Stem vs. Stereo
Our studio offers two different kinds of mastering.
The first is traditional stereo mastering, where you send just a stereo wave file of your mixdown, and we master that.
The second is stem mastering, where you send “stems” of each of the main parts of your song as separate wave files, and we mix and master them.
These two approaches each have their own benefits, and one or the other may be preferable depending on the individual artist.
Generally, stem mastering is preferable for artists who are not 100% confident in their mixing. Having stems gives us the flexibility to tweak the mix as needed, and achieve the ideal balance between all the elements of the track.
It allows us to apply EQ, compression, reverb, and other types of processing to individual parts of the track as needed to get the best possible sound. Many talented artists are simply lacking the ideal listening environment to achieve perfectly clear and balanced mixes, and this allows us to compensate for that.
Preparing stems for mastering does take some additional work on the artist’s end, and it is more time consuming for us, but in most cases it is well worth the extra work.
Stereo mastering is generally preferable for more experienced artists who are fully confident in their mixing and want the masters to stay as true to the original sound of their mix as possible.
We will generally recommend one method or the other after hearing examples of an artist’s mixes, but the final decision is always up to the artist.