Digital audio is all about capturing the essence of sound. To do this, you need plugins that can make a difference in your recording and mixing sessions. EQs, Preamps, and Channel Strips are essential tools for shaping a sound that will make your recordings stand out.
Imagine you have a great vocal track and you want to add some depth and clarity. Or, you have an acoustic guitar that needs some sparkle in the higher frequencies. This is where EQs, Preamps, and Channel Strips come into play.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of the 12 best API plugins available right now. Whether you’re looking for a classic Neve-style EQ or something more modern, these plugins will give you the sound quality you’re after.
12 Best API Plugins 2023 (EQs, Preamps & Channel Strips)
1. Lindell Audio SBC
The Lindell Audio SBC accurately recreates the sound of a vintage analog bus compressor while adding modern conveniences like NUKE hyper-compression and THD®.
There is a wide and punchy stereo version emulated in detail in the first release, and a multi-band version with even more flexibility is coming soon as a free update.
It’s always been a fan favorite on drums, mix bus, vocals, and any other source that needs aggressive compression without losing its natural sound or dynamics. The SBC plugin expertly recreates this timeless classic while incorporating cutting-edge digital-only improvements.
Also, it adds some final “glue” and polish to the whole mix thanks to its quality tone and wide range of customization options (including a series of carefully curated filters and knee options).
- NUKE Hyper-Compression
The “NUKE” option in the Lindell Audio SBC is designed for users who need intense control, layering, and array-style compression capabilities. It offers incredibly accurate dynamics processing even with extremely fast attack times and adjustable threshold point values. The NUKE option allows for great flexibility, allowing you to improve your sound or dial it down for a more subtle effect.
- Manual and Auto Gain Makeup
This versatile setup allows for manual adjustments when precise control or fine-tuning is needed. Then it provides the auto settings when users want to quickly achieve a good sound without needing to adjust every parameter.
- Lowcut and High Boost Filter
The Lowcut filter provides a way to control the low-end frequencies of a signal by cutting off frequencies below a certain threshold, which helps to reduce any low-end buildup. The High Boost filter is also there to add extra clarity and presence to the high-end frequencies of a signal.
The Lindell Audio SBC is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
This compressor gives a nice sound, making it ideal for live drum buses, especially in rock and metal genres. Even while the SBC excels across all genres, it is a good instrument for rock mixers who want to give their master mix, individual tracks, and subgroups a more forward and aggressive feel.
2. UAD API 2500 Bus Compressor
The 2500’s all-discrete circuit approach features two types of compression, a Thrust® circuit, and the flexibility to sound great on anything from a drum crush to the 2-bus. It earned a reputation for its exceptional tone-shaping abilities.
Also, it has two distinct compressibility options. In the New configuration, a feed-forward layout is used, resembling the path most recent VCA-based compressors take. A compression effect is achieved by using the uncompressed audio signal as the sidechain input signal.
A feedback design is employed in the ‘Old’ mode, which is more common in older compressors. The compressed audio signal is the input signal to the control sidechain. The compressed audio is used as the input signal for the control sidechain. The final compressed sound is less jarring, smoother, and more engaging.
- Loud Thrust Filter
The loud thrust filter gives your signal a greater dynamic range which is great.
- Wet/ Dry Parallel Processing
Unique in its combination of classic analog and digital qualities, the UAD API 2500 Bus Compressor offers an incredibly versatile control set for optimized parallel processing. This specific model features both wet/dry parallel processing architecture that allows you to use one or the other controls – making it possible to find the exact tone on any source you are working with.
- Medium Thrust Filter
This filter allows users to tailor the frequency and shape of the attack, allowing for a more precise range of tones with no unwanted artifacts or overshooting. The API 2500’s Mid Thrust Filter adds a spectacular element to its already impressive portfolio, making it one of the most sought-after pieces of mastering gear on the market today.
This plug-in is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The UAD API 2500 Bus Compressor is a great tool for any mixing engineer. It was designed to provide the same sound and power as the classic analog hardware units. Its versatile design makes it perfect for applications like stem mixing, drum buses, and subgroups.
One of its most notable features is the Thrust control. The Thrust control allows you to blend in different bus compressors’ characteristics that provide clarity, punch, and presence – ensuring your mix has an overall balance and tone.
With three controls, you can easily adjust the attack, release, and threshold levels to perfectly tailor the sound to your needs. Try it out on your next project – you’ll be surprised at what it can do.
3. Waves API 2500
No other plugin comes close to the tightness and punch of the kick drum that the Waves API 2500 provides.
The dual-concentric knobs are cleverly implemented using up/down and left/right mouse control for the various knobs, with useful small arrow signs appearing as you hover over them.
The three equalizer plugins have a vintage-style metering section at the top, with a range of 30dB up to 0dBFS and a Clip ‘LED.’
- Analog Switch
It features a large analog switch, which can adjust the level for maximum control over the sound. This switch provides a wide range of cutting-edge capabilities, from low pass filters to dynamic boundaries, that allow you to create and refine your audio with remarkable accuracy and precision.
- Thrust Circuit
The thrust circuit feature enables users to integrate the dynamics of their sound into any mix, giving a fuller and more lifelike sound than ever before. This allows for subtle control over any aspect of the signal chain, from equalization to compression and anything else in between.
- Side Chain Filter
The side-chain filter adjusts the frequencies to produce clear sonics that enhances any audio project. This feature also has the added benefit of reducing noise levels while preserving sonic character. As such, it provides a perfect solution for creating an immersive audio experience in studios and on headphones or speakers.
- Analog Switch
The plug-in is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The Waves API 2500 is a versatile and useful tool for audio engineers interested in unique sound effects. This dynamic processor provides comprehensive and customizable control of dynamics and can create deep, rich sounds through side-chain filtering and parallel compression techniques.
4. T-Racks EQ-PB
The plugin’s in-built spectrum analyzer shows frequency characteristics in real-time. By clicking the screen and moving the control points, the EQ can be set to the user’s preferred settings.
Pinpoint editing, and a wide variety of filter shapes based on the usual curves of traditional British and American analog EQs characterize this 10-band, high-end parametric equalizer.
It’s ideal for high-end mastering and individual track processing, this remarkably adaptable “hybrid monster” combines clarity and on-demand analog character with digital precision.
- Signal Chain Panel
The T-Racks EQ-PB has a signal chain panel that provides users with infinite possibilities for their sound projects. Intuitively designed with simple control options, the signal chain panel lets users build out and fine-tune intricate sounds without difficulty or confusion.
- Equal Gain Button
With just the press of a button, this digital equalizer can process sound in a matter of seconds, allowing producers to shape their audio exactly how they want without worrying about complex settings or knobs.
- Precision Digital EQ Processor
The precision digital EQ processor allows users to get unprecedented control over their audio. This unparalleled power enables music engineers to customize sounds more accurately than ever before – allowing them to give each song its signature sound. Listeners then benefit from a higher quality of clarity and detail in the final product.
This plug-in is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats. It needs an ASIO-compatible sound card.
T-RackS Classic Equalizer is a six-band parametric EQ designed to excel in a mastering context but is also usable on individual tracks as a stereo or mono plugin.
5. Universal Audio API Vision Channel Strip Collection
The essential recording and mixing features of API’s renowned compression, gating, and filter modules are included in the revised API Vision Channel Strip Collection, switchable EQ modules, and an intelligently modeled output section.
The API Vision Channel Strip Collection features two of API’s most lauded EQ types: a 4-band parametric EQ (the 550L) and a 10-band graphic EQ (the 560L series). With the new 560L EQ emulation, you can quickly sweeten and shape guitars, push vocals forward with an analog punch, add aggression to drums, low-end transparency, and ultra-tight imaging thanks to the accurate recreation of the original hardware’s complex band interactions and musical filter amp distortions.
- Hard/Soft Knee Switch
This comprehensive collection of 7 analog-modeled plug-ins gives you an impressive array of tools and features to help perfect your sound. One of the most interesting features is the Shape section, complete with a hard/soft knee switch. With this switch, users can easily customize their dynamic response and ensure that their audio sounds as good as it can be.
- Bypass Switch
The Shape section boasts the ultimate sound shaping capabilities with a bypass switch that allows you to adjust gain and frequency curves quickly and easily. Experience unique sound environments with variable harmonics, gate functions, and compressor settings.
- Threshold, Attack, And Release Controls
The Vision Channel Strip Collection includes essential tools such as threshold, attack, and release controls, which, when used together, can completely transform a track or mix. Professional audio engineers are familiar with these parameters and skillfully adjust them based on their experience.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.13 and higher and Windows 10 in 64-bit VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
With Apollo interfaces, API’s Vision Channel Strip Collection sounds even better, thanks to Unison mic preamps. As a result of bidirectional control and communication between the software and your Apollo’s mic preamps, Unison provides you with all the essential impedance, gain stage “sweet spots,” and circuit behaviors of API’s legendary 212L preamp. You also get a Mic/Line switch, a dedicated cut filter, and a 6 dB line pad, just like on API’s top-tier Vision Console.
6. LSR Audio VLB525 compressor
With the VLB525 Classic FET compressor plug-in, LSR Audio has successfully recreated the sound of a vintage American peak-detecting feed-back style console compressor circuit (the API 525) in the digital realm.
The many dials and buttons on this plug-in give it an intimidating appearance, but using it is very easy. Controls for input (which also serves as the compressor plug-threshold), in’s output, compression (2:1 ratio), limiting (20:1), four different release times, and a de-esser are all accessible via the VLB525’s graphical user interface.
- Gain Reduction VU Meter
This meter allows you to precisely adjust the gain of any signal, giving you much more control than if you were using traditional compressors. And with its all-metal chassis and high-grade components, it can provide reliable performance time after time.
- De-Ess Function
The de-ess function is capable of reducing sibilance so that a recording can be used in cgw4 speech and music production. This remarkable feature works to identify and combat frequencies within a recording that are too prominent or harsh, specifically those related to too much sh and ss for clarity.
- Bypass Mode
Bypass mode is a dynamic tool for mastering, it allows you to put the signature VLB sound at your fingertips by switching between a clean unprocessed sound and a compressed version to give your audio the tone you need.
- Adjustable Threshold and Output Level
With variable thresholds and adjustable output levels, you can achieve a range of compression styles, from tight snare drums to heavily compressed analog sounds. Responsive yet easy to use, this reliable compressor is perfect for live performances or studio recordings, allowing you to add punch and character to any signal with an intuitive mixer-style layout.
The plug-in is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The VLB525 is a great all-around plug-in with a lot of character; it’s a lot of fun to work with and is a great choice for those who like to experiment with new sounds. The algorithm of the VLB525 has recently been repurposed in the Lindell Audio 50 Series plug-in by Plugin Alliance, which simulates a full API console.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one instrument for professional audio production, then the VLB525 power compressor from LSR is worth your money. Its advanced tools make this compressor an ideal choice for anyone who wants to produce quality sound without spending long hours adjusting sound levels.
7. Overloud Gem EQ550
The Overloud EQ550 was inspired by a popular American equalizer developed using special op-amps. The Proportional-Q design means that its bandwidth decreases as the filter’s gain grow.
The EQ provides a more even sound at lower gain settings, but its aggressive features emerge at higher gain levels. The EQ550 improves upon the capabilities of the original hardware by fusing digital versatility with analog processing’s signature warmth.
- Band Cue
The Band Cue system allows users to create and store multiple settings that can be quickly recalled with a single button press. This makes it incredibly easy to make subtle adjustments on the go without needing to re-adjust all bands.
- Continuous Frequency Selection
With this selection, you can control how your sound is affected by varying frequencies. You can play around with equalization individually so that each time a sound passes through your studio, the EQ settings have been specifically tailored to give the desired effect. Rather than having generic presets, you can micro-manage every detail of your mixes for an incredibly polished sound.
- A/B Comparison
This allows you to quickly and easily compare two different sounds without manually resetting all of your parameters. Thanks to its intuitive user interface, this comparison tool makes it easy, even for those new to equalization, to create great sounds in no time.
- Low CPU Usage
The Overloud EQ550’s low CPU usage means you can record and mix confidently. Now you won’t be left scraping for CPU because the EQ550 will handle your sessions easily.
The Overloud EQ550 is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
While most digital simulations fall short at or around the Nyquist frequency, EQ550 reproduces the actual frequency response at that extreme. Overloud used its custom DSP technique to accomplish this without resorting to oversampling or introducing any phase distortion in the process.
8. IK Multimedia EQ-PG
This graphic EQ is a handy tool for making significant EQ adjustments with the distinct sound of classic American circuitry.
EQ-PG is IK Multimedia’s emulation of the 1969 classic API 560 graphic EQ, famous for its bold sound and ample headroom, with a few IK-styled improvements. Its sound comes from the API 2520 operational amplifier, similar to the ones used in several other classic EQs. However, being a graphic EQ, it is much more convenient.
This plugin is nifty when you need broad EQ adjustments instead of precise manipulations. For example, you could add some thickness to a snare or sheen to a dull vocal recording. The circuit’s analog character and the output transformer’s subtle harmonic distortion make your audio distinct and cut through the mix easily.
- Analog Sound
If you are a fan of API console graphic EQs, you will easily recognize the sound of this EQ. PG-EQ has been modeled to reproduce the analog unit’s nuances, from the input pre-amp saturation to the output transformer’s warm distortion. You can also drive the input pre-amp high to produce a hard-clipped character on your audio.
- Classic Bands
This EQ has ten bands with fixed frequencies. They use bell-shaped, proportional Q filters that bridge between neighboring bands excellently. Thus, it is very natural sounding.
- Stereo Manipulation
As with almost all IK Multimedia products, you can activate mid/side mode to adjust the mid and side parts individually with a single instance of this plugin. In addition, you can do the same with the left and right channels as well. We recommend using this plugin to add some saturation to the side part and boost the high frequencies to enhance the audio sound.
EQ-PG is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
While the plugin’s sound is nice, it does feel quite overpriced, considering how there are only ten bands. Although, it does provide some modern features like mid/side and individual channel editing. We suggest getting it during a promotion if you want the classic American sound.
9. Tone Empire Model 5000 (VCA)
Tone Empire’s Model 5000 combines two classics: APIs 2500 and SLL’s 4000 bus compressor. As far as emulations go, this plugin is an intense blend. By studying and recreating the circuits of 2 of the most sought-after VCA compressors, the developers promise to deliver the best of glue and thrust to your mixes.
The digital signal processing engine creates a natural analog feel without disregarding clarity and quality. The plugin offers up to 8 times oversampling, which sounds pristine on the higher frequencies.
- Knock Circuit
The heart of the plugin’s sound, KNOCK delivers a punchy side chain with variable slopes selected through the FREQ knob. The frequencies all have a different Q, which makes each sound unique. It’s not a very versatile option, but as with most VCA compressors, it delivers the unit’s sound. You can add weight to the tone by turning the LIFT knob, which will boost the selected frequency. Here is also where you’ll find the oversampling options of two, four, and eight times.
This part of the plugin was modeled after the rasping sound of the bus console it emulates. It uses an input and output transformer to generate the semiconductor sound experience as you push up the Input Gain knob, the harder the saturation. You can go up to 24dB of input gain, and by pressing the TRANSX button, it generates a drive. Parallel processing is achievable with the left-most Mix Knob, which introduces the dry signal as it’s turned to the right.
- Auto Gain
This tiny, almost hidden switch turns the Auto Gain circuit on or off. It is controlled by the threshold knob and designed to add gain compensation post-compression. As you turn the threshold knob to the right, more gain is added to the output. It will be better used if you’re making some extreme gain reduction and don’t want to lose overall volume.
Character & Sound
The Model 5000 sounds familiar yet unique. It is not as versatile as the API and not as specific as the SSL. It has managed to be a hybrid that incorporated some of the tone and punch of its predecessors and added its twist, which is excellent. The ability to choose how much grit or tone you want to incorporate makes it an improved-sounding version of the originals. It has borrowed the SSL parameters, which makes it feel more like a bus compressor. Even so, you can use it for single instruments as well.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.13 and higher and Windows 10 in 64-bit VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
By bridging some of the differences between two famous VCA compressors, the Model 5000 by Tone Empire offers great character paired with capable compression. It sounds like neither of the originals it has modeled its style after, so it’s a worthy addition to your collection, even if you already have the classics.
10. Waves API 560
The API 560 by Waves is a 10-band equalizer with one-octave increments. It has a large headroom and precision filtering, perfect for audio mixing and mastering. It features the hardware’s proportional Q filter design, which narrows down the Q factor the more you boost/cut.
The sound of this plugin works well for almost any use case, and you will notice some harmonic additions to your audio. This feature is what makes this EQ so effective.
- True to Hardware
The Waves API 560 was made in association with API, so the sound has been modeled to emulate the original hardware as closely as possible. It features a fixed 12 dB of boost/cut gain per band, the same as the hardware. And the proportional Q feature noticeably kicks in at around ±4 dB.
- WaveShell Components
API 560 also features two plugin variants in its WaveShell components: mono and stereo. The stereo version lets you adjust the EQ curve of the left and right channels separately for better control. Both variants feature an audio inverse button and an output gain.
- Analog Mode
An “Analog” toggle activates the input preamp saturation and the output transformers’ harmonic distortion. However, when it is toggled off, the EQ gives out a transparent signal but still with the unique sound of the API filters.
Waves API 560 is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13.6 or higher, both 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
If you are a classic American EQ fan, you should look at this plugin. Its direct competitor is the IK Multimedia EQ-PG, which offers even more control. Still, the price difference due to Waves’ unending sales gives the Waves API 560 a significant advantage.
11. IK Multimedia EQ PA
IK Multimedia modeled the circuitry of this module after custom expensive op amp-based models to make it affordable without sacrificing quality, making it a standard for production among many industry professionals.
With twenty-one frequencies skillfully arranged across three bands, you can easily reproduce great sound, ensuring an enjoyable musical experience.
Also, separating the frequency and gain knobs makes for easier use and faster sight, and the EQ PA has several “IK-Style” digital-domain improvements to a time-honored sonic print. The T-RackS format’s main benefit is a more organized and less confusing user interface.
- Quality Oversampling
The IK Multimedia includes nice oversampling, which allows users to experience playback without any loss in sound fidelity or clarity. With its smooth graphical interface, responsive control knobs, and instant real-time feedback, the EQ PA achieves perfect balance no matter what audio you’re manipulating, not to mention its noise reduction for all inputs.
- High-Precision And High-Transparency Digital Processors
The advanced digital processors provide high-precision parameters, so you can get the exact sound you want. As well as precision, these processors also increase the transparency of your audio. This makes it easier to pick out subtle details in your mix and allows for complex sound designs. Using these high-end digital processors, IK Multimedia has given producers a tool to bring their audio visions to life with ease and accuracy.
- Full-Latency Compensation Support
This is a great feature that allows users to sync multiple audio files, with minimal delay, by accounting for any inherent latency associated with recording and playback systems.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.13 and higher and Windows 10 in 64-bit VST3 and AAX formats.
The IK Multimedia T-RackS EQ PA module is all about traditional American EQ. Its rapid rise to prominence as a “go-to” equalizer on many custom-constructed modular consoles of the late ’60s and ’70s can be attributed to its three-band proportional Q design, the product of a brilliant mind and skillful engineering. A modular, transportable design idea was born as a result.
IK Multimedia painstakingly reconstructed all of the proprietary op amp-based circuitry to reveal the sound deliciousness and detail that have made this module standard equipment for tracking and mixing on every big record production.
12. SofTube American Class A
This channel strip, inspired by some of the all-time great pieces of American mixing console hardware, is a breeze to use and adds a ton of vintage charm to your productions.
The tool features a shape section with gate and transient design, a stellar four-band EQ with proportional Q and range control, a fascinating compressor design that can be toggled between feedback and feedforward operations, and a warm, crunchy output drive section.
Modern rock music owes much of its strength and energy to the American gear on which this strip is based.
- Feed-Forward Topology
Its feed-forward topology is an efficient way of dealing with inter-stage interactions and provides linearity in the frequency range that is critical for achieving the sweet, warm sound quality characteristic of tube amps. This thoughtful approach to design ensures pristine sound reproduction for even the most discerning audiophile, allowing listeners to experience their music as if they were courtside.
- Cutting-Edge Graphics And Waveform Visualizations
It has a host of cutting-edge graphic and waveform visualizations that allow users to understand better and process their audio. With visual aids such as various frequency spectrums, level meters, and oscilloscope functions, it enables the user to analyze their audio in greater depth than ever before.
- Shape section with gate and transient shapers
This plugin allows users to shape different sonic elements of the audio individually. Its Shape section features gate and transient shapers, allowing users to bring out specific transients or musical moments dynamically. Users can avail of controls such as Attack Response and Release, which are built-in compressors for controlling transients.
SofTube American Class A is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13.6 or higher, both 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
Modern rock bands like Radiohead, Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam have all used consoles similar to the ones seen in this comic because they bring out the raw strength and intensity in the song.
You can turn your equalizer into a high-resolution mastering device by setting the range settings to half or even a quarter of the original values for the gain boost and cut. Equally as simple as an amplified grunt, a more open and lively synth sound may be achieved by running it through the same hard rocking parameters.
Best Free API Plugins
1. Analog Obsession BLENDEQ (Dual-Circuit EQ)
BLENDEQ by Analog Obsession is a plugin in which you get a combination of two legendary hardware equalizers.
It’s no secret that different hardware studio units have different sounds. It is what makes them unique and appropriate for a particular situation. And this applies not only to preamps and compressors but also to equalizers. Fortunately, Analog Obsession has created a plugin to blend two flavors of gear.
The main thing about this plugin is that in addition to the usual EQ bands, you will also have blendable knobs. So you can either go for a specific one or get them 50/50. The same goes for the Input signal. So let’s talk about that in more detail.
- 4-Band EQ
In total, you get four EQ bands. Specifically, there are Low from 35 to 220 Hz, Mid controls from 0.36 to 7.2 kHz, and High from 5 to 15 kHz. You can boost or cut each of them with separate knobs.
- Blendable Knobs
You will have a separate red Blend knob for each of the bands. So you can get the Neve sound on the left and the API sound on the right. Or leave them in the 50/50 position to get a unique sound.
- Drive Your Input
As for the Input knob, there is also a mixing option. So, if you twist it to the left, you’ll get harmonics characteristic of Neve hardware. And vice versa, you will get an API flavor to the right. There is also a separate Output control.
- Use The Filters
In addition to all of this, you will also have High and Low Pass Filters. These controls are located on both sides at the bottom of the plugin window. HPF goes from 20 to 650 hertz, and LPF from 8 to 20 kilohertz.
Analog Obsession BLENDEQ is available for Windows 7 and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST/3 and AU formats.
Analog Obsession BLENDEQ is a great plugin for getting the best out of two analog equalizer emulations. The N option will give you a smoother sound, and the A option will give you punchy transients. At first, the large number of knobs might confuse you, but once you figure out how to use them, everything becomes easy and simple. The plugin is suitable for both individual instruments and program material.
2. Analog Obsession FRANK 2 (Analog EQ)
The FRANK 2 plugin from Analog Obsession is a tonal shaping EQ based on well-known studio hardware equalizers.
The tonal shaping equalizer would be a great tool to give some color and expressiveness to your instruments. It is exactly the plugin of the famous company Analog Obsession, which creates its software based on analog gear. All products are free, but you can support the developer on Patreon.
Overall, there are three bands of EQ, Low and High Pass filters. So by the plugin’s name, you can understand that it is a kind of Frankenstein. And it is not strange because each parameter is taken from a separate studio equalizer, whether API, Neve, or Pultec. So let’s take a closer look at the plugin.
- High and Low Pass Filters
The two Low and High Pass filter knobs are on both sides of the window. The first is based on the Helios and allows you to cut from 0 to 15 dB at 50 hertz. The second one is a Pultec-style high-frequency attenuator, allowing you to go from zero to 10 decibels.
- Adjust The Lows
As for the low frequencies, you will have two knobs at your fingertips. The first is a boost, and the second is an attenuator. Their frequency of action is 60 hertz. In general, they are based on Pultec units.
- Mid Control
The black knob on the gray background will be responsible for the mid frequencies. You will be able to cut and boost up to 15 decibels. Most likely, this setting is based on API hardware.
- Add Some Highs
And, of course, the knob on the green background will help you eliminate or add high frequencies. It’s a shelf. At least you can tell that from the little icon above the knob. Here the creators took the Neve units as the basis.
- Input and Output Knobs
Notably, the plugin allows you to drive more signal, thanks to the Input control. So you can add more harmonics to it. There is also an Output knob, which helps balance the signal’s outcome.
Analog Obsession FRANK 2 is available for Windows 7 and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST/3 and AU formats.
The FRANK 2 plugin can be your to-go equalizer for working with any instrument. It can be vocals, guitars, bass, and drums. Yes, the plugin is a kind of Frankenstein, but that’s how it’s designed to give you a unique sound. So experiment with it to see for yourself.
3. Sender Spike SN01-G (VCA)
Sender Spike’s SN01-G is a free VCA compressor for Windows inspired by two classic hardware units.
The minimalistic looks hide the full power of this plugin’s sound. As expected from its SSL/API inspiration, it excels at bus compression. The three available Modes and Push options make it a versatile plugin, but the hidden secret behind its sound is the Topology Switch.
The Mode knob changes the side-chain filters. There are three available modes: A, B, and F. Mode A shelves the high end and adds a slope cut to the lows, preserving the mids. On the other hand, B creates an upward EQ line from -12dB at 20Hz and +12dB at 20kHz. If you want to bypass this section, simply turn the knob to F, which means “Flat,” and will apply no side-chain filtering.
You can use the plugin in its standard compression rate or choose to go extremes with the Push knob. Here you have the options Zero, One, and Two. Zero bypasses the effect, while One lowers the threshold by 9dB and Two doubles that amount, reducing the dynamic range even further.
- Topology Switch
On the left-hand side of the GUI lies a small switch that holds a power no other plugin on this list possesses. Inspired by the Old/New switch on the API 2500, the SN01-G lets you change your topology from Feed-Forward to Feed-Back. That causes the plugin to work in two ways, increasing its versatility significantly.
- Character & Sound
The developers insisted on adding no coloration engine, which means no saturation or, in their words, “digital fakery.” All you get is a straight-up compression sound. This makes the SN01-G a clean-sounding compressor but keeps its punchy character the same.
Sender Spike’s SN01-G is a Windows-only VST plugin.
This plugin offers the classic sound of VCA compression with versatile functions at zero cost.
Unfortunately for Mac users, this is an advantage for all the PC people out there. Download this plugin to have the punchy sound of VCA for free.
Acustica Audio Pink2
Pink2 is more than just one effect plug-in; it’s a full-fledged suite that includes preamp circuits, four-band semi-parametric EQ, 10-band graphic EQ, and compression. These are all available as individual plug-ins, and a channel strip plug-in is also provided that combines several of these features into a single insert.
Other plugins that PINK2 Contains: Pink2Pre plug-in, Acustica’s Pink2 780 graphic EQ plug-in,Acustica’s Pink 2412 compressor plug-in, Pink2 1650 EQ plug-in.
The intent of Pink2’s design is clear: to support all the steps of regular signal conditioning. Preamp coloration is the first step in hardware, but in the digital domain, you can insert the Pink2Pre plug-in from Acustica wherever you like in the signal chain.
These are the simplest plug-ins, featuring a choice of eight preamp circuits and an Input Trim control. This last parameter drives the selected preamp circuit to a varied extent but is automatically adjusted for the output. Thus it does not affect the perceived loudness. Although the effect is slight, metering is absent and seems unnecessary.
- Preamp Circuits
The Pink2 is equipped with carefully crafted preamp circuits modeled after classic vintage designs. These components allow users to shape their tone in up-to-the-minute ways, creating something truly special for their productions and mixing every time.
- Input Trim
The Input Trim allows tremendous control over the gain for any microphone or input source. The precision offered by this feature provides users with enhanced audio that sounds professional and dynamic. With a few clicks of a button, you can easily adjust levels and get the exact sonic balance you’re looking for.
- Dry/Wet Mix
With its Dry/Wet mix feature, this collection of effects modules allows users to create a truly unique sound. The Wet feature simulates the effects of echo reverbs and delays, while the Dry feature provides users with a clean, untouched sound. Together, these two features give musicians unparalleled control over their sound–from distorted and noisy to perfectly polished–perfect for creating tracks that stand out from the competition.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.13 and higher and Windows 10 in 64-bit VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
The use of graphic equalizers is more popular in live sound and hi-fi than in recording studios, but if you do come across one, it will most likely be an API 560. This workhorse is accurately replicated in Acustica’s Pink2 780 plug-in, replete with optional preamp circuitry.
Like the hardware, the selection of frequencies for each band is thoughtful; the result is pleasant to listen to, and what it lacks in customization options, it makes up for in its near-instant accessibility.
Out of all the API plugins we’ve listed, our top pick is the Lindell Audio SBC-channel compressor. It offers a classic API 2500 compressor along with versatile controls and an affordable price tag. It’s ideal for both beginners and experienced users, making it the perfect addition to any studio or live rig.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a free plugin that can give you access to API-level sounds without a slot power rack then the Analog Obsession BLENDEQ is a great choice. You get access to four EQ bands, blendable knobs, and an intelligently modeled output section all within a free plugin.
As technology advances, so do the capabilities of these plugins – so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on developments in this area. In the meantime, start experimenting with the plugins you already have. With the right combination, you can create truly unique and professional-sounding tracks. Good luck out there.
Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.