Preparing for Home Recording CD Production
After you have all your songs optimized, balanced, and sequenced, it’s time for the final step. This last step involves saving your music in a format that enables you to duplicate the music. Generally, duplication plants can take your mastered music in several formats, but the most popular and easiest is a Red Book audio CD-R.
If you go to a professional mastering house, whoever you work with will put your mastered music on the format that they prefer (or you can ask for the format of your choice). If you’re mastering your music yourself, you’re most likely doing this with a hard-drive recording system, so you’ll use a CD-R to make a Red Book CD master.
To make a CD master, you need to get your music files to a 16-bit, 44.1 kHz format. If you’re using any of the newer hard-drive recording systems, you probably recorded at a higher resolution and possibly higher sampling rate than this. (You would have set these parameters when you set up your song
If you can’t remember, check your owner’s manual to find out how to determine a song’s settings.) If this is the case, you need to translate your music from the higher rates to the CD rates. This is called dithering.
Don’t worry; dithering is easy to do — a heckuva lot easier than the recording, mixing, and mastering steps you’ve done so far. In fact, you just set your mastering software to dither for you, and you’re set.
Before you take your master to be duplicated, be sure to listen to the dithered and undithered versions to make sure that they sound the same (or close enough, because you lose some audio quality when you dither down).
If you’re prepping your music for audio download or online streaming you should use the CD format. The choice stores like iTunes and Amazon.com/mp3 or radio like Spotify or rdio.com won’t take your music unless you are with an established record label or have a distributor, and all the distributors want CD quality files.