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7 Mastering Tips That Helped Me Get Better

  • Phase Align Before Processing
  • Avoid EQ Matching, Reference Instead
  • Avoid True-Peak Limiting
  • Use a Clipper Before Limiting
  • Use 2 Compressors in Series
  • Avoid Master Bus Compression
  • Make Lows Mono with EQ

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Phase Align Before Processing

With Izotope RX, I align the phase of any track I master before introducing any processing - otherwise, some of my processing will read peaks incorrectly, causing clipping, distortion, aggressive levels of compression, and more. I simply use the phase module, hit suggest, and export the aligned version.

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Avoid EQ Matching, Reference Instead

Some engineers use EQ Matching to hear how their master would sound like another track - but this gives us the wrong impression, especially since each track will naturally have varying frequencies, and won’t match exactly. Instead, listen to your reference for 15 seconds, then return to your master.

Don’t listen too long or your ears will get too accustomed to the reference track.

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Avoid True-Peak Limiting

True-peaking limiting ultimately causes more problems than it fixes - it reduces inter-sample peaking distortion but also reduces the impact and clarity of transients. Instead, use oversampling and lower the output of the limiter to -0.5dB. This should reduce any unwanted clipping while still keeping transients intact.

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Use a Clipper Before Limiting

If you want your snare and kick to be aggressive, use a clipper before your limiter - it introduces white noise whenever it’s triggered, making the kick and snare sound more present and forward. Odds are a clipper will have a better sound on transients than a limiter, so use it first, and then limit for the best sound.

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Use 2 Compressors in Series

If you don’t want your master to sound aggressively compressed by your limiter, try using 2 in series and splitting the processing between the 2. This works even better when using limiters with different algorithms - letting you find the exact combination that results in the best sound.

Ultimately, you’ll get a louder master without the need for noticeable peak attenuation.

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Avoid Master Bus Compression

Master bus compression is very rarely needed - unless you're mastering for vinyl or some other format in which the dynamics need to be controlled leave peak down attenuation to your clipper and limiters. The only exception is low-level or upward compressors and m/s compressors which dynamically widen the stereo image.

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Make Lows Mono with EQ

For a driving and focused master, use a mid-side EQ to attenuate the low frequencies from the side image - in turn, making the lows more mono. This will keep the kick and the bass centered, resulting in less low-end phase cancellation, and a more driving and centered sound.

Center the high-pass filter around 80Hz to start, but adjust as needed.

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