In a perfect world, we’d all like our projects mastered by one of the A-list mastering houses, but budgets being what they are, that’s not always possible. If that’s the case, self-mastering is the only alternative. That said, tere are a lot of mastering tools on the market these days and most of them are so powerful that instead of making things easier, engineers end up scratching their heads on how to set them up. What’s more, all that power also means that you can easily make things sound worse instead of better in the end. That’s why the new Brainworx bx-masterdesk is so cool. It provides exactly what you need to make your mix sound finished and mastered with a minimum of effort.
The brainchild of Brainworx founder Dirk Ulrich, bx_masterdesk provides a clean and easy 3 step process to mastering your mixes. First, set the large Volume level control (which controls how hot you’re hitting the processing), then set the Foundation control (basically controls how big the low end of your mix is), then tweak the Tone section, which is a four band EQ with Bass, Mid, Treble and Presence controls. As the manual says, “Now your drummer can master : )”, (sorry about that drummers).
The Tone section is augmented with two Resonance Filters – a Low one with strategically selected frequencies at 160 and 315Hz, and High, with frequencies at 3,150 and 6,666Hz. Low, Mid and High are limited to +/- 3dB while Presence is +/- 6dB to prevent over-EQing.
There are also switches for 4 compressor settings with #1 being the hottest and #4 being the lightest. The compressor also has both Link and Turbo switches for the built-in limiter. Turbo is especially designed for genres of music that require a really compressed master like metal or EDM. The Compressor Mix control allows for parallel compression so that you can keep some of your dynamics while compressing the mix. There’s also a De-esser for squashing those “S” problems that comes with a compressed mix, along with a solo for the detector so you can hear just the part of the signal that’s being processed.
A THD control allows you to apply varying degrees of analog-style distortion, which is a pretty cool MS section with a Mono Maker control that’s unique in that you can select the range of frequencies that you want to put in mono. Stereo Enhance is said to be more than a simple width control as it enhances the sides of the mix with an automated EQ.
What I like best about bx_masterdesk is that it has a big analog-style dynamic range meter in the center of the GUI. The idea is to aim for a dynamic range of somewhere between 6 and 8dB to get a reasonably loud yet not too squashed master. There is also an output high-definition level ladder display on the right along with another dynamic range ladder beside it, plus a dynamic range level readout at the top. If you decide you want a mix that’s not bumping right up against 0dB FS, an output control allows you to lower the volume.
Brainworx bx_masterdesk is $299 with a fully functional 14 day trial, and is available on all platforms and formats. You can find out more about it here, or check out the video below. If you do a lot of your own mastering, this one is definitely worth checking out.