Mastering a single track


Cubase already has plugins and features for mastering. For mastering a single track do I need to buy WaveLab as a Cubase user? Here quality is the preference than time since we are not mastering 2, 3…, 1000 mixes.


I would say no, You can also use Audacity or Reaper. The choice, as always, is up to the user. I do think WL makes things easier to master with all the new features in WL 10. FWIW

No, but you have to ask yourself, how many times will I need to master a single track?

Wavelab is specialized in mastering and therefor has the tools precisely picked for this job (including not in the least the metering tools). So the user can develop a working metod that more and more will produce reliable (and repeatable) results. Does everyone need this? No - especially not if you incidentally do a single track master.

Another aspect that I think is important is that the environment of a different program can (and should) give the user a sense of doing a different job. So, with WL, you can ‘put your mastering ears on’.

Good point. I think using Cubase workspaces, visually we can give ourself the sense of doing mastering job!

I have Wavelab 7 never used it! But I will give both Cubase and Wavelab a try to see which one produces better results.

Thank you.

I think only you can answer this question based on your workflow and needs. For me, whether I’m mastering a single song, EP, or album, the WaveLab montage is INCREDIBLE for that. To some degree, you can get away with doing single song masters in any DAW but anything more than that, a specialized mastering DAW will save you time, and provide more features that a multi-track DAW simply doesn’t usually have, which I think ultimately improves your end product.

Awhile back I wrote this article:

It was written before WaveLab 10 which has added some improvements for the analog I/O, but I think the concept of the article sill rings true about why an actual mastering DAW makes sense for mastering or at least finalizing masters, and it has nothing to do with the plugins it comes with. It’s all about features and workflow specific to mastering.

There is a reason programs like WaveLab exist, it just depends how serious you are about mastering if you find value in the features and workflow it provides, or if you’re happy hacking it in a multi-track DAW for 100% of the process.

Thanks for sharing your expertise.

I am reading your article. I am convinced for you as a professional master engineering it totally makes sense. I do have WL 7 and Ozone ( which I used for mastering ) and will use them when I stuck or at least compare the result. I am not doing a critique of your article. Just to learn I am writing this and ask you questions. I appreciate your time your responses in advance.

You talk about workflow. But you do not mention a workflow. Is this generally accepted workflow?

  1. Critical Listening: listen with fresh ears, med volume around low 80 dbs, take detailed notes, listen multiple times.
  2. Fix problems ( if there are any) such remove pops clicks muddy low end, excessive highs, phrase issues, aggressive/dull transients
  3. Enhance and improve: dynamics, selective EQ, exciters, stereo imaging
  4. Adjust levels & Gains: loudness good volume and check-in different environment, make sure no distortion and clipping, checking the stereo image again
  5. Export the track in various format

Steps 1-4 can be easily done in Cubase with control room ( for mono and stereo listing and also switching between the track and reference tracks)

You then talk about various formats:

These various master formats are typically a DDP image or physical CD-R for CD production, 16-bit/44.1k WAV files for basic digital distribution, and 24-bit/high sample rate WAV files for distribution via websites like Bandcamp, SoundCloud, as well as the Mastered For iTunes program. TIDAL and some others are also rolling out 24-bit/high sample rate streaming. You also may need to produce a vinyl pre-master, cassette pre-master, instrumental album master, and reference mp3 files which are sometimes also needed for download code cards that accompany vinyl and cassette releases nowadays. Reference mp3s can also include metadata and artwork which a mastering DAW can easily add automatically instead of managing this with another app for each project which can be too time-consuming.

But you don’t need new software, all of these can be done with decent quality in Cubase.

You then have a section “Get serious”, “Sequencing a Project”. I think this is not relevant to my question since I am assuming we are mastering a single track.

About your section: “Sample Rate Conversion”, upsampling and downsampling can be easily done in Cubase with same quality in Cubase 10.5 as in WL I assume!

In your section “Metadata”: You talk about entering ISRC codes. Isn’t true after 2012 the code can be embedded in Broadcast Wave Chunk: If so this can be easily done in Cubase Mixdown export. For mp3, Cubase doesn’t have any issue with ID3 metadata and it can handle it easily although there are freeware software for doing that.

First of all, WaveLab 7 is an antique piece of software in software years. Wavelab 10 has been out for some time now.

If the article didn’t raise some points that are of interest to you as well as comments by others in this thread, then you are probably not ready for WaveLab. If you end up doing mastering more frequently, and projects more than one song, then you might finally understand the unique benefits that it brings to the table vs. a DAW meant for recording and mixing.

It sounds like you’re willing to go through great lengths to talk yourself out of using WaveLab so I am not going to take any further time to answers questions. I didn’t start using WaveLab to create more questions, I started using WaveLab because it solved a problem with my workflow needs in mastering. A problem that no other piece of software on Mac could solve at the time.

I don’t know how else to say it other than again:

To some degree, you can get away with doing single song masters in any DAW but anything more than that, a specialized mastering DAW will save you time, and provide more features that a multi-track DAW simply doesn’t usually have, which I think ultimately improves your end product.

I am not mastering many per year. All I care about is the quality of the end result. It turns out they are the same.

Thanks for you time.

Mastering is more than just tweaking the audio and exporting a result, in my opinion. Sequencing with markers, editing heads/tails, adjusting time-length, removing DC offset, adding/updating meta-data, scrutinizing with meters and all aided by workflow. You can do roughly 80% of all this in Cubase, if not more. All this said, there are a number of other features that set Wavelab into a realm of its own for Mastering workflow. There’s some conveniences there that are valuable. If WL can save you time and add value, then it’s the better choice. After all, your time is money, and you’d like to work as fast as possible with superb quality control. I think WL was designed exactly for that.

I could hack out a master in Cubase I guess, but why? The metering sucks… Wavelab meters are awesome. Cubase has no montage to assemble the album with markers and track spacing, etc… Cubase can’t generate DDP files or burn CDs. Cubase has no batch processor. Cubase has no way to do detailed spectrum editing on problematic areas. Cubase has no meta normalizer to quickly match levels across multiple clips… Cubase cannot generate or edit metadata. There are tons more little details I haven’t even mentioned. Cubase BY ITSELF is just not really built for mastering workflow. If Cubase works great for your mastering needs, by all means, use it. It’s a great program.

For what it’s worth, for my mastering process, I use both Cubase and Wavelab simultaneously (each on it’s own computer) - along with many outboard hardware pieces which can be integrated anywhere in the signal chain. The system and process you develop is part of your sound - your product as a mastering engineer… I’ve developed mine, and refined it over many many years of doing this stuff… but there’s no “proper” way. Each engineer finds the tools and flow that works best for them - and if they’re really good, their work will stand out, and people will seek them for mastering work.

If sound quality is what you really care about, the DAW you use is a non issue. What’s far more important: How well designed are the acoustics in your room? Is your listening environment amazingly detailed and room well calibrated? What speakers and amps are you using? Do they adequately cover the entire audible frequency spectrum, and do so with great accuracy? For processing, what outboard hardware do you like to use, and why? How does the hardware compare with software in your opinion? What would you say are the greatest strengths and weaknesses of analog processes vs digital? All of this is what gives you “sound quality”… your opinions, your workflow/process, and your experience… Wavelab vs Cubase is almost irrelevant in comparison… Anyway, to answer your question, if you just plan to master one song, Cubase does digital rendering with the same accuracy as Wavelab - both use 64-bit floating point math.

Thank you, well said.

Lol - you changed my quote… “I could hack out a master in Cubase I guess, but why?” Was followed with an explanation of some benefits to Wavelab over Cubase…

You seem like you’re intentionally trying to ignore those things. The 64-bit issue is nothing in comparison to the other things I mentioned. The room alone can result in good/bad mastering. Here’s a quick article discussing just the room ( - and this doesn’t even mention speaker system accuracy or any of the other issues I mentioned). Good luck mastering in a room that’s not reasonably flat…

The quote from you wasn’t intentional. Somehow the … didn’t get typed there. I apologize for that.

I got your point. Again, I’m comparing the software and was assuming rooms are the same ideal condition.

Well, it sounds like none of the features/benefits of a Wavelab are of interest to you, and all you really care about is rendering quality. If so, all versions of Cubase are 64-bit - even the free Cubase LE version, so you might be perfectly happy doing your mastering there: