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Mastering Software for Home Studios

Thursday November 24, 2022. 02:00 PM , from Sweetwater inSync
Mastering Software for Home Studios
After you nail your final mix, there’s one process left before your music is ready to be submitted to streaming services or sent to a duplication plant: mastering. Are you up to speed on mastering? If not, then check out Craig Anderton’s informative article “Mastering in Your DAW.” You can also check out our articles “How to Master Your Music” and “What Is the Difference Between Mixing and Mastering?“

So, what do you need for effective mastering in your software-based studio? This article will dive into some of the best mastering software, plug-ins, and bundles for DIY home-recording enthusiasts. You’ll find that, with the right software in your home studio’s toolbox, you’ll be well on your way to achieving commercial-quality recordings.

iZotope Ozone 10 Advanced

Home studio users searching for a comprehensive, all-in-one mastering solution will find everything they need — and more — in iZotope Ozone 10 Advanced. A top seller since its introduction in 2001, Ozone enables you to sculpt, shape, polish, and pump up your mixes with studio-quality EQ and compression along with processors for leveling up your mix’s frequency balance, micro-dynamics, low frequencies, high frequencies, and stereo width. You also get tools for correcting individual instrument levels within a stereo file and for analyzing and optimizing your master’s frequency response plus vintage-inspired modules to add grit and character to your projects. Ozone’s renowned Maximizer, delta monitoring, and codec preview are also on tap. Beyond that, Ozone’s powerful AI-assisted processing supplies a custom-tailored starting point with a simple mouse click.

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IK Multimedia Lurssen Mastering Console

Would you like an entire virtual mastering processing chain in your home studio? If you buy the IK Multimedia Lurssen Mastering Console, then that’s what you’ll get. This excellent-sounding software package emulates the entire mastering rig of top mastering engineers Gavin Lurssen and Reuben Cohen, arming you with a top-tier cache of tube and solid-state equalizers, limiters, de-essers, and compressors. You can use — or abuse — this virtual chain just as you would its real-world counterpart by increasing your input signal to drive the processors harder. You also get full automation capabilities and accurate VU metering. What’s more, you can choose from 25 mastering templates created by Lurssen and Cohen for specific musical genres, using the same workflow they do in their mastering studio.

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Newfangled Audio Elevate Mastering Bundle

Mastering involves more than simply making a mix louder; it must also sound better. The Newfangled Audio Elevate Mastering Bundle does both and with surgical precision. At the heart of the Elevate Mastering Bundle is an adaptive multiband limiter that responds to your audio in real time, analyzing 26 frequency bands and altering their gain, speed, and transients, thereby increasing loudness while maximizing dynamic perception. You also get a paragraphic EQ modeled on the human ear, spectral clipping that maintains your tonal balance, and multiband transient shaping for punching up your master. Six different types of metering are included, as is a generous cache of professional presets from top mastering engineers.

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Pulsar Audio Massive & Mu

Every top mastering studio has at least one high-end analog EQ and compressor. Thanks to the Pulsar Audio Massive & Mu Bundle, you can put two component-accurate emulations of the industry’s most popular tube-fueled mastering processors inside your DAW. Massive is a spot-on digital re-creation of the tube-powered, all-passive equalizer prized by engineers for its smooth, character-filled tone shaping. Mu is a super-accurate emulation of the world-renowned variable-bias compressor used to add “glue” to professional masters. Best of all, these two plug-ins include many features that aren’t available on the original hardware. With both of these plug-ins in your mastering tool kit, you’ll be able to elevate the quality of your home-brewed masters with a few mouse clicks.

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Slate Digital FG-X

Finding the right balance between “glued together” and “dynamic” is a delicate process. Too little compression, and your mix will sound inconsistent; too much, and it will sound lifeless. Comprised of the FG Level maximizer and the FG Comp compressor, Slate Digital FG-X solves this dilemma by using what the company calls “Intelligent Transient Preservation.” Based on years of research analyzing saturation curves, this technology safeguards your track’s dynamic range and punchiness, yielding you a master that pumps with energy while avoiding the plague of overcompression. FG-X looks ahead at your audio and optimizes its response based on any upcoming transients, giving you super-transparent, custom-tailored results.

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FabFilter Mastering Bundle

Already have a few mastering plug-ins but want to bolster your collection with a cache of top-tier processors? If so, then the FabFilter Mastering Bundle is a great way to go. This bundle includes four of FabFilter’s finest:


These are all industry favorites found in the plug-in folders of pro-level mastering engineers everywhere. Pro-Q provides ultra-powerful sonic sculpting while Pro-MB gives you robust multiband compression and expansion. Pro-L is one of the most widely used brickwall limiters, and Pro-C is a compressor with killer sound and unmatched versatility. Besides sounding amazing on their own, all the plug-ins in the FabFilter Mastering Bundle play exceptionally well with each other and with other plug-ins you may have in your home studio.

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Zynaptiq Master Bundle

The Zynaptiq Master Bundle is essential for any home studio that plans to master in-house as it fixes many common issues by using effective AI-powered processing you won’t find anywhere else. You get three individual plug-ins. Unfilter repairs severe, hard-to-fix audio damage with minimal effort. Intensity infuses your masters with clarity, detail, density, and loudness. And Unmix::Drums allows you to adjust the drum level in a final mix even if you don’t have access to the original stems. The Zynaptiq Master Bundle will equip your home studio to perform feats that used to require a lot of time and a horde of expensive gear.

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Oeksound soothe2

If mastering engineers could get a dollar for every harsh-sounding mix handed to them, then they’d be rolling in cash — it happens all the time. That’s where Oeksound soothe2 comes in. This cutting-edge resonance suppressor automatically removes harshness from your audio, taming outlying frequencies and resonances while maintaining vital timbre and sound. It’s a huge timesaver, too. Rather than sweeping around the frequency spectrum with an equalizer to identify excessive frequencies, you can simply instantiate the plug-in and let it get to work. So, next time you get a shrill mix and aren’t sure what to do with it, deploy soothe2, “soothe” the audio, then get on with your life.

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Waves Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain

Abbey Road is arguably the most famous recording studio of all time. And, thanks to the Waves Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain, you can give your home studio’s mixes that elusive “Abbey Road sound.” This plug-in includes five modules meticulously modeled on the legendary Abbey Road EMI TG12410 Transfer Console used in all Abbey Road’s mastering suites:

TG12411 Input ModuleTG12412 Tone Module (EQ)TG12413 Compressor/Limiter ModuleTG12414 Filter ModuleTG12416 V.A.L. (Spread) Module (stereo component only)

You get an Output module and comprehensive metering with accurate VU, PPM, phase, and peak readings at a glance. You also get stereo, duo, and M-S processing modes and stereo, mono, left, right, mid, and sides monitoring modes.

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Solid State Logic Bus Compressor 2

The SSL G-Series center section bus compressor is one of the most ubiquitous pieces of gear on the planet — it’s the magical piece of gear that glues a mix together and “makes it sound like a record.” The Solid State Logic Bus Compressor 2 plug-in is an SSL-designed emulation of this fabled processor. This plug-in delivers the sound of the real hardware, injecting your mix with punch — even at high compression ratios. You get all the same controls as the original analog hardware but with the addition of parallel processing and a sidechain highpass filter. There’s an SSL G-Series Bus Comp in every mastering studio worth its salt. If you want your home studio to generate pro-sounding masters, then this plug-in is mandatory.

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Have questions about mastering software or about mastering in general? Call your Sweetwater Sales Engineer at (800) 222-4700. They’ll be happy to share our expert knowledge with you.
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