Expensive doesn’t always mean good. So, here are the top 10 plugins on PluginBoutique that offer the best value.
PluginBoutique is the Amazon of audio plugins. You can find almost every brand selling its products there. And they’re notorious for giving away plugins and hosting huge sales often. However, among the giants like Phaseplant and Diva, you can also find many plugins accessible to beginners or producers on a budget.
In a nutshell, here are the best plugins on PluginBoutique:
In this list, I will go over synths, compressors, saturators, etc., that are close to or below $50. Many of them offer incredible value and efficiency that you’d only find in products retailing for thrice the amount. It goes to show just how underrated some of these plugins are. So, without further ado, let’s check out our list!
Top 10 PluginBoutique Plugins With Best Value & Price 2022
1. Cherry Audio DCO-106 (Synth)
Create juicy pads, drums, synths, and leads with Juno emulation polyphonic synth DCO-106 from Cherry Audio.
Something about the Roland Juno-106 makes it one of the most-loved synths ever built. Cherry Audio reimagines the icon with a painstakingly accurate emulation in software form. DCO-106 also adds a few new features like the reverb, delay, chord memory, 16-voice polyphony, etc., making the plugin fit for a modern-day music production workflow.
The plugin also features over 330 presets, including the original hardware’s 106 factory presets, which add to the nostalgia. And before we talk more about the features, you might be interested in Cherry Audio’s CA2600 synth, which models the classic ARP 2600.
DCO-106 features a single oscillator like the original hardware. It faithfully simulates the original Juno synth oscillators’ distinctive master clock and divider design, as well as the waveform quirks. You can select pulse, sawtooth, or both.
The plugin has a high-pass filter that you can set between 0 to 800 Hz. However, the high-pass is extremely subtle, making it more of a sound-thickness control. Secondly, you’ll find a 24 dB/oct low-pass filter, a focal point of the hardware emulation.
For modulating the volume or the low-pass filters, you’ll find an envelope and an LFO. The envelope is a relatively simple feature, but the LFO employs six kinds of waveforms: triangle, saw, inverted saw, square, random, and sine. You can also sync it with your host tempo.
- Effect Processors
The plugin features two kinds of chorus effects borrowed directly from the Juno hardware. And it also employs a delay unit and a reverb with three types. The reverb types include room, plate, and hall. Try the plate mode for a little nostalgic seasoning!
- Bender And Arpeggiator
The Bender section allows control of the oscillator, filter, and amp sections using the pitch bend wheel or joystick on your midi keyboard/piano roll. Next, the arpeggiator, which wasn’t originally on the JUNO-106, is a standard analog arpeggiator that you’d find on JUNO-60. It has a range of four octaves and offers up, down, up-down, and random directions.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you’re someone who likes the sound of analog synths, DCO-106 is something you really don’t want to miss out on. While the single oscillator may not create the most evolving pads, the arpeggiator and the classic filter make it ideal for backing rhythms. Furthermore, try a detuned sound for larger-than-life leads and stabs.
2. Caelum Audio Smoov (Compressor)
Smoov is all about controlling unruly peaks from your audio.
Caelum Audio’s soft, transparent compressor accurately detects annoying transients and tames them. Its fast response time combined with a hardware-inspired sound makes it an extremely versatile and efficient compressor. Furthermore, it features four kinds of ratio styles that make it much more than a compressor. Let’s talk about that in detail.
Most compressors have a simple 1.1:1 and a maximum of about 20:1 for standard compression. Smoov has that feature and much more up its sleeves. It provides 0.1-0.9:1 ratio for expansion and gate effects, 1.1-20:1 for compression, ∞:1 for limiting, and -20:1 to -1:1 for over-compression. So, you can create the gentlest compression to smooth out your master or tame the wildest bass recordings.
- Waveform View
The graph on the interface displays the amount of compression Smoov is applying to your signal. It also shows the input and output signals, which are represented by blue and white colors.
- Other Features
Smoov has an auto-gain feature that matches the loudness of the output with the input. It’s excellent to listen to the outcome without the change in loudness confusing you. Similarly, Stereo Link lets you apply the same amount of gain reduction on both channels of your stereo signal.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.11 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST 3, AU, and AAX formats.
The main thing that I love about Smoov is its value. It retails at a very low price but is very feature-rich. Other than what I’ve already mentioned, it features internal and external side-chain. The side-chain features include a low-pass and a high-pass filter. Overall, it’s a fantastic compressor at an unbeatable price. They also released another compressor plugin Schlap which is cheap as well so definitely check that out!
3. Caelum Audio Beef (Channel Strip)
The Beef comes with a simple yet powerful GUI and several effects to “beef up your sound.”
Hard-hitting basslines and drums are merely a few clicks away with Beef. It features six effect processors, most of them focusing on dynamics control and distortion. However, if you’re not too keen about turning knobs, try the Preset Mode. It strips the plugin off of everything except the Mix knob, making it easy to try presets.
- Equalizer And Noise/Rate Modulation
Beef has a parametric Equalizer module with four bands: Sub, Low, Mid, and High. Only the mid-band has a selectable frequency, whereas the sub and high are shelf filters.
The second module is Noise/Rate modulation. It uses filtered white noise to manipulate the playback rate of the incoming audio and add a noisy texture to the sound. It helps make your bass cut through the mix.
The plugin features a saturator and a crusher. The saturation module has five modes: overdrive, distortion, fuzz, tube, tape, and rectify.
Similarly, the Crush module adds bit-crushing. If you’re after an analog-style sound, you should leave this one alone.
Finally, you’ll find two more modules. The first is the Shaping module, which is a simplified transient shaper. It has merely two knobs: attack and sustain. Attack controls the transients, whereas sustain manipulates the sustained signals. Similarly, the second module is a limiter with a fixed ceiling at -0.03 dB.
Beef prioritizes inspiring new users by providing them 124 presets, out of which 85 are artist presets created by Ave Mcree, The REAPER Blog, Venus Theory, Ali Ahmet from The Beat Community, etc. Furthermore, the Preset Mode lets you audition the presets with only a mix knob on the interface. Hence, it acts similar to FL Studio’s Soundgoodizer.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.11 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST 3, AU, and AAX formats.
As with most Caelum Audio products, Beef focuses on remaining straightforward while delivering excellent results. Try Beef on just about anything, including synths, vocals, guitars, drums, bass, etc. It can thicken the sound, make any instrument cut through the mix, and make it easy to sound good on smaller speakers. The presets are also highly useful, which is a big plus.
4. Audio Damage Dubstation 2 (Delay)
Dubstation 2 is a stereo delay plugin.
It focuses on remaining simple and providing results similar to hardware delays, thanks to its unique filters and saturation. So, if you have used hardware delays, you’ll have no trouble using Dubstation 2. Let’s talk a little more about some of its features.
There is a high-pass and a low-pass filter in Dubstation 2. The high-pass ranges between 100 Hz to 1.5 kHz. Similarly, the low-pass ranges between 4 kHz to 8 kHz, hence why it sounds like hardware. Furthermore, Dubstation 2 also decreases the low-pass frequency as the delay time increases to simulate the analog sound.
The LFO modulates the time between delayed signals and their pitch. It helps make the old delay hardware sound convincing. Furthermore, it is useful for doubling and creating chorus effects.
There are two ways to add some distortion to your sound in Dubstation 2. The first is to increase the Input level, which you also automate to add delay only on certain words/phrases. And the second method is using the Saturation knob. Both of these methods affect the delayed signals only.
The plugin is available for Windows 8.1 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.9 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Dubstation 2 is an excellent value for money in terms of efficiency. Other than what I’ve mentioned, other features in this plugin include the Loop, Reverse, and Mode switches. Loop makes the plugin repeat the audio endlessly, while Reverse plays each delay return backward. And the Mode switches include Single, Dual, and Ping-Pong modes. The Dual mode allows you to add delay to each channel of your signal independently.
5. AudioThing Megaphone (Saturation)
Megaphone is a niche plugin that emulates an amplified bullhorn or a PA loudspeaker.
You’ve probably seen a megaphone at either a school or in public. They’ve also grown famous in YouTube videos to emphasize a phrase/word. But what could be better than a megaphone? Apparently, a plugin that emulates it right in your audio software!
AudioThing’s Megaphone provides plenty of controls to adjust the sound to your liking. You can make it light and clean or noisy and distorted. I use it most for media sound-designing when recording an actual megaphone would be time-consuming.
- Speaker Modes
Megaphone has two modes, which change the type of speaker emulation. The first is a regular megaphone (the horn-like amplifier), while the second is a standard PA speaker often used for press conferences.
The Feedback module in the plugin lets you insert the output sound back into the amplifier to emulate the behavior of a real megaphone. Since a megaphone has its speaker close to its mic, a feedback delay is almost always present when used in loud volumes or a closed room.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Using Megaphone is straightforward: add the plugin, select your emulation mode, dial in the drive, and control the mix amount. Adding feedback and noise helps make the effect much more convincing if it’s something you’re looking for. Also, check out Bad Tape by Denise, an alternative if you are merely looking to distort your audio. Instead of a bullhorn, it emulates a painfully damaged tape machine.
6. Cableguys DriveShaper (Distortion)
Cableguys plugins are known for their visual user interface, and this one’s no exception.
DriveShaper is a module in the multi-effect plugin called ShaperBox 2 featuring many modules called “Shapers.” Each Shaper has a unique specialty, and you can modify at least one Shaper parameter with the built-in LFO. And some Shapers can be modulated using an Envelope Follower, including DriveShaper.
DriveShaper’s specialty is distortion. You can make punchy basslines, add excitement to the treble, or use LFO to create distortion patterns inside the host plugin ShaperBox 2.
- Distortion Styles
There are ten kinds of distortion in DriveShaper: analog soft/hard clip, square soft/hard clip, soft/hard rectify, skew, sine, triangle, and extreme fold. The latter four are wave-folding effects that create drastic changes.
DriveShaper has a parameter called Grip, which filters background noises/ambiance out of the distortion. Similarly, the Push parameter lets you add asymmetric distortion. You can also modify the tone and timbre of the distortion.
On top of the animated graphics showing waveform changes, spectrum, oscilloscope, and modulations, you can draw LFO shapes by hand. Use pen tools or node-based editing to create unique patterns effortlessly. Furthermore, you can change the rate of the LFO.
Similarly, the frequency spectrum isn’t just for analyzing; you can create up to three bands by dragging band area boxes over the graph. So, for example, you could add a slight distortion on the treble as an exciter.
- Envelope Follower
You can create dynamic distortion that responds to your input whether it is a beat or a melody using Envelope Follower. While the main interface only provides you a single slider to control it, a pop-out panel shows you attack, release, etc.
Each preset can store up to nine user wave shapes or LFO shapes. You can trigger these shapes using MIDI input too. Other than that, there are dozens of factory shapes that cover all the basic requirements in music production. These range from simple ducking-style shapes to complex rhythms.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.8 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
If distortion is something you need often, you will want to check out DriveShaper. It provides an incredible level of control and creativity, thanks to Cableguys’ ShaperBox 2 plugin environment. The UI is gorgeous and supports easy resizing. And there are many other features to uncover, like the LFO editor’s, that take sound designing to another level.
7. BLEASS Shimmer (Pitch Shifting Reverb)
Let’s have a look at this unique reverb plugin with an incredibly useful sound designing tool.
Shimmer reverb is a rather popular technique to add mysteriousness and beautiful harmonics to your reverb. And BLEASS’ Shimmer does that using two pitch shifters on a vivid, colorful user interface. Try using it on vocals and guitars to add an incredible pad-like sound that you can’t create any other way.
On the very left of the user interface, you’ll see the Input module. It features a filter that lets you select from two types: low-shelf and high-pass. It’s handy because you’ll often want to avoid reverb on the lower frequencies anyway. The module also has a pre-delay.
- Pitch Shifters
The two pitch shifters let you pitch the reverb signal up or down an octave. Furthermore, you can select the mode of the pitch shift: pre, feedback, or post. You’ll likely use the feedback mode most often as you generally only want the shimmer effect on the reverb.
- Reverb And Ducker
The reverb itself is a standard digital reverb with a tail length of up to an impressive 30 seconds. And the Ducker module lets you use the dry signal as a side-chain input to compress the wet signal. So, when a dry signal enters, the reverb level goes down.
- Channel Strip Interface
As you can see, the user interface appears similar to a channel strip thanks to the segmented modules. It makes working with the plugin easier for beginners. Also, the plugin acts somewhat like a channel strip due to the different modes of the Pitch Shifter modules, which move internally before or after the reverb section.
The plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 3 and AU formats.
If you don’t yet own a shimmer reverb, BLEASS’ Shimmer is an excellent choice. It’s inexpensive but sounds fantastic and modern. And more importantly, it opens the door of shimmer reverb, which is an essential production tool.
8. BLEASS Slow Machine (Effect Tool)
Here comes one of the most classic effects on our list.
BLEASS’ Slow Machine is an effect plugin that manipulates the time of an audio signal. It controls both the playback rate and the audio pitch, making it similar to changing the pinch roller speed of a cassette. You can also create speed sequences to make creative patterns.
- Time Machine
The Slow Down stage is where most of the magic happens. You can change the loop size, playback speed, and fade-in time. And you can add a low-pass and a high-pass filter to the audio.
Similarly, the Time Stop stage lets you create the classic tape-stop effect effortlessly. You can also change how the effect behaves when you start and stop the effect.
Using the built-in sequencer, you can program speed variations in your audio clip. You can also enable snap-to-grid to make programming easier. Other features include curve types, randomness, and fade.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 3 and AU formats.
Slow Machine is a highly useful tool if you make hip-hop or EDM. Sure, there are other plugins that can create glitchy effects, but Slow Machine is dedicated to manipulating time in the way tapes do. That makes the plugin inexpensive and straightforward.
9. Cableguys VolumeShaper 6 (Side-chain Tool)
Control the dynamics of your audio like never before.
VolumeShaper 6 is a module that runs inside Cableguys’ ShaperBox 2 effects plugin. It lets you side-chain instruments, add multi-band dynamics, compress audio, and so on with a hands-on LFO curve editor. You can also create hand-drawn dynamics to shape rhythmic audio without having to rely on compressors.
Since it runs in ShaperBox 2, you can expect complete visual feedback from VolumeShaper 6. It displays the frequency spectrum, oscilloscope, nodes of your custom curve, etc. And, of course, the frequency spectrum lets you add up to three bands for multi-band compression.
The LFO Editor lets you use the pen tool or a node-based editor to intuitively create volume and compression curves. If you aren’t satisfied with the compression, you can modify the curve until it’s perfect.
The compressor is based on an iconic British mixing console and has an attack as fast as 0.01ms, ensuring that every transient gets caught. Furthermore, you can use the mix parameter to switch to parallel compression with ease.
- Wave Presets
The plugin features forty Wave presets, including typical side-chain curves. However, you can add up to nine more user-presets per patch. These Wave presets or LFO Shapes can be triggered using MIDI switches as well. It’s handy when you need complex volume automation without having to manually copy-paste the shape over your arrangement.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.8 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
I wouldn’t call this plugin an essential plugin, but it offers an incredible amount of flexibility. If you don’t find regular compressors visual enough, you should give VolumeShaper 6 a try. Sometimes, breaking the rule of only using your ears may be the right thing to do.
10. Audiority Harmonic Maximizer (Enhancer)
Harmonic Maximizer is a multi-band enhancer to breathe life into your tracks.
From the first look at the plugin, you’ll notice that it has six bands. And on the right side, you’ll find a maximizer module, which is a limiter or a loudness maximizer. Exciters work by introducing saturation to the audio. So, abusing this plugin is sure to give you novel results.
- Selectable Frequencies
I’ve used similar plugins before, but most of them usually have fixed frequencies for the exciter. So, it’s refreshing to see that you can change the frequency for each of the six bands in the plugin. The frequencies are divided as 20-250-500-2k-4k-6k-12kHz.
The maximizer also features a saturator, which helps make your track sound warmer and louder. Use the Drive knob to control the amount of saturation. And the Push knob lets you increase the input gain. The Gain sets the limiter ceiling.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 11.0 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Harmonic Maximizer sounds excellent, and for the price, it’s almost a steal because of its efficiency. You can use the numerous bands to sculpt your sound the way you like it. And you could even use it while mastering to add a hint of saturation to your track.
The 5 Best Free PluginBoutique Plugins 2022
1. CableGuys PanCake 2 (Auto Panner)
PanCake 2 is a panning tool best left for experimentation.
If you’ve ever wanted to modulate the pan to the extremities, you’ve found the perfect plugin. Use a hand-drawn LFO to create wacky motions spinning around the listener or the built-in LFO shapes to create rhythmic modulations. Furthermore, you can store up to ten custom envelopes per instance of the plugin.
The graph shows the left and right channels of an audio clip. So, you can create new LFO curves by merely putting in nodes at the timing and spatial location you want. And if you want to control the length of the LFO or the playback rate, change the parameters in the LFO module on the right of the interface.
- MIDI Input
You can trigger the LFO waves using midi commands and sync the LFO to your host software. Syncing is essential to create rhythmic loops.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.8 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 and AU formats.
PanCake 2 is a straightforward plugin that makes automating the pan simpler. For example, you can create shapes like a left-to-right sweep and trigger them whenever you have a transition or a filter sweep. It adds dynamism and life to a track.
2. Caelum Audio Flux Mini (Inteligent Sidechain Tool)
Ducking your bass has never been easier.
I’m sure you’ve used ghost kick samples or even volume automation to make a rhythmic side-chain effect on the pads during a quiet part of your song. Well, Flux Mini takes care of that and much more. Let’s see what it can do.
- Custom Shapes
The graph on the left is where you create your shapes. It could be a simple ducking effect or a crazy techno glitch. And to make the job easier, you can enable snap-to-grid. Furthermore, there are 20 inspiring presets in the plugin.
- Modulation Modes
Instead of merely applying volume modulation, you can also opt for high-pass or low-pass filter modulation. For instance, you could use high-pass modulation on your bass to keep it from clashing with the kick while still sounding smooth.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 3, AU, and AAX formats.
Plugins like AIR Music Tech’s Pumper used to cost money. So, it’s impressive to see how a plugin that does way more than Pumper is now freely available. It even supports MIDI triggering. I recommend downloading Flux Mini without a second thought.
3. CHOW Tape Model (Saturation)
Bring in nostalgic vibes with ChowDSP’s tape machine emulator.
The CHOW Tape Model is a physical model of an analog tape machine called Sony TC-26. It was initially a research project that went on to take the form of a software plugin for audio manipulation. Physical modeling provides the plugin a level of flexibility that is otherwise unachievable.
- Tape Hysteresis
The second module provides the hysteresis (a lag between the magnetic force and the magnetic induction) controls. It creates the “warm” analog tape distortion we are familiar with. In this module, you can change the drive, saturation, bias (of input-output gain), and hysteresis modes. There are six modes available, where some are less CPU extensive, while others are more accurate.
- Play-head Controls
The third module features parameters to control the play-head of the tape machine. In this section, spacing controls the space between the head and the tape; thickness controls the tape thickness; gap controls the width of the play-head gap; and azimuth the play head’s alignment angle. The latter can create a stereo widening effect. And finally, the speed controls the tape speed, where higher usually sounds cleaner.
The Degrade tab opens the degradation parameters that simulate an old tape. Similarly, the Chew parameters simulate tape that a broken tape machine has chewed up. And finally, the wow and flutter controls generate subtle speed changes to emulate tape machine mechanics.
The plugin is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux, all of them 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and LV2 formats.
Chow Tape Model is the best free tape emulator currently available, thanks to the amount of flexibility it has to offer. Many of the parameters are complicated to understand. So, a quick read of the user guide helps a lot. However, since the parameters make audible changes, working by your ear is often enough too.
4. KiloHearts Stereo Snapin (Stereo Width)
Stereo Snapin is a part of KiloHearts’ plugins for their flagship synth.
Stereo Snapin is a stereo imaging plugin. You can use it to widen the sound of your mix or to narrow down an extremely wide sample. Also, lowering the width amount can reduce reverb, which can solve problems when using wet samples.
There are merely three knobs: mid, width, and pan. Mid controls the mono aspect of your audio signal, and width controls the stereo width. If you create a send track, you could also use this plugin as a mid/side isolator.
The meter on the plugin interface is a correlation meter. A value above 0 (the center) indicates no phasing issue, whereas a value below 0 indicates a phasing problem. If your tracks sound strange in mono, this meter could help you determine which instrument is causing it.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
Stereo Snapin is a stereo enhancer/manipulator. It’s one of the simplest on our list. And if you don’t have a similar plugin yet, I would suggest this one.
5. Audiority Dr. Drive (Overdrive)
Based on a modern overdrive guitar pedal, Dr. Drive seeks to recreate the overdriven analog sound.
The plugin is modeled after the Horizon Devices Precision Drive. The pedal is much-favored by modern metal guitarists for both rhythm and lead. Now, while Audiority Dr. Drive may not sound the same as the hardware, it still sounds very warm and usable.
- Analog Sound
The sound is undoubtedly warm and dynamic. You could use it on traditional instruments like the guitar or bass, or you could use it on drums, keys, and synth stabs. Since a pedal effect has a specific sound, it can create unique sounds when you use them on unconventional instruments.
- Noise Gate
The effect plugin features a built-in noise gate to help filter out nasty buzzes. Furthermore, it also has a brightness control. All the parameters are on the resizable pedal-style interface.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.8 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Dr. Drive is a well-made overdrive plugin. It works well on conventional instruments like the guitar and bass with a proper amount of dynamism. And it adds an edge to synths, which is excellent for modern music producers.
6. Youlean Loudness Meter (Loudness Metering)
Youlean has created a standard of loudness meters with their plugins.
Youlean Loudness Meter is one of the most reliable loudness analyzing plugins on the market, and the free version is usually all you need. It lets you measure the perceived loudness of your audio using a unit called LUFS (Loudness Unit relative to Full Scale). You can use this to ensure your tracks are loud enough for various streaming platforms like Spotify (-12 LUFS) and YouTube (-14 LUFS).
The plugin provides the following readouts: Loudness, Integrated Loudness, True Peak, Loudness Range, Dynamic Range, and Peak-Loudness Ratio. If you’re mastering a track for streaming platforms, it’s the integrated loudness you want to keep an eye on.
The plugin has a loudness distribution graph and a histogram. You can play through an entire song and analyze the graph to find problematic areas. Furthermore, it even supports overdubbing the histogram if you enable timecode mode.
- Surround Support
Youlean Loudness Meter lets you analyze mono, stereo, and 5.1 surround audio. Furthermore, there are presets for TV and Film loudness standards, making the plugin an invaluable tool for film industry professionals.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit or 64-bit and macOS 10.8 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you don’t have a loudness meter yet, you don’t want to skip this one. The UI is resizable, clean, and detailed. It’s legitimately the best loudness analyzer you’ll find for free and possibly even paid. We also included this tool in the metering plugins roundup, so check the other tools there as well!
7. Ample Sound Ample Percussion Cloudrum (Percussion Tool)
Sit back and relax with this unique instrument’s calming tones.
A steel tongue drum is an idiophone that you play with mallets. It’s known for its beautiful sound. Ample Sound has deeply sampled this instrument with two mic placements, multiple articulations, and synth elements.
- Detailed Sampling
The instrument includes four articulations: open, muted, opened release, and muted release. There are two mic placements: stereo and mono modes, where stereo gives the ambiance. And it features up to a 12-sample round-robin, which makes the instrument sound very natural.
Despite being free, the plugin can stream straight from your hard disk. So, even if the instrument is about 800MB in size, the RAM requirement is minimal.
Cloudrum is available for Windows Vista or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you’re into meditational or ambient music, you’ll love this instrument. You could also use it for intros or even as a pad-like instrument with lots of reverb in pop music. Overall, I believe it’s worth a try.
PluginBoutique Carbon Electra (Synth 2)
PluginBoutique’s very own subtractive synth may not be the most advanced, but it sounds crisp and excellent.
One of the best things about Carbon Electra is its simple interface with no hidden pages. You can find all the oscillators, filters, modulators, and effects on a single page. The only things missing are a modulation matrix and an arpeggiator, although it features a relatively uncommon step envelope.
Carbon Electra has over 600 presets divided into Factory and Artist presets, each featuring multiple categories. They demonstrate excellent bass, pad, and lead sounds. Similarly, there are many sequence patches, although it requires some effort to program the step envelope.
The plugin features four oscillators. Each can generate square, saw, triangle, sine, and noise. They also feature pulse width, pitch, and tuning parameters. You can adjust the levels of the oscillators in the Mixer section, where you’ll also find a dedicated white noise generator.
Carbon Electra has one filter with five modes: low-pass, band-pass, high-pass, band-reject/notch, and vocal/formant. It features a saturation option too. The module also has a graph showing the filter shape.
The plugin features two ADSR envelopes (amplifier and modulation/filter), three LFOs, and a step envelope. The LFOs are hard-wired to modulate specific parameters like pitch, FM, pulse width, and mix levels.
Finally, you can assign the step envelope to notes (as a sequencer), pitch, volume, and cut-off frequency. And since it behaves as an envelope, creating sliding notes is a breeze.
Carbon Electra employs five effect processors: chorus, delay, phaser, distortion, and 3-band equalizer. The effects are customizable and sound excellent. I particularly find the delay full-featured with its stereo, cross-feed, and ping-pong modes.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.
Many powerful synths are available today, but Carbon Electra manages to hold its own thanks to its budget-friendly price and efficiency. It sounds rich, flavor-full, and far more expensive than it ought to. Furthermore, its straightforward interface makes it ideal for beginners and veterans alike.
Many people expect to spend hundreds of dollars on plugins, and, sadly, I’m guilty of falling into that rabbit hole as well. However, researching and coming up with this list of outstanding plugins that are affordable is an amazing feeling. Awesome plugins like Cloudrum and Youlean Loudness Meter are free.
Smoov and Dubstation 2 are two of my favorites on this list because of how good they are. Smoov is truly versatile, and Dubstation 2 feels both simple and capable. If you enjoy analog sounds, give DCO-106 a go. However, I’d recommend Carbon Electra for an even better value, although it isn’t as nostalgic.
DriveShaper is probably the most flexible and dynamic distortion effect I’ve ever seen. And finally, close behind it is Megaphone, a weird but irreplaceable plugin.
With that, we reach the end of this article — I hope I’ve shared a plugin or two that you feel like trying. Thank you for reading!
Other Plugin Roundups:
Reverb & Delay Plugins:
Amps & Preamps:
Audio Restoration, Calibration & Utility:
Processing & Sound Design:
K. M. Joshi is a multi-award-winning composer and sound designer, specializing in film, game, and TV audio. He enjoys making cinematic music, rock, blues, and electronica.