15. Requirements for hard- and software

First and foremost, mastering requires an excellent monitoring system, which can reproduce the entire frequency range without embellishing or colouring it in any way. High-grade speakers are a must, although it doesn't always have to be expensive main monitors, especially for occasional mastering in smaller rooms.

Optimum MS6

To get a clear picture of the details, many engineers use high-grade headphones in addition to monitor speakers.

AKG K-872

These should be driven by high-quality headphone amplifiers.

Violectric HPA V281

The acoustics of the mastering room are often overlooked, but extremely important.

Studio Akustikelemente

Even the most expensive high-end speakers aren't of much use, if they are set up in an acoustically insufficient room. Most importantly, there should not be any narrow-band resonances (room modes), and all relevant frequencies should have approximately the same reverb time. Bothersome first reflections in the listening position need to be eliminated.
You will need at least one D/A converter, unless you are planning to use digitally connected speakers exclusively (in which case the converters are located inside the speakers). If you plan to use hardware processing, you will need one or more high-grade AD/DA converters

Crane Song Hedd 192

or a very good audio interface, ideally multi-channel.

Apogee Symphony I/O 8x8 + 8MP

Professional mastering studios typically use specialised mastering desks, „backbones“ and high-quality cables.

Vovox XLR Audio cable

If you're only planning on mastering occasionally, focus on keeping the signal paths short and using high-grade connections, while preserving a certain flexibility for the integration of external hardware.

When it comes to analogue outboard gear, quality is the main goal. EQs, compressors and other effects should be of the highest sonic and technical standards you can afford. Many studios have several different EQs and compressors, each with their own characteristics, such as a fast and precise VCA compressor and a more colouring tube compressor.
Some manufacturers sell specialised mastering versions of their gear, which tend to be more expensive. Mastering requires the two channels of stereo units to sound as alike as possible, which is why manufacturers use components with smaller tolerances, leading to a higher price. It is also important to be able to set both channels to exactly the same setting, and reproduce it consistently. For this reason, most specialised mastering gear comes with detented incremental controls and / or relay circuitry. This, of course, does not apply to M/S mastering—here you can absolutely use two separate mono units to process the mid and side signals individually, even two entirely different ones!

„Do I really have to use hardware? There's software for everything now!“ is one of the questions I get a lot. As always, there are good arguments for both. Large mastering studios still use outboard gear extensively, analogue and digital. While it is now possible to closely emulate the behaviour of analogue EQs and compressors with software, high-end hardware has still preserved a certain edge. Also, the sonic quality is just one of a few things to consider. The physical feel of using the gear is just as important, as is the resale value: You will most likely have no trouble selling a 4000 euro equaliser in 20 years for a decent amount of money, while an outdated plug-in for a format that is no longer used will be pretty much worthless.

There is now an abundance of plug-ins, many of which are well suited for mastering purposes. Very clean effects like inconspicuous phase linear equalisers can only be realised in the digital realm. While there are some very good external digital effects, these tend to be extremely expensive. The computing power of modern CPUs allows for multiple instances of high-grade plug-ins, making dedicated DSP based systems almost obsolete. Some manufacturers specialise in mastering plug-ins and bundles or „suites“, some of which can be used stand-alone. Using a DAW as a host facilitates audio editing and automation of parameters. Dedicated mastering editors present an alternative; these are optimised for dealing with only a few audio tracks. Things like multitrack recording, cue monitoring, MIDI and virtual instruments are irrelevant during mastering, so they are omitted from these programs, streamlining them for the mastering process.

Your Contacts

Best rated products

  1. Behringer DEQ2496 Ultra-Curve Pro

    Behringer DEQ2496 Ultra-Curve Pro

    In stock
    235 €
  2. DBX 286 S

    DBX 286 S

    In stock
    139 €
    219 €
  3. FMR Audio RNC 1773

    FMR Audio RNC 1773

    In stock
    218 €
  4. DBX 166 XS

    DBX 166 XS

    In stock
    145 €
    229 €
  5. TC-Helicon VoiceTone T1

    TC-Hel­icon VoiceTone T1

    In stock
    85 €
  6. Samson S-Com 4

    Samson S-Com 4

    In stock
    125 €
  7. tc electronic M350

    tc elec­tronic M350

    In stock
    159 €
  8. Behringer FX2000 3D FX Processor

    Behringer FX2000 3D FX Pro­cessor

    In stock
    109 €
  9. FMR Audio RNLA 7239

    FMR Audio RNLA 7239

    In stock
    258 €
  10. DBX 266 XS

    DBX 266 XS

    In stock
    119 €
    139 €
  11. Behringer DEQ2496 Ultra-Curve Bundle
    BUNDLE

    Behringer DEQ2496 Ultra-Curve Bundle

    In stock
    279 €
    381 €
  12. Behringer DEQ2496 Ultra-Curve Pr B-Stock
    B-STOCK

    Behringer DEQ2496 Ultra-Curve Pr B-Stock

    Product is sold out
    199 €
  13. DBX 160A

    DBX 160A

    In stock
    499 €
    599 €
  14. Klark Teknik 76-KT

    Klark Teknik 76-KT

    In stock
    199 €
  15. tc electronic M-One XL

    tc elec­tronic M-One XL

    Available at short notice (usually 2-5 days)
    299 €

Top Brands

  • Golden Age Project
  • FMR Audio
  • Chandler Limited
  • Yamaha
  • API Audio
  • Tube-Tech
  • Acon Digital
  • the box pro
  • Tegeler Audio Manufaktur
  • AMS Neve
  • Rupert Neve Designs
  • Internet

Most popular products

  1. Klark Teknik 76-KT

    Klark Teknik 76-KT

    In stock
    199 €
  2. DBX 286 S

    DBX 286 S

    In stock
    139 €
    219 €
  3. Klark Teknik KT-2A

    Klark Teknik KT-2A

    In stock
    322 €
  4. Behringer DEQ2496 Ultra-Curve Pro

    Behringer DEQ2496 Ultra-Curve Pro

    In stock
    235 €
  5. DBX 166 XS

    DBX 166 XS

    In stock
    145 €
    229 €
  6. Drawmer SP2120

    Drawmer SP2120

    In stock
    533 €
    737 €
  7. tc electronic M100

    tc elec­tronic M100

    In stock
    85 €
  8. Behringer FX2000 3D FX Processor

    Behringer FX2000 3D FX Pro­cessor

    In stock
    109 €
  9. Klark Teknik EQP-KT

    Klark Teknik EQP-KT

    In stock
    211 €
  10. Wizoo Publishing Das Recording-Studio

    Wizoo Pub­lishing Das Recording-Studio

    In stock
    16,50 €
  11. BBE Sonic Maximizer 882i

    BBE Sonic Max­im­izer 882i

    In stock
    199 €
  12. PATCH & TWEAK the book

    PATCH & TWEAK the book

    In stock
    71 €
  13. tc electronic M350

    tc elec­tronic M350

    In stock
    159 €
  14. the t.racks DSP 306

    the t.racks DSP 306

    In stock
    325 €
  15. Elysia xfilter

    Elysia xfilter

    In stock
    1.169 €