I get a lot of Pre-Masters that are to loud or are peaking at 0db sounding squashed and distorted.
This is not how you want to deliver your song to the mastering engineer.
Keep any limiters off your stereo output when you bounce down your mix.
Don’t overload your stereo output or your individual busses.
Leave headroom throughout your whole mix.
Keep all your faders well below 0db and stay out of the red at all times.
Focus on making a good mix with plenty of Dynamic Range.
You can get a free tool for checking your range HERE.
A lower pre-master with a good balance and dynamics to begin with will make a Louder Master in the end.
-3db to -8db is generally a good level.
Headroom is essential for high quality mastering.
Deliver your mix in WAV or AIF file format.
If you need more volume , Turn Up Your Speakers !!! Not your faders.
The pre-master below is clipping at 0db. A limiter has been left on the master bus when the file was exported.
The pre-master below even though lower then the above example has been bounced with a limiter, it has no dynamics and is not suitable for mastering
The pre-master below is looking good. Lot’s of transients, no clipping and plenty of headroom. This is the way your files should generally look.
Always bounce your songs or demos with and without a limiter. I talk with a lot of artists who have lost touch with a producer or no longer have the original files. Limiting and removal of dynamics is not something that can be brought back.