Mixing & Mastering
Electronic Music
Best Mastering Chain Plugins

Mastering Chain Plugins: Best Mastering Plugins to build the perfect Mastering Chain

Learn how to Master a Song in Logic, Ableton, FL Studio or Reaper. The best Mastering plugins chain for your Daw.

Get free Mastering Tips for better sound for your music productions for streaming, CD, or Vinyl. Learn more about Music Mastering and the best Mastering Effect VST Plugins. Organize and set up your Mastering chain for your EDM, Techno, House, Downtempo, or Hip Hop productions.

How to set up a perfect Mastering Signal Chain - to get the best out of your music production.  

Music Mastering - learn what plugins to use for mastering. In the last chapter, I discuss the perfect Mastering Loudness Levels with LUFS. Here you also get some information about the mastering process for Vinyl.

Top Mastering Plugins

mastering chain plugins
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Best Mastering Chain order

What do use in your mastering chain, and how to master music to get the perfect sound? Here are some steps on how to reach quality audio Mastering. How I improve music and the techniques I use for my mastering chain depends on the audio material delivered.

Best Mastering Plugins:

There is a large selection of mastering plugins; many can achieve high-quality sound. To get the best result, you must test and see which sound characteristics you like the most. In my effect chain, over ten tools are running. An important role is played by the mastering chain order of the plugins, and there are hundreds of possibilities and variations.

Compressors and equalizers can be used several times in your mastering chain. To let the strengths of individual VST plugins stand out more effectively. Also, use your ears and reference other music productions with your songs. Try and test how you can achieve the best results in your mastering plugin chain.

Learn more about how to master a song: try the best mastering plugins on the market. You can also use the following mastering chain order for your tracks. For further questions, please use the comment function.

Surgical Mastering EQ

Surgical Mastering Equalizers, also known as EQs, are an irreplaceable tool for any music producer during the mastering process. Surgical mastering EQs provide precision and control, essential to achieving a high-quality mix.

One of the main benefits of using surgical mastering EQs is their ability to fix problematic resonance frequencies. These frequencies can cause a mix to sound muddy, boomy, thin, or toppy. Using surgical mastering EQs, you can remove rumble from low frequencies and tighten the bass, positively affecting the mix. You can create defined bass sounds and punchy kick drums crucial to a great mix.

Another critical feature of surgical mastering EQs is their ability to improve the width and add rich, airy highs. This is achieved using M/S technology, which allows you to work separately on the mid and side channels. This will enable you to improve the stereo image and bring out details in the mix.

Linear phase EQs are a type of surgical mastering EQ that offers high transparency and is ideal for fixing problematic resonance frequencies. They allow you to make precise and accurate frequency adjustments without introducing unwanted artefacts.

Surgical Mastering EQs are essential for any music producer during the mastering process. 

Some of my favourite surgical Mastering Equalizers are:

Some of my favorite surgical Mastering Equalizers are:

Mastering Plugins - Compressor

How to Master a Song with a  Compressor? Use High-end Mastering compressors plugins that sweeten the sound and glue your mix together.

Mastering a song with a compressor is crucial in achieving a polished, professional-sounding recording. When mastering music, starting with the best mix is essential. This will ensure that the compressor works from a solid foundation rather than trying to fix problems that should have been addressed during the mixing process.

To tame problematic parts and smooth out peaks of your song. You can set the compressor to a moderate ratio and low threshold, aiming for a gain reduction of -2db to -5db.

Also, try parallel compression to add depth and character to your mix. This technique involves running a copy of the mix through the compressor. This compressed copy is mixed with the original mix to add thickness and glue to the overall sound.

Another technique to try is M/S compression. This involves compressing the mid and side channels separately, allowing you to expand the stereo image and bring out details in the mix.

You can use high-end mastering compressor plug-ins explicitly designed for mastering, such as those in the list below. These plug-ins will have a more transparent sound and will be able to sweeten the mix without introducing unwanted artefacts.

Here are some of the best Mastering Compressor plugins on the market:

Coloring EQualizer

Coloring Equalizer

Mastering engineers can significantly benefit from using analogue-emulated equalizer plug-ins, which produce warm high-quality sound. These plug-ins are specifically designed to replicate the unique characteristics of classic analogue equalizers commonly used to shape the sound of recordings.

One of the main benefits of using analogue emulation colouring mastering equalizers is that they can add warmth and character to a mix. These plug-ins can create a smooth and natural sound by boosting the high frequencies and providing a more defined bass. They can also give your songs a punchier and more dynamic sound by boosting or cutting specific frequencies.

Another benefit of colouring mastering equalizers is that they can create a subtle analogue vibe. Many of these plug-ins are emulations of classic equalizers, such as the Pultec or Neve, commonly used to shape the sound of famous recordings. Using these plug-ins, you can create a vintage sound that adds a unique character to your songs.

When using colouring equalizers, it's essential to use them sparingly, as they can easily overpower a mix. When using these EQs, focusing on the overall tonal balance is essential.

Try these character EQs to create a subtle analogue vibe and add punch to your songs.

Some of the best mastering EQs for colouring your mixes are:

Mastering de-esser Plugins and Resonance suppressors

Mastering de-esser plug-ins work by identifying and reducing excessive sibilance, or "S" sounds, in vocals and other high-frequency instruments. Excessive sibilance can cause harshness or distortion in the final mix, making it unpleasant to listen to.

Noise reduction plug-ins use a combination of dynamic processing and frequency filtering to identify and reduce the presence of sibilance. They typically have a frequency control that allows the user to specify the frequency range to focus on and a threshold control that determines the level at which the de-essing effect is applied. 

One of the critical benefits of mastering de-esser plug-ins is that they allow the user to selectively reduce sibilance without affecting the overall tonal balance of the mix. This is especially important in the mastering process, where preserving the overall balance of the mix is critical.

In addition to taming harshness in vocals and other high-frequency instruments, de-esser plug-ins can also reduce resonance in other sounds, such as hi-hats and synth sounds. This can help create an overall smoother and more pleasant sound.

Here are some of the best de-esser plugins:

Dynamic Equalizer Plugins & Multi-band Compressor

Fine-tuning the frequency spectrum and adding punch and clarity to a master can be achieved using essential tools like dynamic EQs and multiband compressors.

Dynamic EQs, also known as "intelligent EQs," are equalizers that automatically adjust the EQ based on the audio signal level. This allows more precise adjustments to specific frequency ranges without affecting the rest of the mix. For example, a dynamic EQ can be used to reduce the low frequencies in the mix if the bass is too boomy or to increase the high frequencies if the mix is too dull.

Multiband compressors work similarly but allow you to apply compression to specific frequency bands. This can be useful for controlling the balance between different instruments in a mix or adding punch and definition to a particular frequency range.

Dynamic EQs and multiband compressors can help reduce unwanted frequencies and add definition and clarity to a mix when used in mastering. 

Keep in mind that perfecting your audio doesn't always necessitate the use of dynamic EQ or multiband compressors. However, there are situations where it can be beneficial to have dynamic access to specific frequency bands. For instance, if you need to manage the high frequencies in certain parts of the song, or adjust the dynamics or volume of particular bass notes or synth sounds, the following plug-ins can come in handy.

 

Enhancer, Tape Machines, Tube, saturation and Transformers

Saturation, Enhancer, Tape Machines, Tube, and Transformers

The Mastering Enhancer, Tape Machines, Tube, Saturation, and Transformer plugins are audio processing tools that add warmth, depth, and character to a mix during mastering. These plugins add subtle harmonic distortion, saturation, and other analogue-inspired effects to the audio signal, which can help make a mix sound less digital and more organic.

 Mastering Enhancer plugins, for example, can bring out detail and clarity in a mix, making it sound more defined and polished. On the other hand, Tape Machine Emulations can add warmth and analogue character to a mix by simulating the sound of analogue tape recordings.

 Tube and Saturation plugins can add warmth and depth to a mix by adding subtle harmonic distortion to the audio signal. This can help make a mix sound more analogue and less clinical.

 Finally, Transformer plugins can add weight and girth to a mix, making it sound more powerful and impactful. These plugins work by simulating the sound of analogue transformers and can be used to add warmth and depth to a mix.

 

Some of the best mastering software plugins for adding saturation, harmonics, or tube colouration are:

Best tape Machine Plugins

 

Stereo Imaging Plugins, Width and Depth

Stereo Imager Plugins

When it comes to music production, there are a lot of factors to consider to create a high-quality sound. One of the critical aspects is the stereo imaging of your mix. By utilizing stereo imaging plugins, you can enhance the spatiality and psychoacoustics of your audio. These plugins can help create a wider and deeper sound, making your songs sound more dynamic and engaging.

In addition to improving the width and depth of your mix, stereo imaging plugins can also help to ensure that your audio is mono compatible and free from phase issues. This is important because if your mix is not mono-compatible, it may sound different when played on different playback systems. Phase issues can also cause problems with the clarity and balance of your mix.

Overall, if you're looking to improve the sound of your songs, utilizing stereo imaging plugins can be an effective way to do so. So why not try one of these helpful tools and see how it can enhance the sound of your music?

 

Best Clipper Plug-Ins

Mastering Clipper / Soft Clipper

When it comes to mastering your tracks, the use of top clipper plugins can really take your sound to the next level. By intensifying the loudness levels and shaping the frequencies with a pleasant sound, you can achieve a balanced and even more aggressive sound that will truly stand out. Whether you're a professional producer or just starting out, incorporating clipper plugins into your mastering process can be a game-changer. So why not give it a try and see the difference it can make for your music?

LImiter Plugin - True Peak Limiter

Mastering Limiter / True Peak Limiter

Are you looking to enhance the loudness levels of your audio recordings? If so, you may want to consider using True Peak Mastering Limiter Plugins. These plugins are specifically designed to help you manage your audio peaks and increase the overall loudness levels of your audio tracks.

One of the benefits of using these transparent and neutral limiting processors is that they ensure your dynamics are maintained while preventing any harsh high-end, squashed transients or thin and mangled low-end. Your audio tracks will sound fuller and more balanced without unwanted distortion or artefacts.

Some of the best Mastering Limiter plugins for your master buss are:

elevate mastering plugin
LUFS Meter: Metering Analysis and reference Plugins

LUFS Metering Analysis Plugins

Getting the loudness levels just right is essential to producing a great-sounding track. This is where the LUFS Meter comes in handy. By analyzing and referencing loudness levels, you can ensure that your audio levels are consistent and balanced, making your music sound more professional.

Metering tools are designed to compare your audio levels using PLR, RMS, and LUFS targets. PLR stands for Peak-to-Loudness Ratio, the difference between the highest peak and average loudness levels. RMS stands for Root Mean Square, which measures the average power of your audio signal. LUFS stands for Loudness Units Full Scale, a measure of loudness that considers the human ear's sensitivity to different frequencies.

In addition to the LUFS Meter, reference plugins can help you visualize your tracks' tonal balance, average loudness, and frequency spectrum. These plugins can be incredibly useful for identifying any problem areas in your mix and ensuring that your music sounds excellent across various playback systems.

So if you want to take your music production or sound engineering to the next level, mastering the LUFS Meter plugins is worth your time. With these tools at your disposal, you can create music that sounds great no matter where it's played.

reference tools

Reference Plugins

Utilizing top reference plugins is essential for achieving exceptional tonal balance, average loudness, and frequency spectrum in your tracks. These plugins enable you to quickly identify any issues in your mix and ensure that your music sounds excellent on all playback systems.

If you want to elevate your music production or sound engineering abilities, dedicating time to reference plugins is unquestionably a wise investment. With these valuable tools, you can create music that consistently delivers a remarkable listening experience no matter where it's played.

ROOM EQ: Studio Monitor / Headphone Correction Software

Studio Monitor Room EQ / Headphone Correction Software

Looking to enhance the acoustics of your room and optimize the sound quality of your studio speakers? ROOM EQ is a powerful software that can help you achieve just that.

Using advanced algorithms and cutting-edge technology, ROOM EQ can accurately measure the audio output of your speakers and identify any issues with the acoustics of your room. The software will then generate a customized EQ curve that can be applied to your speakers to achieve the perfect sound quality.

Its user-friendly interface lets you adjust your EQ settings to achieve the ideal sound for your listening preferences.

So why wait? Start using ROOM EQ today and take your audio experience to the next level!

The Headphone Correction Software is an indispensable tool for those who seek to enhance their headphones' sound quality. With this feature, you can attain a more precise and authentic sound that will enable you to assess mastering tasks with unparalleled accuracy. This is especially valuable for audio industry professionals and music enthusiasts who demand the ultimate listening experience. Headphone Correction Software can take your audio experience to new heights. So why settle for substandard sound quality when you can employ this remarkable software to elevate your listening experience? Give it a try today and witness the difference for yourself!

Song Mastering Definition

What is an Audio Mastering? Learn which steps it takes to master your songs!

 

  • Mastering optimizes the punch and power of your music production by thickening the mid-range, tightening and rounding out the low-end and bringing some sparkle and richness to the high frequencies.

  • Fine-tune the dynamics of your Song, and produce top-notch and up-to-date loudness levels to maintain a well-balanced mix. 

  • Reach competitive loudness levels with compression, limiting and clipper modules. To have a proper sound on any streaming or download platform like Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube, or Beatport (we use PSR and LUFS measurement)

  • Have a tight and punchy Sound on a huge Club sound system like Function One, Martin Audio, Kirsch Audio or Void Acoustics - optimized for live and DJ surroundings.

  • Adjusting the groove of your song is another crucial point, such as the bass and the rhythmic drum elements. Small interventions have an essential impact on standing out

  • Taming the problematic frequencies in your Tracks reduces harshness by EQing and De-essing to sound more natural and pleasant. With Subtractive eq-ing you also get rid of muddy bass frequencies. Dynamic EQs and Mid / Side Equalizer are perfect for a subtle rework of a song.

  • Add warm, detailed analogue Tape and Tube sound for a nostalgic vibe of classic electronic music recordings.

  • Or improve the colour and character through Vintage Console Sound. Add extra harmonics and bring shine to your mix to sound clean but stirring.

  • Fix phasing problems and get your tracks mono compatible. So frequencies do not accidentally extinguish. This could happen if your music production is not optimized for different speakers and media players.

  • Optimize 3-Dimensional acoustics. Increase depth, generate natural-sounding stereo width.

Mastering Loudness - What LUFS to master to

How loud to master for Spotify? Perfect LUFS mastering volume for streaming on Youtube, Spotify, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Beatport, Apple Music, and more.

How do you master a song with perfect loudness for streaming providers? All popular music streaming services have different loudness standards.

Many of them have a loudness normalization target between -13 and -16 LUFS. If your uploaded music is louder, the volume will be reduced to reach the target value. This way, every song is streamed at almost the same volume level.

Mastering your songs aims to achieve the best possible sound quality. Maximum volume, but emphasising transparent and dynamic sound, is the goal. If you want to take your sound to the next level, you should try to find the right balance between a loud and a dynamic master.

My favourite LUFS loudness targets for techno, house and hip-hop are usually between -7 LUFS and -10LUFS. You can also check the LUFS short-time meter and set your target between -6 LUFS and -9LUFS.

LUFS values between -10 and -14 LUFS are also acceptable since dynamics are the main focus when mastering ambient or singer-songwriter productions.

What is LUFS?

LUFS is a loudness normalization based on average loudness. Due to the Loudness War, music productions became more and more compressed and, therefore less dynamic. LUFS normalizations or other methods are now used by many major streaming providers such as Youtube, Spotify and Apple Music. Very loud mastered songs sound quieter on streaming platforms and somewhat flat. Aggressive limiting tends to be detrimental and superfluous to the mastering process. As with mastering for vinyl, this now places greater emphasis on transparency and dynamics.

Spotify Loudness, Apple Music and Youtube LUFS Levels

Here is my overview of streaming shops LUFS loudness targets (LUFS = Loudness Units relative to Full Scale)

  1. Spotify: -14 LUFS (can be changed to -11 or -23 by the user)

  2. YouTube: -14 LUFS

  3. Apple Music: -16 LUFS (when iTunes Sound Check is enabled)

  4. SoundCloud: No normalization

  5. Amazon Music: -14 LUFS

  6. Tidal: -14 LUFS

  7. Pandora: -14 LUFS

  8. Bandcamp: No normalization

  9. Deezer: -14 LUFS

  10. Napster: -14 LUFS

LUFS Meter - Free VST Plugins:

There are some free VST Metering Plugins and Apps to measure LUFS, RMS and True Peaks; you can download them here. Add them as an effect Plugin to your DAW and visualize the true loudness of your tracks and compare with other reference songs.

Why is loudness normalization used?

Audio files are sent to streaming providers by various distributors. Since the delivered music was mastered to different volume levels, Spotify, Apple Music and Youtube Music want to guarantee the best listening experience when playing the songs.

If you had to manually change the volume of each song while listening to playlists, it would be very annoying. That's why the loudness normalization comes into play so that all heard songs are felt the same way.

However, you can turn this setting off in Spotify to hear if songs have been mastered at different volumes.

To do this, go to Spotify Settings / Audio Quality / Default Volume and turn the function on or off.

 

Best Mastering DAW

If you want to take your audio mastering skills to the next level, consider exploring some of these top DAW options. These tools are designed to optimize your workflow, save you time, and even create DDP images for CD production or vinyl/cassette pre-mastering. Plus, they offer handy features like metadata management to help you complete your mastering projects with ease.

 

  • Reaper

  • Pyramix

  • WaveLab

  • Sequoia

  • Presonus Studio One

  • Samplitude

  • Sadie

  • DSP-Quattro

  • Soundblade

Mastering Course - Book your personal lesson

Need help optimizing your mastering chain? Get your personal mastering tutorial to get the best out of your songs.

Your questions will be answered individually and adapted to your knowledge level.

Drop me a message with your request to book your mastering course because you can learn the most in a 1:1 class. Trust me; I have spent over 15,000 euros on a music production school myself in the past.

I'm also happy to answer any questions about your mixing problems. Because you can only achieve a good Master if the sound is right when mixing.

I am Marcus, a music enthusiast who runs a mixing and mastering business. Additionally, I compose insightful articles for my blog and produce music as a member of the techno duo Agravik.
Marcus
Mixing & Mastering - Mastrng.com
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