What is the recommended workflow for mastering


what workflow do you guys use in WL when mastering an album?

Of course, you put all tracks into a montage, but then, basically, I see three approaches:

  1. Using clip effects for shaping the tracks. This is what I use and it basically works fine. However, it has two downsides: First, you only can have up to 10 clip effects. In most cases, this is enough, but not always. And then, all effects of all tracks are loaded when opening the montage. This could create unnecessary resource problems e.g. on UAD cards.
  2. One could use “Edit Source” and process each clip separately. Then, you’d have more effect slots. but it would be destructive editing.
  3. One could wrap each track into a superclip. This seems like an overkill, though.

I don’t think there is one approach that works for everybody. Regarding this comment: “This could create unnecessary resource problems e.g. on UAD cards” - WaveLab 9 now offers dynamic plugin processing which means that UAD DSP resources are only used when a clip with UAD inserted is either playing or being rendered. You can find the setting in the preferences>plugins>organize area.

You can choose each plugin you’d like to be processed dynamically.

I normally don’t master 100% in WaveLab but when I do, I find that there are plenty of insert slots. If a single clip needed more than 10 plugins, I would do some preliminary destructive processing to correct the big problems of why it would need 10 plugins in the first place. You can always do a “Save As…” of the audio file/clip to get back to your start if needed for any destructive processing. “Replace Audio File” in the montage makes it easy to do this.

For most normal album mastering, I do the initial processing in Pro Tools because I prefer that DAW workflow better. I find it easier to manage having slightly different plugin chains per song and routing through the analog gear (with an unprocessed mirrored copy to another input on my monitor controller) as well as spot cleaning up sections after analog capture with RX5 De-Click/De-Noise and other plugins much easier than in WaveLab. The use of Playlists and AudioSuite in Pro Tools make it easier in my opinion than trying to do all this in WaveLab.

Then after all the songs are initially processed through plugins and my analog chain, and then cleaned up, trimmed up and properly named, I load them into WaveLab to sequence the album (maybe adding additional fade outs and crossfades), add CD-Text/metadata, and do any final processing as needed on a clip (not regularly but sometimes I do a small tweak after analog capture to a song or two), and then apply the final limiting/dither in the montage output effects section. I never use the global master section in album masters because I don’t like to remember to save and recall it. Too much room for user error.

All of my captured and trimmed/cleaned audio from Pro Tools is at 32-bit float/96k or 88.2k and I downsample to 44.1k with Weiss Saracon, Myriad or RX5 for initial client approval via DDP. But, the new “Custom Montage Copy” makes it very easy to recreate your montage at a higher/different sample rate as needed after client approval.

The best part about this workflow is that the montage is not doing a lot of processing so it’s quick to render a DDP or WAV files of each track.

I usually use two computers. The first computer runs Cubase - at whatever sample rate the files are that the client has provided. I can use plugins in Cubase if needed. The signal then goes out the D/A converters, into my analog hardware chain, and then into the A/D of the 2nd computer for capture at 44khz (for a CD master). On the 2nd computer, I run the “input plugin” in Wavelab, and monitor the streaming incoming signal in real time. This process allows me to mix in Cubase (if mixing completely, or if stems are available) while simultaneously mastering in Wavelab - and I can use all of the meters in Wavelab during the entire process, to put plugins before or after the hardware (by putting plugins in Cubase, or in Wavelab), and to record the final master directly into the final montage for fades and final album assembly. Also, I can change sample rate with no sample rate conversion - just because of the D/A and A/D process. Sometimes I’ll just record without the plugins on the master section, and then load those plugins as clip plugins within Wavelab as I build up the montage with tracks.

Anyway, each track is brought in like this - I compare the tracks to each other as I’m mastering to keep a consistent level overall throughout the entire album… then assemble the final master in the Wavelab montage - all fades, edits, ISRC, etc. I take notes in the notes section… add any CD text… then usually print DDP to be sent for duplication.