One of the biggest new features in Steinberg's recently released WaveLab 9 audio editor is undoubtedly its new suite of innovative and powerful mastering plugins, going by the name MasterRig. We cornered Andreas Mazurkiewicz, the developer responsible for it, and gave him a grilling…
Sonically, how does creating a suite of mastering plugins differ from creating mixing plugins?
"For mastering, plugins shouldn't colour the sound as much. Making use of the unique sound of a compressor or saturator is OK, but it shouldn't be too extreme. This is true for the parameter ranges as well. As for implementing mastering-specific features, I focused on the needs of a mastering engineer rather than coming up with something fancy."
Did you gather opinions from professional mastering engineers?
"Absolutely. We're in contact with many mastering studios all over the world, and we visited studios in Berlin and Munich to talk about workflow, typical tasks and, of course, about sound.
"What all professionals agreed upon was that workflow convenience and maintaining an overview of the setup are essential when one is mastering. Plugins with hundreds of parameters hidden behind tabs and pages are the wrong tools for this job. It's always been my philosophy that tools need to provide a seamless operational experience."
What features did you find lacking in existing alternatives on the market, and how did you address them in the MasterRig plugins?
"For example, while it's common to offer pre and post instances of EQ, it's not the case for compression and saturation. MasterRig has this covered, offering two instances for almost all modules. This means you can have a compressor at the beginning of a chain and another at the end
"Then there's Auto Listen, one of my favourite features. If activated, click on a parameter - let's say the threshold of the compressor's low band in M/S mode - and only the mid or side signal is perceived, just for that band. I think it's a great feature to help engineers see what's actually going to be compressed or filtered out."
How important was the addition of mid/side processing at every stage of MasterRig, and why?
"I never understood why I had to set the whole EQ or compressor to M/S processing in existing plugins. This is why we decided to do it on a per-band level, in virtually all MasterRig modules."
How does mastering software need to look and feel in comparison to mixing software?
"The philosophy behind MasterRig was to give the mastering engineer a clear, intuitive interface. For almost the whole development period, I sat together with our GUI and UX experts to reduce the complexity of the interface and get rid of distractions. Still, MasterRig has a lot of parameters, and compared with existing solutions on the market, I think we've done a pretty good job in designing an interface that has a clean and uncluttered look."
Will you be porting these WaveLab 9 mastering plugins to future incarnations of Cubase?
"We may consider using the underlying technology for other upcoming products, which is very common in software development."