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Do I Need Mixing AND Mastering? Stem Mastering? Or Stereo Mastering For My Music?

If you are wondering “How can I make my music sound better?” You may be considering taking your mixes to a pro, but are wondering what service your money is better spent on: professional mixing vs mastering, stem mastering or stereo mastering.

Below is an easy flow chart to help you decide, and we will briefly answer some common questions like what is the difference between mixing and mastering? What is stem mastering? We will explore stem mastering vs mixing and mastering.

Pro Mixing and Mastering packages:

Send us your recordings and we will transform them into a record! Get your mix as close to your vision as you can, then export your individual instrument stems (as many as you need) and send them over. Make sure you export all the parts from the same time, so it all lines up (usually from the very start 0:00).

We will give it a luxury analogue mixdown using our old-skool analog desk, valve hardware and 25 years of studio experience. We will then master lovely new mix and deliver you a radio-ready album you will be proud of.

Stem Mastering:

What is stems mastering? Stem mastering is like a mini-mix and mastering approach. It can optimize something brilliant, or correct a few difficult elements.

If your mix is pretty damn great already, and you just want to optimize it, then group the various elements together before exporting. E.G. group all the drums together in 1 stereo file, all the vocals in 1 stereo file, softer instruments, heavy instruments etc. Usually around 5 or 6 stems works well for most tracks. We will mix them back together, tweaking the individual parts so they sit perfectly together, use analogue summing then a fat analogue master for awesome results.

We can also save a mix using stem mastering. A classic situation is having a great backing track with a vocal or lead guitar that just doesn’t quite “sit right”. Or maybe you are not confident in you Sub/kick balance. We can stop your headache and ease your pain for pretty low price. Just bounce us an exported mix with the problem elements muted, then export the tricky elemements soloed. E.G. [Main track No Lead Guitars / Lead Guitar 1 / Lead Guitar 2] or for a dance track [Sub Bass / Kick Drum / Bounce Bass / Everything Else].

Stereo Mastering:

If your mix is already perfect and you are happy with it, then just send it over for straight-up stereo analog mastering. We will treat your mix like a queen, pamper it, give it some love, fatten it up, polish it shiny, make it sound expensive (but it won’t cost you too much). Fire it over. and we will deliver your awesome results.

Now you know what approach would suit your music best, upload your files and we will work some magic on your mix, and deliver you that pro sound you crave.

If you want to order stem mastering, simply choose “stereo mastering”, and add the number of stems you require using the “add stems for stem mastering” product.

UPLOAD YOUR FILES HERE

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Can Mastering Fix A Bad Mix?

can mastering fix a bad mix

“Can mastering save a bad mix?” is a common question. The short answer? = Yes…. to an extent.

It’s always better to fix your mix at the mix stage, rather than waiting to fix the mix in mastering, but what if you don’t have the project file anymore, and still love the track. Do you have to settle for a rubbish mix? No way!

What can mastering fix?

To understand this, we need to have a quick understanding of what mastering engineers do, how mastering works, what mastering a song does and of course why mastering is important.

An experienced (human) mastering engineer will give your music the professional finish you want.

The quality of your final result is a reflection of the entire process back from the first time you pressed “record”.

But great mastering can skew the reflection in your favour, like a flattering fairground mirror.

Common mix problems yield different results:

  • Bad mix room problems and inexperienced mix decisions can often be evened out dramatically.
  • Mixes that are badly clipped and have no dynamic range can have their bounce restored and sound alive again.
  • Badly recorded instruments, or an overall “dull” sound from using cheap mics can be enhanced and enlivened.
  • Hiss can be removed, with varying results ranging from totally flawless, to just a bit better.
  • A flabby bottom-end can be tightened up beautifully, still retaining the weight and heft (still talking about audio here).

dynamics restored to an audio file which was over-limited and clipping
Restored dynamics from an overly compressed limited mix

The Art Of Compromise

Mastering a bad mix is the art of compromise. It’s a delicate process of balancing unbalanced material.

“Can mastering make vocals louder?” Yes, but depending on how the song has been mixed, it may bring up another element with them…

“Can you make my £20 microphone sound like a £2000 microphone?” Nope. But we can probably make your £20 mic sound like a £200 mic!

Got an album you recorded on a cassette 4-track 25 years ago, and want to dust it off and finally get it out there? We will make it sound way better, absolutely… but obviously it will never sound like it was recorded at Abbey Road. Embrace your lo-fi roots and enjoy the “best it can be” result.

Far too much sub, but a weak kick? We can sort it out. But necessarily as well as if you supplied the kick and sub as separate stems (or used our mix evaluation service to fix it yourself at home first).

The Bad Mix Challenge – Try Us!

We love a challenge, and can make drastic improvements to even the most appalling, lost-cause mixes.

The difference can be astounding. Try our free online mastering for your bad mix, and see how much better we can make it!

Or if you still have the project file, consider our mix evaluation service and fix the mix yourself at home.