What is the ideal mix for a mastering engineer to work w


Jan 7, 2003
Okay in this climate of every man and his dog having some Waves plugins running under Wavelab or whatever, what are the DO's and DONT'S if mixes are going to be sent out to a mastering house?

I know the temptation for many is to try and tweak their mixes here and there thinking they will be making the mastering engineers job easier. Just a 'bit' of multiband compression here, and a 'little' high shelving eq there etc.

So what should us NON mastering people aim for in our mixes prior to handing it over to the pro's?

IMO the tendency in recent times to squash the absolute crap out of everything in the mastering stage, and the abundance of cheap DAWS with 'me too' plugins has led too many people thinking that anyone can master almost anything in their bedroom... isn't that right??!! :)


Well-Known Member
Jun 29, 2001
When I get back to the studio tonight, I will go into more detail.


-Leave headroom, peaks of about -5dB is fine
-Listen to your mix on several systems, car, boat, portables, etc..
- Leave some space at the head and foot for mastering engineers to crop properly.
- Make a compressed copy for the band, producer etc..not for mastering.


-Compress the crap out of the 2-bus, make your work masterable.

More later, got to run...

Add to this list folks, I will do a big one when I return

Doug Milton

Well-Known Member
Sep 23, 2002
Having several options is nice. If asked early enough in the process, I always encourage bands to at least do a vocal up, and a vocal down mix. Also consider bass up / bass down and solo up / solo down mixes. Like Bill says, a with and without compression mix is good to have. I prefer to get mixes without fades. As mastering almost always involves a gain stage, it's smoother to do fades after gain.

I have a number of engineers that will shoot me their first mix on a project. Then we can talk about what's going on and how to help each other be on the same page with the goals of the project and work together on the final out come. If you know where you want to master, consider getting the mastering engineer involved before all your mixes are done.

Take your time. There's never a good reason to release a bad product on time. Plan for a few remixes, time to master, manufacture and have a month or two to promote before you book your release party. It sounds so logical, but rarely happens in the indie world.


Well-Known Member
Dec 27, 2002
Pretty much everything that's been said here except I might add be careful with the reverb. Most mastering engineers will have better quality verbs and will know the proper way to apply them. I get some mixes that sound like they were recorded in a gym and it's a hell of job to fix 'em. Get it to sound good and then let the mastering guy handle the volume also. Good mastering can pump up the volume without squishing the life out of it.