Mastering Plugins – Free VST Effects to Help Facilitate This Step of Audio Recording
It is the final step of the recording process in which the mixed recording is transformed into a finished product, the one that is pressed and released for the public to adore or abhor. Of course I prefer the former, but I have learned to expect the latter. It happens. But back to the mastering process. This is where the different dynamics and frequencies of a group of songs are tied together to make a cohesive final product. This includes the employment of equalization, compression, and limiting to get the desired results. When listening to the mastered version in your car, you hope to hear a nice, smooth flow from song to song. Let’s put it simply. You shouldn’t have to adjust the volume or equalizer to account for drastic changes from song to song. If recording a single song, then it still needs to be mastered for it to fit swimmingly with other songs it’ll be played alongside (radio, playlists, compilations). And yes, I just used the word “swimmingly.” I’ve been wanting to do that for a while. There is some additional technical bull crap involved in the actual transfer of the recording to the final copy used for pressing, but that’s a conversation for the next life.
If you’ve done any amount of research on VST plugins for mastering, then you have definitely come across the brand Waves. They produce some of the most popular plugins used in the mastering process. You have also most likely seen their price tags. Yep, their prices do not work for me. I do not care how great they are. There are other tools out there that can get the job done with favorable results. Most are definitely cheaper, and some are even FREE! Assuming you have the knowledge and experience to get the most out your VST plugins, then there should be no problems using many of these free VST effects. Just make sure not to squash, clip, and destroy your recording (The Loudness War). Let’s take a look at some free VST effects plugins that can used in the mastering stage of audio recording.
C3 Multi-Band Compressor – I first started using this compressor to tame wild frequencies on vocal tracks recorded with a dynamic mic. Works great in the Mastering stage.
W1 Limiter by Yohng – Modeled after the Waves L1, I love this limiter because when I’m making adjustments, it is immediately obvious when I have gone too far. It doesn’t have a spectacular user interface. BetabugsAudio made a version with a skin, as pictured to the right, but it never worked for me.
Voxengo Span – A frequency analyzer, I use this to visually match one recording to another. It’s a great tool.
Sweetboy T-Sledge – A number of tools and presets for mastering (multi-band compressor, limiter, expander, dynamic EQ)
Kjaerhus Audio Classic Series – Old goodies, includes EQ, compressor, and limiter
Way, way more to come!