Zone Recording: Mastering

Hello fine readers. It is time to tell you of my latest experience mastering. First off, I can work a plug-in like anyone but when it comes to this stage, I say it is better left to the master to master your album.

My day/night started Tuesday for my Wednesday mastering session with Jamie Sitar of Suite Sound Labs. I was up until 4 am, putting the final tweaks on all the mixes.

My session was Wednesday at 10 am. First off, I am a very punctual person so... read on.

I decided to go to the bank ahead of time to grab the cash for the session. So, there was a line of around 30 people that pushed me back by half an hour. Great. The time is now 10:20. I still needed to stop by the liquor store to buy a bottle for Jamie of Red Wolf Blass from Australia as a gift. I had been bothering him for weeks emailing mixes to him for last minute touchups. He probably deserved way more, but that is all I had time for.

So I finally show up at 10:40. URG.. I hate being late. Greetings happen and I say hello to Alex the assistant.


Then I head into the control room and say hello to Jamie. We waste no time, and he asks for my disk to enter it into his system. I pass him my DVD+ disk. He is not sure if it will read on his Mac since I am told now that they might only read DVD-. Great.

We try it and no luck... Damm, good thing I brought my laptop. I enter the DVD in to make a copy of it on a CD-R. Hmmm... It is not reading.... Hmm...What the hell is going on, I am thinking in my head. "This is quite embarrassing." For some reason, it won't read and Jamie thinks it is because I have a Nero LE version.

So... now I have to go all the way back home to transfer the files onto an external hard drive. Great... OK, off I go. I don't get but 5 minutes away and guess what, I ran out of gas! I was so preoccupied with being late I failed to notice my gas gauge! OK, so I pay for this service in Vancouver called BCAA. AAA is the same thing in the States. I have been paying for this service for 3 years and never used it. Great, finally a chance. So I call... "Sorry sir, your membership has just expired!"

What the hell is going on? I am not a bad person. I cannot believe what is happening to me.

So I have to pay $160 for the year over the phone. Great... "There will be a driver along any moment."

40 minutes later I call again. "He is 2 miles from your location."

Finally he shows up and I rip home to transfer the files onto the hard drive. I rip back and we can finally start the damm session.

The session is for the next Martone album, "When the Aliens Come". Jamie has been doing my music for the last five years or so and I trust him with it 100%. He did the last "A Demons Dream" and the Martone "Live" DVD to name just a few.

He has some new toys in his studio. Great! Here is a picture of some new gear.



Yeah, you get the idea, lots of stuff that costs what a house will!

We chat about how the album should sound and pull up some reference tracks. We used some Audio Slave, Nickelback (since the same drum kit was used on this album - and drummer for that matter), Puddle of Mudd and a few others. It helps the engineer out as a reference. Jamie is using two Mac computers for his work. One will play the song, and then it will go into all of the outboard processing and then be recorded back into another computer. Here are the two computers in the back room.


Everything is working out great now and we are on a roll.

The first track, "Starz Scarz", is used and is referenced to the tracks mentioned above. Your ears have to be very sharp to try and match sounds, levels, bass, high end, compression. etc.

Jamie hard at work.


As we go through I ask about things that I can fix in the future for my mixes. Jamie gives me lots of useful advice that you will learn about shortly.

We also talk about how aggressive we want the songs on the cd. Some are really heavy and there are many things the mastering engineer can do to achieve this.

We have to watch that it is not too much, and that it is totally out of control! I do like a clear sound also.


The speakers used were Dynaudio, Yamaha and Genelic. There were also home stereo speakers as well as computer monitor speakers that were all used to make the mixes transfer as best as possible.

The room needs to be totally silent to hear the subtitles in the music and it got quite hot in there. This is where R2 D2 air-conditioned robot came in handy that we pushed in and out of the studio after every "print".


So on we go, we have 13 tracks to get through and it is a fun process.

Some require different settings and we discuss making certain sections of the songs kick harder than other to give it a subconscious build. This is great! Things that go one step farther than mixing.

Here is a quick shot before Alex the assistant leaves for the night of Jamie and me.


One thing I have to mention is that never, not once, did the level of the monitoring go above 90db. That is something to learn for me. I always crank the hell out of my studio, but most of the critical listening is done at a lower level.

Jamie is available for all of your mastering needs, check out

May the tone be with you.

David Martone is a guitarist from Vancouver, Canada who has released seven solo CDs which showcase his musical diversity and brilliant guitarmanship.

His 2007 CD is entitled "When The Aliens Come", which features a progressive sound incorporating jazz, rock, fusion and metal influences.

David Martone