The gentle art of mastering is an important step in the process of getting your records to sound polished, powerful, and professional. These are some of the must-have tools to do the job and do it well!
1- Brainworx bx_digital V2
Hands down the best M/S EQ on the market to our ears. This EQ is ideal for opening up a more narrow mix by gently EQ’ing the mid and side of the song against each other.. Clearing out the super lows in your side signal, and removing some of the super highs from the mid signal, is a great first step to begin opening things up. Fine tuning of all frequencies, (which is really dependent on whats going on in your song) to determine where the feeling is in your song, will help you decide which sounds should be pushed forward and back slightly to bring out the best in your mix. A soft stereo spread knob and a mono frequency knob are also key features of this plug in to prevent and unbalanced master and keep things mono-compatible that need to be. We generally like to keep everything below 50-80 Hz in mono and boost the stereo imager to around 110-125%.
2- Waves L3 Multimaxmizer
The Loudness war conquerer. The L3 Multimaximizer is possibly the best plugin to add as much volume to your song as possible with the least amount of distortion, but only when used properly one wrong move and you can quickly make a mess of your tracks final sound. Determine which frequencies to limit and push are most important here for transparency. The best feature of this plugin that some overlook is the ability to tell the L3 to disregard certain frequencies. This is really useful when mastering techno, house, & dance type records that have a lot of bass. By having the plugin not limit those frequencies you can prevent the classic over-limited & usually unpleasant distortion on your bass & kick sounds, making everything else louder but keeping your bottom clear and rumbling.
3- Izotope Ozone 6 Advanced
The mastering workhorse. If your after an all-in-one solution this bad boy comes in as a top contender. This plugin comes packed with features, from dynamics control to harmonic exciter, imager, EQ, verb, and a maximizer essentially every and anything you will need to master your tracks. Added bonus here is that you can use each of these elements as individual plugins to either save CPU on your mastering chain or to use within your mixing process. One major drawback is the hefty price tag can be a bit off-putting, and for about the same dollar amount you can buy all of the other four plugins in this top 5.
4- UAD Manley Massive Passive EQ – MST
Transparency is what this bad boy is all about for us. For a truly sweet sounding EQ this plug can’t be beat, pushing frequecies without coloring them, shaping your mix in seemingly all the right ways, when your using the Massive Passive it almost feels like you can’t make a wrong move every tweak seems to just sound GOOD. The bonus here is that for coloration the non-MST version of the plugin which comes bundled when bought from UAD is more of a hi-notch sound perfect for tone shaping when your after a bit more extremity.
5- PSP Vintage Warmer 2
Considered to be old school by some at this point, this “nostalgic” plugin will always have a place in our studio. You’d still be hard-pressed to find a tape hitting type plugin that has a better emulating sound and more power than the PSP vintage warmer. We’ve ran tests on nearly all of the tape emulation plugins out there and still to this day nothing compares in our opinion. A Little trick from our studio, at times we actually prefer driving into the Waves L3 with the PSP vintage warmer, instead of pulling down hard on the L3’s threshold, when done correctly we find the sound can come out a bit more robust at times and less even sounding which depending on your song can be a better suited and/or what your after.