1. Mastering Workflow & Go-to Chain
There are 2 different approaches to setting up your inital mastering chain. You could:
A. Engage one plugin at a time B. Start with your whole mastering chain engaged
Both approaches are equally valid and you should pick the option that best suits your workflow.
One thing to bear in mind is that every element in your chain influences one another:
If you EQ your track and compress it afterwards, the compressor will receive a different input signal and therefore react differently, than if you hadn’t EQed the song in the first place.
The same is true for every other element: None of them stands alone, they all interact with each other to form the final sound.
That’s why many mastering engineers prefer to start off with the full chain engaged: EQ, Compressor and Limiter.
They roughly dial in the level of compression and limiting they are looking for and then tweak the individual processors from there. By doing that, they can always tell how their moves affect the final outcome.
If you prefer to tweak one element at a time, that’s equally valid. Just be aware that you may have to go back to refine your previous settings, as you add more processors to your chain.