Brainworx bx_masterdesk PRO review

’Tis said audio mastering is the darkest of arts. If so bx_masterdesk PRO is an entire grimoire

  • $349
Brainworx bx_masterdesk PRO
(Image: © Brainworx)

MusicRadar Verdict

This latest one-stop mastering solution provides extra control over the process yet still makes great-sounding masters a cinch.


  • +

    Delivers excellent results quickly.

  • +

    Glue and Clipper provide ideal dynamic pre-treatments.

  • +

    Resonance Filters now fully sweepable.

  • +

    bx_limiter True Peak-inspired metering.


  • -

    Order of sections does not always reflect signal flow.

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Brainworx bx_masterdesk PRO: What is it?

Brainworx’ homespun line of bx_masterdesk plugins pack a combination of compressor, limiter and basic tone controls into a single unified processor. 

The second edition of the plugin saw the inclusion of Brainworx’s True Peak limiting tech, but this new third edition represents a much larger and more significant advancement for the series.

Brainworx bx_masterdesk PRO

(Image credit: Brainworx)

Brainworx bx_masterdesk PRO: Performance and verdict

The new features start at the beginning of bx_masterdesk PRO’s signal chain with a new pair of dynamic processors. Glue introduces a gentle dynamic smoothing via a simple analogue-style VCA compressor, adding body and cohesion to a mix. Clipper functions more like a limiter, preventing any peaks that exceed 0dBFS from passing through. A dial allows the input signal to be pushed into the Clipper by up to 6dB, making it a very useful tool for boosting the signal level whilst ridding yourself of troublesome peaks. 

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The input signal can be further shaped with high- and low-pass filters and a new three-band parametric EQ. These sit prior to the plugin’s main dynamic processing stages (not that you would know this from the plugin’s layout), allowing you to adjust how those stages respond to your mix. 

bx_masterdesk’s Resonance Filters are in essence a pair of notch filters for cutting away intense resonant frequencies. Where previously each band offered a choice of just two switchable cutoff frequencies they are now fully sweepable so that, between them, the entire 20Hz to 20kHz spectrum is covered, and they offer a choice of two bandwidths, making them so much more useful than they were previously.

The Volume section now offers enhanced control over its underlying compressor in the form of Ratio and Release controls. The four ratios that can be selected range from 3.2:1 to 7.9:1, which seems very high for a mastering processor. However, the softness of the compressor’s knee means that you will only get these high ratios when driving the input and Volume control hard, and in practice the compressor has a wide sweet spot in which gain reduction is both effective and transparent. Conversely, with just 30ms difference covering all four selectable release times – 100ms to 130ms – the new Release control is useful but has a fairly minimal impact on proceedings. 

The Foundation stage sees a single new addition in the form of Brainworx’ XL processor, which enhances third- and fifth-order harmonics to add warmth, weight and loudness. The Tone section remains much as it was, but a new stereo enhancement feature has been added. This applies one of a choice of four EQ curves to the stereo side channel, impacting the perceived width and character of the stereo field. 

True peak features

Other than the smart modern appearance, the most noticeable change in bx_masterdesk PRO is the limiter stage that now incorporates many of the controls found in bx_limiter True Peak, and so giving much more control over the responsiveness and character of processing. That plugin’s magnificent metering, showing peak and RMS level, gain reduction, dynamic range and loudness for both input and output has also been transplanted here.

The deeper levels of control directly translate to the potential for better-sounding results

The bx_masterdesk series is notable for its ability to deliver great-sounding results quickly, without demanding any particular expertise, but by preventing deeper control that ease of use can be a double-edged sword restricting sonic flexibility. The enhancements and additions brought to bx_masterdesk PRO go a very long way to blunting this longstanding criticism, with the deeper levels of control directly translating to the potential for better sounding results, all while having little-to-no impact on the rapidity and ease of the workflow. It’s a heck of a solid tool.

MusicRadar verdict: This latest one-stop mastering solution provides extra control over the process yet still makes great-sounding masters a cinch.

Brainworx bx_masterdesk PRO: The web says

"Even if you’re a novice, its simple and intuitive controls will make it easy to get your mixes or masters sounding better."

Brainworx bx_masterdesk PRO: Hands-on demos

Brainworx Audio

Plugin Alliance

White Noise Studio

Brainworx bx_masterdesk PRO: Specifications

  • System Requirements: macOS 13 down to macOS 10.11. Intel, or Apple Silicon. Windows 11 down to Windows 8. x64-compatible CPU. AAX Native, AU, VST2, VST3. 2GB RAM.
  • CONTACT: Plugin Alliance 
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