Have you ever pondered about why your mixes don’t sound quite as loud as other songs that you hear? That’s what is called professional mastering. The song was likely mastered by someone that understands frequency balance, how to control certain problem frequency areas, and knows how to get loudness without over-compressing.
I know what you’re thinking….you may not be a mastering engineer or even close to that level yet, but there’s another way to get it close if you are on a budget and can’t afford mastering. First off, with this method you want to make sure your mix is very very good. That’s the catch! It should be a very balanced mix that sounds good at low volumes and high volumes.
Do some light eq on your mastering chain. Roll off 20 hz and down, put a 1db boost somewhere in the sub lows, boost 0.5db somewhere in the low mids, and put a high shelf at 12 or 13k and boost about 1db. These are subtle moves that will make a pretty good difference. Now that you have done that, if you have a multiband compressor, place that next and select a mastering preset. Bypass the plug-in on and off to see if it tightened the frequencies up.
Now you are ready to grab 2 limiter plug ins. They can be the same limiter plug ins or 2 different. I use the Waves L2 first and the Waves L3 ultramaximizer second! Use your first limiter to do the heavy lifting. I normally can bring the threshold down to -6 without getting any gain reduction. The point of the first limiter is to make things louder without gain reduction. Second, grab your second limiter and pull the threshold down until you get 3 or 4db of gain reduction. If the mix sounds okay to push it a little harder then try it! At this point you have a very loud master. Make sure dither is “off” on the first limiter and “on” for the second limiter!