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Top 12 Free Mastering Plugins 2022

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1. The Split - The Zhe

The Split is a really interesting mixing plugin, but it has a lot of potential when it comes to monitoring your mix or master. It starts out pretty typical by lettings you monitor your mid and side, and then the low and high frequencies, with a set mid-point.

It gets interesting though by letting you monitor the attack and sustain, and the louder and quieter parts of the mix.

Let’s listen to it and consider how it could be used for monitoring.

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2. Bertom Phantom Center - Bertom Audio

Bertom Audio makes some great free plugins, and their newest one Phantom Center can work great for mastering. Instead of affecting the mid and side, Phantom Center extracts the phantom center of the audio, the identical aspects of the left and right channels, then affecting their stereo width.

I find it works well by duplicating the master and using -100% on this new track, before blending it in with the original. Keep an ear out for phase cancellation though, but I found combining these sounded pretty clean. Let’s take a listen to it.

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3. TUBA - Analog Obsession

TUBA is an emulated preamplifier that works well at subtle settings on a master - it adds mild compression and harmonic distortion, in other words, saturation to the signal. I recommend using the Low Gain, Line input setting, and subtly increasing the gain until you find just the right amount.

The low and high shelves are a little too aggressive for mastering, but maybe you could get away with the +3dB high shelf.

Let’s listen and notice how the mix sounds fuller.

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4. YouLean Loudness Meter - YouLean

Although it’s been around for a couple of years, the YouLean loudness meter is still the best free LUFS and other metric measurement tools available. As you can see, it offers a great interface, and the ability to measure short-term LUFS, integrated LUFS, true peaks, and more.

The monitoring can be mono, stereo, or various surround configurations, and the display can be altered, and even exported as a png or pdf with various resolutions.

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5. Diablo Lite - Cymatics

Diablo Lite is a transient expander, combined with a soft or hard clipper - when used for mastering, this type of plugin will work well as a parallel processor or at very subtle settings. For the clip dial, this is a gain function that pushes the signal into the clipper.

Let’s take a listen and notice our enhanced transients, and greater overall loudness.

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6. ATK Stereo Limiter - Mattieu Brucher

Unlike your typical brick wall limiter, ATK Stereo limiter is used before for developing a tone than at protecting from overs. I find it sounds great as a parallel send where I can lower my threshold, and then adjust my release and softness function to shape its timbre.

Let’s listen to it in parallel, and notice how these 2 functions really change the sound of the signal.

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7. EQ Curve Analyzer - Bertom Audio

This is one of my favorite plugins and one I show in videos a lot - you basically sandwich a processor between 2 inserts of this plugin, and the second lets you observe the frequency response, phase, and overall amplitude. This is perfect for measuring EQs that don’t include a visual.

You can switch between full scale and logarithmic, match the latency to the plugin’s latency, and zoom in on specific frequencies.

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8. Nova-67P or TDR Nova - Vladisolv Goncharov

Here we have a 2 for 1, where both of these free dynamic EQs were designed by the same guy, just for different companies. Both let you introduce dynamic equalization, but I found the Nova-67p to respond better, and have more options including an extra band, and dynamic settings.

Let’s listen to it on a full mix and expand some of the lows, compress the mids, and expand the highs.

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9. Stereo - Yuri Semenov

Stereo is a stereo enhancement tool that gives you control over the low frequencies of your mid and side image. At the bottom we have a high pass for the mids and sides, as well as a shelf - in the middle, we can add gain to the side image.

Up top, we can pan between the mid and side, but keep amplitude at a similar level. Let’s take a listen and notice the enhancement made to the side image.

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10. Limiter One - CIS DSP Factory

This is admittedly an older plugin, but it has a fantastic sound and a very simple design that makes creating a polished master easy. Lowering the threshold introduces auto-make-up gain, the release can range from 200ms to 500ms, and the ceiling from 0dB to -6dB.

This plugin is great at making a signal loud but retaining and even augmenting the transient detail. Let’s listen and notice how the signal becomes louder, and the highs brighter.

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11. ClipMax - Rob Chokehold Designs

ClipMax has a similar sound to our last plugin, in which the amplitude increases but the detail remains close to the original. With it, you can increase the signal into the clipper/limiter, which can have its ceiling lowered, and clipping is indicated with the LED to the right.

You can reduce the output, but also increase it so be careful with this if you’ve already increased the pre-gain. Automatic Gain Control attempts to keep the level similar to the pre-clipped level, but I preferred this off. Let’s take a listen.

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12. Chow Tape Model - Chow DSP

If you’re looking to add analog tonality to your master, or maybe make it sound slightly lofi - Chow Tape Model is a great plugin. It allows you to add saturation, compression, control the tone, and introduce forms of distortion and modulation that are specific to a tape machine.

Oversampling can go up to 16x, and the presets give you a good starting point. Let’s take a listen to one of these presets and notice how full the plugin can make the mix.

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