When mastering in Logic Pro X, I like to separate the signal into 3 frequency ranges by using auxiliary sends and linear phase EQs. Then I’ll process each band individually using equalization, compression, and saturation, before processing all of the signals collectivist via the stereo output.
For this video we’ll only use Logic stock plugins - so let’s get creative with them and find ways to still make a great sounding mastering.
I’ll start by using 3 buses, all set to unity - then I’ll change the output of the channel to no output. Next, I’ll use Logic’s linear phase EQ on all 3 new auxiliary channels - the first will isolate the lows, the second the mids, and the last the highs.
I’ll ensure that the cross-over points are the same - for example, you’ll notice that since the lows cut off at 300Hz, the high pass on the mids starts at 300Hz, and so on.
Although unorthodox this gives us the opportunity to process each range separately. Let’s take a listen to the mix, as we solo each range.
Next, I’m going to insert Logic’s channel EQ on each auxiliary channel - I’ll change the processing on the low channel to affect the side image only, and attenuate up to around 80Hz. On the mid-channel, I’ll process the side image as well, and dip a little of 2kHz.
Then on the highs, I’ll set the processing to the mids, and attenuate some of 10.7kHz, where I noticed the most sibilance.
The first filter will make our lows more mono and focused, the filter on the mids will help the mono aspects of the vocal cut through, and the cut on the highs helps control sibilance.
Let’s take a listen to these filters enabled.
After EQ, I’ll insert compressors on each not really to control dynamics, but as a way to control the timbre of each signal. On the lows, I used a super-fast attack, 40ms release, hard knee, and high ratio, and achieved only about a dB of compression.
Additionally, I enabled the clipper on the output - all of these settings created a punchy low-frequency range. On the mids, I used similar settings but enjoyed the sound of the Vintage FET emulation.
On the highs, I used a softer knee, slightly longer attack, and very low ratio to capture only the sibilance - in turn, de-essing the mix.
Let’s take a listen and notice how the timbre of the track changes.
Logic’s exciter lets us introduce low amounts of harmonic distortion - and monitor the distortion by turning the dry signal off, which is helpful. I’ll lower the frequency all the way for all three since it really doesn’t matter as we’ve already isolated each frequency range.
Then I’ll turn off the dry signal and slowly introduce harmonics and flip between colors to hear the difference. Then I’ll enable the dry again, and repeat until it feels like the right level and color for each band.
Let’s take a listen.
Only on the low-frequency channel, I’ll insert the SubBass plugin and solo the channel to better understand its effect. I’ll lower the center on the low frequency side, and use a 2x ratio meaning I’m making the generated signal twice as low as what’s originally present.
Then I’ll blend the effect in using the wet slider, and bring the dry down all the way if I want to hear only the effect.
Let’s listen to how this improves the lows.
At this point, I’m noticing that the mid is lacking some clarity, so I’m going to add an EQ to only the mid-frequency aux track and boost some of 2 - 3kHz. If you need to add some presence and clarity to your master, boost somewhere between 2-5kHz.
This will also make the master sound louder, reducing the need for more aggressive limiting later on. Let’s take a listen and notice how it sounds a little clearer.
On the master output, I’ve added a linear phase EQ and set the processing to the side image - since I’ll be using this EQ to once again cut the side’s lows, I want it to be a linear phase to avoid aggressive phase changes. This will help the lows stay mono.
You may be wondering why I’m doing this again, and in short, the sub-bass processor we used introduced more signal into the side image, which was muddying the sound. To keep the impact of the sub, but keep the master from being unfocused, it’s best to introduce this filter.
Let’s take a listen.
Next, I’ll add a compressor to the master output, and set it to an optical setting - although I won’t actually compress the signal using the compressor, the optical setting imparts a tone regardless. I’ll engage the limiter and very subtly limit and clip the signal.
This gives it a nice sound and sets us up well from more aggressive limiting later on. Let’s take a listen.
Logic offers a good emulation of a Pultec EQ, which works well when mastering since the curves it imparts are really gradual and natural sounding. Up top, I’ll boost some of the kick’s fundamental, and boost some of 14kHz and above to add presence and air.
On the bottom, I’ll dip some of 300Hz. to get rid of some unpleasant boxiness, and then boost 3.5kHz, which will affect both our mid and high bands.
Lastly, I’ll introduce a little drive at the output to collectively distort the signal.
Logic Pro X offers 2 stock limiters - the adaptive limiter has a smoother sound due to its built-in lookahead and adaptive release, which reduces transients but also helps control distortion. The regular limiter helps perceive transients and has a more detailed sound, but with more distortion.
I think either one will work and it comes down to preference and the genre. After picking a limiter, I’ll use the Loudness meter and try to get the loudness somewhere between -14 LUFS to -9 LUFS.
Let’s take a listen, first with the adaptive limiter, and then with the regular limiter.