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The Best Mastering Plugins To Help With Finalizing Your Tracks

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Mastering is the final step in getting professional-grade tracks ready for sequencing and distribution, and it’s easily one of the most misunderstood processes in the industry. Rather than manipulating the individual elements of a song like vocal tracks or instruments, the mastering process uses equalization (EQ), compression, and limiting to gently polish a completed mix. It isn’t a magic wand that will fix a bad mix, but it can be just what the doctor ordered to take your mixes to the next level!

Many producers will opt to outsource the mastering process to a separate mastering engineer, but there are excellent plug-ins available that make the mastering process accessible to those who would prefer to do it themselves.

In fact, many of these plug-ins are the exact same tools that professional mastering houses use on tracks, so learning to use them is an affordable window into the world of mastering. If you’re looking for a place to start, you’re in luck: we’ve compiled a list of the best mastering plug-ins available today so you can put the finishing touch on your next project.

What To Look For When Choosing a Mastering Plugin

The best mastering plug-ins balance affordability and usefulness. Just like the plug-ins that you use to manipulate tracks in your mixes, many mastering plug-ins are specifically designed to replicate famous analog equipment. You’ll often need a variety of options to cover equalization, compression, limiting, and specialized sounds like tape saturation. You’ll want to keep the following in mind when shopping for your plug-ins:

Pricing

Mastering can be an incredibly expensive process, especially when it’s handled by a mastering house. Part of what you’re paying for is experience, but with patience and a good set of ears, you can achieve quality results for a fraction of the cost of outsourcing.

Most mastering plug-ins are relatively inexpensive, and websites like Waves frequently run sales, so be sure to take advantage of discounted plug-in options. Our list includes options for the budget-conscious engineer as well as a few luxury options that offer incredible value if you’ve got the coin.

Compatibility – System Requirements

No matter what plug-in you’re using, it’s a good idea to check the system requirements against your own computer to ensure it will operate effectively. We’ve included a section for Mac and PC users to double-check the compatibility of each of the plug-ins on our list.

DAW Compatibility

While it’s certainly possible to purchase an all-inclusive mastering suite, they are fundamentally similar to regular Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) that are used for mixing. Moreover, while some may include proprietary software catered to mastering, many dedicated mastering plug-ins are designed to work in regular DAWs too.

In general, you can use ProTools, Reaper, Logic, and most other modern DAWs. Some, like Presonus’ Studio One, may offer upgrades or crossgrade options to make mastering easier, but as long as your DAW accepts external plug-ins, you can use it to master. Keeping that in mind, we’ve tailored our list to include options that will work for you regardless of what style of DAW you use when mastering your tracks. If you’re still looking for a good DAW for your workflow, we’ve got a list for that, too.

Frequency of Use

Since mastering plug-ins generally emulate outboard studio equipment, they can often be useful for more than just mastering. Although you’ll need more than one plug-in to get the most out of your tracks, the ability to pull double-duty in the rest of your workflow makes them a good investment in your creative process. A high-quality compressor or EQ used for mastering can also be applied during the mixing process to tracks that need a little extra attention, so don’t be afraid to experiment!

Tone

Many plug-ins intended for mastering recreate the nuances of esteemed analog equipment, attempting to digitally capture the tiny flaws and imperfections that impart warmth and character to recordings. Some of the equipment has become synonymous with famous studios – Abbey Road Studios’ J37 tape machine, for example, is highly regarded for its saturation. Fortunately for you, plug-ins like the Waves J37 Tape do an incredible job of emulating the wow and flutter present in classic recordings.

Skill Level

Mastering plug-ins are no more difficult to operate than the plug-ins you’re likely already using to mix recordings, but knowing when to apply them is the trick. Just remember – when it comes to mastering, less is more. Expansive technical options for niche applications can be overwhelming, so we made sure to include a few options that are more user-friendly. You’ll need to know at least the basics of compression and equalization. If you’d like to grow as an audio engineer, we have recommendations for learning audio engineering online.

The 7 Best Mastering Plugins

Now that we’ve covered some of the groundwork, let’s get to it. Here are the best mastering plug-ins for your next project:

1. Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain

Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain

A modular plug-in modeled on the EMI TG12410 mastering console used in London’s famed Abbey Road Studios. The user-experience mimics the original analog controls and the software offers exceptional compression, limiting, and EQ options. Each module can be used independently to suit your needs.

  • Who’s it for? Intermediate to Advanced Rock and Pop Producers
  • Tone: This plug-in is pure vintage-vibe, and it’s compressor imparts a warmth ideal for more than just Beatles enthusiasts.
  • Price: $199
  • DAW Support: All popular DAWs supported, good for Pro Tools.

System Requirements:

macOSWindows
System macOS 10.12.6Windows 10
Memory 8GB RAM8GB RAM

Get this plugin on Waves.

2. iZotope Ozone 9 Standard

iZotope Ozone 9 Standard

Ozone 9 from iZotope is an all-encompassing suite-style option that utilizes artificial intelligence to assist your workflow, making it one of the most user-friendly options if you’re new to mastering. It also features a “Match EQ” module to allow you to easily match the parameters of your favorite reference tracks. iZotope offers both simpler (Elements) and more complex (Advanced) versions, but the Standard version is suitable for most applications.

  • Who’s it for? All skill levels and genres.
  • Tone: The focus here is usability, but tone-mongers will love the vintage compressor and EQ settings.
  • Price: $249 for the Standard version, but you can rent to own on Splice for $9.99/mo.
  • DAW Support: All popular DAWs supported, good for Nuendo.

System Requirements: 

macOSWindows
System OS X 10.11 or laterWindows 7 SP1 or later
Memory 4GB RAM4GB RAM

Rent-to-own at $9.99 per month on Splice.

3. F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ

F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ

A precision application equalizer ideal for both mastering and mixing applications, providing value-over-time. Each band is dynamic and can be set to operate on a threshold, allowing coverage for multiple aspects of a track. Features compression options ideal for side-chaining and parallel compression applications.

  • Who’s it for? Intermediate and Advanced Pop, Rock, and Hip-hop producers.
  • Tone: The unique feature here is the ability to target specific frequencies only during specific moments in a track, so you can apply this to gently spike some bass or dial out harsh sounds as needed.
  • Price: $99
  • DAW Support: All popular DAWs supported, good for Reaper.

System Requirements: 

macOSWindows
System Mac OS 10.12.6-10.15Windows 10 64-bit
Memory 8GB RAM8GB RAM

Buy it from Waves.

4. Waves OneKnob Series

Waves OneKnob Series – Brighter Knob Pictured Here

Emphasizes the user-friendly “one-knob” interface for a quick-fix experience that avoids overcomplicated options. Complex algorithms and functions are hidden from the UI making this ideal for beginners. Available bundled or as a series of individual, application-specific plug-ins with easy to understand names.

  • Who’s it for? Beginner producers of all genres.
  • Tone: The series offers options for just about all of your mastering needs, but the Louder options feature automatic makeup-gain that’s ideal for beginners who just need to get a track up to competitive loudness standards without getting too complicated.
  • Price: $249 as a bundle or $49 per “knob”
  • DAW Support: All popular DAWs supported, good for Logic.

System Requirements: 

macOSWindows
System Mac OS 10.12.6 – 10.15Windows 10 64-bit
Memory 8GB RAM8GB RAM

See on Splice. Buy on Waves.

5. SSL G-Master Buss Compressor

SSL G-Master Buss Compressor

A digital recreation of the famous Solid State Logic 4000 G Console’s compressor. Ideal for finalizing mixes in-the-box but can be used for taming individual tracks in a mix. Developed under an official license from SSL, ensuring circuit accuracy for those seeking a vintage gear experience.

  • Who’s it for? Intermediate and Advanced Producers of all genres.
  • Tone: Emulates the sought-after sound of the original SSL 4000 G to achieve the elusive “glued-together” feel on final mixes.
  • Price: $249
  • DAW Support: All popular DAWs supported, good for WaveLab.

System Requirements: 

macOSWindows
System Mac OS 10.12.6 – 10.15Windows 10 64-bit
Memory 8GB RAM8GB RAM

See on Splice. Buy on Waves.

6. J37 Tape

J37 Tape

A digital tape machine modeled on the J37 unit from Abbey Road Studios. The user interface mimics the analog hardware down to the details on the tape reel. Features 3 tape formulas and a lockable input/output button to ensure consistent operation.

  • Who’s it for? Abbey Road enthusiasts and Rock/Pop producers of all levels.
  • Tone: The wow and flutter settings can be massaged to achieve excellent vintage tape saturation on guitars, vocals, and finished mixes.
  • Price: $299
  • DAW Support: All popular DAWs supported, good for Premiere Pro.

System Requirements: 

macOSWindows
System Mac OS 10.12.6 – 10.15Windows 10 64-bit
Memory 8GB RAM8GB RAM

Check it out on Waves.

7. Eventide Elevate Mastering Bundle

Eventide Elevate Mastering Bundle

A comprehensive mastering suite with a wide array of features. Elevate sets themself apart from the rest by including presets created by celebrity engineers for drag-and-drop parameters. Features 26-band EQ for precise tone shaping.

  • Who’s it for? Advanced producers of all genres.
  • Tone: The “Punctuate” and “Saturate” functions are the star of the show here, allowing easy curbing of harsh transients and the addition of vibey tape sounds.
  • Price: $199
  • DAW Support: All popular DAWs supported, good for Audition.

System Requirements: 

macOSWindows
System Mac OS X 10.7+Windows 7+
Memory 8GB RAM8GB RAM

Buy it from Eventide Audio.

Mastering the Process

Finalizing tracks can be a daunting task, but these plug-ins should make that process a bit easier. Once you’re comfortable with the ins-and-outs of your mastering software, you can start applying what you’ve learned to your next mix, anticipating what you’ll need to do at the end of the process and planning for it from the beginning.

Be sure to check out other plug-ins to make your workflow the best it can be!

Compare Mastering Plugins By Price

PluginManufacturerPrice
Abbey Road TG Mastering ChainWaves$199
iZotope Ozone 9 StandardiZotope$249 or $9.99/mo
F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQWaves$99
Waves OneKnob SeriesWaves$249 Bundle – $49 each
SSL G-Master Buss CompressorWaves$249
J37 TapeWaves$299
Eventide Elevate Mastering BundleEventide$199
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