Independent Vinyl Pressing

Glossary of Mastering Terms

Mastering Formats


  • Mastering -- Transfer of sound material to a production master, while preserving the sound quality of the original and conforming to the technical considerations of the mass production format. 
  • Pre-Mastering or Re-Mastering -- Transfer of sound material with a conscious effort to improve the sound quality of the original through the use of processing such as EQ, compression, etc. Generally performed in a sonically neutral environment. Also referred to as Mastering.
  • Master -- A Mono or Stereo recording. Can refer to the final mix-down from a recording session, a "pre-mastered" or processed recording, or a recording used in the mass production of copies.
  • Production Master -- A Master created specifically for the production process.  For cassettes and vinyl there are two types of masters:
  • Analog Masters are a single four track analog tape containing the A-side stereo material in the forward direction, and B-side stereo material recorded in the reverse direction. The tape is spiced end to end in a bin-loop player, and all four tracks are recorded on to bulk cassette tape at high speed, which is then loaded into tape shells.
  • Digital Masters are recorded as a .WAV file, and stored on CD-ROM. They are played back at high speed by a Digital Bin player, and recorded on to bulk cassette tape, which is then loaded into tape shells.

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Mastering Formats

  • DAT -- Digital Audio Tape. Originally meant as a consumer format, it has been adopted as a standard in the Professional Audio community. It is susceptible to various problems, so care should be taken in its use to avoid problems.
  • A-Time -- Time code recorded directly onto DAT tape by all current DAT recorders. A-Time is the only way to get accurate times on DAT tapes. The tape must be recorded from the beginning of the DAT, or from the end of a previously recorded section. It will not be recorded if a section of tape is skipped, so any intentional gaps in audio should be recorded silence.
  • CD-R -- Recordable CD
  • Red Book or CD-R Master -- Recordable CD with audio recorded on it according to "Red Book" specifications, which allow it to play on any Audio CD Player. Must be recorded in one continuous session, or "disc at once" mode.
  • PMCD -- A specific type of Red Book Master created by the Sonic Solutions Digital Audio Workstation. Also often used as a general term for any Red Book Master
  • Orange Book Master -- Recordable CD with data recorded on it according to "Orange Book" specifications for production of CD-ROMs.
  • CD-ROM -- A CD recorded with data file for use in a computer.
  • PQ Codes -- Information encoded onto an audio CD, identifying the start and end of tracks and indexes.
  • F1 -- an early digital format, using a converter to record digital audio onto a Beta or VHS video tape.
  • 1630 Master - A CD Mastering Tape Format using 3/4" U-Matic tape containing both digital audio and PQ Codes for creation of a CD glass master.
  • Exabyte Master -- A CD Mastering Tape Format containing both digital audio and PQ Codes as data for creation of a CD glass master.
  • Glass Master -- A master for CD Production. Pits representing the digital information on a CD are etched into the glass.
  • Clone -- A direct digital copy of an original.

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  • Analog Bin -- In cassette production, a tape player in which an analog tape is spliced end to end and played continuously at high speed.
  • Digital Bin -- In cassette production, a digital audio playback device replaying sound representing both sides of a cassette repeatedly at high speed.
  • Slave -- A tape recorder, recording from an analog or digital bin, onto long hubs of cassette tape at high speed.
  • Loader -- A machine which winds cassette tape into a cassette shell, after the tape has had the audio material recorded onto it.
  • Dolby B -- The kind of noise reduction most commonly used with cassettes. If a tape is recorded with Dolby B, it must be played back with Dolby B. And if it is recorded without Dolby B, it should not be played back with Dolby B.
  • Ferric -- A kind of tape made using Iron Oxide.
  • Chrome -- A kind of tape made from Chromium Oxide. It has a higher maximum output level and more dynamic range than Ferric.
  • Hydrolyzed -- Older tapes can absorb moisture from the air, especially when stored in less than ideal conditions. After they've absorbed moisture they will frequently stick or shed oxide onto stationary parts of the tape player on playback. Such a tape is considered hydrolyzed.
  • Tape Baking -- A careful process of heating hydrolyzed tape under low heat over a long period of time to remove moisture. This makes the tape playable for a short time during which it can be re-mastered to a new tape.

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  • EQ or Equalization -- Selective boosting or reduction of specific frequencies in an audio program.
  • Compression -- Reduction in level of "peak" or loud portions of an audio program, reducing its dynamic range. Usually done so that quiet portions of a recording can be made louder without making loud portions too loud to record.
  • Multi-Band Compression -- Separating sound into frequency ranges or "bands" and compressing each band separately before re-combining them.
  • Limiting -- A form of compression in which the sound level is not allowed to exceed a set limit.
  • Expansion -- Reduction in level of quiet portions of an audio program. Usually done to reduce the apparent noise level of a recording.
  • De-Essing -- Reduction of high frequencies in a recording only when they become too loud. Usually done to remove overly sibilant "S" sounds from voice recordings.
  • Noise Reduction -- The process of reducing noise, or the listeners perception of noise, in a recording. While some systems can operate on just playback, most must be encoded on recording, and decoded on playback.
  • Dropout -- A momentary absence or reduction of recorded sound, usually due to a problem with the tape.

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  • Analog -- The continuous representation of sound as an electronic voltage, or as a corresponding amount of magnetism stored on tape.
  • Digital -- Representation of sound as numbers corresponding to the level of an analog waveform over time.
  • Two Track -- A mix-down or master of a recording session.
  • Multi-Track -- A tape containing more than two tracks, with separate instruments or microphones recorded on separate track. It can only be played back in a recording studio. It must be mixed down to create a master suitable to use outside the studio or for mass duplication.
  • Dynamic Range -- The difference in level between the loudest sound recordable on a tape, and the noise floor of the tape.
  • Noise Floor -- The level of noise naturally occurring on a tape. No tape, even digital, is completely without noise.
  • Masking -- When a louder sound is played with a softer sound causing the softer sound not to be heard.

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