Subtractive EQ - Weiss EQ1: $549
De-essing - Weiss De-Ess: $199
Subtractive EQ - Oeksound Soothe 2: $219
Tape Emulation - u-he Satin Tape: $129
Saturation- FabFilter Saturn 2: $154
Additive EQ - Chandler Curve Bender: $299
Send > Parallel Compression - Chandler Germanium Compressor: $249
Send > Parallel EQ - FabFilter Pro Q3 - $179
Compression - Weiss DS1 Mk3: $549
Maximization - Weiss MM-1: $199
Limiting - Weiss Compressor/Limiter: $299
Let’s see what happens when we create a chain using the most expensive plugins. Will it sound good, mediocre, and will the expense of the plugins really have much affect on the sound?
We’ll discuss a mastering chain and look at it step by step.
The EQ1 is used for subtractive equalization, in its linear phase mode.
With the Weiss EQ1, I subtracted some signal from both the mid and side-image. I enabled the plugin’s mid-side mode, then used the mid-channel to cut out of to about 20Hz and the side to cut out up to about 100Hz.
I cut a little some of the low mids on the mid-channel and a little of the vocal range on the side to get the mid vocal to stick out more.
This plugin has a really subtle but interesting sound. It’s super transparent, but somehow has its own sound - I’m not sure how to describe it exactly. Is it worth $549 I’m not sure, but it’s worth a try nonetheless.
The Weiss De-esser is great at attenuating sibilance prior to any amplification of the mix.
Stick with Softube’s Weiss line, I used the De-ess to clean up some of the high frequencies and ensure that sibilance doesn’t become a problem when the mix is amplified later on.
I used the mid/side mode and only sued de-essing on the mid. This way irrelevant high frequencies on the side image aren’t affected.
Then I lowered the threshold and set a small range to keep the effect subtle. On the side-channel, I ensured that no de-essing was occurring.
Soothe 2 dynamically alters the EQ.
This plugin is a unique one - it dynamically equalizes a range of frequencies, and it’s great at reducing harsh sounds during mastering. Also, out’s pretty expensive so I thought I’d throw it into the chain.
I used the soft setting and reduced the depth to ensure that only a little attenuation occurred.
I increased the sharpness and selectivity to make the attenuation very specific and used mid-side again to keep it to the mid-channel.
I maxed out the quality to ensure I didn’t get phase issues and that the quantization was as accurate as possible.
Then I isolated the attenuation to just the big frequency range.
Let’s listen to our first 3 inserts and try to focus on how attenuating low frequencies on the side image, and high frequencies on the mid alters the timbre of the master.
Satin is a comprehensive tape emulation plugin, perfect for mixing and mastering.
Although it's a little pricey this is my favorite tape machine emulation plugin. To be honest I really just used a preset that I thought sounded great and then changes some minor things.
I found that this one worked with the house-esque genre and brought out some pleasant texture and slight lo-fi sound from the percussion.
Saturn 2 is great for analog emulation and saturation.
I used a preset I created by modifying the Tube preset offered with the Saturn 2. I broke the signal up into 4 bands and made the majority of the distortion and saturation program dependent.
So the ADSR and amplitude of the incoming signal greatly impact the amount and timbre of distortion. I mixed the effect in and used linear phase as well as the maximum amount of oversampling.
Curve Bender has a subtle sound, but useful controls.
Again, I used mid-side mode and unlinked the channels to affect them separately.
On the mids, I boosted a little of the kick, the vocals, and the air. On the side, I boosted the mids at 800Hz and the air.
I didn’t notice all that specific of a timbre from this plugin, but the goal here was to use the most expensive plugins to see what happened.
Let’s listen to the last 3 inserts and pay attention to how tape emulation, saturation and distortion, and additive equalization really affect the amplitude and dynamics of a signal.
This compressor is great for achieving mild distortion, especially when used for parallel processing.
Softube seems to make a lot of expensive plugins, and the chandler germanium is no exception.
With this compressor, I got a lot of grit and distortion put of the signal by using the dirty comp, driven, and feedback settings.
I balanced the output of the plugin by reducing the channel fader to ensure that the signal wasn’t too powerful.
Shown here are the settings used after parallel compression.
To create New York Style parallel compression, I followed the compressor with a great EQ, and amplified aspects of the mid and side channels.
I emphasized the kick, mids, and highs, and expanded the stereo image by amplifying the side image.
I also stuck with a natural phase setting.
Let’s listen to our auxiliary channel and see how the New York Style parallel compression affects the master.
I used the DS1 for very subtle compression.
Back to the Weiss plugins, I used this one for very subtle compression. Using one of Bob Katz’s presets and modifying it slightly, I was able to get about 0.2dB of attenuation to smooth out the sound.
The compression itself was created with a super subtle ratio and a soft-knee setting. I kept the attack and release settings established from the preset since they worked well at creating a smooth, cohesive sound.
The Weiss MM1 is a fantastic and clean sounding maximizer.
By increasing the amount to about 50%, using the wide setting, and making the effect 100% in use, I brought up lower-level aspects of the signal.
Notice that since we’re using the Wide mode, which is splitting the signal into mid and side, the mid is the one being compressed more often. This is going to result in a wider signal.
The Weiss Limiter can be easy to distort, so the settings need to be chosen carefully.
You’ve probably noticed a theme here - Weiss plugins are among some of the most expensive out there.
But they sound great and added a lot to this chain. Granted this last limiter seemed to add some unwanted distortion, no matter what settings were being used - and this seems like a common complaint about this limiter.
Regardless, it lets me achieve an aggressive sound that still retained a lot of depth.
The total cost of all of these plugins came out to $3024, but, does this really make a difference? There are some great plugins here for sure, but to what extent does that extra money make a difference?
Let’s listen to the full chain and then you can decide if the cost of this chain was really worth it.
With these expensive plugins, we were able to create a good master - but whether or not the sound could’ve been accomplished for a fraction of the cost is up for debate.
Let us know in the comment section of the video what you think, and if you would’ve swapped any of these plugins out for something else.