Mastering software is provided by many companies around the world for both professional use and home studio use. Mastering software heavy weights such as Universal Audio and Slate Digital provide very good alternatives to high end analogue mastering. These companies provide very intelligent sophisticated plugins often emulating high quality analogue equipment to a very good standard.
Not all mastering software is good. For instance many believe that an all in one mastering processor such as Ozone will give you high quality results. Mastering tools such as Ozone achieve very poor results. In every test I have done with Ozone have not been good. Which is why many mastering engineers refer to it as Lolzone or more commonly refereed to as an mp3 converter for it’s lack of high quality ability to perform a professional sounding master. In many test I have personally done I’ve been able to achieve far better results using stock plugins received with DAWs over all in one mastering plugins. Test for yourself don’t just believe the marketing hype. Believe me you’ll be shocked at the results.
Plugin emulations are a great way to get a great sound within the box. Universal Audio provide the best analogue emulation on the market. Their mastering range consist of some great tools. Below are a list of mastering plugins UAD have to offer.
I’ve used this plugin for quite a while now for digital mastering. Acts much like the hardware equivalent with all the same controls and functions. I’ve used the Shadow Hills mastering compressor hardware on quite a few analogue mastering jobs and will always make use of the Shadow Hills Dual Vandergraph 500 series module whilst mastering at Audio Animals Studio.
The Vertigo Sound VSM-3 is a very unique mastering tools and is not something that will make it into every mastering job. It’s a great tool for adding subtle saturation to the master bus and add all sorts of rich harmonic distortion.
The Sonnox Inflator plugin is one I will use a great deal. This plugin can also be purchased as a native plugin directly from Sonnox. I have used both and side by side flipping from one to the other on the same audio source there isn’t a great deal of difference. The Sonnox Inflator adds power, presence, and tube-like warmth to program material. Will increase perceived loudness to a master without reducing dynamic range a great deal.
The Refinement plugin by Brainwox is nothing short of excellence. Not only a great tool over the master bus but also an incredible tool for use in the mix. The refinement tool will remove harsh sound in your master as well as add tube like saturation and tube like warmth. A must have tool in your digital mastering chain.
Designed by legendary mastering engineer Bob Katz this is a must have for all digital mastering. If your mastering engineer isn’t adding this into your mastering chain you are greatly at a disadvantage to others. The difference this plugin will make to a master is night and day. Far wider masters are achieved with giving the impression a stereo widener will give.
The Precision Multiband compressor acts a lot like our Maselec MLA-3 multiband compressor. We will use the precision multiband compressor within our digital mastering chain for a similar purpose to our Maselec MLA-3 which will be used in our analogue mastering chain. 5 bands of precise compression and control.
The precision limiter works like many other limiters offering brick wall limiting for the hardest rates of compression. Totally colorless limiting characteristics and 1.5ms look-ahead, brick-wall, zero overshoot. I’m not a big fan of brickwall limiting using limiters like this so personally I don’t use it a great deal. I much prefer to achieve loudness through precise compression without relying on hard brickwall limiting.
The maximizer is an excellent tool used to gain maximum loudness on the master bus. We’ll use this plugin a lot whilst digitally mastering electroinic music that requires a loud RMS. Whilst over maximizers dramatically reduce dynamics the UAD maximizer keeps a lot of your dynamic range.
The precision eq is much like the Manley Massive Passive eq UAD offer. Think of it like a poor man Manley plugin. Results are similar and functions are pretty much the same. I own this eq but very rarely use it de to owning the Manley Massive Passive eq. Saying that it does have a purpose in a digital mastering chain. 2 sets of 2 overlapping frequency ranges per channel give you great control over frequencies in the mastering stage.