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How to Master in FL Studio

When mastering in FL Studio, and using stock plugins, start with a parametric EQ to attenuate troublesome frequencies. Then introduce some subtle saturation to fill out the sound, upward compression to increase detail, transient expansion to improve transients, additive EQ to rebalance the signal, and some compression and limiting.

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1. Starting With Subtractive EQ

For this video, I’ll use all stock plugins and show all processing as a chain. Also, keep in mind that the effects will be subtle - so they may be hard to hear individually, but collectively create a good master.

Starting the chain, I’ll use the fruity parametric EQ 2 primarily to attenuate frequencies that I don’t want to amplify with subsequent processing. For this track in particular I use a high-pass to the imperceivable frequencies and get more headroom, then I dipped some excessive lows and high mids.

Both of these dips were a little less than 1 dB. Let’s take a listen to how this EQ subtly balances the signal.

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2. Very Subtle Saturation

Saturation will both subtly compress, and add harmonics that increase the overall loudness and cause the mix to sound fuller. I used the Fruity Blood Overdrive, with a very low preamp level, and moderate coloration, which I found was just enough for this particular track.

Although this plugin is perfect for mastering, it does have a nice sound, which you can always blend in with the mix level dial.

Let’s listen to how this plugin increases loudness and fullness.

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3. Maximus for Upward Compression

Maximus is typically used for downward compression, but I like the sound of it maximization better - to do this I simply increase the level of each band’s mid-point by about 1%. This increases the level of each one of these bands but from the lower level upward.

For the highs, I’ll use a quicker attack and release but make these a little longer for the mids and lows to avoid unwanted distortion.

Let’s listen to how Maximus increases the loudness and detail while slightly reducing the dynamic range.

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4. Transient Processing for Detail

For the last 2 chapters, I’ve been making the signal sound full at the expense of the dynamics, but now I want to start differentiating aspects of the mix. An easy way to do this is with a transient processor, and to subtly increase the attack to amplify the transients.

With the split frequency dial, I’ll isolate the processing to my mids and above, then increase the attack to about 20% while setting the detection to fast.

Let’s listen to how this subtly increases the higher frequencies of the kick and snare.

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5. Additive and Shaping EQ

Since we’re using stock plugins and may not have as much control as we’d like, an EQ at this point will help to rebalance the frequency spectrum. Here I added some lows, very subtly reduce my low mids, boosted vocal presence, and the clarity with a high shelf.

Let’s listen to how this rebalanced the mix.

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6. Soft-Clipper for Subtle Harmonics

A soft-clipper is going to add dynamic harmonic distortion - in other words, whenever the transient passes the threshold, we’ll achieve mild distortion which, depending on the settings, will increase the low or high-frequency range. I’ll lower the threshold to just below the peaks to achieve the effect.

This clipper is more subtle than usual, but I enjoyed what it added to the mix. Let’s listen to it.

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7. Compressing with Fruity Limiter

FL Studio has a stand-alone compression, but I like the one included with the limiter a little better- that said, I’ll ignore the limiter for now, and compress the signal. For this track, I’m using a 2:1 ratio, a hard knee, and a quick attack and release.

Compressing will let us push the limiter we use later on a little harder, but just as importantly, the quick attack, release, and the hard knee are all going to subtly distort my transients - giving them a nice punch that works well with this track.

Let’s listen to how we controlled dynamics, but also, subtly augmented the timbre of our transients.

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8. Frequency Splitter for Subtle EQ

The frequency splitter is more or less a 3-band EQ with which we can reshape the frequency spectrum of our signal before the last stage of processing. I boosted both the lows and the highs by about 2dB and set up a send for the high frequencies, which we’ll cover why in the next chapter.

Let’s listen to how boosting the lows and highs makes our mix sound closer to a finalized master.

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9. High-Frequency Stereo Expansion

In the previous chapter, we discussed a high-frequency send - I did this is to reverberate my high frequencies, in order to naturally increase their width, then blend them back in with the original signal. FL Studio offers stereo expansion on the channel strip, but this sounds a little better.

I used smaller reverb and blended the wet/dry, then used the stereo expander I just mentioned on this track, before lowering the level to blend it in.

Let’s listen and notice how our highs are expanded, giving the overall track greater width.

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10. Limiting on the Master Output

With the main signal, and out send combined at the master output, I’ll use a limiter on this output to amplify the full signal and protect from clipping. I increased the gain by about 5 dB, but use more or less on your master depending on what you’re trying to achieve.

I also introduced very mild saturation and lowered the ceiling to -.2dB to avoid inter-sample peaking.

Let’s listen to what this limiter does to the signal. Then, let’s take an extended listen to each form of processing being enabled one by one so that we really understand how they work together.

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