Mastering plugins have become big business in recent years, and while the dominance of ultra-high-end, super-expensive hardware compressors and EQs in the professional mastering studio still holds, today there are endless incredibly powerful options for the home studio-based producer.
While many of these amazing tools come from software big-boys such as iZotope, FabFilter and Universal Audio, there are plenty more lesser-known - and more affordable - mastering plugins that demand to be checked out, too. Here are half a dozen of the best…
TDR Limiter 6 GE
With six reorderable modules (Compressor, Clipper, HF Limiter, Peak Limiter, Output Protection Limiter and Peak/EBU Loudness Meter), plus equal-loudness bypass and M/S for each module, this advanced mastering limiter is an absolute steal at €50.
DMG Audio Limitless
DMG’s flagship limiter uses under-the-hood multiband processing to “intelligently separate dynamics and transients”, allowing you to push premasters harder than comparable limiters without artefacts or distortion.
Like all of Dave Gamble’s plugins, this one's a must-have. £150.
SKnote Stereo Double Compressor
At just $30, this wallet-friendly emulation of the famous Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor deserves your master bus’s attention.
Alongside the expected opto-into-VCA dual-compression stages, it’s got the original’s three transformer models, and M/S features to boot.
Although the Berlin-based software gurus are well-known for their virtual synths, u-he’s dynamics toolbox is a secret sound-shaping weapon for pro mastering engineers, with all manner of analogue compression flavours and geek-worthy customisation options on tap.
It costs £104.
Cytomic The Glue
The SSL Stereo Bus Compressor is a famous two-bus processor for binding mixes ‘like a record’. DSP stalwarts Cytomic’s virtual emulation is a fave for track/group processing and works a treat on your stereo output. $99.
Acustica Diamond Color EQ
All of the plugins by these renowned Italian developers eschew CPU efficiency for sound quality: ideal for mastering, then.
This four-band EQ, designed in conjunction with Studio DMI, also has a preamp stage for extra harmonics, and costs €149.