Mastering

The art of audio mastering is a just that: an art. Whether the final delivery format is CD, DVD, Open Reel, Vinyl, Digital Download or Streaming Media, mastering is the last technical and artistic step in the production process.

While it’s true that great equipment is very important in realizing a project’s full potential, it’s only useful in the hands of an experienced engineer, equipped with the critical listening skills to help create a master that realizes your true creative vision.

We bring professional, unbiased ears, and a fresh, invaluable third-party perspective to each and every project. Our goal is to help our clients end up with the best sounding projects possible, giving your upcoming release a far better chance at being successful.

We encourage clients to attend sessions when they can; that’s one reason we built such a comfortable room here in Jersey City. Hearing your masters play on our full-range reference monitors in our calibrated listening environment may be the best listening experience you’ll have.

Our staff of engineers are dedicated to helping all clients, big and small, and will treat them with equal care, focus, and relentless commitment to the craft. We look forward to working together on your upcoming release.

Vinyl

Vinyl is still a viable way to get your project out to the world. In fact, it has become much more popular in recent years, especially in the alternative and rock world. With the increase in digital downloads and decrease in CD sales, vinyl is one of the best ways for many artists to actually sell their product.

Listening to a vinyl record is a unique experience, and there are some who insist it’s still the best way to listen to music. Similarly, cutting a record is a unique process, and is much different from mastering for a digital medium. Variables such as side length, volume, bass, sibilance, phase between left and right channels need to be taken into account. Knowing how to manipulate a cutting lathe and take all these things into account is critical to a great sounding record.

There are a couple ways to create vinyl lacquers and acetates. One way is to have us EQ or “master” the audio then use those hi-res digital files we created to cut either acetates or lacquers. Specific adjustments to optimize the audio for the vinyl medium will be applied. This is the most common way when we are mastering the project. If the project is already mastered we can work from the CD audio files or if there is a data file or hi-res archive that’s even better. For the analog purist we have the ability to cut directly from analog tape. We can work off a Studer tape machine with a special head stack to create the proper delay needed to adjust spacing and depth of cut without converting to digital and back.

MFiT

JLM is an approved “Mastered for iTunes” studio. What this means is that Apple has provided us with the proper systems to ensure we are creating MFiT files to their standards. The “Mastered for iTunes” program allows you to submit files at 24-bit resolution and sample rates as high as 96k. (The typical iTunes quality is 16-bit, 44.1k). Please check with your digital distributor to find out if you’re eligible. We can provide you with high resolution masters, either way, in case you would like them for other sites.

Equipment List

Hardware

Maselec MTC-2 Master Transfer and Monitor System (MASTERING CONSOLE)
Buzz Audio REQ 2.2 Equalizer
Sontec MES 431C Parametric Mastering Equalizer
Manley Vari-Mu Stereo Compressor (MASTERING VERSION)
Prism MEA-2 Mastering Stereo Equalizer
Prism MLA-2 Mastering Stereo Compressor
Maselec 2012 HF & Peak Limiter (DE-ESSER)
Z-Sys ZQ1 Parametric Digital Equalizer
Lavry M-AD 824 A/D Converters
Lavry M-DA 824 D/A Converters
Sonic Solutions D/A
Pendulum Audio Analog Peak Limiter
Waves L2 Ultramaximizer
Lucid GENx696 Clock Generator
Z-Sys 16×16 Digital Router
AnaMod ATS-1 Analog Tape Simulator

Monitoring

KEF 207.2 Reference Monitors (Full Range)
McIntosh 2100 Amplifiers
Taytrix Custom Sound Panel Construction and Bass Diffusor
RealTraps Mondo Traps
B&B Systems AM-2B Phase Scope & VU Meter
Mytek DDD-603 Digital Level Meter (AES)
Mytek Stereo 192 DSD DAC

Players / Recorders

Ampex ATR-102 1/2” and 1/4” (ANALOG TAPE MACHINE)
Sony CDP-D500 CD Player/Recorder
HHB CDR830 CD Player/Recorder (w/ CD-TEXT)
Tascam DA-45 HR 24 Bit DAT Recorder
Tascam 122 mkIII Cassette Player/Recorder
Technics SL1200 MD3 Direct Drive Turntable

Software

SoundBlade HD DAW Mastering Software
No-Noise II (Full) Premier noise, de-click, de-hum, and de-crackle algorithms.
Sonic EQ 4-Band Equalizer
Pro-Tools Multi-Track Workstation (With all kinds of plug Ins)
Izotope VIVE Restoration Suite
Spectre Real-Time Signal Analyzer
DMG Limitless

Studio Configured With:

Middle Atlantic Products, Ltd. PD-915R’s

Prepare for Mastering

Mastering Information

Analog

We have a beautiful ATR-102 tape machine that sounds fantastic. It is equipped with quarter inch and half inch heads. I love working from tape. If it’s in your recording or mixing budget (especially rock records with live drums and guitars) you should consider it. People ask if I have a preference recording at 15 ips or 30 ips and the answer is I’ve heard great records recorded at both speeds. Please label your reels and supply a set of test tones for tape machine alignment.

Digital

There are many variables to working digitally. These are suggestions not necessarily rules that can be very helpful in getting the best transfer of your mixes. Most audio workstations now are 24 or 32 bit. If you can work at 24 or 32 bit I suggest to do so. The noise floor is noticeably better than 16 bit. This has a cumulative effect when recording and mixing. When working at a higher resolution (like 24bit) save your mixes as data files instead of audio files so you don’t truncate and lose the last 8 bits.

Leave headroom. It’s not necessary to make your mixes loud and can often do damage to your music by adding distortion and smearing the stereo image. It’s best not to do any extra processing prior to the mastering eq just so it’s louder. If you want to use aggressive limiting on your mix I suggest making 2 passes, one with and one without so we have a choice and compare in the studio environment then make the best choice for the particular song.

Vinyl

There are a couple ways to create vinyl lacquers and acetates. One way is to have us EQ or “master” the audio then use those hi-res digital files we created to cut either acetates or lacquers. Specific adjustments to optimize the audio for the vinyl medium will be applied. This is the most common way when we are mastering the project. If the project is already mastered we can work from the CD audio files or if there is a data file or hi-res archive that’s even better. For the analog purist we have the ability to cut directly from analog tape. We can work off a Studer tape machine with a special “delay” head stack to create the proper analog delay needed to adjust spacing and depth of cut without converting to digital and back.

Sample Rates

We can work from basically any sampling rate you’re comfortable working with, but they do not all sound the same. I like 44.1k and 88.2k when trying to get that vintage analog sound. 96k also sounds great, it has a more extended hi end. It’s especially good if it’s going to be left there and not sample rate converted down to 44.1. I think 88.2 sounds better when converted to 44.1 than 96. Great sounding projects have been created on all these formats. More important is not to convert it from whatever sample rate you are working at just to send a higher sample rate to us.

Metadata

Metadata is everything about the music on your CD except the music. One part of this is ISRC codes (International Standard Recording Code), which is a unique code for each individual track. Most record labels are set up for these and supply them. They are not mandatory but are helpful in tracking radio play, licensing for films/commercials and are helpful in royalty collections. If you want to apply for these go to: https://usisrc.org.

CD Text is an extension of the Red Book CD specification standard. It allows for storage of additional information (e.g. album name, song name, and artist) on a standard-compliant Audio-CDs. Many CD players can now read much of this information. Please let us know if you want any of these services when booking your session.