Today, many composers process music on their own. There is nothing wrong with this, and in this article we will not analyze the pros and cons of this approach. Over the past few years, an incredible number of plugins have appeared that promise great mastering opportunities. Consider the best of them!
Analyzers are an important tool for visual perception. If you do not use them, then you can assume that you walk in the dark. There are two powerful tools that really come in handy: Mastering The Mix and Nugen Audio.
Mastering The Mix LEVELS
LEVELS is a low-cost measurement tool that contains some useful data that goes beyond volume. The plugin displays the dynamic range, stereo field and something called Bass Space. Bass space mode is especially useful in the mixing stages. It helps to get (or rather display for manual correction) the balance between bass and drums.
LEVELS is configured through the menu with several presets (CD, Club, Composer, iTunes, Soundcloud, Streaming and YouTube), which makes it universal for all applications and platforms.
More details: Master The Mix.
Nugen Audio MasterCheck Pro
MasterCheck Pro is used by countless audio professionals. It shows problem areas ahead of time, allowing users to avoid them. Using this analyzer you will see how well the track is perceived by the listener and meets modern standards.
Two great features of MasterCheck Pro:
- True peak metering: use it so that your mixes are within specifications and also keep peaks in subsequent coding steps.
- Real-time codec: great for listening to your mixes using different encoding settings (e.g. mp3 128-256). By the way, an identical function is in the extended version of IZotope8.
More details: Nugen Audio.
Mastering Plugin Packages
Mastering includes a number of processes that are used to form a uniform tone for your mixes. There are many independent modules offering excellent value for money.
Eventide Mastering Bundle
In 2017, Eventide and new plug-in developers New Fangled Audio released two modules called Elevate and EQuivocate. Both have 26 MEL frequency bands. These stripes are based on the natural outline of human hearing. You can create great mixes in minutes. Both require an incredible amount of computer resources (productive hardware is required), but in return give excellent sound control. The limiter allows the mix to be made louder than any other maximizer.
More details: Elevate & EQuivocate.
FabFilter Mastering Bundle
FabFilter MasteringBundle includes four of the company’s most powerful plugins:
- Pro-L 2
- Pro-Q 2
- Pro-C 2
We see FabFilter plugins as tools for modern producers, as they provide both analog and digital processing (manual tuning). Graphical interfaces are easy to use and have received a huge number of positive reviews for minimalism and convenience. Pro-Q 2 is one of the most powerful equalizers on the market today. Pro-L (version 1) was recently recognized as the most popular limiter in a survey among expert users of DAW Pro Tools.
Toontrack EZmix 2 Mastering Bundle
The company describes the EZ mix 2 as “Visually simple, but solving complex processes. You only see the delicate part – the main behind the scenes.” The package is centered around a preinstalled browser. Can be used to quickly tune any mix track. Like other Toontrack products such as EZ Drummer2, EZ Keys and Superior Drummer3, there is a wide selection of available expansion modules, including the Mastering EZmix Pack (sold separately). Unfortunately, no analyzers are included here, so additional tools will be required.
More details: Toontrack.
UAD-2 Manley Complete Bundle
Universal Audio offers a wide selection of fantastic plugins that are widely used for both mixing and mastering music. We will not list all the products, we only emphasize what we consider to be one of the best solutions – UAD-2 Manley Complete Bundle.
This package includes three Manley emulations:
- Manley Massive Passive EQ
- Manley VOXBOX Channel Strip
- Mani Variable Mu Limiter
Vari-Mu Limiter and Passive EQ are mainly used for mastering workflows, however VOXBOX is a great addition to your collection of plugins. Manley equipment is expensive, and not every engineer can afford one of them for more than $ 5,000. UA modeled all three instruments flawlessly (gaining approval from Manley representatives). Why it is worth buying a package, first of all, for a passive equalizer. Any control of the frequency band will not affect the dynamics of the signal. This makes the Manley Massive Passive EQ a very easy plug-in. Well, the plugin for processing vocals will never be left without attention. Secondly, the Mani Variable Mu Limiter limiter can be observed in many world recording studios, which is due to the impeccable quality of its work.
More details: Manley Complete Bundle.
iZtope Ozone has been around for many years. It is a fully downloadable platform that includes a number of fundamental mastering processors along with a meter, saturator and compressors. The eighth version received an assistant offering automatic mastering of tracks. Of course, it does not work perfectly (and even extremely poorly in places), but you can learn useful things in comparison without using it directly. A / B testing functions, listening to distortions of compressed formats will be an additional plus.
More details: iZotope.
Ik Multimedia T-Racks 5
T-Racks 5 is the latest version of the popular IK Multimedia suite. It has many great equalizers (and emulations), dynamic effects (world compressors) and art plugins. The debut took place with new stand-alone mastering applications, two of which we will highlight.
Master Match – automatically listens for the key of one song and applies it to your mixed track. As links, you can use three sources (reference). ONE – includes an equalizer, compressor, harmonic enhancer, amplifier and controls. In a sense, it is similar to the Waves Infected Mushroom Pusher (both provide tone shaping capabilities).
More details: IK Multimedia.
The mastering processor FG-X Slate Digital is a personal favorite that we use from time to time, despite its slightly problematic past. Slate Digital needed an absolute breakthrough to bring the FG-X to the 64-bit version of AAX. FG-X users in ProTools 11 were not happy with this delay, so many switched to alternative processors. There were also some soft statements about the development of the second version, but nothing concrete has been confirmed so far (but I would like to).
There are several reports of FG-X errors on forums from users stating that it can sometimes put a stereo image in the center. When this happens, you have to restart the program, which creates additional difficulties. If you do not take this into account, it is an excellent compressor and maximizer for mastering, especially when used simultaneously with their other products, such as VMR, VBC, VCC and VTM.
The FG-X has a simple but informative measurement section, as well as an auto gain function called Constant Gain. This is one of the easiest mastering limiters to use on the market with outstanding results in any style of music.
More details: Slate Digital.
Based on the technology developed for the ML4000 limiter, the ML8000 has 8 active processing ranges that significantly improve phase accuracy. Each of them has its own gain control, as well as controls for attack and release time. There are other modes available in the ML4000.
More details: McDSP.
Waves Infected Mushroom Pusher
Waves Infected Mushroom Pusher provides a simple and unique approach to dynamic processing, which at first glance may seem a little banal, but looking in more detail, you will find that this powerful tool produces a truly musical character. Waves describes Pusher as “an innovative multiband audio enhancer and limiter / clipper that gives a true juicy touch to the Infected Mushroom.” The plugin is sold as a multiprocessor for EDM music, but in other styles you will get some magic.
Softube Weiss MM-1 & DS1-MK3
In 2018, Softube announced two new mastering plugins developed in collaboration with Weiss. They received the names MM-1 and DS1-MK3. Plugin have similar processing algorithms. MM-1 is an independent processor, which involves several modern mechanisms. The DS1-MK3 is a copy of the original Weiss DS1.
The initial Weiss DS1 hardware is considered the absolute gold standard, indispensable in the world’s best mastering studios. He is loved for transparency, versatility and sound quality. Softube created a similar version of DS1 in a plug-in VST format. The company firmly claims that the processor is not an emulation, but in fact, is made as an exact copy (and approved by Weiss representatives). It took more than 10 thousand dollars to create, while the plugin costs only 549 $.
More details: Softube.
Softube Drawmer S73 & 1973
Like the Softube Weiss products described above, S73 & 1973 use algorithms that exactly copy the original Drawmer hardware. The plugins are presented in two versions: S73 is described as an intelligent mastering processor with multi-band compression, when Drawer 1973 is a full-fledged emulation of the original equipment, which includes several exclusive functions not available in the hardware version. Get great sound, a cross between modern transparent and noisy retro!
Boz Digital Labs The Wall & Manic Compressor
The Wall by Boz Digital Labs is by far one of the best limiters on the market. He can convey a huge number of styles necessary for mastering. The important Sanity Check function is included, which normalizes the level so that you can compare the original sound with the compressed one, without changing the level. Even with strong values, you will not hear obvious distortions, which cannot be said about cheap processors.
Manic Compressor is a fully loaded compressor equipped with 6 independent modules: Side chain, Pre & Post Eq, Input Saturator, Parallel Compressor, Loudness Relief. This is a great tool for adding a gentle analogue tone to the mastering of music.
More details: Boz Digital Labs.
Sonarworks Reference 4
There is no point in mixing and mastering without at least half of a decent studio monitoring. If technically it is not possible to get a high-quality result, you can order mastering at a low cost in our studio. In the case when you are engaged in processing yourself, then for accurate and balanced playback you will need to create the correct frequency response, which will help to configure Sonarworks Reference 4. Fortunately, Sonarworks have a solution in the form of a program for calibrating monitors and headphones.
More details: Sonarworks.