In an interview, I was recently asked if I could offer any mixing tips to ensure a higher-quality final mastered product. After thinking about that a bit more, I decided I ought to have a post, that I will update from time to time. As a starting point, I offer my interview response, which I think provides quite a good, brief overview…

What do you recommend the composer does to the track before sending it – can it be in any condition?

We prefer to have the completed mixdown of each song, with dithering and any other effects (of course with the exception of effects on single tracks within the mix, like on vocals, drums and all other elements) turned off, and without clipping. As for resolution and sampling rate, 24 bits / 44.1 kHz (or higher), compressed with WinRAR (to allow for checking of transfer errors via the CRCs/checksums incorporated into those archives) are preferred. That said, other formats are able to be accommodated, but we strongly recommend against mastering, for example, from a MP3 source because of the “heavily” decreased (at least for the mastering stage not high enough) quality that comes about as a result of the encoding process. Such encoding to “lossy” formats should only be done at the very end of the mastering. That’s a service we also offer (for example for Internet Distribution)—and where the encoding settings are optimized individually for each song.

As for mix quality, we really see a very wide range there, from very good down to very problematic. In the latter case, though, we’ve surprised quite a number of our clients in the “miracles” we’ve been able to “perform.” A good example of a problematic quality mix that we were able to heavily improve is available at:


Generally what advice can you [our] readers about mastering and mixing?

In terms of mastering, unless there is really no other alternative, it’s best to put mastering projects in the hands of the “pros.” It’s kind of a situation where the adage “if you would do your own dentistry…” really applies. Beyond the intricate technical and other factors there though, there is the one that is more often missed—the fact that the mastering engineer has completely “fresh ears,” and is in a definite advantage over those who have mixed the material, in terms of being impartial to the project. Also, whenever you are viewing the engineering credits of any “commerical” CD you will notice that the mastering is always done by a mastering engineer who was not involved with any other step of the project. This is simply because of the above mentioned reasons.

In terms of mixing, there are a few tips I can offer, in addition to those I already mentioned. Often, artists spend many an hour in the mixing studio, trying to get “huge” sound at that stage, when really getting everything out of the tracks is something that’s far better left to the mastering engineer. As odd as it may sound, sometimes a “small” or “dull” mix is really a lot better to work with. Also, keep in mind that it’s usually the mastering engineers job to make volume and compression adjustments. Another big thing is to be restrained with the use of “mastering processors” (i.e. compressors, equalizers, limiters, exciters and the “finalizers” we tend to see these days) across the master buss—if you do that at the mixing stage, it’s next to impossible to “undo” during the mastering.