Favorite Mastering Plugins Feb 2019
Let's start with limiters! 2 of my favorite final limiters are the Ozone Maximizer and now the new Softube Weiss. I've been using the first one more and more the past years and it consistently won over all the others for bass-heavy content, hip hop, EDM, downtuned metal, and all the type of tracks that have a lot of energy in the low end. Mastering limiters tend to smear the transient and just plain "fart" on bass heavy material, the Ozone Maximizer allows me to apply sometimes significantly more GR then others without folding and disrupting the overall balance of the mix (eating up low end) and the transient enhancer works better than most in most cases. If you have to have one, the Ozone Maximizer is what you want.
Softube Weiss MM-1 The new entry in my favorite is the Softube Weiss MbM-1 limiter. If you're not familiar with the real hardware, Weiss gear has been the benchmark for ages in the mastering world, used by legendary ME's like Vlado and many others, they've always been known for being extremely transparent, both in their action and their sound. Some friend of mine in the industry long time ago told me "the day we'll be able to replicate the Weiss, it'll be the day we can say software is as good as hardware and from that moment on, software will start to be better than hardware". That says something. But so, here we are, Softube recreated all the usual Weiss units you see in big mastering houses, 10's of thousands dollars in plugin form, and they did it right! You know I'm a fan of Softube and they don't disappoint with this limiter, arguably the most transparent out there now, it can get your loud. Real loud.
Honorable mention for the other Weiss machine that has been used for ages along with the limiter, the Weiss DS1-MK3 One of the secrets to loud masters is also avoid harshness, especially true now with digital music and samples. Well, the DS1-MK3 is arguably the most hi-end de-essere out there, so precise, transparent and tweakable, it has the action and the sound that you've been listening to for *decades* without even knowing it.
Almost still a secret weapon, the incredible saturator from Sonnox, Inflator is still one of the best tool to get really, really, loud masters without destroying them. Saturation is key. I've been saying this for a long time, I have several videos about it and I featured Inflator many times. Usually preferred on single tracks and groups, the Inflator is a beast at increasing perceived level to any track without adding nominal level. Use it conservatively tho' because it's not the right tool for everything, it has a sound, it's still very versatile but you need to really listen to what it does because is a bit unpredictable: I love it on dirty tracks, rock and metal and urban hip hop, grime and any genre when a bit of tasteful harmonic distortion is welcome. Inflator can literally inflate your tracks with harmonic content and rise the perceived level by quite a bit. This plugin should be in everyone's collection, not only for mastering.
Time to upgrade. You all know I've been a fan of the free version, Limiter #6 for ages. It's still unbelievable one of the best mastering limiters ever made was free! Still a benchmark, still the one to beat for certain things, namely the multiband limiter, this one has been on ALL my masters for the past years. TDR took it to the next level adding a bunch of great features to it and turned into one of the best sounding and most useful tools for mastering (and not only). At the price point of a fastfood meal for 2, the new interface and the new features make this one a no brainer. You want to have this one in your arsenal, for me it's greatness lays in the fact that it can be used in combination with other limiters to achieve really high final levels.
Big clipper was a real surprise! I love clippers and I have and use many, hardware too as you know, but many are, let's say, not that great.. So I've been using the same ones for a long time. I was very pleasantly surprised when I tried Big Clipper, the frequency sensitivity section really makes this one versatile and with a bit of work can basically be a useful tool to shave off some transients before hitting a pure brickwall limter. 2 knobs, great algo, BDL makes good stuff!
McDSP, another legend in the plugin world that doesn't promote that much, they don't need to. They've been up there at the top since the dawn of Pro Tools. here my only multiband compressor in this list, the ML4000. It could use a bigger GUI, but the amount of control and precision it gives you is crazy. If you have a dynamic problem in the track you're mastering, this is the ultimate dynamic control plugin. Soundwise, McDSP has a great collection of color compressors and Eq's but this one, if set properly, is arguably the most transparent of all the "invasive" (multiband compression is an invasive process by nature) options out there. Great control, great visual reference too. Not much to add. For real professionals dealing with clients with tracks all over the place, that's your tool.
People forget about this one. I remember the first time using it, man.. what a great design! The way you can open up the stereo image is brilliant, the curves are so smooth and this eq sounds incredible. Again, so underrated. The filters are among the best out there and it has a great analyzer, every detail is so well designed the result is a great workflow and a fast decision making process. Top notch at a silly price.
I have a video on this, how to replicate analog summing in the box, so you know I'm serious when I tell you this is one unique tool! Incredible things can be done on a 2track with this powerful stereo tool, from fixing asymmetrical mixes to enhancing both stereo and mono portion of the track, in a very, very unique way using the depth and field options, the addition of filters and delay for each tab makes this plugin very deep, there are some really unique tricks you can do and that were basically impossible to do before this one came out. Must have. Check the video
Another plugin that's under the radar, Nugen Stereoplacer is the most advanced frequency selective stereo placement tool. Period. Haven't had the chance to talk about this one a lot but it's great for sound designing too, but the main use for me is in mastering when I either have one element in a mix that's just out of balance but also a great creative tool at the mastering stage to make a "boring" track a little more interesting. EDM guys will love this! I promise you Some key features: Gentle linear phase adjustment of entire mixes,
Re-positioning of specific elements, Extrapolation of poorly positioned instruments'Side switching' and re-balancing, Shifting of problem elements whilst leaving the rest of the soundfield intact, Detailed alignment of low frequency information. Add stereo detail to mono recordings, Leaves original character intact, Highly mono compatible, Unique stereo positioning technology. The price tag could be double and it'd still be a deal
Mastering is not only about transparency, is also about enhancing and adding that "fairy dust" to a track. Well, I use many colored eq in mastering but this one takes first place this time around. The Audified RZ62 EQ made it into my top since the very first time I tried it, I was a bit skeptical because saturation and eq are a very hard thing to do right, but they did it SO right! One of the best colored eq out there for me, incredibly big low end and powerful high mid, there are few controls, just the way I like it, a ton of color you can adjust, gainstaging is key so, have your $hit together, but man this eq sounds great. Just try it, thank me later!
This is it for today, want more? Let me know, I have more ;)