The 8 Best Mastering Plugins To Finish Your Song
Mastering plugins are more effective than ever before in 2023.
From authentic recreations of priceless hardware to instant AI-powered mastering, perfect finished audio is within reach in your DAW.
So what are the best mastering plugins available for producers?
With so much out there, it’s not easy to tell which mastering solution is best for you.
In this article, I’ll break down the top eight mastering plugins available today and explain the benefits of each approach.
Let’s get started.
LANDR Mastering is now available in plugin form for the first time ever.
It’s the perfect balance between the accessibility of instant mastering and the flexibility of DAW-based plugins.
LANDR’s AI mastering engine takes all the guesswork out of the mastering process.
You won’t need any additional plugins to create a pro-quality master, so it’s a complete solution compared to other plugins that only tackle one link in a mastering chain.
But unlike bloated standalone mastering suites, the LANDR Mastering Plugin‘s easy workflow doesn’t require any technical knowledge to get great results..
On top of that, the plugin edition of LANDR Mastering is more flexible than its online counterpart with real-time controls for the essential aspects of your master.
That makes it ideal for anyone who needs a straightforward, high-quality mastering solution directly in their DAW.
FabFilter’s high tech plugins have been an industry standard for years in music production circles.
While they’re frequently used for mixing, many tools in the FabFilter catalog are widely respected for mastering purposes.
Pro-EQ3, Pro-MB and Pro-L can all be found in pro mastering studios around the world.
Conveniently, Fabfilter’s best mastering offerings come packaged together in the Mastering Bundle.
While the Mastering Bundle doesn’t include the company’s excellent Pro-DS de-esser, you’ll find most of the essential elements of a typical mastering chain.
You’ll still need to know how to master a song from scratch in order to use them, but the value for $439 USD is excellent.
Softube’s Weiss series of plugins is a faithful emulation of the ultra high-end Weiss digital mastering outboard gear.
Since the hardware itself is digital, the Softube edition purports to be a direct 1:1 port of the code for some modules.
Purpose-built for mastering studios, Softube’s Weiss EQ and dynamics plugins come with a steep learning curve if you’re not familiar with how mastering works.
Not only that, the Weiss bundle’s quality and authenticity come at a high price—$999 USD.
But if you’re a professional mastering engineer that’s still a great deal for a suite of top quality mastering tools!
The original all-in-one mastering suite is still a viable option for DAW-based mastering in 2023.
Ozone’s modules act like plugins inside of a plugin that can be stacked up into custom mastering chains.
With more modules than ever, Ozone 11 includes advanced processing types you won’t find in traditional mastering plugins.
With tools like upward compression, multiband microdynamics and spectral shaping, Ozone isn’t for the faint of heart.
But if you’re looking for the latest technology in digital mastering, you’ll find new tools to explore in Ozone Advanced 11.
Metric Halo’s Sontec MES-43D9D offers producers an accessible take on one of the most legendary mastering equalizers ever built.
With original units selling for tens of thousands, the Sontec MES-432 was designed by the co-creator of the original parametric EQ—talk about a legacy!
Perfect for subtle or extreme tonal shifts, the MES-432D9D is one of the best new mastering EQ plugins to come out in recent memory.
UAD is known for their authentic recreations of vintage mixing hardware.
But they’ve also turned their modeling approach to modern classics like the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor.
A 5U behemoth with two separate stages of compression and three selectable transformers, the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor is versatile enough to tackle any dynamics task in mastering.
It brings an addictive analog character to any mix while staying transparent, muscular and musical.
Kush Audio is the brainchild of Gregory Scott, whose unique approach to hardware design has led to innovative new mastering products.
Kush’s Clariphonic EQ is based on the concept of parallel equalization. This technique blends the boosted frequencies in with the dry signal to maintain transparency.
Especially effective for high frequencies, the Clariphonic is built to give the most pleasing, musical high-end possible without any harshness.
The new and improved Clariphonic plugin is excellent for adding the elusive silky top end that’s essential in a great master.
Waves L2 Ultramaximizer was one of the original plugin mastering tools to gain popularity.
L2 is a look-ahead limiter with simple controls. It’s known for its ability to squeeze more level out of a mix that already seems as loud as possible.
While some engineers consider it a contributor to the so-called loudness wars, it’s been used on so many popular releases that it’s become a classic in its own right.
In a reversal of the typical pattern, L2 was popular enough for Waves to create a hardware version in the early 2000s.
Mastering plugins ranked
Mastering with plugins isn’t only possible in 2023, it’s a strong option that many producers should consider.
But with so many mastering plugins on the market, it’s important to understand which one is right for you.
Whether you need a straightforward solution or a marvel of modern technology, there’s something on this list to get you started with mastering.
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