George D. Graham CD Mastering Service

I bring close to 40 years of professional audio experience in recording and broadcasting and an unwavering commitment to high quality sound to a mastering service that can bring out the best in recording projects, and be assured of meeting full professional standards for CD duplication. I can also provide mastering service that will help to maintain quality for digitally compressed formats, such as mp3 for downloads, all at a modest price. Rates are generally $40/hr for most projects, including editing. Most CDs projects from good quality mixes can be completed for under $200.

I also offer format conversion and sound restoration, as well as some forensic audio services (enhancing recordings used as evidence).

I can accept recordings in the following format:

  • CD
  • DVD
  • quarter-inch open-reel tape (full, half and quarter-track)
  • PCM-F1 digital (including Sony PCM-501, 601 and 701)
  • audio cassette (not recommended for high quality)
  • file formats such wav, aiff (to 24 bit), as well as compressed formats including mp2, mp3, Windows Media, Ogg-Vorbis. (Compressed formats are not recommended for CD mastering.)

I can also offer restoration services for phono recordings from LPs to early 78s, as well as acetates.

I also have access to half-inch reel equipment, and can offer thermal restoration (baking) of deteriorated reel-to-reel recordings.

What is mastering, and why do it need it?

In the days of LPs (and 45s), the mastering engineer was the person who took the master tape created in the recording studio and cut it to the master disc for manufacturing. That often meant processing the audio so it would better meet the physical requirements of the disc cutter -- to prevent record skips, etc. When CDs appeared, the wide dynamic range of the format would seem to eliminate the need for mastering. But the mastering engineer soon assumed a useful role as an "additional set of ears," being able to tweak the master recording to ensure that the recording sounded good in the context of all the other CDs in release, especially after the producer and mix engineer spent a lot of time on the project, and may have lost some perspective along the way. The CD mastering engineer also ensures that the recording meets the technical specs of the "Red Book" which defines the format, making sure that all the tracks are in the right place and that the CD will play properly on all equipment.

Mastering can involve changes to level and EQ, dynamics, and occasionally spatial perspective. Mastering cannot change the mix of the project (with the possible exception of bringing up or down the bass), but helps to bring uniformity among tracks, and helps to make it comparable to other CDs including major-label releases.

My approach toward mastering emphasizes audio quality. Though I can almost always increase the apparent volume of a project, I generally recommend against going for the maximally loudest sound. My experience is that this makes for a project that listeners will return to more readily, since heavy compression is known to cause listener fatigue. See this article for more information.

How do I prepare my recording for mastering?

The most important thing is DO NOT COMPRESS your overall mix. Compression on individual tracks and instruments is fine, but overall compression is a dangerous weapon in the hands of the inexperienced. I cannot effectively remove bad compression from a mix. I can add sophisticated multi-band look-ahead compression that will increase the loudness with minimal damage to the dynamics, and the avoid the "pumping" sound of bad compression.

Do your best mix, and listen in a number of environments. You might also want to do an "A-B" test with a favorite recording, making sure that both are adjusted the same loudness on your monitoring equipment.

Once you are happy with your project, compile the material on a CD (audio CD or files), DVD (as files), or analog tape. Please provide detailed notes on the sequencing. I don't need the material in the same order as the CD sequence. Just let me know your song order, and I can easily sequence the recording for you, and adjust the spacing between tracks. I also generally trim the tracks to eliminate any extraneous non-musical sounds at the beginning or end.

What do I receive after the mastering process?

I'll provide you with two CDs. One is the "master" which I have auditioned carefully with headphones from end to end to ensure there are no glitches. The other will be a "safety backup," made from the same computer files, but with each track spot-checked. I also supply a "PQ" list with detailed tracking information for the duplicator.

I can generally turn around a project in about a week or so, depending on what other projects I have pending.

Contact me at this e-mail address for questions, a list of past clients, or if you are interested in my services. I am located in Carbondale, PA.

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This page last updated July 09, 2007