I’m getting so many demos in lately, and almost every track has the same problem so I want to point it out in here.
When you made a track and you’re happy with the mix, the next step you do is mastering it. That’s good, it has to be mastered of course. But guys, don’t just put a cracked Ozone limiter on the masterbuss and smash the track against it.
There are a few methods for mastering but I’ll give you a chain which is commonly used in the scene.
Start off with cutting the unwanted low freqs. Some say that’s around 15hz, others say it’s around 35hz. I mostly cut around 20hz. Waves has a good linear phase EQ for that. Linear Phase EQ from them is now on sale for those who wonder.
The next step is stereo imaging, mono the side under 60 – 110hz and EQ the mid and side properly. Try to not use more than 4 or 5 bands at max. You can do so much rather than just making all those small curves which will cut out frequencies you need when another tone is playing. The Brainworx BX is a terrific plugin for it.
Now you need to compress stuff. The best option is to compress the mid and side apart from each other imo, but of course, you can take a regular stereo compressor and do your thing. A VCA style (like the SSL G Bus aka The Glue) has a wonderful sound and transparency. I use the Waves API2500 all the time when mastering digital. It’s a good emulation of the real deal (yes, I’ve got the real 2500 in my rack) and it comes quite close. I take a ratio of 1:3 max (mostly 2 or even less) with a pretty long attack so you have some transients before smashing it against the limiter. Take a release of more or less 200ms, that works most of the time, but you have to feel that one, it needs to have a stable output sound.
You can also add a distortion/saturation plugin to give a slight saturation for a more vintage feel.
The last step is maximizing it to end with a broadcast-ready product. The most important rule of them all: don’t want to be the loudest. There is a volume knob on every playback medium and streaming services like Spotify and YouTube both have their compression settings which is around -12db LUFS. I recommend using a softclipper and, what I prefer, a brickwall limiter. There are tons of plugins out there so don’t only focus on the Izotope bundle, I don’t even use those plugins. Make sure no distortion is there at the end
An overall LUFS of -12db is a good value as long as you can get it sound stable. Dynamics are still important. A less loud mix can sound louder and punchier. There are some good monitoring plugins around. WLM from Waves is a good one. I use a hardware tool, the TC Electronic Clarity M.
Please take care of this, nobody is waiting to hear a master which is pushed to its limits. The biggest hits ever are pretty silent mastered.
I hope I’ve helped you guys out with it, and hopefully, the next promos will sound well balanced!