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Creating an EDM Mastering Chain in 10 Steps

  • Mid-Side Equalization
  • Split EQ and Panning
  • Mid-Side Resonance Reduction
  • Bringing Up Details
  • Exciting High Frequencies
  • Mid-Frequency Upward Bus
  • Omnipressor on Output
  • Hard Clipping to Transients
  • Limiting Stage 1
  • Limiting Stage 2

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Mid-Side Equalization

Let’s start the chain with mid-side equalization - I’ll cut some of the low frequencies from the side image, then boost around 200Hz, or where I found some important low-order harmonics. Lastly, for the side image, I boosted the highs with a shelf, making them wider.

On the mid image, I amplified the fundamental of the kick, dipped a small amount of 250Hz to help higher frequencies sound louder, and boosted 3kHz for the same reason.

The frequencies and Q values you pick will probably vary slightly, but this should be a good starting point. Let’s take listen to a full A B of the unmastered and mastered tracks, using peak normalization to make them easier to compare.

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Split EQ and Panning

I inserted this SplitEQ by Eventide and amplified the lows, high mids, and highs, using the transient and tonal bands shown in green and blue respectively. Once I found how much I wanted to amplify, I opened up the panning section to introduce mid-side panning.

Notice that on the lows I centered the transients, on the high mids I subtly widened the tone, and on the highs, I centered the transients and widened the tone band a good amount.

This greatly increased the impact of the kick, while helping me find a good balance between width and transient detail in the highs.

Let’s take a listen, and let me know if the comments if you can hear a difference.

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Mid-Side Resonance Reduction

I used this resonance reducer to subtly balance the frequency spectrum - you can put this processor later in the chain to help reduce some of the resonances caused by your processing, but I found it worked well earlier in the chain. Notice, I kept the kick from triggering the processor.

Then I got very subtle attenuation from the rest of the frequency spectrum and blended the effect in with the mix dial. Let’s take a listen, and let me know if you think it sounds a little more balanced.

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Bringing Up Details

I went through a few upward processors, and found that this inflator sounded the best for this particular mix - I used an aggressive effect percentage, but then compensated for that by lowering the input slightly. I found the band split setting with a slightly higher curve sounded best to me.

That said, be sure to use your ear and find the processor and settings you enjoy the most.

Let’s take a listen, and notice how the track becomes fuller.

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Exciting High Frequencies

At this point, I felt the highs were lacking, so I used this free Fresh Air plugin to amplify 2 high shelf filters, as well as add harmonics to the high frequencies. I used slightly more aggressive settings than I typically would since I felt the track called for it.

Let’s take a listen, and notice how the plugin creates a noticeably brighter, more detailed high-frequency range.

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Mid-Frequency Upward Bus

Using a bus and an auxiliary track, I first used a linear phase EQ to isolate the mid image of the mid - I set this to include a good combination of the low mids to high mids, but include what you feel sounds best. Then, I inserted this upward compressor.

With it, I decreased the dynamic range from the noise floor up, and from the peaks down to create a really dense sound, before bending it in with the aux track’s channel fader.

Let’s listen, and let me know if you think this creates a more dense, and upfront sound.

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Omnipressor on Output

I was worried this processor wouldn’t fit the genre, since it seems more geared toward rock, however, it worked perfectly for increased the kick’s impact, and controlling dynamics. It both compresses and expands whenever the signal is above or below the threshold, causing a great controlled dynamic range.

Since we’re mastering I used subtle ranges, and a low ratio, but still notice a big impact on the track’s perceived loudness and punchiness. Let’s take a listen.

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Hard Clipping to Transients

Before I start my limiting stages I want to clip the transients, just enough to cause some white noise whenever they cross the threshold. This way, the transients are controlled; however, the white noise makes them sound as if they’re still present - letting me use more limiting later on.

Let’s listen, and let me know if the transients sound a little brighter to you.

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Limiting Stage 1

For the first limiting stage, let’s use this Oxford limiter with a fast attack, fast release, no dithering, no auto gain compensation, and about 25% of the enhance function dialed in. This enhance function in particular brings up quiet details, including any white noise added from clipping.

Let’s listen and notice how the track sounds fuller and more aggressive, and how we achieve loudness without the need for aggressive peak attenuation.

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Limiting Stage 2

When mastering EDM, I like to use a second limiter to introduce either a dynamic or transient enhancing algorithm. This way, I can increase the loudness slightly, and keep the impact of the dynamics - in this instance I used some oversampling, no lookahead, and a quick attack and release.

Also, I chose to de-link the left and right channels, causing attenuation to them separately - I like this option whenever I’ve used heavy limiting since it brings a little life and variation back into the track.

Lastly, I brought this master up to about -6.5 to -6 LUFS, as is pretty standard with EDM, but feel free to make yours a little louder or quieter as you see fit.

Let’s listen to the full before and after one more time, to see where we started and where we ended up.

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