New to Mastering


New member
I took some advice when EQ ing vocals. I cut all my vocal tracks 100 hz low end. I also took out a lot of reverberation in my vocal tracks to get rid of noise that I thought was helping my mixes. I have probably done 10 mixes on my current project. The best one I have been trying to master over the last few days. I have a question. What main plugins do you want to use when mastering? I have been using a compressor in Cubase 11 Elements. I also have access to a maximizer, but I really do not understand the scope of what it is doing to my master track. Basically I am just pushing buttons to hear how it sounds. Last night I was bypassing the compression I applied to my master track and to be honest the Bypassed signal sounded better to me, but I figured maybe there was something more that I was missing. So basically I have a Studio EQ plugin, a compressor, and a Maximizer. I guess my main question is when would you need to use more than one when mastering? I also have a limiter and other plugins as well. Just not sure here.

You use what you need to use. You do what the mix tells you to do.

These are things you probably did while mixing - and in no small part, why you'll rarely ever find engineers that will master their own mixes.
If your mix sounds better without compression then definitely stop and evaluate. Could be your settings are wrong, or your mix balance is weighted too heavily to bass freqs, so your compressor pumps to that. If you make it sound worse then you can't recover your mix from that. Every choice all the way down the chain has to be for the better.

You know what they say....
Record like there is no Mixing, Mix like there is no Mastering.

Some mixes don't need mastering that they are that good. I'm sure in those instances mix bus compressors and EQ was still slapped across the master channel before being sent to mastering engineer, so technically the track was mastered before being sent off to be mastered.

I work where if I have to do anymore than 3db cut on the master with EQ, i go back to the mix.
If I need to compress more than 3-5db, I go back to the mix
If I need to limit more than 1-3db, I go back to the mix
I’ve been doing audio for about 10 years now and I will never attempt to do a master. Entirely different beast to learn, and I just don’t feel like learning and investing in it. Also, as Massive mentioned, doing it to my own mixes is not the best idea.
In no particular order:

Low End - you need to manage the low end.

Imaging - a plug in to manage the images (Like the Waves S1)

Equalizer - at least the 10 band digital EQ - to shape your mix.

Dynamic Equalizer - one that interpets your EQ choices - Controlling threshold, attack, and release along with frequency and gain like an Compressor
but with EQ.

Dynamics Compressor - a very accurate compressor - like a 4 band mastering compressor - again to calm your peaks or bring up your gaps.

Exciter - now this is not needed but it can add distortion into your mix to give it character.

Maximizer - to manage the loudness you want to achieve ( Waves L3)

This is just a overall look - you could get Ozone 9 ($99) and be right there. The thing is Mastering Tools are expensive.