Making a Mastering Chain in a DAW


New member
What is a good mastering chain to build in a DAW? For me, it will be in ProTools & I have Komplete 12 Ultimate Collector's Edition.


I start with good mastering limiter -> LUFS meter. I'll add things before the limiter if needed, usually an eq or a compressor, but that's heading toward mix remediation territory. For certain mixes I'll add a LF narrowing filter. Everything but the LUFS meter goes upstream of the limiter.

Massive Master
The main limiter is pretty important. I'd argue that the metering is far less important if your monitoring chain is properly calibrated and you're familiar with it - But that's for another day. And these days, there are clients who ask for very specific numbers (I really hope the "loudness war" ends soon, but I've been saying that for 20+ years).

EVERYTHING ELSE - is what the mix asks for. I'm a hybrid house with analog and digital processing. My analog chain is simple. I have a main EQ and a main dynamics processor. Both of which are on nearly everything that comes through here. I have "alternate versions' available for mixes that are asking for those things. But as some of the work (usually on the corrective side) is nearly always done digitally, that's where each mix asks for what it needs. And I have no idea what that mix wants until I'm listening to it.

So long story short, you're asking the unanswerable. Study your tools, know your tools, listen with objectivity and do what the mix is asking you to do.


There once was a note
I spent along time experimenting before I settled on what I use 90% of the time which is: 3 Steven Slate Mastering plugins, the first is set very light then each on a little bit more, then the last is the Izotope Ozone Limiter. I'm a DIY guy but very happy with the results. Sometimes I change the settings on one of the Steven Slate Plugins. I always adjust the limiter to the song.


New member
I was always surprised how little gear was ever used when I went and sat in on attended mastering sessions, so the same applies. Usually one or two EQ options, one compressor (doing almost nothing) maybe a de-esser if I'd been slack, A/D and a limiter. There's no one size fits all chain as the real guys will tell you, but that's the basics. Acustica Ivory has a nice model of the Maselec gear if you're looking at plugins.