Step 1: Prepare your files and session
After you’re done with the hard work of creating your masterpiece- and preferably after the professional mastering process of said opus- you’ll usually end up with some finished.WAV or.AIF files of each track, either from your music software mix-down or directly from your mastering engineer. Gather those in a folder on your computer. Run CD Architect and find that folder in the file explorer at the bottom. This is also a good time to name the session: go to File > Properties…, click on the Summary tab and enter your CD information. The CD tab is where you can enter your UPC number, if you have one.
Step 2: Get familiar and add files
CD Architect lays it all out for you almost instantly. The interface is simple: Included are a file explorer to find your files, a timeline to lay out what happens on your CD, and, of course, effects if you need final verbs or compression to smooth any of the jagged edges over. You can do all of this right inside CD Architect. Start dragging the tracks into the project, in the order you want them to play in, from the file explorer to the timeline at the top. Do this until all tracks are added. Alternatively, you can select all the files and add them all at once. (This automatically adds two seconds of delay between each track.)
Step 3: Name the tracks and test the playback
Click the Track List tab at the bottom to bring up the track times, names and artist info. Here you will be able to add all the correct names and adjust timings if necessary. If you’re doing a compilation, you may be working with different artists. Since this is a soundtrack, it is all one artist and, therefore, easy to paste across the board. You can press play at any time and see how the tracks flow. This is a good time to test different orders, and see what fits best to your ears. CD Architect emulates a CD player in order to show you what will happen in the real world. There is also a Normalize feature in the Playlist tab that will chop any clipping regions of audio by checking the box in the list.
Step 4: Add event effects (if needed)
Each Event in the timeline has a small green slider icon in the bottom right corner. If you click this button, it will bring up a menu where you will be able to add different effects that might be installed on your system. You can use most of the industry standard plug-ins (VST, DXi, Sony, etc.). This can be useful if you’d like to add a bit of post-verb or clean up a transition into another track, or even add other audio pre-mastering techniques.
Step 5: Add crossfades (if needed)
Simply by dragging and sliding one track into another, both tracks will crossfade into each other automatically. This is useful for ambient experiences, DJ mix albums or adding continuity to a concept album that tells an overall story. Like everything else, use in moderation.
Step 6: Create Sony Dither/Master FX
Like all Sony software, you get a master bus onto which you can layer different effects on top of the entire mix. CD Architect comes with a simple-to-use algorithmic dithering plug-in that is placed on the master bus by default to dither from different audio bit rates, types and shaping settings. To access this area, click the green slider icon in the Master Volume area. For this project I used the Dither to the 16-bit setting, which brought the recordings down to a CD-friendly format, smoothly.
Step 7: Export your track list (print)
CD Architect has a Copy Track List to Clipboard function in the Tools menu. This will copy all of the exact times, names and information about the CD you’re making into a format that you can send off to manufacturing with your finished master CD. I pasted the info into a Notepad document to show the results.
Step 8: Effects, mastering and margins
As you can see, you can layer as many effects as you require or trim, crop, cut, crossfade or add an index, giving you all the power you need to create a CD that’s an extraordinary experience, not just another burned CD. Writing the music is only half the battle. Presenting it to your audience deserves just as much attention, and your pre-mastering and mastering phases of production should be taken just as seriously.
Step 9: Burn the CD!
Now comes the moment of truth: By clicking the Burn to CD icon in the toolbar, you bring up the burning menu. You’ve seen this very simple and familiar menu in many other CD burning applications. Pick your speed, test and burn, or just burn. Tip: When sending off a CD to manufacturing and duplication, it’s best to burn at 1x (1 speed) so that no bit of detail is left out in the off chance that you have some strange underrun or hardware issue. Also, make sure to listen all the way through on most of your sources to make sure you’ve got a clean burn.
Step 10: Test your CD
This is the really fun part. You can take your CD and test it in cars, computers and software players. In some players, the encoded names will come up on the player automatically. Make two copies and send them off to whomever you are using for the manufacturing/duplication, knowing that your industry-standard CD is ready to replicate.
Justin Lassen is an accomplished dark classical composer, producer and remix artist with over 10 years’ experience in the video game, music and film markets. He’s a longtime user of Sound Forge, as well as Sony Acid Pro 6.0, Sonar 6.2 Producer Edition, FL Studio 7 XXL and Project5 2.5. He has produced remixes for such artists as Madonna, Garbage, Blue Man Group, Lenny Kravitz, Robert Miles, Majandra Delfino, Nine Inch Nails, Linkin Park, Evanescence and Tweaker, and has worked on various projects for game and technology companies such as Interplay, Novus Delta, Cakewalk, Intel and Carbon6. In 2003, he released the critically acclaimed chamber suite, And Now We See But Through A Glass Darkly.
Justin Says Keep In Mind…
Making a professional master CD doesn’t have to be difficult, especially if you’ve got Sony CD Architect 5.2. This is a very powerful CD burning application that lets you define everything in the Red Book standard, down to secret tracks, delayed starts and industry cataloging. I used it on my latest soundtrack project, Lord Retro, and discuss in this tutorial how to burn your own professional Red Book standard master CD.