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Unlock Audio Perfection: Mastering Techniques with Waves Plugins Explained
Learn pro-level audio mastering techniques with Waves plugins. Understand nuances like mix balance, safety measures, sound enhancements, controlling loudness, and A/B testing. Start creating radio-ready sound!


Mastering audio is an art that allows creatives to transform their work from good to great. Our focus today is on mastering techniques using Waves plugins – a selection of tools that have been fine-tuned to bring that much-needed polish to your mix. In this deep-dive, we will uncover the key techniques for mastering audio, from listening to the mix, through safety measures, to enhancing sound, and finally, the power of A/B testing.

No matter your level of expertise, this guide will help you realize your vision and help you achieve that professional, radio-ready sound. Whether you're just starting out or seasoned in your craft, understanding and implementing these techniques can be a game-changer in your mixing and mastering workflow.

Analyzing the Mix

Start by listening to your mix. This will help you understand the dynamics, the energy and the feel. Don't rush through this; take time to understand the nuances and the balance between the frequencies. As you listen, consider the headroom left in your mix for mastering and work towards targeting -14 LUFS on average. Loudness Units Full Scale (LUFS) is a measure of perceived loudness in audio. A target of -14 LUFS is a good balance of perceived volume and quality.

Remember, your goal here is to maintain the dynamics of the mix while reaching the desired LUFS. Crushing the dynamics to achieve loudness will affect the quality of your mix adversely. Maintaining the dynamics while reaching the desired LUFS is the balancing act that will make your mix sound professional and immersive.

Safety Measures

Now, let's talk about some safety measures. Start by setting a limiter for safety. The purpose of a limiter in this case is not to increase the loudness but to prevent any occasional peaks from clipping. Waves L1 Ultramaximizer is a prominent choice in this case for its transparency and ease of use.

Next, apply parallel bus compression – a technique used to glue the elements of your mix together and amplify the overall loudness. You can utilize the SSL Comp plugin for its consistency in providing a cohesive sound without excessively crushing the mix. Keep the threshold minimal to avoid over compression.

Enhancing the Sound

After establishing the safety measures, begin the process of enhancing the sound. First, apply top-end Equalization (EQ). EQ can give your mix a professional sheen by accentuating the high frequencies. Waves Q10 Parametric EQ is a powerful tool for this job.

Next, use dynamic EQ to tame the extreme top-end and remove any harshness. Negate elements that subtract from the mix without affecting the balance. Once the harshness is removed, add some excitement to your mix using the Aphex Vintage Exciter plugin. This will add clarity and presence to your mix, making it sound bright and vibrant. Subtle is key here, so don't overdo it!

For precise adjustments of frequency bands and stereo imaging, use Vitamin Sonic Enhancer. This plugin will allow you to enhance the stereo width and depth of your mix, giving it that professional and polished sound.

Control and Fine-tuning

Mastering is not just about amplifying the loudness but also about controlling it in different frequency bands. For this, utilize the Waves L3 Multimaximizer. It will help you to bring out certain frequencies without making others harsh or overpowering. This process involves fine-tuning to maintain your low-end and control loudness appropriately.

Remember, it's the subtle changes that make a significant difference in the final sound. It's important to pay attention to details because even a minor adjustment can vastly change the quality of the sound. Making these adjustments is a process of trial and error, as they largely depend on the characteristics of your track and the gear you're using.

A/B Testing

A/B testing is an important part of the mastering process. Always compare the changes made to the original mix. Use a tool like Waves PAZ Analyzer for a visualized comparison. This will give you a graphical representation of the changed frequencies and how the modifications have affected your mix.

While comparing, identify and analyze the improvements in the final sound. Is your mix cleaner and more balanced? Does it have more clarity, presence, and impact? If so, your work is on the right track.


And that concludes our deep-dive into mastering techniques using Waves plugins. We have covered almost everything you need to know on the subject, starting with understanding your mix, safety measures, sound enhancements, control measures, and finally, the importance of A/B testing.

We hope this guide inspires you to explore Waves plugins further and incorporate these techniques into your mastering workflow. With a few download offers on our StudioRack chain and presets, you can begin trying out your newly-learned techniques right away. Keep practicing, honing your sound, and above all, enjoy the art of mastering!

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Rylan Talerico
October 24, 2023
Before founding Crate, Rylan Talerico was signed to Warner Records as a recording artist, producer, and songwriter. These days, Rylan enjoys spending time with his family and working on Crate building tools to empower musicians to be more creative and connected.
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