Mastering Studio Sydney
Crash Symphony Productions is the music mastering studio Sydney artists use to get their tracks release-ready. We have an approach that differs from traditional mastering practices because technology has changed dramatically and we move with the times. Here we’ll explain what mastering is and how we approach music mastering.
What is Music Mastering?
To many people music mastering is a dark art. They don’t really know or understand what is actually going on when an album or track is mastered. This can put the mastering engineer on the back foot with a client so we’re going to take some time to explain what the final stage of the music making process actually is and why it is necessary.
There are a few stages to the audio mastering of a song. Ultimately, mastering is the stage of production that comes after mixing. Generally, mastering works on the track (or album) as a whole. Oftentimes, this is a stereo file but it is common for us to request stems of a track to give us more flexibility in what we are going master. For those who don’t know what “Stems” are, they are groups of instruments. One stem may be the drums all mixed down to a stereo file. The next stem may be all the guitars. Another may be just the lead vocal.
This is a more extreme case of how the song can be broken down into groups. The most common is just the backing track and then the lead vocal. Why would you want this? Well, sometimes when the whole track is compressed or EQ’d we will find that the vocal is effected in a way that we don’t want. In order to correct this we need to get access to just that vocal. A lead vocal stem will help us do this without effecting everything else. This is just one example.
Stages of Audio Mastering
In this first stage of mastering we are working on the track as a whole. This is to enhance it’s audio quality even more than what it was after mixing. It’s not that we are saying your mix is bad, it’s just that so much can be achieved by working on the tracks as a whole. All the while we are constantly listening back to before we started working on the track to make sure that we are moving forward in quality. This is called “A-Bing”. Comparing A (unmastered) to B (the new enhanced master). If we notice that we are not moving the track in a positive direction we undo the steps that were detrimental.
The next stage is more important especially if there are many tracks to be mastered as part of an album. This is the stage where we are trying to make all the songs that are on the same album sound sonically similar. They need to sound like they are part of the same record. Here we take all the enhanced tracks and seek to balance them against each other. For example, one may be too bass heavy against another. Here, we try to match them so that they are sonically congruous. We do this for all the tracks until they are all relatively homogenous throughout the audio spectrum between 20Hz to 20kHz.
Limiting the Master Track
Once all the tracks have been sonically balanced we seek to make them all the same volume. We push the volume of each track up. How much we push the volume depends largely on the genre of music that we are mastering. Our goal at this stage is to manage the volume push, known as limiting, and ensure that all the tracks on the album sound like they are at the same volume. If we don’t do this then when people are listening to the songs in their car they will need to do the volume adjustments themselves. That’s not cool! That’s just annoying for them.
Managing the Transitions on the Album
When the tracks have been enhanced we arrive at the next step. We have them sonically matched and volume balance so we then look to putting them in their album order. We need to make sure that the transitions between the tracks are as the artist and producer would like. Some transitions require a nice gap between them. Other Transitions must be rapid. Sometimes one track even overlaps into the next track. There are times when we might fade in or out of tracks on an album. This is all part of the transitions stage of album mastering.
Once the album transitions have been set we can look to integrate digital information. This is where we use data, such as ISRC codes, to be embedded into the audio files. This information has the unique identifying codes of the song that help you collect royalties and other import parts of the track ID. The title of the tracks and who wrote the song is all included in this digital data. It’s really important and most people don’t even know that this exists! This requires special software for embedding digital data.
That’s it! Your mastered album is now ready to be sent off to the production house. We do this for you by sending them either a physical copy or a DDPI file. The DDPi contains all the information in a digital format and can be easily sent over the internet to the production house. Computer check-sums ensure that all the data has made it to its location.
How do Mastering Services Costs Vary and Why?
Another big mystery to clients is why mastering services cost more if you attend the session. Let us explain. Top music mastering studios are extremely quiet places. The kind of adjustments and changes that we are making to a song are subtle. There is a great deal of sensitivity that is required in listening to make sure that we get the sound right. Even the slightest movement in the mastering suite can be a distraction.
When someone is in the room it is only natural that they will make noise. People move and rustle and breath. All these little, seemingly harmless sounds, add up to be a giant distraction in a mastering studio where everything is under the microscope. As a result, when a client is in the session we find the process takes a lot longer. For this reason, it is unanimous amongst all top music mastering studios that their is a price differential between attended and unattended sessions.
Unlike our recording sessions, mastering services are not charged by the hour. Instead, it is a flat rate per track. The reason for this is that each track requires different work during the enhancement stage. It’s sometimes impossible to know how long it will take. It also gives the mastering engineers the flexibility to really take the time to get a little OCD on their listening and not a the expense of the client. We want to make sure that we’re moving the track forward and not backwards.
One of the best Music Mastering Studios Sydney has to offer
Crash Symphony Productions is one of the best mastering studios Sydney has to offer. We’ve been mastering music for a long time. We’ve made a conscious effort to keep up with the accelerating pace that technology is changing the music industry. We use a combination of analogue equipment and the most current digital software available to make your track compete on a world-class level. We make sure to cross-check our mastering work on many different mediums and devices. In a world where so much music is heard on laptops, iPhones, car radios, and more, it’s even more important to cross-check masters on different devices.
Contact the Music Mastering Studio Sydney Artists trust!
Our Mastering Service can take your mix to the next level. We host an extensive range of UAD mastering tools and one of the most focussed and meticulous mixing & mastering engineers Sydney has to offer – James Englund. You can contact us here or call 02 9953 7686.
Make your project sound better than the rest with music mastering from Crash Symphony Productions.
Crash Symphony Productions was beyond excellent to work with! Being in LA, scheduling in Australia had its challenges, but everyone at the studio made a tremendous effort to get back to me as soon as possible. At times, due to actor schedules, ADR can be tricky, but much-needed at the last minute. Crash Symphony worked with the actor’s tight schedule, to make sure all of our studio’s needs were met!Carly Neher – Post Coordinator “The Bridge” Season 2 – Warner Bros Television
“Matt and everyone at Crash Symphony are fantastic! They are very knowledgeable and professional and their work is excellent.
Thank you for accommodating me halfway around the world on such short notice and thank you for providing such quality service. I know who I’m calling the next time I have a project in Sydney.”Ashley Contino – Associate Producer
“24:Live Another Day”
Twentieth Century Fox Television
“Crash Symphony Productions run an extremely professional and reliable service. I’ve been using CSP for the past three years and they’re always ready to go the extra mile for us.
Their prices are great, the service is great and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend CSP for any sound production/ recording needs. It’s a real pleasure to know these guys and to work with them.”Genevieve Clay-Smith 2009 Tropfest Winner and Director of Taste Media
“James Englund is one of the best producers around. I have worked with James on a number of projects and am constantly impressed with his good taste and how he manages to get the best out of the musicians that he is working with. A true mark of a great producer. I have worked with more producers than most anyone and it’s such a joy to work with James. I feel like I’m back at Air Studios again where the standards are high and the work is important and easy.
James focuses on what’s important – to the music – for the audience. You never get the impression that he is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, (unlike some producers who overproduce because they don’t understand the essentials).
For a classy, great sounding production, I have no reservations in highly recommending James Englund.
He puts the same attention to detail into his studio and equipment. We did a big session at Studios 301 and the best microphones were those that James brought from his studio. What a lifesaver.”Michael Paul Stavrou – Stav.
“I think James is one of the most creative, clever and generous people I have met. He is helpful, listens and allowed us to share some of his unique and wonderful compilations with a joy video that we released. I recommend him unreservedly – he is GREAT value!”Amanda Gore – International Speaker & Founder of the Joy Project
“I have been lucky enough to work with James Englund extensively over the past few years and it has been a professional relationship that I will always cherish.
I was introduced to James in the most appropriate way, while watching him perform his original music at Sydney’s iconic Basement, a stage that I dreamed of one day stepping on to. I sat on the edge of my seat, intrigued by his poetic lyrics and his captivating and melodic guitar and piano parts that underlay all of his songs. This alone had an impact on me as I was a few years younger than James and had found someone that I respected and someone that I could look up to as a Songwriter and Performer.
I had been told that James had a studio in Neutral Bay, Sydney called ‘Crash Symphony’ so I contacted him and met up with him the following week. What I experienced from then on was a musical kinship that people spend their whole life trying to find. James produced my first album ‘This is Life’, which has seen much success, reaching #2 in the iTunes Australia Singer Songwriter Charts.
(Before venturing into the process James made a bold judgement based on my performance style and on what I envisaged my debut record to sound like. We wanted to capture the raw energy of a live performance, but record it in a way that ensured a high studio quality sound, similar to many of the records produced in 60’s and 70’s. We recorded most of the project live at Studios 301, tracking the whole five-piece band at the same time, with other layers, overdubs, and some whole tracks being recorded in the ‘Crash Symphony’ Studio. The beauty of ‘Crash Symphony’ is that it has the best hardware and software money can by for 4-track recording. )
As a Producer and Sound Engineer James works selflessly, ensuring the music becomes the polished gem it deserves to be. He does this without impeding on the artists own creative process, ensuring the overall projected vision is still intact. James is a perfectionist with impeccable taste and ear for melody and space that is hard to match. I recommend James’ to all of my friends and will continue to work with James into the future.”Alex Gibson – Finalist ‘The Voice’
“I’ve been working professionally with James Englund since 2009. His musicality and technical knowledge are second to none.
He sings, plays keyboard, violin, guitar, wind and brass. James should be your first choice for voice over work, band recordings, song production, mixing and mastering. James is a rare mix of professional musician and technical studio magician. I love working with him!”Jeremy Curran – Music Director – Musical Functions
“I have so enjoyed working with Matt and found him to be a dedicated and mature artist. In fact I so enjoyed our collaboration that immediately asked him to work with me on my next film.
I love Matt’s ability to respond to the script, characters, and the insanity of a director in a skilled, productive and creative way. I respect Matt’s creative ideas and admire his ability to easily and confidently handle many different music genres. ”Margaret McHugh – Director
“I have watched Matt grow into a highly proficient and creative screen music pratitioner. He is very adaptable across a wide variety of styles and his world music compositions are also of a very high standard.”Vicki Hansen – Big Bang Music – Composer for SBS & ABC TV
“Matt is not only a talented musician and composer who will write beautiful music for your film; he’s a true creative professional.
He works incredibly well to briefs, communicates clearly with filmmakers, and explains all of the wild musical terminology in plain English. I can’t recommend him highly enough.”Katia Nizic – Film Producer and Critic
“Matt is a joy to work with. He has an instinctive understanding of drama, composing beautifully for both performance and story. His subtle, delicate score for The Orchard contributes immensely to the atmosphere, metaphor and subtext of the film, helping the audience access the feeling states and complex character perspectives of the film.
I highly recommend Matt and his work to both producers and directors.”Laura Scrivano, Writer/Director Winner – 2013 European Union Film Award (The Orchard)
“On brief, timely and great to work with, Crash Symphony Productions have everything you want in a creative partner.”Shane Carn – Creative Director for TVC – Lead Generation Lab