Best Mastering VST Plugins:
 The Definitive List  [2021]

 by 

Jay Von K   -  


Updated: January 7, 2021

Until now, you can't discuss audio post-production without touching on mastering.

Although this process remains a mystery for people who don’t know a thing or two about sound engineering, this article can help with that!

Because here we will take a look at some plug-ins that can actually help you with your mastering needs!

Best Mastering VST Plugins
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But wait! Is mastering that important?

Well, as a final step in audio post-production it adds a lot to audio.

By balancing or polishing various sonic elements, mastering enhances the level of cohesion in a mix big time.

Guess what!

That’s where reliable mastering plugins comes into the picture. Mastering in-the-box plugins combine many useful effects that you need to achieve that professional feel for your tracks.

Speaking of which- these days, audio producers have more than enough options for the job.

If you are looking for one or two reliable picks for in-the-box mastering needs, below are some fantastic VST mastering plugins worth a spot in your production toolkit.

The 13 best Mastering VST Plugins of 2021 include:

1. Fabfilter Mastering Bundle

Fabfilter Mastering bundle
General

Starting our list of options, the Mastering Bundle comprises FabFilter's essential mastering plugins.

To begin with, the Pro-MB comes as an intuitive yet powerful tool that revolutionizes the ever-present difficulty of setting up and controlling multi-band dynamics processing.

Pro-MB Mastering Plugin

Ideally, it shines on a new approach- a unique dynamic processing mode that allows direct creation of a new band at the frequency range of interest.

So, yes!

Instead of splitting the whole spectrum with crossovers, you get to deal with bands. 

Next, the Pro L2 opens the door to top-class metering.

Fabfilter Pro L2

As a true peak limiter, it is loud, transparent, and comes equipped with comprehensive metering capabilities.

Among its leading attractions is the real-time level display that grants the user all the information necessary to attain desirable results.

If that isn’t enough, the Pro Q3 will calm your nerves with features tuned to help actualize unrivaled sound and workflow.

Pro-Q3

 With it, you get to enjoy premium sound quality with features housed in an innovative and easy to use interface.

Topping the list of Pro Q3's offerings are linear phase operation, zero latency, intelligent solo functionality, natural phase modes, variable placement of EQ bands, and more.

Finally, the bundle offers the Pro C2, another cutting-edge compressor plugin.

Fabfilter Pro C 2

Here, imagine subtle mastering compression, upfront lead vocal, magic drum glue, or even EDM pumping, with the Pro C-2 all that is literally a walk in the park.

And with up to eight distinct program-relying compression styles, classic compressor controls, intelligent auto-gain, and auto-release, and more, there is little else to ask.

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2. Waves – Abbey Road TG

Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain
General

Moving right along, here comes the Waves-Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain.

In the simplest terms, it is a modular mastering plugin that emulates the EMI TG12410 Transfer Console.

At its core are five distinct processors arranged in modules as follows:

  1. the TG12411 Input,
  2. TG12312 Tone (EQ),
  3. TG12414 compressor/limiter,
  4. TG112414 filter,
  5. and TF12416 VAL (stereo spread).

In principle, all the modules are re-arrangeable and can be used independently, especially during mixing.

TG Mastering Chain

Now, as a unit, it delivers classic hardware sound just like the machine it takes after.

However, it features extra options beyond what the analog model offers.

As such, it opens the way to unparalleled functionality.

So, yes!

If you need vintage quality sound with modern touches, the TG Mastering Chain won’t disappoint.

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Waves – Abbey Road TG:

3. Izotope Ozone 9

Izotope - Ozone 9 Mastering VST Plugin
General

Ozone 9 by iZotope might be the most famous mastering plugin, and there are many reasons behind that.

The most important thing might be the AI-powered assistive audio tools that allow the plugin to perform automatic actions as it can “learn” what to do. That can save you a lot of time, and you can always tweak the parameters to make it better.

Ozone-9 Advanced

The Ozone 9 allows for frequency control with its Spectral Shaper and Low-End Focus modules. You can also use the Match EQ to bring your songs closer to any reference track you load into the plugin!

The Imager lets you control the stereo field, and even add some to narrow tracks. Moreover, this plugin comes with CODEC Preview mode to hear how your music sounds like in or AAC formats.

Finally, note that you can choose between three editions, depending on your needs and budget:  Elements, Standard, and Advanced.

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Izotope Ozone 9:

4. Eventide Elevate

Elevate Mastering Bundle by Eventide
General

Simply put, the Eventide Elevate is one the most advanced mastering plugins you can ever come across today.

As a unique and powerful multi-band limiter, human-ear EQ, and audio maximizer, it is designed to enhance the loudness of mixes and also make the dynamic perception much better.

Elevate Equivocate

Wondering what makes it tick?

Well, at the core of its operation is an intelligent and adaptive technology that affords its real-time response capability.

Again, it can analyze up to twenty-six frequency bands modeled after the human ear while altering the gain, speed, and transient all at the same time.

Punctuate

Beyond that, the Elevate Mastering Bundle makes use of linear auditory filters, a spectral clipper, and up to six different types of metering to deliver perfect tonal control.

Remember! It keeps the subtle dynamics intact all the while.

The outcome is a transparent natural sound you can ever get.

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Eventide Elevate:

5. IK Multimedia T-Racks 5

IK Multimedia - T-RackS 5 Mastering Plugin
General

What about a mastering plugin that would be fully customizable and modular?

The T-RackS 5 by IK Multimedia comes with 38 high-quality modules that you can combine any way you like to master your tracks.

These modules include the Master Match module that allows you to easily tweak your track to match up to three reference tracks that you can load.

The Dyna-Mu vari-mu compressor/limiter lets you easily glue your mix, while the 5 EQual digital equalizer comes with a 10-band, ultra-clear, high-end parametric equalizer.

T-Racks 5

Note that it also features advanced metering tools that allow you to create broadcast-ready audio.

In addition to that, the plugin comes with three different working environments to suit every need. The user interface is also resizable so that it can fit any part of your screen.

All in all, this plugin is very versatile and flexible, and it is highly recommended to demanding music producers.

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IK Multimedia T-RackS 5 MAX:
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IK Multimedia T-RackS 5:

6. Audified MixChecker Pro

Audified MixChecker Pro Mix
General

Now, when it comes to double-checking a mix, very few plugins come close to Audified MixChecker Pro.

Why do we say so?

MixChecker Pro comes with exceptional features for precise simulation of the environment and devices used by listeners.

MixChecker Pro

Now, when it comes to double-checking a mix, very few plugins come close to Audified MixChecker Pro.

Why do we say so?

MixChecker Pro comes with exceptional features for precise simulation of the environment and devices used by listeners.

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Audified MixChecker Pro:

7. Expose by Mastering the Mix

Expose by Mastering the Mix
General

Ever doubted if your tracks are ready for release?

If this is one of the questions that continually pops up at the tail end of your productions, here comes the perfect answer- Expose by Mastering the Mix.

So, what is it all about?

Quite simply, this mastering tool is designed to help audio producers confirm whether their creations will provide a top-notch listening experience.

Expose - Mastering The Mix

In use, it makes it easy to make sense of all the technical details and identifies problems in a matter of seconds.

Again, it allows users to preview audio to enable polishing of problematic elements.

Even better, it has useful presets that help optimizes productions for various platforms such as YouTube, Soundcloud, and more.

To top it all, it features tooltips to help guide users when ironing out problems within a mix.

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Expose by Mastering the Mix:

8. Toneboosters BARRICADE 4

Toneboosters Barricade
General

By and large, the Barricade 4 is a pro-grade compression and versatile true-peak limiting tool.

Leading its range of impressive features are automatic and adaptive signal modes that epitomizes the outcomes without necessarily exposing the user to hours of manipulation. 

Nonetheless, it also features manual modes so you can shape your sound the manual way.

Barricade Mastering Plugin

And it gets better because Barricade 4 supports up to 16 channels.

Think of multi-channel formats such as 5.1, 7.1, A-format, B-format, 2nd, and 3rd order ambisonics for VR and gaming.

When it gets to true peak performance, it supports perceptual noise shaping and dithering for a transparent bit-depth detection.

Other features worth highlighting include integrated loudness management, dedicated input modeller for incorporating analog power, and ultrasonic sampling rate.

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Toneboosters BARRICADE 4:

9. Izotope Nectar 3 Plus

iZotope Nectar 3
General

Get this!

With iZotope’s Nectar 3 you have an easy route to great sounding vocal tracks.

As iZotope’s designated vocal processing plugin, it comes ready with all it takes to manage and enhance vocal performances.

Nectar-3-Module-Compressor

Think about the application of creative and corrective processing as well as turning vocals from a raw to a finished product.

Specifically, it consists of a pitch editor, compressor, de-esser, delay, dimension module, EQ, gate, harmony engine, reverb, and a saturator.

Nectar 3 Plus Features

Besides that, you’ll appreciate the exceptional selection of presets that covers general vocal cleanup, dialogue, and processing for various genres of music.

And with a vocal assistant tool, you can never get stuck creating custom materials for the vocals in your mix.

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Izotope Nectar 3 Plus:

10. Izotope Neutron 3

iZotope Neutron 3
General

A modern way to transform mixes, Neutron 3 combines fluid interactive visuals, assistive audio technology, and strikingly quicker performance.

The first thing to note, it features a Mix Assistant that provides for automatic sculpting of tracks and balancing of levels, essentially allowing flowing creativity.

Mix Assistant in Neutron 3

In use, the Mix Assistant listens through a complete session and suggests the right levels in a mix.

Moreover, it boasts of Neutron’s signature Track Enhance feature for flawless detection and adjustment of instrument sounds.

You can promptly dive into the analysis, which has been made easier with controls tailored to be intuitive for a mixing experience like no other.

Neutron 3 Mastering Plugin

What else?

Neutron 3 affords you the ability to communicate across your session.

Most of all, it avails a better Masking Meter so you can find and fix competing elements of your mix to carve out space for instruments.

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Izotope Neutron 3:

11. Leapwing DynOne 3

Leapwing - DynOne 3
General

Leapwing’s DynOne 3 is an intelligent multi-band compressor that comes with special attention to the user’s experience.

If you find that most multiband compressors are too hard to set up, you will love the user interface of this plugin.

It is both clear and comprehensible, without being too simplistic.

In fact, it comes with a good-looking design that keeps the most frequently used controls on one screen, making it easy to make the most important changes.

DynOne3

Plus, it is quite easy to use, as it comes with adaptive attack and release settings that make it easy to get started.

The plugin itself comes with 5 bands, along with sophisticated tools to control your audio such as variable RMS vs peak detection, stereo link control, and a weighting algorithm.

Summing up, the DynOne 3 is an amazing multiband compression plugin that is mostly targeted to anyone who wants an easy and comprehensible plugin.

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Leapwing DynOne 3:

12. Rob Papen MasterMagic

MasterMagic by Rob Papen
General

 Well, there are some random situations when you wish things can just happen.

With Rob Papen MasterMagic, you can't enjoy such a reality without the slightest hesitation.

As the name suggests, the MasterMagic by Rob Papen holds a touch of magic that can quickly transform your mastering and mixing game.

In the first place, you don’t need pro-grade experience to find your way around it.

MasterMagic

But make no mistake, behind the plain appearance lies some smart algorithms that help complete the job done in no time.

Granted, it features a few basic controls offering simple yet effective tweaking possibilities.

Other key takeaways include the Silky AIR module and the Mono/Stereo module.

In the end, whatever music you’re crafting MasterMagic can tighten all the loose ends.

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Rob Papen MasterMagic:

13. UAD Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor

UAD Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor
General

Perhaps the best for last, the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor is a workhorse worth a spot in your production toolkit.

It comes as an accurate modeling of high-end hardware optimized for taming the dynamics with overwhelming tone and precision control. 

So why should anyone consider it?

Coming with serial two-stage dynamics control and switchable transformer matrix, it grants the power to mix and master with all the power of the revered Shadow Hills Compressor.

Shadow-Hills

Likewise, it allows users to control various transformer output types, namely Nickel, Iron, and Steel, thus allowing access to wide-ranging distortion characteristics and transient limiting.

Other than the above, it enables the use of distinct Optical and Discrete dynamic sections for a trouble-free two-stage serial dynamics control.

Another key takeaway lies in the ability to utilize 90Hz sidechain filtering for sonic compression of low-frequency material.

All in all, you can expect so much more from this supreme tycoon of compression.

Now, over to you!

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Final Thoughts

With seemingly limitless quality mastering plugins, choosing the most suitable can be overwhelming.

A simple search and you’ll already be spoilt for choice.

Our list highlights some stand-out options that could get you started.

Of course, we haven’t included everything the market has to offer, but the few inclusions are pretty impressive.

Now, over to you!

Next level audio production and studio recording
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