“Poor man’s” Mastering Technique

Even with demos, I like to get a sense of the final product.  Mastering is a fine art that takes years of trained ears and lots of skill to master (forgive the pun). However, it is possible to use some standard plug-ins to achieve a very basic master demo.
There are basically two steps:
  1. Balance your overall mix so that it is doesn’t suck.  Seriously, don’t overthink it.  Just get a balance of the tracks.  Make sure the levels on the Main 2-channel is right about -7db.  This will leave headroom for the mastering.
  2. Next, add an EQ and Limiter plug-in on the main 2-channel. I use the free version of the Massey Mastering plug-in. Make sure the EQ plug-in is ahead of the limiting plug-in in the chain. If necessary, make VERY small adjustments to the EQ.  Now, boost your limiter so that the signal approaches 0db.
This technique is usually takes me 3 minutes and I can quickly get reference mix for the car and iPod.