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Why Use Six Plug-ins While Mastering When You Only Need Two?

In my video with Ian Shepherd, which you can see part of right here, he brought me down to earth with a few things.

First of all, it’s not about the amount of plug-ins you slap on the master bus.

It’s how you use them!

He counted six plug-ins in my mastering chain and he only had two.

Actually he kind of lied but I’ll give it to him, one of his plug-ins actually has both multiband compression and EQ so that’s technically two but the point still stands.

And to be honest, I felt a little dumb about it because that time I strayed away from my typical mastering chain I more or less learned from Ian Shepherd to begin with.

Which is simply:

Gain – For when you need to add or subtract a little volume to the original mix. Better to have it at a healthy level before you start.

EQ – Mastering EQ is all about balance. Put it right there at the beginning of the chain so you can get a nice balanced EQ before you move on to any other processors.

Multiband Compression – Multiband compression is preferable to normal compression because you want to treat frequency ranges differently. If you want to get a juicy and compressed drum sound and low-end you don’t want to take the vocals and high-end with you. You want to keep the lows tight while making the highs breathe. That’s what multiband compression lets you do.

Limiting – It’s scary how many people are afraid of limiting. If I’ve done everything well it shouldn’t be limiting that much and it should just be catching the stray peaks to glue everything together.

Perception – Adding all these processors will inevitably raise the overall volume of the song. And when it sounds louder it’s gonna sound great! Louder is better so we’re all good there. Ehm…no. That’s why I have the Perception Plug-in from Ian Shepherd as well. It lets me quickly A/B the mix and master so I can hear if I’m making things better…or just louder.

Metering – I use Voxengo’s Span for all my frequency analysis needs. It helps you notice inconsistencies in the frequency spectrum and helps you locate areas that might be causing problems. I also use the Waves WLM meter to check (and sometimes ignore…) how loud my mix is.

That’s more or less it. I still don’t think the saturation or tape emulation was that bad of an idea if you’re looking to add some warmth. What I did do wrong was to not level-match the before and after while I was slapping plug-ins on left and right. It does add some warmth but if the level jumps 6 dBs it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on.

Of course, knowing how to use those plug-ins is the key to making great masters which is where the Home Mastering Masterclass comes in.

In the 8-week course you’ll learn topics on:

  • The basics and essentials: EQ, compression and limiting
  • Using stereo imaging and multiband compression
  • Parallel compression in mastering
  • Distortion and saturation
  • Mid/Side EQ
  • Mastering with stems

And not only do you tackle all topics but Ian goes over them by using very diverse genres ranging from pop, rock and folk to electronic house, metal and jazz.

Remember that if you become a member using my affiliate link below I’ll send you the complete 54 minute walkthrough with Ian Shepherd where he gives me tips on improving my mastering using EQ and compression.

Here’s where you go:

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About me

About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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