Best plugins for mixing and mastering low end

In this article, I go through the plugins I use in almost every project to shape the low end and make sure it’s defined, intelligible, and powerful.

The order in which these plugins are listed doesn’t represent the importance I attribute to them, how frequently I use them, or the order in which I insert them on a chain; it’s purely alphabetical.

Analog Obsession Rare

Pultec-style EQs are famous for their Boost & Cut approach that makes the low end much beefier. This is one of the best emulations and unlike the hardware, though, Analog Obsession’s design features an optional pre-EQ gain stage. You can use it to saturate the signal before it hits the EQ circuit.

This is a huge deal and you can understand how good it is only once you try it.

It can be said for any Analog Obsession plugin that this independent developer just got it right unlike the majority of big brands.

Black Box Analog Design HG-2

It took me a while to get a grasp on it, but it was worth it. Being able to boost with both Triode and Pentode separately allows achieving a full low end with harmonics that translate nicely to all systems.

I regret not purchasing the M/S version, but I didn’t know this one wasn’t stereo.
Because of this, I’m using it only on basses and sometimes on kicks as they’re mostly mono.

The job it does on bass sounds is worth it. It hasn’t substituted my saturators and distorters, but it has become a welcome final touch.

Brainworx bx_subfilter

This plugin has been a gamechanger for me when it comes to mixing kick drums.

The amount of low end it provides and the amount of control offered are astonishing.

I found it to be really helpful on tracks with acoustic kick drums rather than synthesized ones or one-shot samples.

If you find yourself stressing a lot with compressors, saturators, and Pultec-style EQs to achieve some punch in the low register, you should try this out.

The only downside is represented by the meters which are not much accurate and also aren’t put next to each other so it’s a bit difficult to understand how much gain you’re adding or cutting.

iZotope Neutron Transient Shaper

I’ve always been a huge fan of Native Instruments Transient Master and I’m still using it heavily, but this plugin is a real plus when it comes to shaping kick drums, and sometimes snare drums as well.

Being able to add a bit of click and/or low end punch is undoubtedly a great angle of control.

I’m not much a fan of the really small faders, but the GUI showing how each band is affecting the audio and the big Dry/Wet fader somehow compensate for this problem.

It’s good both on individual channels and busses.

iZotope Ozone Exciter

This is the plugin I use the most for sure. The color it gives to my mixes is pure gold, but I also use it on low end stuff, especially on the master bus and it’s always a pleasure to dial in some harmonics that make my low end fatter. The two huge sliders (Amount and Mix) for each band allow setting the saturation with ease and accuracy.

I often find myself setting the Amount with the Mix at 100% to later lower the Mix fader and experiment with how the sound responds to parallel processing with different Amount values.

Why am I using the Ozone Exciter and not the Neutron one? I don’t like mixing excitement styles for low end and probably it’s more straightforward.

When I’m not using Ozone Exciter, Saturn 2 comes into play. It has way more controls making it more complete, but it’s also easy to go overboard with it.

Mastering the Mix Animate

I don’t always use this, but when I do, it just delivers. I mostly use it on the master buss to expand the kick drum when it’s not dynamic enough with the rest of the low end.

The Punch and Ignite modules are cherries on top whenever you want to inject some more knock.

This plugin can be used on the whole frequency spectrum as well, but I employ it for low end mainly and sometimes for snare drums.

It has plenty of controls and the big Scale fader in the middle allows superb dialing of the effect.

Meldaproduction MFreeform Phase

If you can’t know how to make your low end consistent and powerful no matter the amount of compression, saturation, etc that you’ve been using, the problem might be due to phase relationship issues.

Sometimes, flipping the phase of a sound or playing with track delay is just not enough, and here’s where MFreeform Phase comes into play.

You can accurately shift the phase of individual frequencies, making it match the low end perfectly.

If you have a Subpac at your disposal, this tool becomes even easier to use, otherwise, you can try using plugins like s(m)exoscope to see if any canceling is happening.

Native Instruments Guitar Rig

As an Ableton user, I often use Amp, but Guitar Rig is an option available across all DAWs and it also offers a wider variety of distortion flavors.

This type of processing is something I’m not really used to, but whenever I feel like I’ve hit a plateau, amplifying the bass has often resulted in an interesting pivoting point.

If you plan to mix low end disrespectfully, Guitar Rig is where you can explore nasty tones the most as you can load distorters both in series and in parallel, all within a single GUI.

Native Instruments has made an excellent job at refreshing the GUI in version 6, making it less overwhelming than it used to be.

SiR Audio Tools Standardclip

You can’t say you mixed really explosive drums if you didn’t clip them through this beast of a plugin. It just does the job.

My killer combo is running drums like kicks and snares through and, instead of clipping the hell out of them, I load a transient shaper before Standardclip and crank the attack into it.
The result is that I’m not wasting headroom and I’m gaining an insane amount of smack.

I also use it on the drum bus and the master bus to tame unperceivable peaks.

Last but not least, I like to use it as a “warming” limiter on basses. In modern genres, it’s ok to flatten the low end as you want it to blow at a consistent level. Using it this way allows me to not abuse other effects that would just boost the volume instead of improving the sound.

As soon as I hear the bass becoming too colored, I rethink how I’m processing it.

I like a lot to use it in conjunction with Black Box Analog Design HG-2. Mixing the sound of Triode and Pentode with the clipping of Standardclip makes my basses come to life and provide real support as the foundation of the mix.

Waves RBass/Maxxbass

I’m not really using this plugin as in Ableton I already have Corpus that does the same thing with even more controls. Actually, RBass and Maxxbass don’t add subharmonics but only upper harmonics, so in that sense, Corpus is even better.

However, I acknowledge that not everyone uses Ableton, so RBass and Maxxbass seem to be the best option for theoretically anyone.

The interface is straightforward, which makes them tools that provide great value without having to squeeze your brain on how to get the most out of it.

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