Channev is designed as a channel strip for an instrument recording; however, if we bypass the mic preamp section, and subtly use the de-esser, equalizer, compressor, limiter, and tape saturation functions it works great for mastering. I personally love the wet/dry dials in each section.
Although the limiter won’t be the best final limiter for a master, it can be used to control dynamics before that stage.
Tape bus is great if you’re looking for a super simple way to add some mild harmonic distortion and control your master’s high-frequency range. Increasing the fader compresses the signal while adding a moderately strong 3rd order harmonic - the emphasis dial attenuates highs with a shelf when enabled.
The compression, 3rd order harmonic, and high shelf attenuator work well at quickly emulating the effects of tape.
SNFK Music is a relatively new developer, and the SK100 is their second released plugin; some of the controls are a little glitchy but it has a good overall sound. Use the Comp 2 setting with a moderate attack and release of 100 or so milliseconds.
Also, the low ratio of 1.3:1 makes it great for setting a lower threshold without aggressive attenuation.
GSat+ is my personal favorite on this list - it has a great design, allows you to monitor in stereo, left, right, mid, or side, and to saturate on these particular channels. The character tab determines which harmonics are created, with fluctuation modulating the amplitude of the harmonics.
Stages increases the overall amplitude of the distortion, odd and even let you determine which harmonics are generated, and oversampling reduces aliasing when the clipper is enabled.
This exciter allows you to add a lot of clarity with the high dial and an impressive amount of low end using the Low. It works by using a super and high shelf and what I suspect to be program-dependent harmonics, although I wasn’t able to observe them when testing.
CV is a compressor that will tame the high and, and it’s best to avoid the noise floor function since this just introduces white noise.
MSED is a simple but really effective and to the point plugin with which you can accurately alter the width of your stereo image. Increase the mid-gain to make your master more centered, or your side to make it wider - or just use the plugin for monitoring.
What I like about this plugin is that after a lot of null testing, it never caused phase issues or affected the signal in a negative way.
Spike Q is a transient shaper with a great sound and the ability to use it subtle with the dry/wet slider. Increase the amount to enable the effect and possibly double it with the x2 button, then emphasize certain frequency bands to make the effect more prominent on those bands.
Both the attack and release of the emphasis can be controlled, and clipping and oversampling can be enabled.
Track24 emulates the frequency response and harmonic generation of 2 tape machines, but leaves out some of the lesser desired effects like degradation, modulation, and more. Increase the gain to create some harmonics, and alter the tone to change the frequency response’s high range.
Then decide on just odd harmonics, or odd and even harmonics with the texture slider.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive and free metering plugin, SPAN by Voxengo is a fantastic choice; out offers multiple analyzer settings - too many to cover here. Additionally, it lets you monitor the spectrum in stereo, mid, and side, with more options in the routing tab.
Lastly, you can measure the LUFS, dBTP, dBFS, correlation, and more.