December 2010

There’s a lot of confusion out there about whether analog or digital equipment/processing is the best for mastering your music. Some have the idea that analog equipment always delivers the better, “warmer” sound. While others prefer the flexibility digital provides and say there is no big difference between the two.

Although it’s true that analog can produce better quality than digital, this is not always the case and it can also be the opposite for some situations.

For example, analog processing is often used to add a warm “flavor” (especialy for Hip Hop and R & B). But, for classical music, you want to cause as little “damage” and “colouring” as possible (e.g.: noise from analog tape or phase distortion from analog EQ´s) and only use digital processing to keep the sound “intact” as much as possible.

Additionally, what’s more important than the type of processing, is the actual job the mastering engineer performs. If an engineer has more expertise with analog, then it’s usually going to produce the best result.

On the other hand, if the engineer feels more comfortable working with digital, then he or she is going to get far more out of this domain than with analog.

However, if the engineer is a “real pro”, then he will not have any preferences for either domain and uses whatever is needed for each song individually – and the goals that you as the artist want to achieve.

So, the bottom line is that the “processing-domain” (analog or digital) isn’t nearly as important, as what the mastering engineer can do with it.  The type you use should be focused on who’s doing the mastering and the results you want to achieve during the mastering process.

One artist might want to gain the advantages of analog, while another might need the sound digital provides.

About the Author:
Lorenz Vauck is an Audio Mastering Engineer, Musician, and Internet Entrepreneur from Dresden, Saxony, Germany. He is the Managing Director and Chief Mastering Engineer of XARC Mastering, one of the world’s first online audio mastering studios established in 2003.

I hope you are enjoying the christmas time and got all gifts for your loved ones already?:)

As announced earlier, I have now added the before / after the mastering demos from the album “Æskudraumur” by “Róbert Óttarsson”. This is a “special” demo in terms of that instead of switching between the unmastered and mastered version all 10 seconds, it´s 1 minute extracts of 4 songs before and after the mastering in single WAV files. Here are the links:

Unmastered WAV

Mastered WAV

However, as per request, there is also a switching demo available, but of only one song from the album.

Besides a pretty huge before / after the mastering difference, those demos also are the first ones that make use of newly installed equipment, including a “new old” tape machine, two new passive tube equalizers and a new custom build dynamics proessor which shows its full potential on these demos if you listen to how much details are coming out of the songs (hihats, guitars and all this little ear candy) after the mastering that couldn´t be heard before. Enjoy!
All other demos can be found here as usually.

As for now I do wish you and your family a merry christmas and in case we don´t hear again, a happy new year!

P.S.: The 10% discount for following XARC on Twitter is soon to be running out as many clients have been taking up on it. You can also pre-pay now at the discounted price and master at a later time or buy it for someone else as a christmas gift (maybe someone of your friends is currently near to finish an album or song). Just contact me with your Twitter name when booking.

Everybody wants to have the most famous mastering engineers working on their music. However, almost no one can afford their sky-high prices.

But, what few people realize is that you can improve your chances of getting the same amazing final result a top engineer provides by following 5 simple guidelines.

Let’s begin:

1. Avoid budget studios – These are “studios” that charge between $5 – $35 a track (or per hour).

The reason they are able to provide such a low price is that you don’t get a full-time, professional engineer with the proper equipment working on your music. Instead, it’s usually someone who does all of the work on his or her personal home computer.

These people usually don’t have the experience to improve your work by any significant amount (and they often return tracks worse or no better than what you began with).

Remember, mastering is what gives your music the competitive edge… and you get what you pay for. So, go with a professional studio. It pays off in the end.

2. Work with your mastering engineer all the way through the production process (this includes before you record or mix your music).

You want to make sure the mastering engineer has everything at his or her disposal to improve your music. You also don’t want to have to go back a redo the mixing or recording if a serious problem occurs.

3. Make sure you get a good quality recording to begin with.

The mastering engineer can only do as much as what he or she is given. Also, when your recording has few flaws, then that mastering engineer’s job is much easier and the results are a lot better usually (what comes in, goes out).

4. Know what “feel” you want to achieve before you go to the mastering engineer. For example, are there any artists you can show the mastering engineer to show what you want to sound like?

The better you describe what you want to the engineer, the more likely you’re going to like the final result. Additionally, you should work closely with the engineer and share feedback to ensure you get the best possible final product.

5. Pick the right engineer – You not only need to find somebody you work well with, but you also want somebody who knows what they’re doing when it comes to your music.

You want an engineer who has experience with your genre of music (as each type has its differences).

But, probably the biggest key in picking the right engineer is that you must trust him. If you don’t feel certain the engineer knows what he is doing or that you feel he is not giving your music a 100%, then you’re never going to get an amazing result a top engineer could have produced.

About the Author:
Lorenz Vauck is an Audio Mastering Engineer, Musician, and Internet Entrepreneur from Dresden, Saxony, Germany. He is the Managing Director and Chief Mastering Engineer of XARC Mastering, one of the world’s first online audio mastering studios established in 2003.

Music mastering is an essential part of every hit record. Yet, few new (and even some “established”) musicians have a good understanding of what mastering is and why they need it.

This often leads to many selecting the wrong mastering studio… and making many unnecessary mistakes in the recording and music mixing phases (which affects the mastering later on).

This is why below are the 5 most frequently asked questions about music mastering:

1. What exactly is music mastering?

Mastering is the final phase before your CDs, Vinyls, DVDs or MP3 files are produced. It’s the last chance to get the sound right… and for errors to be fixed.

Mastering transforms your music from a “raw” sound into a professional, “radio-ready” sound. It gives your tracks punch, loudness, clarity, and completes your final vision.

2. Why is it so important and do I really need it?

All major labels have their artists’ records mastered before they’re released. But, often many independent artists/labels wonder if they should go-ahead and get it done.

The answer is a big YES! If you want to make the right impression, then at a minimum you need to get your demo professionally mastered.

Because just think about when your demo hits the A & R managers’ desk, what’s going to stand-out… the professionally mastered demos (yours) or the poor quality ones?

By having your music mastered, then you’re going to increase your chances of getting signed and creating loyal fans.

Moreover, the single biggest advantage professional mastering offers are the “fresh” skilled and independent ears put to your music.

Because after working on your music for long hours in the studio, you often become too close to your work. And, as a result, your ears can’t help but get used to mistakes.

Your ears begin to hear mistakes as normal. It´s the same effect as when you are living near a heavy-traffic street – after living their for a few weeks, you will not wake-up anymore at night because your ears get used to those sounds and blends them out.

With the mastering engineer’s help, you make sure you don’t have any major errors in your music and gain advice (from an experienced professional) in what needs to be done to help get the perfect sound!

3. How much should I pay?

Mastering studios charge a wide range of fees. You can pay anywhere from $5 a track or up to hundreds of dollars per hour for the most well-known engineers.

The reason there’s such a large amount of fees is that there are many “budget studios” that have arisen online. These studios are often a single person who does all his or her work on the home computer.

Since these people usually don’t have much experience, they often miss important problems and don’t know what to look for (every track has its own unique problems). Additionally, they don’t have tools a professional mastering studio offers to do it right.

This is compared to the more expensive engineers who have years of experience and know-how in creating a “hit” sound.

4. How important is the mastering equipment?

Professional mastering studios spend thousands of dollars on their equipment. The equipment gives them full flexibility in making a wide-range of adjustments.

However, when looking at the equipment a studio has, you should not focus too much on it. Instead, and more important, you want to look for an engineer who also has experience with it.

It takes years for an engineer to feel fully comfortable with all of the equipment and the adjustment it allows.  This is especially true when learning how to adjust for different genres of music.

For example, the equipment is often used differently for Rock music than Classical.

5. Should I use an online or offline mastering studio?

Online mastering is a recent phenomenon. It has only been in the last few years that it has really begun to take off.

There are now hundreds of different people offering mastering services via the internet. Many of these people are amateurs (and can actually make you music sound worse). While, at the same time, some of the most famous and well-known engineers have now moved online.

Online mastering offers many advantages over offline studios. These include the speed at which you can transfer your music and communicate with the engineer.  You aren’t stuck with the time-limitations a booked session in a offline mastering studio has.

Additionally, you also don’t have to deal with weeks of waiting to go back and forth with the engineer using “snail mail” or booking several times in the studio for revisions. You can also get access to the engineer anytime using email.

In an offline studio when working via snail mail, it may often be hard to get a hold of the engineer to share your ideas.

Moreover, an online mastering engineer has experience with more international music. In offline studios, the engineer often only works with a certain type of music that’s popular in the area.

About the Author:
Lorenz Vauck is an Audio Mastering Engineer, Musician, and Internet Entrepreneur from Dresden, Saxony, Germany. He is the Managing Director and Chief Engineer of XARC Mastering, one of the world’s first on-line process audio mastering companies established in 2003.

Dear Friends,

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your business.

Thanks to you, we’ve grown from the first on-line mastering studio in 2003, to an established business with thousands of satisfied clients in now over 70 countries in only seven years! I’m also happy to see that many of you have become very good friends, making the last years all the more enjoyable.

In other news, XARC now has a presence on Twitter, over at: Please stop by and say “Hello” by adding XARC to your “Following”-list. This is an easy way to stay in contact and connected and to hear about all the news at XARC Mastering. Also, any new post on this blog (and those have been many in the last months) will be published on Twitter as well.

As a little holiday gift, when you follow XARC on Twitter you will receive a 10% discount on your next project. Just let me know your Twitter name when booking.

I’m also pleased to report that XARC continues to get pleasing feedback from clients, underlining that the approach is right to focus on communication and non-compromise high quality mastering with the extra edge for a upfront fixed price (see Here is what Sorin Lazar from Iceland ( replied to me after I finished mastering the latest album from Róbert Óttarsson named Æskudraumur which he produced:

“Man, it’s a GO! I don’t need to listen in the car or more stereos. This is the final MASTER. You were right about the analog feel, it is stunning. Forget about the strumming guitars.. the drums sound now like $$$ and the overall sound is like this project was recorded in Nashville not Sauðárkrókur. So, I guess you want to hear it, right: YOU ARE EXTREMELY GOOD! Excellent job.”

In a few days I am also planning to add a before / after the mastering demo of this album at Keep an ear on it to hear what Sorin is talking about.

If you have any upcoming projects, as always, I would be pleased to work with you. Feel free to contact me, so we can discuss your needs, and book you a spot in the schedule. The current turnaround time is at about 1 week or shorter, as usually also depending on how much work your project requires to get it to the best quality possible.

With that, I will leave you for now, wishing you every happiness this holiday season, and hoping for a prosperous, successful New Year for you and your family;

Thank you again for your continued support!

XARC Mastering in your words:

Best Regards,

Lorenz Vauck
Managing Director & Chief Mastering Engineer
XARC Mastering

“XARC’s detailed service is outstanding, and the mastering
itself is absolutely up there with the best.”
Computer Music Magazine, UK (Issue January 2006)

Mastering is one of the most important parts of a successful record. Yet, many new artists (and even some “established” ones) don’t put a huge focus on it.

As a result, they get a sub-par final product that they could’ve easily avoided.

The biggest reason for this is not because anybody wants average sounding music. But, it’s often easy for the inexperienced listener to feel like the mix sounds “ready-to-go” without mastering.

Little do they realize, that when their music goes-out into the world, it’s going to sound either boring, only average, and even “Wimpy” when put-up against the competition.

On the other hand, when musicians go with a good mastering engineer, then their music is able to stand-out (and attract positive attention) in the marketplace.

And since all big labels have their artists music mastered before it’s released, this is vital if you want to compete.

To Get Your Music “Radio-Ready” (Or Give It The Professional Sound), Good Mastering Improves 7 Key Qualities:

1. Loudness is increased to a competitive level. Although raising it too much destroys quality, this is a key adjustment that must often and especially carefully be made to “compete” against other mixes.

2. Errors are eliminated. If you want your music to sound professional, then you don’t want to have any big errors left in your tracks from the recording or mixing phases (e.g. clicks, noise, bass-rumble…).

3. The right instruments and vocals are brought-out in the correct amounts. Even with good recording and mixing, the right instruments or vocals will usually not hold the right amount of weight.

4. “Punch” is added. Many music genres rely on having the right amount of “power” to push your music along.

5. The sounds are brought together. Often all the components of the music just won’t gel. The mastering engineer helps bring everything together to create a complete masterpiece of your final vision.

6. “Flavour” is added to make your music stand-out and not be boring like everyone else. If you don’t have loyal fan base already, then you’re going to need the edge to grab fans’ attention. Mastering allows you to differentiate your music to achieve the “feel” you’re after.

7. Your tracks are readied for duplication on every playback system. This is where an experienced engineer can really help. The last thing you want is for your music to sound good on just one system and awful on the airwaves, your home-stereo or in the car.

About the Author:
Lorenz Vauck is an Audio Mastering Engineer, Musician, and Internet Entrepreneur from Dresden, Saxony, Germany. He is the Managing Director and Chief Engineer of XARC Mastering, one of the world’s first on-line process audio mastering companies established in 2003.