to ensure the loudest point of the entire audio never peaks beyond -5dB. Any additional volume needed will be added during the mastering process.
It might already be obvious to point out, but when it comes to audio formats required for mastering, ALWAYS aim for the highest quality possible, and avoid any highly compressed formats such as run of the mill MP3. The two preferred lossless formats which are most common are .WAV and .AIFF.
Things to listen out for in the overall mix –
While the musical performance in any track is obviously a priority (and to be honest, something that I can’t fix once it’s in the final mix), other things you should pay attention to in the mix are the following – audio hiss/buzz/hum from instruments, vocal breaths and pops, electrical crackles, and any other unwanted sounds.
Along with this, listen to your mix in mono to make sure no tracks are ‘out of phase’. You can usually tell if a track is affected by this if the track virtually disappears in the mix when listening in ‘mono’. Try to avoid wishy-washy low-end frequencies too, as these are troublesome to remove during mastering.
Finally, if you would like some feedback on your final mix (prior to mastering), why not use my Mix Analysis Report service. For the cost of a cup of coffee, I’ll send you a professionally prepared document detailing any areas your mix might require some adjustments.