Community member Blake La Grange is a producer and engineer living and working in Southern California and runs his own mastering business Mercury Mastering. He is a full-time mastering engineer and has worked with members of Chicago, Cheap Trick, Cake, and artists like P.O.D., Mase, and many more. Blake told us…
With hundreds of songs under my belt, from all different styles, I have learned to adapt to just about every genre that comes my way.
So here is his personal take on using plug-ins in Pro Tools for mastering.
Kush Clariphonic Parallel EQ
This thing is absolutely amazing. It can be used to throw on the stereo buss right before you send a track off to mastering, or used on anything with distinct hi-end like acoustic guitars, strings, or vocals. I own the actual hardware and use it 9 times out of 10 for mastering. In my opinion the plug-in is almost identical. It basically boosts two areas of top-end (around 2-6k and 6-20k). I usually hate boosting anything because I’ve adapted a philosophy to cut problem frequencies, but this changes everything. It boosts harmonic frequencies to truly add shimmer and clarity without the terrible harsh frequencies you get if you were to boost on a regular EQ. Just when you think a mix can’t get any better, start playing with it, bypass, and wonder why you lived without it.
Waves SSL G-Equalizer
I often use this EQ for cutting. It sounds so much better than any “10-Band” type EQ. Because you are limited to SSL’s parameters, it sort of forces you to be a better engineer. Whenever I need to get rid of that room resonance or muddiness, I’ll use this to notch out around 200-500Hz. It also has an “analog” switch so that after this hits a compressor or a limiter, you can hear that analog hum that we all long for in this digital age. Instead of throwing on another plug-in or using another EQ, I’ll use this to boost (sometimes). It is extremely sensitive, however; its 2dB boost seems like an 8dB boost on every other EQ. I’ll never cut or boost more than 3dB on this. Another helpful feature is the high-pass filter to cut out all the mess under 40hz.
This works similar to the Kush EQ where it boosts harmonic frequencies rather than grabbing a knob at 100 and turning it to the right. It also has a similar effect as the Kush EQ, but it’s geared toward low-end frequencies. Whenever a mix is lacking excitement in the low-end, I’ll use this to bring out the harmonics of the kick and bass. I use the frequency switch to find the bass or kick. If they are both sitting in the same frequency range, the MaxxBass won’t be of much help to you, but it’s a great “go-to” if you want to stay away from boosting low-end.
Waves PuigTec EQP-1A
I decided to add this into the list simply because of the “Attenuation” knob. If you don’t have the real thing, the plug-in does just fine. It certainly doesn’t sound as good as the hardware, but it’s the next best thing. I never use it to boost up top, unless it’s a very gradual shelf of a dB or so. This EQ, however, really nails the bottom end. Once you’re done boosting, bring up the attenuation knob and it technically dips that selected frequency. I know, right - boosting and cutting at the same time? Trust me, it’s awesome.
Waves API 2500
This compressor can give you any sound you want. In my studio, I usually like to stick to clean sounding EQ’s like SSLs, but whenever I want some color to my mix, I’ll use the API 2500. It’s definitely not as good as the real thing, but it’s darn close. I love the “Tone” selector. I think of it as my “style” selector. If the mix is already sounding great and simply needs some compression, this will do the trick.
Waves L3 Multimaximizer
I wouldn’t call this my favorite plug-in, or even my “must-have” plug-in, but if you want your tracks to be loud, without sounding squashed, this will do it. Unlike the L2, this is a multi-band limiter that allows you to hone in on five different frequency ranges. I’ll even find myself boosting 1dB or so up top just because I can. If you don’t have the hardware L2, or even if you find yourself coming up short with the loudness war out there, the L3 will allow you to fight the competition without selling out to the “squash factor” sound. That is, if you use it carefully.
Mike - So these are Blake’s go to plug-ins for mastering, do you agree? If not, what are your go to plug-ins for mastering?