What's your freeware mastering chain in 2021?

VST, AU, etc. plug-in Virtual Effects discussion
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KVRAF
2279 posts since 31 Jan, 2020

Post Thu Apr 15, 2021 4:44 pm

Cheers for your tip (above) Jamcat.

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KVRian
698 posts since 2 Sep, 2019

Post Thu Apr 15, 2021 4:51 pm

Something else you NEED if your DAW's master buss doesn't have a mono/stereo button (Studio One does) is a plugin that can sum L/R to mono, because you need to be checking mono compatibility when you mix.

MAAT 2BusControl does this as well as correlation metering and is free.
https://www.maat.digital/2buscontrol
THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN MIXED TO BE PLAYED LOUD SO TURN IT UP

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KVRian
1467 posts since 30 May, 2003 from Milan, Italy

Post Thu Apr 15, 2021 9:39 pm

jamcat wrote:
Thu Apr 15, 2021 3:51 pm
The most important tool in your mastering chain is an LU/DR meter, so you don't destroy your dynamic range. Youlean Loudness Meter does both LU and LUFS, and is free.

https://youlean.co/youlean-loudness-meter/

Image
Completely disagree, if you have a calibrated monitor chain in a treated room that you are used to working in, then a a meter is about the least important tool, as you can just use your ears. I prefer to get loudness stats after the fact with an offline tool like the on in RX or Acoustica etc. I have the Youlean Loudness Meter Pro and it's great, but it's rarely used. A calibrated monitor chain with a few known positions on the monitor controller is all you need to ensure you get the loudness exactly where you want it.

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... ing-levels

KVRist

Topic Starter

349 posts since 15 Apr, 2020

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 12:45 am

cnt wrote:
Thu Apr 15, 2021 4:13 pm

Honestly I dont get why a mastering engineer would limit (pun intended ;) ) themselfs to freeware only...
No one here argued that mastering engineers should only use freeware.
Spring Goose wrote:
Thu Apr 15, 2021 4:21 pm

I also use Loudmax for KVR OSC competition. Are you referring to the "ISP" button? If so thanks. What should i expect from TP mode than regular mode? Forgive me, i'm a novice/learner.
It prevents small (intersample) peaks from overshooting the set ceiling, which could cause artefacts (clipping, distortion) when playing back the mastered track. Non-ISP / TP limiters can not catch these small peaks, hence they are less reliable. That's why Plugin Alliance is currently making a lot of fuss about the fact that they finally implemented ISP / TP compliance in their limiter, which is actually fairly standard in 2021.

KVRist

Topic Starter

349 posts since 15 Apr, 2020

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 12:54 am

Great tips so far, especially the one about checking back in mono to ensure mono compatibility. Yes, the Slick EQ M demo version, that does not allow recalling settings - I also had it in mind. Analog EQs also have no recall. I actually wanted to buy it while it was offered 40% off a week ago or so, but the offer only lasted a few days.

None of you uses anything to make bass mono? I found Alex Hilton's A1Stereo (hope I got that right) useful for that.

I also like to use two instances of TD Nova, one for Mid and the other for Side. I have the full version, but the free version covers all the bases (minus Smart Ops).

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KVRian
1467 posts since 30 May, 2003 from Milan, Italy

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 2:31 am

Kazi7 wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 12:54 am
None of you uses anything to make bass mono? I found Alex Hilton's A1Stereo (hope I got that right) useful for that.
IF it's needed, and yes, that was a deliberate big IF, then I use the elliptical filter in Slick EQ M, or if I want more control with a shelf or peak EQ instead of a filter, then with the individual band's stereo controls. You really should have picked it up!

I could make do with the free version if needed, with a screen grab or phone pic, that's how I do recalls with my analogue gear.

KVRAF
1626 posts since 2 Jul, 2010

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 2:51 am

On the metering front I'd also recommend Youlean and SPAN.

For the "use your ears" crowd I should probably give a shout-out to the Airwindows Monitoring plugin too http://www.airwindows.com/monitoring/

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KVRian
698 posts since 2 Sep, 2019

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 4:29 am

Hermetech Mastering wrote:
Thu Apr 15, 2021 9:39 pm
jamcat wrote:
Thu Apr 15, 2021 3:51 pm
The most important tool in your mastering chain is an LU/DR meter, so you don't destroy your dynamic range. Youlean Loudness Meter does both LU and LUFS, and is free.

https://youlean.co/youlean-loudness-meter/

Image
Completely disagree, if you have a calibrated monitor chain in a treated room that you are used to working in, then a a meter is about the least important tool, as you can just use your ears. I prefer to get loudness stats after the fact with an offline tool like the on in RX or Acoustica etc. I have the Youlean Loudness Meter Pro and it's great, but it's rarely used. A calibrated monitor chain with a few known positions on the monitor controller is all you need to ensure you get the loudness exactly where you want it.

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... ing-levels
Metallica's mastering engineer probably said the same thing. :ud:

But again, this thread isn't about your PRO engineer skills. It is about bedroom musicians looking to do the best they can with no budget and limited gear.

I have yet to come across a freeware “calibrated monitor chain in a treated room” but if you know of one, do post a link.
THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN MIXED TO BE PLAYED LOUD SO TURN IT UP

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KVRian
1467 posts since 30 May, 2003 from Milan, Italy

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 7:13 am

jamcat wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 4:29 am
It is about bedroom musicians looking to do the best they can with no budget and limited gear.
Yes, that's why I posted my recommendations for Slick EQ M free version and FIRComp, I could happily master with only those two and achieve stellar results, if I had to. It's the operator and their experience, not so much the machines/tools.
jamcat wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 4:29 am
I have yet to come across a freeware “calibrated monitor chain in a treated room” but if you know of one, do post a link.

I did already. Did you not read the SOS link I posted? Setting up a calibrated monitoring chain is actually very easy. You'll need a cheap analogue SPL meter, cheaper than most plugins.

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... ing-levels

Sorry, I seem to have caused offence? Are PROs not welcome to contribute here any more? :(

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KVRian
698 posts since 2 Sep, 2019

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 7:35 am

Cheap isn’t the same as free. And where do you get the freeware treated room?

I wasn’t offended, I just feel like you completely missed the point of this thread.

You also completely missed the point of my DR metering suggestion. It is to give you a reality check, because plenty of amateurs and PRO mastering engineers alike have destroyed the dynamic range of the music they mastered since the late ‘90s with loudness maximizers. And they actually thought they were making it sound BETTER!

The Loudness War has claimed quite a few high profile casualties, so “just use your ears” isn’t enough. A lot of inexperienced mixers just think louder = better and aren’t even aware of the problem. So this suggestion was for them. And the guy who mastered the last 3 Metallica albums.
THIS MUSIC HAS BEEN MIXED TO BE PLAYED LOUD SO TURN IT UP

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KVRian
1467 posts since 30 May, 2003 from Milan, Italy

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 7:54 am

jamcat wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 7:35 am
Cheap isn’t the same as free. And where do you get the freeware treated room?
Pillows, carpets, rugs, bookshelves, wall hangings, whatever you have to hand.
jamcat wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 7:35 am
I wasn’t offended, I just feel like you completely missed the point of this thread. You also completely missed the point of my DR metering suggestion. It is to give you a reality check, because plenty of amateurs and PRO mastering engineers alike have destroyed the dynamic range of the music they mastered since the late ‘90s with loudness maximizers. And they actually thought they were making it sound BETTER! The Loudness War has claimed quite a few high profile casualties, so “just use your ears” isn’t enough. A lot of inexperienced mixers just think louder = better and aren’t even aware of the problem. So this suggestion was for them. And the guy who mastered the last 3 Metallica albums.
You are preaching to the converted. I regularly master albums to -14.5 LUFS Integrated etc. I also regularly master albums to -7.0 dB LUFS Integrated etc. And that's usually not coming from me, but the clients. Service industry, innit. Check out some of my work. LUFS all over the shop. Client dependent. Said it before and I'll say it again, every artist, track, mix, album and genre is different and deserves a carte blanche approach, based mostly on the requirements and wishes of the client.

I don't think I missed the point of the thread at all. You canvased for opinions, I gave mine, you gave yours etc. They are like arseholes. :) For the third time, I would HIGHLY recommend Slick EQ M freebie and FirComp, you could do a ridiculous amount of amazing work with just those two, using multiple instances, and both completely free.

Not really sure of the relevance of the Metallica thing. If that mastering engineer had used their ears, those albums probably would have turned out much better. ;) We don't know the ins and outs of the mixes they received or what the band or label or management told them, their brief etc. I know I am very happy to crush things when, for example, a Trap or HipHop client asks for it really loud/competitive with Drake in level etc. I look upon it as a challenge. I am equally happy when my Chill Out clients specify "no need to process for level, just make it sound great". A good ME should be able to cover all bases.

Sorry for OT, if you want me to recommend Slick EQ M and FirComp for a fourth time, I will...

KVRist
59 posts since 31 Jan, 2021

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 7:30 pm

I am not a professional, but I've tested lots of free mixing/mastering plugins. Tokyo Dawn's free series is at the top of my list, as others have suggested. Loadmax is a fairly transparent limiter. For metering, I use Youlean Loudness Meter, as well as Voxengo's Correlometer and Melda's MSterioscope for phasing/stereo field/mono capability monitoring (And yes, I primarily rely on my ears). On my current mix, I am using a touch of high-end saturation (e.g., 2%) to add a little sparkle using the free Fresh Air plugin.

KVRian
1006 posts since 26 Feb, 2018

Post Sat Apr 17, 2021 10:39 am

Hermetech Mastering wrote:
Thu Apr 15, 2021 9:39 pm
then a a meter is about the least important tool, as you can just use your ears.
I think I understood your points, and IMO your contribution was on par with the intention of the thread.

To expand: when mastering to the heart's desire, most music is mastered tighter than -14db lufs. Some people (and styles) like it tighter at -7db, some like it flowier at -12db, but seldom anyone wants it at -15db and has to check the meters to make sure they are not leaving it too lose.

So from that perspective, any mastering person asked to master to their ears is going to do a much better job than anything they can do with a meter, because either way the song is going to end up inside the expected range (inside -14db lufs) and what matters most is that it gets cooked to good taste, which is done by ear. If I hire a mastering person and I ask them to cook it to taste to the best of their ability to make a perfect mix, then I'm expecting they are not even looking at a meter.

Then to do a final render just put a true peak meter at the end to make sure you are not breaking a technically requirement of staying inside the peak limits. And then all you need is the meter because after the song plays, if it says you are at -0.8db, but you wanted to leave -1db of headroom, then just dial the song 0.2 db back and you are done.

For amateur mastering the meter can come in very handy. If you are not confident in what you are doing, then trying to master to match some reference tracks could be a good way to aim for something. If you are doing a modern rock song, you might want to master to -9db lufs to stay tight but not too tight given limited balancing skills. So having a meter on the master is a way to help the inexperienced ear navigate the situation and know when to stop.

Herme, what's your take on Kotelnikov?

KVRian
650 posts since 8 Jan, 2017

Post Sat Apr 17, 2021 12:25 pm

jochicago wrote:
Sat Apr 17, 2021 10:39 am
Hermetech Mastering wrote:
Thu Apr 15, 2021 9:39 pm
then a a meter is about the least important tool, as you can just use your ears.
I think I understood your points, and IMO your contribution was on par with the intention of the thread.

To expand: when mastering to the heart's desire, most music is mastered tighter than -14db lufs. Some people (and styles) like it tighter at -7db, some like it flowier at -12db, but seldom anyone wants it at -15db and has to check the meters to make sure they are not leaving it too lose.

So from that perspective, any mastering person asked to master to their ears is going to do a much better job than anything they can do with a meter, because either way the song is going to end up inside the expected range (inside -14db lufs) and what matters most is that it gets cooked to good taste, which is done by ear. If I hire a mastering person and I ask them to cook it to taste to the best of their ability to make a perfect mix, then I'm expecting they are not even looking at a meter.

Then to do a final render just put a true peak meter at the end to make sure you are not breaking a technically requirement of staying inside the peak limits. And then all you need is the meter because after the song plays, if it says you are at -0.8db, but you wanted to leave -1db of headroom, then just dial the song 0.2 db back and you are done.

For amateur mastering the meter can come in very handy. If you are not confident in what you are doing, then trying to master to match some reference tracks could be a good way to aim for something. If you are doing a modern rock song, you might want to master to -9db lufs to stay tight but not too tight given limited balancing skills. So having a meter on the master is a way to help the inexperienced ear navigate the situation and know when to stop.

Herme, what's your take on Kotelnikov?
Here's another by-ear mastering engineer. I basically only use Youlean for the True Peak values.

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KVRian
1467 posts since 30 May, 2003 from Milan, Italy

Post Sat Apr 17, 2021 2:24 pm

jochicago wrote:
Sat Apr 17, 2021 10:39 am
Herme, what's your take on Kotelnikov?
I like it, it's very clean. But I prefer to do mastering compression in hardware 99.9% of the time (a pair of Chandler Germanium Compressors). The last few weeks I've been experimenting more with all ITB chains, just for shits and giggles, and have been having fun with Limiter6, Kotelnikov, MJUC, FirComp2 and the Chandler Germ Comp plugin, (it has been fun pitting that one against the actual hardware). In full disclosure am a beta tester for TDR, Klanghelm, Valhalla, Youlean, and Acon. I think the one I am digging the most at the mo is FirComp2.

I still prefer my hardware for sound and usability, but I could also do an excellent job with all ITB tools if I had to. They are getting better all the time. Provided a certain audio standard (and all the ITB comps I mentioned are fabulous), then user experience trumps gear every single time.

Mastering is about listening to a new piece of music with fresh ears and knowing, almost instinctively, straight away, which moves you are going to pull to get it sounding better, based on doing the exact same thing on thousands of tracks in many genres for many years with the same setup/monitoring etc. And there's unfortunately no plugin for that... :D

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