For this post, we hand-picked plugins for various categories that we believe would be useful for Reaper users including drums, keys, guitars, synths and effects.
Here they are!
30 Best Plugins For Reaper 2023 (Instruments & Effects)
1. Superior Drummer 3 (Virtual Drummer)
From the makers of EZdrummer 2 comes this magnificent virtual drummer with a massive sample library, making it the new benchmark in drum production.
Superior Drummer 3 comes with a comprehensive 230 GB sample library along with 350 electronic drum samples. On top of that, the core sample library in this plugin was recorded in a 12-channel system with 6 main mics and 6 height mics making it one of the few drum plugins compatible with surround production.
In terms of workflow, Superior Drummer 3 features a fully resizable UI with detailed functionalities. There are 7 kits in total, and you can mix and match individual sounds in them with ease. Furthermore, it includes mallet selections (drumstick, brush, rods, felt mallets) in some instruments.
- Sound Design
The plugin has a fully functional, integrated mixing console with bus and sends tracks for parallel mixing. Each internal channel can house multiple effects from the included 35 effect processors. Not to mention the mic bleed and mic level controls to customize the overall drum tone.
A Tracker tab features an audio-to-midi converter to replace your drum recordings with the plugin’s samples. It works faultlessly on any close-mic drum recordings with overhead or room mics producing mixed results. Machine learning based on over 1.4 million drum recordings is behind this feat.
- Find Your Groove
As with EZdrummer 2, Superior Drummer 3 features a fabulous groove browser. The Tap2Find feature lets you use your mouse to input a short groove on the on-screen drum set and find matching grooves. Furthermore, it features Song Creator and Song Tracks to build your drum arrangement without leaving the plugin.
- Grid Editor
Superior Drummer 3 employs a full-fledged midi editor to edit existing midi grooves or create one entirely from scratch. It supports editing velocity and articulation per note. And lastly, a Dynamics knob lets you multiply the velocity levels of multiple notes at once.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2, AU, and AAX formats.
One word: Comprehensive. However, the gigantic library may not appeal to everyone, especially considering how over 95 GB of the library is for surround sound alone. If you feel like you’ll find the use, though, Superior Drummer 3 is undoubtedly one of the best despite the relatively high price.
2. Knif Audio Knifonium (Analog Synth Emulation)
The Knifonium synthesizer plug-in is modeled after Knif Audio’s Knifonium hardware synthesizer. The plug-in, created by Brainworx, offers the same features as its hardware counterpart, along with a few additional features to expand on the great tube tone.
The hardware Knifonium is a monophonic, tube synthesizer that offers two VCOs, a 24 dB/Octave ladder filter, a ring modulator, LFO, 2 envelope generators, and a Sample & Hold. The plugin offers the same features along with 8-voice polyphony, an extended keyboard range, quantization control for sample & hold, voice handling controls, mid-side filtering, a unison mode, and a variety of FX created by Brainworx.
You can expect an analog-styled plugin capable of creating warm, smooth pads, edgy FM style tones, and deep, cinematic, and rhythmic pulses. If you would like to hear it for yourself, Plugin Alliance’s SoundCloud page offers 18 short tracks showcasing the plugin’s sound.
- Tolerance Modelling Technology (TMT)
Unlike digital, analog components varying in their ability to function and no two pieces of equipment can perform exactly the same. How far a component sways from the original intended performance value is called tolerance. In order to capture the authenticity of the original hardware, Brainworx have used their patented technology that emulates the the tolerance variations found in analog hardware.
- Selectable Tube Amp Modes
The hardware inspiration uses 26 tubes for amplification and the plugin has been designed to emulate this. And like the hardware counterpart, you have a three-position dial for selecting tube types. The three positions are: triode, pentode, or saturated. Each position adds its own level of tube saturation to color the tone of the sound for warmer or dynamic playing.
- Voice Handling Settings
You will have control over the thickness and range of voices within the voice handling section of the plugin. It offers a four-position dial for selecting the number of voices you’d like to use—one, two, four, or eight voices—and a switch for activating unison mode for thicker tones.
- Mid/Side Processing
For those not familiar, mid/side processing is when the center and the sides of an audio image are processed independently to enhance clarity, dynamics, or depth within a mix. The Knifonium plugin’s filter features an option to apply similar processing to the signal. You will be able to choose whether you’d like to send the mid, side, or both signals through the VCF for shaping.
- Sidechaining Additional Synth Plugins
Additional synth plugins can be sidechained to the Knifonium to act as a CV for modulation. You will be able to connect up to two external sources to modulate either oscillator’s pitch, the filter’s cutoff frequency, or aftertouch.
- Built-In FX Chain
Brainworx have compiled a selection of trimmed down versions of some of their best effects available for you to embellish the plugin’s sound. The effects offered include a BBD-style delay, Mäag AIR BAND® filter, reverb, flanger, blue chorus, metal666 amp simulator, phaser, SPL EQ Ranger, and a wavefolder.
The plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2, VST 3, AU, and AAX formats.
Brainworx’s plugin is well made and offers a good software version of a particularly rare hardware synthesizer. The features included expand upon the tonal options well and overall I’d say that this plugin is a welcome addition to anyone’s library. It sounds great and has a wide range of controllable parameters for you to get creative with. In addition, if you’re looking for a synthesizer plugin that emulates the sound of a tube driven analog synth, you’ve found it.
3. Native Instruments Kontakt 7 (Sampler/Platform For 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.
The music industry is reacting positively to this upgrade. This software improves complexity, efficiency, and audio reproduction every day. Developers have provided us with a rich palette of virtual instruments thanks to their work, and this upgrade will undoubtedly aid in the progress of that effort.
4. Arturia Pigments 4 (Wavetable & Sample-Based Synth)
Pigments 4 is a powerful and versatile synth that combines the best features of both virtual analog and granular synthesis.
It features a user-friendly interface and offers a wide range of sounds and presets, as well as the ability to create and modify your own sounds. It also includes a built-in modulation matrix, effects, and a step sequencer. Lastly, it features analog, wavetable, Harmonic, and sample-based synthesis engines.
It is the fourth version of their Pigments software, which is known for its versatile sound design capabilities and advanced modulation options. It includes new features, such as a granular engine, a revamped modulation matrix, and new user interface, as new upgrades. It also includes a wide range of sounds and presets and the ability to import samples and use them in the synthesizer.
- Virtual Analog and Granular Synthesis
The plugin combines the best of both worlds by offering the warmth and richness of virtual analog synthesis with the flexibility and granularity of granular synthesis. This allows you to create a wide range of sounds, from classic analog emulations to more experimental and unique sounds.
- Dual Oscillator Engine
The synth features a dual oscillator engine that allows you to layer and combine different waveforms and samples. You can also use the dual oscillator engine to create complex modulation and cross-modulation effects.
- Modulation Matrix
Pigments 4 includes a built-in modulation matrix that allows you to create complex and dynamic sounds by routing different modulation sources to various destinations. This feature is particularly useful for creating evolving, organic sounds.
- Step Sequencer
Pigments 4 includes a step sequencer that allows you to create patterns and sequences in various ways. The step sequencer can be used to create simple beats or more complex patterns and can also be used as a modulation source in the modulation matrix.
The synth includes several effects that can be used to shape and sculpt the sound. These effects include delay, reverb, distortion, chorus, compressor, EQ, filter, and more. The effects can be used in series or parallel and modulated using the modulation matrix, which allows for high sound design possibilities.
The arpeggiator in the synth can be used to create arpeggiated patterns. It allows you to adjust the tempo, the number of octaves, the direction, and the pattern of the arpeggio.
- Presets and Sound Library
The presets are organized into categories, such as bass, leads, pads, and effects, making it easy to find the type of sound you want. You can also search for presets by keyword, which can be useful when looking for a specific type of sound.
Lastly, the presets are categorized into Types (leads, pads, etc.), Styles (e.g., Ambient cinematic, modern, dubstep, etc.), and Banks.
- Sequencing capabilities
The synth includes a built-in step sequencer that can be used to create rhythmic patterns and melodic sequences, which allows you to adjust the sequence length, the number of steps, and the tempo. In addition, you can add and edit notes, rests, and ties and adjust each step’s velocity, swing, and gate. Lastly, the modulation matrix can connect the step sequencer to other synthesizer parameters, such as oscillator pitch or filter cutoff.
- Advanced Interface
The interface of Arturia Pigments 4 is well-designed and user-friendly, making it easy to navigate and adjust the parameters of the synthesizer. It also allows for a high level of customization, which makes it adaptable to different workflows and preferences.
For example, it lets you adjust the layout and color scheme to suit your preferences. It also includes a full-screen mode, which allows you to focus on the main panel and hide the sidebar and bottom bar.
The synth includes a variety of views that can be accessed from the left sidebar of its interface. These views let you isolate and edit different synthesizer sections, such as the oscillators, filters, effects, and modulation matrix. Each view displays the relevant parameters and controls for that section, making it easy to access and adjust the settings you need.
The plugin has a variety of skins by which you can change the overall look and feel of the interface. These skins include color schemes and layouts, such as classic, dark, and minimal. The skins can be selected from the global settings menu, and you can switch between them anytime.
- Macro Controls
Arturia Pigments 4 includes macro controls, a set of eight knobs that can be used to control multiple parameters simultaneously. They allow you to quickly adjust multiple settings with a single control, making it easier to create complex sounds and perform live. The macro controls can be mapped to any parameters within the synthesizer, such as filter cutoff, oscillator pitch, or LFO rate. This allows you to create custom mappings that suit your workflow.
Arturia Pigments 4 is compatible with Mac and Windows operating systems and can be used as a standalone application or as a plugin within a digital audio workstation (DAW) software that supports VST, VST3, AU, and AAX plugin formats.
In addition, it requires a minimum of 4GB of RAM and a 2GHz processor, and also a display with a minimum resolution of 1280×800 pixels. It is also compatible with eLicenser, iLok, and Arturia Software Center for managing and authorizing Arturia software products.
The synth combines the best features of virtual analog and granular synthesis and features a user-friendly interface. In addition, the plugin features a set of macros controls that allow you to quickly and easily shape and sculpt the sound of the synth, which also includes a randomize button that can be used to randomly adjust the values of the macros, which can be useful for generating new and unexpected sounds.
5. AAS Chromaphone 3 (Physical Modelling Percussive Synth)
Chromaphone 3 is essentially a percussive synthesizer but physically models much more than that.
It emulates eight acoustic resonators: Beam, Marimba, Closed Tube, Plate, Drumhead, Membrane, Open Tube, and Strings, which gives us sounds and acoustic characteristics of different types and materials of instruments & percussions, and they can be combined in creative ways to produce realistic instruments.
In terms of interface, it is user-friendly and has four tabs: Home, Browser, Editor, and Settings. The Editor tab is further divided into modes, synth, and effects, in each of which you have complete hands-on control over the sound. In addition, the layout is streamlined & straightforward to navigate through.
For those producers/composers who find Physical modeling too complex, there are 1000+ presets present in the plugin, to which we can add effects and tweak them as per our needs. Also, the huge range of presets covers various sounds and can fit into multiple genres. Further, one can also download or buy expansion packs from the internet.
- Dual-voice Multitmbrality
Chromaphone 3 uses two independent timbres- stacked or split– to make sounds that are expressive and have unique textures & spatial qualities. In addition, the effects section can be utilized to further shape the synthesizer’s sonics. The dual layer expands the sonic depth and versatility to a great extent.
- Macro Control
The macro controls are grouped into modulation, timbre, envelope, and effects. So you can link the macros to multiple parameters at once and make your workflow easier. So four macros per layer can be controlled using MIDI.
- Extensive Effects
The effects window present in the Editor tab has three switchable layers of effects: Equalizer, Compressor & Reverb, and in addition, two variable layers consisting of drop-down menus from which we can select other effects like chorus, flanger, tremolo, phaser, and other effects.
It’s available as a standalone instrument or a plugin in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and NKS formats, that require Windows (7 or later) and Mac (OS X 10.7 or later) versions of operating systems.
You can create a great variety of timbres and textures with the synth, which has a unique sound and realism. As the technology evolves, the plugin and its upgrades will keep evolving and becoming more realistic. The MIDI-based functionalities make it responsive to the producer’s creative touch and more expressive than sample-based instruments. Finally, it’s undoubtedly one of the market’s best physical modeling virtual instruments.
6. Arturia Piano V3 (Piano Based on Physical Modelling)
Piano V3 is a virtual piano that packs nine different acoustic models for instant and realistic piano programming and playing.
It’s available in 2 types: grand and upright, and it has a simple interface with minimum controls on the surface, giving you immediate sounds to be used. There are four knobs in the main window: brightness, timbre, dynamics, and stereo width, with an additional reverb mix, a volume button, and a limiter. However, when you go deep inside, it gives you advanced tools to set your sound further.
- 9 Modeled Instruments
Arturia has modeled pianos like Classical Upright, Pop Grand, Class Grand, Intimate Grand, Metal Grand, Pop Upright, etc., for all your piano needs, whether rock, jazz, hip-hop, or any other genre. Every little nuance of these instruments is emulated virtually, with editable physical properties.
- Hands-0n control
We can manipulate everything from the mic positioning to mechanics like Lid Position, Soundboard Resonance, Velocity Curve, Hammer’s dynamic range, noise, and hardness. There are also expansive effects like EQ, Reverb, etc., for in-depth sonic shaping.
It requires a Windows 8.1 (or higher), at least 4 GB of RAM, four cores of CPU with 3.4 GHz fan frequency, and 3 GB of free hard disk space for Windows users. For Mac users, it demands Mac OS 10.13+ and similar CPU requirements or M1 CPU. It’s available as a standalone instrument in VST, AU, AAX, and NKS formats.
The piano is one the most evergreen and highest used instruments, and Arturia offers a versatile solution to its different needs with Piano V-3. It has a streamlined interface, which works for someone who wants to explore it on a further level and for someone who wants to get into the nitty-gritty and every small detail of its physical modeling.
7. UAD Waterfall B3 Organ (Organ)
The famous Hammond B3 comes to life and becomes accessible with UAD’s Waterfall B3 Organ, which is its plugin version.
The different 1958 tonewheel organ sounds from this instrument can be commonly found in various genres ranging from Jazz, RnB, Gospel, hip-hop, etc., across different decades and times. Browsing through the presets will give you an idea of the plugin’s richness, vastness, and versatility.
UAD claims that the plugin emulates the tonewheel organ precisely, resulting in realistic and dynamic playing & programming, along with 70 well-built presets for making the sound selection easier & efficient. The virtual instrument is divided into three modules: upper, lower, and pedalboard.
- Analog characteristics with Vibrato & Chorus
Three algorithms of the vibrato and chorus can be fixed with its knob, which adds a warm, wide, and thick texture to the sound. There’s also a Tube amp in it which offers authentic analog emulation.
- Keyboard Splits
The keyboard splits feature allows users to play upper and lower manuals with one MIDI controller. In addition, some parameters are directly mapped to MIDI, using which you can have real-time and hands-on control, even for performances.
- Drawbars for volume and harmonic balance
The drawbars for each module will set the volume of the triggered note’s fundamental frequency, harmonic or sub-harmonic frequency. That gives you great flexibility to design your sound as per your taste and song requirements. Nine drawbars contain up to the 8th harmonic above and two subharmonics below the fundamental frequency.
The Drive knob will set the level of the tube saturation, which will warm up the organ’s sound with its sweet harmonic enhancement, and the Reverb knob will add spring reverb which has a bouncy and synthetic ambient texture to it.
The virtual instrument is available with the UAD Spark bundle and independently in AAX, AU, VST 3, and LUNA formats, and has a minimum system requirement of macOS 10.15 Catalina, 11 Big Sur, or 12 Monterey. And now available on Windows 10 or more.
The interface of the Waterfall B3 is unique but not easily understandable, as it’s too unconventional. However, it’s perfect for organ players. The plugin is one of the few virtual instruments that emulate an organ realistically and accurately, and it does a good job. The presets are good, and the immense research done by UAD in creating this is evident.
8. Arturia Stage-73 V2 (Rhodes & Wurlitzer Plugin)
Arturia’s V Collection is famous for bringing many iconic keyboard sounds in a single package. From a Mellotron to a Clavinet, you can count on varied instruments to be captured with intensive care and details, and Stage-73 V2 is just like that.
Every Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer variation was included from the first installment, but this updated version also counts with modern features that help expand its versatility further, such as new effects and possibilities to chain them differently and mix the resulting overall sound.
- Two different models
By flicking a switch, you can easily alternate between “Stage” or “Suitcase” modes. These two modes try to emulate the most known variations of such electric pianos. The “Suitcase” was the first of the two 73-note models manufactured. The piano section was paired with a set of amplified speakers that also doubled as a stand, making it a complete package for live performances and studio recordings. The “Stage” version emulates the simplicity of a regular electric piano without such speakers but with the same characteristic sound that was often modded with the help of effects.
- Many presets
When dealing with the recreations of famous instruments, presets are usually the safest way to test whether the software is living up to its reputation. Arturia always includes many of them in each installment offered, and it’s no different here. Feel free to choose and alter different presets designed to recreate iconic tones from famous songs, from artists like The Beatles or Steely Dan, with just a few clicks.
- Tone-shaping tools
The tones coming out of the electric pianos have been faithfully captured in the samples, but the added tone-shaping tools can help expand its versatility like never. You can tweak the master tuning of every instrument, its dynamic range, the pickup distance and alignment, hammer noise and its hardness, damper distance, and tone bar resonance. By setting the controls to your taste, you can expect an authentic and unique electric piano sound that works best for you.
- Stomp-box effects
All effects and amps included are simulations from equipment used throughout the years with these electric pianos, some of which gave them a unique sonority. You have stomp-boxes that cover effects like phaser, wah-wahs, overdrive, chorus, and flanger, just to name a few. Amplifiers like the notorious Twin Reverb are included, and you can also tweak the best “Room” sound to make it sound the way you always imagined.
- Two different models
The plugin is available for macOS 10.13 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 8.1 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST, AAX, NKS, and AU plugin formats.
The Arturia’s V Collection delivers the best samples and tools found in multiple keyboard models, which is valid for Stage-73 V2.
Focusing on electric pianos only, this plugin not only brings different model variations but also allows the user to tweak the sound infinitely, with the help of stomp-box effects, varied amplifier models, and even dynamic configurations.
Furthermore, the included presets can significantly help achieve famous tones while inspiring users to create their own versions.
9. u-he Hive 2 (Subtractive 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.
10. IK Multimedia Modo Bass 2 (Physical Modelling-Based Bass)
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.
11. Ample Sound Guitar SC (Stratocaster)
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.Key Features:
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.
12. Ample Sound – Ample Guitar M III (Acoustic Guitar)
If you want to have a legendary Martin guitar as a virtual instrument, the following plugin is just what you need. It is the Ample Guitar M III from Ample Sound.
Ample Sound is a well-known Chinese company that constantly surprises its fans with excellent virtual instruments. They have everything from ethno instruments to bass and electric guitars. Acoustic is no exception here. Among them is a beautiful plugin that gives you the sound of some of the highest quality American guitars of the Martin brand.
The Ample Guitar M III plugin will give you fantastic sound quality and a bunch of parameters and settings, and unique features on top of that. It includes everything you need for guitar performance: strummer, fingerpicking, and riffing, in addition to a first-rate effects suite and plenty of presets.
Its different parameters, like the body and ambiance ones, surely give you much control over your sound. You can use Sustain, Hammer On & Pull Off, Legato Slide, Slide in & out, Palm Mute, Pop, Natural Harmonic, and Legato at random length & pitch & poly.
Ample Guitar M III undoubtedly did an excellent job mimicking what an acoustic guitar would sound like when recorded in a professional music studio. Thanks to extensive sampling, you get a high-quality and rich acoustic guitar sound.
You will be able to influence your sound thanks to the 8-band EQ. Also available here is the 2-Line Compressor with support of soft knee, auto release, and auto makeup. In addition, there is a 6-Tap Echo and IR Reverb with options such as Room, Studio, Hall, and Larger Hall and 3D visualization of the IR spectrum.
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 Guitar M III from Ample Sound is a beautiful plugin that helps you bring the Martin guitar sound to your studio. Thanks to deep sampling, it has got an extraordinary sound quality.
It also has a lot of articulation settings and the ability to add plenty of effects, such as Delay and Reverb.
13. Native Instruments Picked Nylon (Classical Guitar – Kontakt Library)
The unique sound of a handcrafted classical guitar is captured in full detail on this new addition to NI’s Session Guitars sample libraries.
The nylon-stringed guitar is a nice addition to any genre, from classical to EDM, and is more solidly represented in styles such as bossa nova and flamenco. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on a pop song or a film score, it’s a coveted and powerful sound that can bring more timbres and nuances to your production.
All sounds in Picked Nylon are from a guitar built by the renowned luthier Lisa Weinzierl, recorded using amazing preamps, and in a controlled studio environment to capture the best sound possible. In addition, six highly sought-after microphones were used to create three separate stereo setups, fitting a range of organic sounds with different dynamics attached.
- Plucking position
Guitarists constantly change the position in which they pick or pluck a string in order to have different sounds and dynamics when playing. This effect is even more noticeable on an acoustic guitar, and the delicate aspect of nylon strings is a distinct remark. Native Instruments thought of this and decided to include a real-time brightness control that lets you do that. By tweaking closer to zero, you’ll have a around and warm neck sound, and by increasing its value, it will sound closer to the bridge position.
Another imperative aspect of any acoustic instrument is linked with its resonance. On acoustic guitars, it lies upon the body construction and the sound hole. The “Sympathetic Resonance” control allows you to emulate the resonance effect of neighboring strings whenever a single note is played, creating a vivid and organic character to the classical guitar’s sound.
- Fret noises
Whenever a musician plucks a note on a guitar, the string is divided between two sections: from the note up to the bridge saddles and from the note down to the nut. This creates additional harmonics that can be heard when you mute the strings with the right hand. To emulate this effect properly, Picked Nylon makes all the ghost notes and slides in real-time within the “Noise” section, with dedicated control for the fret sounds (“Fret”) and another for breathing sounds and guitar movements (“Musician”).
Aside from featuring six great-sounding microphones when capturing the samples, this library also contains three different settings to choose from: “Stage (MS),” “Main (AB),” and “Close (MS).” The “Width” control located nearby will change the balance between the mono close and ambient microphones so that you can set in the perfect ambiance for your sound.
- Plucking position
This library runs in macOS 10.14, 10.15, 11, and 12 (64-bit only) and Windows 10 or 11 (64-bit only). It runs in Kontakt Player 6.6 and higher. Free Kontakt Player not supported.
Native Instruments always brings the best possible sounds to your production in many instrument choices. This time, Picked Nylon unveils an awesome tool to assist you in the best way when it comes to classical guitar sounds. The nice quality of the samples is one of the good characteristics, but the possibilities regarding adjustments can create a very human and organic experience.
Controls that adjust the overall playability of a nylon-stringed guitar are present, and so are the effects and microphone configurations. This library is expected to attend most producers that need a quick and reliable tone to be included in any music style wanted.
14. Native Instruments Choir Omnia (Choir – Kontakt Library)
In collaboration with Strezov Sampling, Native Instruments comes with Choir Omnia – 40-voice male and female symphonic choir captured in four independent sections in a virtual instrument.
It’s a rare plugin that allows you to build realistic choir parts with deep customizations beyond a typical virtual instrument. Anything from syllables, intonations, phrases, timings, articulations, vowels, and voices can be customized, creating a wide range of dynamics and emotions.
- High-quality samples
The Kontakt instrument consists of samples recorded by world-renowned vocalists and choirs in six weeks, capturing live recordings at Sophia session studio with a world-class signal chain. The samples create an expressive and deeply customized sound design experience.
- Workflow and synth architecture
Choir Omnia contains four main sections: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass, each section covering different pitch ranges and textures. That allows you to create smooth transitions, realistic choir, and in-depth vocal stacking. In addition, the interface offers eye candy, is easy to tweak, and is simple to work with. You can choose different articulations: Sustain, staccato, marcato, and staccatissimo.
- Mic positions
There are four mic positions: close, mid-close, decca, and hall. You can adjust the pan, spread level, and reverb for each of these. That allows you to have flexibility over your room and the overall atmospheric tone.
The key mode allows you to play the notes individually, whereas the sequencer allows you to combine the notes in order in a complex sequence of syllabi, with adjustable note intervals, articulations, and other parameters.
- Expressive capabilities
The plugin is highly expressive, especially with its Dynamic curve that allows you to set how the plugin responds dynamically, and you can set it between soft, normal, and hard. Further, you can adjust the Round Robins and Legato mode settings. Further, the room adjustments using mic positions, genders, articulations, syllables selection, etc., along with forty different voices, allow great expressive capabilities.
Choir Omnia is a KOMPLETE instrument that requires Kontakt 7 or above and 70 GB of free space to store its library. The Kontakt 7 minimum system requirements are Intel Macs (i5 or higher) and macOS 10.15 for Mac, Windows 1o or higher, 4 GB of ram, and 2 GB of hard disk space.
It’s an insane plugin with great features and design. One can create real-sounding authentic choir-based compositions and score in the comfort of working on a laptop/computer from your home/studio without having to do high-budget choir recordings. The plugin is heavy on the system but delivers great quality and sound.
From fantasy to mystery to gritty to dark, you can create almost any emotion with the versatile and expansive Choir Omnia by Native Instruments. It has over 70 GB of content, across four instruments, with 189 presets for smooth and effortless scoring.
15. XLN Audio Addictive Trigger (Drum Replacer)
Addictive Trigger is an extension of the power behind the classic Addictive Drums virtual instrument offered by XLN Audio. You can expect very similar controls and configurations here, with the advanced possibility to customize your drum kit or machine in any way you want.
- Audio Fingerprint
Instead of relying on many filters and transient shapers, Addictive Trigger uses an FFT-matching-based system to generate its triggers with unprecedented accuracy. This technology ensures that notes played with high or low dynamic variation will be detected just the same, thus bringing more authenticity to your final performance.
The plethora of buttons, knobs, and possible configurations are almost endless in a plugin like Addictive Trigger, which can be painful in the long term. XLN Audio brings the “SuperStart” technology to fix that overflow of information, which listens to your samples or sources and automatically suggests the best parameter combinations for your sound.
- Trig page
The first window to be presented when you open up Addictive Trigger is the “Trig” section. Here, you can set your sample the way you want to: add a step sequencer, alter the curve response in your MIDI input signal, isolate each piece to a separate channel, set the transients, and much more.
- Edit page
The next section is called “Edit,” and it’s very useful to tweak the detailed aspects of your overall sonority. For example, you can edit the parameters of each drum piece individually, set the perfect microphone position according to the pieces, set the envelope curve, and much more.
- FX page
Of course, built-in effects are mandatory in a plugin such as Addictive Trigger! You can access them via the “FX Page” menu, and the same channel separation included in other sections is also present here. This ensures that effects be added and edited into a particular channel and not others. Feel free to add EQ, delay, and reverb with extended settings like the delay type, reverb response, and EQ curve.
Addictive Trigger can be so massive and overwhelming that some users might find themselves lost in the first uses. To remedy that, XLN Audio included some presets that not only provide instant good-sounding tones but also help you understand better what’s going on inside the plugin, with the existing possibility to edit the values as you wish.
- Audio Fingerprint
The plugin is available for macOS 10.14.6 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 10 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST2, VST 3, AAX, and AU plugin formats.
XLN Audio delivers a great package in Addictive Trigger. You can rely heavily on this for both actual drumkit sounds and more modern sampling features, all in the same window. This is a fluid workflow that few plugins possess, even though the overall interface might initially seem too confusing.
16. IK Multimedia AmpliTube 5 (Amp Sims, Cabs & FX)
If you choose between giant hubs of virtual amps, cabinets, and effects, you should check out the AmpliTube 5 from IK Multimedia.
The Italian company IK Multimedia has been in business for quite some time – over 20 years. They produced both hard and software and were among the first to translate amp modeling to portable devices, thanks to iRig.
Their first version of AmpliTube, released in 2002, was the first guitar amp and effect plugin that simulates an entire rig. And now this software has received version 5, which has just an incredible number of different features.
With AmpliTube, you have complete freedom to create a signal circuit. And you can make it as easy as possible – by drag-and-drop, all the necessary elements from stompboxes to amps, cabinets, studio effects, and even the room. By the way, the number of units in the plugin is vast.
For example, in addition to the previous ones, the new version of AmpliTube got 130 new models, 23 new rack FX, and over 100 wholly re-captured cabinets.
- Realistic tones
AmpliTube 5 uses DIM and VIR technologies. It allowed the developers to capture as accurately as possible all the details of the sound of the equipment and translate it into digital form. As a result, you get even more realistic-sounding guitar tones.
- New mixer
The plugin features a new mixer that gives you complete freedom to mix different elements of your guitar circuit. Here you can experiment with the sound of different cabinets, mics, DI signals, and effects, including some from T-RackS 5, which allows you to add studio brilliance to your sound.
- Volumetric Impulse Response
The creators have added the Volumetric Impulse Response feature to the new version of AmpliTube. It allows you to radically transform over hundreds of cabinets in 143,000 impulse response measurements.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2, VST3, AU, AAX formats, and as a standalone host.
If you were satisfied with the previous versions of AmpliTube, the fifth version would please you even more. You’ll be surprised by the realistic sound quality, and the number of available gyrations will blow your mind.
The plugin will be helpful for those who want to get the sound of the world’s premium equipment in their DAW, try out ready-made presets of famous musicians, and experiment with new sounds.
17. NEOLD V76U73 (Preamp)
Neold V76U73 is a faithful hardware emulation that combines a Telefunken V76 preamp with a U73, a classic vari-mu compressor/limiter known as “the German Fairchild.”
This plugin accurately represents the good old Telefunken, so you can scratch both smoother highs and a rounder low-end from the list because it copies the 40hz-15khz broadcasting bandwidth filter from the original gear. Regardless, you need to know that it has a function that enables a linear response, in case you find its 40hz-15khz broadcasting bandwidth filter too limiting.
Besides the tube preamp, you also get to play with the U73 and combine them. This possibility is an attractive trait, as it allows you to both shape and control your sound’s dynamics while enhancing the overall signal and stereo filed altogether.
Neold V76U73 makes itself noticed when you speak about coloring the signal, which for the most part, is safe to say that it’s a good thing, but on the downside, it can indeed become too much at times, depending on the signal. V76U73’s V76 model does a remarkable job with vocals, guitars, and any mid-frequency-focused source, since its tube transformers will add body and warmth to it and instantly make it sound a lot better.
The U73 emulation also adds a lot to this release, as it gives an extra level of flexibility to what you can do with this plugin on your processing chain. This emulation features a 100hz side/chain filter that prevents the compressor from pumping and tights up the low-end. In addition, Neold included the possibility of controlling the attack time, which improves the original hardware with a fixed value.
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.
Neold V76U73 is a terrific choice if you’re looking for a warm, vintage tube console type of sound. Its user interface resembles a channel strip, making it easy to understand and navigate. You can adapt its use for just about any sound source and the limiter.
However, it might not be the most transparent, can be a good addition to your mastering or mix buss processing chain if you’re aiming for an analog texture.
Nevertheless, I suggest being careful with the preamp distortion on low-frequency-based sound sources, as it is strongly mid-range-focused, and its harmonic distortion can also bring up some dirt on your low-end.
18. T-Racks Leslie By IK Multimedia (Leslie / Rotary Speaker)
IK Multimedia is well-known for its iconic Amplitube plugins, which aim to recreate the most iconic amplifiers worldwide. In a similar method, T-Racks Leslie is the result of a partnership with Suzuki Music Corporation that aims to bring you the best tones you could possibly imagine from a Leslie cabinet.
- The models
There are six Leslie models available in T-Racks Leslie: “Leslie 122,” “Leslie 122A,” “Leslie 147,” “Leslie 3300W,” “Leslie G37,” and “Leslie Studio 12.”
Both amps and cabinets were designed in partnership with Suzuki Music Corporation, which means they were replicated down to the tiniest details regarding the circuitry and components. IK Multimedia introduced its “Dynamic Interaction Modeling” technology on T-Racks Leslie so that every detail wouldn’t be missed.
- Mic placement
As in a real studio, you can place your microphones the exact way you want to. One of the possibilities in T-Racks Leslie is to choose between the 90º or 180º position according to the speaker, aside from varying their distance for more accurate stereo imaging.
- Parametric EQ
The included parametric equalizer can be of great help in shaping the overall tone of your Leslie cabinet. T-Racks Leslie’s EQ has common knob parameters, such as “High Freq,” “Mid Freq,” and “Low Freq” controls and even a “Mid Q” configuration.
- Tube sound
The authentic sound provided by a tube amplifier is regarded as part of the “Leslie vibe.” Five amps were included in T-Racks Leslie to get that nailed perfectly, which match the aforementioned cabinet models. You can expect maximum warmth and saturation coming from the tube simulation.
- The models
The plugin is available for macOS 10.10 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST2, VST 3, AAX, and AU plugin formats.
As expected, IK Multimedia once again has done an excellent job translating an amplifier and cabinet combo into a bunch of algorithms. This is no easy task, and their distinctive technologies prove that the sounds are authentic. The warmth regarding tube amps is present, as are the beautiful swirling sounds only a Leslie cabinet can provide.
19. Sugar Bytes Graindad (Stutter, Granular /Multi FX)
Graindad is a granular effect plugin by Sugar Bytes for high-quality and real-time audio manipulation.
The advanced grain engine plugin allows you to adjust the grain size, position, pitch, speed, and jitter settings. You can also adjust the settings for filter and time modulations and add reverb and delay effects to your sounds. In addition, it has an audio editor that allows you to freeze, texturize, reorganize, and slice your audio.
- Granular capabilities
The plugin allows you to chop the audio into 64 grains and has 12 main controllers for manipulating the audio. In addition, the plugin has two modulation structures: harvested for creative, playful, and simplified granular manipulation and the classic system with step sequencers, LFOs, and envelopes.
- Modulation capabilities
You can use MIDI notes and randomizers as the sources to trigger modulations, along with the typical step sequencer, LFOs, and envelopes. The plugin also has Modmix control, allowing you to crossfade between the two granular engines.
The plugin allows you to have high quality and a wide variety of effects, like filters, reverbs, delays, etc. For example, the reverb category includes effects like HQ reverb, spring reverb, and shimmer. The delay effects include phasers, flangers, and other time-based effects.
The most advanced feature of Graindad is its Harvester system which allows you to modulate all twelve controls simultaneously, allowing for complex modulations and effects.
Graindad is available in Audio Unit, VST2, VST3, AAX, and Standalone plugin formats and requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 or Windows 7 operating system.
The possibilities with this great granular plugin are infinite. However, due to its unfamiliar workflow, it may be a bit strange at first, but it is fun once you get hold of it. In addition, the creative output you can derive from the plugin is limitless.
Update: If you are into techy Drum & Bass, you will love it using it on percussions – just hit a record button and record the percussions with various presets, and then, use those bits in your project. Presets are very well done and you don’t need tweaking anything.
20. FabFilter Pro Q3 (Linear / Dynamic EQ)
The third and latest version of this powerful EQ now includes dynamic control.
Fab Filter’s Pro Q series has been almost a must-have for engineers at all levels for years. These EQs are perfectly transparent, easy to use, and have different display modes for the spectrogram (pre/post-processing). Still, most importantly, they are the most versatile EQs out there in the market because of their infinite frequency bands, zero latency mode, linear phase processing, fully adjustable parameters, etc.
Now you can control dynamics to specific frequencies, whether you’re boosting and want to control the signal or dipping a particular frequency that’s disturbing you. These fab filter EQs are almost a worldwide standard, mainly because their RTA is very graphic, which is very helpful for those who are just getting started.
This new version of Fab Filter’s Pro Q has a couple of additions that we will talk about, so stay tuned.
- New EQ filters:
Unlike the past versions, Fab Filter Pro Q 3 brings new filters on our equalizers, such as a tilted shelf and a flat tilt. In addition, you can apply and change these filters directly from the box outside of the frequency band, which is a great plus to the previous versions.
- Optimized UI:
The new Fab Filter lets you choose whether you want to use the EQ for stereo, mid/sides, and left/right processing on the go. Create a new band and select whichever processing mode you’re interested in using, differently from the older versions, where this option was almost hidden. Additionally, they’ve added a brick wall slope that’s surprisingly transparent and very useful for mixing situations.
- Dynamic EQ:
They’ve added a new way of processing that’s entirely new to this plugin: the dynamics control on the EQ. This new feature is perfect in several contexts for mixing and mastering, and it’s perfectly there sitting around the gain knob.
- Collisional frequency marks:
Fab Filter includes a visualization of possible areas where frequencies are potentially high. This is used to ease up finding the troubling areas of the spectrum to fix them. Keep in mind that this is not an intelligent feature, so I wouldn’t recommend you to run and try to fix something whenever you see the mark, but to use it as a reference to spot possible issues that you’re looking to address.
- Sidechain and EQ match:
Fab Filter added a new way to use the sidechain capabilities of this eq. Typically, you’d use this feature to match a reference track’s tone and spectrum balance, contrasting both tracks’ spectrum and manually matching them. Still, now, Pro Q 3 takes you there automatically with AI assistance.
Supports Windows 10, supports macOS 10.10 or higher, runs on 64 bit and 32 bit systems, and comes in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
Fab Filter Pro Q 3 is an improvement of both of its predecessors. This EQ has been very well known for its transparency and versatility, and it keeps getting better with each release. This latest plugin version came out in 2018 and is still one of the best equalizers to use regularly.
One thing that you can appreciate from Fab Filter is that they continuously improve their plugins to optimize your performance and, obviously, your workflow. Use Pro Q3 if you want transparency and accuracy, as this is probably the best tool to use when you need precision.
21. Baby Audio Crystalline (Algorithmic Reverb)
Baby Audio’s latest reverb plug-in, Crystalline, has received rave reviews, and there’s little wonder why. It offers beautiful atmospheres contained within an intuitive and easy-on-the-eyes interface.
Of the two schools of software reverb, algorithmic and convolution, algorithmic reverb has been plagued by one drawback since its inception in the 1960s: processing power. Thankfully, today’s computers are far more powerful than they once were and offer a well of potential for all to tap into.
Baby Audio has certainly tapped into that potential with the Crystalline plug-in. Since their creation falls into the algorithmic reverb camp, it offers otherworldly atmospheres that natural spaces aren’t able to create.
And along with that, you will have a satisfying amount of control over how your reverb is shaped.
- Syncable Attack & Decay
You can choose whether you would like to adjust the pre-delay and decay times manually or have the plug-in sync the pre-delay and decay to the tempo set within your DAW. A common cause of muddiness in reverb is the pre-delay and decay times. If the pre-delay is too long, the reverb starts later than what is ideal and causes the tail to extend into the next reverberation. The same can be said for long decay times. Ideally, you want the reverb tail to dissipate before the next instance starts.
- Separated Size & Length
The size and length of the reverb are independent controls. This means you can create any room size–big or small–and have the reverb time as long or as short as you would like. Couple this feature with the gate option that creates that iconic 80s gated reverb, and you have a recipe for obtaining unique atmospheres.
- Side Filter
The plug-in can filter low-frequency stereo content from the reverb signal using a high-pass to help you achieve cleaner-sounding audio. Removing unneeded low frequencies from the stereo image allows you to keep your bass end as clean, precise, and centered as possible.
- Reverb Envelope Emphasis
You can have the reverb accent the attack or sustain a portion of a signal’s envelope. By having the reverb emphasize the attack, you can create distinct and snappier tones for drums or percussion. And if you would like a lighter, smoother sound for vocals or pads, then emphasizing the sustain will achieve that.
The plug-in supports Windows 7 and higher and Mac OS 10.7 and higher. Also, it supports VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
Crystalline is a versatile reverb plug-in; the only limitation would be the person using it. Nevertheless, you can expect great-sounding reverberations, which have a place in everyone’s plug-in toolbox.
22. Eventide Spring (Spring Reverb)
Spring by Eventide, released in January 2020, offers the classical sound of spring reverb modules found in your typical guitar amplifiers, as well as some interesting digital sound modulations that wouldn’t be possible with the actual hardware reverb module.
Three sections divide the plugin’s user interface:
- Top Section
The top section gives you control over the selection of factory presets, the option to save our custom presets, compare A/B, lock the interface to avoid further changes by mistake, and a helpful help section.
- Middle section
The middle section gives you control over the reverb’s different parameters to achieve our required reverb sound by fiddling with these multiple parameters. You have the option to alter the reverb modulation physically beyond the limitations of a real spring reverb unit.
The lower portion of this section gives you control over the tremolo effect on the reverb and allows you the set the tempo of our reverb.
- Bottom section
The bottom section allows you to bypass the plugin, smoothly transition between two sound presets, or set the tempo manually.
- You can control the reverb’s low boomy nature or the high shrillness using the low and high damping knobs to adjust the damping frequencies
- The “Tank” button allows you to toggle between a small or large reverb tank simulation so you can alter the overall reverb resonance
- You can control the tremolo feature and set it on the dry signal before or after the reverb effects using the “Tremolo” button. The “Intensity” knob controls the tremolo’s intensity while the “Speed” knob controls the speed of the result either in Hz or note based
- A beautiful chorus effect can be added and controlled using the “Mod Level” knob
- You can adjust the amount of the metallic spring resonance by using the “Resonance” knob
- Spring offers three tremolo modes, and they have different effects on the various parameters of the reverb. When it is set to off, the tremolo speed is controlled in Hz, and the decay is controlled in milliseconds. When the sync mode is initiated, the decay and tremolo speed are synced to the DAW’s tempo. In manual mode, you can set decay and tremolo speed manually
- You can program the ribbon to have two different settings on both ends, so just by sliding the ribbon, we can transition seamlessly between these settings in real-time. So basically, we are able to control multiple knobs by using one slider
- “Hotswitch” is like an A/B presets mode. You can switch between two reverb settings at the press of a button.
- By tapping on the “Tap” button, you can adjust the tempo manually
- The “num springs” knob changes the number of springs in the tank simulation from 1 to 3 springs. Note that the change can be in decimals as well, e.g., 2.2 springs are a possibility in this plugin, which wouldn’t have been possible in a real reverb tank
- You can view the reverb input and output volume levels using the level meters on both ends of the plugin
- The input level can be controlled by the fader on the left side of the plugin. Note that this maintains the input level for both the dry and wet signals
- You can control the reverb’s output level by the fader on the right side of the plugin. Note that this influences the output level after the “Verb Mix” knob
- In and out volume levels can be controlled from -60dBfs to +12dBfs
- You can control the reverb length by using the decay knob. The decay control can either be in milliseconds or note-based if the tempo selection is set to sync or manual mode
- The tension knob physically alters the spring tensions of the simulated springs to change the reverb’s character
It is the only plugin in this article that is supported by iOS devices. For iOS, it is available as an AU v3, Inter-app audio, and a standalone app. For Windows and Mac, it is available in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
23. FabFilter Pro-C 2 (Advanced All-Round Compressor)
Visualize your compression by using the Fabfilter Pro-C 2.
Most compressors on the market don’t offer you that much visualization, where you can see precisely how the soundwave changes with your configurations. The Fabfilter series primarily focused on providing that visual experience, with their vast line of great mastering tools featuring extensive options to tweak your sample.
The Fabfilter Pro-C 2 is no exception, offering you 8 different compression styles, low and high-pass filters, audition triggering, and many more features that help you get the right sound for your song.
- Compression Styles
Aside from offering the standard compressor experience, The Fabfilter Pro-C 2 gives you 8 different compression styles to choose from. The styles range from a Clean, overall sound to more personalized options that make mixing bus channels or vocals a better experience. For your EDM/Future Bass tracks, it’s best to use the Pumping style, which gives an added deep character to your kicks and bass lines.
- Side-Chain LP and HP Filters
The low-pass and high-pass filters are great additions to the plugin because they allow you to cut off some excess frequencies that interfere with other elements in your song. When applying your side-chain to the sample, you might find that the bass is creating a solid pumping sound, which can be great for EDM, but the high frequencies might interfere with the sound you are looking to get, which the filters do a fantastic job at helping you achieve what you want.
- Audition Triggering
It might be a bit harder for a new producer to hear exactly where the compression applies to their sample. To address that, FabFilter Pro-C 2 has an option called Audition Triggering. This option allows you to see where precisely the compression takes place and how much of it is applied to your sample. This action is all done on a large screen that shows your audio sample, helping you understand what compression does.
- Side-Chain EQ
When you need to apply a pumping effect to your sound, the Pro-C 2 has your back with the added side-chain function. Side-chaining alters the sample volume to create a “wave” effect or sort of like a repeated “whip” effect. You can tweak how strong you want this effect to apply to your sample, and you can even cut off some unnecessary frequencies with the added low and high-pass filters.
- Variable Knee
To avoid having a punchy compressor, you can use the variable knee option to tweak how the compressor will apply itself to the sample. A hard knee is best for drums because it keeps that punchy feeling, while the soft knee is probably best for melodies, especially in your chorus. Although, if you want to create an interesting effect, try applying the soft knee to your bass line to get a more ambient vibe.
FabFilter Pro-C 2 is available for Windows XP or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.10 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST/3, AU, AAX, and AudioSuite formats.
Fabfilter is an excellent compression plugin, especially for producers who don’t quite understand what compression does to their sample.
The additional 4x oversampling and auto gain and release options do a great job at helping you apply the compression in the best possible way.
24. 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.
25. D16 Group Antresol (Flanger)
D16 recreated the iconic Mistress flanger and added independent stereo controls and complete LFO control.
Antresol is based on the classic flanger pedal by Electro-Harmonix from 1976, one of the most iconic guitar pedals used by Pink Floyd’s legendary guitarist, David Gilmour, as part of his tone. The new version of the effect is a clone of the vintage device and includes some additional features. It rounds up the low-end and works particularly well with percussive elements of any kind. Its independent stereo controls allow you to create a very cool sense of space and depth.
The plugin’s GUI is simple and self-explaining, and its sound is authentic and warm, with no unwanted artifacts. Its simple interface will make it easy to use on stage or in a studio environment. It’s also a lightweight tool that will not consume a lot of CPU and has no noticeable latency.
Let’s see what it can do!
- New and improved:
D16 group went the extra mile when making their emulation of the legendary Antresol Flanger. They’ve given us a ton of new functions like selectable and unlikable L/R or M/S processing modes, a tag-based preset browser, individual stereo channel controls, and even a “mistress” mode that makes it work the same as its analog version.
- Tempo sync:
The LFO in Antresol can optionally synchronize the frequency and phase of oscillation with the host application’s tempo. The Tempo Sync parameter is used to activate this function. You can set it to one out of four values: off, full, triplet, and dotted.
- Store your presets:
Antresol comes with several presets, but the exciting part is that you can store your own. The plugin has a tag-based browser that allows you to keep your presets as files on your computer. Each time you load it, Antresol scans these folders, and all presets are consolidated in a linear structure in the browser. You only need to hold your ctrl key (command key in macOS) and hit the “save“ button above to store your presets.
Supports Windows 7 and higher, Supports macOS 10.9 or higher, runs on 32 and 64 bit, and comes in VST2, AU, and AAX formats.
The Antresol is a good flanger plugin for anyone looking to make their tracks sound more interesting. It does what it’s supposed to do, and there are no issues with stability or performance. The GUI is straightforward, with a clean layout and an easy-to-use interface.
In addition to those great features, Antresol also comes with high-quality presets designed by professional sound designers.
26. SoundToys Phase Mistress (Phaser)
Phase Mistress from SoundToys will allow you to get modeling multiple vintage phasers at once.
SoundToys is a reasonably well-known music production software company that provides very high-quality products. For example, they are the developers of the Decapitator plugin, a saturator that many professional mixing engineers have adopted.
You can also find their famous EchoBoy, Little AlterBoy, Devil-Loc, Little Plate, and Tremolator.
The company specializes in plugins that give a vintage vibe, so it is not strange that a phaser called Phase Mistress is among their assortment. The developers assure that they gave it the richest and silkiest old-school sound because while creating, they studied such legendary equipment as Trine, Small Stone, Moogerfooger 12 stage, Phase 90, Boss Super Phaser, and Bi-Phase.
- From Subtle to Wild
In this plugin, you will also be able to select the stages of phasing. The range of possibilities here is enormous because you can start with stage 2, which gives minimal effect, and go up to 24, which will sound crazy.
- Find Your Style
Your arsenal will have everything you need to create your unique phase tone. You can fine-tune the resonance and adjust the intensity and color of the effect.
- Choose the Operation Mode
The plugin will give you the ability to choose between different modes. There is the Standard LFO, Random, Step, and Rhythm, with which you can achieve even more creative solutions.
- 69 presets
That’s how many different presets you’ll find in this plugin. It is handy for those who do not want to dig into the settings and experiment with ready-made sounds.
The sound that this plugin can give is suitable for different styles of music. You can use it for disco, jazz-fusion, rock, funk, and more.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
Phase Mistress will be an excellent solution for those who want to get everything at once. SoundToys did a great job of making it the most versatile. Unlike other plugins, here you will find many different phaser effects, which you can change as you like. The point is that you can both sculpt your tone and choose between dozens of ready-made settings.
27. SSL DeEss (De-Esser)
SSL has a substantial plugin line, covering the most important elements present in a recording studio environment. You can count with EQs, compressors, limiters… And now a de-esser. DeEss features a modern interface with intuitive controls, and specific algorithmic improvements can make it easier than ever to use.
- Relative threshold
De-essers are complicated effects to adjust, mainly because vocals and other signals are constantly variating in terms of dynamics and frequencies. SSL figured out a way to get around this by including relative threshold control, which makes changes to your level earlier in the effects signal chain without compromising the de-esser response you already tweaked.
- Multi-shade visualizer
The metering display located in the lower section of the interface can be very helpful in monitoring the precise regions upon which the effect will act. However, it consists of different color shades depending on how hard the de-esser effect is acting, making clear where are the quieter and louder parts to be corrected.
- Brighten control
Having a “Brighten” knob can be crucial to set the high frequencies in DeEss better. Sometimes, the high-end spectrum can be significantly affected by the de-esser effect, and this knob seeks to correct that alteration in values that go from zero to 100%.
- Auto listen
When dealing with tracks that present a rich, dynamic spectrum, being able to monitor the adjustments in real-time is essential. By activating the “Auto Listen” button, you can inspect the entire signal in your track right away, allowing for precise measurement and adjustment to be made in whatever parts are meant to be corrected.
- Relative threshold
This plugin is available for macOS 10.15 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 10 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in VST, VST3, AAX, and AU plugin formats.
De-essers are a specific effect to be used, and it’s like ketchup: using too much of it might spoil the final taste. SSL developed DeEss not only to work beautifully with whatever tracks you may want to tweak but also in a refined design that inspires you to explore all parameters contained.
The modern aspects of having software like this are totally dependent on how your machine was built, but the possibilities are limitless, mainly to the plugin’s versatility to adjust multiple instrument tracks accordingly.
28. Softube Tape Echoes (Delay)
Tape Echoes by Softube offers a variety of parameters for you to achieve the perfect tape delay sound you want. You cannot go wrong with it’s great and flexible features and vintage-looking interface. While many delay plugins capture the feel and sound of the analog delay, they still tend to sound too clean. This one manages to capture the feel of old analog delays rather well.
Let’s go straight into the features of this plugin. The first thing you can notice on the interface is the slider with which you can choose the delay time. By switching the switch next to the slider, you can choose between adjusting the delay time with the tempo and milliseconds.
Moving the slider to the far left will leave you only with the dirt effect, which has great usage for drums.
This plugin has up to three echo taps with a tap tempo option if you cannot manage to get exactly what you want with the tempo slider. With replicating the tape effect, this plugin goes as far as having an option to add the tape glitch to the effect. We also have a drive dial that is used to adjust the tape distortion.
Next to the drive, we have analog-looking switches that choose between high-pass and low-pass filters, VU, and stereo imaging options. When the VU is toggled, we will see the VU meter, and when the imaging option is selected, you will be able to adjust between dual mono and standard stereo delay.
The knob in the center is used to adjust to which side the delay should lean on. We can also choose when reverb should occur, pre-echoes or parallel to them.
The dirt option is there to dial how much of a tape effect you want on your delay. You can adjust the presence of this effect by dialing the dry/wet knob on the right. Next to that, you will have an output knob to adjust the volume post effect. Tape echoes have a great reverb effect which, when mixed with the dirt of the tape, sounds great almost on all instruments.
It is available on Windows and macOS in 64-bit VST, VST3, AU, or AAX. The price of this plugin is $99 but keep in mind that Softube often has bundles sale where you can get this plugin for much less.
29. Waves SSL EV2 Channel (Channel Strip)
Wave’s Solid State Logic EV2 Channel Strip plug-in is an updated digital rendition of the classic SSL 4000E and 4000G console channel strip. Channel strips that played a fundamental role in capturing music history.
The SSL consoles have been used to record and mix an impressive catalog of hits since the early 80s. For example, it’s partly because of an SSL console that we have that hard-hitting and heart-stopping drum fill by Phil Collins in In The Air Tonight.
And Wave’s have recreated that analog magic offered by the 4000 series channel strips with their EV2 channel strip plug-in. It offers everything you’d expect from a channel strip plug-in and a few extra features that made the 4000 series so desirable.
- Optional Input & Output THD
The input section of the plug-in includes a Line and Mic level gain control with up to 20 dB and 50 dB gain, respectively. However, the harmonic distortion increases as the line level’s gain increases. You have an optional analog button that dictates whether harmonic distortion will be added to the signal to emulate the sound of the original analog mixing console.
- Dynamics Controls
The channel strip includes dynamic processors. You’ll have access to a compressor/limiter and an expander/gate. The compressor’s make-up gain is automatically applied based on the ratio and threshold settings, so you won’t be able to adjust it manually. In addition, the attack control doesn’t have a dedicated control; you will be able to use a fast attack button for an attack time of 1 ms or automatic sensing.
- Four-Band Equalizer
The SSL 4000 E channel strip possessed two EQ types: a brown and a black knob EQ. The brown knob EQ was the original EQ/filter and offered an expansive and edgier tone making it great for drums and bass. The black knob EQ, introduced in the 80s, provided a precise and transparent sound, making it great for vocals and acoustic instruments. You can switch between the two types depending on your desired response.
The plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.15 or higher. It comes in VST, VST 3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you want to add a piece of music history to your collection, then Wave’s SSL EV2 plug-in is for you. It offers that unique analog character while still retaining the ability to provide the clinical precision digital is known for.
30. Zplane Tonic (Key Detection)
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.
20 Best FREE Plugins For Reaper 2023
1. Surge XT (Advanced Synth)
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.
2. audiolatry GrandPianoXXL (Piano)
More Info & Download
The Yamaha C5 is a grand piano suited for the best concerts and symphonic performances, with excellent building quality and crafted to withstand a lifetime of constant use (with the proper regular maintenance, of course). One of the unique characteristics of this model is its length of 2m (or 6’7″), thus providing a very rich and deep tone.
- Nice samples
Alexander Holm recorded the samples included in GrandPianoXXL in the best way possible: he used two AKG C414s placed in AB position at 12cm from the Yamaha C5’s strings, resulting in an intimate sound with lots of detail in each recorded audio file that captures the essence of this beautiful grand piano.
- Velocity layers
If the most realistic representation of such an instrument is required, a decent number of velocity layers is imperative for an organic and natural sound in this virtual instrument. Each velocity layer captures a specific value in dynamics or volume – for instance, lower values can represent a soft and delicate playing – and GrandPianoXXL features 16 different layers for each sample file, which have 48kHz 24bit quality.
- Key release noises
Another cool feature that makes GrandPianoXXL even more realistic than other options is the noise from released keys. In a genuine piano, all keys have considerable weight and will resonate when played or released. To simulate this effect and provide a more realistic performance, you can tweak the key release noises by turning the “Key” knob around, which sets the gain level for the effect.
The dedicated “Tremolo” section contains one of the many effects inside this plugin. You can set the basic configuration for it via the “Speed” and “Depth” knobs, but there are also three small selections to tame it further: “WVF” for altering the waveforms, “DST” to choose the distortion type, and “SRC” to set the source.
Want to trim the frequencies in your virtual instrument better? This is the option to do that. The “Filter” knob offers a cutoff, with a selectable low pass or high pass configurations that can set the precise amount of high or low-end in your piano’s sound.
- Nice samples
This plugin is available for macOS 10.11 or higher and Windows 8.1 or higher. It runs in VST2, VST3, and AU plugin formats.
GrandPianoXXL is a reliable tool to get nice piano sounds quickly. The clean look is one of the best features of it, providing simple and clear controls in the main design interface, but the sounds are also another great point to consider, thanks to the special care taken during the recording process.
The effects can also make it more versatile, clearly stating that it’s a great option for a reliable grand piano sound.
3. Model Mini (Moog-Inspired Synth)
Model Mini goes straight to the point of capturing the soundscape of a Minimoog with simplicity, the precise controls you’ll wish to use, and clean sounds that are worthy of the real instrument.
- Polyphonic mode
The polyphonic mode is desirable in most synths, as it’s a characteristic element of this sonority. Moog made this iconic, so you can also expect to find it within Model Mini.
Three oscillators are included in Model Mini, acting as VCOs and generating white and pink noise. You can also use the third oscillator as an LFO.
The filter inside Model Mini has a 24dB per octave slope and includes a four-pole lowpass filter, resonance controls, envelope settings, and even key tracking.
- Polyphonic mode
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher, 64-bit. It comes in VST plugin formats.
The simple aspects of this freeware software can make it less intimidating to be explored, even more, if you’re a beginner producer or synth enthusiast. Model Mini is one of those nice tools that are relevant to be tested, even if you decide not to use it again, mainly for learning.
4. ChowDSP Chow Kick (Kick Designer With Physical Modelling)
Chow Kick is a kick-based synthesizer that is physically modeled on old drum machines.
It allows you to create kick sounds from scratch rather than a sample and emulates the circuitry of vintage drum machines. It essentially simulates three main parts: Pulse Shaper, Noise Generator, and a Resonant Filter. You can create kick sounds at any note, making it easy to fit them in the key of the song, which is convenient compared to pitching the kick samples otherwise to tune them.
- Pulse Shaper
The pulse shaper has width, decay (using R162 resistor), amplitude, and sustain (using R163 resistor) as its main controls, with additional noise amount, noise decay, and noise cutoff parameters that allow you to generate a good kick sound.
- Noise Generator Section
You can control the noise amount, decay, cutoff frequency, and shape (white, pink, Gaussian, etc.), which gives you flexibility over your kicks, the characteristics of which can also be automated differently for different sections of the song.
The plugin is available as a VST/VST3/AU/LV2/AUv3 for Windows, Linux, Mac, and iOS.
Kick is one of the essential elements of a song in modern music, and Chow Kick allows you greater flexibility over the kick and gives you so much functionality over the bed of your song. In addition, it does a good job of emulating electronic drum machines and has a good quality noise generator for good-quality kick sounds.
5. MonsterDAW Monster Bass (Rompler)
Monster Bass is a bass rompler plugin designed by MonsterDAW.
Monster Bass is all about the bass and low-end focused sounds. The sounds come in presets divided in three categories depending on the type of bass sound they offer. It’s an excellent choice for producers working in bass-centered styles of music like Trap, Dubstep, and Bass music.
- Wide range of sounds
Monster Bass includes sounds that can cover almost any genre of music. The bass sounds are split into three categories: synth bass, electric bass, and acoustic bass. In the synth’s bass category, expect to find Dubstep-appropriate wobble bass sounds and thick fuzzy bass sounds. The other two categories include bass sounds that can be used in any genre, from pop to rock music.
- Basic control
Monster Bass is exceptionally straightforward and includes just a handful of knobs to shape your bass sounds. There is an ADSR envelope for volume shaping and a filter for sonic sculpting. The filter has lowpass and highpass modes which add a bit of extra sonic flexibility.
The most hands-on feature of Monster Bass is easily the LFO. It’s a single LFO that can modulate a few different parameters. You can choose from a few different shapes, such as triangle, square, and saw, and send the LFO to destinations like pitch or expression to add interest and movement to your sounds. The source of the LFO can be set to aftertouch or mod wheel, something that adds a bit of life and expression to your sounds. You can tweak rate and depth knobs to fine-tune the effect.
- Low RAM
Because it’s such a simple plugin, Monster Bass requires minimal RAM to run. It requires a tiny percentage of your CPU, so you can run multiple instances of it without worrying about lags or freezes. This is another reason why it’s a great first choice for someone just starting out producing.
Monster Bass is available on Windows and macOS in VST and AU formats.
Monster Bass is a fantastic choice for a beginner producer who needs a quick and reliable synth to create bass sounds. The interface is simple and easy to learn, the sounds are varied and cover a lot of styles, and the low RAM usage means it can run on the cheapest machine without issues. Not much to fault here.
6. Ample Bass P Lite II (Bass Guitar)
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.
7. Ample Guitar M Lite II (Acoustic Guitar)
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.
8. Spitfire Audio LABS (Electric Guitar & So much More!)
Recorded and created by guitarists Leo Wyatt, Keith Theodosiou, and Dino Pollano, LABS Electric Guitar is a collection of guitar sounds. The sounds are suitable for specific scoring styles, pop, trap, hip-hop, 80s rock, etc. And the user interface is straightforward, with only two faders.Key Features:
The sounds of this plugin are pre-processed. You’ll find a chorused Fender Telecaster, pop-like Fender Stratocaster, and a darker, driven Ibanez. I would suggest using it to play melodies and arpeggios. You can’t play rhythms without a strumming engine unless you intend to keep it super simple.
All LABS instruments boast simplicity, and this one’s no different. You can adjust the amount of reverb, dynamics, and volume using the available parameters, and that’s it! However, it’s enough for adding arpeggio patterns and short riffs.
Spitfire LABS 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.
I would recommend Spitfire LABS Electric Guitar when you need something simple that sounds decent. Each instrument in the plugin has a specific ambiance or mood and exploiting it rewards you well. And in this case, I find the sounds usable for 80s style music, film scoring, or chill hip-hop tracks.
9. CutterMusic Revitar 2 (Electric Guitar 2)
The plugin is capable of several playing techniques. It simulates a physically modeled guitar body, strings, and a plectrum to generate its sound. So, unlike sampled guitars, it doesn’t rely on round-robins to generate a new sound every time you play a note.Key Features:
You can customize the shape of the guitar body and the pick to manipulate the generated sound. It has six types of standard guitar bodies, and you can intuitively reshape the pick using the UI. You can also add sympathetic resonance to add realistic string vibrations. And the pick section lets you control the speed and volume of the picking.
The plugin features these articulations: slides, hammer-on/pull-off, and forcing single string. Automating the knobs under the Damping section lets you introduce palm, bridge, and string muting. Here, the latter controls how “new” your string is. You can also change the position of the pick, pickup, slide speed, etc.
Revitar 2 has a strange way of performing rhythms. Instead of key switches, it has a strum direction toggle (down, up, up-down alternating), chord type selector, and rate of strumming. You can automate all of these parameters and create rhythm parts.
Similarly, you can add vibrato with automation and switch to mono mode to play melodies.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2 format.
It is possible to make Revitar 2 sound slightly like a Stratocaster, especially when you add a guitar amp plugin. However, it sounds more like a semi-acoustic and a rather synthetic one at that. So, I would only suggest it as a temporary placeholder before switching to a better instrument.
Then again, it could be the perfect instrument for the people after an original sound!
10. Analog Obsession Room 041 (Reverb)
The first plugin by Analog Obsession is Room 041, an algorithmic reverb that intends to have a sound character of its own.
This is the second plugin on this list inspired by the EMT® 140 Reverb Unit but at the great advantage of being a freeware option to Arturia’s plugin.
Although it’s stated on the download page that this is not supposed to be a 1:1 recreation of any circuit whatsoever, the essential features certainly are inspired by.
The visual distribution of every control is done through divisions of every section like there would be on a reverb unit. A bright red button indicates that the effect is on, followed by the basic controls of the dimensions of the effect. On the far right, “Dry” and “Wet” controls can manipulate how much of each signal you’ll work with.
- Stereo separation
This is a dedicated control to the stereo imaging of the reverb. Alongside the “Pre Delay” and “Decay” knobs, it can help set out how the reverberations will dominate throughout your track. Going from zero to 100, you may have a very mono-oriented or a widening full-stereo perspective of the effect.
- Dedicated preamp
Another great feature is a dedicated preamp section. This is not common to have, even on paid plugins. Here you’re able to control the “Drive” of the unit, going from -24dB to +24dB at a knob’s twist. The “HPF” knob controls a pre-filter from 20Hz to 100Hz. Adjusting both can increase the weight and response of the reverb at your instrument or vocal track like an actual hardware would.
- Post EQ
Consisting of two frequency parts, the Post EQ can help adjust the effect to your mix in a precise manner. You get “Low” and “High” sweeps, covering the 20Hz – 2kHz and the 200Hz – 20kHz ranges, respectively. Tailoring which frequencies should be boosted or cut with the “Gain” knobs is possible through a range of -24dB to +24dB.
- Stereo separation
This plugin runs in macOS 10.9 to 11.x and Windows 7 or higher. It comes in VST, VST3, and AU plugin formats.
Some great vintage gear inspires this plugin, but the good thing is they didn’t try to copy it. The incredibly well-programmed controls bring an honest homage to the unique response of reverb units like the EMT® 140, with solid and superb interaction with the dynamic layers of your track.
It’s a great freeware plugin that should be considered among the best options available.
11. Analog Obsession LOADED (Channel Strip)
Analog Obsession’s LOADED plugin gives you everything you need to mix almost any instrument, especially vocals.
Using a channel strip plugin is always great because you have all the main tools for mixing a particular instrument at your fingertips. Think of it as a console that allows you to process an individual track from start to finish. That’s exactly what the plugin called LOADED will give you.
It emulates five studio units of the 500 format and one general. Here you get Preamp, De-Esser, Gate, Compressor, and EQ. The last one in the chain will be a module where you can control the input and output signals. Let’s break it all down in more detail.
- Preamplifier Section
The Preamp section will be the first in your chain. Here you will be able to add Gain and, therefore, more harmonics. In addition, here you will find the High-Pass Filter and the Treble and Bass Boost. In addition, you get the XFMR button, which emulates the operation of transformers.
- Add Some De-Essing
When you compress vocals, you get a more expressive hissing sound, which can cut the ear. De-Esser is precisely designed to soften them. As for the plugin, you’ll have a Threshold, Release, and Mix knob. In addition, there are two modes, Band and Soft.
- Gate Unwanted Sounds
A cool bonus here is the presence of the Gate. Thanks to it, you can mute the sound up to a certain threshold. It can be useful for vocals, guitar, and drums. This section also includes Threshold, Release, and Mix controls.
- EQ Section
As for the equalizer, it is similar to other channel strips. In particular, you can boost and cut by 15 dB the high frequencies at 10 kHz. The same goes for the lows; here, it’s at 100 hertz. In addition, you will have two bands for High Mids and Low Mids.
- Add Compression
And, of course, you will have a separate compressor. Here you get a Ratio range of 1.5 to 20 and a Threshold down to -60 decibels. There are also Auto-Release and Quick Attack buttons and Sidechain functions. In addition, the compressor has a Mix knob.
Analog Obsession VariMoon is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST/3 and AU formats.
Analog Obsession LOADED is a great choice to get the channel strip plugin flavor of the hardware. You can use this software to mix each of your tracks since everything you need will be at your fingertips. Especially this software is good for those who work on live recordings.
12. Analog Obsession LOADES (De-Esser)
Thanks to Analog Obsession’s LOADES plugin, you can easily get rid of annoying hisses and esses on vocals and cymbals.
We already mentioned the de-esser as part of the LOADED plugin from Analog Obsession above. But the cool thing is that you can also get this software separately. The developers have created a different version of the de-esser called LOADES, and we can say that the plugin is quite effective.
It also looks like the units of the 500 rack series, but there are only two sections. In the first one, you will have a full set of de-essing settings, and in the second one, you will find general parameters. Let’s take a look at what this plugin can do.
- Set Up The Threshold
The Threshold knob will be the main one when working with this plugin. You will use it to select the amount of de-essing. You will notice quite drastic results after 12 decibels of reduction.
- Use Shelf or Band
By default, the upper-frequency reduction here is in the form of a shelf. But you can switch this mode to the band and get a more narrow performance character. A separate Band knob helps with this.
- Make It Softer
If you think the de-essing is too muffled, you can make it sound more expressive. For this purpose, the plugin’s creators have put the Soft function here. Click this button to see which option suits you best.
- Release Control
Another very useful feature here is the Release knob. Its range is from 1 to 500 milliseconds. Thanks to this parameter, you can adjust how fast the plugin releases hissing and essing sounds. But, again, tweak this based on the material.
- Mix, Input & Output
The plugin also has other vital controls to help you operate it better. In particular, this is the Mix knob for dry and wet balance. In addition, on the right side, you will see the Input and Output controls.
Analog Obsession LOADES is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST/3 and AU formats.
The LOADES plugin is a wonderful software that gets rid of annoying high frequencies naturally. There are enough controls to make it work the way you want it to. We don’t know exactly what frequency range this de-esser affects, but we have to admit that it works quite perfectly.
13. Analog Obsession BUSTERse (SSL Compressor)
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. TDR Nova (Dynamic EQ)
Nova is a handy toolbox with everything you need for dynamic processing.
Nova is a powerful parallel dynamic equalizer that you can use for transparent frequency dynamic processing in mixing and mastering situations. This plugin offers you a wide range of possibilities in both cases. In addition, it allows you to be as drastic as you need while keeping transparency with the dry/wet mix knob without adding artifacts or distortion.
If you were looking for a free mastering solution or want to get started with dynamic EQs and didn’t know what to get, Nova by Tokyo Dawn Records is a great option. This plugin gives you precise control over your signal and brings the possibility of using it as a multi-band compressor or a wideband compressor.
Besides all its features, it has a smooth user interface, and it’s super helpful if you’re at a beginner’s level and aren’t familiar with this type of tool. It explains itself and has helpers that will guide you through the plugin so that you adapt quickly and achieve results.
- Automatic gain compensation:
Nova has a button called EQ gain that automatically makes up for all gain additions and reductions you apply with the EQ to prevent you from confusing louder with better.
- Band individuality:
Compress each band by group or individually with separate settings for each band. Determine which parts of the spectrum will be affected by the compression.
- Wideband compression:
Nova comes with a wideband aside from the four EQ bands and the two filters that you can add to emphasize or reduce the overall EQ curve or add compression to the entire spectrum. Additionally, you can combine this band with the others to enhance an entire mix or for bus processing.
- Control over your compression:
Not only do all individual bands have their compressor, but also you can control every aspect of the processing and even limit each band separately or exclude them from being compressed. You can adjust the ratio, threshold, attack, and release to the frequency cuts and the wideband.
Supports Windows XP SP2 or higher, supports macOS 10.9 or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
Nova by TDR has many incredible features that differentiate it from most other plugins, and it’s free. There’s a paid version that includes a couple more EQ bands and slope options for the filters, along with a couple of improvements to the limitations in the free version. Still, this plugin sounds excellent, and it’s proven to be even more helpful than others to a certain extent.
15. Hvoya Audio Ribs By Eugene Yakshin (Granular Effect)
Despite being a free plugin, Hvoya Audio Ribs is very complex and offers you a huge amount of control.
The complexity of this plugin is both its advantage and disadvantage. You will have to spend some time familiarizing yourself with this plugin and learning how it functions. Still, once the learning is done, you will realize that this plugin is incredibly powerful and full of potential.
Ribs require MIDI input to fill up at least one of its 32 buffers. This is quite difficult for usage on some DAWs like Sonar One, Pro Tools, etc, where inputting MIDI notes is a bit more frustrating.
- Highly versatile plugin where you can edit the sound design in great detail
- It can be used as a synth as well as be used to generate glitch or scratch effects and textures
- 32 buffers that can be filled together or individually
- MIDI parameters are automatable
- Ribs offer on-spot information about what each control does to help you understand the plugin easier and faster. All you have to do is click on the “?” icon next to the logo and then hover every control to understand what it does
- For further understanding, the developers of the Ribs plugin provide a comprehensive PDF manual that is very helpful
Hvoya Audio Ribs By Eugene Yakshin works on Windows 7 or higher for PC and OS Catalina or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/AU formats and supports 32 and 64-bit devices.
In conclusion, the Ribs plugin is an impressively powerful and very “in-depth” plugin which is surprising given the fact that it is a free plugin. However, this plugin is definitely not for beginners as it has a steep learning curve which is complex even for some experienced users.
16. HY-Phaser (Phaser)
The following free software on our list is HY-Phaser by HY-Plugins.
It’s hard to find any information about this company on the Internet. They have a website that offers plugins at relatively democratic prices. And you can even download the HY-Phaser effect for free.
Even though it is free software, it is no worse than many paid plugins. You will find all the necessary settings here, just like in any other phaser.
- LFO Selection
As with many other phasers, you will have the option of selecting the LFO type. HY-Phaser will give you six options: Sine, Tri, Up, Down, Rect, and Rnd. Quite a vast number, as on free software.
- Filter the Effect
A nice bonus for you will be the two knobs of the Filter section. These are hi-pass and low-pass filters. You can use them to zoom in and out of your effect in the context of the mix.
- Make the Settings Random
The plugin has a special button to randomize the settings. Click it until you hear something you want. You may find both easy phasers and quite extreme-sounding ones.
- Choose Your Preset
You also get seven ready-made presets. There are both pulsating and fast, as well as pretty smooth effects. One thing is for sure – they all sound interesting.
The plugin is available for Windows (both 32 and 64-bit) and macOS (64-bit only). It comes in VST and AU formats.
HY-Phaser by HY-Plugins is a beautiful plugin that will give you an excellent phaser effect. The amount of features it has, despite being free, is impressive. An incredible bonus for you will be the seven presets and the ability to randomize the settings.
17. Acon Digital Multiply (Chorus)
Acon Digital’s Multiply is a six-voice free chorus plugin with an anti-comb filter technology.
The plugin delivers everything you expect from a chorus effect and a little more. You can simulate up to six identical voices to thicken up your sound. Additionally, you can use the Pre-delay knob to create diffuse and modulated echoes.
- Frequency Modulation
You can set up the Voice Count to your liking and tweak these two knobs to find the best sounding Chorus effect. Depending on the source material, too much Depth can generate thick sounds or wobbly results. Therefore, use it carefully.
- Amplitude Modulation
The Tremolo effect produced in this section helps widen the sound, especially when you set the Pre-Delay at a high value. It would help if it had a sync mode, but it makes the effect sound more analog.
The prominent EQ has simple-to-use four-band controls. You can create low- and high- cuts to focus the processing within a limited frequency range. Use the other two controls to manipulate the curve within the selected region. You can create shelves, slopes, and bells that let you shape the sound to your liking.
Character & Sound:
You can use this plugin to create thick, rich chorus textures. The sound is lush and natural, and you can even generate reverb effects with it. There are eighteen built-in presets that show you the plugin’s robes and give you a direction in which to go on. The automatic comb-filtering avoider comes in handy to make each chorus voice sound clean and full, and the EQ gives the user extended versatility.
Multiply is available for Windows 7 and up and macOS 10.8 and higher as a VST, AAX, and AU plugin.
Incredibly, a free tool can do so much and sound so exquisitely. Multiply is a must-have in your collection. You can make the effect as subtle or apparent as you wish, but it will sound breathtaking anyway.
18. Blue Cat’s Flanger (Flanger)
Blue Cat’s Flanger is a versatile free plugin that can go from harsh and metallic to smooth and soft.
Blue Cat Audio’s Flanger is a free VST plugin capable of producing various effects, from subtle to extreme. It’s a great-sounding plugin with a variety of modulation options and an intuitive user interface. It is a unique plugin with two different modes: the first mode resembles a traditional stereo flanger, whereas the second mode turns the plugin into a powerful frequency-modulation tool.
While many of the plugins on Blue Cat Audio’s website are aimed at more advanced users, Flanger is one of the few plugins they offer that is great for beginners.
- Customizable UI:
Provides the users with an opportunity to change the plugin’s skin, adjust transparency, and activate/deactivate it at will. Also, when the plugin is fed with silence, it smoothly shuts down any processing and optimizes your DAW’s CPU usage.
- Simple and effective:
Despite the simpleness shown in Blue Cat’s Flanger user interface, the plugin gives us many possibilities to use it freely. It has complete midi control and automation support that includes midi learn and advanced response control. You can also switch between triangle or sine LFO shape and bypass with absolute silence.
Supports Windows 7 and higher, Supports macOS 10.7 or higher, runs on 32 and 64 bit, and comes in VST2, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
The main advantage of the Blue Cat Audio’s Flanger is its versatility. You can use it for simple flanging effects. Still, it can also emulate the most popular vintage flangers (and many other effect boxes) thanks to its variable mode section that allows you to select the flanger type.
The user interface of Flanger is very easy to use, thanks to the large interactive knobs that provide direct control over the parameters. A “randomize” button, with its associated knob, helps you explore new sonic textures.
19. Voxengo Tempo Delay (Delay)
Create mystical spaces with this highly configurable stereo delay plugin.
Tempo Delay is a feature-rich stereo delay plugin designed for use in professional music production. It is a tempo-based delay effect with independent controls for each stereo channel. Compared to regular delay plugins, you’ll find that the controls in this one are a little different.
This plugin focuses on being highly flexible, so instead of the conventional parameters, you get separate “delay”, “repetition period”, and “delay panning” controls. Together, they provide better control over your delay’s stereo separation and timing.
In addition, the bottom section has a handy filter and a tremolo per channel for even greater sound variety.
- Deeper Delay Controls
Instead of a regular delay time parameter, you get three parameters. First, Delay controls the time of the initial feedback, in percent of the tempo. Think of it like a latency control for the actual delay tail. Second, Rep Period determines how many times the delay should repeat in percent of the tempo. And finally, Feedback controls the level of the delay tail. As a side note, try using percentages that make sense, like 25 or 50 (or 33.3 for triplets) for coherent delays.
- Stereo Processing
Most traditional delays offer a ping-pong option or, at best, a channel offset parameter to inspire esoteric sounds. However, Tempo Delay employs a separate delay per channel to give you complete control over the stereo delay sound. Furthermore, you also get a pan parameter for creating adjustable ping-pong effects or other creative results.
- Effects Section
At the bottom of the interface, you will find the following for each stereo channel: a tremolo effect and a filter. The tremolo section is self-explanatory, and the filter effect has high-pass, low-pass, band-pass, notch, and peak filters. It also has a drive knob to make the delay effect sound rawer and warmer.
Tempo Delay is available for Windows XP or higher 32-bit or 64-bit and macOS 10.11 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
While the user interface takes a bit of getting used to, it does offer a unique way to control your delay effect. Deep control over the delay timing per channel isn’t readily available in conventional plugins unless you use complicated routings. In addition, the filter and tremolo sections are a nice touch to help sculpt your effect further.
20. Analog Obsession PREDD (Preamp)
Unlike other products on today’s list, PREDD by Analog Obsession is a mic preamp plug-in designed to emulate the vintage sound you would achieve from Chandler Limited’s REDD.47 microphone preamp.
The REDD.47 was a standalone hardware unit created so recording enthusiasts could get their hands on the technology responsible for capturing an iconic era of music: Abbey Roads Studios circa 1959 – 1968.
Outside of the added 10dB high-frequency boost control, you can expect a faithful digital creation of a timeless piece of audio hardware. And best of all, it’s free to download from Analog Obsession’s Patreon Page.
- Gain Compensated Parameters
The -20dB pad switch, +52dB voltage gain dial, and the +/- 5dB fine gain control are fully gain compensated, so the signal’s strength remains level throughout the plug-in’s signal chain.
- Built-In HPF
The plug-in features a highpass filter that can attenuate frequencies between 30Hz and 180Hz. Unfortunately, the slope at which it attenuates these frequencies isn’t documented.
- Mic/DI Switch
The plug-in emulates the effects of the preamp/DI switch found on the original hardware inspiration. The Mic position offers the traditional preamp function designed to elevate a mic level signal, whereas the DI position, traditionally, sends the signal through the unit’s tube for amplification. For PREDD, the signal’s tone is adjusted to emulate these effects.
Should you have the processing power to spare, PREDD does offer an oversampling function. Once engaged, the oversampling finely evens out the tone. The smoothness becomes more apparent at high gain levels.
The plug-in supports Windows 7 and higher and Mac OS 10.9 and higher, both 64-bit only. Also, it supports VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
Having this plug-in for free borders on being criminal. PREDD will be a welcome addition to anyone’s plug-in library if they are looking for a software preamp. However, I recommend you try it even if you aren’t looking for one. It offers a smooth tone that can help your audio pop within a mix.
1. Modartt Celeste (Celeste)
Modartt is famous for its excellent Pianoteq 7 virtual piano collection, which includes the best and most famous models and some other complements related to the piano. One of these is the Celeste bundle expansion, which includes a celesta, a glockenspiel, a toy piano, and a kalimba.
- Velocity curve
In Celesta, you can freely adjust the velocity curve in your notes via the dedicated window located on the left side of your user interface screen. In essence, you have an XY graph with MIDI CC value versus dynamics (going from pianissimo to fortissimo), and you can just drag around the intersection point to make your dynamic unique.
- Keyboard division
If you look closely at the keyboard on the lower side of your screen, you can see that some divisions were added to the keys. You can easily switch between a “Mint” and “Worn” condition, simulating an old instrument that needs intonation, for instance.
- Mallet bounce
This option brings more realism to your playing by adding or removing any bouncing noises the mallets inside a celesta might naturally make when playing it. But, of course, you can set the perfect amount of such noise, and the result might be better than expected.
Some nice built-in effects were included so you can adjust your sound the way you want without leaving the plugin window. For example, you can add “Tremolo,” “Reverb,” “Delay,” and “Equalizer” on top of your music to make the virtual instrument resonate the exact way you want.
The “Diapason” menu is set at 440 Hz at the centre position. This means that the A note resonates in that exact frequency, but you can quickly alter that by choosing any other value. Aside from detuning your entire instrument, this can be handy for a spooky score or an offset thematic song.
An amazing collection of microphones is available in this collection for your use. Feel free to pick anything from omnidirectional, cardioid, and figure 8 options, such as the classic U87, C414, R84, and many more.
- Velocity curve
This plugin is available for macOS 10.7 or later (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or later (64-bit only). It runs in VST, VST3, AAX, and AU plugin formats and is also in standalone mode.
Modartt Celeste houses many great options and configurations to make your piano sound amazingly good. The Celesta expansion adds everything you might need from such an instrument, with great quality sample files and great options, like the multiple microphone models available. This can be a great tool if you already own Pianoteq 7, as this can only run inside the Modartt’s software.
2. TONSTURM FRQ Shift (Frequency Shifter)
Released in February 2020, the FRQ Shift plugin by TONSTURM is a fairly new plugin that offers its own unique take on Frequency Shifting.
This plugin consists of a dual-frequency shifter engine that can be precisely controlled by the user to either be linked or crossfaded into one another. Both the engines are of high quality and have a super-clean sound. Additionally, FRQ Shift is capable of performing multiple tasks like stereo enhancement, slight modulation, and many more effects that are used to create atmospheric backdrops, and so on.
- This plugin is a super-clean sounding, artifact-clear, dual-frequency shifter engine
- It is able to handle a wide range of tasks from slight modulation and stereo enhancement to a range of complex atonal effects
- Allows you to add from a pool of 4 feedback effects into the main feedback path of the frequency shifter
- You can create tense and alive sounding patches through the creative modulation system
- FRQ Shift comes with a wide range of highly efficient presets that you can use as a starting point
This plugin requires Windows 7 or higher for PC and OS X 10.9 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/AU/AAX formats and only supports 64-bit systems.
Overall, FRQ Shift by TONSTURM is an exciting approach to create spontaneous and atmospheric effects. The effect plugin aids you to immensely transform their aerial backdrops and sound effects. The presets included in this plugin alongside the modulation options make it a very powerful frequency shifter tool. It does come at a relatively more expensive price, but its features make up for it. It is made for sound designers first, and producers can use it to alter the uniformity of the overall sound.
3. UVI Shade (Creative / Comb Filter)
From the makers of Falcon 2, one of the best sound designing instruments ever created, comes this versatile equalizer capable of comb filtering and so much more.
While we will be focusing on the comb filter side of this plugin, we must still mention its grandeur when it comes to EQing. Shade is a digital equalizer with unlimited bands, numerous kinds of filters, modulation, side-chain, etc. It also employs a spectrum analyzer on its background to provide visual feedback.
Shade generates the comb filtering effect using a predefined comb shape rather than feedback or feed-forward delay. It’s more accurate and offers you a lot more control than you’d normally receive. You can also utilize the comb shape to amplify the comb frequencies instead of the usual cancellation. Speaking of which, Shade also provides notch-shaped comb filters to make the effect even more apparent.
Other than comb filtering, the plugin features a phaser filter shape that has three preset dips/resonance in the frequencies. You can use the onboard modulators to animate the filters and create a flanger and chorus effect. We’ll get more into these in the next section.
- 35 Filters
There are 35 filters divided into these categories: low-pass, high-pass, notch, band-pass, high shelf, low shelf, peak, phaser, comb, and special. While most of them are relatively ordinary, the last three are unique. For example, under the Special category, you’ll find tilt EQ and Xpander, of which the latter has 37 modes and three drive/saturation types.
The plugin has a dedicated modulator section where you can add an unlimited number of modulators. The modulator types include an Envelope, Figure, Follower, LFO, Macro, MSEG, Random, Spread, and an XY pad. You can assign a modulator to a parameter by right-clicking the parameter and selecting the modulator from the list. As an example, you can use the Macro modulator to control several parameters at once.
- Stereo Processing
Every band in this EQ offers several stereo modes: Stereo LR, Stereo MS, Left, Right, Mono/Mid, and Side. So, you could add filters only on the sides to create wide movements. Or, by filtering each side of the stereo channel independently, you could use the comb filter to generate pseudo-stereo effects in mono audio.
Shade is full of helpful features that make this EQ user-friendly and practical. For example, you can specify the slope value of the spectrum analyzer. And for most filters, the slope steepness can reach up to an astounding 2,000 dB/oct., which is a blessing for mastering uses.
UVI Shade is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The plugin is a comprehensive digital equalizer on steroids capable of detailed editing, mastering, and sound designing. Having a dedicated modulator section makes intricate sound designing quick and easy. Furthermore, with modulators such as the Follower, you can create rhythmic sounds side-chained to kicks. Overall, the plugin is worth a try without a doubt.