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Looking for a basic mastering software
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Music Software  
Author Looking for a basic mastering software
joeSeggiola
tl;dr I need a software for quick mastering of pre-mixed recordings, with basic features like compressor, limiter, envelopes, graphic equalizer and possibly a good noise reduction filter. I'm an hobbyist and I'm using Audacity at the moment, but it doesn't have live preview and non-destructive editing, forcing me to work by trial and error.

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I often find myself to record live material from my hardware setup with a portable line recorder on the mixer output. I don't do this with the goal of composing stuff, it's just that there are moments I say myself "yeah, it'd be nice to record this stuff now". My setup doesn't include a laptop by choice, I work all days on PCs and I want to get away from it when playing: a DAW studio is a no-go for me.

But, you know, the recordings will always need a bit of work before storing or sharing: loudness normalisation, compression, equalization, noise reduction. At the moment I'm using Audacity, which has all the features I need and works well, but it doesn't have live preview and non-destructive editing, forcing me to work by trial and error. My wish-list is:

- Loudness control with non-destructive compression and limiting
- Volume envelopes for fade-in/out or regulations across the track
- Non-destructive graphic equalizer with live preview, possibly with live spectrogram overlay
- Noise reduction filter, it'd be great if as good as the Audacity one with automatic noise profiling from silent segments; I can do without it if the equalizer is so powerful I can do it myself

I cannot justify using a big DAW for such a quick task, I don't need mixing different tracks, etc. I have Ardour for that which is fine for me, but I can't bear firing it up and creating a whole project just for adjusting a single pre-mixed recording.

It'd be great if there's something available on both Windows and Linux, but I can settle with Windows-only. I'm not a professional, but I have nothing against commercial software if the price is justified by features and advantages over free software.

Any suggestion? Thanks.
hermbot
Ozone is probably the most popular standalone mastering package, the Standard version is $250.

I use Reaper with plugins, but if you're not up for firing up a DAW, you probably aren't looking to do your own plugin chain. (But Reaper can do noise reduction with its ReaFIR plugin...) Not sure if noise reduction is in the standard Ozone version.
dropthedyle
another Ozone vote.
There are regular offers on the Izotope website. The 'elements' version is already a good starting point and is often promoted at 29$ ... just subscribe to their NL.
JohnLRice
Give Steinberg WaveLab Elements a serious look. About $100 or less and there is a 30 day free trial you can download. No Linux as far as I can tell though, only Windows and Mac.
https://www.steinberg.net/en/products/wavelab/version_comparison/wavel ab_elements.html
joeSeggiola
hermbot wrote:
Ozone is probably the most popular standalone mastering package

dropthedyle wrote:
another Ozone vote. There are regular offers on the Izotope website.

Well, I'll put an eye on it for future discounts then. I could try it in Audacity for the moment (looks it can host VSTs), do you know what are the limitations of the demo version?
joeSeggiola
JohnLRice wrote:
Give Steinberg WaveLab Elements a serious look

Looks exactly what I need. I'll surely try it.
cretaceousear
Firing up Reaper takes 20 seconds - it's low memory usage. The trial version runs indefinitely.
I've only used Ozone Elements and I have to say I thought it was crap.
It compressed everything far too much and spat out a 'rock' mix.
It's meant to guess at the genre but there's minimal control to change it.
The one thing that was useful from Ozone was to hear a different sound on the track and maybe learn what is good or bad from that.
I expect the full version is much more useful.
martinjuenke
Ozone Advanced is not cheap but for me worth every penny...
facklr
Have you thought about using online mastering?

Landr
BandLab
eMastered

Many more probably.

I've used Landr and it was ok.

eMastered was very good--but it's gotten kind of pricey so I quit.

I think BandLab is free.

I think it any of these would fit your needs. You might be surprised by the results.
TXBDan
bx_masterDesk is pretty slick. Simple enough, but sounds good and sneakily powerful. I'm using it a lot now.

(I don't have Ozone)
JediDJ
Reaper or Audacity.
Steinberg products seems to be overpriced.
Logic X on mac is also pretty good.
It's a full blown DAW but you can configure it
like a stereo mastering software pretty easily.
joeSeggiola
Thanks everyone.

These days I tried Reaper, Cakewalk, Ozone and WaveLab with some plugins. I think it'll be nice to leave you some feedback about your suggestions. Maybe it could be useful for future readers.

- Reaper looks great, but it's "too much" for what I need, in the sense that it's not "straight to the point" for the work I'm gonna do. Also I don't like its integrated mastering plugins, especially the noise removal one seems useless for the type of noise I was trying to remove.

- Cakewalk looks great too, but as reaper I find it overcomplicated for the job. I'll continue to use Ardour for that type of work. Also, I had issues with its audio drivers, for some reason they aren't working fine with my integrated audio interface and I didn't thought it was worth the time to dig up solutions.

- I was expecting more from Ozone VST, at the moment is too pricey and also it doesn't have all the features I needed.

- WaveLab Elements is perfect, it does exactly what I was searching for and it's clearly designed with that goal in mind. I love its neat but smart UI. The integrated mastering plugins are all on spot, the noise removal works fantastically and it's very malleable. Also, I don't mind its on-spot editing features. Yeah, it's $99 MSRP, but I really feel it's worth it. I'm currently focusing on it, also trying some additional amazing free plugins like TDR Kotelnikov & Feedback compressors and TDR Nova equalizer.

facklr wrote:
Have you thought about using online mastering?

I took a look at your suggestions, interesting but they are too pricey from me. I don't need to master so much material to justify a monthly payment. I'm gonna try BandLab though (it's free), I'm curios to compare it to my manual results.

TXBDan wrote:
bx_masterDesk is pretty slick. Simple enough, but sounds good and sneakily powerful

Thanks. I'm gonna try the Classic edition if there's a demo. The full $299 one is too pricey for me for just compression and limiter.

JediDJ wrote:
Reaper or Audacity. Steinberg products seems to be overpriced. Logic X on mac is also pretty good.

My thoughts on Reaper are above. Audacity is what I was using before, I wanted to search for something else because it doesn't have live preview and non-destructive editing, forcing me to work by trial and error. Steinberg WaveLab Elements may be priced looking at its relatively short features list, but I really felt it's what I was looking for. I don't have a Mac for Logic.
cretaceousear
The Reaper noise removal tool (you mean ReaFir, yes?) has rescued some unbelievably noised up tracks for me - you just have to find the pure bit of noise to use as the sample.
But yeah we all get used to one way of working and moving to another workflow/ design scheme is always painful.
But you and JLR have got me interested in Elements now.
bhinton
FWIW more and more folks who don't necessarily use Reaper as their DAW ARE using it for mastering, and even some mastering engineers have been singing its praises for this in various forums.
As for it being "too much" it would be pretty easy to set it up with just a mastering workflow. And it's dirt cheap.
induktor
+1 for Reaper. I'm using it as my professional mastering DAW. It's has very flexible routing and is highly customizable. I've got it set up with an outboard fx loop through a Lynx Hilo and Crookwood console for analog processing. It's a great hybrid system. Bundled plugins are pretty good but I generally run Fabfilter stuff for soft EQ's, compression, de-essing and limiting.
joeSeggiola
I guess I should give Reaper and ReFir another go, maybe I dismissed it too quickly. Thanks.
hermbot
The minimal amount of work you'll have to do is to set up your initial chain.

1) Add new track. All your work will be in that track.

2) Add your plugins in the order you like.

3) File>Project Templates>Save project as template

Then when you open reaper just load that template, insert your audio into the empty track, and you're golden.

If you want to go one step further, you can even set that template to load into Reaper by default every time you open the program. I just can't remember where that is off the top of my head.
101010oxo
joeSeggiola wrote:
WaveLab Elements is perfect, it does exactly what I was searching for and it's clearly designed with that goal in mind. I love its neat but smart UI. The integrated mastering plugins are all on spot, the noise removal works fantastically and it's very malleable. Also, I don't mind its on-spot editing features. Yeah, it's $99 MSRP, but I really feel it's worth it.


I also like Wavelab Elements very much for these tasks. So much that I record my stereo out from the modular directly into it. So I pretty much got rid of the DAW and multi tracking. Love to work like this!

As I mostly do drones and soundscapes I never could relate to the musical time systems anyway. And that way I don‘t need to make sure that there is no quantisation happening.[/quote]
gruebleengourd
I like Acos Acoustica.
hermbot
gruebleengourd wrote:
I like Acos Acoustica.


Good recommendation, that looks like a winner. Even the basic edition supports VST and may fit OP's needs. At $200 the Nice version is pretty reasonable, too.
Mattatatat
I've been looking for something to upgrade from Audacity too so I'm going to give Reaper a go. Thanks for everyones input.
joeSeggiola
gruebleengourd wrote:
I like Acos Acoustica.

When the WaveLab evaluation period ended, I tried this one. Thank you, it perfectly fits my needs: the restoration suite is top stuff, and all the included mastering plugins are not only feature-complete but also provide lot of visual feedback. Which I appreciate a lot, being myself a newbie in this field. Also, it's very focused and easy to use, without distracting and unnecessary UI elements.

There are small stuffs which I think they could improve with little effort, especially in the multi-track editing (which was not my focus, anyway). For example, it lacks a lot in clips manipulation and snapping options. I hope they will consider the suggestions I'll send them for future releases. It feels like a "young" product (but it's not) in some details. However, when considering it's $40 cheaper and comes without bothering limitations like 3 tracks max and 5 master effect slots you find in WaveLab Elements... Well, I think I'll go with Acoustica Standard smile
SB-SIX
Best bang for the buck (30,-) for end-of-chain mastering/limiting is toneboosters barricade imho. Combine it with their eq4 with it's AI and you have a very easy to use, great sounding chain. I stopped using ozone after discovering these.
Funky40
joeSeggiola wrote:

TXBDan wrote:
bx_masterDesk is pretty slick. Simple enough, but sounds good and sneakily powerful

Thanks. I'm gonna try the Classic edition if there's a demo. The full $299 one is too pricey for me for just compression and limiter.

i just wanted to say: buy never for the full price at plugin alliance,
just subscribe to the newsletter and wait until the one you want is 29$ or 49$ or 99$.
....and look, the bx_master desk IS right now: 69$ lol


( which gives also a figure.....)
( and i´m quite shure it was alltready cheaper to have.......probably a bundle for 69$ or so, not shure )
AudioDevAcademy
Hi Joe,

Our founder and head DSP programmer has built a range of plugins that accompany a book on how to master from home. It is written for home producers so doesn't assume huge knowledge of the subject.

You can find out more information on the dedicated website:
https://homestudiomastering.com/

Nice one,
Joe (also)!
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