If you’re not familiar with mastering, it’s the process that happens at the end of the track to prepare it for commercial release. 

Usually singing, songwriting, recording, and production all happen together. Then the track gets passed on for mixing, and after mixing it goes to master. 

During final mastering the full track gets adjusted for things like tone, like EQ, dynamics, like compression, and maybe some saturation to warm things up a little. Other tweaks might include some widening to make things sound more stereo and using tools like clippers and limiters to make it loud enough to compete with commercial releases. 

Need to make sure your track has that professional sound? You’re in the right place. 

In this post, our Content Lead Fabio walks us through his effets chain, aka the best mastering plugins.  

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Mastering Your Track 

When you’re mastering a track, it’s important to set a loop around the loudest point in the track. That’s because the loudest part of the track is what will trigger the effects on your mastering chain the most. 

Here are a few of the mastering plugins we like to use.

Initially we start with the Pro-L 2 to limit our tracks from the jump to catch any peaks. This helps ensure none of the effects in our chain overreact to dynamics that we can easily fix right now in the beginning of the workflow. 

The plugin isn’t doing a whole lot of limiting here, and it’s taking out the peaks intermittently. 

Dangerous Bax EQ 

Next up, we’re going to use the Dangerous Bax EQ by Plugin Alliance. We’re mainly using this for a low cut and the high shelf. 

We love the low cut here at 18 hertz. It’s very smooth, and it takes out just enough low end to give us a bit of headroom. Shaving off some of the low frequencies means we’re going to be able to make our track louder in the end. 

We also like to brighten our masters a little bit by adding a high shelf boost at 2.5 kilohertz. 

One more thing we’re doing is cutting at 70,000 hertz. Now, humans can’t hear that, but the slope is so gentle that it’s coming into the 20,000 hertz range. Dangerous claims that takes out some of the digital-sounding frequencies that can build up during the mixing and mastering process. 

SSL Native Bus 

It’s compressor time, and we’re using the SSL Native Bus, one of our go-to compressors. We have our compressor set up like so

  • Slow attack 
  • Auto release 
  • Ration at four 
  • Side chain at 90 hertz 

We use 90 hertz because it stops the compressor from overreacting to frequencies under that setting by cutting them out with a very gentle slope. We don’t want our kick and bass to make the compressor pump. Instead, we want it to be reacting to the rest of the frequency spectrum as much as the low end. 

This compressor is great for gluing things together. We also find it adds a subtle brightness to the signal, which can be great for pop tracks. 

Special Mastering Plugins 

At this point we bring two specialized plugins into the process: the Oeksound Soothe2 and Gullfoss Master by Sound Theory. 

For the Oeksound Soothe2, we roll with the master start preset, but we also run the Oversample and Resolution at the highest when it’s offline. Otherwise, it can be very CPU heavy. 

The Gullfoss Master is a super clever dynamic EQ that changes 300 times per second. With the Recover function, you can uncover frequencies that aren’t dominant enough. Conversely, with the Tame feature, you can bring overbearing frequencies down. 

These two plugins are both very subtle and very powerful when it comes to balancing your master. 

Amex EQ 200  

We don’t tend to cut during the mastering process. Instead, we prefer to boost, and the Amex 200 EQ is perfect for that. One of our favorites things about the Amex 200 is its Auto Listen feature, which allows you to hone in on the frequencies you’re targeting. 

Oxford Inflator 

Ever wondered how mastering engineers get that really thick, loud sound? It’s the Oxford Inflator by Sonnox, and it’s one of the best kept secrets in mastering. It’s an amazing tool for bringing up all the low-level information—kind of like a compressor would, but in a more transparent and subtle way. 


Now that we’re done shaping the signal, it’s time clip and limit to get it up to the right volume. We like to use StandardCLIP on the Soft Clip Pro setting, and we always have our Soft Clip Saturator set at 3%. 

We usually run Oversampling at 16 when we’re exporting to get the highest quality sound possible. 

At this point, we’re looking to clip ever so slightly and shave off some of the peaks so we can limit the signal after the clipper more evenly. 

The first limiter we go into is the Pro-L 2 (the same one as before) and we’re using it in one to one mode. This mode ensures that as we increase the gain the output is also decreased. That way we’re not adding a bunch of volume. 

We also turn this limiter on and off to get an A to B comparison and understand how much its affecting the signal when it’s compressing. 

Now put it in Transparent mode, put Look Ahead at one, set the slowest Attack possible with the fastest Release. This means there’s an independent compressor for the left and the right signal, which allows the track to feel more open and stereo. 

Master Plan 

Last but not least, we have Master Plan by Musik Hack, which has become one of our favorite plugins for mastering. 

Why is it so good? For starters, it has a huge Loud dial in the middle, which does exactly what it says. It’s a clipper and a limit, which really gets your tracks as loud as you want. 

We still recommend going with a clipper and limiter (gently) beforehand, but this mastering plugin has gotten our mixes louder than ever before. 

And that’s the last plugin in our effects chain. As you can see, it’s all about taking those incremental steps to ensure your master sounds as good as possible. But be warned: A bad mix cannot be saved by a great master, and an even worse production can’t be saved by a great mix. 

So always make sure you’re paying close attention to the root quality of the sound, and every other step after that should be much easier—especially if you’re using the best mastering plugins. 

When you export your master, you want to make sure you have a PCM version (which is wav) and then an MP3 version. 


And where are you exporting that mix? Hopefully, it’s to Boombox.io where you can easily collaborate with other producers. 

If you don’t have a Boombox account yet, you can sign up for free right here. We’ll even throw in four gigs of storage at no cost because we’re nice like that.