13 Best VST Plugins For Mastering 2022

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Best VST Plugins For Mastering

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Mastering is like the cherry on top of the mix cake. From compressing and limiting to EQ and stereo widening, sometimes the last-minute touchups mean everything for a track.

To be able to master effectively, though, you need the right tools. Just as a carpenter wouldn’t drive to work without his toolbox, a mastering engineer can’t expect to do their job well if they aren’t equipped with the proper equipment.

So, in this guide, we’ll be looking at the best VST plugins for mastering.

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Mix & Master Bundle Standard by iZotope – Best Overall

Mix & Master Bundle Standard by iZotope – Best Overall

iZotope is well known for their mastering tools, which come highly recommended via a variety of sources.

The Mix & Master Bundle Standard comes with the exquisite Ozone 9 Standard, Neutron 3 Standard, and Tonal Balance Control 2.

Michael Kamerman called it a “rare, supportive, and reliable friend,” producer Martin Nessi said it’s the “one-stop shop for every possible audio processing need,” and Grammy Award-winning producer Butch Vig said it was his go-to in-house mastering tool.

Ozone 9 lets you quickly find the ideal vibe using the Master Assistant, be it modern or vintage. With Match EQ, you can even match your mix to a reference track.

Ozone 9 Standard comes with classic analog EQ and modern digital models, mid / side mode, two stereoizer modes, per-band widening and narrowing, fluid metering for stereo width and phase, region looping, visual comparison to your reference track, intelligent limiter, Intelligent Release Control (IRC) modes, Threshold Learn mode, true peak detection, different distortion types (tape, retro, tube), and more.

Neuron 3 Standard puts you in the captain’s seat with multiple powerful functions. It comes with a fast, resizable GUI, Visual Mixer (which lets you adjust gain, pan, width of any Neutron or Relay), EQ with Masking Meter, Sculptor, Track Assistant (create custom presets through machine learning), eight modular mixing tools, and more.

Tonal Balance Control 2 lets you compare the frequencies in your tracks to 12 genre target curves based on thousands of professional masters. You can even upload your own audio file and compare your project to it.

This plugin can also open an EQ from Neutron 3 or Ozone 9, and it comes with fluid metering and a resizable interface.

With these amazing tools at your fingertips, creating a perfect master is near no-brainer. Ozone 9 alone is a powerful ally, but with Neutron 3 and Tonal Balance Control 2, you get additional integration and tweaking capacity that will send you and your mixes over the moon.

No bones, iZotope’s Mix & Master Bundle is our best overall pick.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

FabFilter Mastering Bundle by FabFilter – Best Premium Option

FabFilter Mastering Bundle by FabFilter – Best Premium Option

Most producers love what FabFilter has to offer. Their effects usually live up to the hype and are generally worth the cost too.

The FabFilter Mastering Bundle comes with several of the greats you may already be acquainted with – Pro-MB, Pro-L 2, Pro-Q 3, and Pro-C 2.

FabFilter Pro-MB makes mincemeat of the sometimes-complicated process of multiband dynamics processing. This baby lets you create a new band at the frequency you want to alter. This means you can think in terms of bands rather than crossovers.

The interactive multiband display will show you exactly what you’ve altered so you can be precise in your changes. In case you prefer more of a crossover workflow, you can snap bands together to achieve a similar result.

Pro-MB comes with three modes – Dynamic Phase, Linear Phase, and Minimum Phase.

FabFilter Pro-L 2 is a feature-packed peak limiter with extensive loudness metering. With precise true peak level meters and loudness metering, Pro-L 2 supports the EBU R128, ITU-R BS. 1770-4, and ATSC A/85 standards.

FabFilter Pro-Q, of course, is a powerful, highly rated equalizer. It features linear phase operation, zero latency and Natural Phase modes, mid / side processing, variable stereo placement of EQ bands, intelligent solo feature, optional Auto Gain, and a customizable spectrum analyzer.

Pro-Q comes with a ton of other great features, but we simply don’t have the space to talk about them here. Refer to the product description for more information.

The FabFilter Pro-C 2 compressor comes with eight program-dependent compression styles. In addition to standard compression controls, Pro-C 2 also comes with smooth lookahead, up to 4x oversampling, intelligent auto-gain and auto-release, variable knee, hold, range, external sidechain triggering, variable stereo linking, and mid / side processing.

The FabFilter Mastering Bundle may cost the most of any product mentioned here, but it’s worth every penny. Each plugin is of a high quality, and they’re sure to come in handy, not just in mastering but also in mixing situations.

Be sure to check out the FabFilter bundle in action.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Drawmer S73 Intelligent Master Processor by Softube – Best Budget Option

Drawmer S73 Intelligent Master Processor by Softube – Best Budget Option

Multi-band compressors are a must have when it comes to creating professional masters. The only problem is that they’re often complicated and easy to misuse.

Enter Drawmer S73 Intelligent Master Processor. Producer Ron Harris said he couldn’t believe how easy it is to use, mastering engineer Maor Appelbaum liked its grainy vibe, and Drawmer product manager Leon Clough was amazed.

The S73 is set up to handle most of the heavy lifting. The style parameter lets you choose from a variety of processing techniques – clean (clarity 1, clarity 2, neutral, gentle comp., more air), bass control (de-rumble, punch), and spatial (wide mix, ambience, vocal enhance).

It comes with an award-winning multi-band analog compressor design based on the 1973 Three Band FET Stereo Compressor. Developer Softube worked hard to model all the subtleties and characteristics of the original. Then they went ahead and added mastering sound design to its functionality. Cool!

The beautifully designed Drawmer S73 is easy to set up and is an excellent option for achieving classic compression sounds. It’s highly usable on individual tracks and mixes alike.

Even if it does offer the “glue” in a mix, a compressor alone might not be enough to finalize a master. That said, Drawmer S73 Intelligent Master Processor is affordable and powerful, so we have no issues selecting it as our best budget option.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

NUGEN Audio Modern Mastering Bundle by NUGEN Audio

NUGEN Audio Modern Mastering Bundle by NUGEN Audio

NUGEN Audio Modern Mastering Bundle comes with MasterCheck, ISL 2st, and Visualizer to help you dial in those pristine, power-packed masters.

Peter McCabe loved the graphical interface, Hugh Robjohns of Sound On Sound Magazine said it has become his default plugin on the master bus, and Howie Weinberg thought it was good for engineers and producers who know what they’re up against.

The award-winning plugins let you audition for today’s play-out services in real time, produce for Spotify, Apple Music, and others, check and compare dynamics, analyze loudness and codec, and apply true peak limiting with precision.

MasterCheck lets you know exactly how your audio will sound to the listener and reveal to you issues you may want to solve before calling your project “done.” It lets you optimize your mixes for streaming apps, online stores, websites, podcasts, or otherwise.

Overall, it comes with preview for digital music services, options for balancing loudness and dynamics, real time audition encoding, referencing mix matching, PLR / PSR metering, and more.

ISL 2st is an intelligent look-ahead brick-wall true peak limiter for mono and stereo content alike. It helps you create mixes that are compatible with loudness normalization standards.

ISL 2st also comes with Steering and Ducking meters to help you find the perfect settings for your mix.

Finally, the Visualizer analyzes your audio and gives you exactly the information you need while mastering.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Elevate Mastering Bundle by Eventide

Elevate Mastering Bundle by Eventide

Eventide’s Elevate Mastering Bundle includes four tools to help you elevate your masters – Elevate, EQuivocate, SATURATE, and Runctuate. It was originally developed by Newfangled Audio.

Andrew Scheps said he uses it on almost every mix, Jeremy Lubsey found Elevate precise and musical, and mastering engineer Eric Beam thought it was dangerous and fun.

With a multi-band limiter, human-ear EQ, and audio maximizer, you can push the loudness of your mixes to the limits while keeping or even enhancing their overall dynamics.

The intelligent adaptive technology responds to your music in real time, taking advantage of artificial intelligence algorithms. From tonal balance to transients, you can enhance your mix and eliminate unwanted artifacts while keeping total control over the result.

The adaptive limiter analyzes 26 frequency bands while adjusting the gain, speed, and transients. Elevate also uses 26 filter bands to control how the sound hits your ears.

Elevate also includes presets by the likes of Matt Lange, Eric Beam, and APS Mastering, automatic attack, release, and look-ahead parameters, linear phase auditory filters, Auto Output Level (so you can compare limited signals to non-limited signals), Spectral Clipper, six types of metering, and more.

EQuivocate is a precise human ear graphic EQ. It’s a great tool for mixing and mastering alike, with auditory filters and match EQ. In addition to a parametric EQ, it also comes with a compressor, gate, stereo delays, saturation, transformer emulation, and micro pitch shift.

Saturate features a Spectral Clipper algorithm, which lets you overdrive a signal without affecting the tonal balance. Up to 12 dB of clipping can be added with a variable shape parameter. You can also use the SHAPE control to morph between hard clipping and smoother curves. Saturate can be used on individual tracks or the entire mix.

Finally, Punctuate is a multi-band transient modulator. Four controls give you total control over 26 critical bands.

Overall, the Elevate Mastering Bundle has got a lot to offer, especially at this price point.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Weiss DS1-MK3 by Softube

Weiss DS1-MK3 by Softube

The Weiss DS1-MK3 digital hardware unit comes at a premium price tag. Such being the case, mastering engineers will be happy to see this – Softube’s line by line code port of the legendary mastering processor, the Weiss DS1-MK3 VST plugin.

This unit offers mastering compression, limiting, and de-essing at the highest level. And it even comes bundled with the Weiss MM-1 Mastering Maximizer, Weiss Deess, and Weiss Compressor / Limiter plugins.

Heard on virtually every mainstream release you can name, the Weiss DS1-MK3 plugin is officially licensed and endorsed by Daniel Weiss. It’s the same processor as the $10,000 original, it offers de-ess, compression, and limiting, and it processes at resolutions up to 32bit / 192 kHz.

It comes with advanced metering waveform view, all-new presets from Bob Katz, versatile de-essing, digital compression, Weiss original limiter algorithms as well as new ones, and more.

My impression of the Weiss DS1-MK3 is that it’s relatively transparent, but it can also add some serious punch to your mixes, breathe life into your tracks, and add some glittery high-end shimmer. The video below should give you a good idea.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

DynOne by Leapwing Audio

DynOne by Leapwing Audio

Leapwing Audio’s DynOne is an award-winning dynamic processor. Grammy-winning mastering engineer Bob Ludwig liked that it did dynamic compression differently, mastering engineer Seth Drake said DynOne got him to 80% of his default mastering chain using only the faders in 10 minutes, and Grammy-nominated producer and mix engineer Greg Wells said it was “love at first listen.”

This smart parallel multi-band dynamics processor comes with a resizable retina design, variable crossover filters, weighting algorithm, Center-Side Mode, min-max values for attack and release, and variable timing values.

Overall, you get five bands with custom linear-phase crossover filters, variable RMS vs peak detection, and stereo linking percentages.

DynOne may be simple, but it is more than competent. It can add some serious punch to your mixes while giving them the shimmer they need to be on par with commercial releases.

Also check out the video below to see what DynOne can do.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Oxford Limiter V3 by Sonnox

Oxford Limiter V3 by Sonnox

Sonnox is well-known for their Oxford series of plugins and their Oxford Limiter V3 might be just what you need to increase the loudness of your mix, give it more density, and add some much-needed presence while keeping the clarity and detail you’ve worked hard to preserve.

This true peak limiter offers precise processing and metering accuracy to ensure the result is exactly what you want. You can even correct invisible reconstruction overloads.

With advanced look-ahead and Enhance function to give your music a boost and offer sample-value limiting, you can avoid clipping while giving your mixes the loudness it needs to compete with commercial releases.

Overall, Sonnox Oxford Limiter V3 offers peak limiting with attack, release, and variable soft-knee, Enhance section, Recon meter, Auto Comp fixing recon errors (while adhering to industry’s true peak measurement standard – IT-UR BS. 177-04), TPDF dither for 24-bit and 16-bit output, four variable-strength noise shaping modes, backwards compatibility with previous plugin versions, and a library of factory presets.

Summarily, Oxford Limiter V3 is very simple to use. You can check out the video below to hear how it works, but I honestly think it’s pure magic. It does exactly what it’s been designed to do, and its operation is very straightforward.

If a limiter is what you need, then Oxford Limiter V3 is worth a look.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

EXPOSE 2 by Mastering The Mix

EXPOSE 2 by Mastering The Mix

Practically every engineered has run into a situation where they want to ensure quality control with their projects. Common issues include true peak clipping, poor EQ balance, too much compression, and phasing.

Decluttering a mix, in fact, can be a real hassle, especially if you don’t have the tools necessary to easily identify problems and fix them.

Mastering The Mix’ EXPOSE 2 lets you catch many of the common issues associated with mixing before you release your projects. Best of all, it’s very easy to use.

Once a track has been loaded up inside EXPOSE 2, you can choose a preset (based on where your music will be heard – CD, Spotify, YouTube, etc.) and load up a reference track (or genre specific preset), consult the readings (loudness, peaks, stereo / phase, dynamic range), identify and isolate the issues, check your tonal balance, and match the loudness.

All in all, EXPOSE 2 comes with Compare EQ, Loudness Match, and Analysis Feedback. It will measure loudness range, integrated LUFS, short term LUFS, decibel true peak (16x oversampling), sample peak, left / right heat map, correlation heat map, and short-term dynamic range.

EXPOSE 2 is a handy plugin, just as described. Mastering is an art and a science, and it’s easy to get wrong and often hard to get right. So, if you want to optimize your music for major platforms, this plugin is worth a look.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Oxford Inflator by Sonnox

Oxford Inflator by Sonnox

The Sonnox Oxford Inflator is a simple and powerful plugin that lets you boost loudness without losing sound quality or dynamics. You can give your mix some serious punch without the need for added compression, and you can even use the Inflator on individual tracks (such as vocals), to give them more weight in the mix.

When driving Inflator harder, you can achieve a tube-like warmth to glue your mix together.

As you can see from the interface, Oxford Inflator is very straightforward. There are independent modules for input, effect and curve, and output. There are also direct and band-split modes for additional customization.

In all, the Inflator is a subtle but pleasing effect, and it can help individual tracks cut through in a mix. Similarly, it can add depth, bottom end, and presence to your mixes, and there’s no need for hours of tweaking to get from where you started to where you want to go!

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Mastering Suite by Acon Digital

Mastering Suite by Acon Digital

Acon Digital is one of the top VST plugin developers, and their Mastering Suite is sure to be of interest to you, especially if you’ve taken to their VST features and workflow.

This suite comes with Equalize, Dynamics, Multiband Dynamics, Limit, and Dither to help you dial in your ideal mix.

Let’s start off with Equalize, which is a parametric equalizer. This baby lets you adjust center frequency, gain, bandwidths, and filter slope, which can be set to anywhere from three to 120 dB per octave.

Equalize can be operated in zero latency with the minimum bypass mode, but you can also take advantage of the linear phase or mixed phase modes for added control.

Dynamics is an all-in-one compressor, expander, or gate. It includes a look-ahead, which can be set from zero to 30 milliseconds. The intelligent algorithm allows for a band-limited gain signal. Four-time oversampling can reduce distortion even further.

Dynamics also includes a side chain equalizer with low-cut, low shelf, peak, high shelf, and high cut filters.

Multiband Dynamics is the multiband version of Dynamics. It allows for dynamic processing of up to four bands. Cross-over frequencies and filter slopes can be set in the range of six to 48 dB per octave. This module operates in linear phase mode.

Limit, not surprisingly, is a transparent limiter. It offers intelligent look-ahead from zero to 30 milliseconds. This helps reduce distortion. Limit utilizes a two-step process with a pre-compressor follower by the peak limiting algorithm. Up to four times oversampling can be used to reduce distortion even further.

Dither comes with flexible perceptual noise shaping capabilities. There’s a graphical visualizer to show you the changes you’re making to your mix as you’re making them.

Overall, Acon Digital’s Mastering Suite features a very transparent set of effects that will add some nice polish to your mixes.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Chandler Limited Curve Bender Mastering EQ by Softube

Chandler Limited Curve Bender Mastering EQ by Softube

The original Chandler Limited Curve Bender is a studio and producer favorite. This piece of classic analog studio gear may well be at the top of the most desirable and favored gear in the category.

Softube has done it again with the Chandler Limited Curve Bender Mastering EQ, with component-level modeling of the original germanium and inductor circuits.

The Curve Bender is a relatively transparent sounding EQ, perfect for gentle sculpting of individual tracks or the entire mix. Softube went ahead to ask the likes of Joe Chicarelli, Howard Willing, Tony Maserati, and others, to create presets.

It also comes with more bands, more filter points, added gain and Q flexibility, low and high pass filters, mid / side processing, channel linking, and more.

If you’re curious to see what it can do for your mixes and masters, then check out the video to see the Chandler Limited Curve Bender VST plugin in action.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain by Waves

Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain by Waves

Modeled after the EMI TG12410 Transfer Console used in all of Abbey Roads mastering suites, the Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain lets you create custom processing chains on individual tracks or groups.

From Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon to Radiohead’s OK Computer, the TG12410 has been used on countless landmark releases. Which is why Waves sought to bring the same magic heard from the original to your computer.

The plugin features five modules – the TG12411 input module, TG12412 tone module (EQ), TG12413 compressor / limiter module, TG12414 filter module, and the TG12416 V.A.L. (spread) module (stereo component only) incorporated into the output module.

Aside from the input / output modules, you can interchange the modules, switch them on or off, and create custom chains.

The compressor / limiter comes with two distinct types – original and modern. It also comes with 48 dB / Oct linear-phase sidechain filters.

This is a competent plugin for mixing and mastering alike. Mastering engineer Piper Payne said “WOW,” mixing engineer Dave Pensado was impressed with how it sounded in a variety of configurations, and mastering engineer Drew Lavyne thought it was nothing short of a revolution.

I find the compressor transparent, the EQ incredibly flexible, and the filters expansive. Don’t take my word for it though – check out the video below to see what Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain is capable of.

Learn more: Waves

What Should I Look For In A Mastering VST Plugin?

From the outside looking in, mastering is an esoteric process. “It makes your mixes sound better,” or “it makes your tracks sound good on all listening devices” are just some of the general sentiments of the uninitiated.

This will seem obvious to experienced producers, but I mention it because it may not have fully sunk in for beginner to intermediate mastering engineers yet. You aren’t just making things sound better. You aren’t just preparing tracks for streaming sites or earbuds. These are considerations, sure, but more than that, mastering is about enhancement, consistency, and preparation.

Until you’ve refined your process, understand what effects to use, when and why, you’re not at the point of knowing all the variables yet. And that’s okay. You want to allow yourself the freedom of learning through experimentation.

So, what should you look for in a mastering VST plugin? Ultimately, it will depend on the results you’re trying to achieve and how you work best. If you know what you’re doing, you can get your mixes to sound amazing, even with relatively inexpensive gear.

But there are some factors worth considering while you’re shopping, so let’s examine these in detail.

Here we’ll look at:

  • Bundle or standalone plugins
  • Sound quality
  • Features
  • Workflow
  • Budget

Let’s consider these at length:

Bundle Or Standalone Plugins

If you already have most of the tools you require, then there’s no need to purchase pricy bundles. A couple of standalone plugins may be more than enough.

If, however, you’re just getting started, or want to upgrade your toolkit, a highly rated bundle is likely to be of greater interest to you.

Although a bundle is bound to cost more than a standalone plugin, the advantage of a bundle is that all plugins included are sure to have a similar workflow. And that makes it easier for you to figure out your mastering processes faster.

The advantage of buying one plugin at a time, though, is that you don’t need to make any compromises in terms of having the best. You could have the best EQ, compressor, limiter, etc., even if they are all from different developers.

While we may not be able to tell you exactly which plugin or bundle to buy, we can at least make you aware of the choice, to help you streamline the buying process.

Sound Quality

If a specific effect is supposed to be transparent, then is it as subtle and gentle as purported?

If an effect is supposed to add coloration and character to tracks and mixes, then does it add the right kind of flavor?

And, at the end of the day, does the plugin do what it says it’s supposed to do? Does it enhance your mixes, or does it take away from them?

There aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to the sound quality of mastering plugins. It’s more a matter of whether they serve your needs, fit into your workflow, and help you achieve the results you’re looking to achieve.

To that extent, doing your homework is a good idea. Read this guide. Also, watch the included videos. This will give you a better sense of what’s going to work for you as well as what to choose.

The more experience you gain, the better the feel you will have for what ultimately works for you. If you are still inexperienced, then don’t expect to know it all or to be able to make all the “right” decisions. Rather, make it your mission to experiment and learn. There are no mistakes when you approach production from the right mindset, only happy accidents.

If you want to master mastering, then see it as a long game (because it is). You can’t just buy one plugin and immediately turn into a legendary mastering engineer everyone wants to work with. You’ll want to go to mastering bootcamp first.

Features

Mastering plugins or bundles aren’t a straight comparison like a compressor might be.

You could look at a group of compressor plugins and say, “this one has sidechain functionality, this one doesn’t,” “this one has built-in reverb but this one doesn’t,” and so forth.

Mastering plugins are a little different.

There are different mastering plugins and bundles that serve different purposes. EQ, compression, limiting, dynamics, and de-essing are just a few examples of popular effects that are used in the mastering process. But this isn’t to say these are the only ones ever used.

Bundles may be complete unto themselves, but if you were to use standalone effects to cover the gamut, your process would naturally look a little different.

So, features are a difficult comparison when it comes to mastering plugins. That said, it does no harm whatsoever to explore your options. Some things might make more sense to you than others. After all, this purchase is about you, and you want to use the information available to make the best buying decision possible.

Workflow

If you’re anything like me, you like simple gear that helps you get the results you want fast. The less messing around, the better. So, fewer options, parameters, and presets are sometimes a blessing.

Not everyone is like me though. You might be more experienced, have different tastes, need more control, or simply like to tweak every parameter, hear the subtle differences every adjustment makes, and play endlessly with different settings before settling on your perfect knob positions.

To each his own. There is no right or wrong assuming the process leads to desired results.

But workflow is not a bad thing to pay attention to. The more sophisticated the plugin, and the more features it has, the longer you can expect to spend tweaking this or that. Again, this is not a bad quality by any means. But it does mean you’ll need to be involved in the process and gain an understanding of what each parameter does.

If you’re committed to learning, then there shouldn’t be any restrictions on which plugin(s) you buy. You can pick up the one that makes the most sense to you based on features and other qualities and follow through on the learning process with trial and error.

Budget

From roughly $30 all the way up to $500, mastering plugins and bundles vary considerably in terms of functionality and price point.

If you buy multiple plugins, you could end up racking up quite the expense.

Investing in your studio is obviously important, and plugins are generally more affordable than their hardware equivalents (if available), but you still want to be as realistic as possible with your purchases. What can your budget realistically tolerate?

The one thing to avoid is going into debt. There’s no point. If you must, take on a few beginner mastering jobs and save up for what you need. The feeling of earning something tends to be more rewarding than buying the product itself.

If money isn’t an object, then there’s nothing further to add.

Top VST Plugins For Mastering, Final Thoughts

You can’t go wrong with the mastering VST plugins mentioned here. That said, it still comes down to what you need. How will you be using the plugin(s)? What will you be using them for? What sounds are you trying to achieve? Would you like the process to be more hands on or more automatic?

You’ve got a few decisions to make, but in the grand scheme of things, nothing too crazy. Some of the world’s best producers don’t have fancy gear – they just know how to use what they’ve got! So, like I said earlier, there are no mistakes, only experiments and happy accidents.

Here’s wishing you all the best on your mastering journey!

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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