Any sound engineer’s arsenal would be incomplete without mastering plugins. They can also be used in the songwriting process, during mixing, or to add some finishing touches to your mix before sending it off for mastering. Many mastering engineers use these plugins all over the world, and they help them attain industry-standard quality. Here’s a collection of EQs, limiters, compressors, loudness meters, and other important tools that will help you not only make outstanding master albums, but also fully prepare them for streaming on various services.
FabFilter Pro-L 2
Every mastering chain will conclude with a limiter, and the quality of that limiter will have a substantial impact on how much distortion is generated when the music is pushed to its loudest volume. The Pro-L 2 from Fabfilter is of remarkable quality, allowing for extremely transparent limiting even when pushed beyond its perceived limitations.
Multiple limiting algorithms are available in Pro-L 2, allowing it to be tailored to the project’s requirements by the mastering engineer. It also has more advanced capabilities than any other limiter. The attack and release knobs, 32x oversampling, built-in LUFS metering, dithering, and other features all contribute to this functionality. All of this is accomplished while sitting neatly behind a gorgeous and simple-to-use UI.
Limiters are an important element of the mastering process, and FabFilter’s Pro-L 2 VST plugin is among the best. Many prominent musicians, like Skrillex, Afrojack, Martin Garrix, and David Guetta, have used Pro-L 2 at the conclusion of master chains, mixes, or individual sounds. Its waveform visualizer displays every component of the incoming signal and provides the most essential features for producing a professional end product while mastering workflow.
The Pro L-2 is a limiting and metering plug-in with a lot of features. It has accurate real peak level meters and loudness metering that comply with all current industry requirements. Allow the limiter to do the work by setting it to -9 LUFS for CV or -14 LUFS for streaming. The Loudness Meter Target compares your audio level to the goal you’re aiming for, letting you know when you’ve gone too far with true peak limiter.
You can choose from eight distinct restricting algorithms, each with its own personality and purpose. A clever link function regulates the output gain as you limit, preventing volume increases as you work on the sound, and it also allows you to audition the limiting and switch between the input and output signal. This is Best Mastering Plugin in 2023.
Eventide Elevate Mastering Bundle
This four-plugin bundle claims to provide “Mastering with a Brain.” Elevate’s main mastering/limiting plugin has artificial intelligence algorithms that may increase loudness naturally while retaining dynamic perception — quite a feat. Your signal passes through a 26-band filter bank before entering the main limiter, which features standard parameters like a threshold, speed, and gain ceiling, as well as Transient Emphasis and a Spectral Clipper at the end of the chain for listening experience. The clever stuff happens in the filter bank, though.
Elevate uses AI to establish the proper amount of gain, speed, and transient fluctuation for each band, rather than forcing you to do so manually. You can also push the AI into other parts of the compressor limiter, and the AI will always strive for the most natural-sounding output. You can also dig in there and make your own adjustments if you want.
What does all of this imply? Elevate, on the other hand, is a sophisticated audio processing plugin that works with frequency bands and transients, or the attack at the front of sounds. It can increase the volume of your song while maintaining the tonal integrity. You can strengthen only the regions that need it because you may work on different frequency bands separately. Transients can be tweaked to make your mix sound smoother or more forceful. On a basic level, you can play around with the presets, which are especially useful in Elevate because the AI has evaluated your audio and will adjust to it like loudness levels.
Three more plugins are also included in the best mastering plugins bundle, each of which focuses solely on Elevate’s capabilities. “EQuivocate” is an EQ based on the human ear that focuses solely on the 26 auditory filter bands. “Saturate” is a spectral clipper that allows you to level down your peaks by overdriving them. And “Punctuate” is all about putting attention on the right things at the right time.
Elevate isn’t your typical bank of knobs and levers, and I wouldn’t recommend it for inexperienced or aspiring Mastering Engineers, but if you understand how sound works, it’s a great collection of tone-crafting tools.
FabFilter Pro-Q 3
You’ll probably use an equalizer the most during mixing and mastering like izotope ozone, so choose the best of the best! With FabFilter Pro-Q 3, you get the best possible sound quality as well as a stunning, unique interface that is really simple to use.
Mid/Side processing, flexible stereo placement of EQ bands, an intelligent solo feature, selectable Auto Gain, and a built-in, completely programmable spectrum analyzer are just a few of the features that the Pro-Q 3 has to offer.
Pro-Q 3 is one of the most well-known EQ plugins ever made. It isn’t built on any old analog gear; rather, it utilizes the finest of what the digital world has to offer. The user interface is stunning, and the sound quality rivals that of Pro-L. Again, this is a rather clear plugin whose sole purpose is to produce the greatest possible sound. We believe it is a wonderful complement for mastering in this regard. This is Best Mastering VST Plugin in 2023.
Initial Audio Mastersuite
As a complete mastering plugin, Initial Audio Mastersiuite is one of the most affordable alternatives on this list.
When purchasing, however, you will receive outstanding value for a modest price. With independent knobs, you can alter the loudness, equalize, and enhance the stereo field of your audio with this plugin. This master buss compressor is perfect for mastering electronic music or beats. You won’t get much hue or warmth from this plugin, but the THD knob and analog button can be used to enhance your sound.
This plugin has a screen in the top centre of the interface that allows you to use the industry-standard LUFS measurement method to monitor the loudness of your track. Users will benefit from this screen because the numbers displayed will turn green whenever the track reaches a predetermined loudness. On the other hand, if it’s too loud, it’ll turn red.
Aside from compression and EQ, this plugin includes a stereo image module with a mono and stereo slider that allows you to extend or tighten your stereo field. The first will let you low-cut the frequencies that you wish to keep mono. The stereo knob, on the other hand, acts as a spreader, widening the stereo impression of mid and high frequencies.
To ensure maximum loudness with minimal distortion, Mastersuite employs an advanced algorithm with mastering tools. With the large loudness knob above the EQ section, you can adjust the volume of your song. The soften and comp mix knobs can be used to regulate the loudness and peaks for a cleaner limitation with a louder volume. This plugin is fantastic for mastering EDM and beats. When mastering instrumental genres, it doesn’t offer the coloration or flavor that is sought. It can, however, be used for quick masters, demos, or simply pumping up the signal to make a song louder. Even though it produces a transparent sound, going up the THD knob causes harmonic distortion, which might be useful depending on your track.
The Mastersuite is a plugin comparable to T-Racks One, and it’s a great option for mastering if you’ve never done it before. Its three-band equalization will help you balance your music, while the loudness knob lets you adjust the level to industry standards. When you consider the price and sound, this is a great choice. However, once you’ve figured out how to use this plugin, we recommend moving on to more advanced all-in-one or individual mastering plugins.
Izotope Ozone 9
When in doubt, Izotope’s Ozone is a good place to start. It’s been fantastic since version 1, and it’ll always be among anyone’s top five mastering options. The ideal way to use Ozone is as a solo mastering suite. This has the advantage of getting you out of your usual DAW process and giving you a chance to look at and listen to your music in a new light.
You may use Ozone to apply numerous processing modules to your imported audio. EQs, an Exciter, Dynamics, Imager, Limiter, and Maximiser can all be chained together. Use only the modules that you think are best for the audio, and if you like, you can even load other VST plugins. If you’re a beginner, you might want to look through the preset collection to see if anything matches the style or genre you’re trying to imitate. However, there are two really useful programs that can assist you with this.
The first is the “Master Assistant,” which is a masterpiece. Master Assistant analyzes your audio and then determines the ideal settings for you, based on your goals. It always comes up with something that improves your mix dramatically. Then you can play around with it to your heart’s desire. The “Reference” tool is another amazing feature. This mode allows you to load a piece of music that you enjoy listening to and then flip between it and your mix to match up components of your mix to the music you enjoy listening to.
Tonal Balance Control is included in the Advanced version, and it provides a visual analysis of your audio as a reference to sound balancing with EQ. It offers a plethora of templates that you can use to master (pun intended) professional masters. The interface is simple and elegant, and it has a peaceful, professional, and future feel about it. It’s quite visually appealing, comes with useful presets and templates, and even if you have no idea what you’re doing, you’ll finish up with a better-sounding mix.