Mastering Orchestra what do you use?

Today there are now services from Abbey Studios, BandLab, Landr, Soundcloud to name a few plus you can buy complete mastering tools such as TC Electronics Finalizer which I have, BrainWorx etc. I picked up Finalizer heavily discounted and it works very well with great limiters, compression, eq etc.

What is the forums member experience of service vs bought mastering software. And if you use software what would you recommend and why?

Try Isotope Ozone advance and watch a few videos how to use it.
I was a bit sceptic at first but now it’s a desert island plugin for me.

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Hush, hush. Finalizer is a secret weapon :slightly_smiling_face:

I haven’t investigated those services, but “some say” at least one of them is actually using Ozone, and I suppose most of them are based on some licensed tech from somewhere.

Either way, I’ve been using Ozone Advanced since version 8 (IIRC), and it’s a really quick and handy tool for sorting out minor issues and hitting the target loudness with transparent limiting - BUT, I don’t think any of these tools will do a great job on a mix that has significant issues. They just don’t have enough information about the input, or the desired outcome, and the bigger changes they have to do, the more obvious this becomes.

For example, if you feed solo or small ensemble pieces into Ozone, it tends to get all confused and apply some extreme EQ, because it doesn’t know what to do with “sparse” material. You have to use some very similar material as reference to give it a fair shot at doing anything useful there, or just skip the Assistant and use it as a manual mastering chain.

Either way, since the loudness war is supposedly over, at least if you look at the loudness levels that most services will normalize everything to, there shouldn’t really be much going on in the mastering chain, except for the loudest parts of more epic material - and that’s where you run into trouble no matter what. I think the best option there is to tame the dynamics in the mix (compression, sidechaining, multiband compression, saturation, …), to have the sound you’re going for, without distortion or pumping (unless you specifically want that for effect), leaving only final touches for the mastering chain. That done properly, at least Ozone tends to just do its transparent mastering thing, and all is well.

When you say mastering, are we referring to simple level boosts? As mastering is so much more than that.

To put it into perspective I charge £50 for final master. Which is just multiple bounces of your tracks mastered for different streaming platforms… all optimised for each one… this is a level thing. Very boring work but non the less, essential.

General mastering can take between half a day and a day for each track though, which is charge a base rate of £100 per day, in 2 days id probably do 3 to 6 tracks… but this would depend on how well the tracks were mixed as id be polishing the stems and overall mix. So for true mastering this is what you’d expect… in this case I’m always sceptical if someone’s offering lower than £70 per track. You tend to get what you pay for in this game… abbey roads is a great choice but I bet any amount of money that they’re just sending the tracks through their mic pres and then through their mastering chain to up the level and colour the sound (which is totally worth the money, but still falls into that first category).

So it’s totally dependent on what you want doing.


For me the great benefits of mastering by someone else come from two places - a specialist who is thinking about loudness in a way I don’t want to, and a different pair of ears in a theoretically more flat space than mine who will listen for issues I might miss and take the sound that last 5% forward to make it the most effective. Which is why I don’t consider most low end mastering people useful, because in the first place I’m not sending my stuff to someone listening through little speakers in an insufficiently-treated room and in the second place there needs to be a relationship with someone I trust to hear things I will not, maybe because I’m listening like a composer instead of more objectively/holistically. Nobody’s algorithm is going to help that. And I already think something sounds good when I’m done with it - that’s why I’m done with it! I want a mastering engineer to correct for any issues I won’t hear for whatever reason.

If I need to put some finishing on something, it’s generally going to be some kind of mix glue - a tape sim or bx_masterdesk. And maybe mild eq, like Kush’s HammerDSP, which is just a terrific eq. And not hitting anything too hard dynamics-wise, so the mixer for the show I’m sending to has some options.

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