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Re: mastering plug ins

> What I want is a free plugin with presets ya know? Mastering of all the 
>best sounding recordings in a one click function.

You know what I want for my musical projects? A musician which can
play anything, will adapt easily to any style I ask of him, works
tirelessly, is a piece of software and is free at that.

It's not available. The reason isn't that there isn't outstanding
software on the market which is, in some way or another, free. If you
look e.g. at web2.0 cms systems, the majority of these solutions (and
allegedly the most powerful one) are open source. The reason is that
(same as with typo3), you still need a guy who knows how to handle
that thing.

So I'll try again to give these suggestions which were ignored so far,
and summarize them in a proper way:

1. The best step on the path to a nicely-sounding recording is the
original source material. Go and read up what you can do - using
equalization and compression on the source tracks (and you've really
come a long way if you use a free plugin properly and won't need the
pricey e.g. Algorithmix stuff), and if necessary by applying a
motownesque approach. If that is accomplished, nobody ever uses e.g.
enemy number one - the multiband compressor. (A lot of people tend to
use them these days. The reason I avoid them is simply because they
work in a way that is rather contrary to the way the human hearing
works). And you also should never have to use a transient designer on
the 2bus - same goes here: if you feel you have to use it, then
something is wrong with your source material - like overcompressing it
(and compression must not come from a dedicated compressor - one thing
a guitar amp tends to do is compress, so working with the settings and
- if used - miking of your guitar amp can bring you a long way as

2. Listen! How would you be able to do a good master if you can't (by
lacking a proper listening equipment or proper training) judge
yourself if it's good or not? Part one are proper speakers (and sorry,
there's no way 'round spening money on those), part two is a proper
room for listening - which can also be expensive, but there are
second-best options - like use your bedroom and don't tidy up your
bed. Get rid of those blinds which might resonate, and by combining
well-known best practices (again, I'd suggest recording.org, but am
open for other sources) and trial and error find the place where to
place the speakers and yourself. Don't put them on a table - stands
are in order, and keep distance to walls and floor.
Another help are displays (like frequency analyzers, phase scopes and
level meters). There are also free things available - I personally
don't use them that much, simply because the meters which come with my
(RME) hardware do what I need - including K-system level metering
(again: digido.com). But these, like listening, are things you need to
learn (see below).

3. Learn. This includes your tools (including your speakers), and how
a well-done record sounds. Sit down and try to see what is the
difference between e.g. Aenema (by Tool) and Hipnotize (by System of a
Down). Listen to them on different systems (car stereo, portable mp3
player with good and bad phones, kitchen radio). Pay attention to
listening fatigue - there are recordings similar in style which tend
to tire you a lot after some period of listening, and others which
don't. Then after listening, use the meters you've selected above, and
see how a different sound translates to a different meter result. Why
do some things with the same RMS level (and thus probably the same
"loudness") sound vastly different (with regard to loudness) - check
e.g. Part 2 of my Saturday performance against tracks from "Stadium
Arcadium" (by the Red Hot Chili Peppers).
Then learn your software weapons - experiment with compressors, with
eqs and whatnot. Change the order and see what happens. Also when
talking about mastering (I'm not talking about creative, sound-shaping
compressor and eq use e.g. when mixing a multi-miced trapset), there's
the same rule as with effects during mixing: the proper amount is
found when you don't notice that it's there, only when it's missing.
When training yourself, try to focus on a few selected devices. Nobody
ever uses seven different compressors for mastering in rapid exchange.

4. Define your production flow. A good starting point are again
well-known best practices - you can even search the archives here,
there has been a long discussion a while back - one starts here
This production flow will most probably include the following facts:
   * which file format is required/preferred for start of the process?
   * which tools are used (effects chain etc.)
   * quality control etc.
This will also include those presets you're looking for - and there's
nothing wrong with starting with some presets supplied with your tools
of choice and go from there.

4a. Level Practices: as I said, there's a reason why "level practices"
exist. Read up on digido.com on that topic.

5. The business pov. So you've now reached a point where, with certain
investments, you've implemented a proper mastering chain for home use,
which includes monitors, processors and a trained engineer. According
to economy theory, that training for the engineer was rather cheap and
the the monitors rather expensive or just the other way round,
depening on your financial situation.
There may still be situations where what you get out of it is not
enough - and for those you need a pro. However, I'd limit that to
those releases which "really count".

Summarizing: Sorry, there's really no way around investing shitloads
of time and some money (other than letting all your mastering be done
by a pro). If you're not willing or able to invest that, then the
(mastering sound) quality of your recordings will not improve. Sorry.