Mastering In Cubase

Started this thread to avoid further OT-hijacking this poor guy’s thread: http://www.steinberg.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=69085

Ok! Fire away! What really are the best mastering plugins and/or hardware to use with Cubase?!

Maybe over priced, but it’s a “dongle” with a CPU on it!

They still make the best emulations I’ve every heard–Waves is their only competition–and Waves aren’t any cheaper. So, I stick with them!

I’ll bite since I used to some mastering for clients who actually paid their bills.

First off, there really are no “best” mastering plug-ins and no “best” mastering hardware. For example I’ll probably choose a Weiss over a Behringer for EQ but if my sonic objective is something that a Behringer quickly delivers why not use the Behringer?

You want to know what is good? Go visit mastering studios or look at their gear lists. Check out Gateway Mastering. One of my favorites is Brian Gardner at Bernie Grundmans. Keep in mind a lot of the gear at Bernies has been altered…actually most of it.

Check out the gear, but more importantly learn how and why it is used. I sat in on a mastering session years ago with a guy who is now a very well known name. He had most anything at his disposal for high end gear. For this particular track(s) even though he had 2 very nice hardware limiters, he chose an L-2! He looked at me, grinned and said for these tracks he thought it would sound best! He also made me promise to never divulge his name. :smiley:

When it comes to the topic of mastering I’m continually amazed at the focus on gear instead of procedure. A sonically engineered room with high quality LEARNED speakers and user experience is so much more important than gear. Gear is a tool. You use it day in and day out and eventually you become intimate with that tool knowing exactly how it will process any given audio to achieve a desired outcome. You know the limits of every parameter on your tool and you know when to select that particular tool. Most ME’s I know of stick with what works for them. They aren’t continually A/Bing the best new gear…even if in fact it might be “better.” For example this is why I still often use an L-2. I know what it can and can’t do depending on the given audio. If you read the forums, the L-2 is old, outdated, and distorts like crazy. But those comments IMO really manifest user inexperience. Experience has shown me that you can’t get much more out of an L-2 than 2-3dbRMS without distortion. But that’s okay because most experienced ME’s I know of get the majority volume before any signal even hits the L-2. Some of the ways is through EQ, Mid/side processing, parallel sometimes even series compression, soft clipping, and proper gain staging. Know how and when to use these procedures, then feed your limiter for a little bit more. Your limiter will most likely reward you greatly if it’s fed something good.

Most professional pop/rock mixes arrive relatively hot. I hate to use numbers because content varies so much, but just guessing -13dbRMS to -11dbRMS. This volume has been established before mastering. Most of the completed pop I did was in the -10dbRMS to -7dbRMS range depending on the content.

What you don’t do is slap on any limiter at the end of the chain, crank it, and then complain how it sucks compared to your new favorite limiter of the month. These days there are so many fantastic new tools…even free ones like Limiter No. 6 that I think it’s a waste to focus so much time on the tool instead of the process. It’s an area of diminishing returns for your dollar when mastering procedure is so much more important. Also, at what point does audio that is claimed to be “better” become just audio of another “flavor”…not worse or better…just different? I have seen blind tests where audiophiles are outright funny spouting endless sound adjectives. I usually offer them more wine. :wink:

Personally I like Wavelab, but since WL7 be ready for an education as it can take some time to learn. Wavelab is deep, but IMO the most flexible and powerful mastering application around. Use Sadie if you don’t need what Wavelab offers. Can you master in Cubase? You can “master” in most any DAW. But what will you do for DDP, RedBook PQ codes compiling, error checking, analysis, and/or burning? What will you do when your client is sitting behind you and insists A is better than B when in fact they are biased by comparing a slightly louder track? This is why I use Wavelab.

What do I use ITB? Select tools from UAD, Waves, and a few others. I mastered an album a few years ago from Bruce Swedien. It needed…hardly anything. :smiley: All I did was some dB’s, very slight imaging and then the regular things for any CD. Every project is different. To believe there is some silver bullet limiter/compressor/EQ/multiband whatever that surpasses all others is futile and IMO often foolish. Choose one or a couple…and LEARN them.

You can also go to mastering forums and read a gazillion opinions about the best mastering tools. Unfortunately just over the past 5 years many well known ME’s including Bob Katz have given up offering advice for very good reasons. :mrgreen:

Bloody well-written, Greggybud!

Really, the only reason this topic was created was because I wanted to just get the all-too-predictable gear/plugin battle out of that first guy’s post: http://www.steinberg.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=69085. The OP just wanted simple advice, but dudes kept jumping in to say, “YO THIS IS THE BEST! APOGEE SUCKS!” Telling him (and, I guess, the whole world) what the “best” mastering gear was. It felt like bullying the OP.
(Funny, the, “YO APOGEE SUCKS” guy never answered me when I asked when he had actually used all this “best” gear… And never said why the gear was the best… Some kid doing Google searches, I presume.)

That being said, the topic is about “the best hardware and plugins for mastering in Cubase.” How-to-master could be its own forum.

I couldn’t agree with you more–mastering is its own profession and procedure and can be done (within reason) on almost any gear. It’s the engineer that counts.

Thanks for the wicked reply. You should blog that whole thing, man.

J

Here, here! Wavelab is a bit of a strange—yet wonderful—program, but I’ve been with it since, hell… '01? For the buck, it’s still the best I’ve tried.

I think greggybud’s response should be framed and sent to all DAW users everywhere.

Are you referring to me? :unamused:
If you do reffering to me you haven’t aske me anything like you trying to say you did in this last post here.
Why are you spreading false accusations on the forum?
The post are still there for anyone to read so you must having problem to read?

What were you that you didn’t understand with “have a great weekend”?

I had written a reply to you, asking you those questions, but then deleted it before posting–ironically because I didn’t want to start a fight. I forgot that I had deleted it, and you never saw it. So i was remembering something that didn’t happen.

Freddie, I apologise to you in front of everyone. I did not post the questions to you that I said I did. I honestly thought I had posted that draft when I wrote the above.

That being said,…

You did hijack that topic. You did say, “Apogee sucks.” You were dismissive when I told you we were off-topic–which is against the rules of the forum.

“7. Please stick to the topic at hand. Off-topic posts will be deleted, and you may be banned from threads and/or entire forums for repeating offenses. It is fine to be critical of a product, but if you go on and on and on about it, especially if the topic isn’t related to your criticism, then this will be considered “off-topic”.”

Writing a bunch of OT stuff like that—and not even caring after it was pointed out to you—was unprofessional–and it’s part of what makes these forums truly unenjoyable sometimes. Saying, “Have a great weekend,” doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want before that, and have it be magically OK.

So now is your chance—I’m asking:

Freddie, when did you use all the gear that you listed in the other post?

(Please include how you came to the engineering conclusion, that Isochrone is better than Apogee—making Apogee “suck.” I used Apogee’s Big Ben for years in a professional studio—and I loved it—I could see how someone could have personal preferences, but I can’t imagine how Big Ben could “suck.” I await enlightenment).

I too thank Greggybud for a post that made a lot of sense.

I have always felt that it is better to have fewer plug-ins but learn how to use them. This despite the fact that I have loads of them, it has recently dawned on me that I actually only use a small number of them regularly.I am about to embark upon a new computer build and plan to thin out the herd so to speak.

I do like the precision series in UAD - despite my previous comments. Which by the way were aimed at people who have not invested in the PCIe UAD card, and yes there are cheaper alternatives. Modern computers being so powerful don’t have the same limitations as when I first invested in UAD. I am also a great fan of the Fab Filter pro EQ and limiter.

Yeah, man. For the first few years of having a DAW at home, I experienced plugin-lust of the highest order. But, just like the studio, I too realised that, over time, I repeatedly used a specific set of tools to get the same jobs done over and over. I rarely buy new plugins now.

It was from this studio experience of using one piece of gear repeatedly that, when it came time to setup my home studio as a business, I purchased the UAD card… I knew I couldn’t mix my way without a Urei 1176LN. And UAD were the only VST that, to my ears, had successfully emulated the 1176LN. Of course, I got a few other while I was at it. Lol, but I keep returning to use just a few of the very best plugins for my work flow.

The Precision Bus compressor is awesome. A lot like the SSL, with sharper attack. I also use the Precision enhancer.

Ban of what? You seem really sensitive.

First off, I never said Apogee “sucks” it that way. It was an funny expression.

Secondly Apogee Big-clock is great but the their no doubt that the Antelope Isochrone 10M atomic clock is far better.
The clocking and the sound it produce include physics back that up. We don’t need to have debate about that.
Antelope, Prism-sounds converters sounds great too. Yes I have both used, worked with it and heard in production environment. Likewise I also used Big Ben in other studios.


For the third, I’m not a kid like you seem to think I have been working with professional with this since 1996. Before that semi-professional and an Artist. And if you read that you suppose say I hijack, I did my recommendations and review of the stuff that comes in Cubase 7.5. I think it actually made more concrete review then you did.

I’m not saying Apogee are bad so sorry if I offend you about “Apogee”.
Have a great day!


Best Regards
Freddie