written by
Austin Summers

In-Depth Mastering Tips and Tricks Written by a Mastering Engineer – A Further Look Inside the Rabbit Hole: Part 2

3 min read

After such a well-received part 1, (See Here) I was excited to make another part to share more of my knowledge with you.

Today, these techniques will be dealing with saturation, more EQ tricks, and slightly more complicated compression tactics.


One of the more subtle forms of saturation that one can add is Tape Saturation.

Tape Saturation provides a very natural sounding compression to a source, along with complex non-linearities that add an overall sense of the music being alive.

Today, I will share two tape saturation methods I use on my masters, both plugin format and analog.


The Studer A812 Mk I is a remarkable device. The most prominently noticeable effect is sculpting out of the mud in a master, pleasantly accentuating the top end and adding fullness to the bass.

Studer A812 Mk1 Tape

I’ve found that in order to retain the transients, ensuring that the signal going in doesn’t quite touch the red helps to impart some of the tape goodness while keeping the master tight and robust,

It ultimately depends on the type of track you’re mastering, but generally speaking, you’d want to keep the transients intact.

Simple to use, Great Result.


Softube Tape

One of the best tape emulations I’ve heard of the Studer is the Softube Tape Plugin.

It’s not quite as simple to get going and not quite as good as the real thing, but with some tweaking, you can get decently far in your quest for the sound of tape. I found that if you set it to Type A, 15 Studio, engage the crosstalk just over 50%, dial back the dry wet slightly, and increase the amount to a place where the meter isn’t hitting the red, you can get a delightful sound. If I’m not using the real studer, I generally go for this setting right here.

Tape Saturation can be the difference between your mix sounding alive and not. If you’re finding your track lacking in-depth and feeling, Tape Saturation might be a viable answer.

Side Bass Expansion:

I recently discovered this interesting trick that can help to add the feeling of life to a house track.

As much as this sounds counter-intuitive, expansion on the side channel of the master might be an interesting way to assist a track in coming to life.

While probably not applicable to most music, there are certain situations where this helps the music shine.

Side Bass Expansion

Using the Fabfilter Pro Q, placing a bell EQ point at around 60hz, turning on dynamic mode, and raising the threshold to about 3db. This expansion when the bass hits tend to create an exciting width that brings certain tracks to life.

Use with Caution, as you’re trying to maintain solid mono compatibility, but it shouldn’t cause too much of an issue with that in moderation.

Forward Compression Tactics

Utilizing a sidechain input for compression can often result in beneficial results that solve specific problems you might face.

This particular setting causes the mid-range to trigger the compressor, causing it to compress when a particular waveform peak in the mid-range goes over the threshold.

This can be pretty useful for creating movement, control of harshness, and forwardness.

Sidechain Input Compression

Start by enabling the internal sidechain of Fabfilter Pro C, setting a medium attack and fast release, and ratio to 4:1. Deciding on whether you’d like to turn off autogain or not is a personal preference. In the sidechain EQ section, induce a gentle low cut slope to take the low frequencies out of the equation, raise a gentle Q bell curve in the upper mid-range, and filter off the top-end frequencies. I found in some situations, a 50% on the dry-wet knob can also be helpful.

Subtle compression is a must, but deciphering how much you want to control certain elements counts.

As always, use your ears and try to approach each tip in this list with accompanied critical listening to each change and see if your song requires a particular move.

If it feels good and sounds good, it is good!

We’ll be sharing more tutorials in the coming articles!

mastering tape machine Mastering tips