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Cphonic Online Mastering Serviceā€¦ Frequently Asked Questions

  • You've created the perfect mix of all your tracks, but without mastering your song will be missing that crucial final ingredient. Mastering is the last step before duplication, radio play, or selling online… it creates the best, most consistent sonics between all the songs in an album, raises the overall volume to competitive levels, and evens out the frequency response so your music is presented with the ultimate sound quality to your audience. It's impossible to compete in the marketplace without excellent mastering! Read more on the What Is Mastering? page. And, when you're ready to try our free song mastering offer, visit our Upload and Contact pages.
  • You've written the song, tracked all the instruments and vocals, but now you need it to all fit together. Before mastering can take place, your tracks must be blended into a cohesive, competitive mix that shows off all the best qualities of your music. That's the art of mixing, and Cphonic's owner Kevin McNoldy has been mixing albums for thirty years. Skimp on this vital aspect of your music, and you won't get a second chance… there is nothing that turns off prospective buyers surfing through music on iTunes or Spotify more than hearing a bad mix that doesn't do the song justice. Read more on the What Is Mixing? page.
  • In addition to mixing music online and our online mastering service, we offer stem mastering. This provides the most control over the final mastering process, since individual sections of your mix are "stemmed out," enabling us to dig deeper into the components of your mix. If we're not mixing your song, this is the next best thing in terms of the control it gives us.

    To prepare your mix for stem mastering, you must group your instruments for consolidating into separate stereo tracks. For example, the ideal stem breakdown would be a stereo track for lead vocals, a stereo track for background vocals, a stereo track with all guitars, a stereo track with bass, a stereo track with all drums except for kick and snare, a stereo track with snare, a stereo track with kick, and all extra keyboards or ancillary instruments on another stereo track. These eight stereo tracks would then be summed together by us during the mastering stage, with separate processing on each pair, for the ultimate control in your final sound. This is an extreme example, though… many times, simply sending the stereo mix with kick, snare, and lead vocal separated is enough to let us dig deeper into your sound. We accept up to eight stereo stems for mastering.

    Stem mastering, at its core, bridges the gap between your mixing and our mastering process. Since it gives us finer control over the details, like we would get in mixing, we can modify your sound further than normal. If you've mixed your project yourself, stem mastering is definitely something to consider… and the price is the same as our regular mastering, so it doesn't cost a penny more to utilize this powerful service.
  • Our price for online mastering is $75 per song. We offer a 20% discount if you sign up for our email newsletter, which means you'll be paying $60 per song. As long as you stay on the list, you keep the discount.

    With mixing, it's based on how much time is required to complete your song, since it involves editing and fixing tracks, then creating the perfect mix for you. Sometimes that takes one day, sometimes it can take three days if your project needs a lot of work. The more organized your files are going in, the more you save--the less time we spend organizing audio tracks, the faster we can move. We do provide discounts for full album mixing, and we cap individual songs if there is an abundance of clean-up work, so you don't have to worry about the budget ballooning if your music needs more help. And, we offer an unprecedented free song mastering for each song we mix--so you're saving money on top of the mixing price (plus getting the best possible sound quality for your project). There are many variables with mixing, so it's best to Contact Us so we can figure out the details of your particular mixing project.
  • We use Paypal as the payment processor for our transactions. You can use any major credit card (Mastercard, VISA) without signing up for Paypal… and if you do have an account already, it's that much faster because all you need to do is sign in and complete the transaction. We also use Square if Paypal is a problem. Check or money order is fine, too. No project files or masters are released until payment clears our account, so there is an additional delay if paying by check.
  • Cphonic's online mastering service was designed not only to bring the optimum sound to your project, but also to provide the ultimate convenience. Simply upload your files to Cphonic via our website, and we'll forward some questions to get to the core of what you're looking for in the sound of your music. Our mastering turnaround time is 5-7 days depending on our schedule, but faster completion time can be requested for projects with a strict deadline. We openly communicate with you throughout the process to let you know what we're working on, to verify you're loving the sound quality, and to finalize tracks. We can even accommodate mastering your project in real time with you "virtually" present, through our Source-Live connection. When the mastering is finished and payment is received, all files are available to download within minutes, all securely and easily.

    We feel this level of online service completely beats the old-school paradigm of spending money to travel to the mastering studio location, sitting impatiently while the mastering engineer prepares the tracks, and being unsure of your final product because you're not accustomed to the sound system in the room. With Cphonic's online mastering service, you're the king of your musical world… everything from start to finish can be handled online, even the payment. Nothing could be faster or more simple.
  • Files should be 16, 24, or 32 bit WAV or AIFF files that are at the same sample rate as your project session. DO NOT sample rate convert your project… if that is required in any form, we can handle it during mastering. DO NOT save it as an MP3, as that seriously degrades the signal. Make sure your master bus peak levels during mixdown are between -6dB and -3dB, which ensures there is no clipping in your signal. DO NOT peak into the red on any digital system, as this is clipping and it will ruin your sound. Do not apply dither or normalization, and also avoid any trims or fades at the beginning or end of the files. The overall volume of your mixed track should sound low compared to recent releases, which is normal--we boost the volume during mastering, which gives us more control over the dynamics of your music. Remove any overall compression or limiting from the master bus, as we handle that during mastering. In fact, our favorite "compressor" is running your mix through our one inch two track analog tape machine, and smoothing out the transients by pushing the tape… if you've done that in advance with less-than-ideal processing, you're missing out on the greatest audio enhancer of our service.

    In short, the files you submit should be as "clean" as possible… no overall stereo mix processing (even EQ should be avoided on the mix bus), no normalization, no clipping, with the highest bit depth and same sample rate as your session. With that file in our hands, we can work wonders on the sound. When overly compressed, distorted, normalized, clipped, processed tracks are handed to us, we spend most of our time trying to fix what we can in what's already damaged. Clean mixes work best if you want the best audiophile-level mastering results in your sound.
  • No, because hearing someone else's music before and after mastering means nothing to what YOUR music will sound like when properly optimized in mastering. This is why we offer a free song mastering, so you can hear what your song sounds like with audiophile-grade mastering applied to it. We give you the real thing…. we don't do samples, we don't offer snippets, and we don't think listening to a stranger's music before and after it was mastered means anything to anyone when they've been concentrating on their own project for weeks or months. Your music is original, and will end up with its own original finished, mastered sound… there is no comparing to someone else. This isn't cookie-cutter work, so how can a "before and after" sample unrelated to your music mean anything? We leave the cookie cutting to the baker… we stick with customizing each client's project according to what their individual sonic needs are.
  • Yes. Cphonic handles any type of audio, from live recordings to speeches to commercials to jingles to radio spots to films to TV shows to podcasts to forensic audio for court cases (and everything in-between). Although music is our speciality, Kevin McNoldy's thirty years in audio gives him the ability to bring out the best qualities in any audio file, whether it needs massive restoration or just a touch of mastering.
  • The projects featured on the Home page of our site are tracks that Cphonic owner Kevin McNoldy has produced, engineered, mixed, and/or mastered (including some he's co-written and performed on). His credit on the work is listed, or it can be found if you follow the link to the source page for each song or video. You can hear quite a bit of Kevin's projects over the years, although these are just a few of the hundreds of artists he's worked with… more music is featured in the News/Blog section.

    These are non-affiliate, non-commercial links to the artists' music… Cphonic / Kevin McNoldy earns nothing when you purchase on iTunes or stream on Spotify—but the artists do! So, if you like anything you hear, please support these wonderful artists and songwriters by purchasing their albums. And, if any mistakes in names, album titles, or music are found, please let us know.

    Have other questions? Contact Cphonic.