The DDP Mastering Format Explained

The DDP Mastering Format Explained

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CD sales might be on the decline but there are still plenty of musicians needing masters ready for CD duplication. The format of choice is a DDP which stands for Disc Description Protocol. Everything you need to know is explained here…

How we used to do it…

For many years the standard way to provide a master ready for replication was to create a ‘redbook’ CD master. This was a high quality CDR created in a CD burner. It worked but there were several disadvantages. The physical medium had to be manually error checked several times through the process from initial creation to final replication. Unfortunately all CDRs contain errors and can sometimes be rejected from the duplication company. They discs are vulnerable to damage and can easily be broken. Plus it takes time and extra expense to send them in the post. Rubbish!

How we do it now…

In 2016 the standard, preferred method of sending a CD master is to provide a ‘DDPi image’ (Disc Description Protocol image). This format is designed to carry the content of optical discs which include CD. The DDP is a set of files and must contain five parts.

  • Audio image (.DAT file)
  • DDP Identifier (DDPID)
  • DDP Stream descriptor (DDPMS)
  • Subcode descriptor (PQDESCR)
  • A text file is also included which contains track titles and timings

These files can be stored on a hard drive or sent over the internet. It’s a very robust format which has an in-built error checking system (MD5 checksum). This guarantees that the masters haven’t been tampered with and will be identical as to what ends up on the replicated CD. The total file size will be no bigger than around 750mb and can easily be sent via a file transfer service or FTP. So no shipping costs or delays waiting around for the postman. The only downside of the DDP format is that it can’t be played in a normal CD player. However you can obtain a free PC/Mac software player which will load up the DDP file so you can play back your CD. You can also check track IDs, CD-Text, ISRC codes and gaps between songs. Clever stuff.

All CD replication companies should accept the DDP format. If they don’t then I would certainly recommend you switch companies. This is a strong indication that they aren’t up to date or reputable. Also, watch out for additional charges to provide your master as a DDP.