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Mastering with Plugins ft. Warren Sokol

Alright, so now we’re going to master that same song using just plugins. A little loop I made here. We’re going to jump over there. There we go.

So I’m going to see how this works instead. I wasn’t liking how the kilohertz or the hertz versions sounded on there, so let’s check out the harmonics that this gives us.


And that is definitely sounding a lot better. Once again, this is harmonics over the entire frequency spectrum, instead of just the high end, or just the lows and mids. I’m putting it on the three band version, so its doing different harmonics for low, mid, and high, but it’s taking the whole song and the whole frequency band within consideration, and myself, I’m liking this a lot better.

Alright, I’m going to go back and add that FG-X, the Slate FG-X plugin. Once again, got to clear out all of these things that zero themselves out every time, so… These are just some generic things that I’ll start with, and sometimes, I’ll go and change this guy out. I always go in and bypass the compressor on this. I’m not a big fan of it.


Alright, so that’s one song done with both the analog and a plugin only mastering approach. Once again, not doing it to try to make it as loud as possible, but making it sound good.

So we have two more songs that we’re going to do. As you can see on the screen, we have one of them that is already very loud, and another one that is not very loud. Sometimes, people will clip the output of a digital or analog mix, and when you zoom in like this, if it’s been — you know, made as large as it can go and you start zooming in on it, when I get to a level like this, I can see that there’s still peaks and valleys to these waveforms.

If these peaks go up and just go flat across and then down, and then flat across, that means it’s been clipped. I can tell this has gone through a peak limiter and it isn’t just clipped, because when I zoom in on it, I can still see waveforms.

Next thing I’m going to add in there is another little correctional thing, and actually, this might be better in front of the stereo width, but we’re going to try it out in back of it first.

That is a little bit of de-essing. There’s two different ways to accomplish it in the mastering world, and that is a shelf de-esser, or a bandwidth de-esser. A shelf means that it’s just like an EQ, it’s going to shelf up and control all of the high end, or a certain bandwidth of the high end.

The SPL de-essers are very wide bandwidth, and I can’t control the center frequency of it, but what it does is use phase cancellation as opposed to compression and dynamics to do the de-essing, so it tends to be very, very subtle in what it does, and I think we can get some of the harshness off the high end by doing this.


So the harshness I’m trying to clean up, I can hear really good right here in that snare drum, in that snare buildup. I’ve got it bypassed right now, so here’s without.

[mix, no de-esser]

Just as it gets to the end and “Come on baby” comes back in, I can hear the snare drum distorting.

Let’s — again, with this already being through a limiter, most things we’re going to do to it in an all plugin realm are just going to make things harsher, so I’ve done a little bit of cleanup EQ, we’ve made it just a little bit wider and given it some space between the sounds, and pretty much put the level back to where it was, maybe just a tick louder.

This particular track, it’s a good mix. We’re going to do this one with all plugins as well. It’s a really good mix, so there isn’t a whole lot of going in and correcting things. They gave me a nice, dynamic mix, and it’s a Hip Hop track, so we’re going to make it nice and loud.


Okay, so I’m going to add in the Ozone Dynamics compressor here. By default, I know I said I was just going to master this one, but there’s always something to explain. By default, this one opens up as a four band multi-band compressor. These little plus or minus buttons here are going to allow me to make it a standard single band compressor, and then I’m going to go in here and I’m going to make a high pass on the sidechain.

When we get to that, I’ll explain what’s going on there and what that is for those of you that aren’t familiar with it.


Alright, so what I’m doing with that, what this parameter lets me setup — notice it’s taking all the bass out — and I’m going to leave that control set.

Basically what we’re doing here when I hit this “S,” it’s soloing the sidechain of the compressor, and this filter is on the sidechain of the compressor, and what it’s doing is it’s cutting the bass out of what the compressor hears.

So there’s the compression, and then there’s the sidechain on the compressor, and the sidechain listens to the input and tells it how to adjust the gain — how to do the gain reduction with the amplifier. In a mix, in a mastering situation, the energy of the bass is generally more powerful than the energy of the mid-range and high frequency kind of put together, and I’m sure somebody is going to snap at that statement, but it’s a — it’s a broad statement, not trying to get too technical.

What I’m trying to explain is that the sidechain of the compressor, if I cut the bass out of it, every time the bass hits, it’s not going to compress everything. I just made this a single band compressor, so no matter what happens, the entire frequency range is going to be compressed, because the bass takes up such a large amount of the frequency range, whenever that bass hits, it’s going to suck everything down, so this filter on a sidechain is going to cut the bass out of what the compressor hears. I don’t want to do too much of it, because I want certain notes to still be triggering compression, but I don’t want that kick.

That boom, boom, I don’t want that sucking the entire mix down every time, so I’m going to setup a sidechain filter here so that that kick is no longer triggering the compressor, and I’ll show you what it does after we get it all setup right.


Okay, so now that I’ve got some compression happening there, I can hear it tightening things up, I can take that sidechain off, and hear how that — and you can even see in the waveform, this is showing me the constant gain reduction. I have a pretty low — or I’m sorry, a slow attack and slow release on there, so it’s kind of maintaining a compression level the whole time. Watch what happens to that level of compression when I take the sidechain filter out.

[mix, no sidechain on compressor]

And you can hear it — so you can see the compression happening every time that bass hits now. Boom, boom, boom.


And when I take that filter and put it back in, listen to how the music livens up.


You hear that both of those open up for a second. The second you hit that filter on, the entire mix opens up, and that vocal goes back to sounding alive again.

So the more compression you have, the more the effect that you’ll hear on that. Mastering is always the details. It’s tiny, small movements that all add up into a bigger thing.


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