Mastering and mixdown sample rate audio quality

Hi there,

I am at the mastering stage of my first song and I am trying to figure out some stuff🤓 like should I directly render the the whole song with mastering plugins at master channel or first render a mixdown and then master it separately. So in other words:

  1. Is it really necessary to render a mixdown and treat that mixdown seperately. If it is so what is the ideal sample rate and bit depth. I read in Melda site that I should render my mixdown at 96 hz 32 bit. Is this really the common practice. Melda Mastering Tutorial.

  2. If I am rendering 32 bit is there anything that I should take into account?

  3. Directly mastering from the DAW, with plugins at the master channel. Which sample rate and audio quality should I choose. For example in Ableton would setting audio quality to 96kHz and export rate to 48kHz do the job? (see the photo attached)

Thanks in advance

The Mix-down or Pre-master render depends likely on what you’re aiming for with the track and your workflow.

  • If you’re mastering your own track inside your DAW and you think it’s done, then you can simply render your final master with all processing.

  • If you’re sending the track to a mastering engineer or if you’re planning to do the final master in a separate session (using the same DAW ) or using a different software, then you want to pay attention to headroom and avoid too much mastering EQ, saturation, compression or limiting.

    → Some people prefer to render stems for each parts of a track rather than just a single stereo mix-down since it gives you more flexibility for Mastering.

1 - Depends of the genre and source material or requirements from the Mastering service. Rendering audio at 96 Khz or above is more suitable for very dynamic content, not a “must do” thing when it comes to electronic music in general. Also think about the files size increase when rendering audio at a higher sample rate, especially if you need to send those files. And again, there’s requirements you might be constrained to whether it’s from a Mastering Service or Streaming Platforms.

2 & 3 - 32-bit floating point is definitely a good thing if your DAW offers this, it will provide more headroom for the Mastering stage. But then again, that’s useful for stems mastering, but the final master sample rate and bit rate might be different if you’re uploading the track for streaming, plan to press a CD or a vinyl or get a Club Ready track for a PA. While a good final master should translate quite well between different playback systems ( that’s actually part of the “art of mastering” ), you might still be constrained to some specific requirements.

All of that said, keep versions of your DAW projects at the mix-down or pre-master stage, there’s nothing worse than destructive editing and processing and you might want to experience different Mastering chains and try to use new tools at some point :wink:

Hope this helps !

Cheers :sunglasses:

Thank you for such detailed answer. :pray:

When I render the same song directly with mastering plugins attached all at once I do hear a subtle difference especially at the bassline. Also the shape of the waveform is less aesthetic in this case. It seems or feels like there is more digital noise.

So, I finally preferred the other option and ended up setting my first mastering chain from doing 2 stems; one for kick and bass and one for the rest of the track at 96 kHz, on which I will be working on these days.

I wonder when this song will be finished :disguised_face: :nerd_face:, its been a long journey since I made the tutorial.

Cheers again

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