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  More on HD Separation Mastering

Do not think of Separations as remixing - however...
• If the record company wants some last minute edits or level adjustments, you're ready to go.
• If you've mixed for months and you still feel the blend can be better, refinements can be made.
• If you can't sort out certain balance issues or low-end problems, more precise control is here.
• Communication lets us know your preferences and references makes the difference!
If time doesn't allow for making Separations on your project right now , still consider...
This method of mastering is more involved than traditional mastering, therefore we are very comfortable with finding more options even for 2-track stereo masters. We are very aware of how  "out of the box" ideas work for traditional 2-Track mastering. Try us for your stereo mixes - your CD will sound amazing because we've worked to achieve sound that's beyond normal mastering methods.

Separations are different than "stems." Read why

The simplest form of Separations is just to make
(1) The Stereo Mix
(2) An all-instruments mix with effects and verbs
(3) An all-vocals mix with effects and verbs

The 2nd easiest form of Separations is
(1) The Stereo Mix
(2) Separated drums mix - in stereo with effects
(3) All other instruments mix in stereo with verbs or effects
(4) All vocalsmix in stereo with reverbs, effects

Bonus: Now you've archived an instrumental mix for later.

"The mixes grew wider and deeper creating a more lush stereo image."
- Matt Bordon -
Omen Room Studios, Orange County, California

"I can't thank you enough for the Separation process - it's absolutely amazing."
Tony Barela, Orange County, California

"Separations gave my album a 3-dimensional nature. We definitely heard more spatiality and focus."
- Takesian - Recording Artist, Composer - Long Beach, California

"Using Separations saved my album. I'll never go back to just stereo mixes."
- Mansour - LA. California

"I was truly amazed at how every instrument was crystal clear."
- Cris Barber. Jazz artist, O.C. Music Award winner, California

"Separation Mastering makes a lot of sense in today's music scene.
[ It ] allows the mastering engineer to accurately rebalance aspects of a mix if necessary."

- Grammy winning engineer, Erik Zobler

"'Separations Magic' exceeded my expectations by delivering songs that are loud and
musical with clarity and dimension."

- Eric DeLisle - Pasadena, Maryland

      "Using Separations gave our latest projects more dimension and fullness."
Intentcity Records - Orange County, California

Separation Mastering projects exhibit a more open and "airy" sound.  The small number of Separation tracks gives better width and depth than large numbers of tracks being mixed and summed digitally. We find that digital summing "in the box" seems to represses the transients and collapses the openness of the sound.  If nothing is changed and we're simply using Separations as your source for mastering, you have already achieved an improvement - sometimes as much as reclocking with a precision low-jitter clock. 

About the cost: The mastering cost factor can be the same as traditional mastering when pro's bring in commercially competitive mixes. Example: If the lead vocal needs de-essing, it's easier for us to de-ess the Separation than it is to de-ess the whole blended 2-track mix in the traditional fashion. It's better to de-ess the vocal Separation because we don't have to think about compromises when a de-esser can dull the cymbals, snare or other instruments in a locked-down 2-track mix. Example: If we need to roll low end off the kick drum, it's just as easy to apply a high-pass filter to the drum Separation as it is to do it to the whole mix, and the tone of the bass (if separated) and rhythm instruments won't be altered. We won't be spending time with compromises that can occur when you only have a 2-track source.

What if you want some optimizing of the mix balance?

As a part of our service, we can rebalance the mix for another level of improvement if the client requests it.  This can be as simple as a few tweaks, or it can be very creative and powerful - which can take time and can add to the cost.  Note that if you are in the beginning phases of your engineering career, a 20-to-30 year engineering veteran in the mastering room can work wonders on your project.  But we don't recommend that you mix with the intention of having us add your reverbs.  We prefer that you get your mixes the way you want them -- but yes, we can add high quality reverb (or even delays) or make creative edits if you request it.

Interesting: Some engineers, once they start making Separations, hear things they didn't hear previously while mixing.  It's tempting to tweak more when you hear the tracks separated from the others, but it's a mistake to change anything unless you go back and re-printing the Full Mix.  Example: Doing additional gating of drums or changing the levels or processing on the tracks upon hearing them separated!  Remember, every aspect of your mix must be there in the Separations. 

Key: If you change anything in your Separations, go back and remake your 2-track stereo mix.  Your stereo mix must be exactly the same.  Double-check!

* If you need revisions to your mastered files, email John at:

More on cost: When we are asked to get into deeper sonic crafting, the cost is proportionate to the work.  Volume draws to create a more consistent vocal blend can take time.  Fine-tuning drums with eq and level correction can take time.  Edits and defect removal can take time.  But considering the time it takes to book more mixing time, A-List mixing engineer expenditures, scheduling, transportation and coordination issues.... Separations can leverage a proportionately short amount of time into a very large sonic advantage for you.  Just remember, your budget plan should match your product goals -- given the level of mixing experience and acoustic accuracy of your facility.

Even more advantages

Separations give you insurance against mix burnout as well. As Quincy Jones said (paraphrased), "We never finish our projects. We simply abandon them." Now when you're finished, you can rest easier knowing that the mastering session can resolve any final debates. Separations replace the need for cumbersome alternate mixes. It's a total package that gives a secure guideline for anyone who want A-List sound but doesn't have the time for trial-and-error projects.

New development: A response that we get more and more is that clients tell us "Now that I know what you can do in the mastering room, I'll mix my next project differently.  It will be easier because I don't have to be so obsessive over details that are better addressed in mastering."

This is cool because what they are saying is that they can do "less" in their mix and get "more" in the mastering room.  We've all heard the engineering phrase, "Less is more." which really means that "less" of one thing will leave space for "more" of something else (kinda like the teeter-totter principle).  Less pressure at mix time (due to Separations) can mean less of a tendency to over-process. Just remember to use your best judgment because you should love your mix when it leaves the recording studio and comes here.  Separations are re-defining and expanding the role of mastering -- as well as the results you can expect to achieve.

What if your mix is... perfect!?
Contact us to try HD Separation Mastering

Created 03/09/05 Modified 02/02/08

Mastered For iTunes - Apple Certified

John Vestman HD Separation Mastering Studio

John Vestman and Don Sundstrom colaborated
on defining Separation Mastering.  Check
more of Don's articles on Separations
and career consultation.