- OTT – Xfer Records
- TDR NOVA – Tokyo Dawn Labs
- Fresh Air – Slate Digital
- Exciter – Logic Pro Stock Plugins
- Saturation Knob – Softube
- BitterSweet – Flux
- Overtone GEQ – Voxengo
1. OTT – Xfer Records
This plugin greatly improves the detail and clarity of an instrument or a full mix by compressing quieter details and bringing them forward. It can also make a master sound full and warm, but you can greatly increase clarity with the high-frequency band.
This plugin is unique in that it’s the only multiband upward compressor that I’ve seen.
With it, you can both compress the signal upward and downward, but for the sake of adding clarity, it’s best to just use the upward functionality.
To do this, decrease the amount of downward compression at the bottom of the plugin, and drag the bars in the middle to the right.
2. NOVA – Tokyo Dawn Labs
This plugin lets you create up to 4 bands of dynamic equalization – meaning you can use it to compress your signal. When it comes to creating clarity in your master – you can attenuate low frequencies or amplify high ones with one or more of the bands.
The plugin doesn’t make this process too complicated, so all you’ll need to do is create the band, position it where you want, adjust the threshold until the processor is triggered, and set the ratio.
Inverse the ratio to create expansion if you want to expand your high frequencies.
Additionally, you can use the delta function to hear how your processing is changing the signal.
3. Fresh Air – Slate Digital
Fresh air by slate digital combines 2 equalizer bands with harmonic exciters to create one of the best plugins for adding clarity to a master. I’ve talked about this plugin a few times before, but that’s only because it’s so great at what it does.
To increase the clarity of your master all you need to do is increase the value of these 2 dials. The one on the left is your high-mid band and the one on the right is your airband.
You can blend the 2 to create the perfect amount of high-frequency detail and clarity. This plugin was designed with mixing in mind, but at lower settings, it’s amazing on a mastering signal chain.
4. Exciter – Logic Pro Stock Plugins
This is a plugin you’ll only be able to use if you’re working in Logic Pro X, but it’s a great one nonetheless. If you’re working in Logic Pro, I’d recommend trying this plugin out and very subtly increase the excitement value on your mix bus or master.
Exciting your signal is going to add high-order harmonics, which increases clarity.
It’s very easy to use – choose between 2 harmonic exciter types, and then dial in the amount you want. You can then determine the range of frequencies that are being excited by dragging the cutoff from left to right.
If you’d like to hear just the effect, or how much distortion you’re creating, true off the dry signal to monitor that.
5. Saturation Knob – Softube
Saturation Knob has been one of the most popular free plugins for a while now – it’s typically used as a stylistic effect and to add some compression and distortion. But, the Keep High function makes it a great way to add some clarity to an instrument or a master.
In short, this saturator is compressing the signal, introducing harmonics, and applying automatic makeup gain all within this one dial.
If you select the Keep High option, the harmonic generated from the distortion will have a higher-order, or a higher frequency, in turn amplifying the high-frequency range of the signal.
If you’re using it on a master, keep the value very low, and keep in mind that it will greatly increase the signal’s amplitude.
6. BitterSweet – Flux
BitterSweet always seems to be a plugin that people struggle to install or find in their plugins directory – despite being finicky, when it does show up it’s a really useful free plugin. It’s more or less a transient shaper that when used on a mix, can greatly increase clarity.
The sweet option is going to reduce the effect of transients while bitter does the opposite. To add clarity, increase the value toward the bitter side.
Conveniently, the plugin automatically compensates for gain changes, but you can disable this option if needed.
The signal can be processed as stereo, just mid, or just side. The side option is great if you want to both increase clarity and expand the stereo image.
7. Overtone GEQ – Voxengo
Voxengo makes some great free plugins, and Overtone GEQ is no exception to that. The plugin is perfect if you want to increase the amplitude of your high frequencies while simultaneously adding in some subtle but complex harmonic distortion that’ll add detail and clarity to your mix.
The 2 channels can be linked or affected independently. Additionally, the routing can be altered from left and right, to mid and side, and other options.
The reset button quickly brings all bands back to unity, and INV inverts the amplitude of each band.
If you want to change the center frequencies of the bands, and create an air or high mid-band, you can do this at the bottom of the plugin.
Lastly, oversampling makes this a great option for mastering.
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