Digital Mastering Signal Chain


I had a question about 2 different ways of mastering in Logic9. First of all, I am running at 32 bit on the newest macbook pro running power in on the cleanest path possible. As far as in the machine, there are two different chains I have set up and I was wondering if anyone knew which one was better or more efficient:

1. Waves linear phase EQs, Mid-Side EQ, Renaissance Compressor, L2

2. Izotope Ozone 4 Mastering Suite

I have mastered songs in both but am on the fence for which sounds better?

Also, what are your thoughts about reverb in the mastering chain, assuming everything is digital?
And if I were to add analog gear into my chain, how would I do so and would it be worth it?

thanks so much


These are huge questions and different mastering engineers will give you different answers.

Taking your signal out of the box and into hardware for mastering is only worth it if you have state of the art A/D D/A, we're talking very, very expensive. Otherwise you'll loose more than you gain in the A/D D/A imo. But then again if you have limited resources and a track that really needs warming up and you have a great analog compressor, it might be worth it... maybe. You'd loose something and gain something. Having said that, there are emulations of great analog compressors and EQs like the 1176, Fairchild, Pultec ect... which are indistinguishable from the real hardware in A/B tests with world class engineers listening. Check out Waves. These days you can stay in the box and still warm things up just as well - if you can afford high end plugins.

As for the two digital signal chains you mentioned above... there are many more variations than this. Many things are mastered with only the tiniest bit of EQ. Two EQs shouldn't really be necessary unless your mix is way off the mark. Compression can be added before or after EQ depending on what you're trying to achieve with it.

I haven't compared the L2 to Ozone's limiter, though I have both plugins. I remember the L2 being a bit hard sounding. These days I use PSP Xenon, which is arguably the most transparent limiter out there, if that's what you're after, which I am. Though I like Ozone's exciter, I think its excellent, that's mainly what I use it for. I think the Ozone EQ if very good and I use it on occasion, PSP Neon is far more transparent, which is what I use for mastering.

It all so much depends on what you are trying to achieve with a particular track. Its always better to go back and fix problems in the mix (if that's possible) rather than fix them during mastering. If you're doing more than very subtle adjustments during mastering, then you are probably trying to fix a problem with the mix, so remix it you'll get a better result.

Sometimes people use mastering to create a crushed brickwall almost zero dynamic range sound. This necessarily causes loads of distortion, but sometimes that's what people are after. There are many different ways to achieve this.

Reverb during mastering. For me this is again fixing a problem which is better fixed by remixing. You are putting reverb on everything when mastering, the bass for example... reverb on bass? Only as a last resort imo. If you have a mix that can't be remixed for some reason and it really is too dry then yes you might be forced to add reverb to the entire mix, bass and all... but you'll loose clarity in the bottom end obviously. Yes you could split the signal out and just add reverb to the mids and highs and then re-sum but... things won't sound the same as if you'd added it during the mix. Again your going to great lengths to fix a problem which is much better fixed in a remix.

Hope this helps.