Tools that work best in mixing and mastering of multi-track recordings

Minal Singh
3 min readAug 31, 2020

Traditionally, mixing and mastering engineers are considered to be the problem solvers in music. The tracks aren’t coming together? The song lacks a killer punch? You’ve got to call the mixing engineer. There’s really no other way. And as long as the final mix sounds good, the engineer’s job is done.

In mixing and mastering, the aim is to get the best multi-track recording done in such a way that the vocals and the instruments adjust sonically. And while there are mixing and mastering tools to fit different types of songs or tunes, there are quite a few that work better than others regardless. That’s what Kohinoor Mukherjee — an award-winning mixing and mastering engineer from Mumbai, India — believes to be the case.

So, which tools actually work best?

Plugin Alliance SSL 9000 Series & 4000 E Series by Brainworx

The Plugin Alliance Solid State Logic (SSL) 9000 series and 4000 E series by Brainworx is by far one of the most promising plugins to have come out of Brainworx. Once the go-to plugin for engineers to work on pop, hip-hop and R&B tunes, the new 9000 Series has drastically improved upon its earlier versions.

What sets it apart is the fact that as an engineer, you can push the circuit all the way and bring out the best from the multiple tracks at hand. The EQ modes are switchable between the E-style filter and G-style filter, making it a smooth one to work with. Also, the additional compression and parallel mix improve the quality of those layered tracks. The tonal texture of the tracks remains in focus when you’re using the SSL 9000 or the 4000 E series, and so does the phenomenal punch. Coming up with an overall sound of the tracks hardly lets you break a sweat. Even if you don’t like the current version of the mix, you can simply change it later from scratch without having to go through the whole process all over again.

Dangerous Music Compressor

The Dangerous Music Compressor is as modern as a compressor can be. For starters, it limits the compression in the track AND successfully avoids the polished productions of today. The biggest advantage of the compressor is its transparency. The gain reduction takes place transparently and lets the mix engineer be the boss. You can easily change the dynamics of the original sound without hurting the gain reduction process. You can partake in a very high compression of the audio tracks without having any audible artifact.

Universal Audio 1176 Compressor & LA-3A Compressor

In terms of the best compressors around, Universal Audio 1176 and Universal Audio LA-3A deserve special mention. Both being set compressors, they work in such a way that they bring the sound right to the front of the audio speaker. These compressors work equally well with the snare drums in the mix and the vocal tracks, without hampering the quality of the final mix. However, they can’t be used together. You can use only one of them, depending on the texture of the song.

The 1176 compressor lets you choose from different in-software versions, each of them being suited with their own sonic attributes. It also lets you add colors to signals to yield a 1176 distortion without any compression whatsoever.

The LA-3A lets you shape signals as per accordance, along with adding energy and harmonics to vocals and acoustic guitars respectively. Moreover, the bassier sounds are loaded with texture by the LA-3A compressor. And like the 1176 compressor, they are program dependent as well. But, the mixing time, reaction time and coloration are vastly different from that of 1176.

At the end of the day, the best mixing and mastering tools in music are the ones that help the song come out best. A lot of time and hard work goes into mixing a song with just the correct amount of tracks layered one above the other. With the help of these tools, those techniques bring out the best in a song.