Mastering File Delivery – What the Hell Did I Just Send You?

So I just sent you your masters for an Album/EP and I bet you are wondering what all these files are. What are they and what are they for? Well this is to help you figure that out. Of course feel free to ask me any questions.

Now this assumes you are ordering an Album/EP. If I just mastered a single for you, then I will deliver whatever formats you request. For most clients it is just the highest resolution file possible (24bit 96khz WAV) and your digital aggregator (ie. Distrokid, CD Baby, OneRPM, etc.) handles all the conversion for you.

Mastering technically is preparation of the audio for final format. So what I have provided is technically pre-Mastering. But in 2023 with the digital format being king, what I do is just referred to as “Mastering.” However keep in mind another engineer handles the creation of the Glass Masters for CD and Lathe Masters for Vinyl.

So here is the rundown of what I sent you:

  • Bandname-AlbumName-WAV24b96k – 24-bit 96Khz WAV files. These are the highest resolution audio files I deliver. This is good enough for bats to hear and beyond the range of our human hearing. Use these to submit to your digital aggregator (Distrokid, OneRPM, etc.) and or Bandcamp. This will get you Tidal Master quality and make audiophile’s happy.
    Sometimes I will deliver 24bit 88khz files because in theory the math is cleaner converting to 44.1Khz.

  • Bandname-AlbumName-WAV16b441k – 16-bit 44.1Khz This is CD quality and lossless WAV audio. This covers the full range of human hearing when you were born. If you can read this, you have already lost enough hearing that you can’t hear the entire range. But some people believe they can. I normally just recommend using the 24b96k ones, but some aggregators (CD Baby) will not take any higher quality than CD quality. So you have to use these.

  • – A DDP is a digital image of a CD. This is what you will submit to your CD Manufacturer (ie. Atomic Disc, Discmakers, Nationwide Disc, Blank Media Printing, etc.). If your CD plant doesn’t take DDPs and require a mailed in master CD, this is 2023, find somewhere else.

    If you Unzip this file, you will find data files that correspond to the layout of a CD and a large .DAT file which is the audio.

    My DDPs also include a Player in a folder which you can run a virtual CD player where you can play DDP. You can also burn your own CD if you want to test it.

    The plant with this file often burns a master CD for duplication (burnt CDs) or create a Glass Master for replication (stamped CDs).

  • Bandname-AlbumName-PQSheet.pdf – This PDF is a printout of the specifications that correspond to the DDP Image. Check this file to make sure the Band Name, Album Name, and Song Names are all correct. Also if ISRC codes were embedded, check those as well.

  • Bandname-AlbumName-Vinyl – This is what is called “Program Ready” vinyl. So all of Side A and Side B are single files. Then a PDF is included which tells the lathe cutter where the songs and gaps are. This is delivered in the highest resolution possible.

    These files are what is used to lathe cut the masters which are then plated and turned into stampers.

  • Bandname-AlbumName-Cassette – Similar to Vinyl, this is “Program Ready” with Side A and Side B as single files. A PDF is included as well to tell the cassette mastering engineer where the songs are. This is delivered in the highest resolution possible.

    The files are used to record to the cassette tape. Large scale will record the tape from spools and load the cassettes like a factory (ie. National Audio Company). Smaller operations will record to pre-loaded cassettes.

  • Bandname-AlbumName-320kMP3 – These are 320kbps MP3 files which are the highest resolution MP3 allows. These are still lossy, but most people can’t hear the difference. If you have the bandwidth and are willing to still host a link on Dropbox or something, this is the format to send to reviewers, PR, etc. They sound good enough and are significantly smaller to download than the WAV files. MP3 also includes all the MetaData (Bandname, Song Title, etc.) which makes everyone’s lives easier.

    Reviewers and such are busy, so they want to get the files fast. MP3 helps with that.

  • Bandname-AlbumName-128kMP3 – These are 128kbps MP3 files that are of acceptable quality. This is the sound of the internet and the resolution most audio on the internet is transferred. It doesn’t sound great, but played on a phone or with crappy headphones, it is unlikely most people can tell the difference. If you are E-mailing the files to people, these are the ones to use. They are about as small as you can get without the audio totally sounding like poo. People on crappy internet or using phone networks or developing countries will appreciate getting this format vs. the larger ones.

Download all of these and keep them safe and send them to your manufacturers. If you are working with label, they will want all or some of these.

Please don’t share directly from this folder. A label might be ok, but don’t send this to PR and reviewers or use them as a release. These can disappear at any time as I run out of space. Get your own Dropbox or Google Drive to share them from.

Of course let me know if you have any questions. I’m always happy answer any questions you have.

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