The 20 Best Plugins For Pro Tools 2023
1. XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2 (Drum Collection)
Consider it the most intuitive drums package that sounds great out of the box at an unbeatable price.
We doubt there’s any music producer out there who hasn’t seen Addictive Drums 2 on a magazine or a website at least once. It’s particularly famous for being easy to use and having genre-specific compressed sound out of the box. That might make or break the deal for you.
If you don’t want to waste time, Addictive Drums 2 is the way to go. You can purchase many additional banks to add kits, midi grooves, and even single drum pieces. The grooves include everything from basic loops to entire songs performed by professional drummers.
- Grooves And More Grooves
Addictive Drums 2 comes with over 5,000 midi grooves that you can utilize in your project or for inspiration. They include an extensive range of genres and styles with multiple variations in each. Easy drag-and-drop to your DAW and a filter-based groove browser makes your workflow even swifter.
- Onboard Mixing
This plugin comes loaded with mixing features. There are six effects, including an EQ, compressor, transient shaper, distortion or saturation, reverb, and delay. The distortion includes multiple types covering digital to analog saturation. Further, it has a built-in bus for parallel processing.
- Mics and Outboard Mixing
Next, Addictive Drums 2 includes multiple mic placements. So, you can control the overhead and the room mic level, pan, and width from the built-in mixer. Furthermore, it also employs multiple outputs by default when you need to do further processing in your DAW.
Transform is a tab in the plugin that gives you control over your midi groove’s velocity, accents, and randomization. It includes the kit piece mixer and re-assign features. The re-assign feature lets you swap out articulations. For example, you could replace a snare hit with a side stick.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
A plugin of this size will have many features we haven’t even begun exploring. However, the general idea is that Addictive Drums 2 strives to provide everything you need, including an intuitive groove browser and real-time kit piece switching. It also performs flawlessly with major e-kits out of the box.
2. Native Instruments Kontakt 7 (Sampler / Platform For Kontakt Libraries)
KONTAKT 7 is the latest version of the popular sampler, and it includes a reworked HiDPI Factory library and new instruments from companies like Orchestral Tools.
KONTAKT is the best instrument-building tool on the market, and it also serves as a source of quick musical inspiration for composers. This mutating platform is much more than a sampler; it has fueled two decades’ worth of Oscar-winning film scores, Billboard singles, and hundreds of instruments.
We’re taking KONTAKT’s 20-year history into the future with the seventh iteration. First, the new adjustable browser makes it simple to locate any sound. Then, you can experiment with new musical ideas and find new inspiration using the updated Factory Library, new effects, and other audio enhancements.
The numerous effects modules in KONTAKT are detailed here, along with information on adjusting their settings. Audio processors that alter the signal in a typically non-linear fashion, such as reverberation, fingering, and distortion, fall under the category of “effects.” Open the drop-down menu of available effects by clicking the plus sign in the lower right corner of each effects slot to access these modules.
- New Sound Quality
In KONTAKT 7, the Factory Library has been updated to raise the bar in terms of both sound quality and quantity, and it also brings our flagship sampler up to date with modern features like large, attractive, HiDPI user interfaces. In addition, learn to play and modify an extensive library of acoustic and electronic instruments, including Orchestral Tools’ brand-new collection of sampled, full-orchestra soundscapes.
- Faster Interface
It can be difficult to maintain momentum if you’re constantly on the lookout for your preferred tunes. So to make things clear, we’re introducing a brand-new way to search through them. You can now import your independent libraries and homemade instruments and search, filter, and individual audition sound across your collection.
- Build Instruments
KONTAKT 7 also comes with brand new libraries like Orchestral, Acoustic, Band, Beats, Choir, Synths and Vintage. It also includes existing Kontakt libraries Ethereal Earth, Hybrid Keys, Analog Dreams and Retro Machines MK2.
Load KONTAKT into KOMPLETE KONTROL or MASCHINE to manipulate key settings with specialized knobs, listen to sound libraries, and more. S-Series keyboards have an even tighter integration because all the key switches and zones are conveniently located on the Light Guide.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.10 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 10 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST/RTAS/AU/AAX formats and supports 32 and 64 bit systems.
Kontakt 7 is the latest sampler in the Native Instruments lineup, and it truly lives up to being the flagship sampler of the parent company Native Instruments. Kontakt 7, with its powerful sampling abilities, flexible routing options, and creative possibilities, is a sound designer’s dream come true.
3. Ample Guitar LP (Les Paul)
More Info & Price (Trial Available)
The best sounds of one of Gibson’s most iconic instruments are housed in this plugin.
The Gibson Les Paul was first introduced in 1952 as a signature model for Les Paul himself. As the years progressed, the instrument got the shape that we know and love today, with two humbucker pickups and solid construction. Ample Guitar brings this instrument to your DAW with good-quality samples and functions, feeling much like the original instrument.
- Vintage inspired
In 1957, the Les Paul guitar saw the introduction of the famous humbucker pickups, but only in 1958 did they get their iconic “burst” appearance. They switched from gold paint to sunburst, and this reflected not only aesthetics: the wood used in the tops was also improved, with plain selections of awesome maple pieces. This is an important element of the “Les Paul Sound,” and Ample Guitar sought to reproduce the 1958 model as best as possible in this collection.
- Double mode
Sometimes, you may want to double the guitar part in your track for a specific moment or an entire section. Instead of recording it twice, you can simply activate the “Double Guitar” mode and have instant twin guitar melodies from single MIDI input.
- Amp simulation
The electric guitar only makes sense when plugged into an electric amplifier. To cover this, Ample Guitar included six renditions of famous models: “Metal Double” (Mesa Boogie Dual), “Metal Treble” (Mesa Boogie Triple), “Lead 800” (Marshall JCM 800), “Jazz 120” (Roland Jazz Chorus 120), “65 Twang” (Fender Twin Reverb 1965), and “57 Delight” (Fender Deluxe 1957).
Another crucial aspect of an authentic guitar tone involves the cabinets working alongside the amplifiers. You can opt to load them in 1x12, 2x12, and 4x12 settings, with specific models for each brand included in each configuration.
The “Riffer” is an algorithm created to assist you in creating good-sounding riffs automatically. You can create them randomly through the “Die” symbol, but also choose the pitch tuning, articulations used, specific fingering, and much more.
- Mic selection
You can choose to mic your amp with eight different models: “U87,” “C414,” “MD421,” “SM57,” “E609,” “C414 XLS,” “R121,” and “M160.”
- Vintage inspired
This plugin is available for macOS 10.9 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in standalone mode and VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU plugin formats.
Virtual instruments are hard to capture, especially instruments that depend on their physical construction to resonate. Electric guitars fall into this category, but somehow Ample Guitar managed to achieve a decent result in capturing the nuances behind not only the guitar tone but the techniques and articulations involved when playing one.
The equipment offered in this library is also decent, and if you don’t have a trustworthy guitarist around, this might be a good option to quickly record some guitar parts.
4. Knif Audio Knifonium (Tube-Driven Synth)
Knifonium is an emulation of the hardware synth of the same name.
The hardware Knifonium is a monophonic analog synth that employs 26 vacuum tubes, which also drive its two oscillators. It was designed by John Knif and featured meticulous craftsmanship with a musical and inspiring sound.
Brainworx designed plugin Alliance’s Knifonium emulation, and there are a plethora of modern features that make the already impressive hardware more versatile and accessible.
The most important addition would be the eight-voice polyphony. Not only can you enjoy the sound of the Knifonium, but you can create pads that sound uniquely atmospheric and enveloping. And we haven’t even covered the new effects that enhance the sound further yet.
- Effect Processors
Knifonium features some of the most-loved effect plugins by Plugin Alliance built into the synthesizer. They include a digital delay, the Maag exciter plugin, reverb, flanger, chorus, the Metal 666 amp, an EQ, filter, and a phaser. However, I must mention that since they are designed as outboard plugins to the synth, you cannot modulate the parameters of these effect processors.
- 208 Vacuum-Tubes
That’s right, each voice of the 8-polyphony features 26 carefully modeled vacuum tubes, resulting in a whopping 208 virtual vacuum tubes in total. Furthermore, Brainworx’s proprietary Tolerance Modelling Technology recreates the natural variations in envelope parameters, pitch, LFO, speed, and other parameters you’ll find in the original hardware.
- Stereo Features
Unlike the hardware synth, Knifonium features a unison mode, mid-side editing, and stereo spreading features. They are essential for creating pad sounds and a larger-than-life lead sound. I love the sound of spacious arpeggios and pads with an analog tang.
There are over 300 excellent and usable presets in the synth. And if you want some exciting motions in your sound, you can use the envelope, LFO, aftertouch, and MIDI-CV modulations, as well as the built-in arpeggiator, to create evolving sounds. Furthermore, the synth also has a ring modulator for broader sound design possibilities.
Knifonium is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
Knifonium is an ultra-high-quality synthesizer that emulates the sound of individual vacuum tubes to recreate the fat, classic analog sound. However, doing so does make it quite CPU-heavy.
So, if you intend to use many Knifoniums in a project, you might have to freeze or render the instrument to free up the CPU resource.
Besides the synth itself, the preset manager is also excellent – it lets you filter presets by category and mark favorites for future recall. Overall, I suggest giving this plugin a try if you love the sound of hardware synths.
5. u-he Hive 2 (Advanced Wavetable Synth)
U-he launched Hive as a soft-synth with a synthesizer architecture similar to Sylenth and Spire, adding their twist & innovation to this incredible software.
Years later, in 2015, they launched Hive 2, with some upgrades and improvements, including the wavetable functionality.
It has two main oscillators on which a standard waveform or a wavetable can be loaded, with up to 16 voices of unison, two sub oscillators, three different synth engines, and most importantly, low CPU usage. Yes, the plugin is light on CPU, given its vast functionality.
- Extensive Synth Engine
You can choose from three different synth engines: Clean, Normal, and Dirty, each of which varies in its internal circuitry, envelope, oversampling, and detuning algorithms, and the choice of models of filters that are used. All these differences bring about a change in the fundamental characteristic of the sound.
- Huge Sound Bank
With about 2300 presets, from categories like basses, poly leads, mono leads, keys, pads, plucks, etc., the plugin packs a versatile range of sounds for different genres and purposes. You can also save your presets and organize them by adding their tags (bright, dark, clean, phat, etc.), features (mono, poly, chord, etc.), and categories. A browser is also available for you to search the presets by their names and navigate through them.
- Good quality Sound Generators
The two main oscillators in the Hive2 can generate the following waveforms: saw, square, sine, triangle, half pulse, and narrow pulse, along with pink and white noise are of high resolution. You can also load up a wavetable and choose a waveform from that table. In addition, you can load up your wavetables by saving the WAV file of that audio in the same directory as others. Wavetables can be further edited, by changing their phase, position, how they are looped, etc.
You can change any waveform’s detune, width, pan, volume, and vibrato settings. There are two filters with six different types of curves: Lowpass 12dB and 24dB/octave, Bandpass, Highpass, Bandreject, and Peaking, for different types of filtration. Resonance, cutoff frequency, and destination can be set for each of these.
- Immense scope for Programming & Processing
There’s a dedicated display section for the Arpeggiator and Sequence, called as “Arp/Seq” section. In the sequencer, you can load up to sixteen steps and add settings like Gate, Transpose, velocity, and Mod. You can use the Mod value to assign modulating destinations to the Mod matrix. Two function generators sync the ADSR and adjust its curve as exponential or logarithmic.
For modulation, you can drag and drop any parameters with a crosshair symbol next to the destination of your choice. In addition, Hive 2 also allows you to quantize your signals using the scale quantizer. Further, there’s an X/Y pad also available for modulation.
The effects in the u-he are compressor, distortion, chorus, phaser, equalizer, delay, and reverb, and can be used in any sort that you like. In addition, the effects section has an aesthetic, colorful display that is pleasing to the eyes. Lastly, the Scope (short form for Oscilloscope) section allows you to see the movement of your waveforms by simply dragging and dropping them onto it.
- Advanced Interpolation algorithms
Hive provides four different algorithms for interpolating between the frames: switch (sudden jumps between frames), crossfade (smooth interpolation between waveform magnitudes), spectral (smoothly interpolates between waveform magnitudes and phase), and zero phases (like spectral, but phase adjusts each partial to zero first).
- Structured visual display
You get a fairly organized structure of the subtractive synthesis process, with everything loaded on a single window, easily switchable tabs and sections like fx, scope, seq/arp, etc., and laid out amps and LFOs and their knobs and sliders. The signals are also easy to route with an easily understandable signal flow.
The minimum OS requirement for the Hive 2 is a Mac OS X 10.7, a Windows 7+, or Linux. It is available in AU, VST2, VST3, AAX (Pro Tools 10.3.7+), and NKS with 32-bit and 64-bit versions).
However, the latest version of Avid’s toolkit for building AAX plugins is not compatible with the Apple SDK needed to build plugins for Apple’s new ARM/M1 processors. Therefore, the updated AAX versions are not compatible with macOS, Intel CPUs, and Apple M1.
The best part about Hive 2 is its low CPU usage, its wide range of scope in its overall functionality, and its well-thought-out GUI. Also, the official manual for the plugin released by u-he is well-made and informative.
There’s a lot that you can do with the plugin, and if you may not understand the process of synthesis and sound design, there is a huge library of presets arranged based on various categories and styles you could choose from.
6. Ample Sound Guitar SC (Stratocaster)
More Info & Price
Ample Sound has developed many impressive sampled guitars, and this plugin’s an excellent example.
The Fender Stratocaster is one of the most notorious guitars ever designed. It’s known for its nasally single-coil pickups that suit just about every genre. And the Ample Guitar Stratocaster (AGSC) features samples of the Stratocaster combined with a highly flexible engine.
The samples are divided into three libraries of different pickup setups: neck, neck + middle, and middle + bridge.
As good as the Stratocaster sounds, you might be looking for another instrument. Luckily, Ample Sound has a range of plugins sampling iconic electric guitars like Gibson Les Paul, PRS 24, and even the 9-string Schecter Hellraiser.
The features of most of these plugins are the same as the ones I list below. So, you only need to find out which sound you prefer.
AGSC allows you to tune each string to your liking, although it only lets you tune it down a maximum of 2 semitones. However, it’s enough to achieve popular tunings like Drop-D. The new tuning affects the strummer, tab, and articulations with a natural sound.
The strummer mode lets you create strum patterns by programming strokes such as down strum, up strum, muted down strum, etc., on a step sequencer. You can then play chords, and AGSC will play the pattern you have created (or selected from the presets). You can customize the strum time, velocity, release, timing, etc.
The Riffer panel lets you create riffs or arpeggio patterns that you can then assign to chords. You can write the pattern the stroking hand plays on each string and assign articulations (mute, open, palm mute, etc.), velocity, vibrato, and legato.
The Tab Player can load and play several relevant tablature file formats, including the ones from Guitar Pro 3+. You can use it to export your tabs as audio files in a DAW. However, you cannot export tabs from MIDI clips in your DAW.
- Amp And Cabinet
The plugin features six amp-simulations ranging from Fender Twin Reverb and Fender Deluxe to Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier and Marshall JCM800. You can also change the cabinets, mics and mix them with room mics. The amp selections are excellent; they range from soft clean tones to overdriven lead sounds. So, even if you don’t have a dedicated guitar amp simulation plugin, the built-in collection sounds fabulous and works well.
- Effect Processors
AGSC features four effect processors: an 8-band EQ, compressor, delay, and convolution reverb. The EQ is a superb parametric EQ with a sleek interface. The same could be said for the rest of the effects. And the convolution reverb provides four impulse responses: room, studio, hall, and larger hall.
Ample Guitar SC is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
AGSC is one of the most detailed virtual electric guitars available today. It’s also more detailed than other Ample Sound guitar plugins, proven by the multiple libraries for the pickups. So, whether you are looking to play rock riffs or clean trap melodies, you can use AGSC and get instant results.
Furthermore, AGSC provides many presets to get you started, even if you aren’t experienced in programming guitars.
7. Waves CR8 (Creative Sampler)
Get a multi-layered sampling engine that provides only the fundamental features you need to use sampling in your music production.
Waves CR8 is an intuitive sample management plugin that lets you edit and layer multiple audio samples to get playable instruments rapidly. Furthermore, it features several modulators, an “AI-powered” sample finder, filters, etc. It even offers a built-in mixer that allows you to make basic customizations to your sample layers.
- COSMOS Sample Finder
COSMOS is a standalone sample management software that integrates with your CR8 sampler. It analyzes each sample file from your storage drives and extracts useful information like its instrument, BPM, key, loop/one-shot, length, etc. Then, it automatically organizes the files using tags.
Simply load the sample finder from within CR8 and search up tags when you want to find a sample. Furthermore, once you type in a label (like drums), you will find many suggested tags like clean, acoustic, electronic, etc. These help you find the sample you’re looking for faster and easier.
- Sample Layers
CR8 employs eight sample layers. You can either layer them to get multiple sounds playing simultaneously or split them across your keyboard. The latter feature is useful for creating drum instruments. Furthermore, the plugin provides a sample layering interface similar to Kontakt’s. So, you can drag each sample over the keys you want or limit them per note. Likewise, while it doesn’t allow multi-sampling per layer, you can assign each layer to play only within a certain range of velocity.
- Edit Samples
Each sample layer offers a comprehensive set of tools to edit the sample. You can change the tuning, set the root note, stretch, set the start/end time, pan, etc. Similarly, each sample layer also features an amp envelope. Furthermore, you’ll find a filter section where you can choose from the following types: low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, and peak. Each filter type allows two slopes: 12 dB/octave and 24 dB/octave.
Each sample layer offers a melodic and a one-shot mode named Play and Launch. You can find multiple stretching methods, too: beats, harmonic, melodic, voice, and classic. Beats mode is ideal for drum patterns, harmonic for polyphonic loops, and melodic for monophonic. Similarly, other features include playback rate syncing, unison, etc.
The plugin features four LFO/sequencers and four envelope generators. You can assign each by dragging and dropping the modulator’s label over a parameter or by right-clicking a parameter and selecting a modulator from the list that appears. When you load an LFO modulator, you can also switch to a sequencer mode.
The Sequencer allows you to make rhythmic modulation from two to sixteen steps. Of course, you can customize the rate of playback and sync. Likewise, the envelope is a traditional ADSR envelope, providing a curve option for attack, decay, and release.
Furthermore, other modulation features include aftertouch, note-tracking, pitch wheel, modulation wheel, and velocity. And you can assign some of these controls to the built-in modulator. For example, you can set the velocity to multiply the envelope amount.
Waves CR8 is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.14.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Overall, Waves CR8 is a basic but intuitive sampler ideal for people who prefer a minimalistic workflow. It comes with 2,500 free samples and over eight hundred presets. Furthermore, it offers a standalone sample manager that integrates with the sampler.
The manager alone is handy, thanks to its automatic tagging feature. So, if you have a hoard of samples that wastes your time just finding the right one, Waves CR8 is a viable, ultra-cheap option.
8. ujam Symphonic Elements BRAAASS (Orchestral Brass)
Symphonic Elements BRAAASS by ujam is a brass plugin consisting of cinematic and epic brass phrases.
Ujam claims to have put Hans Zimmer’s brass phrases in the plugin and created a Hollywood-style brass instrument. The plugin does sound huge, with playable phrases and patches, making ultra-realistic and great-sounding brass sections accessible to bedroom and studio producers.
The plugin features brass sounds for scoring, symphonic music, and hip-hop and pop beats. Popular rappers like Lil Nas X, Macklemore, J Cole, and more use brass lines in their sounds to create epic songs. In addition, phrases in the plugin can fit any genre, from techno to K-Pop, and much more.
The plugin has low and high brass windows, character FX and motion FX knobs, and EQ/filter controls. Then there is the main brass tab which lets you add Finisher (an effect by Ujam), Highlighter, and Ambiance using knobs of the same names. In addition, you can also add a crossfade between low and high.
The plugin is divided into two low brass and two high brass. You can change the style of the instrument. The plugin keeps the first octave for playing phrases, the second octave for bass notes, and the third and fourth octaves as the Play Range.
- Hans Zimmer’s personal collection
Hans Zimmer is one of the co-founders of the plugin and has included sounds from his own collection, a collection of top-notch, well-played, cinematic, and studio-grade sounds that will add the required emotional depth to your compositions and soundtracks.
Symphonic Elements BRAAASS requires a minimum of macOS Catalina (10.15) or Windows 10 operating system, 8 GB RAM, and 6.3 GB of Hard Disk space, and is available in VST 2, VST 3, AU 2, and AAX plugin formats.
The plugin is extremely simplified and easy to use, especially compared to other orchestral instruments/libraries. In addition, it doesn’t compromise on the sound for simplicity of use and has deep, hard-hitting, and spine-chilling brass sounds, which are well-recorded and programmed within the plugin. It’s one of the best brass instruments that you will use.
9. Ample Sound Guitar TC (Telecaster)
More Info & Price
Discover the sound of the first commercially successful solid-body electric guitar.
The Fender Telecaster was introduced in 1950, taking the world by storm, and has remained in production even today. It is a versatile guitar, usable for many genres like blues, jazz, rock, country, R&B, metal, etc. Its sound comes from its iconic single-coil pickups, of which the bridge pickup is slanted.
The slant gives a subtly brighter sound to the thinner strings while giving a mellower tone to the thicker ones.
Ample Guitar Telecaster (AGTC) brings renowned sound to your studio in software form. It has two sample libraries dedicated to the pickup positions: neck and bridge. Similarly, you can enable doubling, mono/stereo modes, etc., to change the base sound of your guitar.
It uses key switches to let you program the natural-sounding rhythm and lead parts. Let’s have a look at its other features:
You can change the tuning of the guitar by up to two semitones. And you can use multiple capo logics, which provide various fingering algorithms suitable for different performances like solo, rhythm, etc.
- Supports Tabs
AGTC can read tablature files from Guitar Pro, Ultimate Guitar, etc., without converting them into MIDI. You can use this feature to open your guitar arrangements into your DAW and render them as audio.
- Play Riffs And Leads
The Riffer page lets you create riffs and melodies inside the plugin. It features a simple piano roll, where you can write the stroke for each guitar string, resulting in riffs and arpeggio. If you use the articulations like legato, hammer, harmonics, slide, palm muting, etc., you can even write melodic parts without touching your DAW’s midi editor.
You can create strumming parts by creating patterns of strokes like down strum, up strum, muted strums, etc. Then, you can hold chords and change the fret positions as AGTC plays the strumming pattern you have created or loaded from the presets. There are several parameters that humanize and customize the playing too.
Every electric guitar needs a set of amp and cabinet to sound good. So, AGTC provides you with six amp and matching cabinets: Mesa Boogie Double/Triple, Marshall JCM800, Roland RC120, Fender Twin Reverb, and Fender Deluxe. Next, you’ll find eight virtual mic options to record the cabinet, including Neumann U87 and Shure SM57. You can mix two mics with the room mics to get the kind of sound you want.
The plugin features four effect processors: parametric EQ with eight bands, compressor, six-tap delay, and IR reverb with four impulses. All of these are highly visual and feature sleek interfaces. In most cases, you will not need any other effect plugin in your DAW’s mixer.
AGTC is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
AGTC accurately recreates the sound of the Fender Telecaster, and the realism of the engine is laudable. I love how the built-in amp simulations and the effect processors are high-quality, customizable, and genuinely useful for mixing.
The plugin also features hundreds of presets that help you get started.
10. FAW SubLab XL (Bass/Sub Bass Instrument)
SubLab XL is a bass and 808 instrument by FAW.
The original SubLab was a creative software instrument designed specifically for creating deep bass sounds and 808s. It featured the innovative X-Sub technology by FAW, which guaranteed sub integrity on all sound systems. The XL version includes many more features and fresher sounds.
- Synth engine
The beauty of SubLab lies in its split into three different engines. The synth engine is where you get to design the bulk of the bass sound. You can choose between sinewave, triangle, square, saw, and the new super oscillator. Once you’ve selected the sound shape of your choice, you can set the pitch and detune your sound. As a result, you can achieve subtle and deep bass sounds or buzzy and supersaws with great ease. The super oscillator is an excellent addition to SubLab, and it’s great for creating buzzy sounds with a deep low end.
- Sample engine
The sample engine is where you can load different samples to handle the sound’s transient. You can load a kick drum or any other punchy sound that will be the transient of your 808. Additionally, you can choose to sidechain the synth engine to the sample engine so that the transient comes through loud and clear.
The main appeal of SubLab is X-Sub, the psychoacoustic synth engine that guarantees the integrity of your sub bass no matter what playback system it’s heard on. It basically adds a consistent sublayer underneath your bass sound. Of course, you can adjust how much of it you wish to add, but overall it’s very balanced and can help your bass sound stand out and hit hard anywhere, from earbuds and laptop speakers to club sound systems.
- Effects and modulation
SubLab offers a few different tools for sound design. You get one LFO that can be assigned to two parameters simultaneously. It can be synced to your host’s BPM or run in Hz and has sine, square, saw, triangle, and noise shapes. Furthermore, there is a filter, perfect for sculpting your high end and boosting your low end with the right amount of resonance. Finally, you get access to new effects, like the waveshaper, which comes with sine fold and linear fold options. This is perfect for creating interesting harmonics on your bass sound so that it cuts through the mix. There are also tape distortion effects with hiss and wobble controls and a bit crusher with decimation and bit mode controls.
Another great new feature of SubLab XL is the macros. You get two macros that you can assign to various parameters. Once done, you can use a single knob to modulate multiple parameters. This is a great way to turn a basic 808 into something unique and original that suits your music. There is also a captivating macro window with excellent graphics that represent the way the macro behaves with the bass sound.
SubLab XL is available on Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.12 or higher in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
SubLab XL is a great upgrade to the original SubLab. The new super engine offers a new range of bass sounds that can feel synth-like than 808s. The new effects are creative and fun to play with, while everything else that made the original so good is still effective.
If you’re a contemporary hip hop and trap producer, SubLab XL could be the one instrument you need to cover your bass duties.
11. UJAM Virtual Pianist VOGUE (Piano)
More Info & Price (Trial Available)
A consistently good-sounding piano library that doesn’t have a robotic aspect to it.
For some years, ujam has offered awesome sample libraries for multiple instruments, and they all tend to sound very good and realistic. Expanding their product line, Virtual Pianist VOGUE was introduced to deliver a good-sounding piano performance suitable for most pop productions but not necessarily requiring a skilled musician to do so.
- Piano characters
There are some pre-made piano profiles to be explored right before you start playing. Each can make your instrument sound differently but retain the same general aspects. You can choose from “Emotion,” “Ballad,” “Concert,” “Power,” and “Plastic” modes, and they are ordered from softer to more aggressive overall dynamics.CharacterRoom typeBest useEmotionWooden roomCinematic, ambient, and intimate productionsBalladBright stageRomantic, pop, or background tracksConcertLarge studioVocal accompaniment, prominent pianoPowerHard ambiancePop and rock band situationsPlasticBouncy artificial roomMotifs and themes in modern electronic music
One of the two effects modes included is entitled “Finisher.” It contains 30 different multi-effects modes tailored for a particular piano profile, with awesome sound design options that can expand their sonority significantly.
Similarly to the previous item, the “Ambiance” is also part of the effects session and deals specifically with ambient-related effects, like reverb and delay, to get the perfect ambiance nailed instantly. You can not only select different effects individually but also merge them to create even bolder sonorities.
- Dynamics knob
This special control adjusts the overall dynamics in the instrument, setting the perfect sensitivity of the key velocity values (the softer you play each key, the lower MIDI values will be presented). Turning it all the way down makes the piano sound louder but without much dynamics, and the more you turn it up, the more dynamics will be presented in general.
- Tune knob
Using the “Tune” knob will allow you to set the appropriate piano tuning for your track. You can tune it up or down by 50 cents (half a semitone). If you need to use a specific Hz tuning, check the table below.FrequencyTune435Hz-20 cents436Hz-16 cents437Hz-12 cents438Hz-8 cents439Hz-4 cents440Hz0 cents441Hz+4 cents442Hz+8 cents443Hz+12 cents444Hz+16 cents445Hz+20 cents
- Piano characters
This plugin is available for macOS 10.14 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 10 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in VST2, AAX, and AU2 plugin formats.
Among the multiple piano sample libraries out there, ujam certainly offers some options that can work masterfully in your current project. This particular example, Virtual Pianist VOGUE, focuses on pop, modern productions that often require the piano to be a central element of the song.
You can vary through different modes, each with a particular response and character, to nail the exact piano sound you’re looking for. Other adjustments, such as detuning and adding post-FX, are also included and help expand its modern sonority.
12. IK Multimedia – Hammond B-3X (Organ)
With 91 tonewheels based on different meticulously conservated Hammond organs, the B-3X applies absolute realism with its quick algorithms to mix tonewheels with the note’s real-time and drawbars’ volumes.
With overzealous attention to detail, IK Multimedia reproduced the many peculiar aspects of the Hammond to deliver an organic and real sensation in its virtual instrument.
With an authentic timbre, the Hammond B-3X by IK Multimedia adds in realism by conveying an interface to achieve the exact experience it is to play on an actual organ. In addition to that, they brought some modernity to the overall user experience with advanced and easy-to-use controls.
Hammond B-3X features a five-unit pedal section in the “Stomps” segment with overdrive, graphic EQ, chorus-vibrato, string reverb, and wah-effect. These effects use a similar technology by some of IK Multimedia’s renowned plugins, such as the AmpliTube and T-RackS. By setting these carefully-made effects, you’ll be able to recreate any vibe from iconic tonewheel organs, to which you can attribute MIDI controls for a better experience.
- CABS Section
The CABS section work as a cabinet space with many different and useful amp choices. It features a Leslie simulation, which has an equalizing option, that can be combined and mixed with a parallel 4x12 guitar cabinet. Using the top-rated technology applied in different products, such as the AmpliTube 4 and Leslie Collection, the Hammond B-3X delivers a complete sonic modulation experience. The setup area in the CABS segment will let you choose the Mic setup and distance and acceleration and deceleration knobs to set the curve you want the sound to have.
- Guitar Amp
To give you a unique experience, the Hammond B-3X is equipped with a British Lead guitar amp that, when selected, shapes the organ sound in a fascinating and individual process. With the plugin’s modern amplifier feature, you can set values for the Presence, Spring Reverb, and frequency range (Bass, Middle, and Treble). A unique addition, the guitar amp is an ingredient for experimentation and manipulation with a rock flavor.
To add a final polishing in the instrument’s notes, the Hammond B-3X has three studio post-effects to finalize the sound’s shape. By presenting you with a built-in compressor limiter, equalizer, and digital reverb, the IK Multimedia’s virtual organ offers a detailed and complete service. With the compressor limiter, you’ll be able to set and monitor the sound loudness without compromising any organic texture. The equalizer, EQ-81, will add warmth and pleasantness with its modern algorithms. And to add a perfect spatial quality, the digital reverb will feature five intuitive knobs.
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, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
The Hammond B-3X by IK Multimedia offers unique color and modulation. Its easy-to-use controls are extremely practical for any producer that wants to get realistic organ sounds quickly.
The authentic organ sounds reproduced by Hammond B-3X can be modulated with many features like a guitar amp, a Leslie simulation, and a built-in Post FX cabinet.
With a brilliant design, the Hammond B-3X can be easily attributed to MIDI controls, delivering a great workflow to any player.
13. Arturia Modular V3 (Modular/Moog Emulation Synth)
Arturia takes us back to the roots of synthesis with this emulation of a revered classic.
The Arturia Modular V is based on the Moog Model 55 modular synth, which was a two-notes polyphonic synth. This software emulation adds sensible features like formant filtering and 64-voice polyphony to the original design.
The interface, however, remains faithful to the hardware along with the manual patching workflow.
- Powerful Oscillators
Sometimes, more is more in synthesis. Modular V features 9 oscillators in total, and each can generate sine, triangle, saw, and square waves. Furthermore, they also feature frequency and amplitude modulations. While it may seem unnecessary to have so many oscillators, you’ll probably spend most of them for unison as there isn’t a dedicated feature for that. Also, there’s a noise generator.
- Moog Filters
There are three filter modules in the plugin, and they accurately recreate the sound of the original filters (low-pass). The plugin lets you select one of four types of filters for each module: a low-pass, high-pass, notch, and a band-pass, all of them with 24 dB/octave slope steepness. Furthermore, you’ll also find a Fixed Filter Bank, where you can equalize the signal coming from the two output amplifiers (VCA) using 14 bands.
- Effect Processors
The plugin features chorus, phaser, and stereo delay processors. There are three chorus types selectable with a toggle switch. And you can sync the stereo delay to the host tempo. You’ll probably want to use the delay as an echo effect rather than as a spatial effect.
- Sequence Generator
This module, better known as a sequencer, is comparable to the original model 960 sequencer but simplifies programming with internal connections. The low-frequency oscillator, the 8-step sequence manager, and the output controller are the three components of this module. The oscillator sets the playback rate, which can also be synced to the host.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Featuring over 600 presets, Arturia’s Modular V is probably one of the most inspiring synths yet.
However, the interface often feels overly large and clunky, especially if you use a smaller screen like a laptop, although it retains the original hardware’s feel. Sound-wise, the emulation is spot-on, and if you like analog sounds, this synth should be at a high place on your list.
14. Spitfire Audio – Abbey Road One Orchestral Foundations (Orchestral Instruments)
More Info & Price
This plugin features samples recorded in a coveted studio room and brings cinematic quality to your orchestral sounds.
Abbey Road’s Studio One has seen a lot throughout its history. This room is famous for its sonic capabilities and adequate space to fit an entire ensemble, from iconic bands to ambitious recordings. Thinking of such big standards, Spitfire Audio carefully recorded a 90-piece symphonic orchestra with excellent microphones, amazing acoustics, top engineers, and the best players available. As a result, every instrument gets the deserved attention, so it’ll sound as it should, with amazing precision regarding sonic details and dynamics.
- Five distinct libraries
Each of five distinct Abbey Road One libraries is designed to evoke a particular aspect in your project. “Vibrant Reeds” adds brilliance and color to your track by pairing oboes and clarinets with oboes and Cor Anglais at the same time; “Grand Brass” merges horns and tube with horns and cellos for maximum deepness; “Wondrous Flutes” brings more brilliance with flute and piccolo performances; “Legendary Low Strings” combines the cello and bass sections for a beautiful low-end; and, finally, “Sparkling Woodwinds” adds the deserved higher harmonics to everything.
- Articulations and dynamic layers
This collection features 69 different articulations paired with five distinct dynamic layers. You can also find your perfect sound by selecting up to 10 individual mics (with great options like a pair of RM1B and some ribbons mics) with two mix signals. Varying these parameters allows you to enhance the overall sound quality and craft a unique approach to your score.
- Iconic spot
Abbey Road is perhaps the most famous recording studio globally, but there’s a reason for that: the unique recording rooms, with their exquisite acoustics, make everything played there sound fantastic. Studio One featured many amazing recording sessions for famous movie soundtracks, such as several “Harry Potter” scores, “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi,” “1917,” and “Avengers: Endgame,” just to name a few.
- A cinematic experience
The sections are organized into ensembles, featuring different instrument combinations that can inspire you quickly and easily. The strings are divided into “Low” and “High,” brass section into “Low,” and horns, trumpets, and woodwind into “Low” and “High.” Dividing these instruments into lower or higher sections can instantly help you find great sound as if they were just recorded in your room.
- Five distinct libraries
The library is available for macOS 10.10 to 11 (64-bit only) and Windows 7, 8, or 10 (64-bit only and the latest Service Pack required). It comes in VST2, VST3, AAX, AU, and NKS plugin formats.
Spitfire Audio is an excellent software developer when it comes to orchestral sounds. Attention to detail is always satisfying, and this is definitely a must when it comes to cinematic plugins.
The dynamic variety, allied with the amazing acoustics offered by none other than Abbey Road’s Studio One, undoubtedly makes this a must-have option in your arsenal.
Although it’s more focused on cinematic productions, you can use this excellent collection to add any orchestral bits necessary to make your track sound as good as if you’ve just recorded with an actual orchestra.
15. Ample Sound – Ample Guitar T (Taylor 714CE)
There’s a reason why there is another plugin by Ample Sound in this list. Ample Guitar T simulates the sound of a Taylor guitar with great detail and clarity at a much lower cost.
The Taylor 714CE guitar needs no introduction, as it is one world-class instrument that costs about $3,000. The guys from the Chinese company Ample Sound decided to recreate it as a virtual instrument. And it worked out, to put it mildly, just incredible.
Ample Guitar T is another excellent plugin that will give you access to a top-notch guitar tone in your home studio.
Ample Guitar T is created through deep sampling and has every possible articulation setting like other plugins from this company. With this software, you can play countries and patterns with your fingers or with a pick.
Thanks to the Customized Parameters Control technology, you can also control all nuances on the keyboard. And Multiple Capo Logics will give you various options of automatic fingering logic to cover different performances such as solo, chorus, etc.
- Play styles
The Ample Guitar T has been sampled with fingering and picking playing styles, adding sustains, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and all sorts of guitar techniques to the mix. The minor subtleties of all these styles of play you can adjust in the settings.
- Riffer & Strummer
In Strummer mode, you will have 14 Strum notes and 28 ways to play each chord. There are also four humanization settings, Strum SEQ with customized rhythm and Delicate presets with MIDI export. The Riffer mode will give you the String Roll Editor and the Random Riff Generator.
As with other plugins from Ample Sound, you get access to 8-band EQ with intuitive control of frequency response. There’s also a 2-Line Compressor, 6-Tap Echo, and IR Reverb with Room, Studio, Hall, and Larger Hall options.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, AAX formats, and as a standalone host.
Ample Sound’s Ample Guitar T virtual acoustic guitar is probably the best one by them so far, given the fact that it tries to get as close as possible to the sound of a top-quality guitar like a Taylor one.
All possible articulation settings and effects are here so you can get a mix-ready acoustic guitar tone of the highest quality.
16. VSL Synchron Strings Pro (Orchestral Strings)
Vienna Symphonic Library is responsible for some of the best sampled orchestral instruments, and Synchron is certainly one of them.
Synchron Strings Pro is a string library recorded in Synchron Stage, Vienna, and it features a massive arsenal of articulations with unparalleled sampling and programming. The result is a highly natural-sounding string library, capable of simple pad-like long notes or energetic runs alike.
I must note that due to the sheer size of the library (over 122 GB for the smaller version), it might be overkill if you are looking for a backing section for pop music or so.
However, if you enjoy composing classical music, Synchron Strings Pro stands as one of the best strings plugins that money can buy.
- Natural Articulations
The instrument features an extensive collection of articulations and expressions, including standard ones like legato, staccato, spiccato, tremolo, etc., and special ones like harmonics, col legno, flautando, and legato agile, which is ideal for fast, bouncing runs. Similarly, each articulation has multiple types, expressions, and release options. So, for example, you could have a legato with vibrato played in pianissimo with a soft release.
- Multiple Mic Positions
The Synchron Strings Pro was recorded using 8 microphones. And the library has a Standard and a Full version, where the latter has all the 8 microphones available for adjustments. The standard version has a close mic, mid mic (front row), room mic (L/R), and room mic (center).
Let’s continue from the previous feature. The Full version employs four more mics, including a back mic (second row), main surround mic, high stereo mic, and a high surround mic. They are primarily for creating immersive surround sound, including 2.0.2 (stereo with height audio) and 5.1.4 (Aura 3D or Dolby Atmos setup).
The library features many presets that include per-ensemble preset, mapped tutti, and octave combinations employing two ensembles for a fast workflow. Most presets feature multiple articulations that you can switch on the fly and polyphonic legato.
This library is available for Windows 8.1 or higher and macOS 10.10.5 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Synchron Strings Pro is an inspiring wealth of sound with natural note transitions and expression. It does require a moderately powerful computer to perform smoothly, but it’s to be expected for instruments of this detail. I would highly recommend it if you work on classical music.
The only downside is that you will require an eLicenser USB protection device, even for the demo. You can purchase one from Vienna or use an existing eLicenser key, such as from Steinberg or Arturia. Finally, the installation process can be tedious for someone, but it’s worth it in the end.
17. Tracktion Novum By Dawesome (Advanced Granular Synth)
Novum is a granular & cross-synthesis instrument by Tracktion.
Novum takes the idea of a traditional sampler and flips it on its head by asking the question: what if we could break down a sample into different timbral instruments? Inside Novum, you can load any sample and hear it in different iterations. It also includes a powerful granular synthesis engine, a versatile modulation system, and the ability to edit the sound’s timbre and temporal evolution.
Novum’s main interface is centered around the waveform display, representing the loaded sample. Once you load a sample, it will be decomposed and split into six different layers, which you can turn on or off. The layers are frequency-based, and you can achieve interesting results once you start combining them with layers of other sounds. For example, if you load a drum loop, you can change the timbre of the six layers by dragging in a different sample from the preset section on the left-hand side, for example, a violin. Now, the drum loop will play with the violin’s timbre, creating a hybrid between the two that’s both rhythmic and melodic.
- Expressive sounds
Novum is ideal for producers and artists who seek expressive and evocative sounds. Once you load a sample, you can freeze it at a certain point and play it chromatically as a new instrument. To create expressive patches, you can load MPE modulation, such as aftertouch. You can map the aftertouch control on any parameter. The effects included on Novum are rich and creative. The filter, for example, works as a regular filter until you start messing with the syntify control. Syntify will add overtones to your sound, basically doing the opposite of a filter cutoff which takes away overtones. If you map this to aftertouch, you get evolving and expressive instruments.
- Timbre flower and modulation
The timbre flower is included in the timbre panel, and it’s a gorgeous visualization of how each layer’s timbre works. It offers a lot of spectral variation, and by clicking on one of its pedals, you create a completely different timbre for the corresponding sound layer. Furthermore, you can add LFOs and envelopes to the mix to modulate any parameter. The LFOs come with an array of different shapes, but you can still draw your own. Step sequencers are also on board to create rhythmic patterns and, most importantly, use other modulators to affect each step.
- Granular synthesis
Any sound you load into Novum can be processed granularly. You can access the grains panel to do so, and there you’ll find a set of controls that will help you create rich and beautiful textures. For example, the density control can make the grains slower or faster, the size makes longer or shorter and faster grains, skew can reverse the grains, and time jitter can spread the grains throughout the entire sample length to create rich textures. The grains can also be linked to the tempo of your host’s BPM. The most interesting part of Novum is that the granular engine can work separately on each of the six sound layers, meaning that you can have different granular instruments playing the same sound but in different timbres.
Novum is available on Windows 10 or higher, and macOS 10.13 or higher in VST3 and AU formats.
Novum offers a very unique and creative approach to sampling. The idea of treating audio as a prism that splits it into its fundamental elements is fresh and works beautifully in a sound design context.
You can decompose any sample into different layers and affect it in countless ways. I still haven’t mentioned the countless presets on board that you can drag onto your samples to create different instruments.
I would recommend Novum to experienced producers and sound designers who seek new instruments that experimentally tackle sound design.
18. IK Multimedia Modo Bass 2 (Bass Guitar)
Modo Bass 2 emulates bass guitar and is one of the most realistic-sounding bass virtual instruments.
It has 22 different types of bass instruments that it physically models, ranging from modern J-Bass to Horn bass, covering bass sounds of different genres and styles with elastic strings, pickups, effects, and other physical construction. In addition, the well-designed audio engine creates an easy workflow and organic sounds, which makes the plugin sound just like a real bass instrument.
The expressions can be captured and edited using any MIDI instrument, with a tweakable playing style and physical mechanics. Hence, you can play, record, and program bass in different genres, ranging from rock, funk, RnB, jazz, classical, and more.
- Highly Customizable
In the Play Style section, you can tweak everything about the instrument, from choosing the playing as pickup, slap, or finger to mixing a muted texture to it for more percussiveness, using a single knob. In addition, you can tweak the amount of slide and detach noise, turn the Open String on or off, and many more options for customizing the instrument.
- Strings selection
You can create a bass of four, five, or six strings and extend its range by drop-tuning it. You can also select the lifetime and gauge of the bass strings, the material and build they’re made of, their length, and the distance between them and the fretboard. The complete string customization gives you an expansive physical model of the instrument that you can tweak to have complete sonic control over the sound.
- Expressive playing
The MIDI control section allows you to re-assign key switches or MIDI controls to automate and record artistic performance changes during playing, like playing style, phrasing, etc.
- Alterable Micing & Pickups
You can choose bass pickups from 32 different choices, and you also get active or passive electronic piezo pickups, along with dedicated rooms & adjustable mic positions on the two acoustic double basses.
For Mac, Modo Bass 2 requires a minimum of Intel® Core™ 2 Duo or Apple M1, 4 GB of RAM (8 GB suggested), macOS 10.13 or later, and is available in AU, VSt 2/3, and AAX formats. For Windows, it demands Intel® Core™ 2 Duo or AMD Athlon™ 64 X2, 4 GB of RAM (8 GB suggested), and Windows® 10 or later. In addition, requires an ASIO-compatible sound card and is available as VST 2/3 and AAX plugins. Lastly, it’s also available as a standalone instrument.
The plugin is well-designed, taking music programming to the next level, with high-level articulation editing, playing styles, and editable physical behavior. Of course, that also makes things complex, but your control over your sounds is unbeatable. Depending on your creative workflow, you can use in-built patches and presets if you don’t want to spend time getting into the nitty gritty of sound design, as the presets are also well-made.
19. 510k SEQUND (Polyrhytmic Sequencer)
SEQUND by 510k is a polyrhythmic sequencer that feeds MIDI data to other virtual instruments.
It’s an expansive and detailed step sequencer that may take some time to get used to because of its unconventional workflow, but it’s also intuitive and easy to use, given the advanced programming it allows. It’s not an instrument with its own sound generators and is routed to another plugin/virtual instrument.
- Great for creating Techno & other groovy EDM genres
Suppose you want to trigger MIDI data for the perfect techno bassline. You can select different grid steps and adjust their pitch, length, velocity, and other parameters. That will help you create interesting melodies, especially for the Techno.
The plugin has an interesting workflow, with two melodic lanes and a probabilistic lane so that you can alternate between the two pitch lanes, Octave, Transpose, Velocity, and three assignable MIDI CC lanes, for which you can assign the steps. You can also unhide additional parameters like Length, Hold, Chance, etc.
- Probabilistic lane
SEQUND allows you to alternate between Pitch A and Pitch B based on the probability percentage you set in the lane. That allows you to create generative musical data.
- GATE lane for sequencing
The plugin allows you to select the rhythm by selecting the GATE triggers. In addition, you can decide the flow of the movement by the arrow button, which can be forward, backward, bidirectional, pendulum, or random. Overall, it offers the easiest and most intuitive workflow for step sequencing.
- Create interesting polyrhythms
You can set different mixes of steps per gate lane and pitch lane and artistically create unexpected and musical patterns by adjusting the gate/pitch similarities and keeping the rhythm and melody separate.
SEQUND is available in VST2, AU, and VST3 plugin versions and has a minimum operating system requirement of a Mac OS 10.14 and Windows 10.
The plugin has great presets to get you started and help you understand its functionalities. It may also require some manual diving, but the manual is great and detailed. The GUI is resizeable and colorful, with the plugin being light on the CPU. You can create some great musical movements with SEQUND.
20. Ethno World 6 Complete (Ethnic Instruments – Requires Kontakt Player)
For over 16 years, Ethno World has been steadily expanding and improving, culminating in Ethno World 6 Complete.
The sample library Ethno World bills itself as the “ultimate collection of ethnic instruments and voices from around the world.” By “ethnic instruments and voices,” You can take it they mean anything you won’t hear in a standard western classical orchestra or your run-of-the-mill rock, jazz, or electronic band.
Given the immensity of the Earth, it is not unexpected that the library is over 22 terabytes in size, with 28,479 samples and 310 separate sound sources.
- Quick Edit Tab
- The presets in the library are labeled as Hazy Piano, GoTo Piano, Arcade Piano, Icy Piano, Glass keys, Dream Keys, twilight keys, etc. There are 151 presets like these, with 106 sounds and preset categories.
Microtuning enables the user to fine-tune each note and to create, load, and save customized microtonal profiles. This is a game-changer for world instruments, giving them the punch they require to offer a more authentic feel to tunes that need it.
The new version features a graphical interface that has been rethought from the ground up to provide lightning-fast response times.
There is a wide variety of customization options and cutting-edge features. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol keyboards and NI Maschine can be tagged and interacted with in ETHNO WORLD 6 Complete thanks to compatibility with the Native Kontrol Standard (NKS).
There are several types of stringed, plucked, and bowed instruments, as well as a wide variety of woodwinds (including many flutes) and, of course, many types of drums and percussion, all of which can be found in the library.
In addition to the aforementioned new mandolin with numerous play techniques, you may now find a Fujara, Concertina, Autoharp, Japanese koto, South American Charango, and many other instruments.
- Information Database
Access to the comprehensive IDB-INFO is a standout feature of ETHNO WORLD 6 Complete, as you can access it from any instrument or voice.
In the “IDB-INFO” section of the site’s navigational menu, you’ll find pictures of the instruments and extensive information about their histories, cultures of origin, and distinctive playing styles. There are also instructions on using key switches to produce believable results with the matching instrument.
The instruments are both multi-sampled instruments and instrument effects, and they have a wide variety of performances (loops/phrases) synced to the pace. Most instruments have a nice presence and liveliness during playback. Including each instrument as a multi-sample instrument and the phrase/loops allow users to bring their world or ethnically colored music to life.
The library is available for Kontakt 5.7 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player). Kontakt 5.7 is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.10 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
A superb collection of ethnic instruments, Ethno World 6 excels by delivering a nice collection of such instruments allied with relevant parameters and controls. The functionality of this library is very intuitive, and the most difficult part is deciding which instrument sounds best. We can safely say that its samples were carefully recorded and provide a great quality, especially if deeply explored with the built-in effects and general settings.
Best Fre Instrument Plugins For Pro Tools 2023
1. Matt Tytel Vital (Free & Paid)
Vital’s synthesizer brings spectral oscillator warping to add new life to your wavetables.
Acting directly on a waveform’s harmonics, this technology can create drastically different tones and shapes from a signal source. Thanks to this simple tool that creates endless possibilities, what was already incredibly customizable just became even more so.
If you want to import your samples to create a wavetable, Vital’s pitch-splice and vocode converter are two great and easy add-ons to get even more specific on your sound design.
You can also develop wavetables from scratch via the built-in wavetable generator or even directly from the text!
- Excellent oscillators
These oscillators have a shallow low noise floor and a sharp cut-off at Nyquist for almost no aliasing, creating the cleanest sounds with the best quality possible. “Nyquist” means that each periodic signal should be periodically sampled at a rate twice the size of your audio signal. So, in order to overcome this, a higher quality sampling is sought after on synths like Vital – and a cut-off might be the simplest tool you’d ever need.
- Microtonality at its best
This synth can load .tun, .scl, and .kbd files – which can alter and configure how the tuning’s used will perform -- and play in a microtonal setting without any troubles. A brand new tuning system can unlock new possibilities regarding how the samples are performing. This expands not only how you’ll play notes and frequencies, but also how to sample and interact with one another via the oscillators.
- Key-tracked LFOs
It’s possible to create key-tracked bass lines with this LFO setting, combining it with an audio-rate modulation and using your LFO as an oscillator modulation source. This enables you to instantly automate certain modulation parameters in relation to whatever notes are being played.
- MPE support
If you have a ROLI keyboard, a Linnstrument, or other MPE-compatible gear, Vital offers full support and controls. This way, you can add more expression to your sound and make use of dynamics the way you’re used to.
- Audio-rate modulation
The audio modulator kicks in when you have an audio signal or a parameter being varied and brings much more personality to your tones. The variations can be tracked down and edited in the most creative ways possible. The signal whose waveform is used to trigger is modulated accordingly, with extreme precision and character.
- Excellent oscillators
The plugin is available for mac OS 10.12 or higher, Windows 10 or higher, and Ubuntu Linux 18.04 or higher. All 64-bit only, with OpenGL 3 or higher. It comes in VST, AU, and LV2 plugin formats.
Vital Audio brings a different wavetable synth than most ones out there, especially regarding creating new sounds. Most do allow you to develop wavetables based on any audio files, but this is probably the only one on this list that can handle microtonality, text input, and effects like vocoder and pitch-splice too.
The warping oscillator ensures that each harmonic will be shaped at your desire, and this is truly unique to find in a synthesizer.
2. Spitfire Audio LABS Strings
LABS Strings is a free ensemble string library with an outstanding sound.
Unlike the other LABS instruments recorded with peculiar playing styles, Strings is relatively standard and usable alone or for layering with other string libraries. It sounds like the library was recorded using close mics, but the large knob in the interface allows you to add reverb or tightness.
The reverb gives some much-needed space to the mix if you intend to use the library alone.
- Long and Short
The library features three articulations: Long, Ensemble, and Short. The long and ensemble are both sustains, but I preferred the ensemble one for writing melodies. And as you might have guessed, the short articulation is staccato that you could use to create ostinato patterns or add some embellishment to an arrangement.
The library features multiple dynamic layers, and you can control it using your modulation wheel. Velocity does nothing, so you might as well set your keyboard to fixed velocity, and it’s a good thing – you can use the modulation to create dynamic legato pieces.
- The Big Knob
The knob lets you control reverb and tightness. Here, the reverb implies the rest of the mics, including a vintage special BBC AXB1, used to record the instruments. And tightness is a transient controller that makes the staccato even more biting. I would use it only for layering.
The library is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
We are all aware of the top-notch quality control Spitfire Audio maintains, and their free instruments aren’t lacking in that regard either. If you are looking for ensemble strings that you can use as backing instruments or even for classical composition akin to Barber’s Adagio, you could certainly use these strings.
It may not have the most natural-sounding staccato, but it works for layering.
With that said, you can find much more than just a strings within LABS collection. Go and check it out!
3. AudioModern GateLab (Gate Sequencer)
The GateLab by AudioModern is a proficient, all-encompassing gate sequencer with a few stellar features that set it apart as a top-notch free device.
You can send out two channels of MIDI to other instruments in the session, which is done by advanced MIDI learning and syncing.
- Infinity Mode
As we saw with the Playbeat and the Riffer devices (also designed by AuioModern), an infinity setting helps when triggering new phrases after a specific period. You set the count on the control, which determines when automatic changes will be made to your chosen parameters. It triggers a new phrase that creates variation to your progression without you needing to do the hands-on work.
- Disintegration and Grow Mode
These modes are similar to one another but perform opposite roles. It works in conjunction with Infinity Mode and either diminishes or adds notes to the phrase. This is especially useful when you’re working with build-ups or breakdowns, as you can get the plugin to do the work for you and create seamless transitions between essential points in your track.
- Randomization – Well-suited to Live Performance
The giant randomization button cannot be missed and will likely be one of the frequent elements you employ. This can be used to create random chaos or be more controlled and only affect specific parameters. You can choose for the randomization to be subtle, regular, or intense.
- Gate and Flow Modes
These two options are relatively simple and determine how the device will playback audio. In gate mode, the steps are either on or off, meaning that there either is sound or no sound triggered. In Flow mode, you’re able to determine changes in velocity and choose from some presets that will add movement and feel to your sequence.
This plug-in is available for Windows 7 or higher (64 bit) and macOS X 10.12 or higher (64 bit). It comes in VST, VST3, AU, AAX, iOS, and Standalone formats.
GateLab is a powerful plugin that offers a lot for free. It’s impressive just how much you can do with this neat little plugin without needing to spend a cent. The design looks great and helps facilitate a smooth workflow, thanks to how it’s set up.
It wouldn’t be surprising if you managed to achieve anything you’d hoped to with a full-paid version. You might just fall in love with GateLab and find that it becomes a loyal companion to your creative process.
4. Ample Guitar M Lite II (Martin D-41)
Ample Sound makes a bold move by delivering a free plugin with virtually no compromises. It is the Ample Guitar M Lite II plugin.
This plugin from the Chinese company Ample Sound is based on the Martin D-41 acoustic guitar, known for its rich sound. Beautiful inlays and the fingerboard make it a dream for many guitarists.
As with their other software, Ample Sound has taken care of deep sampling. The plugin includes Finger Instrument libraries to fit different needs and features rich firing noise, which has become more vivid and realistic. There are Sustain, Hammer-On & Pull-Off, Palm Mute, and Popping five articulations.
The plugin is equipped with Capo Logic technology, which provides intelligent play according to guitar rules. It also has Double Guitar, which means different samples at L & R channel. In addition, Ample Guitar M Lite II has Poly Legato, Slide Smoother, and Alternate Tuner.
This feature will give you unusually realistic strum samples. In total, there are 14 strum notes with 28 different ways to play each chord. In addition, four humanization settings, strum SEQ with customized rhythm, and delicate presets with drag & drop support.
- Tab Player
With the Tab Player, you can download and play several standard guitar tablature file formats. When used in a DAW, the Tab Player also lets you export tablature to an audio file. This feature supports all fingering, loops, chords, articulations, and other markers in the loaded tablature.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, AAX formats, and as a standalone host.
Ample Sound has made it possible for you to have the Martin D-41 acoustic guitar as a virtual instrument for free. You can use the rich sound of this guitar both in your DAW and as a stand-alone host.
Deep sampling and all possible articulations make this software a gift for beginner producers and experienced ones alike.
5. Ample Bass P Lite II (Fender Precision Bass)
Don’t worry if you don’t have a budget. We’ve got some free plugins for you. The first is Ample Bass P Lite II from Ample Sound.
The Chinese company Ample Sound, from time to time, pleases its users with free products. For example, you can get a virtual instrument based on the Martin D-41 acoustic guitar. Ample Bass P Lite II is also on the list of free plugins.
This software is based on the Fender Precision Bass. More often than not, free plugins can’t surprise you with excellent sound quality. But let’s be honest with you – this one is perfect. At least you can safely try it before you buy similar virtual instruments.
- Over 400 Bass Samples
In total, the plugin uses over four hundred bass guitar samples. It is pretty enough to provide many articulations. Namely, Hammer-Ons & Pull-Offs, Accent, and Sustain. Also, you will hear a rich fingering noise.
- Implemented technologies
The creators have introduced the Auto Buzz system, Capo Logic, Customized Parameters Control, Poly Legato, and Slide Smoother technologies. You can also combine several articulations by pressing a few key switches at the same time.
- Use Your Tabs
With the Tab Player, you can load and play guitar and bass tablature in the plugin. In addition, you can export the file from the Tab Player. This mode supports all necessary articulations as well.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, AAX formats, and as a standalone host.
Ample Sound has given you a fantastic opportunity to try a virtual bass guitar for free. It has enough articulation and pretty good sound quality. Therefore, we do not exclude that you can use this plugin for your music production.
6. MT Power Drum Kit 2
MT Power Drum Kit 2 is possibly the most feature-rich free drum plugin available.
What makes this plugin stand out from the rest is its comprehensiveness and exemplary user interface. MT Power Drum Kit 2 contains a single excellently sampled drum kit appropriate for rock and pop music. Also, the drum recording is pre-processed so that it stands out in a mix.
- Groove Library
The plugin features a midi groove library containing thousands of professionally performed grooves. There are intros, variations, fills, and endings neatly organized in folders. Furthermore, the browser’s Composer section lets you build an entire drum arrangement, which you can drag and drop into your DAW.
MT Power Drum Kit 2 has a built-in mixer where you can control the level and panning of each instrument in the kit. Furthermore, you can activate a compressor at the bottom of each channel and adjust it with an Amount knob. For further processing, the plugin supports multi-out to your DAW.
The plugin has even more surprisingly thought-out features that are often limited to paid plugins. First, you can assign midi mappings to make recording easier. Second, it supports e-kit features like hi-hat pedal CC# and a choke note for each cymbal. Not to mention the UI is resizable.
The plugin is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.5 or higher, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.
If you are after an acoustic drum plugin available for free, MT Power Drum Kit 2 is your best bet. It’s well-recorded, looks fabulous, and is fun to perform. And even if you don’t like the pre-processed sound of the plugin, it’s still highly useful for the massive midi grooves library.
7. Matt Tytel Helm
Helm is a great subtractive soft-synth to create all types of EDM genres, which comes with 200 presets.
It has two oscillators with interesting waveshapes and 32-voice polyphony and is connected via a mod knob, which is a great way to alter the timbre of the oscillators. In addition, it has switchable modules, a filter, a filter envelope, two mono LFOs, one poly LFO, a modulation envelope, and a step sequencer.
- The formant filter
The formant filter is great for creating vowel sounds by picking different spots in the XY pad, which is especially great for creating dubstep and talking wobble sounds. You can also create interesting rhythmic patterns on this by connecting it to an LFO and changing its intensity and intervals.
- Cross Modulation between oscillators
The two main oscillators, as mentioned above, are connected via a mod knob, through which the left oscillator modulates the phase of the right oscillator, and the right oscillator modulates the tone of the left oscillator.
- Global Unison control
In the oscillator window, you can increase the width of the sounds by increasing the number of voices and adjusting the unison parameter by which the unison voices will be detuned by the value of cents you set on it. Further, a global voices knob controls the number of voices of the master output.
- Interesting Effects
There’s a dedicated arpeggiator section with frequency control and octaves up to which the arpeggiation can happen. You can also select different kinds of patterns of arpeggiation. What’s unique about Helm is the Stutter effect that you can add to the sound with frequency, resample, and softness parameters. That adds gated effects to your sound at different time intervals. In addition, you can also add distortion, reverb, and delay to your sounds.
The free plugin can run on Linux, Mac, and Windows as a standalone program and on DAWs/hosts that can run LV2, VST, AU, and AAX plugins.
Helm has many effects and features make it great for creating electronic music with robotic movements and artificial sounds. In addition, it offers great inspiration for sound design due to its different pitch and amplitude modulation algorithms.
8. MaxSynths DR-910
As the name suggests, DR-910 is a Roland TR-909 drum machine emulation.
The plugin attempts to recreate the original unit’s sounds by emulating each sound section (kick, snare, tom, hi-hat, and cymbal) individually. The result is a delightfully close reproduction. Furthermore, it adds to the legacy by including effects to make mixing easier.
- Mixing Effects
The DR-910 includes a reverb, compressor, and a Lo-Fi effect. Each channel has an individual send control for the reverb, whereas the compressor is tailored to work with drums. And the Lo-Fi effect includes three modes for convenience. Overall, they offer enough for in-the-box mixing.
- Four Outputs
The plugin includes four outputs for external mixing. They come in handy in real-world uses. Not only that, you can assign one of the outputs for the reverb channel as well. So, you can process the wet reverb signal alone with EQs or other effect plugins to achieve cleaner mixes.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit only. It comes in VST 2 format.
If you are a fan of the Roland TR-909 drum machine, you will enjoy this plugin. It captures the long-standing classic used in pop, hip-hop, electro, and many other genres. The multi-out feature also provides much more flexibility than one would expect.
9. NI Kontakt 7 Player
KONTAKT PLAYER 7 is a plugin that can run Native Instruments’ sample-based instruments and any third-party products developed for the KONTAKT platform.
KONTAKT PLAYER aims to provide its users with various creative instruments and sounds. This version of KONTAKT, available for no cost, includes 50 instruments and a 500 MB sound library and gives users access to various additional instruments and libraries made by developers worldwide.
- Outputs Section
The outputs panel emulates a classic mixing console layout and includes controls for routing and mixing. The Rack’s Instruments feed their output signals into this section, sending them to the audio interface or host program’s physical outputs. Create, delete, rename, and configure Output Channels in the Outputs section to serve as final stops for mono, stereo, or multichannel Instrument signals.
- On-Screen Keyboard
When a MIDI keyboard is unavailable, you can use the On-Screen Keyboard in KONTAKT PLAYER to play instruments with the mouse. When a key on the keyboard is depressed, it triggers a note event sent to the active Instrument. When you click higher on a key, the resulting notes will have a slower velocity, and the resulting notes will have a faster velocity when you click lower on the key.
Snapshots make it simple to try out different configurations of any KONTAKT PLAYER Instrument and store them for later recall. You can create your custom sound presets with Snapshots, then save them as .nksn files for usage in future projects, across machines, or to share with other users.
During the editing process, you can save snapshots at any time. It is possible to create a User Snapshot by loading a Factory Snapshot and then modifying its settings. To show off all of KONTAKT’s features, you’ll need to save a Snapshot outside the KONTAKT Factory Library.
- Rack Multi-Instrument
Whenever you’re working in KONTAKT, you’ll be in the Rack. Rack instruments can be seen and edited in both Multi and Performance views when in Multi-Instrument mode. Instrument Edit mode is included in the full version of KONTAKT, allowing you to modify a single instrument’s internal structures.
When in Multi-Instrument mode, the name and associated settings for each Instrument in the Multi are displayed in a horizontal Instrument Header. With a maximum of 64 Instruments, you can break out your Multi among four pages of up to 16 Instruments each.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.10 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 10 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST/RTAS/AU/AAX formats and supports 32 and 64 bit systems.
The younger sibling of Kontakt 7, this plugin is useful for any music producer or artist. Many free sound libraries are compatible with it, and using it is a good way to test the waters before investing in the full version. If you want to learn piano but want to save time and money to buy a piano, this plugin could be just what you need.
Surge XT is a highly advanced & capable open-source subtractive synthesizer.
Carrying a unique interface, divided into 2 “scenes” with three oscillators per scene and 64 voices of polyphony, the plugin allows you to create high-level modulations using its eight macro controls, six LFOs, two EGs, and more. The interface is well laid-out and compressed, with adjustable signal flows and routing configurations.
- Sound splitting & layering capabilities
The sounds can be easily layered or split using the scene modes; for example, the keyboard split allows different scenes to be played on different parts of the MIDI instrument, and the dual mode allows you to play scenes A and B at the same time.
- Expansive Modulation Section
The mod matrix allows you to drag and drop different parameters to the modulators and the macros. In addition, MACROS allows you to link multiple parameters under one control. So you can go in-depth with the modulations and create some cool effects and movements.
In Windows, the Surge XT is available as a 32 and 64-bit VST and CLAP plugin, which demands Windows 7 (or later versions), at least 4 GBs of RAM, and Pentium 4/Athlon 64 or above CPU. To use the 64-bit version on Windows, you require a CPU supporting the x64 (AMD64/EM64T) instruction set.
For macOS, the plugin is available in 64-bit Audio Unit (AU), VST3, and CLAP versions, which requires a Mac OS X 10.11 or newer, a 64-bit x86 Intel or ARM Apple Silicon CPU, and at least 4GB of RAM. On Linux, Surge is available as a 64-bit VST3 and CLAP in the form of a deb and RPM package.
It’s almost hard to believe that the plugin is available for free, as it offers functions that are hard to find even on many paid synthesizers. It’s one of the best subtractive synths, which is best suited for sound design. The overall user experience with the plugin is smooth owing to its simple interface and Surge being light on the CPU.
1. Moog Minimoog (Analog Synth)
UAD launched their virtual version of the legendary Minimoog synth with UAD Spark in collaboration with Moog Music.
The plugin has been created with plenty of research to emulate the classic circuitry and rigorous modeling to precisely capture the module-to-module coupling and impedance, to re-create the authentic analog sound of the original Minimoog as a soft-synth.
It has three oscillators, each with six different basic analog waveforms to choose from, along with a volume knob in the mixer window. Overall, the interface and the signal flow, like the hardware, are simple and easy to use.
- Analog filters
The plugin allows you to set the cutoff frequency, filter emphasis (resonance), and contour amount (mix) of the filter, and the filter sound warm, vintage, and analog. It’s modeled from a VCF (Voltage Controlled Filter) and the filter response has been programmed accordingly.
- Software additions
UAD has added flexible velocity sensitivity and additional modulation features like a separate LFO, modulation amount, and modulation mix sources. These features are not present in the hardware version.
- Expansive Presets
The presets are classified and organized in terms of Genre, Type, and Description, and there is a huge variety of presets you can choose from, which fit a lot of different genres and styles. That makes the sound selection process easier, especially for composers and new music producers.
The plugin requires a macOS 10.15 Catalina, 11 Big Sur, or 12 Monterey, and is available with the UAD Spark in AAX, AU, VST3, and LUNA plugin formats.
Overall, UAD Minimoog sounds close to the original hardware synthesizer and is a great emulation. The harmonic content you get from the External Input Volume can increase the quality of the audio and add the required punch, warmness, and spark to the sound. It’s a great plugin for creating vintage, analog-sounding retro synth-pop music and even EDM and modern pop.
2. Noiiz Tubular Bells (Bells)
More Info & Download
Be ready to add color and character to your productions with this library.
Noiiz brings a freeware collection capable of transmitting the vibes that only tubular bells can. This specific set is from Musser, one of the best manufacturers of these instruments, which were sampled extensively to fit your most diverse musical needs.
- Bass chimes
This unique set of tubular bells includes a bass chime, which can be hard to find elsewhere and provide a delightful low-end to your bells sounds and some interesting frequency tones.
The samples were captured at Skinny Farm Studios with a pair of Neumann U87 microphones, arguably the best condenser microphone in the world. This ensured every sample would sound as perfect as possible, with every nuance fully captured digitally.
To set your sound the way you want, some meaningful effects were added to Tubular Bells: you can add pitch, filter, reverb, drive, and delay for a revamped alternative of the same bells you’re used to, with as much audacity as you’d like.
Noiiz sampled three full octaves of tubular bells, giving you a substantial amount of regions to play with. In addition, some extra notes were resampled and later added to compensate for the entire keyboard range.
- Bass chimes
This plugin is available for macOS 10.9 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in the free Noiiz Player.
As straightforward as possible, Noiiz delivers a reliable collection of tubular bells that can be used and explored for free. They can be modified with the help of effects, but the samples sound great on their own, too. Although it’s limited to its sample player, it’s worth giving a shot at this awesome tool.
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