Preparing your master is a very pivotal step in the bulk cd duplication process. A superior
and error-free master will result in a high quality product, which will, in turn, not only eliminate a
needless waste of time and energy on your part, but also the frustration and potential financial
loss associated with a run of discs that will need to be re-duplicated due to an error making it
through to the final copy.
Here at Digital Express Mastering, we have been in the business of duplicating and replicating
CDs, DVDs, and CD-Roms since 1999… and duplication is a process that we have a fair
amount of experience with. But if there is one thing that we have learned through the years, it is
that NO amount of equipment or knowledge can fix quality problems if your master contains
errors. The end product can ONLY be as good as the master, which is exactly why preparing
your CD master for duplication is such an important process to get right.
Step 1… Choose A High Quality Recordable Disc
You have very possibly spent days, weeks, months, or even years completing your project to get
it here. You have also doubtlessly spent countless dollars on time and equipment to get it to a
point where you are ready to create a master to send in for duplication. At this stage, it is
important to remember that a high quality, well-made disc will make a HUGE difference. Do your
research, and make sure to purchase high-quality CD-R discs from a reputable company to use
for your master. DO NOT waste the time that you have already committed up to this point by
risking mastering errors on a disc that you saved a few cents on! It’s not worth it. It is also
important that you only choose a high-quality CD-R… not a CD-RW, as this format may not be
recognizable to some devices.
Step 2… Formatting
Make sure that your content is formatted correctly before you get ready to burn it onto a highquality disc. For audio, this means that your mixes should be at least 24-bit/48KHz stereo in
quality so that the result is a high resolution product. To create a duplication master, you will
need to further convert and dither to 16-bit/44.1KHz stereo so that you will be Red Book
Compliant. DVDs should also already be authored, which either can be done by obtaining
authoring software and doing it yourself, or by taking it to someone who can edit and author it
for you. If you have any questions about whether your project is in the right format or has been
authored correctly, feel free to contact us! We can help you to trouble-shoot the process and
find out exactly what you may need.
Here are some other things to remember when formatting for an audio CD.
Your track number cannot exceed 99.
The minimum duration for any single track should be no less than 4 seconds (including a
2 second pause).
Make sure that your entire album is not more than 74 minutes long in total playing time
(this includes all silences and pauses).
Never compress or use compressed files (such as MP3s) in your master. You should
only use true audio files (such as .Wav) so that you get a high-quality product with
minimal data loss.
Make sure that you, your mastering company, or your mastering software has placed a
2-second pre-gap in the very beginning of the cd (this is required in order for most CD
players to not reject the disc with an error).
It is also recommended that you place a full second of silence before the first track (this
is not including the pre-gap silence.
It is recommended that you place 300-500 milliseconds of digital black before the start of
each song, in order to prevent clicks and other errors that could occur if the audio from
different tracks runs together.
You may be wondering what Red Book Compliance means, so we will take a minute to explain
it. If your CD is Red Book Compliant, it simply means that it is formatted to play on any CD
player that a listener may use. In order to format your disc correctly for this compliance, it is
important that you choose the ‘Disc-At-Once’ mode on your CD burning software, NOT ‘TrackAt-Once’, and that you make sure that everything is converted and dithered to true 16bit/44.1KHz stereo. File conversion and dithering is usually done during the mastering process,
so whether you are using a mastering company or doing it yourself, it is important that this step
is taken to ensure that your disc will be playable on any standard CD playing device.
3… Prepare For Burning
When you are ready to actually burn your disc, here are some tips that will help to minimize the
possibility of problems or errors.
Inspect the disc itself for problems. Never use a disc with scratches or fingerprints, and
never touch the burn surface with your hands.
Clean your burner with a high-quality cleaner before proceeding (only use cleaners
made for the burner that you will be using).
Select the slowest burn speed possible. 4X is usually a good choice. Always avoid
speeds like 52X, which are much more likely to result in errors.
Close other programs before beginning your burn if you are using your computer. Also
avoid burning on a laptop that is running on battery power alone, as this can cause
errors due to fluctuations in the power.
Always avoid jostling, shaking, or moving the burner while the disc is being burned.
Make sure that you are using the ‘Disc-At-Once’ option, NOT ‘Track-At-Once’. This
option can usually be found and controlled on your burning software.
4… Check It For Quality
Once you have burned your CD, DVD, or CD-ROM master, it is important to check it thoroughly
before sending it in for duplication. For a CD, listen to every track and be sure that it is error free
and is EXACTLY as it should be. For DVDs, watch it in its entirety and use every menu option
and function to ensure that all is working as it should. For a CD-ROM, ensure that all programs
and features are performing as they should.
Once you have thoroughly checked your master for errors and have found none, package it
inside a full-sized jewel case, tape the jewel case closed, and place it into a protected shipping
container. Before sending it, create another master for yourself, and ensure that your new
master is also error-free and can be used as a backup that is equal in quality to the master that
you are planning on sending.
5… Send It In
Once you have a backup master and have stored it somewhere safe, be sure to include all
relevant information with the master that you are planning to send. NEVER put a label on your
master, but you may write on it with a felt-tipped pen that is made specifically for writing on
discs. This should not hinder the production process, and will help in the identification of your
If you have any more questions regarding the preparation of your master, please contact us!
We’re here to help you along in the process if you have any questions or concerns!