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    mastering for iTunes

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    What is exactly the difference between a physical CD master and a "mastered for iTunes" master for digital distribution?

    My guess, and what I've read online, is that iTunes will normalize the loudness to a certain LUFS level, like -15 LUFS. So one element of mastering for digital distribution is keeping this in mind. I usually master to about -15 LUFS in general, even for physical CD, because I want to maintain the dynamics, instead of being as loud as possible.

    My question is actually, is there any other differences between mastered for iTunes and physical CD mastering? Like eq, compression, etc..?

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    I believe it's a LUFS (-14LUFS perhaps?) level plus sufficient headroom to prevent clipping when converted to a compressed format.

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    Thanks! My peaks are around -0.5dB when the long term loudness is -15 LUFS. My short term max is about -11 or -12 LUFS. I have a meter running usually which probably tells me everything I need to know, I need to learn to read it better. It sounds right, so I'm happy with that part.

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    Technically, I don't think Mastered for iTunes means it has to be a particular LUFS - not like they'll reject it, but they do level all the playback on their streaming service and within iTunes so if your music is mastered a lot hotter than their target, it's going to get dialed back. At one time the value was reported to be -17dBFS (LUFS). -14dBFS (LUFS) is what I heard for YouTube and maybe Spotify or some other service.

    I played with the tools here: iTunes - Mastered for iTunes - Apple

    And the conversion droplets did not change the LUFS of a previously mastered song (-14.6dBFS) or the dynamic range or highest reconstructed peak, i.e., it turned out exactly the same, somewhat surprisingly, to me anyway.

    The peaks read while mixing/mastering can be different from what gets created from a compressed file, because that will depend on the codec and codec version, honestly, at the time the file is played back, so the mastered for iTunes tools can be used to identify any "hidden" clipping in their AAC encoded version of the song.
    "... I know in the mornin' that it's gonna be good
    when I stick out my elbows and they don't bump wood." - Bill Kirchen

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    Mastering grew out of the need to prepare music for its final medium, vinyl, tape CD etc. Equipment was introduced to even out the levels between tracks, maybe EQ it a bit appropriate to the format, or compress to flatten an accidental peak. Before too long all sorts of tools were being used to “finish” or “sweeten” the source material. It’s now recognised as a creative post-production process that can incorporate all sorts of equipment and specialist skills. In a nutshell you slave away on your music, getting the most perfect sound you can, the most fabulous mix and then give the mixdown files to someone else who completely changes the character of your sound (hopefully for the better) and beefs up the volume ready for burning to CD.

    Mastering is essentially the step of audio production used to prepare mixes for the formats that are used for replication and distribution. It is the culmination of the combined efforts from the producer, musicians, and engineers to realize the musical vision of the artist. Each stage of the audio production process, from pre-production to mastering, builds on each other and is dependent on the previous process. Mastering is the last opportunity to make any changes to positively affect the presentation of your music before it evolves from a studio environment to the outside world.

    An awareness of the differences between the roles of mixing and mastering engineers should be noted. While the tools may be similar, the perspectives between mixing and mastering are very different. When mixing, the focus is on the internal balance of individually recorded tracks and effects used both sonically and creatively for a single piece of music.


    FROM THE HORSES MOUTH
    iTunes - Mastered for iTunes - Apple
    https://images.apple.com/itunes/mast...for_itunes.pdf


    What are the “Mastered for iTunes” requirements? – CD Baby Help Center

    Masters must have been created by a mastering house on the "Mastered for iTunes Provider List.”
    You must provide the email address of the mastering engineer who created your audio files.
    The mastering house must have been asked to follow the mastering requirements the creation of the masters.
    The PCM audio of the masters from the mastering house must not be altered.

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    Mr Average pretty well spelled it out. MFiT is a process - sort of. It's definitely NOT related to a CD master (such as a DDP fileset). It's not rocket surgery, but it's fairly -- particular.

    It also has nothing to do with releasing a recording on iTunes (which also has nothing to do with a CD master or a MFiT master).

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    As far as I can tell the required software runs only on Mac. For me that's a deal breaker.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bouldersoundguy View Post
    As far as I can tell the required software runs only on Mac. For me that's a deal breaker.
    There are a lot of words in the CD Baby page, as well as Apple's, but the only thing I could see that really required a Mac is the auditioning step that uses the iTunes Plus codec, which requires the use of an AU plugin. I suspect pro mastering houses have a Mac laying around somewhere.

    I.e., nothing prevents folks from submitting mastered tracks to iTunes. I honestly don't think this has really caught on the way Apple might have liked it to. The lack of a plugin with the iTunes Plus codec for non-Mac platforms is either a peculiar move by Apple to try and drive folks to buy a Mac (unlikely, given their own disinterest in the platform lately), or recognition that this is an esoteric enough thing that anyone that really cares already has one.

    This PDF (referenced in the first link I posted) provides more details on Apple's process, and why they want you to audition the resulting iTunes Plus file. If you don't want to do it, again, it doesn't mean your tracks won't end up on iTunes - they just don't have the logo.

    P.S. They do push the 96kHz sample rate - kind of annoying, but might make me rethink my own reluctance/resistance to going above 48kHz, and future computer+interface h/w needs.
    "... I know in the mornin' that it's gonna be good
    when I stick out my elbows and they don't bump wood." - Bill Kirchen

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    Quote Originally Posted by bouldersoundguy View Post
    As far as I can tell the required software runs only on Mac. For me that's a deal breaker.
    me too
    hate apple and macs from their first announcement decades ago

    but if you really need MFIT then pay a master house to do it
    or use a local library which has macs to use

    you still have the problem of being an authorised masterer to get MFIT labelling

    FROM THE HORSES MOUTH
    iTunes - Mastered for iTunes - Apple
    https://images.apple.com/itunes/mast...for_itunes.pdf

    Masters must have been created by a mastering house on the "Mastered for iTunes Provider List.”
    You must provide the email address of the mastering engineer who created your audio files.
    The mastering house must have been asked to follow the mastering requirements the creation of the masters.
    The PCM audio of the masters from the mastering house must not be altered.

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    Backstory first in case anyone doesn't get it -- MFiT / iTunes Plus is an *additional* release made from 24-bit files that have been QC'd using various Apple tools. The engineer creates AAC files using the same algorithm as Apple then those files are checked for intersample clipping, again using - well, in this case, software that's actually built-in to OSX.

    The idea was to create [high-resolution / high dynamic range] versions and make them available to listeners as an alternative to the typical crush. And of course, don't think we didn't notice that Apple would then have probably the largest repository of non-dithered, non-crushed, high-res recordings anywhere which they can then distribute as they see fit (we're all still waiting for Apple FLAC versions for instance).

    Many of us were rather excited about the prospect at least at first -- I've been doing (what I've always called "Vinyl Versions" for lack of a better term) for years. That is, typically, the audio "as captured" at the end of the analog chain before any further dynamic processing (the final squash). The audio where it "wants to be" as far as dynamics are concerned before it's absolutely wrecked --- I mean --- "Brought up to commercially acceptable apparent volume levels."

    I've always called it the "vinyl version" because, as I typically work in a vinyl-friendly manner anyway (call me just a bit old fashioned), it's usually ready for the cutting engineer at that point. And with only a little bit of additional work (that I'd bet 97% of people would never even notice audibly), BOOM - MFiT version.

    Still works like that with many independent artists and more "audiophile minded" folks. But most of the label stuff (at least most of the ones I deal with) have lost the concept. They want the exact same source for MFiT. I've literally done death metal in MFiT that's exactly the same, save maybe 1/2 or 3/4dB quieter to avoid ISP's. Why even bother? I have no idea.

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