Whilst I’m a firm believer that sonic outcomes have very little to do with gear, and everything to do with the people involved, it is nice to have great tools on hand that make life easier, and are fun to use. I also think it’s important for your peace of mind to see I use real, high-quality analogue equipment in a purpose-designed room, rather than a pirated software collection on a laptop in a spare bedroom somewhere!
NF Audio EQN-2A
The EQN-2A is the result of two years of research and development. It is loosely based on the revered and much sought-after Pultec EQP-1A, but with several modifications to make it more suitable for the requirements of mastering. It is matched to within a fraction of a dB between the left and right channels, and every control is stepped making matching channels and recalling settings a snap. I optimised the unit for the absolutely lowest noise floor possible. It adds weight and sparkle to a final mix in a way I genuinely believe you can’t achieve with a plugin.
Smart Research C1
The C1 is Alan Smart’s take on the SSL bus compressor. The SSL style compressor must be the most copied, cloned and reimagined compressor designs of all time. In my opinion the C1 is the best of the bunch. It exhibits all the power and character of the SSL original, with somehow more detail and speed in the sound. The added dual-mono functionality makes it a no brainer for almost every master for me!
Bedini First Base
From time to time a mix might need some gentle manipulation of the stereo image. Often this is to help the track fit in amongst others on a record, or sometimes its restorative. Either way, the Base is the best way to do it, in my opinion. Some of the things this box can do might as well be pure witchcraft as far as I’m concerned. Whatever is going on under the hood, I don’t care because it sounds incredible.
Fabfilter Pro-L 2
I want my final brickwall peak limiter to be a lot of things, but audible is not one of them. The Fabfilter Pro-L 2 is the pinnacle of limiter technology. It is capable of huge amounts of peak reduction (if necessary) with very few artefacts. It never ceases to amaze me!
One of the less desirable byproducts of the huge surge in artists mixing their own music at home or from less than ideal spaces is that quite often the bottom end of mixes I see for mastering is not quite right. The C4 has got me out of trouble in this situation more times than I could care to remember. It can take flabby, out of control bass and tuck it in neat and tight. An old but fantastic plugin!
Eiosis Air Eq
A relatively new product in the saturated plugin EQ market, but blow me down if it isn’t just fantastic sounding and incredibly useful. Simultaneously capable of being sweet and musical and tight and surgical, the air EQ has for the most part replaced all of my other EQ plugins for mastering.