Anyone who has worked with Waves Masters Bundle knows that the included plug-ins present a depth of functionality beyond what is offered by similar plugs. This breadth of control, along with superb sonics, is what makes this suite an engineer favorite. This article will explain some of the least-understood features of the bundle and provide some tips to get the most out of the plug-ins.
LET'S MAKE UP
Part of any diligent mastering routine involves optimizing the gain at the output of each stage of processing. The Linear Phase Multiband (LinMB) plug-in includes an Auto Makeup gain function that compensates for any gain reduction applied by the plug. Auto Makeup is not clip-proof, however, and should always be applied before using the Trim function.
The Trim function is available in both LinMB and both flavors of the Linear Phase Equalizer plug-in: LinEQ Broadband and LinEQ Lowband. Trim automatically adjusts the plug-in's output fader for 0.1 B headroom. That said, Trim cannot provide boost beyond unity make-up gain; it can only deliver overall attenuation.
It is always best to let a mix play through from start to finish before clicking on the Trim readout to initiate a headroom adjustment. Because Trim makes its adjustment based on the last instantaneous peak level it sees, inappropriate output levels can sometimes be produced if you click the Trim readout during follow-on soft passages or while working offline (i.e., with playback stopped).
In cases where two or more Masters Bundle plug-ins are instantiated, don't simply click on all of the Trim readouts at the end of each pass. Adjusting the Trim on an upstream plug may preclude the need to do so on plugs further downstream. Therefore, play the mix through from start to finish, click on the Trim readout in the first Masters Bundle plug-in in the processing chain, and then repeat the entire play-through-and-then-click process for the second plug-in and so on.
PLEASE RELEASE ME
It's always a good idea to manually set release times in LinMB in the early stage of the game, with the ARC™(Auto-Release Control) function initially turned off. ARC does not set program-dependent release times but program-sensitive release times for all bands: ARC does not disable your manual settings but rather modifiesthem to better handle the program material and prevent pumping or distortion. For the best results, set your release times for each band as best you can with ARC disabled, and then switch on ARC for the final touch.
If you find yourself spinning your wheels down a blind alley and still not getting the mileage you want out of LinMB, it never hurts to call up a factory preset or two for fresh ideas. Your current threshold settings for every band will be left intact when you load a factory preset, allowing you to audition alternative release curves and such without having to adjust all controls from scratch.
Although LinEQ Lowband's sole focus is to treat bass and low-mid bands, it is not always the best choice for rolling off rumble or shaping the bottom two octaves of a mix. True, LinEQ Lowband offers resonant filters and corner frequencies down to 10 Hz in its lowest band, but the plug-in's wide-band cousin, LinEQ Broadband, offers far greater precision for sculpting the “weight” of a mix in most situations. Although it accords only V-Slope filters, LinEQ Broadband's special low-frequency band allows you to tweak the corner frequency of a filter in surgical 1Hz increments from 20 Hz to well over 100 Hz vs. LinEQ Lowband's 10- to 11Hz increments in the same range. That said, if you need to fashion very mild or extraordinarily steep filter slopes, LinEQ Lowband's wider-ranging Q control makes it the superior tool.
For all of Waves' pervasive genius, preset management for the Linear Phase Equalizer is a bit peculiar and unwieldy. LinEQ Broadband and LinEQ Lowband share the same presets menu, yet they cannot invoke each other's preset settings. The latter condition is understandable, considering the two equalizers offer a different number of bands and filter types. But if you mistakenly try to load a preset into LinEQ Broadband that was created in LinEQ Lowband, or vice versa, all of your settings will be nulled, leaving you with a flat equalization curve. Because there is no undo for preset recall, your only recourse at that point is to start over from scratch. To avoid this unpleasant surprise, I always append the characters “LB” (for Lowband) to titles when naming custom LinEQ Lowband presets. My custom LinEQ Broadband presets get “BB” tags appended to their titles when saving. That way, I know which Linear Phase Equalizer each custom preset is meant for at a glance.
Mix contributing editor Michael Cooper owns Michael Cooper Recording, located in beautiful Sisters, Ore. Cooper's studio offers a wide range of recording services, including mastering for CD.