Good Mastering Plugin

  • This isn't related to the Virus but more of a general music production issue.

    Can anyone suggest a good Mastering tool/plug-in?

    I'm not a mastering guru, but I know several things go into mastering a mix,

    - Multiband Compression
    - Harmonic Equalization
    - Volume maximization / brickwall limiting
    - "Polishing" to create brilliance

    Not Izotope Ozone. I tried that one and didn't like it, it distorted my mix and made it sound bad (all templates).

    But something like it, hopefully easy-to-use and with pro results, I'm a producer and I just need that "final touch" to make my mix sound commercial and loud.


  • Depends on the DAW or Audio editing software you are using, i use Reaper which is in my opinion, awesome, and provides ALL the mastering stuff you need from start to finish, but i tend to finish my masters in Sony Soundforge before rendering to MP3 for release (online) or WAV for CD masters...

    Reaper has some great included VST plugins for FX and Mastering, and i use Reacomp alot for the mastering or track Compression, EQ and the like... and have moved from Sony Acid Pro 7 to Reaper with huge benefits, but maintainig DX FX in Reaper (albeit some work some dont) but yeah.. as far as im concerned REAPER IS THE ONE FOR ME :thumbup:

  • Sorry guys, but I have to up this thread: Any general tips on mastering?

    Suppose I have my mix, it's ready to go, but the sound is too muddy/quiet/not eq'ed right/dirty/etc.

    I understand that there's no one "template" that fits all, but what are some *general* things to put on the Master Channel, as a good rule of thumb?

    * Need to increase volume/loudness to commercial level (WITHOUT distortion, clipping, or over-compression/strain)
    * Need to "clean up"/polish the mix, so it's not dirty; so it "sparkles" (EQ?)
    * Maybe cut all freq's below a certain threshold, say 50 Hz?

    I'm not a skilled engineer, I'm a home studio enthusiast, but there's gotta be some general things that can instantly improve my mix?

    No matter what track(s) I listen to, regardless of genre, they all have the same mastered sound -- nice, cozy, loud, warm, but without any strain or overcompression.

  • I haven't used Izotope but I have seen it being used and its pretty incredible. If your getting distortion that means (in most cases) your mix is to loud.

    I found that now a days a proper mix down is more important than mastering....nobody really does a proper mastering job now(including me) but i wont go down that road.

    What I have found that helped me immensely is a plugin call K-Meter from audio pluggers. what this plugin does is help you do a mix down and leave lots of headroom....then you can limit the shit out of it to make it loud as hell...but you will find that everything still sits well in the mix.

    This plugin saved me from horrible shitty mixes.

  • Any general tips on mastering?

    I'm not a skilled engineer, I'm a home studio enthusiast,

    No matter what track(s) I listen to, regardless of genre, they all have the same mastered sound -- nice, cozy, loud, warm, but without any strain or overcompression.

    My advice would be pay a dedicated mastering engineer to master your tracks for you, it's not really that expensive & no matter how hard you try you will struggle to achieve the results they can by using plugins alone.

    It takes years to develop the skills needed to become a pro mastering engineer, the equipment they use & their listening environment is generally far superior to anything any of us are using. Depending on who you choose & if they are local enough to you, you may get the option to have an attended mastering session, they cost a little more than just sending your tracks to them but it's a great chance to get a better idea of what's involved in the whole process. Before they do any work on your track they will usually do a mix review for you, this is a great opportunity to get a fresh set of ears listening to your track & the feedback you get from them is always constructive, if they make any recommendations or suggestions to improve your mix you can be sure that they wouldn't be saying it if it didn't really need it.

    There are so many positives to getting your tracks mastered professionally, you should give it a try, even if it's just the once to see if you think it's for you - I'm pretty much 100% sure that you will be blown away by what they can do. If you want I can provide you links to some highly recommended tried & tested mastering engineers.

  • Thanks Ruari. I've been getting my tracks professionally mastered for ~ 5 years. I do agree that they do a great job.

    I'm not a "music novice" anymore, I have 10+ years of music production under my belt, and I'm a little bit embarassed that at this age I still have no understanding of the fundamentals of volume, compression, and EQ... I've bought some books, but they're all crap & too slow, I just need to know which chain of fx to quickly apply to my master, and with which settings...


    K-Meter from audio pluggers

    Thanks will give it a try, so you use it to remove the peaks, and then use a Limiter to gain the volume? Which Limiter do you use?

  • I'm sure it's possible to get very decent results with free plugins, if you have a good ear and monitoring (I work in headphones, which is a no-no for mastering, but I'm just an amateur playing at home and have no other option). My personal favorites are:

    (*) I've read somewhere that it's generally better to have several limiters each doing a little gain reduction than one working hard.

    Hope this helps 8)

  • K meter doesn't actually do anything to your audio. What is does do is let you mix at -14db or the other options it comes with. So it helps you mix at a lower level than 0db digital level. So once you master your stuff it sounds clear( if you have mixed it correctly) just go to the website and watch the tutorial videos buy the dude from the will understand after that. Made a huge difference for me.

  • I'm going to enter into a realm that seems to be a very delicate subject in the music industry, auto-mastering. I suffered from the same problem. My mixes never were as good as commercial ones. I read and tried, and got better, but never reached the required level. Not so strange as there is a lot of knowledge and great ears required to produce a quality mastered product. My ears are scr*wed anyway, due to years of too loud music and although I know/learned a lot, i'm still no engineer.

    One day I stumbled on Har-Bal. Har-Bal basically is an equalizer with unlimited bands. It allows auto-mastering up to a degree. You load a commercial song, that is close in style and dynamics to the one you want to master. Har-Bal creates a profile or filter, which you than use to master your own song. Most of the time the results are quite good, but you can easily tweak it a little. I guess for a lot of people this produces great results. For me it was great education, as I could easily see where I went wrong myself. There's nothing like learning from your own mistakes. Recently they introduced a new version which supposedly is even better.

    I also used AAMS (Auto Audio Mastering System), the idea is similar to Har-Bal although the approach is quite different. Har-Bal feels more professional and easier to tweak. I got good results from both. Main difference is that Har-Bal doesn't market itself as an auto mastering system. For a good reason. Pro's will kill you.. "There is no such thing.. " Maybe not. Really I don't care how they call it. For me it worked and in some problematic cases it still does.

    When you have Har-Balled your song, you can run it through a compressor/limiter type of plugin, to get the volume level you need/want, if Har-Bal not did it sufficiently. At this point I rarely use a multiband compressor to keep the original spectrum/frequency curve as much as possible. I think that multiband compressors are the source of most of our problems. We spend time mixing and eq-ing to get a well balanced sound, after which the multiband compressor is put to work and kills the balance we created earlier. Not the compressor's fault, it's our lack of understanding and knowledge. We tend to abuse it rather than use it.

    Are these auto mastering applications professional robo-mastering engineers? Of course not. However in most cases the results sound better than non-engineer productions and leave room for your own input. For educational purposes, priceless!

  • I'm a great fan of the Fabfilter plugins, there is no multiband compressor available, but imho there are better sounding ways of achieving similar results without using a plugin with multiple crossovers on your track. The EQ sounds fantastic and is very flexible, the compressor, though not multiband sounds great and has a ton of features. I also recommend watching the mastering tutorials about those plugins, no matter what you actually use, they're very well made, and you could definitely learn a lot from them. I've also played at a friend's studio with some of the Melda plugins, never used them on my tracks, but I got the impression they have a very clear and intuitive interface and sound pretty well, I think this video is kinda mindblowing, having an all in one equalizer/compressor/expander that does all that sounds pretty interesting, if it wasn't that "melda" in Italian sounds like "shit" pronounced by a chinese I'd surely go for them,.
    My 2 cents though... if your track needs some serious mastering work to sound "good" you'd be better of going back to the mix, work on the equing and dynamics of the single tracks, keeping the master stage only for giving specific character or "coloration" to your mix.
    Good Luck!

  • Ok, I really like using Slate FG-X for Pop/Rock tracks... it has a nice "tight" bass response, and can make things VERY loud without doing too much damage to your carefully wrought mix balance. For "bass music"... Dubstep, DnB, some Rap/HipHop/RnB, and some other genres of EDM, Slate is NOT what I like to use because it distorts the bass while at the same time reducing the audible amount of audible extreme low-end (think under in your sub-bass!)... for stuff like that, I use two Waves L3LL limiters in series...both doing just a small amount of limiting each (3-4dB max each)

    Here is something that you're probably NOT trying... (Try removing EVERY plugin from the master buss before you do'll work much better) Export (or resample/re-record if that's your thing) your final mix. Bring it into a new DAW project into a stereo audio track... now create 1 or 2 aux/send/fx channels, and place a few pretty brutal compressors in there. Something that I've had great results with in this manner is NOT a "mastering plugin" at all! The Waves Maserati GRP plugin, using the buss (or group) tab and cranking the high/low eq as well as the comp. dial... you are now compressing and eq'ing in parallel, and can do truly obscene things to your signal whilst still retaining the sound and feel of your mix, just bringing things forward in the mix... you WILL reduce your dynamics doing this..... but, you'll retain the impact of the transients(provided you didn't compress/limit the master buss to death when you exported!!!)... There are endless plugins you can try this type of processing on.... most of us will already be familiar with parallel (or NY-Style) compression... but many haven't tried it with EQ, and many haven't tried it on the final mix.

    Give it a shot!


  • Izotope Ozone 5.
    Uad !!!

    Izotope Ozone is horrible. I specifically mentioned in my post: Do not suggest Ozone.

    Not once in ~5 years have I had a good result from Izotope Ozone despite trying all presets and all versions of this product. Ozone drains all the depth from your mix and sometimes makes it extra-bright and distorts, and I'm not even a pro engineer, but I know bad sound when I hear it. :thumbdown:

  • - Multiband Compression
    - Harmonic Equalization
    - Volume maximization / brickwall limiting
    - "Polishing" to create brilliance

    Some of them are channel issues, and cannot be done in the master section. Anyway you can use the plugin though. I had recommended IZOTOPE to you, too :) Well, what is easy to use: Waves Native Gold - L-Compressor + C4/C6 before. For a all in one tool, try T-Racks. It pretends to use tube emulation - I used that in former times effectively. (Tube only for the voice channel , never on the full material).

    What you should find and use in the plugin for final mastering is soft only MBC, dynamic increase by soft limiting only, and invisible loudness correction with a very slow compressor before the whole mastering section, and last but not least: dithering / noise shaping for 16 bit - assuming you produce for CDs.

  • It's been a few months since I started this thread, so I wanted to give an update, in case anyone's interested.

    I found that the following sequence produces good mastering results for me.

    1) HarBal v3.0 for EQ
    2) T-Racks Opto-Comp for volume/compression

    Har-Bal was recommended in prior posts as "auto-mastering" tool to copy the profile of other tracks. It's good for EQ, but not good for volume maximization (it produces bad artefacts/jumps). However, for EQ only, it gives good results. I give it a track to approximate and it produces a result with good EQ. I save the EQ-only output.

    Afterwards, for commercial volume, I use T-Racks OptoComp. Only OptoComp seems to transparently raise the volume to good levels without any defects or artefacts for me. I've tried all of their other tools like "Vintage"/"Classic" and the Brickwall Limiter, was not satisfied with any of them, too saturated. The OptoComp did it for me very well.

    Hopefully this helps those interested in good mastering.