After spending more than a year creating the Free VST Plugins section, I’ve decided to create a specialized list of my favorite free mastering software tools in VST/AU plugin format for Windows and Mac.
I’ve listed all of the plugins which I use frequently while mastering tracks for the label and sorted them by type for easy reference. There may be some better commercial plugins out there, but the freeware plugin scene is so strong nowadays that you can do a great mastering job without spending a dime.
Of course, you will need a properly treated room, as well as proper monitoring gear. And of top of that you will need lots of knowledge and experience in order to truly grasp the process of audio mastering. I can’t really help you with those!
But when it comes to free mastering software, this article will be a great starting point. Whether you’re an experienced mastering engineer or a beginner, you can use this list as an easy reference for refining your mastering chain.
Free Mastering Software List
This is a list of the best freeware effects and tools suitable for use in audio mastering. Use the links to visit the homepage of each product or scroll down to read reviews of my favorite free mastering software.
Multi Band Compressor
- by Brainworx (Mac, Windows)
- by Voxengo (Mac, Windows)
My Favorite Mastering Tools
In this section, I will say a few words about my personal favorite free mastering software effects and tools. These are the freeware effects which I swear by and which I use in everyday mastering tasks.
BaxterEQ is one of my favorite freeware equalizers and it is a superb tool when it comes to mastering. You can use the M/S mode to easily improve the stereo image of the mix at hand. I often use it to tame the lows boost the highs in the side channel. Of course, it can also be used in classic stereo mode, for fixing the bottom and high ends of your master.
TDR Feedback Compressor II is among the best software compressors for bus use out there. It is designed for highest quality 2-buss compression, using “feed-forward” topology for gain reduction. This is a transparent compressor, meant for taming the peaks in a most natural sounding way.
Density mkIII is my absolutely favorite compressor for adding a bit of crunch to a mix which is too clean. It can even be used as a saturation device. Simply increase the Drive knob setting, while reducing the Range amount to apply smooth saturation without gain reduction.
Limiter №6 is an incredibly powerful freeware limiter. The signal goes through 5 different stages, each of which should be used to add a bit of gain reduction. This way you can get incredibly loud masters (not saying that going for a loud master is the best choice!) without that dreadful pumping effect. I use the multi-band setting in the limiter and clipper sections for best results.
SPAN is the legendary freeware spectrum analyzer released by Voxengo. No matter how confident you are when it comes to your ears, it’s never a bad idea to visually compare your work to another mastered track. The plugin comes with two factory presets, one of which is labeled Stereo Mastering and it’s the one you’ll need for this task.
To round things up, here’s a nice video introduction to Limiter №6, created by Vladislav Goncharov (the developer) himself. It shows the basic methods of using this fantastic limiter to get the best results:
And that’s it! Please let me know if I’ve missed some good freeware effects or tools which you use for mastering. I will update the article in the future with more useful info, but you’re welcome to post your suggestions in the comments section below.
Many thanks to our reader Joe Helias for suggesting a ton of excellent plugins that are now included in this list. Thanks so much for the support, Joe!
Also, please share this article on your favorite social network, as well as your favorite forums and blogs. Thanks for reading BPB and happy mastering!