Mastering is the final step in audio production and one of the most critical steps in producing professional sound. Although there are several methods to make your master sound better, I will focus on the essential effects of a mastering chain in this article.

As usual, I have prepared a short sequence inside our SoundBridge: DAW, which contains most elements of a full mix. I purposefully left the master channel empty so we could deal with it later. Let us listen to it.

This is a screenshot of my mix before applying any effect to make the master sound better

~Full Mix – Master Bus – Unprocessed

Before any processing on the master channel, you should keep sufficient headroom. A general rule of thumb would be -6 or -7 dB on the master output.

Use an EQ to Make Your Master Sound Better

An EQ will be the first effect in our master chain. For resonance correction, I used the TDR Nova EQ and attenuated the ranges at 50 Hz, 3Khz, and 15KHz while boosting at 1,5KHz by only 1 dB.

This is a screenshot of my mix with corrective EQ for a better-sounding master

~Master Bus – Corrective EQ

Using a Compressor

Secondly, I applied a compressor. I configured the TDR Kotelnikov parameters to glue the elements together with a gain reduction of approximately 3 dB. This compression setting is optimal for the master bus since it is undesirable to over-compress the track.

This is a screenshot of my mix and compressor applied to the master effect chain for a better sound

~Master Bus – Glue Compression

Additive EQ

As the following effect in the mastering chain, we used another EQ. I used additive equalization this time, which involves boosting specific frequency ranges with wider Q settings and applying low pass and high shelve filtering.

This is a screenshot of my mix and additive EQ applied to mastering effect chain

~Master Bus – Additive EQ

Saturation Makes Your Master Sound Better

Next, I’ve placed a saturation effect (BPD Saturator) in the mastering chain to add warmth to the overall stereo image. As you can see, I have applied a small amount of tape-style saturation and set the low-cut filter because I don’t want excessive saturation at low frequencies.

This is a screenshot of my mix with a saturator applied to mastering effect chain

~Master Bus – Saturation

Stereo Imaging

I’ll add a stereo imager before our final plugin in the mastering chain, in this case, the A1 Stereo Control by Alex Hilton. The imager on the master channel widens the stereo image slightly. If the stereo image is too broad, you can narrow it with a similar effect. The “Safe Bass” section on the right side of the interface is helpful when you don’t want to make your low frequencies wider, which is also the case here.

This is a screenshot of my mix and stereo wider applied to mastering effect chain

~Master Bus – Stereo Imaging

Using A Limiter

Finally, we’ll add a limiter to the mastering chain. A limiter amplifies the track’s maximum volume, ensuring no clipping on the final output. I chose the limiter effect from our native SoundBridge: DAW bundle for this purpose.

This is a screenshot of my mix and the limiter applied to the mastering effect chain

~Master Bus – Limiter

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