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Stem Mastering

Stem Mastering

Stem mastering is my premium service and costs just £56.00 per track (up to 8 stems)  no tax added and is different from 2 track stereo mastering. Stem mastering uses a number of grouped instruments such as drums, keyboards, bass, guitars and vocals. For electronic styles typical stems might be kick drum, snare drum, other drums/percussion, bass, sub bass, lead synth 1, lead synth 2, effects sweeps etc. This allows additional scope to discretely enhance and optimize specific sets of instruments. I have “mix type” plug ins (classic mix compression and EQ) from every software developer ready to apply. It also allows enhancement based on the summing of the stems.

Additionally, standard stereo mastering processes are included. Stem mastering can produce subjectively improved sonic results, increased depth and dimension to the resultant master. Tools from Weiss, UAD, Leapwing, Tone Projects, Acustica, Slate Digital, Oeksound, Fabfilter, Metric Halo Sontec 432D9D, Nugen, Pulsar audio, DDMF, Soundtoys, Arturia, PIA and of course a high end analogue rack. The job is performed on some of the best monitoring that exists PMC IB1S | Crane Song Solaris DAC | Hypex Amplification.

Read on for further details or check out these short videos on stem mastering which explains the basics, the detail on how to export your stems is further down this page:

The studio and acoustics

I am equipped with analogue and advanced digital tools and at your service. MANLEY Massive Passive, Vari Mu compressor, SUMMIT AUDIO DCL-200 valve compressor. Sontec custom stereo switched mastering equalizer, PMC IB1S monitors, Crane Song Solaris Quantum DAC, audiophile conversion. Beware of those who do not list or show their equipment inventory.

Clarification and definition

It is worth clarifying that stem mastering is very obviously not mixing. Mixing uses very significant and highly detailed fader riding, send automation, effects processing. Along with track based dynamic processes, tuning, complex synth parameter automation, bussing of signals, track based character processing In addition may include many hundreds of tracks/alternative takes etc. Stem mastering uses very occasional automation and no tuning or effects, however I do put a lot of work into stem mastering. It allows the mastering engineer to target the use of eq, dynamic adjustment and other forms of enhancement to the stems (maximum 8) often producing an improved master.

Stem mastering service

Clients list and testimonials

I am convinced you will be very pleased with the results of my stem mastering service. I believe it to be the best quality vs value stem mastering available in the world. And many of my clients do too. The results on your music will speak for themselves. This service is priced highly competitively, being significantly lower in cost than some mastering studio’s stereo 2 track mastering.

When is stem mastering worth considering?

Mastering from stems is worth considering if there are issues which could be improved upon by a fresh set of ears in an accurate environment. If your music mix is lacking separation, width and depth, stem mastering can help to achieve these desirable characteristics.

Stem mastering is not the same as mixing. Mixing balances individual multi track recordings and involves many man hours. Therefore it includes use of automation, equalization, dynamic control and effects processing. It is clearly not possible to get a full mixdown for £56.00

What is included ?

Mastering from stems tends not to use lots of automation, occasional tweaks are more common. When I listen to music I can hear the tweaks I need to make to enhance and improve. Stem mastering uses groups of instrumentation and allows additional sonic tweaks and targeted adjustment. In addition to global stereo processing it allows additional and specific enhancement to instruments. This includes width, depth, warmth, punch, gluing, summing improvements, eq improvements, adding “air” – transparent volume increses (if required) and reduction of harshness.

How do I prepare tracks for stem mastering?

exporting tracks for stem mastering

It is important that your stems “sum or re-combine” to sound identical to your intended mix down as resubmitting stems is chargeable.

Please supply 24 bit stereo interleaved files of identical length/duration. Export your stems from exactly the same time code position in your digital audio workstation time line. This ensures they will synchronize in my digital audio workstation. Set left and right locators when you bounce/export your files. When preparing files consider that ideal stems should combine/sum in your digital audio workstation and sound virtually identical to the stereo mix down when summed. In addition, do not change the volume of your stems in anticipation of me changing their mix balances. The stems you send should sync and sum in your own DAW as a faithful representation of your crafted mix.

I have been mixing into a limiter will this affect my exports for stem mastering ?

If this is the case please send a stereo mix down with the limiter on in addition to your unlimited stem exports, so I can hear what you have been hearing. For the future I suggets not mixing into limiters as they influence every decision you make and may fight against your mix decisions.

Is there any other information you require?

If you have a reference track you aspire to (i.e. a commercially released track) by all means send it along as a guide. (Please do not send a reference that is sonically too disparate to your mix down, there are limits to what can be achieved.) It assists me to understand your tonal and perceived volume aspirations. 1 ref per project is useful, more tends to confuse.

Any notes about sonic issues that have been of concern during the mix down would be of use. Pointers such as “bass line sounds muddy”, “cannot get bass line working with kick”, “drums require more punch”, could be useful. Also please confirm the aspects of the mix you are happy with so I can avoid changing things you like already.

Further details

Revisions are free of charge, within reason, to your satisfaction. Resubmitting your mix stems is chargeable.

Note: Stem mastering produces a stereo interleaved .wav file master result. (of 16 or 24 bit as per your requirements/note some distributors do not currently accept 24 bit files.) It is not typical to deliver back stems individually. The reason is that any stem based analogue or digital processing and compression/limiting applied on a master bus will interact very differently with individual stems compared with summed stems and so summed “mastered stems” at the clients end would not sum to equal the stereo interleaved master. (It would also not make sense to limit these individual stems during the bounce process.)

Note: Additionally resubmitting a stem post mastering carries a nominal fee of £15.00. It is time consuming to run the stemmed mix through analogue equipment again and this fee covers the time taken to run it through and quality control the file again. Of course small tweaks to the original master are free of charge.

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Order Stem Mastering £56.00 (up to 8 stems)