So, you're happy with how your track sounds and you're ready to export your Wav or Aiff audio from the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
Headroom is the ‘space’ between the highest peak of your audio and zero decibels full scale. If your audio goes above 0 dBFS it will clip and distort and the numbers displayed on the output fader will turn red. When bouncing your final mix make sure the loudest part of you song is roughly -6db. You can measure this by looking at the numbers on the output fader or by using the level meter plugin on the master bus.
Here is an effective way to create headroom when you don’t have any…
To start with, the output and master bus should always be left at 0db. The Image below shows a mix that is clipping. This is displayed by the red peak reading of ‘0.4’ on the output bus.
To fix this select all the channels in your DAW, but deselect the output and master bus to leave them at 0dB. Once all the individual tracks are selected bring one of the volume faders down. They will all move down together which means that the balance of your mix will not change. Bring the levels down until the output fader shows the peak level of roughly -6db as seen in the image below.
Dynamics bring music to life and enhance the listening experience for your audience. Your master bus shouldn't haven't any processing on it at all. Remove any limiters and compressors. If you have an EQ on the master buss that you like the sound of, try EQing individual channels to get a similar effect. This will give you greater control over the sound.
Stereo master VS Stem master
A stereo master is where the engineer deals with just one single file. If you are happy with your mix and you just need a final polishing touch then a stereo master will be ideal for you. Stem (STEreo MixeS) mastering is where the engineer deals with groups of audio tracks from the project. This gives him greater control over the final result. An example of stem groups could be…
Synths, Guitars and Piano
Drums (Cymbals, Snare and Toms)
Follow the instructions laid out earlier to get the correct peak levels. Then solo the instruments to create the grouped bounces. They should look similar to the image below.
Intro and Outro
When you place your bouncing markers, leave some empty audio space at the beginning and end of your track. If you want the mastering engineer to bounce your track with the first beat happening right at the start of the audio then let him know. Leaving space at the end of the track allows any reverb or other effects to decay naturally. Including a few seconds of ‘blank audio’ at the starts or end of your bounce also gives the mastering engineer a noise profile to work with. This can help him transparently remove any unwanted noise or hiss throughout your track if necessary.
Normalisation is where a constant amount of gain is added to audio to bring the peak to 0db. This doesn't change the relative dynamic range, but it does take away the headroom. When bouncing, make sure it is switched off.
Dithering is a subtle low level of noise added to audio to eliminate truncation distortion. Dithering is the very final stage of mastering and should be left to the mastering engineer.