If you want free but effective mastering tools, go no further. This article will show you the 20 Best Free Mastering Plugins 2023 for different purposes.
Mastering is one of the stages of music production, which allows you to bring the mixed material to its logical conclusion. In particular, it may involve tuning frequencies, applying compression, adding saturation, and bringing it to the right loudness level.
We have good news for you if you’re starting in mastering and can’t afford expensive plugins. We’ve gathered 20 different pieces of software that will help you get the process done and cost next to nothing. They are different and suitable for musicians, engineers, and producers. So pick whichever one you like and get results.
Before we jump into a list, consider checking our free OTT-style compressor plugin – a super versatile tool for your mixes. Check here –
20 Best FREE Mastering Plugins 2023 For Musicians (Various Purposes)
1. Brainworx bx_masterdesk Classic (Master Chain)
The bx_masterdesk Classic plugin by Brainworx will give you all the settings you need for fast mastering.
It’s always cool to have an all-in-one tool to help you do everything at once. That way, you don’t have to use different stages for mastering. And it will be especially useful for beginners who don’t have much knowledge and experience yet. The good news is that we have just prepared such a plugin for you.
It is bx_masterdesk Classic from Brainworx, which is a mastering suite. You get to track the dynamic range, add volume and harmonics, and change the tone of the composition. There’s also a built-in limiter. Let’s break it all down in detail.
- Adjust The Volume
On the left, you will see a large knob responsible for the Volume level. At the same time, the VU Meter will show the dynamic range in front of you. So add volume to get the desired value around 7 and 6.
- Change The Foundation
The Foundation knob will be on the opposite side. Essentially, it is a tilt control that will help you adjust the ratio of lows and highs. For example, turn it to the left to get more bass and less treble and vice versa.
- Tone Regulator
There is also a separate control that is responsible for your Tone. You will find it in the bottom right part of the plugin window. Thanks to it, you can make the master darker, or vice versa, lighter. So again, listen to what suits the material best.
- Stereo Enhance
Another wonderful feature laid down here is Stereo Enhance. You will also see this control at the bottom of the plugin. Turn the setting to make your stereo picture wider. But don’t overdo it, as it can probably bring some artifacts.
- Add Some Distortion
As in mixing, mastering also often saturates the audio signal with harmonics. It is done to make it more expressive. In the bx_masterdesk plugin, you will also have this possibility, thanks to the THD knob.
- Output Trim
A wonderful bonus is that this software has a built-in limiter. So you can set your ceiling thanks to the Output Trim control. For example, set the number to -0.3 or -1 dB, so you don’t exceed the limit.
Brainworx bx_masterdesk Classic is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The Brainworx bx_masterdesk Classic plugin is a powerful enough tool to get decent mastering. At least you will have all the settings you need for it: Volume adjustment, Stereo Enhance, Tone, Foundation, THD, and Output Trim. The most important thing here is to learn to use all these parameters wisely and to hear well what they do.
2. Slate Digital Fresh Air (Exciter 1)
Fresh Air from Slate Digital could be your favorite exciter for mixes and masters.
There are situations when you compare your master with a reference and feel it lacks something. As if it is covered by a veil and needs a high-end spark. The next plugin on our list, Slate Digital Fresh Air, will help solve this problem.
This software is an exciter based on a circuit of analog equipment and dynamic processes. It has a nice enough design. But most importantly, it is very easy to use because there are only two knobs. Let’s try to understand the functionality.
- Add Some Mid Air
The big knob on the left, called Mid Air, helps you get more presence and clarity in the mid and high frequencies. Just turn it until you get enough processing based on your taste. Remember to compare this to the raw signal constantly.
- High Air Regulator
As for the second High Air control, it will affect the extreme high frequencies. Therefore, it will add the most “air” and “life” to your material. By the way, you can link these two controls and use them simultaneously.
- Beautiful VU Meter
In addition, you will be able to monitor the signal in detail thanks to the beautiful VU Meter. The red line will show the peak level, and the blue dot will tell you the RMS level. It is very convenient for visual perception.
- Output Trim
As you can understand, adding “air” will boost the frequencies of your signal. Therefore, you cannot do without the Trim control in such a plugin. You will see it in the lower right corner. Use it to balance the output signal.
Slate Digital Fresh Air is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Fresh Air from Slate Digital is a great plugin that will help add presence and clarity to your material. This software is unusually easy to use and has a beautiful, modern design. You can safely use it not only for mastering but also for processing vocals, drums, and much more.
3. Analog Obsession MaxBax (Passive EQ)
Analog Obsession’s MaxBax can be a wonderful equalizer for the final EQ touches during mastering.
We all know how important equalization is at the mastering stage. It allows us to get an extra 10 percent to finalize the frequency spectrum and, if you like, some shaping. Such will be the next plugin on our list – Analog Obsession MaxBax.
All in all, it’s a passive EQ that will give you three bands. But the most important thing here is that you can apply it in both the Left/Right and Mid/Side modes. So you’ll have a pretty clear interface and nothing unnecessary. Let’s now try to analyze all the features one by one.
- Adjust The Lows
As for the low frequencies, you can manipulate them in the range of 20 to 120 hertz. There will be a separate knob for that. Above it, you will see another knob, which allows you to boost or cut frequencies by 6 dB.
- Mid Control
You will also have a separate control for the Middle frequencies. Here the range starts at 200 hertz and ends at 7K. Again, use the separate knob to add or remove 6 decibels in the desired band.
- Add or Cut Highs
And, of course, the plugin allows you to adjust the High frequencies. As for the range, it is from 9K to 40K. Use this to add airiness or brilliance to your mix or master. Especially, it can be helpful for sides.
- L/R & M/S Modes
In the plugin’s center, you will switch between modes. Thus, in L/R, you can manipulate frequencies separately for the right and left channels. If you switch to M/S, you will apply the settings for the middle and sides.
- Ability To Link
In addition, the plugin can link settings. So, for example, if you go to the Link mode, the plugin will apply your settings for both sides. And of course, if you turn it off, the left and right sides will work separately.
Analog Obsession MaxBax is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST/3 and AU formats.
The Analog Obsession MaxBax is a great EQ for mastering, and we can say that it works excellently. All the EQ bands look pretty clear. In addition, the plugin is versatile, as it will allow you to work for both left and right, as well as for the middle and sides. The software is free, but you can support the developer thanks to Patreon.
4. BPB & Analog Obsession Rare EQ (Analog Magic EQ)
Rare EQ from Analog Obsession and BPB will give you the color and sound of a legendary studio unit.
As you can guess from the design of this plugin, it is inspired by the tube studio equalizer from Pultec. This unit has long been considered legendary for its distinctive sound and harmonics. And the good news is that you can get a decent emulation for free.
It is the Rare EQ plugin, which AAnalog Obsession created in collaboration with BPB. Overall, there are two EQ bands and the ability to boost and attenuate frequencies. In addition, you get Bandwidth and Gain controls. Let’s take a closer look at this.
- 2-Band EQ
In general, you will have only two equalization bands at your disposal. But it will be enough to add character to the sound. In particular, low frequencies here go from 20 to 100 hertz, and high frequencies from 3 to 16 kilohertz.
- Boost or Attenuate
You can both boost and attenuate frequencies. You will have two separate knobs for this. The point is that if you boost and attenuate simultaneously, you will get different EQ curves, giving you an interesting sound.
- Adjust The Bandwidth
In the center of the plugin is a separate Bandwidth knob. As you can see, it will affect your EQ band’s width. Again, experiment with this to find the right setting for your situation.
- Gain & Output
On top of that, you get two separate Gain and Output controls. You can put the first one in pre and post-EQ modes, which will also affect the character of the sound. And, of course, you’ll need Output to balance the signal.
BPB & Analog Obsession Rare EQ is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST/3 and AU formats.
Rare EQ is a wonderful plugin to add tube character to your instruments, a bunch of instruments, or a master. It is quite easy to use, as you will only have two EQ bands. Nevertheless, it has everything you need to get the results you want.
5. Apogee Soft Limit (Limiter)
Apogee’s Soft Limit helps you get tape saturation in the style of the famous studio unit.
When the music industry abandoned tape machines, there was a need for engineers to get the same warmth. So studio units were created that enable professionals to emulate this effect. Fortunately, we live in a time when you can also get digital emulation of such equipment. And that is exactly what the next plugin on our list is.
Notably, Apogee, the company that makes such converters, created the Soft Limit plugin. In particular, this software emulates the equipment created in 1991. Overall, it is quite easy to use because it provides a minimum of settings. So let’s break it down.
- Detailed Metering
An important part of this plugin is metering. It is where you get all the indicators you need. In particular, these are Input, Soft Limit, and Output. In addition, small red lights will tell you if you are exceeding the volume limit.
- Soft Limit Threshold
As for the main regulator, it will be the Soft Limit Threshold. It’s a big purple knob in the center. With this knob, you can adjust how many transients will be amenable to distortion. So remember to find the right balance not to destroy the signal.
- Add Some Drive
The plugin also has a separate Drive knob. It helps you add just the right amount of distortion to make the signal more expressive. But again, listen carefully, so you don’t go overboard with this setting.
- Auto Makeup
Another useful feature that the developers put here is Auto Makeup. With this option, the volume of your signal will remain at the previous level regardless of the adding gain.
- Choose The Oversampling
In addition to all this, you also get the Oversampling feature. There are three kinds of Oversampling: 4x, 8x, and 16x. At the highest number, you will have the highest quality distortion. But be careful because it will affect your CPU.
Apogee Soft Limit is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.12.6 or higher. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Apogee’s Soft Limit helps you round out the transients and get the drive of a tape machine. It won’t take you long to figure out this plugin, as there are a small number of settings. All in all, this software can be your to-go solution for mastering and for adding saturation to drums and bass.
6. Variety of Sound ThrillseekerXTC (Exciter 2)
Variety of Sound’s ThrillseekerXTC plugin will bring more excitement to your sound.
Variety of Sound was a very popular company in the 2010s. At that time, these guys created plugins to emulate analog equipment, which you could download for free. Now the software creators have started to post updated versions of their plugins, which have become available on 64-bit systems.
One of them is ThrillseekerXTC. It’s a symbiosis of an exciter, equalizer, compressor, and saturator that can help you get a more interesting sound. There are three bands for individual frequency ranges, drive, mix, and output adjustments.
- Add Some Lows
The first one is the Low section, where you can add more interest in the low frequencies. Its range of operation is from 70 to 450 hertz. Find the exact area you want and adjust the amount thanks to the second knob.
- Mid Comp
As for the middle frequencies, there is a compressor for them. Generally, your frequency range for this parameter will be from 0.8 to 5 kilohertz. In addition, a small indicator here will show you the amount of processing.
- Make It More Airy
The developers have also made sure that this exciter can give you airiness. You will be able to add this thanks to the separate Air section. Its operating range is from 3.2 to 18 kilohertz, which is quite extensive.
- Mojo & Drive
You’ll have that opportunity here if you hear that the signal needs to be made more expressive and vital. Use the Mojo and Drive knobs to do this. They work noticeably on individual tracks but on the master, too.
- Mix And Out
And, of course, you can’t do without the more technical controls in a plugin like this. These are Mix and Out. The first will adjust the dry and wet signal ratio, and the second will allow you to balance the plugin’s output.
Variety of Sound ThrillseekerXTC is available for Windows, both 32 and 64-bit. It comes in VST format.
ThrillseekerXTC is a wonderful plugin by legendary creators of free software. It will give you all the settings you need to work in detail to provide interest to both individual tracks and buses and masters. Unfortunately, this software is only available to Windows users.
7. Voxengo Marvel GEQ (Graphic Linear Phase EQ)
If you’re a fan of graphic equalizers, then Voxengo’s Marvel GE plugin is what you need.
We can all like different types of equalizers. It’s not the look that matters but how you can use it. And, of course, functionality is an important factor. Therefore, we are sure the next plugin on our list will please you with its features.
It is a linear-phase graphic equalizer that would be ideal for mastering. And that’s because you will have advanced frequency spectrum manipulation capabilities here and several routings, among which there is a Mid/Side mode. So let’s take a closer look at that.
- Wide Frequency Spectrum
All in all, you will have as many as 16 EQ bands here. All of them are in the form of small sliders that you can move and boost or cut frequencies by 12 decibels. As for the range, it’s from 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz.
- Choose Your Routing
A special feature of the plugin is the presence of routings, thanks to which you can choose in what mode it will work. In particular, this is Stereo, several types of Surround, Dual Mono, Mid-Side Stereo, and others.
- “Ghost” Sliders
Based on the mode of operation, you will have the opportunity to use “ghost” sliders. For example, if you are working in Mid mode, the plugin will highlight the Side controls in orange. This way, you will always see the overall picture of the frequency spectrum settings.
- Different Presets
In addition, you can select the preset you want if you don’t want to bother with the settings. For example, there is a broadcasting option called Brighter and Bassy. You’ll also have Presence, Side Bass Removal, Mids Boost, Lo-Fi, and Ultra Bass Boost options.
Voxengo Marvel GEQ is available for Windows XP or higher (both 32 and 64-bit) and macOS 10.11 or higher. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Voxengo’s Marvel GEQ is an extremely handy graphic equalizer. The plugin is a linear phase EQ, so it is designed for mastering program material. You will have a bunch of different routings, among which Mid/Side mode that popular in mastering. In addition, you can also work on the surround sound.
8. Analog Obsession SPEComp (SSL-Inspired Compressor)
Analog Obsession’s SPEComp plugin helps you bring the body of your mix or individual instruments.
Now we will show you a plugin that can be your to-go solution for controlling the dynamics of instruments or entire mixes. It is another free software from Analog Obsession, which you can support on Patreon. It is inspired by SSL but with some modifications and features.
In terms of functionality, it is quite easy to use this plugin. Especially if you know what sound you want to achieve and are familiar with the compressor settings. There aren’t many controls, but that’s all you’ll need.
- Apply Compression
On the left side of the plugin window, you will have the necessary controls to implement compression. These include a Threshold with a range of -15 to +15 decibels and Make-Up from 0 to +15 dB. There is also a Ratio knob from 1 to 10.
- Control Dynamics
As for the right part of the plugin, here are the settings responsible for the dynamics. For example, it is Attack from 1.5 to 100 milliseconds. You will also see Release from .05 to 2 seconds.
- Set The Knee
Another important regulator here is the Knee. It determines how much compression will kick in. So a smaller knee will give a more punchy sound. If you crank it out, the dynamics will be softer.
- Hidden Mix Control
This knob is pretty hard to see, but it’s there. Under the VU Meter, you can see a small regulator responsible for balancing wet and dry signals. So if you have too much compression, you can mix it with the original sound.
Analog Obsession SPEComp is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST/3 and AU formats.
It’s a pretty versatile compressor that you can apply to anything. That’s how we can characterize the SPECom plug-in from Analog Obsession in a few words. There are few settings here, but they are effective for many scenarios. For example, you can apply a lot of compression to individual instruments or add a very small amount during mastering.
9. D16 Group Frontier (Limiter 2)
If you need a simple limiter for mastering, Frontier from D16 Group can easily handle this task.
At the mastering stage, you need a plugin to help bring the mix to a commercial level. But what if we tell you that this software from the Polish company D16 Group is capable of more? Exactly. The Frontier plugin will surprise you with its simplicity and versatility.
This plugin can increase the volume but also level instruments and groups. You can also use it as a tool to add distortion. But the most important thing is that there is only a minimum of settings. Let’s take a look at them.
- Set The Threshold
The Threshold knob will be your primary control. Any signal that exceeds 12 decibels will be limited here. So the further you go, the more distortion you will get. By lowering the Threshold, you will get Make-Up Gain because this function is built-in here and works in a shadowy way.
- Three Release Settings
Another important setting here is Release. In general, there is a separate switch for this with three positions: Slow, Medium, and Fast. On Fast, you get more distortion, and Slow gives a cleaner processing and punchy sound.
- Functional Output Control
The Output knob has two functions. In particular, you can use it to set limits for the signal at the mastering stage. In addition, you can also use it to add distortion by clipping the signal if you turn it the other way.
- Can Be Mapped to MIDI CC
It is also worth noting that you can map all controls of this plugin to MIDI CC. It means that you can control the plugin with hardware. To do it, right-click on any control, click “learn,“ and move your MIDI controller. Then save the settings, and you can use it further.
D16 Group Frontier is available for Windows 7 or higher (both 32 and 64-bit) and macOS 10.0 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
D16 Group’s Frontier is an unusually simple but powerful plugin that can be your to-go musical production tool. First, you can use it for mastering to bring your tracks to the desired volume. Second, you can use it to get distortion on individual instruments or groups. Plus, you can control the plugin via MIDI controller.
10. Variety of Sound Density MKIII (Mastering Compressor)
The Density MKIII from Variety of Sound is a great compressor that helps you glue things together without being obtrusive.
You probably recognize this plugin if you started your career in the early 2010s. The cool thing is that it is also now available for 64-bit systems. It is Density MKIII by Variety of Sound, which you can use for mastering, or you can use it to process buses.
The plugin has two sets of settings. The compressor will synergize them if you are working on a stereo signal. However, you can switch to L/R or M/S modes and use them separately. But let’s see what else is here.
- Range & Drive
The Range and Drive knobs will be the main controls on this compressor. The first is responsible for how far you can compress the signal. The second is the usual threshold function. Adjust it based on how much compression you need.
- Choose The Timing
As for release, there is a separate Timing control. It has six positions with different ratios and release settings. By the way, position P6 has auto-release. You can also shade the ratio a bit with another Strict Relax control.
- Three Operation Modes
You will also find a mode switch on the left. In particular, there are L/R, Stereo, and M/S options. In the latter case, the upper settings will work for the middle and the lower settings for the sides.
- Sidechain & Limiting
You will also have a few switches in the lower right corner of the plugin window. In particular, you can apply the Sidechain function and enable or disable the low-pass filter. In addition, there is a toggle from the compressor to the limiter.
- Adjust The Coloring
On top of all this, the plugin still allows you to influence coloration. A separate little Color knob will be responsible for this. Next, you will have another one, thanks to which you can adjust the balance of dry and wet signals.
Variety of Sound Density MKIII is available for Windows, both 32 and 64-bit. It comes in VST format.
You can think of the Density MKIII plugin as an emulation of a vari mu compressor. So it can provide analog coloring and extreme or slight compression. All in all, the software is ideal for master bus or instrument groups. But unfortunately, it is only available for Windows users.
11. TDR Nova (Dynamic Equalizer 1)
TDR’s Nova is a dynamic equalizer that will be very helpful for mastering.
In simple words, dynamic EQ is a mixture of EQ and compressor that allows you to influence the dynamics of the frequency spectrum. These tools are quite popular in mastering because you can affect individual regions by making them softer. Now we’ll show you a plugin that can do that.
In general, this software looks like an ordinary equalizer. You get four bands here. But the best part starts when you turn on the dynamic section. Here you have all the settings you need to make the compressor and EQ work the way you want it to. Let’s break down the functionality in more detail.
- 4-Band EQ
You will have four EQ bands that can move across the frequency spectrum. In addition, there are even two separate High and Low Pass Filters with the necessary settings. As for the range itself, from here from 10 hertz to 40 kilohertz. By the way, the paid version of this plugin has more bands.
- Listen To a Band In Solo
In addition, the plugin has a great feature that allows you to listen to a certain band in a solo. Enable this mode by pressing the Band Solo button. It will be especially helpful if you are a beginner and want to practice hearing frequencies.
- Enable The Threshold
Clicking the Threshold button turns on the dynamic section of the plugin. It means that you can compress certain bands of the frequency spectrum. Generally, there is a Threshold, Ratio, and Attack and Release settings.
- Gain Compensation
If you make more EQ moves, you will get a boost in the volume. The plugin has a separate EQ Gain button to help balance the output when you do this. It will happen automatically. A pretty handy feature, isn’t it?
- Choose The Mode
It is noteworthy that this plugin can work in different modes. For example, you get Mono, Stereo, Sum, Diff, Left, Right, and Dual Mono options. As for Sum and Diff, they are the middle and sides.
TDR Nova is available for Windows XP or higher (both 32 and 64-bit) and macOS 10.9 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
TDR’s Nova is a wonderfully functional dynamic equalizer that can be your to-go mastering tool. It has only four bands, but that’s often all you’ll need, especially if you are a beginner. Overall, you get full control over the dynamics of the frequency spectrum thanks to the built-in compressor.
12. Analog Obsession DYNASAUR (Dynamic Equalizer 2)
Analog Obsession’s DYNASAUR is a great-looking dynamic equalizer with plenty of bands.
The number of knobs in this plugin can confuse you first. But once you understand their functionality, everything becomes easy and simple. As a result, this software can be a powerful tool for controlling the dynamics of the frequency spectrum.
The DYNASAUR plugin has five EQ bands, which is quite extensive. In addition, you will have all the settings you need to apply compression. But the real cherry on the cake is that you can switch between Peak and RMS modes in each band. And now for more on all of that.
- Pick Your Band
Generally, you will find five equalizer bands: Low, Low Mid, Mid, High Mid, and High. Each of them has a separate Frequency knob, which will allow you to select the desired frequency. For example, Low is represented here from 20 hertz to 1 kilohertz. As for High, it’s from 8 to 20 kilohertz.
- Compressor Settings
As for the Compressor settings, there are more than enough. You will find such controls as Threshold, Attack, Release, and Ratio. By the way, the last one ranges from 1 to 20, which makes this plugin a multiband limiter.
- RMS or Peak Modes
An important feature is that you can switch the detection of the plugin from Peak to RMS. Thus, thanks to the former, you can control peaks. On the other hand, RMS will be useful for controlling the overall level.
- VU Monitoring
At the top, above each of the bands, are small VU Meters. Thanks to them, you can constantly monitor the gain reduction of this or that frequency range. It will be useful to keep track of the situation with your signal.
Analog Obsession DYNASAUR is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST/3 and AU formats.
Analog Obsession’s DYNASAUR plugin is especially useful because you will have almost no visual analyzers. So you’ll be guided by your ears to get the desired results. It will be especially useful for beginners. All in all, it’s a great plugin to help you achieve the sound and dynamics you want for mastering.
13. AudioDamage RoughRider 3 (Versatile Compressor)
AudioDamage’s RoughRider 3 is a plugin with a minimalist design and punchy and warm sound.
RoughRider 3 is a very popular plugin. And it’s not just because it’s free. First, it has a pretty nice minimalistic design and interface. Secondly, this software has a characteristic sound thanks to the filtering underneath.
As we said, the layout of the settings here is pretty straightforward. You get Sensitivity in the center and a few more controls on the sides. So let’s take it all apart now to see what this software can do.
- Choose The Sensitivity
In essence, the Sensitivity control will be your compression threshold. The more you lower it, the more transients will lend themselves to compression. On the sides, you will see the Makeup and Ratio controls.
- Set Attack And Release
As for Attack and Release, you will find these controls on the right side of the plugin window. Adjust them to tell the compressor when to kick in and release the signal. Again, remember that this will vary based on the material and your goals.
- Full Bandwidth
You will find the Full Bandwidth button on the left side of the plugin window. You will get a more punchy sound with harmonics and accents in high frequencies if it is engaged. If you turn it off, you will get a cleaner sound.
- Sidechain High Pass Filter
Another good feature of the plugin is the Sidechain section. In particular, you can apply the High Pass Filter so that the compressor does not affect the low frequencies. In addition, there is a button at the bottom, thanks to which you can apply an External Sidechain.
- Plenty Of Presets
Although this plugin is free, it has quite a few different presets. You can open this window by clicking on the corresponding icon at the top. For example, in the list, you will find such settings as New York Parallel, Hard Pump, Nuclear Option, and others.
AudioDamage RoughRider 3 is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.12 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
RoughRider 3 from AudioDamage is a rather simple yet versatile plugin. It can be clean, which would be great for mastering, or it can give a certain analog coloration. As for compression, you can also go in two directions here – from quite slight to extreme pumping.
14. VladgSound Molot (Dynamic Range Compressor)
The Molot plugin from VladgSound will give you dynamics control and coloring that you can use for creative purposes.
VladgSound did not create the free Molot plugin for any specific studio hardware. However, we can compare its performance with units such as the Fairchild 670, Tube-Tech CL 1B, and Neve 33609. This software has a Soviet-style design and many useful features.
In terms of functionality, the developer has packed here quite a lot. In addition to the usual compressor settings, you will also have Mid Scoop, Upsampling, Filter, Limiter, and the ability to influence saturation. Let us tell you about all of this in more detail.
- Set Up The Compressor
In general, the compressor settings here can be called quite advanced. In addition to Threshold, Attack, Release, Ratio, and Makeup, you will also have the option to adjust the Knee. And, of course, there is also a sidechain low-pass filter from 40 to 260 hertz.
- Mid-Scoop Function
On the right side of the plugin window, you will see a separate Mid-Scoop knob. It allows you to cut or boost the midrange frequencies of the processed signal. The range of this function is from -12 to +12 decibels.
- In-Built Limiter
Another great feature here is the built-in Limiter. You will also find this control on the right side of the plugin window. So you can set a ceiling so the signal won’t go through. The limiter’s operating range is 0 to -12 decibels.
- Different Operation Modes
The really powerful factor is that this compressor can work in different modes. The Mode knob is responsible for switching this parameter. You will find options such as Stereo, 2 Mono, M/S, Mid, Side separately, and more.
- Control The Saturation
You will see a menu of additional settings if you click on the small arrow in the lower left corner. In particular, there, you can influence the saturation. Specifically, you can turn it off if it sounds too dirty. You can also set the amount of saturation to depend on your Ratio level.
VladgSound Molot is available for Windows (both 64 and 86-bit) and macOS (32-bit only). It comes in VST format.
If you need a dirty compressor for mastering, the Molot from VladgSound is the right choice. It will help you get that very vintage vibe. This plugin is versatile because it has many settings related to the compressor and tonal shaping. The only drawback is that it comes in VST format.
15. VladG Limiter N°6 (Master Chain 2)
The Limiter N°6 from VladG can be a whole mastering chain for you.
Suppose you need a single plugin that can provide several processing steps for mastering at once. That’s exactly what the next software on our list is – Limiter N°6 from VladG. With it, you can provide fast mastering or dive deeper into the settings to get the most from the sound.
Limiter N°6 consists of five sections: Compressor, Peak Limiter, High-Frequency Limiter, Clipper, and Protection. All of these components have the necessary settings. In addition, if you don’t need any of these, you can turn them off. Let’s take a closer look at that.
- Compressor With All Necessary Settings
The first in the plugin chain is the Compressor. It can work in several modes: Normal, M/S, and Off. You will also find all the necessary settings here, including Gain, Ratio, Attack, Release, and the balance between dry and wet signals.
- Limit Your Peaks
In addition, the plugin provides the ability to control peaks. It will be possible thanks to Peak Limiter. Here you will get two Gain and Threshold controls. Also, in the section, there is a mod switch with Brickwall, Soft, M/S, and Multiband modes.
- Control High Frequencies
Another great feature of the software is the High-Frequency Limiter. Thanks to it, you can eliminate unnecessary information in the area of the highest frequencies. Furthermore, this section is quite simple because there is only one Threshold control.
- In-Built Clipper
Notably, the plugin also has a built-in Clipper. You can cut the peaks and add harmonic distortion to the sound, making it punchy. There are Gain, Threshold, Knee, and mode switches.
- Protection Section
And, of course, the last section in the circuit is the section that is responsible for the output signal. It is called Protection. Here you can adjust the output level and set the Ceiling of your signal.
VladG Limiter N°6 is available for Windows and macOS, both 32 and 64-bit. It comes in VST2 and AU formats.
The VladG Limiter N°6 plugin has enough features to become your main mastering tool. At least if you are a beginner and just practicing this craft, this plugin is free and has many settings to complete the record, including a compressor, several limiters, and a clipper.
16. Voxengo SPAN (Spectrum Analyzer)
Voxengo’s SPAN will help you see what your ears can’t hear.
We all know that in mixing and mastering, it’s important to trust your ears, not your eyes. But what if there may be situations where you need to check what your ears can’t hear? If that’s the case, a visual analyzer can help you. And such a free plugin is SPAN.
It is hard to believe it is freeware because this powerful tool is very powerful. You can use it to compare your master to a reference and check the overall trend of the frequency spectrum. In addition, you will be able to analyze the track in different modes.
- Smooth The Frequency Spectrum
By default, SPAN will display the frequency spectrum in some detail. It means that you will see many different peaks. However, you can smooth it to see only the general trend. To do this, go into the settings, change the Block Size, and adjust the Smoothing parameter.
- Expand The Spectrum
In addition, the plugin will let you see what your ears can’t hear. In the settings, you will also be able to change the display of the frequency spectrum. For example, see what’s beyond 20 hertz and 20 kilohertz.
- Check In Different Modes
You will be able to see what happens to the frequency spectrum not only in stereo mode. The plugin has a few display presets. In particular, a Mid-Side Stereo option will help you analyze the information in different areas. In addition, there are also Lo-Freq Inspection, Avg and Max, and Stereo Smoothed modes.
- Hold Function
In the upper left corner, you will see a Hold button. Clicking it will freeze the frequency spectrum to see the overall trend better. This way, you can analyze whether the master is balanced and what more needs to be done.
- Detailed Metering
And, of course, the plugin provides detailed metering with all the necessary statistics. You will see this information below. In particular, there is Correlation Meter, True Peak, Peak Clippings info, and Max Crest Factor.
Voxengo SPAN is available for Windows XP or higher (both 32 and 64-bit) and macOS 10.11 or higher. It comes in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
Voxengo’s SPAN will be useful in cases where hearing is useless. In addition, it is a great tool to analyze the frequency spectrum if you work in an untreated room. It has all possible indicators and different types of display to customize it the way you want.
17. MAAT 2BusControl (Stereo Analyzer)
This simple 2BusControl plugin from MAAT can be your to-go tool for balance and polarity control.
Whether mixing or mastering audio production, it is very important to have a tool for monitoring balance and correlation. These problems can sometimes be unheard of, especially if you are new to the field. Of course, many DAWs already have such plugins built in. But now we will show you one free one – it’s 2BusControl.
In general, this software is pretty straightforward. You get a few indicators as well as buttons. These are the ones you’ll need to monitor your mix channels individually. Let’s now consider the plugin’s features in more detail.
- Two Main Indicators
In the center of the plugin, you will see two indicators – Balance and Correlation. The first will show you the signal balance between the right and left channels. The second will tell you about phase problems if any.
- Flip The Left And Right Channels
Another useful feature is that you can swap right and left channels. A separate Flip button in the lower left corner of the plugin will help you do this. In this case, you will be able to listen to how it sounds and whether the balance between the two is correct.
- Check It In Solo
Also, at the bottom of the plugin, you will find several other buttons, thanks to which you can perform detailed monitoring. For example, you can listen to the right and left channels separately. There is also a function to check the mono and the difference between the right and left channels.
MAAT 2BusControl is available for Windows 7 or higher (both 32 and 64-bit) and macOS 10.9 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
2BusControl by MAAT is a seemingly small but powerful plugin that helps you check if everything is okay with the mix. It will show you balance and phase problems and also allow you to monitor the signal from different sides – right or left channels, mono or difference.
18. Alex Hilton A1StereoControl (Stereo Imager/Width)
The plugin from A1StereoControl will be a great tool for stereo imaging and a pretty good analyzer.
Stereo imaging is a common practice in mixing and mastering. The thing is that you can influence the stereo picture by making it a little bit wider. But what if we told you that you could get a free stereo imager and a good analyzer? That’s exactly the plugin we will show now.
If you have experience working with stereo imagers, the A1StereoControl will be pretty straightforward. Here you will see the main Stereo Width knob that will do all the job. Despite that, the software has a few monitoring options and more complex settings in the advanced mode. So let’s get into it in more detail.
- Add Some Width
In the center of the plugin, you will see the main controls that you will use to expand the stereo picture. In particular, this is the Stereo Width knob. Anything up to 100 percent will be more centered, and anything beyond will be wider.
- Safe The Bass
In stereo imaging, it’s crucial to have low frequencies in the middle. The great thing about the plugin is that it allows you to leave them there. The Safe Bass feature helps with this. It is in the form of a crossover, which will help to put a threshold of low frequencies, which will still be in the middle.
- Check Mid & Sides
As for monitoring, you’ll have some great features to help you check the stereo picture. First, you will see two buttons in the right bottom corner, Mute Mid and Mute Side. Thus, you will be able to inspect the situation in these areas.
- Flip The Phase And Swap The Channels
You can find a few more useful features on the left side of the screen. For example, you can swap left and right channels with the Swap L-R button to check the balance. There is also a Phase Flip button, which flips the input signal’s phase. In addition, the Mono button helps you check the mix in mono.
- Enter The Expert Mode
You can apply Expert Mode and get more settings if you want to get the most out of this plugin. For example, it opens up panning parameters such as linear, logarithmic, or sin/cos. Also, here you can choose to fix mid-level or bind M/S levels for width.
Alex Hilton A1StereoControl is available for Windows and macOS, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2, AU, and AAX formats.
A1StereoControl is a great plugin that helps you expand the stereo picture during mastering. You can also use it for buses in mixing. In general, it has all the necessary parameters for panning and width and monitoring functions for detailed checking.
19. ChowDSP Chow Tape Model (Tape Saturation/Emulation)
If you want a virtual tape machine that can completely change its settings, the Chow Tape Model plugin from ChowDSP is what you need.
Adding tape saturation in mastering is standard practice. Thanks to this, you can get a warm and natural sound like in the old days. Many plugins make this possible. But now we will show you probably the universal one. And in addition, it is free.
The main thing about the Chow Tape Model plugin is that you can influence almost any parameter. For example, saturation, drive, and tape quality. So you can get a slight effect for mastering or a very obvious one for creative purposes.
- Adjust The Tone
You can influence the effect’s tone in one of the sections closer to the left of the window. In particular, there are Treble, Bass, and Frequency controls. In addition, here are the Saturation and Drive harmonic addition settings and the Bias control.
- Make It Degradative
If you want to change the quality of your virtual tape, the section with Loss, Degrade, and Chew can help. Here you have all the necessary parameters that determine the tape’s thickness, the playback speed, or even the chewing in general.
- Flutter & Wow
The Flutter and Wow options will help you go even further. Thanks to them, you can get a strange sound, similar to alien sounds. In particular, both parameters have Depth and Rate controls.
- Set Gain and Filters
Of course, you will have plenty of Gain settings. For example, these are Input, Dry/Wet, and Output. In addition, you will find a Low Cut filter, which is a pre-tape, and a High Cut filter post-tape.
Chow Tape Model is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It comes in VST/3, AU, AUv3, CLAP, LV2, AAX formats, and as a standalone host.
With the Chow Tape Model plugin, you can get anything from light tape saturation to crazy effects. If we’re talking about mastering, it’s a great tool to add a few percent warmth and brightness to your material. And you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get different flavors of that.
20. TBProAudio dpMeter4 (Loudness Analyzer)
The dpMeter5 plugin from TBProAudio will help you accurately measure the signal loudness.
And, of course, we couldn’t help but include a plugin that will be a volume analyzer in our list. So why do you need it? For example, to compare the volume to a reference, or in general, to orientate at what level you are.
It is exactly what the free dpMeter5 plugin from TBProAudio is. You will find all kinds of indicators here. In addition, you can compare your material with different standards. Let’s see what’s here in more detail.
- All Meters That You’ll Need
The interface of this plugin is quite simple. In the center, you will see seven indicators that will tell you about the different levels. These are Integrated Loudness, Short-Term Loudness, Momentary Loudness, True Peak Max, and Loudness Range.
- Multichannel Metering
What is noteworthy is that you will not only be able to measure the stereo signal. You can go to the Ch. Config tab and select the desired parameter. There are different options for Left, Right, 4, and 6 channels.
- Three Different Modes
In addition, you will be able to change the measurement mods. You will have three options: RMS, EBU R128, and DIAL (dialog gated). All of them will have slightly different values. For example, in DIAL, you will see Dialog Percentage.
- Write Measurement Values
Another cool feature of this plugin is that you can write measurement values as automation data. Thus, you can copy and paste this information to any track. It can be useful in cases where you need to get a certain dynamic.
TBProAudio dpMeter5 is available for Windows (both 32 and 64-bit) and macOS (64-bit only). It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The dpMeter5 plugin from TBProAudio will be a great tool for you to measure the loudness level. You get all the indicators you need for different standards. Plus, you will be able to record the history of volume changes as automated data. This plugin will be indispensable for mastering to know if you are reaching your reference level.
As you can see, you can easily assemble an arsenal of mastering plugins without any investment. And this applies to almost any instrument: from EQ and compressors to limiters and various analyzers. So, at the end of the post, let us give you some recommendations on which software is the best.
As for mastering EQs, we recommend checking out the 2 Analog Obsession MaxBax and 3 BPB & Analog Obsession Rare EQ plugins. Also, a very good option is 7 Voxengo Marvel GEQ and 11 TDR Nova.
If you need a compressor, we can recommend number 8 Analog Obsession SPEComp and number 12 AudioDamage RoughRider 3. And a great limiter would be the number 5 Apogee Soft Limit.
And of course, if you need an all-in-one solution, the #1 Brainworx bx_masterdesk Classic and #15 VladG Limiter N°6 are wonderful plugins. They will have almost everything you need for mastering.
Remember, it is not important what plugin you use, but how well you know how to use it. We wish you successful mastering!
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Ilarion Ivanenko is a remote mixing and mastering engineer from Ukraine, a musician with more than 15 years of experience. Specializes in rock, metal, progressive and the other genres. He can’t imagine his life without music, as it is the biggest passion in his life