This post will be about great plugins that don’t eat your CPU much and don’t steal your RAM usage as well. Most of these plugins are simple to use, yet they are effective.
Before that, check out our free Delay plugin, which is very light on CPU –
1. Newfangled Audio Generate
Newfangled Audio’s Generate builds upon a chaotic generator to create complex and unpredictable sounds.
This plugin uses the concept of additive synthesis to expand a basic waveform and shape it into whatever you need it to be. The signal starts with the Chaotic Generator, rolls into the Wavefolder and the Low Pass Gate. Like a regular synth, you can also add effects and modulate any parameter you see fit with Envelopes, LFOs, and more.
- Chaotic Generator
With all parameters at zero, the plugin simply offers a sinewave sound. The Chaotic Generator transforms that sinewave into a mind-bending, intricate sound. Simply select one of the eight oscillator types, the chaos amount, shape, and animation. Additionally, you can mix in two sub oscillators, sync it to tempo, and define the key you want to work within.
Here, you can start warping the chaotic waveform by adding drive, folds, and shape and symmetry changes. The result is a harmonically rich sound that you can take even further, thanks to the three Wavefolder types.
- Low pass Gate
Overall, this filter creates a smooth and pleasing sound contributing to Generate’s natural-sounding patches. An ADSR drives the LPG, and you can track the filter’s cutoff frequency to the notes you’re playing.
- Seven Modulation Pages
Generate gives you five kinds of modulations spread across seven selectable and tweakable pages. You get global settings, two envelopes, two LFOs, a Sample & Hold unit, and a Step Sequencer. You can use the circles above each section’s name to use that parameter as a modulator for anything in the patch.
Sound & Usability:
Creating your chaotic waveform is the most straightforward task possible since you don’t need to understand anything about synthesizers to get started. Simply press a note and watch the yellow lines behind the parameters. Then, as you tweak them, a visual representation of what you’re doing comes alive on the screen.
This innovative concept makes it easy for beginners and fun for the experienced. Different shapes, parameters, and chaotic mode combinations create absurdly interesting sounds, becoming even more enjoyable with modulation.
This plugin is available for Windows 8.1 and higher and macOS 10.9 and newer in AAX, VST, and AU formats.
Generate, by Newfangled Audio, is an impressive tool that you should not take lightly. It might not be as versatile as others on this list in the long run, but it’s the plugin with a very unique sound. In short, Generate deserves a place in your collection, primarily if you work with sound design.
2. Excite Audio VISION 4X By Noisia
VISION4X is a spectral analysis plugin by Excite Audio and Noisia.
It is a spectral analysis tool that allows you to visualize the frequency content of audio signals in real-time. The plugin can be used in various ways, such as analyzing a mix to identify and address issues with frequency balance or as a creative tool for sound design.
The plugin features a real-time frequency analyzer with a resolution of up to 1/24th of an octave and includes a stereo correlation meter, loudness meter, and peak meter.
- Configurable FFT size
The plugin allows you to adjust the FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) size, affecting the balance between frequency and time resolution. Larger FFT sizes provide higher frequency resolution but lower time resolution, while smaller FFT sizes provide lower frequency resolution but higher time resolution.
The plugin’s spectrogram is designed to be easy to read and interpret, with a range of color schemes to choose from. In a spectrogram, the horizontal axis represents time, the vertical axis represents frequency, and the color represents the amplitude of the frequency at a given point in time. The brighter the color, the higher the amplitude of the frequency.
The spectrogram in the plugin allows you to see the distribution of frequencies across the entire audio spectrum in real-time; this way, you can easily identify problems such as frequency masking, phase cancellation, and other issues that may affect audio quality.
It also allows you to adjust the frequency range, time resolution, and color scheme to analyze the audio better, making it easy to fine-tune the audio signal to achieve a balanced and polished final product.
- Bar Graph
The bar graph is divided into several vertical bars, each representing a specific harmonic frequency, such that the height of each bar corresponds to the amplitude of that harmonic frequency in the sound. This allows you to quickly identify which harmonic frequencies are present in a sound and to make adjustments to those frequencies.
- Phase Correlation Meter
The plugin includes a phase correlation meter that allows you to visualize the phase relationship between the different oscillators in the synthesizer. The phase correlation meter displays the phase relationship between the oscillators on a scale from -1 to 1. A value of -1 indicates that the oscillators are completely out of phase with each other, while a value of 1 indicates that they are perfectly in phase.
Noisia’s VISION4X plugin is compatible with digital audio workstations (DAWs) that support VST, AU, and AAX formats. This includes popular DAWs such as Ableton Live, Logic Pro, FL Studio, Pro Tools, and many others.
Overall, the plugin proves to be one of the most advanced and versatile spectrum analysis tools and is helpful in mixing and mastering. It’s a one-stop shop for your virtual setup’s visual and graphical monitoring needs.
3. FabFilter Pro-Q 3
FabFilter’s Pro Q3 is the most recent revision of FabFilter’s industry-standard plugin.
With up to twenty-one bands of equalization, each providing its own set of controls, the Pro Q3 is a versatile plugin meant for mastering and mixing.
With loads of hidden features, including surround support and a Piano Display to help you find specific notes, this plugin goes the extra mile when it comes to offering options. All this makes for an exact tool that will help you shape your sound the way you want.
- Dynamic EQ
Working almost like a hidden feature, the Dynamic EQ controls only show up when you want them. Furthermore, you can choose how many bands become dynamic processors. You can turn the plugin into a smooth multi-band compressor with just a few clicks or control only a small area of the spectrum while the rest performs as a regular EQ. When you choose to create a dynamic band, the Gain knob in the floating menu displays a dynamic range ring. Positive values represent expansion, while negative values are compression. You also get a threshold slider if you choose to disengage the auto threshold mode. Similarly, all other dynamic parameters, such as attack and release, are automatic, although you can’t control these.
- Brickwall Slope
Sometimes, you need a hard slope to really isolate frequency regions. This feature will give you the option of creating a straight, brick-wall-like cut at any frequency at the top or bottom of the spectrum. Select the frequency and select Low or High Cut from the floating Band Controls. Underneath it, you’ll find the slope button, which gives you options from 6dB/octave to 96dB/octave and Brickwall.
- EQ Match
This feature lets you copy the EQ curve of a reference source. You can use this to get your master sounding similar to any other you like. You can also use it to copy the EQ curve from a particular plugin. Just click the Analyzer button, choose EQ Match and click the Reference button. There you’ll find three options: “Select a Previously Stored Reference Spectrum,” “Record a Reference Spectrum Via the Main Plugin Input,” and “Use the External Spectrum as a Reference.” If you choose to analyze input or reference audio, the plugin will take about thirty seconds to give you a clear definition of the reference’s EQ curve. You can then click Match and use the copied curve in your mix.
Character & Sound:
Like most FabFilter applications, the Pro Q3 is an extremely transparent digital equalizer with supreme sound quality. This is partly due to the three available processing modes: Zero Latency, Natural Phase, and Linear Phase.
The most efficient mode, applicable for all situations, is Zero Latency. It matches the analog EQ’ing magnitude response very closely, resulting in an organic sound. Natural Phase is the best-sounding mode in the plugin, but it adds a bit of latency.
Beyond perfectly matching the analog EQ’ing magnitude response, it also creates an ideal phase response, in which no deviations occur, and no frequencies are canceled.
There is also the Linear Phase mode for a different approach, which introduces a lot of latency and can result in pre-echo effects. Even so, it is a great choice for mastering, especially when trying to make different parts with different EQs crossfade seamlessly without phase problems.
The Pro Q3 is a VST, AAX, and AU application that runs on 32- and 64-bit PCs running Windows XP and up and on 64-bit Macs running macOS 10.10 or higher.
FabFilter’s Pro Q3 is a unanimous choice among engineers for a reason. The plugin’s versatility and ease of use are out of this world. If you could choose only one equalizer to solve all your problems, this would be the one. A masterpiece that belongs in every producer’s toolbox.
4. United Plugins Expanse 3D
Expanse 3D by United Plugins is a reliable stereo width plugin that expands your tracks into three dimensions with exciting psychoacoustic effects.
Spectral Phase ProcesserWidening tracks is an easy task for Expanse 3D. The plugin features a Spectral Phase Processer that delivers an organic and authentic widening effect without compromising any original texture from the mix. The bass becomes sharp and precise, while the sub frequencies narrow, leaving only the top-end wide.
Powerful PunchesExpanse 3D adds punch and delineates individual instruments. The plugin’s algorithms work by making phase processes and channeling the sounds along with a web of delays. It results in a mix with an enormous sense of space.
Extra HarmonicsExpanse 3D differentiates itself by providing extra harmonics in the high and low end. Higher frequencies become brighter and lower frequencies deeper. It enriches the frequency field with an additional musical performance as no other Stereo Width plugin can.
MasteringThe plugin features up to eight times oversampling to achieve high-quality distortion and harmonic clarity. The plugin also glues the mix with its modern depth processor. Similarly, it makes every instrument comprehensive with the auto gain function, which fixates the loudness.
This plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.10 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
5. Xfer LFO Tool
The Xfer LFO device is a comprehensive tool that gives you a vast selection of signal shaping options.
This plugin is very well suited to low-frequency instruments such as synth bass. The user interface is quite intricate and might be intimidating for those without basic knowledge of LFO’s function.
- Customizable LFO Editor
The LFO editor lets you draw in your volume automation onto an x-y grid mapping, which you then apply to your signal. The editor allows you to link their programmed automation to affect things like the volume level, stereo panning, or filter parameters.
- Modulation Layering
The interface allows you to control up to 4 graphs at the same time. This is handy when your want to create different modulation patterns for the same signal. For example, you might want the volume to open up while the filter’s cutoff is being brought down.
- Smooth Setting
You can use the Smooth parameter to soften the punchiness of any peaks in the volume automation. Volume ducking can either be enhanced or dulled with this setting, giving you better control of signal dynamics while processing.
- MIDI-CC output routing
The LFO Tool comes with a midi out option. This feature converts any modulations that you have programmed and converts them into CC information. You can then route this information to an external digital or analog device like a synthesizer or sampler and affect its output accordingly.
This plugin is available in VST or AU formats for Windows7 and above users and Mac OS 10.12 or later.
The Xfer LFO Tool is an incredibly diverse tool to have on hand when creating meticulous signal modulations. One of its significant advantages is the fact that its modulation controls reach further than just volume automation. You can also choose to have your modulations quantized to a grid, or you can manually set the rate.
Over 100 LFO presets are available, giving you a dizzying amount of starting points to select from when shaping their sounds. The sidechaining presets allow you to create a volume ducking effect without routing anything in as an auxiliary signal.
6. BPB Dirty LA (FREE)
The BPB Dirty LA compression effect plugin is now available on the Bedroom Producers Blog as a free download for Windows and macOS DAWs.
For those who appreciate the sound of classic limiting amplifiers, we present BPB Dirty LA, a free compressor effect. This plugin is aimed to achieve the same musical-sounding compression with a more streamlined process. If you ever need to saturate the signal completely, we’ve included one of their Dirt algorithms to assist you in doing it.
This compressor is not a direct software replica of any existing hardware model, but rather it draws upon the best features of numerous established hardware designs. They optimized internal algorithms and the control method to get as close as feasible.
- Peak Reduction Knob
With the Peak Reduction dial, you can adjust the threshold value and hence the degree of signal compression. Once satisfied with the compression, you can easily compare it to the dry signal by setting the Output knob to the same level.
They optimized their Dirt method to provide transparent saturation, which enhances and warms up the signal while somewhat taming the transients. It pairs nicely with the compressor and is especially useful for making the bass and drums in a track stand out.
Activating the plugin’s Dirt setting causes it to oversample internally by a factor of 4. Turning off Dirt prevents oversampling, which in turn reduces CPU use. In addition, they’ve ensured the plugin uses as little processing power as possible, so you may run numerous instances simultaneously without slowing down your projects.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.10 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 8 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST/RTAS/AU/AAX formats and supports 32 and 64 bit systems.
It’s a flexible plugin that you may use in various ways to suit your requirements, including as a parallel compressor and mix glue on the master bus. With Dirty LA’s default settings, you receive a fast attack time and a moderate compression ratio; however, switching to limiting mode will increase both of these values. It’s free, which is always nice, and it uses very little CPU, even when oversampled four times.
7. Audified Peridot Pro
Peridot Pro is a bass amplifier and tone-shaping plugin.
It aims to provide a realistic emulation of classic bass guitar amplifiers and effects, allowing you to create various tonal options and add warmth and character to your bass tracks. The plugin features a variety of controls and parameters, including gain, tone, and EQ, as well as effects such as overdrive and distortion.
- Tonespot knob
Tonespot is a unique control that allows you to adjust the harmonic content of your bass tone and add warmth, definition, and character to the sound. You can adjust it to create a wide range of sounds, from smooth and round to sharp and aggressive.
- Five Amp Models
The Peridot Pro bass amplifier plugin includes five different amp models, each designed to emulate the sound of a classic bass guitar amplifier. These include Classic, Modern, Vintage, Drive, Aggressive, and Studio. Each model has its characteristics, which can be adjusted using the other knobs and parameters of the plugin to fine-tune the tone.
- Five CAB impulses
The plugin includes five cabinet impulse models, which emulate the sound of different bass guitar speaker cabinets. Cabinet impulses are essentially digital recordings of the sound of a speaker cabinet, and they can be used to add a sense of realism and warmth to the amp model’s sound.
- Gain, Tone, and EQ
The plugin includes a gain control, which allows you to adjust the overall level of the bass sound, a tone control that can be used to adjust the balance between the high and low frequencies of the sound, and an EQ section that allows you to adjust the balance of the bass sound across the frequency spectrum.
The plugin includes a variety of effects, such as overdrive, distortion, and compression, that can enhance the sound of the bass and add warmth and character to the sound.
The plugin is compatible with Windows and Mac operating systems and requires a host application that supports VST, AU, or AAX format.
The plugin allows you to adjust the microphone position and type, giving you a more customized sound. With a wide range of amp models, cabinet impulses, and unique tone-shaping controls, you can create tonal options and add a unique character to your bass tracks. However, while it is a powerful plugin, it may require some experimentation and adjustments to find the right settings.
8. Waves RVox
RVox is a vocal leveler plugin developed by Waves.
It is designed to automatically adjust the level of vocals in a mix, allowing them to sit consistently in the mix without the need for manual adjustments. RVox also includes a de-esser to reduce sibilance. Lastly, its presets are designed to provide a starting point for your vocal processing and can be used as-is or modified to suit your specific needs.
- Automatic Leveling
RVox automatically adjusts the level of vocals in a mix, allowing them to sit consistently without needing manual adjustments. It uses a combination of compression and limiting to adjust the level of the vocals, providing a smooth and natural sound.
- Multi-channel support
It also supports multi-channel audio, which means you can process multiple vocal tracks in a stereo or surround audio setup. It can also be used as a component in a larger mixing or mastering chain, making it a versatile plugin for both mix and mastering engineers.
- Noise Control
The gate slider controls the level of the background noise and silence; when the gate is closed, the background noise and silence are reduced, and when it is opened, the background noise and silence are increased. This feature is useful to eliminate unwanted noise or silence in the recording.
- Easy control of the dynamic range
The compressor slider controls the dynamic range of the vocals; when the compressor is turned up, the dynamic range is reduced, and the dynamic range is increased when turned down. Compression helps control the vocals’ level, making them sound more consistent throughout the mix.
It is available in multiple formats, including VST, VST3, AU, and AAX, which means it can be used on both Windows and Mac operating systems.
The plugin is easy to use, with a simple interface that makes it accessible to professionals and beginners alike. Secondly, it comes with various presets that can help you quickly and easily achieve a desired sound. There are preset categories for vocals, de-essing, and multi-track.
Lastly, it’s important to note that while the gate and compressor sliders can help control the level and dynamic range of vocals, it’s important to use them judiciously and with caution, as overuse can lead to a compressed and unnatural-sounding mix.
9. FabFilter Pro G
FabFilters Pro-G comes packed with features such as six different algorithms, mono, stereo, or mid/side processing, adjustable parameters, low CPU usage, and many more we will take a look at.
Pro-G has a beautiful GUI that keeps things simple but is also extremely effective in practice. Combining this with the visual window of your signal process and the noise gates effect to that signal, you can confidently pinpoint your gate’s settings.
Another great feature of this gate/expander is that you can get very quick results. For example, you may be working on a channel that needs a noise gate or an expander, but you are unsure which one will work best?
With the many presets within Pro-G, you can quickly find a preset that fits your sound best and then tweak it to your liking.
- Fabfilter Pro G has 5 styles that you can choose from; Classic, which has a fast and harsh response and functions as a traditional universal gate; Clean opens the gate earlier and has a slower release time which makes the sounds less punchy; vocal mode which is used to preserve the breath and the presence of the vocals, Guitar mode does not remove natural decay and finger strumming noises from guitar audio. Upward mode is responsible for expanding the dynamics over the threshold limit.
- Mid/side mode allows you to control the transients. For example, users can make the transients wider by expanding the sides.
- Look ahead feature to predict the transients and close the gate on time.
- You can scroll through the graph to adjust the meter reading based on the incoming signal level.
- The graph itself is comprehensive and interactive. It turns light blue when the gate is open and dark blue when it’s closed.
Fabfilter Pro-G works well with both Windows and Mac devices. It supports both 32 and 64 bits for Windows but only 64 bits for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AAX/AU formats.
10. Newfangled Audio Saturate
With merely two significant sliders to tweak, Newfangled’s contender is probably the easiest yet very musical-sounding clipper to master.
Saturate was first integrated into Newfangled’s limiter called Elevate. However, the clipper is now available discretely to use as a mixing effect or for mastering.
According to Newfangled Audio, the clipper utilizes a complex signal processing chain under its hood to deliver transparent and clear sound no matter how hard you drive it. At the far left and right of the interface, you will find meters and numeric labels displaying both the peak and the RMS levels.
The center part of the interface shows the main clipper’s shape. Unfortunately, the default symmetrical clip shape is the only one available in this plugin.
- Easy to Use
Many people want a ton of features in their plugins, but an equal number want a simplistic tool that just gets the job done. If you are one of the latter folks, the lack of an interface that looks like a cockpit will be a welcome change from most of the entries on our list. Saturate claims to give you anything from a hard clip to the smoothest curve feasible with a single slider called Clipper Shape, and its excellent sound confirms it.
- Plenty of Drive
The plugin features a whooping drive gain of 24 dB. You’ll likely be using far less for purposes like mastering, but if you are someone who enjoys super distorted bass or guitars, Saturate has you covered and then some. Furthermore, since this plugin is a spectral clipper, it makes sure that any amount of drive will keep the sound tonally the same.
- Automatic Gain Adjustment
Above the output peak meters, you can set the output gain to Auto. It will adjust the output gain automatically and make sure it doesn’t overshoot over 0 dB. Unless you are okay with manually checking the levels to confirm, having this feature turned on makes mastering much easier and alias-free.
This plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
While the default sound of Saturate is musical and smooth, if you ever wish to get creative with asymmetric distortion or even a different symmetrical shape, you won’t have any choice. So, in a way, a similar price gets you much deeper features. However, we suggest downloading a trial, listen to how it sounds, and if you love it, it’s worth it.
11. Audiority Tube Modulator (Vibrato, Tremolo, Chorus)
Audiority’s Tube Modulator features a wide range of spatial and dynamic effects, including vibrato.
The plugin hosts a healthy handful of emulations of classic analog effects units from the late 1950s and early 1960’s psychedelia eras. The user interface is straightforward to understand and centers around an attractive X-Y scope that gives you real-time feedback on your signal modulations.
- 7 Modulation Modes
The Tube Modulator features vibrato and options for tremolo, chorus, and uni-vibe modulations. There are also combinations such as chorus-vibe and trem-vibe that modulate more than one parameter of your signal at equal rates.
- 11 Waveshape options
Tube Modulator features 11 LFO wave shapes that you can apply to your vibrato. Shapes range from traditional forms like sine and triangle waves to more experimental shapes for more avant-garde sounds. You can also adjust the modulations’ rate and depth with quick access dials underneath this control knob.
- Spatial Effects
Included with this plugin’s features are three classic spatial effects that you can use to add some stereo dynamic to your modulations. There is a panner, wow & flutter, and a classic Leslie speaker effect with LFO, rate, and depth controls for extended modulation options.
- Link/Sync options
You can sync this plugin’s LFO’s to a host clock or choose to link it with another device to help ensure that your modulations maintain rhythmic integrity regardless of how far you push the depth of your oscillations.
Character and Sound:
This plugin is modeled on equipment from a specific classic era in music. As such, the Tube Modulator’s sound has a very retro feel to it and carries the warmth you generally hear from valve amp technology. The spatial effects add to this plugin’s throwback theme and are useful for adding some creaminess to your vibrato.
Tube Modulator is compatible with Windows 7 or above and Mac OS X 10.9 or higher. It is available in VST, AAX, or AU formats.
Fans of cloudy, spacy vibrato will appreciate the Tube Modulator. It sounds great over guitars and organs but will also be useful when used subtly on things such as vocals or pads that may need livening up.
Fans of Lo-Fi production will enjoy the Leslie Speaker and Wow and Flutter controls. Producers that like to design custom LFO’s may find this plugin a bit limiting, and the lack of a quantized rate parameter might be a bit of a hindrance for some.
12. Brainworx Friedman BE-100
The Brainworx’s Friedman BE-100 is an actual piece of rock and metal history in an amp sim plugin. It’s got everything you need, both a raging and a singing Plexi sound.
Friedman BE-100 guitar amplifiers have long been legendary because of their rich sound, used in the arsenal of the world’s top rock and metal bands. For example, Alice in Chains, Pink, Bon Jovi, The Cult, and Foo Fighters, to name a couple.
And the nice thing about it is that the Friedman BE-100 plugin perfectly emulates the sound of this piece of guitar gear.
It is a two-channel plugin that emulates the growl of 100 watts, all amplified by EL34 tubes. You will get a punchy and dynamic tone that can cut through the mix. The Clean Channel, on the other hand, lets you get a nice and clean tone where you need it.
Speaking of settings, like in other Brainworx plugins, everything you need for a ready guitar tone is available here, including many impulses.
- Plexi controls
On the front panel of the plugin, you will see all the typical Plexi settings. In addition to the clean and high gain channel switch, you can control Presence, Bass, Middle, Master, Gain, and Clean Volume here. There are also tiny switches that allow you to influence the character of the sound even more. For example, Fat control will thicken up your low-end, C-45 will affect midrange, and Saturation scoops things out.
- FX Rack
As in other Brainworkx plugins, this section contains Noise Gate with settings and Tight and Smooth controls, which stands for the high and low-pass filters. In addition, you get a Delay with tempo tapping and knobs like Feedback and Lo-Fi.
- Recording Chain
The number of built-in impulses in the plugin is enormous. You will find more than a hundred of all kinds of IRs with different combinations of guitar cabinets and microphones. In addition, there is an information window function that tells you what kind of equipment is present in a particular IR.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you want the legendary Plexi sound of a Friedman BE-100 guitar amplifier, this plugin will be the perfect solution for you.
You’ll get all the control you need to make it even “on steroids” thanks to the Fat, C-45, and Saturation controls. And over 100 cabinet impulses will send you on a journey to dial the guitar tone that suits you best.
13. Analog Obsession BUSTERse (All Analog Obsession Plugins Are Great for CPU)
Analog Obsession’s BUSTERse plugin can be your main tool for “gluing” mixes.
Now, what do you use the bus compressor for anyway? First, it allows you to shape transients, and second, to get the effect of “gluing” the mix as a whole. The SSL Bus Compressor is a very popular equipment for this, which was part of the console. But now, there are enough plugins that emulate its operation.
Such is the free software BUSTERse from Analog Obsession. Its main feature is that, in addition to the compressor settings, it has many additional features that will help you affect the character and dynamics even more. Let’s now try to take them all apart.
- Familiar Compressor Settings
If you already have experience with SSL-style compressors, then the set of basic settings will not discourage you. In particular, there is the usual Auto Release, Ratio from 1.5 to 10, Attack from 0.1 to 30 milliseconds, Make-Up Gain, and Threshold control.
- Dry/Wet Control
Unlike many paid plugins, the developers have also implemented the Mix knob, which implies selecting the ratio of Dry and Wet signals. This parameter can be very helpful if, for example, you want to do a parallel compression for drums.
- Additional Mods
At the top right of the plugin window, you will get three buttons that are responsible for mods. In particular, the first Main will work like the usual bypass. Also, here is the Turbo, which will bring the plugin to work more similarly to the original unit. And in addition, there is an Xformer mode to get more saturation.
- Sidechain Filter
The Sidechain section makes your work with the plugin most exciting. You can use it to influence how the compressor perceives frequencies. For example, there is a High Pass Filter here and two Mid and HF knobs.
- Transients Shaping
On top of that, the Sidechain section has another set of TR controls to help you influence the transients a bit more. For example, you will find a Tilt control that will boost the high frequencies and cut the lows, or vice versa. In addition, there are also separate Mix and Boost knobs.
Analog Obsession BUSTERse is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST/3 and AU formats.
Analog Obsession’s BUSTERse plugin may seem a bit complicated at first. But if you learn how to use it, it can become a powerful tool for bus compression. This software will allow you to “glue” the mix and influence the transients in the best way. And the fact that it’s free is wonderful.
14. Audiority Pre X7
The Pre X7 plugin is a modified digital recreation of an analog bass preamplifier.
Audiority has achieved a preamp on this release that you can quickly adapt to any sound source and have a pleasant reaction that works regardless. This plugin can calculate the 12AX7 tube models in real-time for input and output to prevent phase issues while preserving characteristic non-linearities.
They’ve kept it as simple as possible when designing the graphic interface by making it look like a rack mount. Like many of its pairs, which we’ll be checking out in this list, it also includes a mix dry/wet knob for onboard parallel processing and a brickwall clipping limiter.
Besides all of these standard features, it brings a Tone control knob to the table that easily allows you to quickly get to your sonic goal and move on to the next thing. In addition, it has four buttons: boost, pad, phase, and limiter.
The Pre X7 plugin has a very subtle and profound sound as opposed to the V76U73, which has a much more noticeable effect but is mainly focused on midrange frequencies. What makes the difference between both tube preamp emulations is that the Pre X7 is a lot more reliable, cleaner, and even lets you set the circuit simulation’s accuracy. In contrast, the V76U73 adds significantly more color to the signal and doesn’t give you as much control over it.
If you also like to run your mixes through some light compression on your mix bus to glue things together and create a sense of space, you need to know that this preamp is an excellent way to go for it. You can hear how depth increases in your mix as you start increasing the amount of effect with the dry/wet control knob and simultaneously glues everything in a very particular musical way.
- Unique features:
This plugin sticks out from other preamps because of its tone control knob and the side buttons. The boost and pad buttons correspondingly increase and decrease the input signal before the first tube stage by +15db with boost and -20db with the pad button, the function Lim enables the limiter and invert the phase.
- Right-click options:
You can lock any parameter, so it doesn’t change its value, link input and output to automatically adjust for realistic a-b comparisons. Change the path of the low cut filter so that it will add more saturation on the lower frequencies, as it’ll move the filter after the input tube gain stage. That is good when you receive a very boomy kick drum, and you need to enhance the top-end to improve the attack.
Supports Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.9 or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3 AU, and AAX formats.
This preamp is clean, flexible, and very straightforward. It takes only a few moments to find a lovely tone to work with if you’re using it at the top of your processing chain on any given source. It also makes a real difference when used against a whole mix, as you can easily add harmonic distortion to a specific side of the spectrum and blend in.
The tone control works just like any other, but it can make a genuine difference in sound. You can add some high frequencies to a muddy low bass guitar to bring back some life out of it and make a very thin snare sound a lot more aggressive and shallow.
15. Sinevibes Blend v2
Blend V2, by Sinevibes, is a 16-voice chorus plugin with a smooth and musical sound.
The plugin offers complete control over every meaningful Chorus and modulation parameter. The Frequency modulator stretches from 0.05 to 5 Hz and the chorus time range goes from 5 to 25 ms. In the output section, you can control how much of the effect you want to hear by balancing the Output and Mix knobs.
You can select up to sixteen chorus layers, each with its feedback line. That means every voice adds its character to the sound. Thanks to the plugin’s intelligent handling of phase modulation offsets, the sound remains fat and smooth even at extreme settings.
- Quality Algorithm
There are three options here, and each has its character. Lo-Fi sounds darker, with subtle aliasing noise and purposeful artifacts. Vintage gives you a warmer sound which is also dark but with no artifacts. Finally, Modern gives you the highest quality with zero artifacts and a vivid sound.
- Easy to Use
Besides being the most versatile plugin on this list, the Blend is also highly user-friendly. The updated knob technology makes the UI intuitive and responsive. It’s a plug-and-play plugin that needs little to no previous explanation. Simply start messing around with the parameters, and you’ll understand it.
Character & Sound:
This plugin sounds incredibly harmonic and full, even when there aren’t many voices engaged. The three quality settings also give it extra tonal diversity, which only enhances the plugin’s experience. You can create seriously unique vibrato, flanger, tape wow, smear, dissonance, reverb, and chorus effects, all at once if you please.
Blend V2 is a Mac-only plugin that runs on macOS 10.9 or newer in VST3 and AU formats.
It’s a pity there is no Windows version of this plugin. The most flexible Chorus on our list is almost a multi-effect plugin in its wide range of possible applications. If you’re on a Mac, definitely add this amazing plugin to your collection.
16. oeksound soothe2
Soothe2 is an EQ plugin that automatically reduces resonances and other problematic frequencies.
It’s a great tool for cleaning up harshness, muddiness, boominess, proximity effect, sibilance, and other properties of problem areas in sounds. In addition, it has a spectrum analyzer, a/b comparison between two instances of the plugin, undo/redo options, a soothing, visually pleasing, and easy-on-eyes visual interface, and a great collection of presets.
- Complete control
The plugin automatically reduces resonances and gives you great control over the sound. It has two modes it operates: soft and hard. In addition, you can adjust the effect’s depth, sharpness, and selectivity. Plus, you can select the modes in which you want to work, and you can work in mid-side mode.
- Six-band EQ
The plugin provides six bands you can move around and play with to shape your sound. You can select each band’s frequency, sensitivity, Q-value, balance, and curve types. In addition, you can adjust the plugin’s attack and release and change the wet sound’s mix percentage.
You get the luxury of getting started with some great presets, including presets for acoustic guitar, bass, drums, electric guitar, master, and orchestral categories. You can browse through the presets, and you’ll be able to find the right sound for you.
Soothe2 is available in VST 2, VST 3, AAX, and AU plugin formats and requires a minimum of Windows 7 and Mac OS X 10.13 (High Sierra) operating systems.
Soothe2 works as a magic wand and gives beautiful sonic results. The sidechaining option, M/S processing, envelope control, and sidechain input give you great flexibility and control of the plugin. It works well with sibilant and disturbing high-mid resonances and can clear your low-mid and proximity mud. In addition, the preset browsing and easy GUI make the plugin intuitive and beginner-friendly.
17. Mastering The Mix LEVELS (Versatile All-In-One Solution)
As possibly the most straightforward-looking metering plugin available, Levels manages to become a welcome choice for both beginners and professionals alike.
The philosophy of Mastering The Mix Levels is simplicity. Instead of showing you everything it can on one page, it offers a certain kind of visualization per page. So, the information provided becomes easy to digest.
It has all the tools you could need to ensure your track fits the criteria of various music platforms such as Spotify, YouTube, or Apple Music. As we can see in the picture below, there are six kinds of meters in this plugin.
A few of the pages have filters inside them to help you dissect your audio material even further. We also liked the main input filter at the top of the plugin. It can turn the sound mono or playback only the Mid/Side or just the Left/Right channel.
This feature is beneficial for ensuring your track doesn’t have any phasing issues.
More experienced producers will be happy to know that the settings page lets you adjust the meter warning thresholds and the activation status of True Peak metering. Similarly, Mastering The Mix has provided various presets for beginners that help master your song to a specific platform’s standard.
Next, let’s have a look at each of the pages in the plugin:
“Peak” – Standard Peak Meter:
The Peak page shows the True Peak by default. You can also deactivate it by toggling it off on the settings page.
“LUFS” – LUFS Metering:
This page shows the LUFS short-term and the LUFS integrated. Clicking on the numeral values initiates them. We would have loved to see an optional LUFS momentary as well. However, it isn’t available.
“Bass Space” – Low-End Analyzer:
The Bass Space page is interesting. You can analyze the bass content of your track using this metering. It asks you to mute the bass drum and the bass to see how bassy the rest of the instruments are together. This implies you should use Levels on the master channel of your mixing project. Theoretically, it should help you keep the bass tight and clash-free.
“Dynamic Range” – Oscilloscope:
This page shows the relation between the loudest part of your music and the quietest. The lesser the number, the more your music sounds squashed and compressed. So, you can set a certain threshold (manually or with a preset) to warn you when the range goes lower than the set value.
“Stereo Field” – Width Visualizer:
This page shows how wide or mono your music is. An optional filter lets you analyze only a specific range of frequencies.
“LRA” – Loudness Range:
Sometimes confused with dynamic range, the loudness range also analyzes the relation between the loudest and the quietest parts of your song. However, this is done over a longer time scale using the Loudness Unit (LU). As with dynamic range, a higher value is desirable.
- Comprehensive Metering
With six kinds of metering, Levels is comprehensive for most use cases. However, it does lack a few basic features like a frequency spectrum or a LUFS-M meter. Despite the shortcomings, however, the straightforward nature of the plugin is a significant factor to consider for people who prefer simplistic workflow.
- Easy-to-use GUI
For the most part, Levels has almost no learning curve. Each plugin page is quite self-explanatory, and it also has an optional tooltip feature that gives you some helpful information for the first few times of using the plugin. However, on the side now, You cannot resize the GUI of this plugin.
- Helpful Presets
The presets available in the plugin are intended for commercial release. So, if you are looking to get your next song ready for Spotify, then this plugin is useful.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 and AAX formats.
As much as we love the plugin’s simplicity, we must say the lack of resizable GUI and certain meters does drag its value down somewhat. However, if you are a beginner and enjoy having presets, helpful tooltips, and a simple UI, we would highly recommend it.
18. Zplane Tonic
Tonic is a straightforward “music theory” tool that supports key detection with multiple scales.
Sometimes, a song can have more than one scale. Therefore, Tonic provides you with all the possible keys of the music so that you can decide which one fits best. And you can test out the scale inside the plugin. It has a very user-friendly interface, real-time functions, and other features that help music production.
Using the plugin is as easy as placing it on a track with the song and hitting play. Furthermore, since some music is made in offset tuning where A≠440 Hz, Tonic’s reference tuning engine automatically identifies such tuning. You can use the plugin on full songs or acapella and solo instruments.
- Dual Modes
When you load Tonic, it opens the plugin in the “real-time” mode by default. You can play any audio like a vocal recording or a full-on instrumental track in this mode, and Tonic will detect its key or scale in real-time. This mode is great when you need to analyze a specific part of a track for using it in, say, a mixtape.
Similarly, Tonic features an “offline” mode that lets you load audio files and analyze the entire clip quickly. This method works faster as you don’t have to wait for the track to play in real-time. Click on the File tab at the top of the plugin’s interface to find the offline mode.
- Triple Scales
Some musical pieces use multiple scales, whereas some genres like blues or jazz use a lot of accidental notes. These can create false readings. Hence, Tonic displays three possible scales listed by their probabilities. In the screenshot above, you can see Fmaj, A#maj, and Dmin. The order of the scales and the colors in the ring around the list represent the possibilities of each scale.
- Keys & Chords
The virtual keyboard allows you to play the detected scale in the plugin. Furthermore, you can activate the “Fold Keys” mode to make it display only the notes in the scale. Similarly, switch to Chords mode to play the compatible chords in the scale. It makes finding the chords of a song a piece of cake.
- Sharps or Flats
While a scale technically has both sharps and flats depending on the relation of the note to the adjacent scale degrees or notes, many people nowadays tend to prefer one or the other. Hence, Tonic allows you to set the plugin to either use the sharps or flats. It’s a fairly minor feature, but it can add a lot of convenience for people who haven’t studied music theory in depth.
This plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.15 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you are after a simple key detection tool that doesn’t display an overwhelming amount of information, Tonic is an ideal choice. Its key detection engine is very accurate, and it supports both real-time and offline modes.
Furthermore, the plugin’s built-in keyboard is an excellent feature to try out the detected key and discover the chords in the scale. I’d have loved to use the Chords mode without using the key detection feature, though, which felt like a missed opportunity to me. Still, it’s nifty for what it promises to do.
19. Waves Vocal Bender (Designed For Vocals)
Waves Vocal Bender is a minimalistic pitch-shifting plugin dedicated to customizing vocal recordings.
Pitch-shifting is a common technique that musicians employ in electronic or pop music production. The most common use is to create additional vocal harmonies with the chorus/bridge vocals, adding richness and life.
Furthermore, mixing a copy of the vocals with mild pitch changes results in the renowned “doubling” effect.
Waves Vocal Bender allows you to do all of that and more while maintaining a user-friendly interface.
Furthermore, since the plugin works in real-time, you can employ it for live performances too. Similarly, its mix knob allows you to create parallel doubling effects faster than ever. Let’s check out more of its features:
Vocal Bender features merely two knobs to give you complete control over your vocal’s pitch: pitch and formant. The pitch knob allows you to change the pitch or fundamental frequency by up to one octave up or down. This changes the “note” that the voice is singing.
Conversely, the formant is the characteristics of a voice that define the sonic individuality of a person and the vowels the person is speaking. Hence, decreasing it makes the voice sound deeper and looser, whereas a higher amount makes the voice sound squeaky and tight.
Furthermore, the button labeled Fine between those two knobs lets you disable the per-semitone snapping, which is the default mode. So, if you want to adjust the pitch or the formant by cents, enable Fine. And click on the chain-link icon to gang the pitch and formant knobs.
The Flatten button changes the input vocal pitches into a single note. This feature is useful to generate robotic sounds or “center” the notes to play them by automating the pitch knob. Furthermore, you can select the pitch you want Flatten to force the vocals in.
Modulation is an important part of Waves Vocal Bender. You can modulate any parameter available, including the knobs of the modulators themselves. Furthermore, there are four modulation sources: two LFO/Sequencers, an amplitude modulator, and a pitch modulator.
First, the LFO and the 16-step sequencer let you create rapid pitch changes and vibratos easily. Similarly, the amplitude modulator modulates other parameters using the volume of the input voice. Lastly, the pitch modulator uses the input voice’s pitch to manipulate parameters.
Waves Vocal Bender is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.14.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
Vocal Bender is a highly effective pitch-shifting plugin dedicated to vocals. It’s ideal for producing creative vocal melodies for EDM, hip-hop, pop, etc. Furthermore, you can use the formant parameter to change the way people sound. You can even change the gender of the voice.
However, since it’s designed to work well with monophonic vocals, it doesn’t play nice with polyphonic sounds.
20. Klevgrand Brusfri 1.2.1 (Easiest To Use)
A very efficient, easy, and powerful noise reduction plugin with a modern interface.
Brusfri is a modern noise reduction plugin that allows you to clean up your tracks with an intelligent algorithm that identifies unwanted noise and suppresses it. This plugin comes packed with a very intuitive and straightforward interface to make everything easier and smoother.
Using this plugin consists of two steps. First, you must play a portion of your track where the unwanted noise is isolated; after that, the plugin will suppress the noise and that’s all! However, Brusfri will also provide you control over the attack, release, threshold, gain, mix, among other parameters.
- No phase altering
Most noise reduction plugins suppress the noise by altering the phase. Even though that method can be helpful, altering those parameters can cause phase cancelation, and mono speakers will not reproduce your songs accurately. However, Brusfri does not change the phase; instead, it attenuates noise by subtracting frequencies. That being said, this plugin is a great alternative to avoid phase issues.
- Intuitive interface
The interface is very intuitive and easy to understand. It comes with an envelope graph instead of individual knobs and sliders for attack, release, and threshold to provide visual feedback about the plugin’s behavior. Also, the knobs on the right module are very accurate and manageable.
- Ease to use
Most times, all you’ll have to do is press the learn button to suppress the noise. However, if you don’t get the desired results, don’t hesitate to use the knobs. They’re self-explanatory and easy to use.
This plugin requires macOS 10.12 or higher, 64 bits or Windows 7 with SP1 or higher, 64 bits only in AU, VST, or AAX.
When it comes to noise-canceling, there’s not so much to say. If you’re looking for an easy and modern plugin, this is the right option for you. Usually, the algorithm will do the job for you. However, there’s also room for customization and tweaking the parameters to get your track as clean as you want.
Bonus: MeldaProduction Plugins
The MCombMB by Melda Productions is a multi-band comb filter with extensive sound-shaping controls.
The plugin splits the audio into up to six frequency bands, each with four filters. You can easily adjust the frequency, gain, and panorama of each filter in the main view. If all this control is too much, you can choose to randomize your filtering. This option is available inside each filter or globally for complete randomization. As with most Melda plugins, you can access a settings menu for each section of the plugin that gives you more controls and possibilities.
- Band Editor
On the outside, the band editor might seem like a simple frequency analyzer. However, it hides several essential features. As mentioned, you can add up to six bands in the MCombMB. These bands are divided in the band editor by a long vertical line. You can reposition each band by dragging its central dot or adjust its gain by dragging the horizontal line. At the bottom, the short vertical line allows you to change the band’s panorama when in stereo mode or its depth when in mid-side mode. In the band menu, you can thoroughly adjust each band’s crossover, redefine the bands you’re working with, create new bands, and include different types of analyzers on top of the frequency spectrum. All this helps you not only focus on where and how you want the plugin to act but also how much information you want from it.
- Band & Filter Panels
Below the Band Editor, you’ll find the band-selection area and the main comb-filtering controls. Use the arrows at the upper-right corner of this section to select the additional bands. For each band, you get four different filters. You can use all four or bypass a few. Alternatively, you can bypass an entire band to check how it sounds. You get a Dry/Wet knob that lets you blend the unprocessed signal back with the modulation. The Gain, Frequency, and Panorama knobs work individually with each filter, letting you shape the sound as you want. The Feedback knob controls the amount of processed signal that returns to the input, and it has a limiter of its own to avoid the typical feedback squeal. Attack and Release knobs are used to shape the feedback limiter. Finally, you also get high-pass and low-pass filters for the entire band, named Min and Max. This large set of controls lets you filter your sound in virtually any possible way.
- Presets & Randomization
The MCombMB comes with several factory-made presets, all with creative and intriguing names and functions. You can select a preset or Ctrl-click the preset grid to load a random preset. Alternatively, you can use the intelligent randomization features of the plugin to come up with unexpected results. You can apply the Random function by clicking on the dice icon, choosing to randomize the entire plugin’s settings or focus on bands and filters. You can also Ctrl-click the dice icon to restrain the engine so it only slightly randomizes the chosen parameters or Alt-click it, which will result in extreme randomization.
Character and Sound:
The MCombMB doesn’t add any saturation to the sound, neither does it distort the output. The safety-net limiter prevents loud peaks generated by the frequency modulations from ever crossing unity gain. Furthermore, you can enhance sound quality with up to 16x of oversampling. It is a transparent plugin that responds cleanly to your settings.
This plugin is available for 32- and 64-bit PCs running Windows Vista or newer and 64-bit-only Macs running macOS 10.9 or higher. It is available in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
MCombMB is a thorough application designed to put all comb-filtering power in the hands of the user. The randomization engine and the hidden settings menus are the icings on this plugin’s cake—a versatile and user-friendly comb filter for the modern producer.