Since the beginning of the millennium, digital audio has evolved more than anyone could’ve ever conceived.
Many companies adapted to this new digital environment, and many others emerged. Plugins aren’t but today’s studio gear, and as versatile or innovative as they can be, each brand makes its own sound.
In this order of ideas, we believe that it’s essential to know where you can get the best gear, and that’s why we created this list with the top seventeen plugin brands in 2021. So here, we will talk about everything you need to know to help you make the best decision before getting any new plugs.
Important: This article doesn’t include all the information about the products so we could keep the article as shortest as possible. You can quickly gather all the data about the products of the individual brand by visiting their websites.
So let’s dive in!
Top 17 Audio Plugin Brands of 2023
1. Native Instruments
Native Instruments has been a part of the music industry for more than 20 years. Their primary focus is to make music creation joyful, easier, and more creative. As a result, this is one of the most relevant and revolutionary brands for music production.
Although they have some EQs, compressors, and effect plugins, the absolute best of this brand is in their MIDI instruments, controllers, and music production software. They also have an evergrowing instrument library, perfect for anything you need to achieve in music production or sound design.
The best of Native Instruments
It’s almost necessary to have Kontakt if you’re a sound designer or a home studio producer. This massive suite opens the gates to many libraries, sounds, and musical instruments. Load several instruments simultaneously, and create an arrangement or use it live if you’re a performing musician.
Reaktor is not as mentioned or famous as Kontakt, but it’s another one of their strong products. Like Kontakt, Reaktor provides a fully equipped platform for sound design, which hosts synthesizers and effect modules.
- Sound libraries
Besides the software, they make incredible sounding sample libraries, effects, and presets specifically tailored to different areas of music production, sound design, or score.
- Production Packs
Native Instruments offer you several “production packs.” These are essentially bundles that include different engines, virtual instruments, and a massive bunch of sounds.
- Poor user manuals
It’s known that lots of people don’t read the manuals, but you still have to put in the effort. Unfortunately, this issue generates significant discomfort among NI’s customers because manuals tend to lack much information about the products.
- Poor product descriptions
Now that we’re talking about lack of information about products, descriptions and product features often lack information that could be helpful for customers to understand their products.
- Quite expensive
Hardware, in general, is expensive, and we all know that. Still, in comparison to other similar products from brands, you might find some as overpriced. This line is a lot more fragile with plugins. Yet, most of their plugins, libraries and virtual instruments are above the 100 dollars mark.
- Poor online support
Unfortunately, Native Instruments doesn’t provide appropriate support for its users. This is a significant issue that can make you waste your money on non-functioning software.
Native Instruments still have some of the most advanced MIDI controllers, interfaces, and instruments. Even Kontakt is one industry standard for music production, sound design, and score. Though, because of the lack of support today, we would rather recommend their software products that come with a trial and test it first – Nothing against hardware, but before you consider buying hardware gear, consider reading people’s feedback.
2. Waves Audio
Waves are one of the most influential audio plugins and signal processor developers. Their plugins are used by artists, producers, and engineers across the board at all skill levels.
Waves Audio placed itself as an industry standard. They’ve worked and created amazing plugins with all of the biggest names in the audio engineering world to provide tools that simplify audio engineering.
The best of Waves Audio
Unlike other brands, they have plugins for every occasion or field, which makes them the go-to brand regardless of whether you work on live shows, motion graphics, music, or videogames.
Their plugins are of the most advanced, and their hardware emulations are usually impressively close. From synthesizers to equalizers, their plugins are powerful and result-oriented.
- Beginners best friend
Waves Audio’s plugin suite has it all. Suppose you’re just starting up with audio engineering or music production. In that case, this is a safe step to take, as they have tools for anything you might need during work. They’ve got everything you need to start, from noise reduction, phase alignment, and trimming to any signal processor and MIDI instruments.
These plugins are made accessible from their conception. Of course, some are easier than others. Still, generally speaking, this is an excellent aspect of this brand, as they care about their users’ experience. Although oversimplified sometimes, Waves keeps it easy and adds several user presets made by the top professionals in the field.
- The update plans
One of the biggest downers from Waves is not the quality of their plugins but their business model. They charge you yearly update fees, which you must pay to keep using their plugins or download them even after you buy them.
- Misleading promotions
Going back to their business model, you need to know about their sales and deals. They offer you free plugins with your purchase but don’t tell you they only offer their least popular releases and not their entire catalog as they make you think beforehand.
When you’re thinking about sound quality and performance, Waves Audio is a great pick. They’re not particularly pricey, are always on sale, and, quite honestly, have a terrific sound. Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that regardless of how good their plugins are, they’ll charge you and almost force you to pay for each update. In addition, if you’re unlucky enough, you might encounter installation, registration, and licensing issues, and the chances are that you don’t get a response from the company to assist you.
Fab Filter is an audio plugin brand that believes in offering incredible sound quality and workflow for its customers. This belief has been proven with its incredibly easy-to-use plugins with robust capacities.
Their plugins are broadly well-known because of their sophisticated GUIs and superb malleability, making this brand one of the best for beginner-level engineers and producers. However, Fab Filter’s catalog is targeted toward mixing and mastering, and they offer some of the best functioning and most adaptable tools for these purposes.
The best of Fab Filter
- Easy installs
Fab Filter plugins don’t need any extra software, iLok hassles, or jumping through any hoop to install and finally use their plugins. Instead, they’ve got an effortless installation and licensing process that only takes 5 minutes on auto-pilot to complete.
These plugins are no-brainers. They come with a smooth design that favors workflow and gives you control over each aspect of the plugin’s function. Fab Filter plugins also include lots of visual aid to help you understand how your processing affects the signal.
- Transparent plugins
I’ve personally used and know several people who use this brand on every mix they work on because they’re ideal for corrective and mastering situations. They also have several phase options, making it easier to fix problems without affecting your signal’s phase correlation.
- Flexibility of use
Moving on with the user experience with these plugins, they’re great for transparency and adding character to different signals. For example, their Pro-C2 compressor is superb for parallel compression on vocals, and Saturn is excellent for distorting bass and color synths.
- Visual help
Their plugins share a lot of graphic references that help you understand what they’re doing both visually and audibly. This is a great help for engineers and artists at all levels of expertise because it lets you rely on both senses to make better-informed decisions.
- They’re not very budget-friendly
I don’t argue that they aren’t worth the money, but depending on your budget, you might want to look at other plugins if you’re starting up. On the other hand, almost every plugin in their catalog is above the 100-dollar mark, so it’s worth keeping in mind.
You might’ve noticed that there’s only one thing in the dealbreakers sections. This is not because we’re biased, but because it’s that good of a brand. If you look online is hard to find a single bad review about Fab Filter and its plugins, which says a lot about this brand and its products. Fab Filter is one of the best-positioned plugin brands among audio professionals. They care about delivering outstanding quality plugins and a good customer experience.
iZotope is a plugin brand widely known for its notorious noise reduction suite, iZotope RX, and Ozone mastering suite. This brand has other suites dedicated to other areas, such as sound design, mixing, and music production. Their plugins are characterized by their intuitive graphic interfaces and workflow.
Their plugins are oriented to specific and separate areas of audio post-production and typically include a standalone app designed as a workspace for whatever task you’re performing. This company also invests a lot in educating their users on using their tools to achieve professional results and the best uses for each part of their software.
The best of iZotope
- Free education
There are countless Youtube videos, articles, and series with free invaluable information and insight from highly experienced artists, producers, and engineers that don’t only teach you how to use the tool but teach you how to get the job done like a professional that’s using the tool.
- Intelligent controls and assistance
One thing that’s shared among all iZotope products is their use of AI assistance. They include these to help make the process faster and allow you to achieve better results by focusing on what matters the most. For example, AI assistants are great for getting a professional sound out of your music because it automatically makes the necessary adjustments to make your audio sound better.
- All-in-one suites
iZotope has a long plugin catalog, but they group them all into suites capable of doing different types of processing to your signal. For example, you can master an entire album from start to finish in Ozone, fully restore audio with RX, build an entire processing chain for a vocal track with Nectar, etc.
- Result-oriented software
Each of iZotope’s releases was made for a specific purpose and solely dedicated to fulfilling it. Whether it’s RX, Nectar, Neutron, or Ozone, each piece of software was explicitly made for a particular scenario and gathered every tool you need to succeed in your working environment.
- Extensive learning curve
It’s not an actual dealbreaker, but if you want to get the most out of these plugins, you might find it complicated at first because of their insane amount of features. Nevertheless, although it could take a couple of weeks or a month to get it down, the results you’ll get from that point forward will be worth the time investment.
- Pay for features
Some features in their full-price products require monthly payments to have temporary access to them, regardless of your purchase. This is something to keep in mind since their products are not cheap.
iZotope is second to none for audio restoration, mixing, and mastering due to their advanced software, and offer easy installation and product registration, customer support, and overall great-working software. It’s hard to find something to pick on them. Plugins are stable and can automatically get your stuff to sound great within seconds. Their AI assistant, which has been persistent for a couple of years, is ideal for artists, producers, and engineers.
5. IK Multimedia
IK Multimedia is an Italian company and manufacturer created in 1996 by two musicians and engineers who thought about emulating electronic circuits with DSP algorithms on an audio signal in your computer. One interesting fact about this company is that the name “IK” comes from the Japanese ideogram for “sky.”
This company makes microphones, mic stands, MIDI controllers, audio interfaces, plugins, software, etc. Their products are affordable, and they offer lots of variety and free stuff because their mission is to provide musicians with top-notch gear that helps them achieve the best sound for their art.
The best of IK Multimedia
- Accurate hardware models
IK Multimedia has several hardware-based plugins modeled with extreme attention to detail. These emulations bring you the possibility of using something that sounds as close as technologically possible to high-end studio gear for just one or two hundred dollars, and sometimes even less.
- Affordable gear
Microphones, cables, adapters, travel bags, and even apps are affordable and below the one hundred mark, and you can make the payment in installments for their more expensive products.
IK Multimedia has an extensive product catalog that includes several apps for Android devices, iPads, and iPhones for audio recording and editing.
- Free goods
They have a lot of stuff that they give away with limited features that are good, especially when talking about musical instruments. However, even for their free libraries, the samples’ quality is outstanding, and installation is relatively simple.
- Limited-time downloads
Some of their products are limited-time downloads, even after purchase, which means that if your computer breaks down after this time is passed, you’ll have to repurchase the product to download it again.
- Unnecessary installs
Install any T-Racks plugin, like the Space Delay, for example. Then, it’ll automatically install all of the other plugins without asking, even if you don’t own them, which clutters your computer with unnecessary unregistered plugins that you weren’t looking to install in the first place.
- Problems when finding libraries
When you install a library-based plugin, it often can’t recognize or find any of the installed libraries, which in a given case, you’d have to find manually on your computer. The problem is that their manuals don’t give you any information about the files’ location or default installation folder, and it can take a while before you finally figure out where the files are stored.
- They charge you for selling your hardware
If you bought and registered any of IK Multimedia’s hardware, and then you end up selling it, you will need to transfer your ownership to the other person and then pay an additional fee for this action.
- Their installation app
If you’ve never used it before, it’ll be complicated to find whatever you’re looking for. It’s messy, filled with ads desperately trying to sell you as many of their products as possible, making it difficult to navigate and unpleasant for the user.
IK Multimedia is about helping musicians achieve their musical goals with the highest possible quality. Their plugins sound pretty good, especially their analog gear models, and as for the hardware, they do a pretty good job and have a lot of variety to offer their customers. However, they need a lot of improvements regarding the user experience.
Softube is Marshall’s exclusive software partner because its founders strive for perfect accuracy, workflow, and sound and take this as a core value for each one of their products.
This manufacturer is so passionate about achieving exact hardware recreation modeling that they partnered with Weiss Engineering and created the first line-to-line code parts of digital hardware into plugin form.
The best of Softube
- Volume V plugin Bundle
Softube offers you a bundle with 30 of their finest plugins with everything you need for mixing and mastering and includes their famous Saturation Knob plugin. This bundle is an affordable resource for computer-based studios that need high-quality plugins on a budget.
- Outstanding sound quality
You can tell how much they care about sound quality when using their plugins, which is why their free saturation plugin became so popular. The sound quality is excellent with all plugins from this brand, and pricing is not high, making this brand stand out for its commitment.
- Console 1
Console 1 is Softube’s mixing system which provides you with a hybrid approach to control your DAW and plugins and mix entirely in the box while keeping the analog tone and warmth typical of the old multi-track mixing consoles, the SSLor the Neve.
- You need iLok
To use any of their plugins or hardware, you need an iLok account and a free USB port for the iLok key. This is a major throwback for many. It’s not a secret that iLok is incredibly inconvenient because it nulls your license when you don’t have an internet connection and keeps you from using your software.
Softube is a fantastic plugin brand, particularly good with analog emulations. They make reliable plugins that deliver fantastic sound quality at various prices. They also have sales quite regularly and offer you an all-in-one bundle, where they include the best of their products. It’s a very solid brand, although the need to have an iLok account makes for a great inconvenience if you don’t already have one, which can quickly throw off the idea of getting one of their plugins in the first place. If you are buying hardware, we would recommend checking people’s feedback.
7. Audio Damage
Audio Damage is a small plugin manufacturer that’s been on the market since 2002 to deliver creative software for discerning musicians. You need to know about this company because they’ve released all of their legacy plugins for free, and you can download them directly from their website.
Audio Damage has excellent software and a pretty extensive catalog, regardless of the small size of their company, which only talks good about their commitment to delivering high value to their customers.
The best of Audio Damage
- Free bundle
As you read earlier, they’re giving away their legacy plugins for free because they can’t support their older products anymore. Although these plugins are not modern, it’s a great head start if you’re on a budget and need to get quality plugins to work with.
- Return policy
If you’re not happy with your purchase, you can always get in touch with Audio Damage, and they will give you back your money without extra fees.
- Easy installation
With Audio Damage’s plugins, you only have to run their installer and let it do its thing. The registration and installation process is as simple as possible, without any extra software, license manager, or anything else than right-clicking and running the installer.
Audio Damage’s catalog it’s packed with great-sounding products below the one-hundred-dollar mark, with several creative audio effects for mixing and mastering situations and full customer support, all wholly affordable and suitable for all levels and DAWs.
It seems like you can’t go wrong with Audio Damage. They’re a solid brand that makes great plugins at an affordable price, making them stand out. Also, use any VST compatible DAW, like FL Studio, Cubase or Nuendo.
8. Slate Digital
Slate Digital is a technology company focused on top-notch DSP solutions for the audio post-production, broadcast, forensics, and security industries co-founded by Steven Slate and Fabrice Gabriel. Their tools are well-known for their excellent performance, high quality, and ease of use.
In addition to its well-known VMR and Virtual Console products, the company also makes hardware, such as microphones, audio interfaces, and preamps. Slate Digital’s products have been used by various high-profile musicians, including Grammy winners and nominees.
The best of Steven Slate
- Real analog sound
Since the Virtual Console Collections release in 2011, this company has made a noticeable effort to develop authentic analog-sounding plugins. As a result, their plugins rank very high in analog modeling technology and quality.
- All-access pass
Slate Digital has a monthly subscription plan which grants you access to all of their plugins, amp sims, tutorials, synths, etc., for only ten bucks a month. This is a pretty good deal, considering that you’ll have access to a full Slate Digital bundle at a super affordable price.
- Virtual Microphone and Preamp collection
Speaking of their products, the Virtual Microphone and Preamp Collection is a hybrid solution of software and hardware for recording. The magic, however, happens in the software, which accurately models several studio microphones and recreates an analog recording setup, including different preamps.
- Free MIDI drums
They give away a free version of the Steven Slate Drums that works like a never-expiring demo of the paid software. Overall, it’s pretty good, sounds very natural, and it comes with some grooves and a few samples for you to try out. This free instrument is an excellent pick if you’re producing your tracks and you want to have nice-sounding drums on a budget.
- They use iLok
It doesn’t apply to their free software, but this could be a significant turnoff if you plan to get their plugins. You need to have an iLok account to use any of their plugins, whether you own them or get a monthly subscription.
- Hard-to-use plugins
Although the sound of Slate Digital’s plugins is consistently good, they’re complicated to navigate more often than not, almost forcing you to read the manual to try to make sense of it. In addition, graphic interfaces are often pretty crowded with many parameters that you wouldn’t use as often, which forces you to waste time figuring it out.
Slate Digital makes overall great-sounding plugins. Although they could improve user interfaces and overall experience, these are potent plugins that can help your mix sound better without a doubt and have a lot of great products to offer that will help you through many different mixing and mastering scenarios.
Since its inception in 1999, Arturia has become one of the leading companies in the music industry. It is dedicated to creating simple and accessible software and hardware for music production. This has made it the go-to choice for both professional and amateur musicians worldwide.
One of the company’s main priorities is to make sure that everyone can make music, regardless of their experience or skill level. It achieves this by developing intuitive and easy-to-use software that is powerful and fun to use. In addition to making software, Arturia also manufactures hardware synthesizers and drum machines.
The best of Arturia
- Great customer Service
Arturia runs the extra mile with customer experience and service. They’re not only responsive with online support but also tech support. When you buy their hardware, you just have to contact them, and they’ll take care of everything and return your gear fully functioning in impeccable conditions.
- Innovating hardware technology
Speaking of their gear, they have some of the most advanced analog synthesizers. They’re incredibly flexible, the sound is outstanding, and they have a solid construction, making for an instrument that you’ll be able to use for years before it fails for the first time.
- In-app tutorials
This applies only to Arturia’s V Collection and its content. The plugins within this collection series include a tutorial mode that guides you through sound design and synthesis to help you achieve certain sounds and understand how this type of gear works.
- Easy-to-use products
If there’s something that makes Arturia stand out among several other large plugin manufacturers is how much they consider the user when making their products. As a result, both software and hardware are incredibly intuitive.
- Buggy software
Although their instruments are fantastic, whether physical or virtual, the software has some issues now and then with some bugs. Although most of these are typically solved in later updates, not all bugs get a solution, and some can cause your DAW to crash, fail to load, or have similar odd behavior.
- Quite heavy on your CPU
Arturia offers you mighty instruments, but they come with a high price in CPU usage. So if you have a low-spec computer is possibly better to get their hardware instead of the digital models.
Suppose you want quality music instruments, whether hardware or software. Then, Arturia is the way to go. They offer you top-notch products and innovative, easy-to-use synthesizers that will help you take your music to the next level while discovering new sounds. If you’re looking for virtual instruments, I suggest you try out Analog Lab because it combines excellent analog emulations with modern flexibility and capacities.
U-he is a music software company founded in 2001 by Urs Heckmann and Heiko Volland. The company is best known for its synthesizers and effects used by musicians and producers worldwide.
This brand is different from others because they don’t make marketing-driven products, as they thrive on development ideas brought to the table by their team. They believe in making everlasting gear and software and maintaining them for the years to come, regardless of how old.
The best of u-he
This one is one of u-he’s most acclaimed synths from their catalog, with a lot of love from nearly everyone using it. Diva is a mighty virtual synthesizer capable of emulating several analog units and delivering vintage and modern synthesized sounds.
If you’re a sound designer or film scorer, you need to know about Zebra. This easy-to-use modular synthesizer lets you combine several types of synthesis with an intuitive interface. As a result, Zebra offers outstanding sound quality and delivers incredible results, no matter how complex or straightforward.
Another tremendous-sounding modular synthesizer, Bazille, was inspired by Heckmann’s first mod synth, the Rolland System-100M. Bazille is perfect for sound design because it lets you combine inputs and outputs without restricting what directions you want to route things.
- Learning curve
Although u-he’s plugins are relatively simple to use, their design can be intimidating at first, and you might need to check with the manual or play with them a couple of times to understand where they can take you fully.
U-he makes excellent synthesizers with many features, outstanding capabilities, presets, and so much more to help you reach new types of sounds at a more than reasonable price. Their products provide tons of value in presentation, delivery, performance, and even their manuals, including a “tips and tricks” section for some of their software. This brand is a great one to get started with synthesis.
11. Brainworx Audio
Brainworks Audio is a high-end software developer for the music and broadcast industry. They design and build software for music composition, audio production, broadcast, and live sound to provide their customers with the best possible audio experience.
Dirk Ulrich started Brainworx Audio in 2006 when he was looking to develop tools that could simultaneously solve problems and improve workflow for his projects. As a result, it became a brand with a reputation for creating low-impact advanced tools with multi-platform support created by professionals for professionals.
The best of Brainworx Audio
- Simple and effective
Brainworx Audio plugins are highly efficient. They don’t have a bunch of crazy knobs, features, and functions but instead focus on solving a particular problem or serving a particular purpose giving you a lot of precision in the process.
They won’t break your computer. In addition, these plugins are super light for your CPU to achieve professional results on the fly without interruptions.
- Efficient workflow
These plugins are optimized to solve problems faster and most efficiently. Their GUIs are made with this in mind, and therefore they’ve distributed system so that it’s even easier to use them properly.
- UAD compatible
Another great trait of getting Brainworx plugins is using them in Luna and UAD’s console software as native UAD plugins. This is a significant advantage if you already own any of UAD stuff.
Prices can be a little too high for some plugins, primarily because they sound great. However, these plugins are very purpose-focused and usually not very flexible, making them feel overpriced.
Although their plugins are a bit too expensive compared to others from different brands, Brainworx Audio offers consistent outstanding sound quality, excellent performance, and for the most part, low CPU usage. It’s worth mentioning that if you use any of UAD stuff, the fact that you can use Brainworx’s plugins too it’s a huge plus. Their analog models are also delicious sounding, and overall, as an everyday user of their products, I can say that these are worth it if you get them on sale.
Kilohearts is a plugin developer from Sweden. The company has a wide range of plugins that cater to different needs. Kilohearts plugins are used by professional audio engineers, musicians, and hobbyists worldwide.
In addition to their plugins, they also offer a suite of plugins called Snapin, designed to work with any DAW (digital audio workstation). Kilohearts has also been known to make some of the most innovative and user-friendly plugins available on the market.
The best of Kilohearts
- Customer experience
The installer assistant is one of the best ones out there. It takes less than five minutes to install, update, and license your software, not to mention that it’s effortless to use, as you only need to follow the steps as it guides you through the installation process.
- 30 free effect plugins
Kilohearts gives 30 of their plugins for you to download and use on your DAW, including their Snap Heap, a plugin host that lets you build several parallel effect chains.
- Snap Heap
This host is a fantastic sound design tool that will let you achieve fascinating new textures for your sound. What’s best is that you can use it for free. Additionally, it’s super light on your CPU and extraordinarily intuitive and comfortable to use.
- Low CPU usage
Another fantastic quality of Kilohearts’ stuff is that their products are well optimized to deliver outstanding quality and performance with uncomplicated controls and low CPU usage, ideal if you have a low-spec computer.
You can’t go wrong with Kilohearts. They make fantastic plugins that not only sound great but perform great. Their Snap Heap is one of my go-to’s to create sound effects because it gives you a lot of flexibility with different mixes of similar effects. The consumer experience is outstanding. Their installation software is self-sufficient and straightforward. Overall, Kilohearts offers great plugins, service, value, and customer experience.
Eventide Audio is a company that specializes in audio processing products. The company was founded in 1971 by the inventor Richard Factor, the recording engineer Steven Katz, and the patent attorney Orville Greene in New York City as a symbiote of the Sound Exchange, a recording studio owned by Greene.
Eventide’s first success was the H910 Harmonizer, the first digital audio effects device available to consumers. This device revolutionized the audio industry and changed the way people create and enjoy music.
The best of Eventide
- Very automatable
All plugins have a bunch of automatable parameters for you to tweak and nail the sound you’re aiming for. These also allow MIDI automation, in case you have a controller.
- Professional feel
Eventide has the technology and experience due to their background with hardware during the Analog Era, so their plugins have that same professional studio feel that instantly improves whatever you run on them.
- Versatile tools
Both their software and hardware allow a lot of tweaking and can achieve very unnatural and crazy effects on your tracks, which make them very flexible in their use.
- Sweeping through the company’s own history
Eventide has digital models of all of their classic hardware gear at a way more accessible price, making it easier for home studio engineers and producers to use these legendary pieces of equipment.
- Unique sound
Eventide has always been characterized by its innovative products and unique sound pallets and capabilities. In addition, their tools have advanced settings that are unique to each unit.
- UAD Compatible
Eventide products are compatible with UAD’s Luna and Console interfaces, which means that you can use their products with zero latency and just like any other UAD product.
- Higher price tag
As you’d expect, these are not cheap products. Although they’re outstandingly good and sound great, the reality is that you can find similar plugins made by other manufacturers that sound just as good for a smaller price.
- Non-scalable GUIs
Some of their plugins have tiny labels and are very hard to navigate, making it even worse for the interface’s inability to scale. This issue seems harmless, but it can get highly annoying and exhausting if you’re like me and don’t have a great vision.
Eventide is a company that’s been around since the old analog days. They’ve created some of the most revolutionary hardware from that time and now develop digital tools that sound unique and stay easy to use, making this company stand out from the rest, even with their high prices. Eventide plugins offer you a unique and noticeably professional sound quality with great character and straightforward GUIs.
Soundtoys create authentic audio effects and processors. In addition, they’re obsessed with developing plugins that bring color, character, and creativity to your projects. Their tools are worldwide known because of their fantastic sound quality, accurate analog models, and user-friendly software.
This company has been praised by engineers of all experience levels, especially for their Decapitator plugin, an analog saturator that works miracles on nearly anything you run through it. Moreover, Soundtoys has several plugins that you can bring into your mix and instantly make it sound professional.
The best of Soundtoys
- In-depth controls
With Soundtoys’ plugins, you get parameters that let you tailor your effects with a lot more precision, so you can get very specific and find a quicker path to how you want your effect to sound in a way that works perfectly with the context.
- Rich analog sound
Their plugins are very hi-fi analog emulations, which is one of the best qualities of their catalog. As a result, analog recreations are very well achieved, and you can hear the instant improvement in your track due to the analog warmth as soon as you load it.
- Comprehensive features
Soundtoys like to make their plugins very simple for their users, so despite allowing intricate advanced settings, they label them with names that are easy to understand and reference the sound to come out of any given parameter.
Many professional engineers constantly use Soundtoys because they provide very flexible effects and processors capable of delivering results that can be incredibly subtle or as experimental and crazy as you want them to be.
- Bang for buck
Yes, these plugins are great, but they’re also pretty pricey unless you catch them in a sale, and you can find other brands that make the same models just as good as Soundtoys and get the same tool at a much lower price.
- Nothing new
Although they sound amazing, their entire catalog is made of analog emulations that are reasonably common and already made by other manufacturers. This only piles up with the previous point because they don’t have anything that you couldn’t get from Waves, UAD, or any other brand that makes analog models.
Engineers use Soundtoys’ plugins all across the industry. They have been praised for years because of their great-sounding analog models and effects. If it’s relatively accurate that they don’t offer you anything innovative but a bunch of models that have been made by other companies already, it’s worth mentioning that you only need to hear how these plugins sound to know they’re worth it. I recommend you wait for a sale and at least give Decapitator and Radiator a try. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
15. Pulsar Audio
Pulsar Audio is a French company that specializes in audio processors combined with their in-depth knowledge of analog sounds and digital signal processing. This company was born in 2017 and co-founded by three DSP engineers from French and Italy with the goal in mind of creating game-changing audio plugins.
The best of Pulsar Audio
- Outstanding sound quality
Pulsar Audio has some incredible-sounding models of their own. Although their catalog is quite limited, and most of these plugins are famous analog models, they managed to develop particularly close emulations that sound nothing like the rest of their competitors.
- Low CPU usage
Their plugins sound good, and they don’t burden your CPU with a ridiculous amount of processing. Instead, they’re particularly light-weighted and let you work without the struggle.
- Rare analog models
They have some exciting units, like 1178, their enhanced version of the classic FET compressor UA 1176, or the MU, which is a variable-bias tube compressor, that you don’t see very often and are unique to this brand.
Pulsar audio is a very young brand, but that doesn’t deprive them of the massive success of their plugins. With a catalog as short as only five products, Pulsar Audio has proven to be death-serious about accurate analog modeling and efficient-working plugins that come to solve the typical problems of audio engineers.
16. PSP Audioware
PSP Audioware was the first professional audio software company in the post-communist Polland, created by Antoni Ozynski and Mateusz Wozniak after finishing college in 2000, becoming one of the first plugin manufacturers for digital audio workstations (DAWs).
They became an early success with the release of their Vintage Warmer plugin, a unique vintage compressor/limiter that received Computer Music’s “Ultimate Buy” award in 2002. From there, it’s fair to say they’ve been developing great audio processing tools suitable for recording, mixing, mastering, post-production, and broadcast.
The best of PSP Audioware
- Great sound
This company makes some of the best-sounding plugins out there. These plugins are characterized by their transparency and flexibility, which gives a lot of room for creativity to kick in without messing up your mix.
- Approachable GUIs
Their plugins look good, too, making them very easy to look at and navigate to get the settings you need. In addition, their graphic interfaces make it so much simpler for you to quickly understand what the plugin does and quickly get you to the results.
- Scalable interfaces
While we’re talking about the GUIs, it’s also worth mentioning that they’re scalable, making it even easier to work with and have a clear picture of what you’re doing to the signal.
- Reasonably priced
You won’t see crazy high prices anywhere around their catalog. Instead, all products are very reasonably priced and are accessible to just about anyone, which is a great plus for this brand.
- Great deals
You can find crazy sales now and then and great deals like their “20 plugins for 20 dollars” promos. This makes it even easier for you to get their products without breaking the bank.
- Requires iLok
It might throw you off that you need an iLok account to license these plugins, which we all know why is not usually a good thing. Regardless, these plugins are fantastic, so it’s worth trying if you’re willing to give iLok a chance.
- Buggy website
Although their website is straightforward to navigate, you need to be aware that it has several bugs that could interfere with your purchase or overall interaction with their store.
PSP Audioware is a brand that offers you superb quality with its plugins and comfortable GUIs at a fair price. Although they mainly focus on making analog models that we all know and use, they always add something unique that makes each plugin stand out on its own. So if you’re looking for great quality hardware emulations, make sure to try out this brand.
17. Universal Audio
Universal Audio is a plugin brand that has been around since the late 1950s. The company started by manufacturing tube compressors for recording studios. After a few years, they began to develop digital plugins, which became very popular in the music industry.
Universal Audio is known for making high-quality plugins. Their plugins are used by many famous musicians and producers and have been featured on numerous hit records.
The best of Universal Audio
- Their audio interfaces
Universal Audio has some of the best constructed audio interfaces out there. However, the best thing about their interfaces is not their construction but also the virtual console that comes with the unit, which unlocks this brand’s unique real-time processing capabilities.
- Zero-latency processing
Speaking of which, you can not only route your processing to your DAW but also process it during recording without any latency. So you get the benefits of recording in a million-dollar studio inside your computer at home for a lower price.
It’s impossible not to bring up the significant workflow advantages of this particular UAD feature because it’s not only the routing capabilities and versatility, but also you can set up your i/o however it suits you better.
- Low CPU usage
Yet another great trait of this brand. You can have as much processing as you might need without overloading your CPU, as everything is processed by your audio interface instead, which makes your work and life a lot easier.
- Stable software
The most relevant aspect of UAD’s unique virtual mixing console is its stability. Your plugins don’t crash, and neither does the host. So both software and hardware are steady as a rock.
- It gets messy when working outside the console
Suppose your workflow already includes onboard processing with third-party plugins. In that case, things can get annoying because you’ll need to do more complicated routing to get things to work and waste a lot of time, especially if you want to work from the DAW instead of the console.
The big idea behind the whole console and Luna software is pretty much for you to get UAD compatible plugins exclusively. This is why it causes some issues whenever you want to work with tools from other manufacturers, like crashes on your DAW or CPU overloads.
The problem with UAD is that their plugins and gear are pretty expensive, so it’s a big hit to your pockets if you don’t have a bunch of money to expend on UAD stuff.
Universal Audio is one of the most famous brands among audio engineers worldwide, with plugins that deliver nothing but superb quality with no latency and an optimized workflow. However, some people might understandably have a problem with the exclusiveness of their software, which can be a pain if you work with third-party plugs and find it difficult to adapt it to your workflow due to the monitoring. Nevertheless, if you have the money and are thinking about giving these a try, go for it. It’s totally worth it and will deliver excellent results each time.
Best Plugin Brand Focused on Free Audio Plugins
1. Analog Obsession
Analog Obsession is a plugin brand focused on developing free analog plugins with incredible quality and versatility. This brand was founded by Rıdvan Küçü, a musician, hardware designer, and plugin developer, and you can find all of his plugins for free on his Patreon.
You might’ve probably heard of Analog Obsession’s plugins or seen them on our site on other plugin lists. Still, if you’re clueless about it, there’s an entire catalog of free analog emulations of preamps, EQs, compressors, and much more waiting for you to download and use on your projects.
The best of Analog Obsession
- Comparable to paid plugins
The thing that makes Analog Obsession so remarkable is that their plugins’ quality is comparable and competitive with paid software. This opens up a window for producers and engineers on a budget looking for professional sounding tools.
- Low CPU usage
These plugins are feather-weights to your CPU processing, which is another superb quality of all products by this brand. The low CPU consumption and flexible tools are a superb combination to make your mixes sound better.
- Accurate models
Some analog models developed by Analog Obsession sound even closer than paid and expensive models, such as their Pultec emulation, which captures the natural color of the legendary passive EQ in a way that’s capable of standing right next to UAD’s or Waves, if not above.
- Intuitive GUIs
There’s no waste of time with Analog Obsession’s graphic interfaces. They’re straightforward, intuitive, and easy to follow without exception.
- No bugs
Despite being all freeware, there have been no bugs detected so far in any plugin from the catalog. If you ever encounter one, you only need to leave a comment with the issue, and he’ll most likely solve it in a timely fashion.
If there’s something that Analog Obsession does, it is offering great value with each download. His products are nothing but quality, and he offers you outstanding service and keeps growing his catalog as time goes by with much more fantastic sounding freeware. Making such good plugins results from a lot of hard work and dedication, so when you go there to download his tools, we encourage you to support his work with as little as five dollars.
2. K Brown Synth Plugins
K Brown Synth offers you a variety of synthesizers created with Synthmaker and FlowStone with custom-coded low-CPU oscillators. These synthesizers are inspired by actual analog gear, although they’re not meant to sound alike. Instead, the creator intends to create a free way to experience the signal and control structure these synths have to offer.
The instruments’ presets vary from one another, but typically, they don’t have many. Something cool about this brand is that they include the FlowStone or Synthmaker schematic files so that you can customize them to taste if you have any of this software.
The best of K Brown Synth
These synths are not faithful recreations of any analog gear, but they offer the same amount of control and flexibility as the classic synthesizers that inspired them, which can lead to exciting sound pallets from different times.
- Great sound
They might not sound like the originals, but it doesn’t mean they don’t sound great. All synths from the catalog have a unique sound character, and overall audio quality is pretty good for freeware.
- Creative controls
These synthesizers were developed by their creator for his amusement. They included a considerable amount of control knobs and parameters for you to have fun tweaking them to create new sounds and textures.
- Beautiful GUI design
It’s worth mentioning that these are very good-looking synthesizers. Their design is on point and allusive to the gear that inspired them. Parameters are nicely laid out to stay visible without cluttering the view.
If you’re looking for new synths to get your hands on, these will be a great discovery if you didn’t know about them. These instruments are reasonably good. You can customize them if you have the FlowStone software. Overall, they have a decent sound and flexible, intuitive controls that can unlock your creativity.
3. MeldaProduction (Offers Free FX Bundle)
Melda Production is a plugin manufacturer with the ambition of creating the most versatile and best-sounding plugins in the industry. They develop incredibly easy-to-use software with lots of features and possibilities only limited by how far your creativity can go.
This company is not focused on free plugins, but they offer a fantastic free bundle that includes everything you need to make your mixes sound superior, from meters to effects or your typical processors. In addition, they’ve included more than twenty plugins for you to download and knock yourself out.
The best of MeldaProduction
- User-friendly interfaces
The GUIs are as simple and intuitive as they can get. It only takes you to load any plugin, move things around to get a feel of what it does and get the job done.
- Settings randomizer
Sometimes you get stuck because you don’t understand the parameters or just looking for inspiration. If it happens, you only need to click on the tiny dice and randomize the settings until you hit something similar to what’s on your mind to take it from there.
You get a bunch of plugins in this bundle, from the essential processors to the craziest effects and meters. Everything you need, you get with fantastic quality and for free.
- Versatile tools
These tools know no limitations. Most of them can be used for various purposes, like the effect plugins ideal for sound design and music production.
- Low impact on CPU
Of course, one of the most concerning things is how this plugin affects our CPU, and that’s also taken care of in this free bundle. Almost any plugin from the bundle has any noticeable effect on CPU usage, and those few are pretty soft anyway.
- Hands-off installation
You simply need to download MeldaProduciton’s installation manager and run it. Then, you just select the plugins and formats you wish to install on your computer and let them be. It’s that easy.
MeldaProduction’s free bundle is mind-blowing. You get for free stuff you’d need to pay good money for otherwise. On top of that, they give you some wonderful effect plugins, like a convolution reverb, several crazy modulation effects, and auto panning effects. This is a very well-achieved bundle that you need to try out. It’s free, doesn’t require further activation, and is yours for life.
Baby Audio is a pretty new plugin brand formed in 2019 with the vision of creating tools that make it easy to do hard things. They want to make audio plugins that facilitate music production for anyone with a laptop and the ambition to make new music.
The best of Baby Audio
- Intuitive controls
These plugins don’t let you wander about features and any of that stuff. Instead, they give you a few knobs and make your audio sound better. They’re simple to use and get great results that perfectly suit any workflow.
- Extremely simple GUIs
You only need a couple of seconds to get things going the way you want them. The interfaces are so well distributed that everything stays in sight and lets you tailor your effects to your taste.
- Creative effects
Baby Audio offers you pretty unique audio effects to implement in your mixes and sound designs. Although they don’t have a lot to tweak, their effects have the necessary parameters for you to get as creative as you want with them.
This company makes exciting effect plugins with beautiful graphic interfaces and great sound. Generally, they’re pretty simple to use, and offer you a couple of delay plugins and a retro-coloring effect for free that you can try out just by giving them your email address.
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I have a B.Sc. Degree in Audio Engineering and +5 years of work experience. I specialize in Audio Post-Producing and Sound Design to help brands and online businesses stick out delivering top-notch audio quality for advertisement, podcast, films, and music.