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Radio Q&A and more...

Radio sound is just as crucial today as it was a couple decades ago, even though there are many other ways music is listened to today. Your music should translate well on YouTube, over a P.A. system, in a theatre, boom box, etc.

Most ratio stations have their own "signature sound" through the use of outboard gear. Don't try to anticipate what a particular station will do with your music. It should be mastered to sound great over the majority of consumer playback systems. The key is to have fresh ears when you are listening to your CD A/B'd next to other CD's.

Not widely known: If you are making your own MP3's the typical HOT CD LEVEL will cause them to be clipped (distorted) unless you compensate for this before converting them. We make two sets of files - louder audio CD files and files that will translate to excellent sounding MP3's.

We can also add ISRC codes, song lyrics and an image to MP3's using ID3 tags.

I have heard of people "slamming" (over limiting) a song. It sounds good on home stereos but when the same CD is played on the radio, certain instruments fall out - like during a chorus the guitar sounding quiet, then when there is a pause in the vocal, the guitar level comes back up again.

I would have a different description for that - I would say that what you're hearing is in the vocal pause, the guitar is coming UP because in the rest of the song has been flattened DOWN. When the vocal comes back in, the guitar really isn't going down, it's really going back to it's place that is VOCAL-DEPENDENT, meaning the level of the vocal is pressing into the station's limiters, ducking the whole mix down, not just any specific instruments.

Even if it sounds good on all home systems and as loud as major artist CD's I do not want it sound bad on the radio.

Dynamics can sound very good when played on a home system, and the radio station needs to overcome very poor signal-to-noise ratio. That's why those soft sections come "up" - so that the listener doesn't gag from the amount of air noise. They figure it's better to whack the music than loose the listener if they perceive the station as being too weak or noisy. Just give it your best, reference to other commercial CDs, or call upon an expert mastering facility with the experience needed to create a competitive (but not overdone) product.

Do I need to submit ISRC codes to the radio stations I'm sending my CD to?

Yes. Send in a typed page with your song titles and corresponding ISRC codes. When you are getting into digital distribution, have your ISRC codes ready to type in the fields on the web pages of CD Baby, TuneCore, etc. In addition, I'd submit your music to Pandora.

My CDR master doesn't show the titles of the songs when I put it in my computer. What's the difference between CD Text and CDDB?

In order for that to happen, you need to submit your track names to to be in the CD Data Base (CDDB). We put CD Text on your CDR master (titles, artist name shows up in some cars that have alpha-numeric displays, or some fancy boom boxes or DVD players).

In order to upload your track titles, use iTunes. Put your CDR (better yet, use a replicated or duplicated version) in your computer (hooked up to the internet) and open iTunes, import the songs on your record. When you see your songs (will not be displayed with your song titles) right-click on each song and access Get Info. Enter the titles, artist name, title of the CD, genre, date, etc. in the fields for each song. Once you're done with that, go to the top menu bar and click on Advanced. Move your mouse down to "Submit CD Track Names"

ONCE YOU RELEASE THAT MOUSE BUTTON, IT'S DONE and there's no going back to change it without hassle. In a matter of a couple of seconds, the info is uploaded to  In a week or less your song titles will show up on your computer so long as you have iTunes and you are plugged into the internet.

For Windows computers, send your CD in to

More on Separations

What if your mix is perfect without Separations?

Some projects are mixed so well that we simply leave the Separations set to unity gain and only apply standard outboard processing.  Sometimes Separations aren't preferred because the engineer has dialed in a sound that works better in stereo.  Different flavors of sound are not right or wrong -- any more than chocolate and vanilla are right or wrong.

"A-List" engineers often utilize a large format console, exotic gear, or perhaps analog summing boxes and great D-A converters - all of which contributes to mixes that are amazing from the first note. Sometime a more dry, "glued-together" sound is preferred over a wider, more distinct stereophonic sound. Remember, the 2-track mix is included in the Separations format so you always have that option available at the push of a button.

But consider this: Most A-List engineers are already mixing with subgroups even when the 2-track mixdown is the only intended source for mastering. Given the cost and difficulty involved in perfectly recreating a mix after everything's been dismantled and reset, archiving stems and Separations make perfect sense as a back up plan when BIG bucks are being spent.

KEY: If you are listening to the entire album during the mastering session, you'll be able to hear which songs if any need to have level adjustments possibly made. Before, you were stuck with what you had (er... unless you went back to remix)!

If the client requests, we can still sum the Separations in the digital domain and use a particular digital stereo buss plug in. Separations also allows us to use our Discrete Class-A Commander analog summing mixer.  (Tip: want to have that exotic hardware stereo Fairchild on the stereo buss? Instead of buying one, rent it for the mastering session!) Plus we use D-A converters, audio interconnects and power cables that are all high-end audiophile for the best possible sound.

We don't know exactly what mastering will do and won't do for the sound.

Every commercial album you buy has been mastered by an expert mastering engineer. What mastering does to the sound depends on the source. Mastering brings albums into a place of competitive sound, whether that's giving it more presence and highs - or mids for clarity - or lows for fullness - or volume for loudness. Check our site for what to expect.

Our mixes are a lot quieter than regular CD's and there seems to be no low end. We were told by the engineer not to worry because mastering takes care of that.

"No" low end should be addressed in mixing, but certainly the volume is appropriately handled in mastering. Separations solves all of that with no needed remixing.

I also read that we shouldn't have the mixing engineer compress the song because it makes it practically impossible for the mastering engineer to work with.

Not impossible, there are just fewer advantages to an overly slammed mix. Sometimes however it's appropriate when done by a professional. Separations solves all of that! Every question you have is nailed using Separations as a format to submit to mastering. Simply let us know what commercial projects you like the sound of and send or bring in reference CDs so we know exactly what your taste is.

Could you let me know whether you would consider this to be a good mix to be mastered, or if you think there should be changes made?? (more low end? More/Less guitar?? Etc…)

More guitar and low end is a preference, and while we may have a good idea about the balance, really if you send reference CDs of what you like, we can emulate that - and bypass the "trial and correct" stage by using Separations.

I loved the master you did for our band 2 years ago - it still sounds great! It was almost as if you reached in and remixed it, it was so good. Are Separations more of a good thing, or could it be too much? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

If you liked what we did before, this will blow you away - particularly the improved spatiality and space around the vocals. It's never intended to go overboard - and it's simply a SYSTEM where you're providing the ideal ways for us to achieve excellent results.... not just good ways. Separations don't replace your 2-track mix - they supplement it.

We know someone else who did their own mastering using plug ins. Their songs were hot alright, but the drums that previously punched out seemed softer or flattened down. Will separations help this problem?

Absolutely. There are only so many one's and zeros relating to volume level, and when your master is slammin' hot, transients (peaks) have to be taken down in order to bring up the overall mix, otherwise the whole record is clipped to pieces. With loud mastering techniques and mindful listening, Separations can be used to restore punchier drums in the sound.

Why is the sound more 3-d or spread out like you're saying? Isn't it all digital?

By transferring more of the summing tasks directly into a high-end precision mastering system, you're almost getting a Direct-To-Disc recording. Whether we sum in the digital domain or the analog domain, the layering of sound sources (vs. a single-layer source) right to the mastering system is ideal. Plus if we do enhancements to the Separations, it maximizes the precision and minimizes the compromises.

What if I want some help with my mixes? I like my mixes, but I'm not sure how to bring them up to the next level.

We're happy to help. We have an ideal environment to dial in and achieve your goals. Plus, mastering settings are all recallable. Once you get your master CDR, if you have ideas for further creative enhancements, we'll recall the session and take care of your requests.


Created 05/29/02 Modified 03/13/06
Info if you're from out of town
Info about cutting hot CDs
After you have your first reference CDR, changes can be made

Nautilus NEMO DMC-8
NEMO DMC-8 Discrete Class-A
Monitor Controller