Preparing your mixes for mastering
I was going to write a lengthy article on the subject, but the brilliant guys over at Pro Audio Files did it already, and I agree completely with all the points. Read it carefully, and let me know if there's anything you'd like to clarify.
I will add the following points:
- Be VERY careful with stereo widening tools (Waves S1 imager for example) These can cause all sorts of problems further down the line. I've rejected mixes before which were too wide, caused by the engineers' speakers being placed too close together.
- Don’t slam it: There’s a tendency these days, particularly with inexperienced engineers to try and make a piece of music sound like it’s already on the radio. This might involve hard-limiting or over-compressing individual elements or busses within a mix for that purpose (particularly snare drum peaks). Bear in mind that the mastering process will take care of most of that dynamic control, and your final mix should be the most dynamic spacious breathing version which will exist. All later processes, tend to reduce the dynamic range, particularly the dreaded broadcast processor at the radio station! Dynamic range reduction (compression) used in mastering serves to allow listeners to experience the material at its’ best in a wide variety of listening environments.
Here are some useful sources of information and links to recommended pressing plants: