All-in-one mastering chain plugins can be the easiest and fastest way to get good sounding masters without much knowledge.
Even though mastering your tracks by yourself can be scary, nowadays it’s easier than ever before. Technology is moving forward, and the music industry has benefited a lot from that. Several developers have designed plugins that can help you master your tracks in a single VST. However, if you want to get a high-quality song, it is always advised to pay a professional. Mastering engineers have specially treated rooms, high-end monitors, analog equipment, and most importantly, a vast knowledge in the area that allows them to get the best results.
These plugins can be an excellent alternative for quick masters, inexperienced producers, or users looking for a compact solution. For that reason, We’ve picked the top six mastering plugins so you can master your tracks without being a mastering engineer.
Top 6 Mastering Chain Plugins 2021
1. Waves Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain Review
The Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain is a plugin that The Beatles fans will love. It was inspired by the mastering console you will find at the Abbey Roads Studios.
Waves designed this modular vintage channel strip to emulate the sound of the legendary console EMI TG12410. The Abbey Road TG mastering chain is a plugin that can be useful to master your tracks in a single VST. Using this plugin will add a lot of character and richness to your song, one of the main features of this VST is the sound coloration it provides. This channel strip will consist of five individual modules that give you complete control over your track. When purchasing, you will get six versions of the same plugin: mono and stereo version, a live low latency mono and stereo version, and a mono and stereo meter to monitor peaks, RMS, and LUFS.
Even though this is a mastering plugin, You can also use it for mixing. Its modules will work well on buses, master tracks, or individual tracks. Mixing is an art; that’s why there are no rules as long as it sounds good.
- Limiter and stereo widening
These are two of the best assets you will find in this plugin. A complete limiter/compressor will allow you to push your signal to get the loudness desired without saturating your track. On the other hand, you will find a red “spreader” knob in the output module that will allow you to open your stereo field without having phase issues.
- Processing modes
You can process the signal in three modes: stereo, dual mono, and m/s. That being said, this VST will let you filter, eq, or compress differently for the left and right channel or each of the mono outputs. Also, in the output module, you can choose among stereo/Mono/L/R/M/S monitoring modes.
- Two compression modes
The compression module allows you to use two different compression modes: original and modern. Each one of them will give you a different flavor and result. The modern circuit is a transparent style of compression that will allow you to push the signal forward to gain more decibels. In contrast, the original setting gives you a vintage and aggressive type of compression/limiting.
You can bypass and interchange the five modules you please to modify the signal flow. Also, you can adjust the ratio and recovery for compression or Q shape when equalizing; keep in mind that other plugins may have fixed values for these instead.
Character & Sound:
This is a vintage-sounding channel strip that adds a lot of character and color to the sound. The Abbey Road mastering chain is ideal for genres like rock or metal. You will get a great sounding tool that might help you get a mastered track with the sound of analog studio equipment. All of the five modules work together, so bypassing them will not affect the character.
This plugin requires Windows 10 64 bits or macOS 10.13.6 or higher 64 bit. You can find it on VST, VST3 AU, or AAX.
With the Abbey Road TG mastering chain, you will get five modules to manipulate your sound and get a great sounding master. Its color and character make it unique if that’s what you’re looking for. This plugin may not be the best option for novices because the style and modules can confuse inexperienced users. If you are looking for a great-sounding analog mastering chain with a lot of coloration, this is the right option for you.
2. Brainworx bx_masterdesk Review
The bx_Masterdesk is an analog-modeled mastering plugin that Brainworx designed.
It works as a mastering chain that provides you equalization, compression, limiting de-essing, and mid/side features that will allow you to get a good-sounding master quickly.
This mastering plugin contains TMT technology: tolerance modeling technology gives analog modeled plugins differences caused by component tolerances, the same way hardware analog equipment does. It means that the EQ and dynamics circuits have slightly different sound qualities depending on the selected mode.
- Quick master:
It has a predefined processing chain with only one knob for compression and fixed eq bands to make everything easier and faster. Additionally, it features some good-sounding presets that may save you some time.
- High-quality analog mastering:
The circuits this plugin contains will allow you to get a high-quality analog master. Masterdesk is not a transparent plugin. It adds coloration to the signal. The TMT technology makes it behave like a piece of actual hardware equipment. Finally, the THD knob adds harmonic distortion to the track to give your song extra warmth.
- Four compression modes
Even though there is only one compression knob; four different compression modes will provide you different attack, ratio, and release values to shape your track as desired. Each mode will also give you a slightly different coloration due to the TMT technology.
- Resonance filters and Midiside
This plugin allows you to attenuate predefined critical frequencies with its resonance filters to make your track sound cleaner as a final EQ touch. Also, it features a mono maker and stereo enhancer knob that will let you open your stereo field and mono your bass frequencies.
Character & Sound:
This is an analog-modeled plugin; that’s why it will add color and harmonic distortion to your track. The knobs are very sensitive. So that, subtle changes will have a significant impact on your song. Finally, the volume knob works as a limiter to get a louder master without saturation.
Bx_mastersuite is available for macOS 10.9 through 11.0.1 or Windows 7 through 10, 64 bit. It comes in AAX DSP, AAX Native, AU, AAX AudioSuite, VST2, and VST3.
Masterdesk is an excellent option if you want a quick yet analog master. Even though the interface can look simple, this is a powerful plugin that can give clean, smooth, and loud masters without being a professional. Feel free to experiment with the THD knob and the compression modes; it is beneficial to get familiar with the sound of your plugins in order to get the best result possible. Lastly, purchasing this plugin can be a great introduction to the mastering world.
3. T-Racks One By IK Multimedia Review
Powerful and easy-to-use solution for masters.
The T-Racks One processor was designed as a complete solution to create a quick master or shape your groups or individual tracks in the mix. It is straightforward and effective to use. It features compression, harmonic drive, stereo enhancer, EQ bands, and limiting that will allow you to get high-quality results quickly.
The Push, Volume, and Width knobs are handy tools that allow you to enhance your stereo field and increase the loudness of your song without worrying about compression parameters or phase issues. Be careful when turning up these knobs because you can quickly saturate or over-compress your track if you overuse them.
- Easy to use:
The labeling of the knobs, interface, and presets provides a lot of help for users who aren’t too familiar with these techniques. On the other side, it’s a great plugin for professional engineers as well to get quick and great results.
- Three-band equalizer:
The equalizing module on this plugin is located on the left side of the interphase and features three knobs that work as bass, mids, and treble. The body knob will add low frequencies, focus mids, and air will boost or cut the treble. These three bands can be helpful for inexperienced users because the frequencies and Q are already predefined; also, the labeling IK Multimedia uses for the knobs is self-explanatory.
- Simple compression.
You will not find the regular knobs such as ratio, attack, or makeup gain in this plugin. Instead, you will get a bass punch knob for extra tightness in the fundamental frequencies, analog to add harmonic distortion and transients to shape your signal and eliminate harsh peaks.
- Two magic knobs
The central knobs you will find in the T-racks one are Volume and Push. The former will allow you to increase the gain of your track to get a louder master. In contrast, Push will work as a natural-sounding compression knob that will affect the overall signal.
Character & Sound:
T-rack One should not be your first option if you are looking for a colored analog-modeled plugin. This plugin will add some character to your track, especially if you turn up the analog harmonic exciter knob. It will perform alright for both electronic and analog genres.
T-racks One is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9.5 or later. It comes in Standalone, VST2, VST3, AAX Native, and AU for 32 and 64 bits.
The One module is the best option if you are looking for a quick and easy master. It can be an excellent option for your first contact with the mastering world and a great tool if you want to get high-quality results in a short time. The knobs are labeled in a self-explanatory way which can be helpful if you’re not very familiar with the more technical terms. By using this plugin, you will sacrifice customizability over effectiveness and simplicity.
4. Initial Audio Mastersuite Review
Initial Audio Mastersiuite is one of the cheapest options on this list as a complete mastering plugin.
However, when purchasing, you will get an excellent value for a low price. This plugin will allow you to adjust the loudness and equalize and enhance the stereo field of your track with independent knobs. This plugin is ideal for mastering beats or electronic music. You will not get coloration or warmth inside this plugin, but you can use the THD knob and analog button to enrich your sound.
- LUFS intelligent screen
This plugin features a screen in the top middle part of the interface that allows you to monitor the loudness of your track with the industry-standard measurement system LUFS. This screen will benefit users because the numbers displayed will turn green once the track reaches a specifically accepted loudness. On the flip side, it will turn red if it’s too loud.
- Stereo image
Besides compression and EQ, this plugin also provides a stereo image module that will allow you to enhance or tighten your stereo field with a mono and stereo knob. The first one will allow you to low cut the frequencies you want to remain mono. In contrast, the stereo knob works as a spreader that will open the stereo perception of the mid and high frequencies.
Mastersuite uses an intelligent algorithm to ensure maximum loudness with minimal distortion. You can control the loudness of your song with the big loudness knob placed above the EQ section. The loudness and peaks can be controlled with the soften and comp mix knob to have a cleaner limitation with a louder volume.
Character & Sound:
This plugin is ideal for mastering EDM or beats. It doesn’t add the coloration or character desired when mastering instrumental genres. However, it can work for quick masters, demos, or just pumping up the signal to get a louder song. Even though it provides a transparent sound, you will get some harmonic distortion by turning up the THD knob that can be handy depending on your track.
Initial Audio Mastersuite is available for Windows Vista and above 32 and 64 bit and OSX 10.7 or above 64 bit. It is VST and AU compatible but does not work on Protools.
The Mastersuite is a similar plugin to T-Racks One and it’s an excellent alternative for mastering if you have zero experience as well. Its three-band equalizer will help you balance your track, whereas the loudness knob allows you to get the industry-standard volume. This is a considerable option if you look at the price and sound. However, we suggest you try using more advanced all-in-one or individual mastering plugins once you understand how to use this plugin.
5. Slate Digital FG-X Review
Louder Masters without losing dynamics or punch.
The Slate Digital FG-X can be the final step for a loud and modern master. This plugin does not allow you to tweak equalization but instead focuses on dynamics and limitations. It features three modules: FG –Comp a compressor, FG-levels a limiter and transient shaper, and FG meters a stereo RMS meter. This plugin provides everything you need to push your signal forward and get a punchy, detailed, and dynamic track. For this plugin, you should look for an external LUFS meter because the meter comes in RMS.
We recommend this plugin for both experienced and inexperienced users. Slate Digital is a very well-known developer that always offers top-notch plugins at a reasonable monthly membership. You will have to choose to go for a more transparent and loud sound or a more colored and analog sound. Feel free to experiment with this plugin and combine it with other compressors or analog modeled equalizers to get your desired master.
- Intelligent transient preservation
The level module offers a transparent limiter that will let you get a louder master protecting the transients to avoid clipping or over-compressed masters. The ITP fader will create a custom saturation curve in your heavy peaks to preserve the dynamics. The algorithm was designed to identify the frequencies that need to be affected or kept to get the loudest possible track but with punch and dynamics.
- Dynamic perception
The dynamic perception knob adds perceived dynamics to your track. Usually, when limiting a track, many dynamics can be lost because the limiter cuts the peaks and raises the valleys. However, this knob will simulate dynamics and help you retain or even add a little more dynamic perception of your song.
- Transparent compression
The FG-comp module is a very transparent Opto and VCA compressor that will only affect the dynamics of your track without adding coloration or harmonic distortion. It features an algorithm that maintains the quality of your track without saturating. Transparent compression can be useful if you are mastering electronic genres or if you use it to capture the transients after using a colored compressor.
Character & Sound:
Mastersuite is a very modern-sounding plugin that will be ideal for both instrumental and electronic music. It has a very transparent circuit that will work great if you use it after your favorite analog-modeled compressor or channel strip. However, sometimes you will find mixes that already have enough harmonic saturation; in that case, a transparent plugin like the FG-X can be your go-to.
The FG-X comes in a bundle available for Windows 8 or 10 or above 64 bits or macOS 10.12, 10.13, 10.14. It comes in AU, VST2, VST3, or AAX 64-bit host.
If you want to get a punchy and loud master, this is the right plugin for you. It can work great on beats or EDM. However, suppose you want to use it on instrumental music. In that case, we suggest adding an analog modeled compressor to your chain to add harmonic distortion to the sound. The algorithms and circuits this plugin provides will allow you to push your signal forward without sacrificing the transients or dynamic perception.
6. 2getheraudio RICH Mastering Plugin Review
Easy mastering without breaking the bank.
The Rich mastering plugin is a straightforward and easy-to-use mastering plugin that will allow you to process dynamics, increase loudness, control stereo width, and even add analog saturation with minimum effort. This plugin can work in expert and simple mode. The expert mode provides you knobs for all of the six individual parameters located on the left side of the interface. In contrast, the simple mode gives you buttons to turn on and off for predefined functions.
This plugin’s developers will allow you to choose how much you want to pay for the plugin, and 10% of the price you choose will go to charity. That way, you can get a good plugin but also contribute to a good cause.
- Quick results
If you decide to use this plugin in simple mode, you will get a good sounding master in a short time. It has knobs like de-mud or un-box that will attenuate specific frequencies to make your master sound better. Additionally, you can use the big boost knob to get a combination of compression, tonal shaping, and saturation. The parameters it features will give you good results in a short time.
- Progressive tone correction
The Rich plugin has a proprietary tone correction technology that shapes the equalization of your track and fixes some common eq mistakes. Using the bass, presence, and shine knobs will allow you to equalize specific frequencies in order to shape your track to make it sound more pleasing.
- Stereo Imaging
With this plugin, you will get a stereo image knob that allows you to enhance the stereo perception of your track; below that, you will find a button labeled check mono that will enable you to monitor the mono channel only. Also, you will find a mono bass knob on the left side of the interphase to keep your low frequencies in mono.
Character & Sound:
The main feature of this plugin it’s the functionality. It has musical equalization curves and a transparent compression mode. You may get some harmonic distortion if you turn up the boost knob; however, be careful because you may get an over-limited track if you push it a lot. You will not get the high-quality result you may find with other plugins in this list, but still, you can get some good sounding masters, especially if you dig into the expert mode.
Rich Mastering processor is available for Mac OS X 10.12 or later, Windows 7 or later 64 bits. You can find the plugin in VST, AU, and AAX format.
Rich Mastering processor is a cheap and easy solution for a good-sounding master or mix. This plugin will give you good results only by pressing buttons and turning up the boost knob. Nevertheless, if you want more versatility, you can use the expert mode to have more detailed parameters and overall control over your song. We suggest you use this plugin for really quick masters by itself or combined with compression or EQ mastering modules in order to get a better result.
Bonus (Mastering Reference Tool)
Mastering The Mix Reference 2 Review
Closer than ever to the sound of your favorite tracks.
Reference 2 is a plugin that offers a different approach to mastering compared to the previously mentioned VSTs. This plugin developed by mastering the mix allows you to A/B your mix with up to 12 reference tracks in stereo width, loudness, EQ, and dynamics.
This plugin allows you to compare your original mix with a master of your choice. After uploading both tracks in the plugin, the Trinity display will graphically represent the equalization, stereo width, and compression values that the reference track has and suggestions on how to get your track to sound like the reference.
This is not a mastering chain plugin that will allow you to tweak compression and EQ values. Instead, it will give you a visual representation of the changes you should implement in your track to get as close as possible to the sound of the reference mix.
- Level match tool
When using reference tracks, it is essential to have the same level in both songs to perceive the differences in equalization, compression, etc., accurately. The Reference plugin comes with a very accurate level match tool that will automatically match the volume of the tracks compared to get a fair comparison and don’t be distracted by level changes. You can set the volume of your tracks to the quietest or –14 LUFS.
- Trinity display
The trinity display will show you real-time insights into the EQ curve, punch dots for compression, and stereo spread values of your reference tracks. After that, you can open your preferred compressor, stereo enhancer, or EQ and try to match with the reference provides values.
Reference 2 comes with a very clean and smooth meter that can display peak, dBTP, or LUFS integrated and short-term. With Reference 2, you will get one meter for the original track and one for the reference song.
Reference 2 requires OS X 10.10 or higher and Windows 7, 8, or 10 64-bit. It comes in VST, VST3, Audio Unit, and AAX (64-bit)
This VST is not an all-in-one mastering chain. Reference 2 is a tool that will allow you to very accurately compare your tracks and suggest modifications based on the references you provide.
All-in-one mastering plugins can be an excellent method for getting started in the mastering world, even though you will always get a better result if you go to a mastering engineer or use dedicated plugins for each mastering stage.
We recommend Abbey Road FG mastering chain for users who want complete control over the master and a vintage sound. And Masterdesk by Brainworxs for an easy-to-use plugin with analog sound.
FG-X by Slate digital will be your go-to if you are looking for a transparent yet punchy master. Additionally, you will also have access to many high-quality mixing and mastering plugins if you purchase the Slate membership. Finally, suppose you want to make your tracks sound good with the minimum effort. In that case, Mastersuite by Initial audio or Rich mastering plugin can be the best option for you.
Rafael Medina is a Music producer, mixing engineer, and bassist. He plays the bass with his band Outburst and produces local artists in his home studio. Rafael is currently graduating with a Music degree at Algoma University.