Frequently Asked Questions

Recording:
Is there any type of music you specialize in recording?
Consulting:
Do you offer consultation on recording or mixing?
Mastering:
What is mastering?
What is the best way to prepare a project for mastering?
Should files be "normalized"?
Do you compress my mix or should I compress it?
Should I do the fade outs or do I leave that up to you?
What format do you master my CD on to?
What is a glass master?
Can (and should) the client be present during mastering?
Miscellaneous:
What forms of payment do you accept?


Recording

Is there any type of music you specialize in recording?

BDA will record any style of music that can be played live and without a public address system.  We specialize in what might be called "audio verite", where the goal is to make the listener feel like they're present at the performance.  After finding the best room to suit a given musical ensemble, we record on location, live to Stereo, with no overdubs.

We've used this method to record everything from solo piano to chamber orchestras to jazz bands (including vocalists) to acoustic folk to power rock.


Consulting

Do you offer consultation on recording or mixing?

Yes.  A number of our mastering clients have kept us in the loop during their mix process.  Consulting with us prior to declaring mixes as "final" often makes for a better sounding finished disk, since some issues are better handled during the mix than they are in the mastering room.  Some of these same clients have ended up consulting with us before or during the recording stage of their subsequent projects, realizing that some issues are better handled before getting to the mix room.


Mastering

What is mastering?

For the answer to this one, please read What is mastering? on our Articles page.


What is the best way to prepare a project for mastering?

Our preferred file formats are .aif, .wav or .sd2 stereo.  These can be sent to us on CD-R or DVD-R.  If your program is in another format, we can arrange to have it transferred at an additional cost.

Set the burn speed on your disk recorder to the slowest speed available and use high quality blank disks.  We've had good success with disks from Taiyo Yuden and Sony.  Leave the disk free of any sort of paper or plastic labels.

Please submit digital files in their original wordlength and sample rate.  We can perform any conversion that might be necessary for processing and/or the final master.

For best results, we suggest recording and mixing at a wordlength of 24 bits and a sample rate of 96kHz.  Try to aim for peak levels of -6dbFS but don't worry if the peaks are lower.  -20 is not a problem with a 24 bit file, while -3 might not leave enough headroom.  It is always a good idea to leave this kind of headroom for the mastering engineer to work with.  Also, most digtal converters perform their best at around -6, so you end up with a better sounding mix than you would have at louder levels anyway.  Final levels will be adjusted in the mastering room.

Sample rate conversion and dithering are also best left for the mastering stage of production.  If your multitrack is not at 24/96 and you are mixing with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation, i.e. with your computer), the end result will sound best if you mix at the same wordlength and sample rate as your multitrack.


Should files be "normalized"?

"Normalization" is a process that changes the level of your audio files.  It is often used to bring the peak level up to (or near) 0dbFS.  This will most likely degrade the sound of your files and erase the headroom that will be needed in the mastering room.  Level adjustments should be left for the mastering engineer.


Do you compress my mix or should I compress it?

Compression is a larger topic than can be properly answered on a FAQ page.  It is discussed in the article called Declaring an end to the loudness wars.

The short answer is, if you like the sound of it, use compression on individual tracks in your mix.  Leave any processes that effect the entire mix for the mastering room.


Should I do the fade outs or do I leave that up to you?

This varies with the particular track and project.  Sometimes it is a good idea to leave fades (either in our out) for the mastering room, particularly if crossfades between tracks might be involved.


What format do you master my CD on to?

We create the premasters for your disk in the universally accepted DDP format.  The DDP file set is delivered on CD-R (or DVD-R) media, burned at slow speed, currently using the high quality disks made by Taiyo Yuden.  If your replication plant of choice can't work with DDP for some reason, we can supply your master as an audio CD-R.


What is a glass master?

The glass master is created by the replication plant from the DDP file set (or CD-R if necessary) created in the mastering room.  Though the DDP (or CD-R) is often referred to as the "CD Master", technically it is the "PreMaster".  You can think of the glass master as the first "mold" in a series the replication plant will create in order to arrive at a "stamper", which is what is used for the creation of the final "pressed" disks.

Just as burn speed is important in the creation of a CD-R, the best "pressed" disks result when the glass master is cut at real time speed (1x).  It is a good idea to ensure your manufacturer of choice will burn the glass master at 1x.


Can (and should) the client be present during mastering?

We've mastered both with and without the client present.  We've found that most folks can get bored sitting around for the hours it takes to create the final master.  Also, many of our clients are not located near by, many being out of state or in another country.  Since we're in frequent contact with the client during a project, most prefer to simply send us their mixes and listen to the results in their own environments on their own systems, with which they have the most familiarity.  This has the additional benefit of saving them money since attended sessions invariably take longer.


Miscellaneous

What forms of payment do you accept?

We accept cash, check or money order as payment.  Payment in full is required for delivery of your finished CD Master (the disk you'll send to the replication plant).