Quick master settings in Logic Pro X

Recording

When bouncing a work-in-progress song, I listen back to it in the car or through earbuds to hear how a mix performs in different environments. While no substitute for the full mastering process, these settings using plug-ins included with Logic are a quick way to bounce a song at a realistic mastered volume and add juicy vintage saturation.

Review gain stages

Take each track in turn and ensure that they peak no higher than -12 dB.

On your master output, check that the mix isn’t clipping in the red over 0 dB. Aim for peaks of between -3 and -6 dB on the master output for the loudest parts of the song. Doing this gives you enough headroom in your mix and ensures that input levels are ideal for the mastering plug-ins.

The peak level is the right-hand number on the channel strip. After adjusting any faders, double-click the peak level number to reset it.

Mixer in Logic Pro X

Cut very low frequencies

Frequencies below 30 Hz are unnecessary for recorded music. While club PA systems can reproduce those low frequencies, most other speakers can’t. Cutting the extreme low end can help to restore headroom.

  1. Insert a new plug-in on your master output.
  2. Select EQ > Single Band EQ > Stereo.
  3. Select Low Cut and change the Frequency to 30 Hz.

Single band EQ to cut frequencies below 30 Hz

Compression and saturation

For a quick master, Logic’s Platinum Analog Tape preset is ideal.

  1. Insert a compressor on your master output after the Single Band EQ.
  2. Select Dynamics > Compressor > Stereo.
  3. In the presets drop-down list, select Compressor Tools > Platinum Analog Tape.
  4. Adjust the Threshold until you have between -2 and -3 dB of gain reduction continuously.

Platinum Digital Compressor with Platinum Analog Tape preset

If you like the classic sound of tape saturation, for more richness set the Distortion to Soft. It does add a strong vintage colour, so may not be to everyone’s taste.

Limiter

Use a limiter to bring the volume up to a similar level as a commercial release.

  1. Insert a new plug-in on the master output channel after the compressor.
  2. Select Dynamics > Adaptive Limiter > Stereo.
  3. Set the Out Ceiling to -0.1 dB. This catches any stray peaks and prevents your song from clipping.
  4. Adjust the Gain to bring up the volume. At higher gain settings, you’re in ‘wall of sound’ territory at the expense of dynamic range.

Loudness

To gauge the loudness level, use a meter after all the plug-ins on your master output. There are many options, but the stock Loudness Meter in Logic Pro X is enough for a quick master.

  1. Insert a new plug-in on the master output channel after the Adaptive Limiter.
  2. Select Metering > Loudness Meter > Stereo.
  3. Raise the grey horizontal target line to your desired target output level. I use -14 LUFS, as Spotify normalises to -14 LUFS (integrated).

Adaptive Limiter and Loudness Meter

Bounce

Go to File > Bounce > Project or Section and bounce your song to your preferred file format. For a quick master, I use an MP3 with a bit rate of 320 kbps.

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