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Waves Online Mastering

AI-assisted Mastering Service By Paul White
Published March 2024

Waves Online Mastering

Online automated mastering isn’t a new idea — LANDR have offered such a service for several years — but Waves have taken a different approach from most. They’ve used modelling and machine learning to draw on the gear, ears and decision making of award‑winning mastering engineer Piper Payne. The resulting process attempts to apply the same sort of processing and judgements to your tracks that she would, and aims to ensure that the mastered track translates well on any playback system. In addition to the usual Mac and Windows support, Waves Online Mastering will work with Android and iOS. You can try the system for free, and only need to pay once you’re happy with the results.

The process is fairly straightforward: you can drag and drop your mixed track(s) into the Waves Online Mastering window, and they show up in the main body of the screen. Your audio gets uploaded to a secure server, and a short time later you can access a 30‑second preview section of your track, with buttons to switch back and forth between the original and processed version. As a mastered track is usually louder than the original, there’s a loudness compensation switch that lets you hear the track pre‑ and post‑processing at similar levels. The mastering engine creates a new 30‑second snippet for every mastering revision, and if a reference song is being used, then these preview snippets match to the reference.

You don’t need to select a musical genre, but can opt for different mastering settings. Precise is the one that delivers optimised settings for your track based on the algorithms behind Waves Online Mastering, but you can select Organic, which dials back the processing, or Elevated, which takes the processing a little further. Additionally there are buttons for Depth and Presence, which add a little bass or treble lift when active, and both can be used together if desired. Once you’ve made changes in Preview mode, they will be added to the final master once you commit to it.

If there’s a commercial track that has a similar style, timbre and dynamics to your own mix, you can import that as a reference. In my experience with standard match EQs (admittedly much blunter tools), it helps if the reference track is in the same key and covers the same general musical range. Doing the same here is advised, as the mastering engine references both the EQ spectrum and the overall loudness of the reference.

Once your settings are complete, clicking on Create Master starts the process and until this point there’s no charge. After your first free mastered track, you have to purchase credits: one credit is needed for each track you master, but you still don’t need to pay until you commit to a master. The user can view their secure library of songs at any later date, play full masters stored in the library and download masters in any supported format with a choice of sample rate and word length. It’s also possible to create new masters of additional revisions.

There are some things you don’t get here that other mastering tools offer. Firstly, there’s no EQ curve visualisation — this isn’t needed when using the service but can be a helpful in highlighting common EQ traits in your own mixes. After all, the closer you can get to a mix with a well‑balanced spectrum, the less EQ the mastering tool has to apply. There also seems to be no way to set a target loudness in this version or to fine‑tune the stereo width, and you can’t adjust how much influence a reference track has. Talking to Waves, it seems that these were deliberate decisions to keep the process as simple as possible for musicians who are less technically inclined.

With my own mixes, I used Logic’s Loudness meter to check the final levels and found that some hovered around the ‑7 LUFS mark, which is a little hotter than I usually like. One of my tests was to master some very old mixes I’d made of my band in the late 1970s, all recorded using a Tascam four‑track machine and some very cheap mics. The originals were somewhat thin‑sounding with a slightly abrasive edge, but after mastering they sounded gratifyingly well balanced and punchy, as well as smoother at the top end. It’s probably safe to say that most modern tracks submitted for mastering will be in better shape than these, and processing some more recent mixes revealed that, other than changes in loudness, the overall treatment was far more subtle — yet it still applied a welcome polish to the sound.

Detail is lifted out without adding undue harshness while bass‑light mixes are given additional heft without making them sound boomy.


I have to conclude that the end results generally are impressive, both as regards tonal balance and dynamic range adjustment. In comparison with Logic Pro’s inbuilt mastering, it comes across as perhaps slightly smoother‑sounding, with more assertive dynamic range control. Detail is lifted out without adding undue harshness while bass‑light mixes are given additional heft without making them sound boomy. Yes, I’d personally have liked a little more control over proceedings but, for most types of music, Waves Online Mastering comes up with something that compares favourably with all but the most sophisticated professional mastering.

Invariably, any fully automatic process will work better with some mixes than others but, as my test with ancient mixes confirmed, this mastering engine is capable of making sensible processing decisions and it should prove an effective tool for the target market, which I see as mainly semi‑professional music creators who want to get their mixes into decent shape to put online, or for studio professionals who want to give their clients a listening copy of their mix that will be much closer to the final mastered version than a straight render. Given that Waves will do a fine job of polishing your mix for less than the cost of a glass of beer, there’s little harm in trying it and very little to complain about.


From $2.99 per track (60‑credit package) to $5.99 for a single track (1 credit).

From $2.99 per track (60 credit package) to $5.99 for a single track (1 credit).