After the recording and mixdown of a song, the pre-mastering follows, colloquially also called “mastering”. In this final step of the production (among other things) the final touch is given to the overall sound. There are different ways to master songs.
Ideally, mastering will be done by someone who hasn’t been involved in beat production, arrangement, recording, or mixdown. This ensures that the sound is processed impartially and that the person has not become accustomed to any errors in the mix. Mastering songs takes a lot of experience and a trained ear to pick out the subtleties that need improvement. Among other things, the stereo image, the frequency spectrum, the dynamics, and the loudness of a piece are scrutinized.
To do this, mastering engineers often use a combination of effect plugins and analog high-end equipment, such as equalizers, multiband compressors, and others. Meanwhile, the music software market is not only teeming with large mastering suites such as iZotope Ozone or IK Multimedia T- Racks, but also types of channel strip plugins that are equipped with few controls and still want to cover the basics of audio mastering.
These include products such as Rule Tec Heritage PRO or IK Multimedia One. And with the Master Suite, Initial Audio has also created such a plugin, which combines different processors in one multi-tool. But these days is known that quality is often neglected – especially when there are only a few parameters, although many effects processors are working in the background. Let’s take a closer look at the Master Suite in detail.
The advantage of such all-in-one plugins is that they are easy to use, which means that even beginners can quickly reach their goals. Considering the various modules, the Master Suite is equipped with only a few parameters.
For example, this mastering plugin has a compressor with only two knobs. With these controls, the compression can be added in parallel. With “Soften” the soft knee, i.e. the curve of the compressor, can be regulated so that the compression is more or less gentle.
With a 3-band equalizer, you can raise or lower bass, midrange, and treble by a maximum of 6 dB. An analysis with a noise generator and spectrum analyzer shows that the lows are processed from around 500 Hz, the mid control takes care of frequencies from 1,000 Hz and the cut-off frequency of the treble control is around 6,000 Hz. The latter processes the signal from this point in parallel. In other words, if you boost the high frequencies above 6,000 Hz, everything below will be reduced and vice versa.
Therefore you should only boost or cut a few decibels with the EQ. Due to the parallel processing, the material can quickly become thin or too penetrating in the upper mids. I also find it rather impractical that the bass control increases from 500 Hz, which results in a rather middle-heavy overall sound. Gridded cutoff frequencies would allow more leeway in frequency adjustment. After all, songs are too different for a three-band mastering EQ to get by with one cutoff frequency each.
Make it louder!
But it only gets really loud with the loudness control, under the hood of which an adaptive limiter increases the loudness. This is linked to the compressor, which adjusts not only the loudness but also the compression. If you want to deactivate the compressor or just mix it in slightly, use the mix control.
With an accompanying LUFS meter, you can keep the loudness under control. LUFS stands for “Loudness Units relative to Full Scale”. This is an industry-standard for measuring perceived loudness. In the Master Suite, this meter uses green, yellow, and red colors to indicate whether the loudness is in an acceptable or critical range.
The plugin concludes with a stereo image section, which can be used to broaden the stereo base. With the mono control “Frequencies” you can determine from which frequency it should be broadened. All frequencies below are absolutely mono, for example, to keep the bass, the kick drum, or the “belly” of the snare in the middle, which can ensure crisper expansions.
Although this plugin is a mastering tool, you can also use it on individual tracks or groups in the mix. If the tool in the master channel doesn’t produce the desired results because you don’t want to widen the whole song but just the pads or bells, for example, you know what to do!
Initial Audio’s Master Suite mastering plugin combines a manageable operating concept with fast results. With just a few simple steps you can get a mastering sound that is at least sufficient for fast results. Compared to similar products from other manufacturers, the Master Suite has few parameters, which means that the interventions in the sound are very crude.
Thanks to the all-around minimalist overall concept, even beginners can’t do much wrong. This mastering plugin certainly cannot and will not replace proper mastering. Rather, the Initial Audio Mastering Suite should be used when things have to be done quickly. If you want to make your tracks louder, richer, and wider without doing too much work, you’ve come to the right place.
The Initial Audio Master Suite audio plugin is available for macOS as an AU plugin in 64-bit and as a VST variant for macOS (64-bit) or Windows (32- and 64-bit). The plugins can be paid for in the online shop via PayPal or credit card, which gives you access to the download. A serial number will be sent to your email inbox in just seconds, with which the plugin can be activated.