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MagnetStudios says

Just out of curiosity, and because I’m nosy :-) I would like to know what plugs you guys use on a regular basis for your mastering chain. I know every track is different and requires different plugs, but there will be some that will be your go to plugs most of the time. Here are mine:

  1. FabFilter Pro-Q – HPF
  2. Nomad Factory – E-TubeTape warmer
  3. FabFilter Pro-Q – Main EQ
  4. Waves – MaxxBass
  5. Waves – SSLComp
  6. Waves – S1 Stereo Imager
  7. Waves – LinMB
  8. TRackS3 – Classic Clipper
  9. TRackS3 – Brickwall limiter

So these are the ones I use more often than not, depending on the track.

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SoundFix says

An interesting thread, thanks for posting. I very much struggle with mastering so now I don’t really try to do it so much because I don’t want to ruin my mixes. I usually just carefully add some compression/limiting to get a good average level on the output and adjust the EQ and then bounce out straight from the session.

That probably won’t be very helpful for anyone but thought I’d join in :) After I’ve finished studying in a couple of years I will know a lot more about mastering, which will obviously be extremely helpful in this line of work!

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Mihai_Sorohan says

Usually I make the filtering to each channel, so I don’t do it in my master chain, but sometimes I also do it on master channel, mostly when I work with other people’s material or I was lazy and didn’t apply it earlier.
Here’s a chain with it:
1. Variety of Sound – Nasty VCS , for filtering and sometimes saturate a bit stuff, or Vengeance Producer Suite – Philta CM.
2. Electri-Q or ThrillerEQ
3. Usually for stereo widening I was using QuikQuak UpStereo, then later Flux Stereo Tool, but lately I don’t do that. To focus bass on the center Basslane.
4. My main limiter these days is Loud Max but I got good results with Kjaerhus Classic Limiter or Yhong W1 (a Waves L1 clone).
5. Sometimes I need to glue together the mix, so I put a reverb or a tape simulator. Glaceverb as reverb or Ferrric TDS or TB ReelBus as tape simulators.

That’s kind of it… most of the stuff is free, so, go get those and try, maybe you’ll get better results than some more expensive stuff.
I also recommend Density MKIII and Arguru Stardust.

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johnny625 says

My idea of mastering is changing the sound as little as possible. I don’t like heavy compression during mastering, no matter how many bands your compressor has, it just sounds unnatural. For equalizing I use the Kjaerhus Audio Classic EQ. It has very nice warm sound.

If the track is really needs compression, I crank it up on the EQ output level control and then I control the peaks with Adobe Audition integrated multiband compressor, but again this is only a compression in a very subtle way.

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MagnetStudios says

My idea of mastering is changing the sound as little as possible. I don’t like heavy compression during mastering, no matter how many bands your compressor has, it just sounds unnatural.

I’ve heard this a lot lately on other forums I’m a member of. I don’t like heavy compression either unless I’m using parallel compression, but unfortunately the “loudness war” seems to dictate that mixes have to be loud, fat, and wide. It’s easy to get a mix loud and painful to listen to, but it’s not so easy to get a mix loud and sumptuous on the ear, that’s lively and dynamic, that for me is the real key to having a great master.

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BigBouncyBright says

Recently my mastering chain consists of:
Waves SSL E -Channel
Waves LinMB
Sonnox Oxford Inflator
Voxengo MSED
Waves Rbass for mid channel
S-1 Imager for side channel (in some cases)
Waves IR-L
Waves L3
URS Saturation (sometimes use it after L1 or L2 maximizer)
Waves L2 or L1
This chain sometimes does not include some of the elements (depending on the genre of music)

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johnny625 says


My idea of mastering is changing the sound as little as possible. I don’t like heavy compression during mastering, no matter how many bands your compressor has, it just sounds unnatural.
I’ve heard this a lot lately on other forums I’m a member of. I don’t like heavy compression either unless I’m using parallel compression, but unfortunately the “loudness war” seems to dictate that mixes have to be loud, fat, and wide. It’s easy to get a mix loud and painful to listen to, but it’s not so easy to get a mix loud and sumptuous on the ear, that’s lively and dynamic, that for me is the real key to having a great master.

To be honest I hate the loudness war. It really destroys the dynamics, but I guess the mainstream audience of today doesn’t really mind that. All they want is a loud sound from their boombox or earphones. :)

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Wital says

iZotope Ozone 5 and Waves plugins.

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TJMusic says

As for loudness war, we’re making a stock music for use in someone else’s projects, not a music for a radio station, so I think it’s completely irrelevant. Nobody will buy AJ tracks just to listen to them in a boombox after all.

My opinion is that we should provide a versatile recording that someone will be able to edit and mix with other audio material, speach tracks in particular. So there shouldn’t be too much dynamics to make levelling with speach easier, but the customer may compress it further if they need, but it also shouldn’t be too flat because the customer may want more dynamics in some applications. The same applies with EQ or other effects – it’s easier to add them in production, than to get rid of them when they’ve already been aplied.

My first step of mastering chain actually starts in arrangement – I do everything I can to make everything sound right when played from the sequencer. This way I can get the best possible quality already in the recording.

As for such advanced effects as stereo enhancement, or heavier use of basic tools like EQ or compression, I apply them only to selected tracks before mixing, if it’s really needed. Usually I put a rhytm guitar very wide in stereo image, and this is done on the individual track or group before the mix.

I keep my mixing simple, but I spend a lot of time listening to the mix on different equipment to ensure that it’s working not only on high quality monitoring system. It takes days to make any adjustments and mix again and listen to it again on every possible low end player I’ve got, while walking on the street or working the day job.

After the mix is approved, there isn’t much to fix already. The small EQ tweaks and a delicate compression to ensure a desired RMS level is all I need to do. And again, the most time needed for mastering is the time spent on listening on different equipments and adjusting the sound accordingly.

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Mihai_Sorohan says

Very good points TJMusic.

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