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Preparing Your Project for CD Mastering


We cannot start your project unless you provide the following:

Listen to Your Project Thoroughly BEFORE Submitting for Mastering

We assume you're sending mixes that you have listened to carefully and already approve for mastering. We're happy to address any balance issues that concern you.

One of our goals is to open up the sound and make everything clear and warm. But remember, your mastered CDR may reveal more than you knew was in your mix.  Like percussion ditties that were buried... room sound on the drums.... breathing in the vocals... distortion in tracks that was covered up by excess low end in the mix...

Not to panic. It will all work out - assuming there's enough of a time allowed - so plan ahead!

Save time by carefully listening to your master files and/or Separations to be sure there are no clicks, gaps or other sonic issues that can occur on digital systems.

Preparing Your Tracks

See formats if you want traditional CD Mastering, or Separations if you choose this more refined mastering method.

Reference Mix & Sample CDs

Bring in (or send in) a standard audio CD(s) of your mixes so we can reference what you're accustomed to hearing vs. the new mastered version. Also, bring in a couple commercial CDs that you love the sound of (the musical style doesn't have to match perfectly - we're more interested in the sound that you like).

Project Format

Review the formats we accept for mastering and ensure that your project is properly prepared and labeled clearly

Project Note and Requests

Please provide any special notes we should be aware of prior to mastering your project.

ISRC Codes & CD Text

 Important:  Have your ISRC Codes AHEAD OF TIME! We must have them prior to creating your master!

Always plan ahead -- even when it comes to your graphics and pressings.  Different pressing plants have different methods for including ISRC codes and CD text,  so be sure to fill out their informational sheets completely to include all information and/or encoded data that you want on your pressed CDs.

Big tip: Be sure to check web sites like for information about CD Data Base (CDDB). This is how your songs are identified on computers by programs such as iTunes!

CD Data Base is not included in the physical masters created by mastering studios. Our masters do include CD Text (song titles, artist name etc. which will appear on some DVD players, older style boom boxes and some car players).

Backup Your Project

IMPORTANT: Whether you come in or you send your masters by mail, BACK THEM UP BEFORE SHIPPING

We're not responsible for lost or damaged masters either by us or your shipping company. So far all masters have been safe and accounted for, but be on the safe side by making DVD, CD, data files, or analog copies.

If you're on DAT or dedicated CD burner, make an extra pass of your mix on separate tapes for each song - one (first generation) tape/CD to be kept by you. This is just a good idea even if your tapes never leave your sight.

Once here, we will take all reasonable measure to ensure the security of your project, but you are responsible for having backup mixes that stay in your possession while we're mastering your project. Insurance on your project can be a good idea too.

More about BACKING UP your masters and What to do after you've manufactured your CD

Book a Session

Contact us or call now to schedule your time.

It is recommended that you book your session a few weeks in advance so that we can give you timely service.  We are heavily booked and it is difficult for us to master a project with no advance notice.

A rush charge may apply if you don't get your time slot and need your project completed right away.

Plan ahead to avoid rush, delay and panic!  Book your time when you are half-way done with mixdown to be sure.  Use this form to book now!

Ship or FTP Your Project

It saves time to pack your masters securely. Use more protection than one of those typical single-layer bubble-wrap envelopes. Best is at least an inch of packing material around every surface. PLEASE use some kind of light cardboard box and put padding between each and every CDR jewel case!  It saves time and money to be extra secure!

Please include your typed name, address, phone, payment amount, and email information (shipping labels sometimes fade) with your notes about your music. The same is helpful via email. Let us know what you'd like to hear in the way of enhancements, the order of the songs, what are the important things that should shine, what you plan to do with your CD, who's hands you want it to land in, marketing plans, etc.  We are happy to ship directly to your pressing plant or record label if you prefer.

We don't recommend using P.O. Boxes for your return address. Use a return address where someone will get your package. Unless you request it, we do not waive a signature at delivery time. Fed Ex or UPS is always the most reliable.

If shipping your project, your discs must be free of any scratches, finger prints, ketchup or any other contaminant! Keep any paper labels off master CDRs - they inhibit the rotational balance and can cause the player's error correction to work overtime.

Only write on the top of CDRs with a soft felt-tip pen prior to burning the CDR, not after burning. The top is more fragile than the bottom! Check out more mixing tips and some great EQ and compression suggestions.

Shipping address:

Vestman Mastering
7556 Garden Grove Blvd.
Westminster, CA 92683-2332
Tel. (714) 894-4000

We recommend using Fed Ex for the most
reliable delivery service over all other carriers.

FTP Access

You may FTP your project to us using our Client FTP Services.  You may use your own FTP Software or our custom interface with requires no FTP software, whatsoever.

Thank you, and please contact us if you have further questions. We look forward to working on your project.


1. Call each company you will be using for your production, and map out a schedule... all the way up to delivery date. It's easy for us to focus on the moment and forget the big picture. Some of our clients rushed to get their CD mastered, only to have delays and complications with graphics, printing, pressing, you name it. Get a calendar and chart what needs to be done so that everything is in sync leading up to getting your CDs in hand.
2. Book the mastering session 1 to 2 weeks in advance
, so that you have time to think about any last minute questions or ideas that you want to bring up in the session.
3. Label your masters (CDRs, tapes, etc.) with an identifying number or name
noting the track ID numbers if you're using audio CDRs (24 bit data files are better). Include a listing (on paper) of the songs on each of master, or a folder directory if you're sending a hard drive or Separations. Carefully write on CDRs before burning them (the top is more fragile than the bottom) using a soft (medium Sharpie) pen - evenly spaced around the top of the disc for better spin balance. DO NOT USE PAPER LABELS.  Keep all CDRs clean! 
4. Send a printed song order for the final mastered CDR with references to the correct final takes, and their locations on your mix masters. Song order can be changed if you like and it's easy to do. Your master isn't done until you say it's done! If you have labeled each master, you can note which song comes from which mix CDR. IMPORTANT: Include your ISRC codes, album Title, UPC code (optional), artist name, record company etc. in your list of things to give to the mastering studio.
5. Make a list of what you think needs processing and editing on your songs. After comparing your mixes with commercially released CDs, you may feel that in your mixes, one song needs more bass, and another one needs more vocal. If you're in a group, have a meeting to listen to all the songs to make notes. Note: If you find that the bass player wants more bass, the drummer wants more drums, the vocalist wants more vocals, and the guitarist wants more... you get the picture....... Order pizza, and let the mastering engineer lend some suggestions.  One of the benefits of mastering is that someone with a completely objective point of view will be listening with fresh ears and a knowledge of the "sonic marketplace".
 Good idea:
Make alternate mixes - vocal up 1/2 dB, kick up 1 dB, or whatever variations you may be concerned about.
 Much better idea: Bring in or send in Separations in for mastering (SDII files are preferred, but not required). This is the newest and most powerful mastering format available today. Include a "housekeeping" listing your concerns in your separations folder. What have you debated about while you've been mixing? Check out more mixing tips and some great EQ and compression suggestions.
6. KNOW YOUR BUDGET. Ask up front for a cost estimate, but realize, it is almost impossible to predict how much it will take for your project (studio rates and policies here). Years ago we had a project where the cymbal crashes were just too loud every time they hit. We did level correction on each crash, and it took more than an hour of unexpected time - but the result was fantastic! Today using Separations, that issue would have taken 5 minutes to resolve.  (Even before Separations, we were quite assertive doing creative things in mastering.)
7. Bring (or send) a couple of commercial CDs with you to the mastering session that you LOVE the sound of. This gives an exact reference of your taste. You have listened to your favorite CDs many times at home (and in the car) and you're familiar with the tone and overall level. Our system is level-matched so that we can compare your project with the commercial albums, and you'll know exactly how your sound compares next to anyone you pick.
 Interesting: One customer brought in about five commercial CDs, all of which he thought sounded great. After we did some comparisons with his project, he was shocked to hear that they all sounded different -- and most he didn't like! He heard differences on our system that he had never heard on his own. This is common, since many home systems have their own "tone" which tends to mask the differences in sonic qualities on different albums.
8. When you receive your first master/reference CDR, don't just rush back to the studio where you mixed it for your first listen. Check it out on home systems, boom boxes, the car, clubs, etc. You've been accustomed to hearing it in the studio, and it's going to sound different than you were used to in that "creative cocoon". What's more important is the real world. Take notes about what you hear. The mastering engineer can easily recall your session and make any changes you would like. Every mastering studio makes these kinds of changes from time to time, and it should be very cost-effective to do so.
9. Have your ISRC codes ready (a must for iTunes) and be sure you have an idea of how you want the song titles, album title etc. to say in the CD Text - and talk to your pressing plant ahead of time about any video files or web site links you want included.
10. Check this chart for a list of formats that can be brought in for mastering. Check the Advice & Tips in case you have EQ, compression, hot CD or other questions that can be answered ahead of time! Consider if you want us to master your instrumental and/or TV mixes - it's easy to do!

  1. If you must compress the stereo output buss, make an alternate version with less compression or none. When compression is over-done, it can restrict what's possible in mastering. It is good, however, to make a version with peak limiting on it to see how your mix holds up when the time comes to make the level hotter. Send both a limited and non-limited version to be mastered, or better yet, send Separations.
  2. Listen to your favorite commercial CDs in the control room to compare with your sound. Use level-matching A/B listening.
  3. Be aware of the level of the lead vocals from song-to-song. Listen again to your previous mixes.
  4. Allow for extra time to mix. Nothing is worse at this critical stage than running out of money, and you end up stuck with less than the best. Mixing is a crucial point in your project.
  5. Take breaks, have fun, and enjoy the process!


Time savers:

  • consistent mixes
  • organized files
  • accurately made stereo Separations (all panning/automation the same as the 2-track mix)
  • detailed documentation
  • your favorite audio reference tracks from CDs included as an example of your preferences
  • Clear communication of your goals
  • Read further on this web site for insights on all aspects of recording.

We appreciate the opportunity to work on your project. Your satisfaction is our goal!

Vestman Mastering
7556 Garden Grove Blvd.
Westminster, CA 92683-2332
714-894-4000 (Studio)

If you are in the local L.A. - Orange County - Riverside - San Diego area, here are driving directions.

John Vestman


Even though you have submitted the booking form, please include the following with your masters (whether shipped or FTP):

  1. Your typed contact information
  2. The order you want the songs in
  3. Payment (unless you'll be using a credit card) - please make checks payable to John Vestman
  4. Your project's time frame and budget goals
  5. Sonic issues you'd like us to address on your project.

You will receive a detailed billing statement with your masters. Your original mixes and other materials will be returned with your backup master (2nd shipment).

Check out the Advice & Tips and other articles you'd like to read!

Check out the great links page where you can find TONS of information on how to promote your CD, make a marketing plan, contacts, touring info, Internet marketing info, gear and electronics and much more!

Contact us if you have further questions or ideas on your project.

Thank you!


For more information
and session booking, contact us
or call now
at 714-894-4000


Preparation Basics

What We Need To Master Your Project

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