By Rob Stewart - JustMastering.com - December 7, 2014
NOTE: For Rob's current music mastering gear information, please refer to the Gear page.
It's officially a tradition. Here is my third-annual list of "favorite mastering tools"! As I have mentioned in the past, not all items on this list are current products; some are several years old, but I use them in my practice.
Keen readers may notice that my list of favorite tools is shrinking. As you may have read elsewhere on my site, I am a minimalist, and only use tools and processes that I feel are necessary to prepare my clients' music for distribution and broadcast. I use other tools than what are listed here but these are the ones that I am finding have the most impact on the quality of my work. Enjoy!
Rob's Favorite Music Mastering Tools for 2014
GIK Acoustics Room Treatments
Absorption, diffusion, bass trapping etc.
|Just like in 2013, GIK acoustics tops my list. Hands down, whether you are producing and mixing music, listening to music, or mastering it, I cannot stress enough how important quality room treatments are, and the difference that they can make.
If you listen to music for pleasure, room treatments will help reduce aspects of the sound that can be distracting or reduce impact.
If you mix music, you already likely know how important it is to be able to trust what you are hearing. Room treatments are a huge part of that. They cannot completely address room issues such as construction issues, limitations based on room geometry etc., but, they still make a great deal of difference in any situation.
GIK Acoustics offers a wide selection of products from basic absorption to diffusion, to tuned absorption and even some hybrid products. Their service is fantastic, too. I strongly believe that they are worth the investment.
More information at GIKAcoustics.com.
Digital Room Correction
|Speaker positioning is extremely important if you are trying to attain the best possible sound in your room. Next, room treatments like the products offered by GIK Acoustics are a form of passive correction which will drastically improve your room's acoustics. Dirac Live is a third level of correction - Digital Room Correction - which actively corrects the sound leaving your computer before it reaches your monitoring chain.
If you invest in a high quality monitoring system, pay very close attention to speaker placement and to room treatments, Dirac Live will help add another 10 to 30% improvement in what you are hearing. Now, numbers are one thing; hearing is another. What I appreciate the most about Dirac Live, is that it can greatly improve your room's perceived low-end quality and mid-range response. It makes several corrections in the amplitude and time domains to correct for your specific room's acoustics.
Like any solution, be it hardware, software, active or passive, your results will vary depending on several factors but once again, if you have already invested the time and money in a high quality monitoring chain, and passive room treatments, then - in my view - Dirac Live is well worth investigating.
More information at www.dirac.se.
SoX Sound Exchange
A donationware Mastering Grade sample rate converter!
|SoX was on my list last year, and continues to be in 2014. I depend heavily on SoX for all my audio mastering projects. It sounds incredible, I trust what it is doing, and it has helped streamline my workflow. I continue to recommend it to anyone who needs very high quality, highly configurable sample rate conversion.
SoX Sound Exchange is donationware.
More information at SoX Sound Exchange
Transparent Mastering Limiter
|Elephant has been on my list since the start, and I still use it to help tame occasional peaks in program material. The new version 4 that was released this past year is even more configurable and capable of higher perceived transparency. You can read my original feedback about Elephant (then version 3) from 2012, here.
More information at Voxengo.com
|Klangfreund LUFS Meter||I started using Klangfruend LUFS meter last year, and a new version is available with several improvements. I still use it, and love it. You can read more of my original comments about it, here.
More information at Klangfreund.com