How to Master Recorded Audio using free software tools – tutorial by

Geoff Peters from presents a free Tutorial on some basic Digital Audio Mastering techniques.

Learn how to make your voice or music home recordings sound better using freely available software and tools.

Free Software Used in this tutorial:

Audacity: Free Audio Editor (includes SC4 compressor, Normalize, etc)
For PC or Mac:

George Yohng’s W1 Limiter – for PC or Mac

Alternative W1 Limiter Download – for PC only. (scroll down to Betabugs W1 Limiter):

Thanks for watching this tutorial! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below this video! 🙂 thanks!!

If you enjoyed this tutorial please subscribe to my channel here on Youtube for more videos from me.


Additional notes:

In digital audio, in a signal such as a recording of a song, the loudest possible note you can represent in the signal peaks out at 0. A softer note will be represented with a peak at a lower number, such as -12db or -6db, etc. Anything above 0 will be recorded as buzzing or a strange noise because the signal is actually being lost (it’s also called “clipping”). So you don’t want to set your gain too high or else you ruin your recording with horrible buzzing / distortion that occurs if your signal exceeds 0. Usually when recording, you want your peaks to be recorded at around -12db, but then in mastering you usually use what’s called a “limiter” audio processor to increase your peaks right up to -0.4db or so (i.e. very close to 0 but not touching 0). Also the way the ear perceives loudness is not affected so much by the peaks of the audio signals but by the build-up of energy in the signal that creates a vibration in your ear (e.g. the average loudness). This energy buildup is usually measured as well, and in Audacity (a good free program) you can use a Limiter add-on to increase the average loudness. Some mastering engineers increase the average loudness of the climactic sections to around -10db or -11db. This creates quite a loud and punchy mix. But some pop tunes or dance will keep the average loudness that high for the whole song, whereas a jazzy recording may only do this during important moments.

How to install W1 limiter:

New! I’ve created a tutorial video which shows how to install and use the W1 Limiter & Audacity. Please check it out here:

For PC’s:
The W1 Limiter (George Yonhg’s) should go in the Audacity Plug-ins folder inside the Audacity installation folder (not the LAME folder) On Windows, this is usually under Program Files (or Program Files (x86) on 64-bit Windows); on Mac OS X, it is usually in the “Applications” folder. To display the newly added plug-ins:
Go to the Effects Preferences
Under “VST Effects”, put a check mark in “Rescan VST effects next time Audacity is started”
Exit Audacity and launch it again.

For newer Macs:
try this: To install, unzip to /Library/Audio/Plug-ins/Compon­ents
Then select rescan in effects preferences and restart Audacity and it should appear! (may have to restart your system too?)

How to use the W1 Limiter:
The newer W1 Beta (the blue W1 Limiter) looks different but functions pretty much the same as the one in my video (except some controls go negative instead of positive). I recommend setting Ceiling to -0.5 to avoid maxing out the signal, and then just adjust Threshold to a negative value that is a lower negative number if you want the audio to become louder. You can leave Release at the default of 200 ms and can leave Adaptive Release unchecked. Check out this other tutorial I made on how to use W1 limiter:

Additional tips:
If you tried the settings in this video and it still doesn’t sound good, you may have to use a Multi-Band compressor to tighten up the lower frequencies. A free one that works with Audacity is called C3 Multiband compressor. Electro house often has highly compressed lower frequencies but leave the higher frequencies with more dynamics. Also, try opening a piece of already mastered electro house in Audacity and you can compare the frequency spectrum to see how to set the equalizer on your track. You may also want to try enabling the “Adaptive release” setting in the W1 Limiter.

Technical notes:

The music used in this video was by the Vancouver electronic band called “Laundryman”.

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The audio for this video was recorded using a Zoom H1:

A Birds in the House Production

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