Mastering services - you use 'em?

Interested in these $100/album joints.

Has anyone had any experience with these places like or advertising 100 bucks for up to 80 minutes of mastering?

I’m thinking about using something like this for my next collection, but would like to hear if any of you guys have ever used anything like this and what your experience was like.


IMO - you’d be better served to buy a good compressor/limiter & learn how to use it. Better yet - buy a “mastering” plug-in like from Ozone.

Fair enough, but even the ‘second set of ears’ line has no appeal or application here?

Are there any “real” mastering engineers anywhere near you that you could visit or send tracks to? Someone with experience and the right set of tools can do wonders for a person’s recordings. Best if you’re in the room when they do their magic so you can ask a question or two, or at least make sure that your money isn’t going to someone “mastering” your tracks with less quality gear than you used to record those tracks. It’s a job that takes time to do well, and time really is money in the recording services for hire game. Doing it right also takes special tools, a well designed listening environment, and the experience to hear what is happening in it.
Experienced mastering services will cost more than $100 for 80 minutes of music, for sure. Bet on more like $800-1000 for 50 minutes (at least in a market like Chicago). What you get for that kind of investment is an education and some real improvement in your recordings. There are folks who can make mastering plug-ins work well, especially with lots of experience…maybe you’re one of 'em, so give it whirl. You’ll certainly learn something that way too, and for less of an investment that you can continue using for other recording needs. If it was material I was planning on selling though, I’d have a pro check it out if for no other reason than to see what a real ME does and works with.

Good outboard compressors and EQ’s for mastering cost somewhere in the $2000-3000 range PER CHANNEL, so buying something to do the job would be my third choice…

Makes sense. I’ll continue to look around.

It’s funny, but it’s sounding more and more like there really are no free rides! You’d think I’d learn that by now.


I would guess that if they can say it will be $100 flat for 80 minutes of material then they are probably just going to pass it through some presets in a mastering plugin or application.

If they were going to do a “professional” job then they are not going to know how long it will take without hearing the material first.
And I would expect it would take more than $100 worth of time to listen attentively to 80 minutes of material, let alone master it…

Rich is right. The best thing to do is to actually learn to mix very well & then you won’t really need mastering. Mastering can’t really fix a bad mix.

Quote (Mr Soul @ Feb. 09 2006,18:09)
Rich is right. The best thing to do is to actually learn to mix very well & then you won't really need mastering. Mastering can't really fix a bad mix.

Won't really need mastering? bubbu whaaat!

A little birdy told me that now matter how good you get at mixing your final levelswill never be what the store bought Cd's are at.
Hence the need for mastering?

And also, if mastering is sucj an uneccisary thing, than most the commercial studios (after they have a good mix) send them out to be mastered?

Am I missing something here?
Or s there a whole industry within the music buisness that is uneccisary as long as the stdios get a good mix.




I thought the same might be true. They do have some samples on their sites, but they aren’t fantastic.

To Jeremy’s point, I was originally looking into this based on my previous experience with my last few collections being slightly (really, just slightly) less loud than what I would have liked. That and the fact that others have expressed the idea that there is value in having that last step being done by someone else with more experience.

What I’m hearing here though is that most of you guys are doing your own work… Thanks for responding and I’m still interested to hear more.


Far out, send me your mixes and I’ll have a crack at mastering them for nothing - I can use the experience. PM for an address.



A little birdy told me that now matter how good you get at mixing your final levelswill never be what the store bought Cd’s are at.
Hence the need for mastering?

Wrong for several reasons. First of all, we’re talking apples & oranges here. What we do will never sound as good as the pro’s because they have much better equipment & knowledge. However, that’s not to say that some of us can’t produce good recordings with nTrack.

Second, mastering will never fix a bad mix!

Yes - if you send your final mix to Gateway Mastering, Bob Ludwig might be able to make it sound better but it will cost your $10,000 and it will NOT sound as good as Sting.

For us using nTrack, the best possible thing we can is to learn to mix what we have recorded as BEST as we can. No quicky mastering house will make our mixes sound better, because you can’t run music through some plug-in and make it sound better.

On my maps there are a whole lot of places to stop between Bad Mix & Stingsville. Mastering can definetly bring a decent mix up a level or two. Not that I think a $100/80mins job would help, though.

And FWIW Sting doesn’t sound good to my ears, just polished & expensive.

What I wouldn’t give to just sound polished and expensive!

To the extent that all life, soul & grit is produced out your back door ? Anyways, this is where personal tastes really enters the picture. Wifey used to play some Sting albums & I hated almost every second.


Not that I think a $100/80mins job would help, though

I agree with you but this is what we’re talking about here. Trust me, Bob Ludwig could help all of our recordings.

I just used Sting as one example but there are lots of others.

Quote (teryeah @ Feb. 10 2006,14:48)
To the extent that all life, soul & grit is produced out your back door ?

Dear God yes… Just think of all the flashing lights and knobs… think of the knobs! :D (Have you caught on that I am being sarcastic… ideally I would love to sound polished and expensive AND still have life, soul, and grit…)

Heh ! Thankfully there are still folks around able to sound both PRODUCED and full of life :)

Thanks for chiming in guys. We’ll see what happens…