The Best Mastering Plugins

The Best Mastering Plugins

July 26, 2017 — We surveyed 71 mastering experts to get their very best mastering tips… and the result was awesome!

The experts recommended a ton of great mastering plugins… so many, in fact, that we decided to organize them here for easy reference.

We asked each member of our panel to give us his/her #1 and #2 favorite mastering plugins, and to explain why he/she loves them. All told, 51 mastering plugins were recommended.

So here they are: 51 of the very best mastering plugins currently available, according to our panel of mastering experts.

Cheers!
Scott Hawksworth's signature
Scott Hawksworth
Founder, AudioSkills

Click here to view the entire list of our expert contributors, including links to their social media profiles.

We asked the experts: What are your #1 and #2 favorite mastering-related plugins? Please indicate which DAW it’s for, and why you love it!

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FabFilter

FabFilter Pro-Q

FabFilter Pro-Q Plugin

FabFilter Pro-Q Plugin

  • FabFilter Pro-Q2. Highly accurate EQ with room for mid-side processing and a variety of bands to work with. Pro Tools! — Kenneth Candelas, KCandelas.com
  • FabFilter Pro-Q2 is an amazing EQ for mastering, it’s very visual. — Zach Caraher, Big Z Mixing & Mastering Services
  • FabFilter Q2 for Ableton. I love it for its very responsive spectrum analyser and possibility of going full screen, as well as zooming facilities, so you can make very precise surgical cuts/boosts. 48dB/72dB/96dB slopes come in handy as well; they are not usually available in DAW built-in EQ devices. — Paul Jalowecki, Chrome Mastering
  • FabFilter Pro-Q is incredible and very cost effective. The ‘solo frequency’ feature is invaluable. — Cory Allen, Altered Ear
  • The FabFilter Pro-Q (any DAW) is the only digital EQ that doesn’t totally bum me out. It actually works. And sounds pretty good! — Nick Zampiello, New Alliance East Mastering
  • FabFilter Pro-Q. An extremely transparent and flexible digital EQ with a great GUI! — Mark Trewella, Full Circle Mastering
  • I really like FabFilter EQ. Specifically for how easy it is to use. — Noah Mintz, Lacquer Channel Mastering

FabFilter Pro-L Limiter

  • The Fab Filter Pro-L limiter has been my go-to limiter recently (out of about 10 of them) – very versatile and generally works well to preserve transients without introducing too much distortion. — Steven Berson, Total Sonic Media
  • The FabFilter Pro-L is my go to Limiter on all of my projects. While completely clean and incredible powerful, it also allows me to stack 2 or even 3 limiters with lower gain on each one and keep my bottom end intact. Essential! — Drew Lavyne, All Digital Mastering

FabFilter Pro-MB

  • I like the FabFilter Pro-MB (multi band compressor) for it’s ability to perform transparent correction before I send a mix out to my analog devices. Very smooth and easy to use, I run mine in Pro Tools 11. — Dan Coutant, Sun Room Audio
  • I use FabFilter Pro-MB to shape my masters. Whether I need to add clarity, punch or compression pro MB is my go to plugin. Compatible with most DAWs. — Tom Frampton, Mastering The Mix

Universal Audio (UAD)

  • UAD. Because all the plugs look great and are just as easy as the analog gear to use. — Noah Mintz, Lacquer Channel Mastering
  • Waves & Universal Audio are all good. — Jack, Mastered by Jack

Massive Passive

  • The UAD Massive Passive (Mastering) for all DAW’s is my favorite for the warmth it imparts and the broad strokes it can paint. Just turning it on and running audio through it flat will add space and warmth to any mix. Essential! — Drew Lavyne, All Digital Mastering
  • I would have to say that the UAD Massive Passive EQ has been on every mastering job I’ve done since I bought it. I use it on the output bus in Logic X, my mastering DAW. It’s extremely powerful yet completely transparent. It does exactly what is was designed to do; provide astounding flexibility without getting in the way. — David A. Lopez, DavidALopez.com
  • I mainly use analog equipment but back when I was using plugins my go to was UAD Manley Massive Passive Mastering version. I used it in both Pro Tools and Presonus Studio One. It is a beautiful sounding EQ and works really well for mastering. The selectable bands and fine controls are everything I need for mastering. — Matthew Wolk, Matthew Wolk Mastering
  • My second one is the Manley Passive EQ from UA because is the best emulation on the market. I use it in DP for mastering in the box. — Gabriel Alvarez Franchi, GabrielAlvarezFranchi.com

Vertigo VSM-3

Vertigo Sound VSM-3

Vertigo Sound VSM-3

  • Vertigo VSM-3 by Brainworx/Plugin Alliance (also on the UAD platform) is definitely one of my favorites, and it seems that it’s not that well known for some reason. It’s modeled after a hardware unit but the software version is very subtly powerful if that makes sense. — Justin Perkins, Mystery Room Mastering
  • Vertigo Sound VSM-3 from UA is awesome! It is one of the “best secrets” of mastering. The harmonic distortion is tasty! I use it in DP for mastering in the box. — Gabriel Alvarez Franchi, GabrielAlvarezFranchi.com
  • Vertigo VSM-3 is extremely useful for “a little something extra” on a mix if you need added mojo and excitement. I like it’s ability to enrich low end and add a little “hair” to an electric guitar. The mid-side functionality is about as good as you’ll find in a plugin. I use mine in Pro Tools 11 on a parallel mix send “as needed”. — Dan Coutant, Sun Room Audio

Ampex ATR-102

  • Sequoia and Samplitude are my DAW. For more than a decade I have used Algorithmix EQ plugins. I love them. They are used on almost ever master. Once in a while the Ampex ATR-102 tape simulator by UAD saves the day. — Timothy Stollenwerk, Stereophonic Mastering
  • The UAD Ampex ATR-102, which I’d guess I use on about half the records I work on. It’s compatible with any DAW. It can really bring out warmth and depth in a track that I haven’t found with any other plugin. — Nick Garcia, Nick Garcia Tunes

UAD Precision K-Stereo Ambience Recovery

  • My second favorite plugin is UAD’s Precision K-Stereo Ambience Recovery tool. Bob Katz is a genius and he did an incredible job creating this device. You have to be careful with it, though. A little goes a long way. — David A. Lopez, DavidALopez.com

Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor

  • The UAD Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor. This one gets used for almost everything. — Nick Garcia, Nick Garcia Tunes

Cambridge EQ

  • UAD Cambridge EQ. I use it Cubase 8.5. This EQ is a go to for stem mastering projects. I love the sound it gives me and its interface is great. — Lewis Hopkin, Stardelta Audio Mastering

Dangerous BAX EQ

  • The Bax EQ by Dangerous Music. It finesses the lows with the perfect amount of authority and lifts the top with delicacy and transparency. It’s first in my chain and always gets a track on a more level playing field if appropriate. — Michael Curtis, Movement Mastering

iZotope

iZotope Ozone

iZotope Ozone

iZotope Ozone

  • iZotope Ozone 7 is an incredibly great sounding, flexible collection of tools that have made my job so much easier. — Hans DeKline, Sound Bites Dog
  • iZotope Ozone mastering suite for Ableton. I love it for its transparent sound – It doesn’t matter how hard you drive its compressors or limiters, you will never hear even a fraction of distortion! — Paul Jalowecki, Chrome Mastering
  • Izotope Ozone. Works in any DAW. I do use many other plugins, but if I had to pick a desert island mastering plugin, Ozone would be it, as it has most of the tools you need to balance the song and make it loud enough. — Janne Hatula, Fanu Music
  • I have to go with Ozone, it has everything you would need, only and this is a strong only, if you know what you’re doing and are already experienced in mastering. — Julian Silva, On Air Mastering
  • Ozone – it’s such a complete suite of great tools and you can complement it with your other faves — Jonathan Wyner, M Works
  • I like the Ozone plugins. They are really good sounding and flexible. I use it with soundblade and protools — Joe Lambert, Joe Lambert Mastering
  • Geez, I have a couple of favorites but if I had to choose just one it would be Izotope Insight. I use this so much every session and in any DAW I work in. — Arie van den Velden, Redial Studio

iZotope RX

  • iZotope RX6 which is both a plugin and a DAW/audio editor technically. Many of the RX6 modules are available as AudioSuite plugins in Pro Tools as well as AAX/VST/AU for other DAWs. What’s really amazing is using the standalone app. All my mastering projects go through a critical listening phase to remove any unwanted clicks, pops, ticks, and other unwanted noises that may have gone undetected until the mastering stage. This may sound boring but it happens way more than most people think if you listen carefully, even with some of the best mix engineers I master for. These noises also tend to creep out more in mastering as we raise the average loudness of the material and clean up the frequency response to make the audio more clear. It just happens. I think RX6 is essential for audio mastering these days. I would not want to work without it. — Justin Perkins, Mystery Room Mastering
  • iZotope RX is really nice for cleaning up extraneous ticks, pops, clicks, crackles and other artifacts that might be encountered in some recordings. — Steven Berson, Total Sonic Media
  • RX. The way I can manage SRC in it is unparalleled — Jonathan Wyner, M Works

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Tokyo Dawn Recording (TDR)

TDR Nova

  • TDR Nova (any DAW) as it allows me to EQ out mud dynamically without affecting the overall balance. — Chris Carvalho, Unlock Your Sound
  • Everything by TDR and Acustica Audio. Lets say I am amazed by TDR NOVA GE, LIMITER 6GE and Acustica Audio Gold, Pearl and Diamond. — Denis Emery, Mastering.lt
  • Gotta be Tokyo Dawn Labs NOVA dynamic EQ. I basically chucked out my beloved TC MD2/3 when I heard this, it was like “right, dynamic EQ now doesn’t sound weird, good to know!” — Joe Caithness, Subsequent Mastering

TDR SlickEQ

  • TDR SlickEQ Mastering. by Tokyo Dawn Records. That little plugin developper create wonderfull tools for a ridiculous price. This EQ is easy to use, clean. It has a master filter that can get you where you want very fast. It can match the harmonic balance of a song with the balance of a pink noise and still sound very coherent. it is a way to hear an external suggestion you would not have think of otherwise. Also, it has some hidden easter eggs in it. Well try it! 🙂 (every daw, VST, AU, AAX) — JP Villemure, Villemure.net
  • Probably a toss up between Tokyo Dawn Kotelnikov GE or SlickEQ Mastering, both available as VST, AU, and AAX. They are extremely high quality processors that can go anywhere from ultimate transparency to a little “analog” mojo, at very reasonable prices. — Ian Stewart, Ian Stewart Music

TDR Kotelnikov GE Compressor

  • Tokyo Dawn don’t try to emulate analog hardware. Instead they produce plugins that offer the best of digital which can work very well in today’s typical analog/digital hybrid mastering studios. Their Kotelnikov GE compressor is an absolute steal for 40 euros. In fact all their plugins are worth trying. Especially as some of them are free! — Steve Kitch, Audiomaster Mastering Studio

DMG

DMG EQuilibrium

DMG EQuilibrium

DMG EQuilibrium

  • Too many that I like, to have a #1 but I do use DMG EQuilibrium a lot. — Dave McNair, Dave McNair Mastering
  • I absolute adore the DMG EQuilibrium EQ plugin, I use it for VST and it does probably 80% of my processing. It’s flexible beyond what I thought was possible and almost always sounds completely predictable and if it’s not right you are a few clicks away from fixing it. — Joe Caithness, Subsequent Mastering
  • DMG EQuilibrium. It is by far the most customizable, powerful and clean digital EQ I have found. — Ryan Schwabe, RyanSchwabe.com

DMG Essence

  • DMG’s Essence is a great de-esser and sweetener. Very versatile. Available for all DAWs. — Bob Katz, Digital Domain
  • DMG Essence. VST plugin. Best-sounding, most flexible plugin I’ve ever used. — Bob Macciochi, Subvert Central Mastering

DMG Limitless

  • DMG Limitless. Its available in VST, AU and AAX formats so it should work in most DAWs. Its an incredibly deep limiter with loads of parameters to tweak. Reading the manual is a must but the results are worth it. — Steve Kitch, Audiomaster Mastering Studio

MeterPlugs & Ian Shepherd

Perception

  • Ian Shepherd’s Perception. I know it works in WaveLab. In addition to matching before and after versions, it also synchronizes them time wise to give a no-holds-barred representation of what your processes are actually doing for (or against!) the mix. — Karl Machat, Mister’s Mastering House
  • Perception, by MeterPlugs, available as VST, AU, and AAX. Perception makes level-matched before and after comparisons a snap allowing you to focus on whether you’re helping or hurting the music without being fooled by loudness changes. — Ian Stewart, Ian Stewart Music
  • Perception by Ian Shepherd and MeterPlugs. Hands down. An incredibly easy tool to use that truly lets you hear what you’re doing to a track without the variable of loudness. Can’t live without it. It’s third party and can run in any DAW. — Michael Curtis, Movement Mastering
  • Perception by MeterPlugs is my favourite mastering plugin. It matches the timing and loudness of either end of your signal path so that you can compare your mastered audio with the source in a meaningful way. You can’t fool yourself into thinking you’ve made something better just because it is louder, brighter wider etc. It’s VST so can be used on a range of DAWs. Perception makes you raise your game. — Nick Watson, Fluid Mastering

Dynameter

  • Ian Shepherd’s Dynameter. It works in WaveLab. It shows how much dynamics are left in the music after your processes. — Karl Machat, Mister’s Mastering House
  • My MeterPlugs Dynameter for measuring PSR is great for having a visual to know I’m getting dynamics correct when I’m gain staging. Its’ AAX, AU, VST 32/64 bit Mac/Win and always in use when I do a project. — Jake Reid, Machine Drift

Brainworx

Brainworx BX Control

  • Well, this is a freebie but it’s extremely useful to me : Brainworx BX solo. I use it to isolate and listen the difference (side) signal as my monitor controller is 100% passive (and digitally controlled) so it does not have such feature. — Camilo Silva F., CamiloSilvaF.com
  • Brainworx BX Control. I use it in Sadie but its available for all DAW’s. The stereo field tools are better than anything else I have when mastering for vinyl. Its very well designed and works flawlessly. — Lewis Hopkin, Stardelta Audio Mastering
  • Brainworx BX Control, fantastic for mono-ing bass, checking RMS and widening using MS. All DAW. — Mathieu Bedwani, MathieuBedwani.com

Sonnox / Oxford

Sonnox Oxford Inflator

Sonnox Oxford Inflator

Sonnox Oxford Inflator

  • Oxford Inflator and limiter. For all DAW’s. It adds perceived loudness like nothing else … in the box or out of the box… it just sounds like radio. — Sam Moses, Moses Mastering
  • Oxford Inflator has got to be the best Plugin for mastering in my experience. It gently warms, glues and just adds that extra twinkle that some tracks need. — Martin Olmos, Allmostt Mastering

Sonnox Oxford Limiter

  • Sonnox limiter! If you can’t afford a hardware limiter that you love, try this. It’s transparent and easy to use. — Katie Tavini, KatieTavini.co.uk
  • Sonnox Limiter, available on all DAWs. Best limiter ever. — Mathieu Bedwani, MathieuBedwani.com

Sonnox Oxford EQ

  • I like the Oxford EQ. I use it with soundblade and protools — Joe Lambert, Joe Lambert Mastering

Sonnox Oxford SuprEsser

  • I use the Sonnox SuprEsser for de-essing and other frequency specific compression tasks. — Jerry Tubb, Terra Nova Mastering

Others

  • Definitely HOFA IQ-EQ. Most powerful digital EQ around. Of course you have to get under the hood to really take advantage of it ! I use it on ProTools but it’s available on many plugin formats i think. AAX, VST… — Camilo Silva F., CamiloSilvaF.com
  • I would say its HOFA BlindTest, which evens the loudness of premaster, master and reference track. It helps me to make decisions on EQ, compression and other adjustments without being tricked by “louder sounds better” thing. — Denis Emery, Mastering.lt
  • I use a very short list of plug-ins, the PSP Xenon limiter is a nice one to have on the end of the chain. — Jerry Tubb, Terra Nova Mastering
  • In general — if I have to use a digital EQ for something (rarely) — I go to PSP’s Neon HR. Great sounding and I worked with them on the interface and options a few years back. Just great guys, all-around. — Paul Abbott, Zen Mastering
  • Slate Revival. Think you can get it in AAX or AU formats. It’s free, so everyone should get it. But use it CAREFULLY. I find if you dial either knob up more than 3 or so ticks, it looses its subtlety and might not be a great choice in the mastering stage. — Patrick Anderson, ThePatrickAnderson.com
  • My second favorite plugin would be the Slate Digital FG-X Mastering Processor. I have tried many limiters and still this is the one that works best with my process. It is very clean and allows me to retain the transients without smashing them to the ground, even when heavy loudness is requested. — Matthew Wolk, Matthew Wolk Mastering
  • Refuse Software’s “Lowender” is a great enhancer. But make sure your monitors are flat and extended down to 20 Hz before you try to use it. Available for all DAWs. — Bob Katz, Digital Domain
  • EQ, honestly any kind. If you can get the balance right then everything else falls into place with the signal chain. EQ is how you get “loudness” or “density” or “Sparkle”. Compression and limiting is useless if theres nothing there to work with. — Sam Moses, Moses Mastering
  • SampleMagic’s Magic AB. It makes it so easy to switch back and forth between your track and your reference tracks. It has built in loudness metering so you can really make sure that your loudness is up to professional standards. — Zach Caraher, Big Z Mixing & Mastering Services
  • Right now, it’s MasterCheck by Nugen. It’s makes it easy to compare before and after mastering at the same volume so you can be sure than you’re improving how a mix sounds, not just making it louder. — Chris Graham, Chris Graham Mastering
  • SPL Pass EQ is such an amazing EQ. Subtle and PERFECT for jazz and classical music. I use it for Pro Tools. — Kenneth Candelas, KCandelas.com
  • oeksound “Soothe” is a new favorite: great for taming resonances — Janne Hatula, Fanu Music
  • McDSP ML4000. Use it right, and it can be an EQ, noise reduction, a de-esser, a multi-band compressor, and one of the best/most-versatile in-the-box limiters on the market today. Colin’s team is awesome, and it’s available for just about every DAW now! — Patrick Anderson, ThePatrickAnderson.com
  • Spectrafoo – standalone for Mac — Brent Lambert, The Kitchen Mastering
  • I like Spectre by Audiofile Engineering for accurate visual metering solutions. I use it as an Audio Unit plug-in in Logic. — Ron Boustead, Resolution Mastering
  • UBK-1. It adds depth and clarity to the masters and had endless possibilities. I got my template and start from there. — Julian Silva, On Air Mastering
  • It’s slightly biased as its a plugin my company has created…But it genuinely has improved my work more so than any other plugin, it’s called REFERENCE coming out in August 2017. It has some amazing tools that help me get my masters sounding more like my reference tracks. It can be used in any DAW. — Tom Frampton, Mastering The Mix
  • Sonitus Multiband, which is standard with Sonar. Used carefully, it is a great tool to control things and add punch. Be careful, used wrong it can ruin a good mix. — Mark Downie, Western Mastering
  • I’m not sure if it’s necessarily my favorite overall, but my favorite FREE plugin is probably Voxengo SPAN. It’s just a really straightforward and excellent way to visualize your EQ curve, RMS, and so forth. There’s a good bit of mastering that can be done with the eyes, and a great visual tool like this is essential. — Bill Henderson, Azimuth Mastering
  • Eiosis AirEQ Premium. I believe its available for all DAWs. Super versatile EQ with MS on individual bands, and the “fire” and “water” curves are an extra layer of control that I have not seen on any other EQ. — Ian Garrow, IanGarrow.com
  • Gliss EQ (VST). Fantastic dynamic eq, very affordable, sounds best at higher sample rates (can upsample to 4x internally). — Brent Lambert, The Kitchen Mastering
  • Variety Of Sound Density III, also used in Sonar. It’s free and while it doesn’t always work on a mix, when it does, it does whatno other compressor can. — Mark Downie, Western Mastering
  • I like the Waves L316 as it is a very flexible limiter. All DAWs. — Loz Gill, Fat as Funk
  • Spectral Cleaning for Sequoia — Kevin Nix, L. Nix Mastering
  • ReTouch by Cedar is my #2 favourite plugin. It’s available for SADiE and ProTools (maybe other DAWs). It’s the best tool available for spectral editing to remove unwanted artifacts. This goes for mouth noises and pops as well as creaks, glitches or any other brief sound that you want to remove from a recording – and can be used to remove very specific sounds from an entire mix. A life-saver in the mastering studio. — Nick Watson, Fluid Mastering
  • I’ve been using the Sonalksis “FreeG” plugin for years, I don’t always need it but when I do, it gets the job done. — Jake Reid, Machine Drift

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