"Class A" Analog Mastering From Stems
Internal Resolution of 48 bit
Full Analog control
Following-up your project from the start to the end
 

Please take your time reading this page if you are unfamiliar with the Mastering Domain. This is an introduction of what Mastering is about...

...Mastering? What for?

Mastering is the last step in the creation of an audio recording. It follows the mixing stage (summation of all recorded tracks) and it precedes duplication/distribution of the end-product on its final medium.

It calls for the last adjustments on a very critical setting: Mastering stands for improvement for an audio recording to its full art while never misrepresent its content. This cannot be done by "anyone" because ideal conditions are required: good scientific knowledge and proper techniques, acoustically neutral environment, very transparent and wide-range monitoring system, utmost quality signal processing tools... and of course... a very accurate earing!

Mastering is meticulous work: improving an already complex content within the least detail. The ear is the guide to a sensible choice of tools while taking account the creative approach. Artistic message which needs emphasis or respect of the author's sensitivity through his work are taken care with utmost attention.

Mastering concludes a delivery form that will play well on all playback systems. Does your Mix play great on your monitoring system? Then try it on your neighbor's playback system, it probably will not...

The final stage requires a strict agreement to industry standards, which are always time consuming. We live in a world of fast growing technology but Mastering will always remain a crucial stage. It has always been adapting and improving according to new standards of industry.

Thus the goal of Mastering is to deliver an acoustically improved recording, artistically faithful and technically accomplished. Of course not forgetting the "competitive" side of a commercially attractive product.

It is crucial to respect our technical recommendations before sending us your files (see the" Recommendations" Tab) otherwise the quality of our work will suffer. In the same way, the quality of a Master will depend greatly on the way the upstream is carried out: the recording and the mixing sessions. If you think that your project needs more time to "sound good" we can give you advice.

Who is this for?

This is for mainly artists, producers, self-productions, associations, labels, "on-line" platforms music distributors.
...also radio stations, DJ' s, broadcasters, music distributors, cinema, video, electronic game developers...

Why request this service yourself rather than by the person who makes the Mix?

There are several reasons:
Often one will propose Mastering in an "all-in-one" formula because many studios offers a comfortable and practical means to make the whole production: Recording, Mixing and Mastering.
The "Mixing" stage requires so many working hours for the same person, that necessary "fresh ears" are able to make the right decisions. Furthermore, Mastering Engineers have dedicated equipment that is extremely accurate for any of the last adjustments they need to handle.

Mastering From Stems? What is it?

Mastering From Stems (MFS) consists of working from separate sub-groups of instruments (tracks) composing your mix.
In this way, starting from separated tracks often gives better results because it provides a better control over the content in the session.
Moreover MFS also avoids the internal summation of Native Workstations. Indeed, this one is often of average quality on such systems: the processor's internal dedicated resolution is limited. The complex calculation of summation needs sufficient headroom, so native systems makes the stereo image narrower and the resulting audio is colored. The summation of the tracks is a decisive phase for a well-balanced stereo image Mix. Controlling the sub-groups before summation is more effective. Consequently it is recommended to choose this method when the summation was carried out "in the box" on a native system.

But the main reason of using MFS is this one: if you are not sure regarding the way your mixes sound, then I suggest you to go for MFS. In this way, we'll able to fix any issues very efficiently.

We offer a distinct advantage compared to our competition's processes because the summation can be realized in the Analog Class A domain with a maximum of 10 stereo stems, or in the digital domain with a very high internal DSP resolution of 48bits. In both cases, Analog devices of very high quality can be inserted on each of the tracks before summation.
Thanks to its great flexibility, our MFS guarantees an impressive efficiency. Subsequently your titles will also benefit from the necessary DSP adjustments in the workstation before adding conversion to the analog domain or before summation in the digital domain.
Without being too technical, it should be known that all styles of music do not gain the benefits of Analog processing (such as the expected "analog" coloration) because some music require a very transparent approach; whereas many kinds of music are largely improved by Analog capability.

Encoding and Quality

There are two types of encoding generated from PCM files: the "Lossless" encoding which is the most preferred amongst the audiophiles and the "lossy" encoding which is considered highly today.

The advantage of the "Lossless" is that the audio content is not deteriorated and consequently quality remains identical to the audio source file. The drawback is that these files remain very heavy and thus they do not match the on-line consumers' needs today; Simply not suitable for diffusion. The "Lossless" format is the ultimate Audiophile encoding.

The "lossy" format has its own disadvantages but offers advantages that the other form does not. In spite of a loss of data acoustics, it is sometimes very difficult to differentiate the nuances between the source and the encoded file. All will depend on the parameters applied to the encoder (for example the "bit-rate"), its internal architecture and the techniques which the professionals apply upstream. By evaluating a good compromise between Loss and Quality, the advantage is here: the files are light and they satisfy a large number of enthusiastic for whom fidelity is not essential.

Note that our encoding is made from the Hi-Res files rather than from the files generated for the Audio-Cd whose having a lower bit-depth. So our Encoding yields better quality. Moreover, apart from the quality gain since a greater bit-depth, we avoid mandatory Noise drawbacks when converting the original bit-depth to a lower value.

We practice an exclusive "lossy" encoding: we work each of your titles in order to optimize the Encoding process. This stage is carried out independently of the "Cd Mastering" session. A wide selection of Codecs will be proposed or advised for you according to your final applications and your music. Moreover, we deliver the masterised files for the very recent Apple's "Mastered for iTunes" program. Once these files are encoded (iTunes Plus) it is impossible to differentiate to the ear which are the encoded files and which are the Hi-Resolution source files.

Mastered for iTunes

Apple understood that the "lossy" encoding could be largely improved on the basis of a codec succeeding to the AAC: the iTunes Plus AAC. This new algorithm developed at the start of 2012 works on 24-bit High-Resolution audio files and generates compressed files in 256kbps.
This new codec attacks the Audiophile world because when listening it becomes impossible to differentiate the source; the Hi-Resolution file or the encoded file.
Apple reserves the right to encode your files to put them on sale online on their "iTunes store". We have all the tools to provide these High-resolution files (digital Resolution of 24 bits & Sampling Rate up to 96 kHz in .WAVE or .AIFF format) fully optimized for this encoding.

How much time is necessary for my album is masterised?

That depends first on the size of your project. It also depends on the quality of your mix. We do not invoice the first working hour and we want to give you total satisfaction for your Master.

It will be possible to ask for modifications after you listen, for the first time, to your Master (which will be available online from our secure server). The duration of Mastering will differ but you can count on a few days after the reception of your project.

PQ, ISRC, UPC/EAN codes, PQ Log and CD-TEXT: What are they?

These codes are part of the data known as "metadata" which are inserted at the very last stage of the CD cutting or in the final audio files.

In the case of the CD, PQ codes they indicate information at the beginning and at the end of all tracks as well as other information such as copy-protection. ISRC codes (International Standard Recording Codes) are unique codes devoted for each of the CD tracks. They are given (for free) by ISRC agencies in all countries. These codes are engraved in the hidden zone (sub-code) which is non-exploitable by the consumer but accurately controlled by the pressing plant as well as the MCN code (Media Catalog Number or UPC/ EAN). This one is a 13 digits long code-bar which contains information on the traceability of the product. It is written on the matrix of the CD. It is also included in the sub-code.
All of these codes are inserted by the pressing plants because often they are not available during the Mastering session. That said; we can insert them without any problem.

CD-TEXT is an application for specialized playback CD systems. With this system, detailed information is shown for each of the tracks: interpreter, author, arranger, composer, album titles, year, as well as recorded comments. Not to be confused with the application associated with the data stored on the Internet. It reveals the same kind of information on iTunes, Window Media Player or on other software when one inserts the CD in the reader when connected to the Internet.

The "PQ Log" or "PQ List" is a document taking off all of the metadata information written on the CD. The "printed" version of this document is advised because even if all of the information is already contained in the sub-code, a respectable pressing plant will ask for it. This one will check if their Master is the right one. Another advantage is this document includes the comments of the Mastering Engineer. A respectable pressing plant will check undesirable noises and "overs" before contacting the Mastering engineer for approval before pressing.

Dealing with data-compressed audio files such as the mp3, metadata must be inserted during the file creation. It is thus important to submit it to us. It is contained in the "header" of the file: the "id3 tag" or into the "AAC Tag" (for the AAC) or even in a separate data base. Metadata contains information on the name of the artist, album, tracks, the year of release, music genre, etc...

DDP and Red-book protocols; Burning Errors...?

"Red Book" is the Cd-Audio standard in accordance with the "international standard ISO/IEC 60908" (view the .pdf). It defines the technical specifications of the media, properties, which encoding is used, physical parameters, error deviations (Block Error Rate) , corrections of errors...

In the case of a Cd-Audio delivery, the Pre-master media will have to fulfill the "Red Book" requirements so that the pressing plant can operate the manufacturing of the Glass Master.

The Pre-Master can also be delivered as a "Disc Protocol Description" image file ("DDP" or "DDPi"). DDP is a powerful method because it avoids all CD-R-Audio burning errors during the finalization of the medium. Whereas a burned Cd-R-Audio can be rejected by the pressing plant if the error rate contained is too important, the DDP cannot be rejected because it does not have any of these errors. However the pressing plant can quickly checks the integrity of the delivered file using a MD5 control Program. Then after approval it creates the Glass Master.

During the engraving of a Cd-R-Audio, burning errors are inevitable. Some of these are classified as fatal for the procedure in the pressing plant (C2 or C3 errors) as well as a too high rate of "soft" errors (type C1) making the medium not exploitable at the plant. At Kevork Mastering, after the Cd-R-Audio burning, we carry out the best quality with very low C1 rate and without C2 or C3 errors. We provide a detailed report notifying error rates. We consequently deliver to you a quality PMCD (Pre Master CD). Understand that while there is an obvious concern to the CD-R quality the burning quality is the most important!

If the pressing plant that you chose accepts DDP protocol, please choose that one.
Note that Kevork Mastering can deliver your Master according to the "Blue Book" standard allowing "Cd-Extra" / "Enhanced-Cd" form. You can include a data file which will be burned on a PMCD along with your Audio tracks.

Hardware or Plugin? Transparency !

"Digital" doesn't mean necessary "good". As well as "Analog"! Quality of a product largely relies on the work involved during conception. Let's take the example of a plugin as a DSP tool (Digital Signal Processing). One can spend "a few weeks" designing a single Digital Signal Processing (DSP) tool; a talented engineer can spend many years creating a same application tool but much more accurate. So you'll always pay for Quality according to the knowledge and work involved by the designer. In the Analog world, the choice of each electronic component is also vital.

Mastering needs extreme accurate processing tools because as long as you modify a single DSP parameter on a complex material, it appears that the drawbacks of the processing can affect many other aspects in the audible range: undesirable frequency enhancement, distortion, loss of width and depth, loss of details, alteration of the transients, noise...

We can't fight the laws of physics: probably a 4dB cut at 200 Hz on a cheap Equalizer won't fix a problem of muddiness without introducing other side effects somewhere else in the spectrum. But a serious USD 10 000 Mastering equalizer will do the job. The difference lies in the fact that every electronic component of a system is by nature not perfect; each of them inevitably introduce phase shift, distortion and noise. But selected pieces of the highest quality components have so low distortion values and high musical properties, that they are the only solution for a serious Mastering job. A stereo-mix is already a very complex waveform, so Mastering requires the most transparent tools to work with.

Moreover, the gear used in a mix studio is very different from the gear used in a Mastering studio. A mix is the summation of less complex waveforms, so the gear for Mixing is not used the same way, so it is not designed the same way either.

The more accurate the DSP, the less noticeable the drawbacks. Some Audio Plugins are very high quality and they are used by many Mastering Engineers, while some other plugins would never be used by them...

Transparency

For anyone who had the chance experiencing what a "mastering quality" so called digital tool can sound to the ear, could it be Hardware or Plugin, be sure that they'd all agree saying that when processing at moderate level, they do not hear any drawbacks to the sound being processed. At Kevork Mastering, we understand a lot what "Transparency" means.

In some cases Analog gear can also be designed the same way according to the designer's will. But most of the time Analog processing is used because it commonly adds its own smoothness and natural color. At the top of that, it's not uncommon that some Mastering Engineers would tweak their analog gears.for very specific purposes. Interestingly all giving prominence to the musicality of a recording.

 
 
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