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Mastering with Slate Digital FG-X & VTM

Hey guys, what’s up? I hope you had a good Thanksgiving. I had a great one. Got to go home, see some friends, see some family, listen to a bunch of records, just kind of hang out and breath a little bit.

Just got back this week and wanted to do a new video. Today I’ve got some mastering info for you. You know, we’ve all had to master our own projects, especially being home studios guys, you’ve got to do a lot.

If it’s a big project and I have a budget, I’ll always send it out. I’m not a mastering guy, but I’m going to show you some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way when I have to do it myself and sort of how I do this stuff. Maybe it’ll help you out.

So we’ve got this print from a mix I’ve brought in. It’s a remix for an Indaba music contest. Pop track, pretty aggressive, so loud, in your face. Female vocals. Acoustic kind of vibe.

Let me bypass these plug-ins, and usually what I’ll do is I’ll pull it in and I’ll go to the loudest part of the mix, which is usually the bridge or the last chorus or something like that, and — so let’s check out the last chorus here. This is what it sounds like, no processing.

[mix, raw]

So there you go.

So what our goal is is to get it louder, and in order to do that, there’s a compromise. If you get it really loud, you put a brick wall limiter up, you’re going to kill your transients and you’re going to lose that punchiness in the low end, you’re going to lose the crack on the snare drum, and a lot of details in your transients, right?

And that sucks because you sort of spent a lot of time getting that together in your mix hopefully.

We also do subtle EQing and subtle compression. When I say subtle, I mean like half a dB to a dB of EQ, and that’s either boosting or cutting. Really gentle curves. Same thing with compression. You’re not really slamming anything at this point. You’re just sort of hugging it a little bit. You know?

So first things first, I’ve got an EQ. This is H-EQ from Waves. This is what it sounds like.

[mix with H-EQ]


[mix without EQ]


So what do we do? We high-passed 39, got rid of some subs, a gentle curve, we’ve got a low filter on at 144 where we’re cutting minus 1.7dB, getting rid of a little bit of gunk, and then we’ve got a high filter going, a shelf at 10kHz.

[mix, with and without EQ]


Subtle differences, right? Subtlety. We’re not doing anything drastic here.

Then I go into this Steven Slate Virtual Tape Machine, which is freaking awesome. I bought this thing not too long ago, and I’ve been loving it. Input at 0.5. Normal bias, two inch track, FG-9 tape type, and I’ve got 15 IPS as far as speed goes.

[mix with Virtual Tape]

So without it.

[mix without Virtual Tape]

With it.

[mix with Virtual Tape]

Really cool plug-in. Subtlety kind of adds a little bit of analog character there.

Then we go into FG-X. I know that’s more Slate Digital stuff. I’ve been using this thing for a long time. I love it. It’s super affordable for the home studio guys. Both of these plug-ins. I think Virtual Tape Machine is like, $150 and FG-X is maybe around there somewhere. I really don’t know. Check out his website.

Anyways, it’s just a really great plug-in and I’m glad someone finally made something — a solution for us home studio guys to get some stuff done at home and still get some quality.

So this plug-in. What is it? It’s basically a mastering suite. It’s a compressor and a limiter, and then you’ve got metering, all in one. So let’s bypass. I’m going to turn off the limiter side and we’re just going to look at this top part here, which is a compressor.

We’ve got a power button, we’ve got settings, which is pretty much going to adjust gain reduction and how you’re viewing the meter and options for threshold and ratio.

We’ve got attack, we’ve got release, we’ve got ratio, we’ve got threshold, like any other compressor you’ve ever seen. I’m running quickish attack, mild sort of middle ground on the release to slow, ratio is at like, 1.2, 1.3. Then threshold I brought up — I really didn’t want a lot of compression. I’m talking like, minus a dB. One dB.

This is what it’s doing.

[mix with FG-X]

This is without it.

[mix without FG-X]

With it.

[mix with FG-X]


Right. So that’s the compressor.

Now we get into the real magic. Turn the limiter on. This is where we’re going to get our volume, and he uses this ITP, which is I think it’s a Intelligent Transient Preservation or something like that. It’s probably an insane algorithm math problem that Fabrice made that allows us to get the volume out of the track without killing the transients. So we still get the crack from the snare, we still get the low punch from the kick.

Then you can sort of adjust sort of how aggressive the algorithm is working or sort of — you can back it off and make it a little more smooth.

So we’ve got low punch and detail, you go into settings… I have them linked. So let’s play that. This is going to get loud.

[mix, adjusting FG-X]

Alright, so we’ll crank the low punch and the detail all the way up and you can hear what that sounds like.

[mix, low punch and detail maxed]

So really extreme, but you can hear what it does to the top end. Here’s with it all the way back down.


And I had it at about right here.


So that’s low punch and detail. Gain is your big fat volume knob. Crank that up. You know, until you get it to the volume you want. Obviously, we all want our tracks to be loud. Fletcher Munson tells us louder sounds better. Check that out.


Dynamic perception, I don’t know exactly how to explain this, but here, let’s just crank it up and you can hear what it does.


Basically, it’s got a little bit to do with compression and how much those transients have to breath. When you back it all the way out, you get a little more breathing room, and when you slam it, it gets slammed. It’s like a wall goes up.

You can adjust how much of that you want in there. ITP again, I’m not super sure exactly what’s happening math wise and frequency wise here, but I’ll crank that and then I’ll bring it back down so you can hear the difference.

[mix, adjusting ITP]

So there you go. You can go in, dither, you’ve got your ceiling settings, if you want this to be like, minus 0.5, minus 0.1, you’ve got a preference there. Then your output is 16-bit.

The cool thing about the metering, you can adjust the metering, you can zoom in so you can really see what’s going on here.


But you can also just turn it off so you can just listen, because your ears will tell you what sounds good. Music isn’t in metering. You know, music is what we hear and what we feel. So you can turn this off.


Then you get that.

Those are the basic three plug-ins I’m pretty much using when I master nowadays at home.

On the 2buss, I’ve got this PAZ analyzer Waves makes so it’ll kind of show me what’s going on stereo wise and the overall frequency curve.

Out of that, I’ve got this second audio track, we’ll do the print. Set your outputs, record enable, once you have everything going, and then you know, just hit record. I’ll record a little bit and you can sort of see the visual difference between the two, and here we go.


Alright. Zoom in. I mean, you can see these are big differences between these two waveforms.

But yeah, so a quick way to get going with this, I’m not a hardcore mastering guy. I’ve learned some stuff along the way. If you have any opinions on these plug-ins, let me know. Do you like them, do you not like them.

I think they’re great. They’re super affordable and I think it’s a couple of plug-ins that we’ve been needing for awhile. I’m glad someone finally put together a great mastering solution for home studio guys.

I’ve tried the iZotope Ozone stuff, and I could never really get into it, but maybe that was just me. I know a lot of people that love it. I’m sure there are people out there that would go and — this stuff is quick, it’s easy, it gets the job done and you don’t have to spend hours working on it.

So anyways, like the video, subscribe, if you head over to the website, I’ve got some premium lessons on EQ, fundamentals of EQ, it’s three videos. About 40 minutes worth of info. We go over different types of EQs, the terminology and I walk you through a session and I’ll show you the curves I use, the settings I use.

So check that out. It’s really affordable. You download it and keep it forever, it’s yours, and yeah. I’ll see you next time.




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