Want to try a spot of DIY mastering? You can do so in any version of Cubase 11, including Elements.
Realistically, we can’t all get every track we write mastered professionally. But we still want our material to sound ‘finished’ so it’s natural that many of us look to dabble in a little DIY mastering. Our recent six‑part video series on the subject by mastering engineer Ian Shepherd (https://sosm.ag/MasteringTechniques1) is a great introduction to the topic, and I’d encourage you to watch it. One of the key things Ian explains is that, for the basics of mastering, his processing chain is always simple: it consists only of gain adjustment, EQ, compression and limiting, although he also makes use of various meters. That got me wondering how someone might attempt DIY mastering for the first time if using a relatively basic DAW such as Cubase Elements 11, perhaps with the help of a few freebie plug‑ins.
Ian discussed how useful he finds it to be able to visualise both the spectral balance and loudness of the audio. Cubase Pro 11 has comprehensive loudness metering, courtesy of its SuperVision plug‑in, but users of Elements or Artist don’t have that and nor does it provide us with one of Ian’s favourite tools: a virtual VU meter. Happily, you can add one of those for free (eg. TBProaudio’s mvMeter and PreSonus’ VU Meter). Elements and Artist users might also want to investigate Youlean’s Loudness Meter 2 Free (there’s also a paid version with more features but the free one should do just fine).
Loudness targets can be a matter of personal taste, musical genre and where you intend the final master to be played (vinyl, CD or a streaming service, for example) but in the audio examples that accompany this article (on the SOS website at