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This question has been asked in various forms but not yet completely in my view.

I'm trying to find a good mastering chain for a sound effects library using say Waves plugins in pro tools.

I see this project as different than a field recordings library where no mastering might be preferable, but these are heavily processed effects. I've run them through various chains but can't seem to get them to sound good enough to be released. Most cases the EQ seems off or overly mastered.

Anyone care to share their mastering chain, technique for an effects library and/or a good way to take an EQ curve from a different library as guidance?

I'm a bit green on the engineering side and could use some advice from more seasoned professionals.

Thanks!

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Using an EQ for mastering should be a corrective process; so you need to know what you are trying to correct in the sound. Don't just use EQ or dynamics because that's what you think mastering is. If the sound is working, then leave it alone. If it isn't working, then you need to figure out what is wrong and what tool you need to use to fix it.

If your mastering sounds overly processed, then you are over-doing it. When mastering, I tend to prefer cutting frequencies rather than boosting. Not to say I never boost something, but if you find yourself constantly adding high end or low end, then maybe the sound isn't right in the first place or you made some bad choices during mixing. Mastering should be used to do a final clean up. How many db are you cutting/boosting of each band? If you're cutting/boosting more than a few db, you're probably overdoing it. How wide is you Q? You're probably tackling too wide a freq range and not focusing in on the bands that really need help.

There are no templates you can use. Every sound is unique and requires it's own process. Any of the Waves EQs (Ren, Q10, etc) will work for mastering, it just depends on how much fine tuning you need.

  • @Chuck, excellent answer. – Jay Jennings May 3 '13 at 1:16
  • Thanks Chuck. What's the best way to determine which frequencies need cutting? I know there's a sweep method but I've not found that too useful in the past. Is there a visual way to see these kind of problems. H-EQ for example shows frequency curves, but still not sure where to cut other than to say maybe it's too harsh sounding up top or whatever. But visually, just not sure. Is there a method I can use to help in this process? – Tag May 3 '13 at 1:21
  • @Tag I think a good method is to listen to the sound. Does it sound good and balanced? If not, then does it have the frequencies that it needs? Or does it have something that muffles/hides/masks the sound or that annoys you? If there's nothing wrong in the sound, then there's nothing wrong in the sound and you leave it as it is. Knowing/hearing what to do comes with experience. Sweeping is good for finding what you're looking for, but it's not a good way to figure out what to do, neither are spectrum analyzers, although they can give you an idea of what's going on in the sound. – Internet Human May 3 '13 at 2:19
  • Right and therein lies the problem, how does one learn these principles, it can't all be guess work. I do understand these broad ideas about fixing what's broken but I guess I am looking for something a little more concrete in terms of how you find what is broken and fix it. I hear problems in certain sounds but can't necessarily call out which frequencies are problematic. Any useful resources anyone knows of that really go beyond the basics? Appreciate the answers so far. – Tag May 3 '13 at 2:36
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    @Tag trainyourears.com/train-your-ears-eq-edition ? Also Youtube videos about mixing and EQ (e.g. youtube.com/watch?v=gdB9iamvk08, so you can see what someone else is doing. Most mixing guides and books also have examples of what kind of frequency characteristics conventional instruments have, which may be a good start for understanding what "generic characteristics" e.g. a guitar has in terms of frequency areas. If mastering interests you, Mastering Audio by Bob Katz has quite a bit about it in general. – Internet Human May 3 '13 at 3:07

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