In this article I will be listing the best vst plugins collection you should acquire to help you achieve pro sounding mixes in the box. These recommendations will help you cut the chase and go for great result yielding tools. To make your choice more open, I will be suggesting to you 3 very good plugins in every category of music mixing processors: EQ, compressor, reverb, delay, saturation/distortion, Tape emulations, mixing console emulations.
The 3 plugins in each category was chosen based on first-hand experience and thorough research all over several pro music sites. The price to utility ratio was also considered because I want the list to be a guidance to help people shop smart. We all know that in the plugins market, more expensive does not necessarily mean better performance. Boy! Some free ones are even better than the expensive ones. Though some may feel the list has an undertone of popularity as criteria for selection, but that should not be an issue. I mean, many people can’t be all wrong to be backing something that is not working huhn?. Moreover, some of the effects are even from fairly new and nonveteran companies.
To cut the story short, here is the list with very brief information on the plugins:
Fabfilter Pro-Q 2: Dubbed “the number one EQ plugin” by the makers, Pro-Q 2 lives up to its hype. This multi band EQ has the most beautiful and most comprehensive interface ever. The parametric visual display aid and the floating band controls do not only make your equalizing task easier, but faster and fun.
DMG Equilibrium: This plugin is sworn to be as good or even better than its rival above. It is perfect for all the surgical cuts and boost tasks you can ever be faced with. With it, be assured you can sculpt your desired tone.
Waves SSL EQ: A veteran EQ plugin which is modelled after the EQ section of the revered SSL mixing desk. This one can give your mix an analog feel. Its non-graphical vintage look compels you to use your ears rather than viewing a display. If you don’t care for the analogue colour, just switch off the analog button and EQ away to taste.
Fabfilter Pro-C2 : Versatility, simplicity and utilitarian graphics display. With about 6 switchable comp styles, it is capable of doing various types of compression. It has great internal and external sidechain features too. This plugin can handle any compression needs without you longing for another.
Klanghelm MJUC : A very affordable one trick pony 3 in 1 compressor. Taking the first position on gearslutz’s top 10 compressors list, this plugin has proven the saying expensive doesn’t mean better. There is no limit to what can be achieved making use of its mkI, mkII, and mkIII modules. This plugin often delivers.
3) Cytomic’s The Glue : An SSL4000 compressor modelled plugin, which has been used on several hit records. Good for compressing almost any source material, especially for groups and mixbuss processing. The glue delivers optimum in the box compression.
This is a thightly contested category because numerous reverbs abound in the market. But so it is in all categories, and we still have to choose our recommended 3.
Valhalla DSP reverbs: A bang for the buck reverb suite with very close sound to the more expensive and revered Lexicon PCM plugin bundle that some people claim it is modelled after. This package which consists of the 2 popular modules – Valhalla room and Valhalla vintage verb, is a must have. It simply delivers lovable algorithmic reverbs covering all reverb types to make your music sweet. The interface is straight to the point foolproof too.
Audio Ease Altiverb 7: This one can be said to be the best convolution reverb hands down. Altiverb covers almost every imaginable real life space sounds with its ever increasing impulse response library. Having this in your arsenal can surely come in handy.
Exponential Audio PhoenixVerb : The super awesome phoenixverb along with its other brother “R2” are brain products of former Lexicon developer Michael Carnes. There’s no limit to what good sounds you can get out of this reverb. All you have to do is just tweak the controls for the suitable verb sound. Similar alternatives will be 2C Audio’s Aether and breeze.
Soundtoys Echoboy: Seriously! Having just this plugin is enough for all your in the box delay effect needs, unless you just love varieties of choices. This Fantastic Jack of all styles delay does several types of effects – from Tape delay to simple echoes to choruses and so on. And it is a master of them all. It can even be used as reverb. It also has its own EQ and saturation on board to make a complete package. A real masterpiece from the Soundtoys company.
Waves H-Delay: This is the greatest contender with Echoboy in the delay plugins world. This one does the analog tape delay so well like no other. It cuts the craps and goes straight to the point, thus getting you your desired results with just a few movement of the few knobs. I have had instances where it has worked better for me in certain mixes.
Fabfilter Timeless: Fabfilter once again showed their ingenuity in crafting this plugin. With this stereo delay plugin, you can actually manipulate the left and right channels separately. This opens up a window of creativity to help achieve amazing delay modulations. Great for simple delay effect to fantastic sound design effects.
SoundToys Decapitator: Many pro music heads will agree Decapitator is a king in its category. Very versatile piece of tool. With this plugin you can go from mild saturation to really dirty distortion by activating the punish button and cranking the drive knob. It also features five different saturation styles, each one emulating different analog machines from Neve to Ampex and the rest. This plugins’ application is limitless.
Fabfilter Saturn: This amazing company’s products keep popping up on this list simply for one reason. They make effective plugins with awesome user friendly interface. Saturn takes distortion/saturation a step farther with its multiband feature. With this, you can process a desired frequency band of a sound. It also offers about fifteen different styles of saturation. Having just this in your plugins arsenal will meet your distortion/saturation needs.
Ohm Force Ohmicide: This four band distortion plugin is the real definition of dirty. Really capable of creating that crazy fuzz and crunch mostly suitable for genres like EDM, and trance. It is a favorite tool used by Skrillex. A very great tool to have.
Worth mentioning in the free category: Ferric TDS by Variety of Sound, Camel Audio’s Camel Crusher, and SoftTube Saturation knob. Getting these for no dollar should be a no brainer.
Tape Emulation plugins
Slate Digital Virtual Tape Machines: Dedicated to bringing the desired analog warmth and flavour to in the box music mixing, Steven Slate, Fabrice Gabriel and their team have been delivering top notch plugins. Slate VTM offers two flavours of tape types – FG9 as its default and the FG456. In the tape emu plug category, VTM is the plugin to beat.
Universal Audio Ampex ATR-102: Admist the ongoing aversion for DSP based plugins and more love for native ones, UAD still has a handful of loyal users. The Ampex emulation is sworn to have deeper control features that best emulates a real tape workflow and it gets you close to the desired sound if well tweaked. In combination with UAD Studer A800 tape emus on the channels, tape can’t get any better in the box they say.
Waves Kramer Master Tape: The KMT is another beast entirely on its own. It stands out and has a nice colour plus lots of other useful on board features like the delay and FLUFF effects. If pushed hard, it can be used to acquire a cool distortion sound on drum groups and other sound elements if that’s what you desire. A very nice tape emu plugin.
Mixer Console Emulations
Slate Digital Virtual console collection 2: Another brainchild product of Slate Digital’s quest to recreate the colours and character of the world renowned mixing desks. It emulates consoles like SSL 4000 E, SSL 4000 G, API, Neve, Trident and vintage Tube vibe. The workflow and grouping features are as smooth as it can ever get. Majority of pro audio fans seem to agree no other console emu does the 3D analog depth feel like VCC does. It is bundled with the Slate Digital Virtual Mix Rack (VMR) bundle. To use alone, just remove all other plugins in the rack.
Sonimus Satson /Britson: Brilliant offerings from the staples of Sonimus. These are two different products, but they have the same workflow and both do the job of adding analog mojo to mixes in an awesome way. Satson Emulates the SSL console, while Britson emulates the NEve character. These plugins have very awesome metering and are perfect for proper gainstaging in the DAWs. Pro audio folks on gearslutz and KVR think the included high and low pass filters are one of the best sounding they have heard in plugin world.
Sknote StripBus: This one packs a lot more features than the aforementioned emus. This is as a result of Sknote wanting to really emulate all the features of a real console. It packs onboard an EQ section, compression, metering, saturation and more. It definitely needs some getting used to before you can get comfy with its workflow. However, it sounds so great when you finally know your way around it.
Those are our recommended best VST plugins collection to acquire for making professional sounding mix. I hope the trio list of mixing tools will help you cut the chase and shop wisely. Getting at least one plugin from each category of this list in addition with your DAW’s stock ones should be enough to get you desired results. Getting them all, will be an overkill. Yearning for more will mean you have a large enough wallet to go gearsluting to spoil yourself with numerous toys. If you are new to vst plugins world, read how to install vst plugins to get started.
Above all, you should note that it is not your tools that matter most as a sound engineer. Your skills and experience in using the right tools for the right job to get the right results. If you like this article, please share on your social media and refer to your favourite pro audio forums. Have fun making music.