Stem Mastering. In essence, stem mastering combines the processes of mixing and mastering. When mastering from stems, we actually enhance your partial mix (more on this follows) by adding punch to drums, tightening lower frequencies, or bringing vocals upfront. Since we do this from your provided stems, we can retain the essential character of your intended mix. In contrast to mastering, where we process a single stereo file, you give us more to work with. By bundling individual tracks into groups, called stems, you define the character that those groups should retain – this is your part of the mix!

What is a Stem? You can think of a stem as a submix or group of similar tracks. For example, you can combine all guitar tracks into one group that you can export as a stereo file by soloing-in-place. This way, you retain the settings for volume, pan, plug-ins, aux-sends, and any automation that might affect the behaviour of the individual sources.

In music, stems are like submixes or groups of tracks that have similar elements. Soloing-in-place, for instance, can combine all guitar tracks into one group for exportation as a stereo file. With this method, you can keep the settings for volume, pan, plug-ins, aux-sends, and any automation that may affect the behaviour of the sources.

Who can benefit from Stem Mastering? Artists who mix their music but find it hard to nail the perfect balance. Rappers who perform along to a purchased beat, thus ending up with a bunch of vocal tracks and a stereo instrumental. Mix engineers who have trouble hearing issues the mastering engineer is identifying; this could be due to monitoring, lack of experience or ear training; it could also be that they lack the tools or experience to address them effectively.

How many stems should I use? Please check out this helpful guide from the official Izotope website – it should guide you through the process and swiftly get you up to speed. Generally, try and avoid creating more than 6-7 stems. Ideally (and intending to retain a mixed song’s initial character), 3-4 groups should be enough.

Details About Our Service

  • We require max 6 stem files per song, depending on how much flexibility you want to give us (preferably WAV or AIFF files);
  • We charge $90/song (up to 6 stems – please contact us for larger projects);
  • The essential character of your existing mix is retained;
  • Typically, the process involves stem-balancing, EQing, compressing, limiting, multi-band processing, mid/side and stereo width adjustments, de-essing, de-noising, reverberation treatment;
  • You will get 3 free revisions;
  • If you provide us with reference songs, we’ll try our best to match the given character;
  • Or do you wish to leave it open-ended? We’ll use our trick box to perform our magic according to our judgement.


In this 3-part video series by top LA mastering engineer Mike Wells, you can get an insider look at a controversial yet very effective way to master music. Mike explains the crucial elements to success and demonstrates how stem mastering delivers maximum sonic impact while retaining a mixing engineer’s intention and the artist’s vision for the music.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

For more on stem mastering, check out this section on the Izotope website.

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Chris Martinis, Mastering Engineer on SoundBetter
Chris Martinis, Mastering Engineer on SoundBetter