Mastering Plug-ins Compared (plus LANDR)

Discussion in 'Home Recording Studio' started by misterwogan, Feb 8, 2021.

  1. misterwogan

    misterwogan Senior Stratmaster

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    I've taken one of my own tunes, 'Man Of The House' and mastered it using the various plug-in that I possess to see which was best - or indeed if I (or you) could tell the difference between them. I also submitted to LANDR to see what they would make of it.

    We have six, eight-bar choruses of the tune mastered with:

    Stock Logic plug-ins
    Waves plug-ins
    Ozone 9 Mastering Assistant
    Masterdesk by Brainworx
    T-Tacks ONE from IK-MUltimedia
    and last (and defintely least) LANDR

    With Logic and Waves, I had complete control of all parameters. Masterdesk offers some control which is probably all that you'll need. With Ozone I just used the Mastering Assistant with no adjustments by me and with T-Racks I just inserted the plug-in and adjusted nothing. LANDR only offers options such as Balanced and High.

    All masters (except LANDR) were limited to achieve loudness of -9dB LUFS. The input level of the mix was 0dB RMS or around -6dBFS (peak).

    Here's what the mastered output looks like:

    Masters.jpg

    And here's what they sound like. They play in the above order, without breaks - so you'll need to listen well to catch any differences. Apart from the final one from LANDR - you won't miss that.



    My conclusion. I would be happy using any of these plugins but my preferences would be:

    1. Logic and Waves (lots of control, if you know what to do with it)
    2. Masterdesk (smooth and refined)
    3. T-Racks (great for when you can't be bothered fiddling with knobs)
    4. Ozone - too fiddly for me, mastering assistant produced a bizarre bell eq boost a 6k???
    5. LANDR. The eq it applied to the track was horrible. Would I pay for this? No way!

    Number one prerequisite for a good master is a good mix. Any in-the-box mastering solution will work well if you give it a balanced mix with the gain set at 0dB RMS or -6dB peak. Here's what my Logic and Waves channel strips look like.

    Master Channels.png
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2021
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  2. pazman6

    pazman6 Senior Stratmaster

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    LANDR definitely didn't get the level maximized. I listened on a cheap laptop speaker and all the first 5 sounded similar.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2021
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  3. simoncroft

    simoncroft Still playing. Still learning! Silver Member

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    Nice work! :thumb::thumb::thumb: I can't listen right now, but I'll definitely give it a very attentive listen tomorrow.
     
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  4. mjea80

    mjea80 Lost In The Light Silver Member

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    I used Landr a couple years ago on a track. I would compare it to the “commercial” output track on Logic Pro.

    I found it to be a very hot mix, which I didnt really like.

    Happy I only paid under 10$ for it.
     
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  5. joe_cpwe

    joe_cpwe Senior Stratmaster

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    Timely post for me. I recently installed Reaper and was intending to take a stab a mastering old demo mixes from the 90s my band I had stored on DAT. In summer I'd sent the DATs out to a studio to have the data saved to before the tape malfunctioned. As-is, one of the tapes was unreadable. On a side note, it was SO refreshing to hear an EP we'd released in 1991 on cassette only in a clean, digital version :)

    Anyway...I knew/know very little about mastering but have already figured out that a trial plug-in I'd downloaded and used in Reaper (TEOTE) was very helpful, and am re-thinking what DAW I should commit to. As well as which plug-ins to purchase. If a 'cheap' DAW like Reaper requires spending X dollars in plugins, for easy and quality mastering for example, but a more expensive DAW has more function...then it may be worth using a different DAW.

    As for LANDR, that info is also helpful. I'd sent some songs over to a studio engineer friend last summer and he's done a quick remaster on a set of songs. It was good, but I'd heard some things I'd change. Using an auto mastering site LANDR feels a little bit out-of-control to me.
     
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  6. misterwogan

    misterwogan Senior Stratmaster

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    Quite right, but here's a quick list of things you need to get right before you even start thinking about mastering - and this is just the drums.

    Input gain on the kick and snare?
    Output level on the kick and snare?
    High-pass filter and compression on the room track and the overheads?
    How to create and use parallel compression?
    What should the peak level be on the drums bus be to achieve a 0dB RMS level on the mix?
     
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  7. joe_cpwe

    joe_cpwe Senior Stratmaster

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    Right, what I'm dealing with right now are 25-35 yr old stereo mixes from analog and digital sources that I'd like to make more presentable for posterity. No chance to get the recording or mix right...they are mixed... and that monstrous snare being pummeled by a graceless drummer is already baked into the pie ;)
    I figure it provides a good learning opportunity. I'll be tackling new music down the road at a pretty slow pace I'm sure.
     
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  8. misterwogan

    misterwogan Senior Stratmaster

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    Send them to me and I’ll do my best to give something for the archive.
     
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  9. Jasco

    Jasco Strat-Talker

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    Couldn't agree more with this statement.

    Thanks for posting.
     
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  10. simoncroft

    simoncroft Still playing. Still learning! Silver Member

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    I listened to this a couple of times on the same B&Ws I always use to mix. To me, all of them were broadly acceptable, but the first half of your compilation arguably had the most detail. Totally agree about iZotope products. Their RX8 audio restoration software is very clever, but most of their other stuff seems to make simple things complicated. Ozone is one of them. By the second half, I was progressively less convinced, and the LANDR was not up to the standards of the others.

    To me, what you've most ably demonstrated is that any of these tools can give great results if you know what you're doing.

    There was nothing about the result you got from the Logic plug-ins alone that I could criticise, although it was possibly one of the more convoluted signal chains, so slightly less convenient for you.

    Thank you for sharing!
     
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  11. misterwogan

    misterwogan Senior Stratmaster

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    Thanks so much Simon for the time you've taken to listen and your customary valuable feedback. The apparent convolution arises simply from the need to gain-stage after each plug-in. An EQ plugin may raise the level which then needs to be set back to 0dB RMS before it passes onto the next stage. The three instances of the Linear Phase EQ are there for mid-side processing. The first, boosts the mid at 110hz and 2khz, the side EQ rolls-off 100hz and boosts at 5khz. The final instance of the EQ rolls of at 30hz and 18khz.

    Having said all of that, I have this week acquired the Solid State Logic SSL bundle which includes the SSL 4000 E and G channels strips and the SSL Bus Compressor - and that, I have to say - is another story altogether. So it is.
     
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  12. simoncroft

    simoncroft Still playing. Still learning! Silver Member

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  13. dbbluesproject

    dbbluesproject Senior Stratmaster Silver Member

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    The Logic adaptive limiter is the best “in the box” mastering limiter I have used.
    I have tried most of the ones on your list (and some others) and I keep going back to to the Logic.
    It colors the sound less than anything else I have used, no funky compression that kills the mix....it’s very clean and loud enough.
    It’s overlooked because it’s not fancy looking but it’s an awesome tool.
    If it’s a good mix you shouldn’t have to add “color” to it.....it should be there already.
    Sometimes I add a bit of multiband compression and some eq to tighten things up a bit but that’s it.
     
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