Preparing Your Files For Mastering (Part 2)

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Debunking that "-6db of headroom" rule and more!

So you've read PART 1 of this 2 part guide, you have chatted with me about your mix, and are ready to think about submitting it for mastering. Awesome! Now we need to think about the technical aspect of finalising your mixes. Here are the 2 most common things I get asked, and 2 of the most important things I never get asked...

Headroom: "Do I need to leave -6db of headroom" In short: It doesn't really matter too much. Maybe way back when, it was important to send the mastering engineer a file that had ample headroom so they could process it with ease, but not anymore. The only exception is to ensure that none of your channels are clipping. This includes individual tracks, buses, auxes and stereo out (or master out) channels. I'd recommend leaving about -1db of headroom though, just to deal with any intersample peaks etc

Mix Bus: "Should I leave my mix bus on or off" Is this part of your sound? If you turn it off does the mix kind of fall apart? Sometimes it's part of the sound. You have some bus compression going on to 'glue' your mix together, or some stereo EQ on your output, sometimes even gentle saturation to give it a thicker sound. All of this is absolutely fine. It's your sound, keep it on. The only exceptions to this, where I may ask for something different, is if I feel the mix bus processing is a little too much. Compressors pumping, massive amounts of low end or high end, and if you have used a limiter and it has taken off too many transients. We can chat about this and either have these reduced or removed and I can add them back on my end to give it a more natural or cleaner sound while still keeping the vibe you initially wanted.

Is My Mixing Environment Important: Consider your environment when mixing. Are you using headphones or speakers? Have you checked this against something you typically use daily to enjoy music (airpods, car stereo for example). Sometimes your 'mixing' environment might not be ideal. Working on headphones for long periods of time can cause ear fatigue and result in over processing. Working on speakers in a room that isn't properly treated can result in you making wrong decisions (because you can't really hear the information as intended due to phase cancellations etc). Checking your mix passively is a great way to help identify any issues. Put it in a playlist of music you like or want it to sit with and just pop it on your airpods while you're out or in your car while you're driving. Without over thinking or scrutinizing too much, you can hear things that you might have mixed in the mix stage.

Do You Need To Leave Space: Yes! Always try and leave 1 second of silence before and after your track. I get a lot of projects where it will start exactly at 0:00.000. The issue with this is it can sometimes cause the very first transient (sometimes a kick) to cut off slightly resulting in a dead hit or it might even cause a digital click. Leaving 1 second or 1 bar before your song kicks in will help with this. Similarly when you bounce your files out, leaving a second of silence at the very end will make sure no reverb tails or fades get cut off abruptly. This can mean I can get a more natural fade out in the mastering process.

Your sound: Perfected

Two Zero Nine Mastering
103 - 105 Kempston St,
Liverpool - L3 8HE