Today we’ll talk about the best VST plugins for beginners in 2023.
The music production world is vast, both in software and instrument options. If someone is starting to dwell in this area, it’s expected to see large amounts of said products, with multiple choices to choose from and every imaginable price tag attached to it, and that can be overwhelming at first notice.
Of course, everything depends on what your purposes are. There are almost infinite choices on virtual instrument plugins (VSTs) alone, and the same goes for effects like EQs and compressors. If you don’t know where to start, we’re bringing a nice selection of plugins that can help you advance in your productions in no time.
Let’s dive into our six plugin choices for beginners in 2023 – with one cool addition at the end of our list.
Top 6 VST Plugins For Beginners 2023
1. Arturia Pigments 4 NEW*
Pigments 4 is a powerful and versatile synth that combines the best features of both virtual analog and granular synthesis and is great for beginners due to its simplistic approach and colorful interface.
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 that is necessary for beginners. 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.
2. Traktion & DAWsome ABYSS
More Info & Price (Trial Available)
A visual and intuitive synthesizer plugin that can evoke the most varied textures.
Abyss is a synth plugin that relies on a good-looking design interface with a colorful and visually-attractive theme that showcases all controls and configurations in an elegant display. From the first time you open up the plugin, it’s easy to tweak around a good sound messing up the knobs and faders.
The innovative synthesis engine of Abyss represents timbres with color, giving you intuitive
access to easily design your signature sound. And with the powerful modulation system, you can make any patch nuanced and expressive – even more so if you use an MPE controller like the ROLI Seaboard.
- Colorful signal flow
The colored stripe on the center indicates the signal flow in Abyss. In essence, each color represents a timbre – the gradient acts as an oscillator, with the main parameters being the timbres placed on it and the playing position along the gradient. The sound generated from the gradient-oscillator is fed into a resonating filter, a tilt-EQ, an amplitude envelope, and from there through four audio effects, namely “Shimmer,” “Delay,” “Reverb,” and “Phaser.”
- Frequency modulation
A specific set of parameters will offer great sound opportunities with a specific character, pioneered by the Yamaha DX 7 in the 80s. In Abyss, FM works via an intuitive interface as easy to use as a filter, distributed within three faders: “FM – AMT” determines how much FM you want. When set to zero, the FM section is skipped, and with higher values, the sound becomes more and more influenced by FM; “FM – RATIO” defines the character of the FM sound. Higher values correspond to sharper sounds. Integer numbers create only harmonic overtones, while “fractional” numbers like 1.3271 will create inharmonic overtones – like in bell sounds. You can select integer numbers with right-click from a context menu; finally, “FM – WAVE” brings a second parameter that influences the sound character of the FM. Lower values sound like classical FM, while medium values push the timbres more towards saw-like; this can be used for brass or classical synthesizer sounds. High values introduce spiky dirt and crackles.
- Easily alter your timbre
The lower half of the window can display one of two views: FX and EDIT. On the second of these, you’ll find sliders that allow modifications to be made on the currently selected timbre. The controls are labeled “STRAIGHTEN,” which makes the sound more static when pushed to the right, as a classical oscillator voice, “DETAIL,” making the sound softer, thinner, and less detailed if needed, “NOISE,” which adds musical noise to the timbre, and finally “ORGANIC,” a control that offers a slightly moving, chorused sound.
- Audition mode
By clicking on the loudspeaker symbol, you’ll switch to “Audition” mode. In this mode, the currently selected timbre does not stop playing. You can edit its parameters or select a different timbre, but playback will continue. To leave this mode and return to normal, simply click the loudspeaker symbol again. This is a valuable tool for checking out multiple timbres and choosing your preferred one quickly.
- Colorful signal flow
The plugin is available for macOS 10.11 or higher and Windows 10 or higher, both in 64-bit only. It comes in VST3 and AU plugin formats.
Beginners will like it for its simplicity, minimalistic design, and not too many overwhelming features (though there are a lot of them anyway!). Simply explained features and effects will help you to shorten the learning curve.
The main goal here is to have multiple timbres at your fingertips, with as many alterations to be made on them as possible. You can easily navigate between these timbres, selecting which is more suitable for you. The modulations, effects, and the FM configurations can make it sound like an authentic instrument from the 1980s, but in much more lightweight packaging.
3. Vital Audio Vital
Vital is a versatile wavetable synthesizer used for both additive and subtractive synthesis. Combining the voices, filters, effects, and modulation in Vital can quickly create a considerable amount of sounds and tones.
In short, wavetable synthesis is a method of sound synthesis based on waveforms created from an oscillator. A wavetable synthesizer can store many waveform cycles called wavetables, modifying and combining different waveforms to generate a characteristic sound or alter an existing one.
- Voice section
The “Voice” section of Vital comprises three wavetable oscillators, one sampler, and two filters, with the oscillators and sampler running in parallel. However, each oscillator can receive frequency or ring modulation from other oscillators or the sampler, increasing the number of different sounds you can get out of it. The filters can be applied to any oscillator, the sampler, or the other filter.
- Unison voices
With the help of the “Unison” control, you can add up to 16 voices in your arrangement. As expected, it may increase the CPU usage significantly, but the final result can be tremendously huge. You can even detune the voices to simulate a more realistic performance with a nearby control called “Detune.”
The two oscillator modulation knobs present a straightforward configuration: the left modulation knob morphs the shape of the waveform using different algorithms. At the same time, the right one has some additional algorithms to also morph the waveform’s shape but includes the option to perform frequency or ring modulation on the oscillator by using another oscillator or the sampler as input.
- Pitch adjustment
The pitch adjustment on the left side of the interface will adjust the incoming sample by that number of semitones. This is set to zero by default, so the sampler will play the incoming sample as is. The pitch adjustment on the right will adjust the incoming sample by that number of cents, with 100 cents equivalent to one semitone. This is also set to zero by default, so the sampler will play the incoming sample as is.
- Voice section
The plugin is available for macOS 10.12 or higher and Windows 10 or higher, both in 64-bit only. It comes in VST, VST3, LV2, and AU plugin formats and also runs in standalone mode.
The main reason why this plugin is best for starters is because of its helpful forum/community dedicated only to this synth specifically. Another reason is that it’s a very well-known synth comparable with Xfer Serum so you can find tutorials, guides, and even courses.
The inviting user interface with intuitive design makes this complex synth plugin beginner friendly as well.
Vital contains a very nice collection of algorithms that make its usage simple for beginners yet powerful, with asserted quality and attention to detail regarding your waveforms and how to manipulate them. However, Vital brings that up with a great touch of quality and as a free version for you to try out.
If you want to learn how to use the complex synth, consider starting with Vital.
4. FAW SubLab
More Info & Price
This excellent bass generator regardless if you are a beginner or an advanced producer.
FAW SubLab is a relatively new plugin with a straightforward and efficient workflow. Here you have all the tools to make a powerful and punchy bassline, with hundreds of presets to choose from and in a nice-looking user interface.
Designed to attend a specific type of producer, SubLab shines on melodic 808-inspired productions, with distinctive bass sound and sub-driven hooks. The patches included are created from three main layers included on the plugin: “Synth,” “Sampler,” and “X-Sub.”
- X-Sub Technology
One of the main technologies developed by Future Audio Workshop serves as the force behind the plugin. In essence, it’s a psychoacoustic sub-bass oscillator that makes every note played more consistent, accurate, and deep, getting as close as possible to the iconic 808 sounds while simultaneously delivering instantaneous nice timbres in every note you play.
This unique section boasts a configurable curve, an alternative “Legato” mode, and portamento time that is smartly quantified in musical intervals. As a result, this VST can be used as a credible monophonic bass synthesizer even when only the synth portion is active; apply some resonant filter envelope to a waveform for a remarkably decent 303 replica.
- Analog-inspired synth engine
To this day, some of the best synthesizers of the past dictate how these instruments are supposed to sound. Producers and plugin developers consistently draw inspiration from their iconic circuits to achieve the same sound results from the past, and SubLab features an engine totally inspired by those vintage units. The algorithm was created with multiple models in mind and offers sine, triangle, sawtooth, and square wave options.
The oscillators in SubLab sound clean and juicy but they may not provide the depth of texture that current producers want on their own, and this is where the “Sampler” layer comes in. User samples may be easily imported using a simple drag-and-drop motion, or you can choose from a library of 250 onboard kick samples. The “Sampler” can follow incoming MIDI or stay at a fixed pitch independent of MIDI.
- X-Sub Technology
The plugin is available for macOS 10.10 or higher and Windows 7 or higher, both in 64-bit only. It comes in VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU plugin formats.
Great plugin for beginners and a favorite by many, because of its graphics and super intuitive GUI/navigation. Its simplicity explained through the colors makes this plugin a brainer for producers looking for heavy 808s, kicks, and massive basses. Great for Drum & Bass, House, EDM, Trap, Hip-Hop, and more. You can find in handy their forum/community.
Focused on the iconic drum machines of the past, SubLab offers a wide variety of timbres, samples, and presets that will make your production bear a distinctive low-end, thus giving tons of character to your track.
In addition, this easy packaging stimulates a fluid workflow, which can be a good thing for someone starting to venture into beat-making, for instance.
5. XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2
More Info & Price (Trial Available)
Perhaps the best virtual instrument that focuses on drums and percussion in general.
XLN Audio is very well-known for developing the Addictive Drums collections over the years. Addictive Drums 2 is a staple when it comes to drum sounds that are realistic and powerful at the same time, simulating very nicely how a drum kit is supposed to sound.
- Multiple presets
The vast collection of presets and drum loops in Addictive Drums 2 is one of the arguments that favor a fluid workflow. This plugin has got everything from classic 4/4 beats to specific turns, leaving no space for lack of creativity and delivering realistic, precise renditions of classic rhythms.
- Two view modes
You can switch between the “Edit” and “Kit” views to better tweak how your kit should sound. On the first option, there are faders and FX controls to make your pieces sound just like you imagined them, while the latter option displays the large variety of said pieces that you can choose from. Multiple snares, kicks, hi-hats, and more are ready for your use from the start.
XLN Audio offers different “drumkit bundles” tailored to a determined style or genre. For instance, the “Blue Oyster” packages dive into a classic rock sound, while “Session Percussion” showcases a wonderful collection of percussive instruments used live and in the studio.
- Mic settings
Capturing the sound of a drum kit relies on the usage of decent microphones and their positioning, and this is totally possible in Addictive Drums 2. You can alter the positioning at each single drum piece and even select that microphone to be routed on a single track in your DAW. For the ambient microphones, you get “Room” and “Overhead” controls with level, pan, and width configurations.
- Multiple presets
The plugin is available for macOS 10.10 or higher and Windows 7 or higher, both in 64-bit only. It comes in VST, AAX, and AU plugin formats and also runs in standalone mode.
XLN Audio makes our lives much easier by translating the powerful and mighty sounds that only a real drum kit could provide right inside your DAW. Also, great for starters for its intuitive design and pleasing interface.
Effects are explained in a very simple way, so you can understand the basics and what’s their use. This plugin is very popular and you can find tutorials and guides on things that you struggle with in no time. Though, first, make sure the plugin is a good fit for you with a trial version.
This is one of the most famous and largest drum collections nowadays.
Why It’s Great For Beginners?
Addictive Drums 2 offers a big library containing ready-made presets that can be good for beginners because they don’t need to create anything from scratch since all good turns and rhythms are ready to be used.
Next thing that makes it very beginner-friendly is the two available modes that are designed to be easily found, understood, and used to add or alter effects or each drum piece individually. You can do tweaks and hear the difference instantly without any significant changes.
6. E-Phonic Invader 2
More Info & Price (Trial Available)
Invader 2 is a straightforward plugin that emulates classic hardware synths with easy controls.
In a market full of synths with hybrid and other complicated engines, this synth takes us back to the roots of synthesis. Invader 2 is an intuitive subtractive synth with plenty of oscillators and filters. It comes with a resizable, single-page user interface. Furthermore, the UI is divided into multiple sections that help you find the parameters you need easily.
The HQ button at the top right of the interface lets you enable 4x oversampling mode to avoid any aliasing generated by the filters. Similarly, the Drift parameter emulates vintage synth designs by adding fluctuations in the synth’s voices. Let’s have a look at some of its features in detail:
- Subtractive Oscillators
Invader 2 employs two oscillators, each featuring the following waveforms: triangle, saw, pulse, sync pulse, sync saw, and saw-to-pulse wavetable. You can change the oscillator’s pitch using the Freq parameter, and the knob next to Freq adjusts various other parameters based on the type of waveform you’ve selected.
If you choose the pulse waveform, you can adjust the pulse width, and when you select either of the syncing waveforms, you can control the sync amount (soft sync to hard sync). Likewise, the saw-to-pulse waveform allows you to control the position of the wavetable. You can modulate this parameter to get creative sounds.
- Advanced Unisons
Invader 2 provides far more than the typical unison feature in similar synths. You can select from two, four, and six-voice real unison. Likewise, you’ll find four, eight, and six-times-eight-voice emulated unisons. The last one combines the six-voice real unison with the eight-voice emulation to generate forty-eight voices! Massive leads and pads are a click away with Invader 2.
Invader 2 has only one filter. However, it features three types: low-pass 1, low-pass 2, and band-pass. Low-pass 1 is a clean low-pass filter with a simple high-pass knob (20 Hz to 6 kHz). Alternately, low-pass 2 offers a dirty, analog-modeling low-pass filter with a drive knob. And the band-pass knob lets you output only a range of frequencies.
- Envelopes & LFOs
The plugin employs two envelopes—one for the filter and one for the amp. Two LFO modules with host sync offer the following LFO shapes: sine, triangle, saw, saw (unipolar), pulse, pulse (unipolar), random, and noise. The unipolar shapes modulate in one direction (positive or negative) only. Similarly, the LFOs provide a delay knob, which lets you adjust the start time of the modulation.
As for modulation targets, you can modulate the oscillator’s pitch, the second knob in the oscillators, and the filter cutoff using either of the envelopes, LFOs, and the LFO’s delay as an attack envelope. These allow you to create moving, dynamic sounds effortlessly.
- Built-In Effects
Invader 2 has a delay effect only. However, the effect provides six types of delays: simple delay, ping pong, diffused, tape, phase 1, and phase 2. You can use the diffused delay as reverb, and the phase delays are great for creating modulated delay sounds.
- Other Features
The Mixer section lets you control the oscillators’ volumes and the master volume. Additionally, you can add a sub-oscillator, ring modulation, and white noise. The sub-oscillator features a triangle, saw, and square wave, and it can transpose one or two octaves below the primary oscillators’ default pitch.
Similarly, Invader 2 features a simple arpeggiator employing up, down, and up-down directions. It allows you to change the rate and range (up to four octaves). Furthermore, a 16-step sequence recorder lets you create exciting sequences on the fly. Set the sequencer’s mode to Sequencer Record and play your notes in a sequence. Then, switch to Sequence Play modes and press any note on your keyboard to play the sequence from that note, transposing from the original way you played it.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 3 and AU formats.
Great for beginners for its classic analog synth design that many people are familiar with. Simple, yet powerful, Invader 2 can be a great introduction to vintage equipment. It doesn’t feature an absurd amount of controls, only what you’d normally find in a real vintage unit.
Analog gear, in general, can bear a specific sonic trait to it that makes it sound unique, and having such faithful recreation in your arsenal can save you when you need such authenticity.
We also prepared the effect plugins for this list as a secondary part of this article:
Best EFFECT Plugins For Beginners
1. iZotope Neutron 4 (Channel Strip, Great For Electronic Musicians)
iZotope Neutron 4 is a comprehensive mixing tool suite offering various improvements and additions to previous versions.
The plugin features an Assistant View that provides an easy-to-use and intuitive interface for beginners to change a channel’s sound. Additionally, it includes an Unmask module that allows for easy separation of different sounds and an Exciter module that features new distortion signal mashers.
- Reference with Target Library
iZotope Neutron 4’s Target Library allows you to match the sonic characteristics of your mix to a reference track. It comes with a selection of professionally mixed tracks you can choose from or upload your reference tracks. Once a reference track has been selected, the plugin analyzes its spectral balance, dynamics, and other characteristics and suggests adjusting the mix to match the reference more closely.
- Clear muddy mixes
The Unmask module in iZotope Neutron 4 is a powerful tool for separating overlapping sounds in a mix, allowing you to identify and adjust frequencies clashing with each other easily. This feature works by analyzing the audio of all tracks in your mix and then creating a “masking” profile of each track. From there, you can use the Unmask module to adjust the levels of each track, making sure that each sound is heard clearly and without interference from other sounds.
- Clever Harmonic Processing
You can add warmth, grit, and harmonic distortion to your audio by using Trash Mode. It has four different modes, which allow you to customize the type and intensity of distortion applied to your audio. These modes include “Classic,” “Tape,” “Tube,” and “Warm,” each with its distinct character. You can also adjust the amount of distortion using the Drive and Mix controls.
- Punch Mode
You get a Punch Mode in the plugin’s Compressor module, a transient shaping tool that adds impact and clarity to individual tracks and mixes. It works by emphasizing the initial transient of a sound while reducing the sustain or tail.
That can be useful for punching drums, guitars, and other instruments that need to cut through a mix. It has adjustable Attack and Release controls, allowing for fine-tuning of the transient shaping effect. It can also be used with the Compressor’s other settings for more precise control over a track’s dynamics.
- Comprehensive presets
Neutron 4 has various presets to help you start your audio projects. These preset are designed to provide a range of settings for different types of audio sources, such as vocals, drums, guitars, and more. They can save you time and effort by providing a starting point that you can tweak and customize.
While iZotope Neutron 4’s Compressor module has powerful features like Punch Mode and adjustable Attack and Release controls, it also has some cons. Firstly, the plugin can be expensive, making it inaccessible to some of you. Additionally, the interface can be overwhelming for beginners, with many options and controls that may be difficult to understand.
The presets can be a useful starting point, but they may not always provide the desired effect and require further customization. Finally, the plugin can be CPU-intensive, which can be problematic for those with slower computers or limited resources.
2. RC-20 Retro Color (Tape & Texture Channel Strip)
The RC-20 Retro Color will spice any mix with a vintage flavor. Its easy-to-use features will add warmth, texture, and a retro nostalgic character to your drums, guitars, keys, basses, and full mixes.
Along with six unique FX modules, this plugin comes packed with the exclusive XLN Audio’s Flux Engine. This unique engine, developed by the masterminds behind the plugin, works by adding a certain level of fluctuation and instability to the sound, providing that pleasant warmth, and analog-style texture.
A sonic time machine, this plugin is inspired by the old analog years of audio. It aims to replicate the classic artifacts like VHS machines and Vinyl records by using a bit of distortion, noise, wobble, and more.
- Convenient Modules
The RC-20 Retro Color has six different modules that can be applied to any sound. Apart from the top-notch replication of retro characteristics, these modules are also pretty easy to use. With one knob assigned to every module, you’ll be able to control the proportion in which the sound will be affected by Noise, Wobble, Distort, Digital, Space, and Magnetic effects. Furthermore, you’ll also have the freedom to go minimalistic and change specifics that every module will work with. For example, set a particular rate for the Magnetic module and Stereo it.
- Straightforward Intensity Control
The plugin also features a very useful magnitude slider. The slider will work to control how much intensity is being applied to the overall processing of the modules working together. It’s easily accessible when you’re building your settings. It gets really handy if assigned with automation since it will lay the ground to control the mix’s energy. Use it to get some solid breakdowns or transitions.
- Versatile Presets
By holding an extensive array of presets, the RC-20 Retro Color will surprise every producer with its versatility. The plugin includes high-fidelity presets to replicate sounds, such as two vinyl presets, two tape ones, a static radio, VHS machine, Tube, Cassette, and much more. Each module will be equipped with a satisfying amount of features, and some will have manually selectable presets. Apart from the presets in the modules, there are also presets for the magnitude slider section, which processes the plugin’s mix.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and Mac OS 10.9 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
A three-time awardee, the RC-20 Retro Color will give every producer freedom and variety for pushing any mix with vintage colors. Use it and explore the subtle warmth of classic analog audio in any sounds or go further and crank up some instability and fluctuation to spice up the mix. Either way, you’ll be getting modernity in the analog goodness of the old time’s best technologies.
3. Initial Audio Master Suite (Master Chain)
An extensive part of music production involves mastering. The master is where subtleness and minimalism take place to work together and deliver a pristine track. With Initial Audio’s Master Suite, anyone will find this process way easier than it is.
With the loudness control feature, this plugin will let you adjust the volume with one simple and effective knob. Along with it, the 3-band equalizer is thoughtfully made for precise mastering equalization.
To set the final glue to the master, the stereo image controls featured in the plugin will completely manipulate the spatial width and depth usually reserved for the mastering stage.
The team behind Initial Master, who developed this mastering suite, has an exciting motto when referencing this plugin. Their motto for the Master Suite mastering plugin is: “Anyone Can Master!” and as a beginner in audio production, you’ll be pretty smart if you consider adding this plugin to your arsenal.
- LUFS Display
Before giving the final touch in a mix, and wrapping it up, you’ll need to check if the music has industry-standard requirements for loudness. With the detailed LUFS display on this mastering plugin, you’ll be able to see precisely the sound’s loudness level in an accurate meter. The plugin will also display a warning whenever the song gets too loud.
One of the common problems with limiters and compressors on the mastering stage is the chopping up of sounds they can accidentally cause. In Master Suite, a highly modern intelligent algorithm will apply a surgical amount of limiting and compression, which can be controlled with the “soften” and “comp mix” knobs on the interface.
- Friendly interface
With a delightful interface, this plugin goes a long way to provide comfort and coziness. With an organized and clean control panel, you’ll feel more relaxed to spending time doing the often-tiring master. The plugin also allows you to resize its shape to match any screen resolution.
The Mastering Plugin features a handy 3-band equalizer that can cut or boost the low, mid, and high frequencies by up to 6 dB. It also has a Mono and Stereo control for enhancing and adjusting the spatial field. You can also find a THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) in the plugin. This effect “fattens” up the master, increasing the perceived loudness.
This plugin is available for Windows Vista or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.7 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
This efficient, easy-to-use Mastering plugin will let you do all the necessary processing in the mastering stage with comfort and practicality. The plugin features handy effects like an equalizer, a compressor/limiter, and a stereo/mono control. The LUFS display is highly handy at monitoring and controlling the loudness of the track.
4. BOZ Digital Labs ProVocative (Pitch Shifter)
ProVocative is a pitch-shifting plugin designed by BOZ Digital Labs that is intended to be easy to use and good for the CPU.
As a detailed micro pitch shifter, the ProVocative works with intuitive controls and a helpful interface. BOZ Digital Labs designed this one focusing on an easy and simple layout. Not only they succeed in making this thoughtful plugin swift and practical, but they also made it economical and friendlier for the CPU.
As a beginner in music production, pay attention to this critical feature. Plugins with complex qualities may cause you more harm than good. The reason for this occurrence is that whatever device is producing your tracks needs to function correctly, and heavy plugins might drain too much of their processing capacity.
By implementing every track with easy-to-use and simplistic plugins like the ProVocative, you’ll cooperate with the processing power required from any device, which is exceptionally vital.
- Band Limit
This plugin has an in-built band limit. By applying a high or low pass filter on its signal, you’ll get a nice smooth, subtle widening. It’s no news that low and high pass filters yield interesting results when applied to the micro-pitched tracks, and are an excellent experimentation practice.
The ProVocative has intuitive controls. One of these valuable tools you’ll find easy to adjust in the interface are the mix knobs. Apart from the wet and dry knobs, you’ll also be able to link both signals with the button between them and get the wet and dry knobs to work as a mix instead.
This feature is a vast advantage that we can’t stress enough. In today’s digital “In the box” mixing, plugins such as these are extremely valuable and cost-effective. It’s mind-blowing that an excellent quality pitch-shifting plugin like the ProVocative can run in operational systems as old as Windows XP without any intense work by the device.
This plugin is available for Windows XP or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and Mac OS 10.5 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
ProVocative is a plugin for optimal performance and excellent deliveries. By allowing anybody to run it without any compromise to the processing power of their device, this plugin lets every producer explore and experiment freely with the features of a pitch-shifter.
With a design highly intuitive, you’ll have full and swift control of everything that the plugin has to offer, giving you a steady and quick result.
5. Kuassa EFEKTOR RV3604 Reverb (Reverb)
As a Reverb plugin, Kuassa’s EFEKTOR RV3604 goes with simplicity and modern design to provide every producer’s mix with an immersive, ambient, and realistic reverberation process.
Searching for the right reverb for your mix can be time-consuming. Some plugins will treat reverberation with an intense digital profile, while others tend to sound more realistic.
The EFEKTOR RV3604 plugin will work as a realistic reverb as it assigns artificial and mechanical sources with natural sounds. With this modern algorithm, you’ll be able to create surfboard crashing waves, far-reaching space, sun-over-the-clouds feelings, and even epic moments.
This plugin features photorealistic graphics for a guitar experience resembling real life. This means it takes the algorithms from the sounds of natural spaces and provides them in five types of reverbs: Room, Hall, Plate, Spring, and Shimmer. All five of these reverb types are great to achieve optimal simulation and immersion.
- Easy To Use
With a time-saving design, Kuassa’s EFEKTOR RV3604 Reverb displays very accessible controls. With separate in-built Wet and Dry knobs, you will be able to set their preferred proportion of reverb in the sound. The interface is very straightforward and simplified. Every beginner will have great results by quickly dialing a few parameters.
This plugin is available for Windows Vista or higher and macOS 10.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The EFEKTOR RV3604 will aid any beginner in reaching an immersive and realistic spatial texture for their music. This great Reverb is easy to use and has a straightforward design. The modern algorithm of simulating real-life sounds and applying it makes this effective plugin versatile and handy to your library.
6. Soundtoys PrimalTap (Delay)
With this pleasantly-looking, vintage-style design, this SoundToys’ delay affects the signal with five great and exciting effects, in a very distinctive retro digital processing.
If you enjoy the prime-time of vintage audio, you’ll enjoy this resourceful and complete delay plugin. Getting its inspiration out of the 70s highly distinctive Prime Time digital delay, the PrimalTap honors the older hardware’s old and well-loved features.
Long, massive, and extensive Lo-fi atmospheres can result from using this plugin’s various features. On this odd and exciting Delay, it’s possible to do weird and creative experimentations by turning the Feedback and Adjust knob.
Experimentation is a vital thing for a beginner to do, so get confident and add PrimalTap to your arsenal. Pay attention to this plugin’s line of action, mess with the looping and warping functions, observe the distortion and how it mangles the sounds. Take those plugin’s features as teaching tools.
- Infinite Feedback
The looping power in the PrimalTap delay plugin is astounding. As mentioned earlier, this delay used the hardware called The Prime Time as its inspiration; this hardware was an analog effect. One of its main features was the powerful loop and delay time of 128 milliseconds. In this new adaptation by the team at SoundToys, the PrimalTap has double the looping power, with an incredible 256 milliseconds delay time.
Since you’re venturing into the audio world, it’s fair to know that weird is actually cool. In an attempt to work with one of the most notorious features from The Prime Time, PrimalTap Delay achieved to get the weird and beloved multiply effect. This effect was an accidental occurrence in the original hardware. It happened because it had a function named “Multiply”, and this feature would start halving the rate of the signal’s sample whilst Prime Time doubled the delay time, thus resulting in a strange and fun sound. Experiment with things that go out of the ordinary, this is what builds your sonic identity as an audio producer.
- Unique Mix
This plugin drifts away moderately from the “normal” delay plugins. While using the knobs, some textures light up creatively. The Multiply knob will delay the sound for a much larger time, it will also be drastically change tonality with every increase resulting from the delay effect. The Adjust knob will be pitch shifting, it will also act as a chorusing effect, by combining these two, it does a great job at attributing similar pitches to individual sounds. It will also get some flanging effects for the signal. And for harvesting a unique mix, with characteristic sounds, this plugin does an amazing role at mashing everything together with the Feedback function, along with the Input.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
The PrimalTap is a delay plugin developed by Soundtoys and the 1978 Prime Time hardware inspires it. Its unique features and brilliant design gives this plugin an out-of-the-ordinary performance.
The knobs on the interface are pretty easy to use and tend to provide you with experimentation freedom and extraordinary results. It’s also capable of making the notorious infinite feedback found in the original hardware, Prime Time.
7. Waves Renaissance DeEsser (DeEsser)
Waves is one of the giants in the audio industry. As a beginner, do yourself a favor and get familiar with their products. With the Renaissance DeEsser by Waves, anybody will be able to precisely reduce undesirable higher frequencies while maintaining the good aspects of the sound.
Sibilant sounds are generally tricky to control. It’s not common for de-essers to remove unwanted frequencies without compromising some other textures of the track. This compensation can often prompt you to look for other de-essers and may be time-consuming.
But, with the Renaissance DeEsser, it will be easy to combat harsh sibilance by combining the unique technologies used in Waves’ C4, R-Vox, and DeEsser plugins. The result will be an optimal, clean, efficient, and compelling track.
- Phase Compensation
One of the most distinctive features of Waves’ Renassaince DeEsser is the phase-compensated crossover. The crossover filters in any speaker system will inevitably introduce phase distortion. Still, this plugin’s phase-compensated crossover gives it the ability to preserve the audio musical features since the algorithm automatically compensates for any unwanted distortion.
- Adaptive Threshold
While equipped with a single threshold, this plugin offers an easy-to-use interface in which you’ll have the freedom to choose the different Modes in the “Mode” button below the graphic display. By setting a mode, you can adjust the respective value for the selected attribute by using this single threshold that can adapt to the different modes within the plugin.
This plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
An exciting plugin, the Waves Renaissance DeEsser, will surprise you with its simplicity and functionality. By holding itself at a higher standard, this plugin will avoid audio problems that common DeEssers cause.
It will feature an exact process and remove unwanted higher frequencies without changing the desired textures you want to keep from the original audio.
8. SoundSpot Velo 2 (Limiter)
Velo 2 is a limiter by SoundSpot that they released after the success of the original Velo. Velo2 comes with additional features and options. In addition to that, a rework was made, and it now features some improved limiting algorithms.
SoundSpot’s Velo 2 is a powerful limiter for maximizing loudness. It can influence coloration and transient preservation with its different options. With new and improved algorithms, Velo 2 reacts quickly to the incoming signal. It’s also an extremely handy limiter for mastering any style of rhythmical music with pronounced transients.
- Volume Accuracy
This limiter shows the overall dB level in the central display with three different modes. You can choose between Peak, RMS, and LUFS for an accurate idea of volume levels in the real world. While it’ll show the numbers in the center, it will also show the stereo signal by displaying colored waves. This will give an accurate representation of how you’re shaping the sound when applying the limiting.
- Style Options
The limiter has four style options that you can choose between for a coloration change based on the limiter’s gain reduction. These styles are called Lucid, Warm, Punch, and Bright. These choices mean that the limiter will pick some frequencies to attenuate more than others, subtly changing the tonal balance of your track while still applying gain reduction.
- Lookahead Slider
This slider will help smooth the dynamics and allow amplitude spikes as it’s pushed up. To bypass it, simply set it to zero. The oversampling options allow for up to eight times oversampling. The higher you put it, it will introduce less Distortion, and it will process with more transparency. It is interesting to use these oversampling options when setting shorter Lookahead times.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and Mac OS 10.12 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
With a brilliant design, this limiter will facilitate any mastering process with adequate controls and monitoring. One of the advantages this limiter offers is to see precisely how it’s shaping the sound and letting it be adjusted to your liking. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use and intuitive plugin, this limiter fits the criteria and is a must for anyone’s library.
9. Waves One Knob Series (One Knobs)
Another great addition from Waves, the One Knob Series, will give you a cost-effective, CPU-friendly, and time-saving all-in-one knob plugin series.
Especially for beginners, when learning audio, how a plugin works, and how to effectively use all of a plugin’s features in a track, you might get a little lost. There is so much technicality usually involved in complex plugins that it may feel like you’re in front of an aircraft control panel when trying a new plugin.
With the OneKnob Series by waves, get practicality as you would never have expected. A single knob will produce a fantastic and colossal effect in the desired spot with just the right amount. It may seem like magic, but being familiar with the services offered by Waves, you’ll know this is the kind of stuff they can bring to the table.
It’s no mystery now that these series use singular knobs to realize complex processing in our tracks. But what exactly are these processes? You’ll be surprised to know that there are a total of eight effects, and they are called Filter, Brighter, Pressure, Louder, Driver, Pumper, Wetter, and Phatter. Each is straightforwardly adjustable in the interface.
Let’s dive into these effects’ specifications. The Brighter plugin works as an EQ, bringing higher frequencies forward and making the mix brighter. The Driver also works as an EQ, more specifically as a high and low cut filter together. The knob filter works as a powerful sweepable filter with switchable resonance modes, also popularly known as “EDM filters.” The Louder plugin, as the name suggests, will act as a limiter on your tracks. The Phatter knob will boost the low-end when applied, thus giving this thicker vibe. The knob called Pressure will behave as a compressor in the mix; it’s very versatile as it can be subtle or cumbersome. The Pumper plugin works as a “chopper,” creating instant ducking effects and simulating sidechain compression. Finally, the Wetter knob is a good and intuitive reverb plugin that’s incredibly subtle and warm.
This plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
With an intellectual capacity for innovating, Waves hit the hole with this series. The series gives plugins with satisfactory results, brilliant design, and highly intuitive controls. With this addition to your library, you’ll get a good grip on controlling these effects with precision and subtleness.
Using only one knob to define an effect’s intensity on the mix will train and work your accuracy for setting effects. These plugins will come in handy when you quickly want to finish the mix, especially as a beginner.
10. Initial Audio IA-LA1 (Compressor)
A straightforward and transparent compressor, the IA-LA1 will compress in an extremely responsive matter. It doesn’t involve distortion unless it’s wanted.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use compressor, then you’ll be surprised by this plugin’s transparency and optimal response time. While equipped with a modern algorithm, the IA-LA1 compressor won’t add any distortion or artifacts to any sounds. But if desired, use a feature within it called THD Control to introduce a subtle dynamic control, evoking warmth and depth.
By displaying a level and gain reduction meter, this plugin’s accuracy is surprising. You’ll be excited by how precise the compressor works by looking at the visual representation of the processing on the plugin’s built-in meter. The pristine compression in a small amount of time is a high trait for this compressor.
This plugin work with an automatic compression resource. Its response time is so adequate that it doesn’t need an attack and release setting. The subtleness of the compressor is so characteristic that it’s a standard recommendation to use it in low-intensity parts of any mix. By working in a lower intensity part, the compressor will make the sounds even, with pleasantness, without the need to adjust anything more than the Threshold, Make Up, THD, and Input Gain.
- Harmonic Textures
The Initial Audio IA-LA1 not only does the job of a standard compressor. This plugin also thickens the sound up with the Total Harmonic Distortion feature, apart from building up and growing extra layers when adequately set in the mix. The THD adds extra harmonics to the compressed sound, and it does this in a very solid musical way. The extra warmth and depth result from a brilliantly designed plugin with simple and handy features.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 and AU formats.
The IA-LA1 will deliver harmonically rich compression using a modern asset called THC. This compressor is an effective plugin to pull up the energy of any mix. It’s also a straightforward compressor with outstanding makeup performance and simple controls.
With this plugin, you won’t need to spend too much time cranking and pushing knobs and faders to reach musical-level performances.
11. Audio Thing Things – Texture (Granular Reverb)
Audio Things went beyond with their Granular Reverb plugin, Texture. This plugin fits a variety of projects, including Sound Design. It’s from an Audio Thing series that covers a wide range of effects, and it’s a must in any creative library.
Audio Thing came up with a series of plugins and effects focused primarily on Sound Design. In their creative process, they added “Texture.” Texture is a granular reverb, and it’s the first effect of the series. For a Sound Designer, this plugin will be an excellent tool to transform any sound into an ambient soundscape.
Interestingly, this plugin’s design and features are based on the techniques used in the Soundtrack and Sound Design of the indie game, The Swapper.
- Special Stereo
An exciting resource that makes Texture noted is the Mid/Side mode. As a granular reverb, this plugin will try to simulate real-world environments. When engaged, this feature will apply the granular effect to one side of the sound and attenuate the midsection, thus creating a unique and immersive Stereo surrounding.
- Granular Pitching
Featuring an in-built pitch knob, Audio Thing built this granular Reverb intending to assist you in different situations. A powerful plugin, the Texture reverb can bring the pitch of your track up or down 12 dB while still maintaining realism and subtleness. As the pitch shifting is active, the plugin will not distort the sound in any way.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Being the first plugin of AudioThing’s “Things” series, the company developed texture to assist Sound Designers in reaching an authentic atmospheric feeling in their tracks. This modern plugin will make immersion seem easy with a simple and optimal interface and brilliant design with excellent stereo resources. Things is a must for your library if you’re thinking about going the Sound Design path.
12. Audio Damage QuatroMod (Flanger, Chorus, Diffusor, Frequency Shifter)
The practical and handy Audio Damage’s QuatroMod holds an astounding five modulations in one straightforward plugin.
Made for all sorts of devices, the QuatroMod runs on PC and iOS devices. This exciting plugin will keep you from losing time and compromising your computer’s processing power by simplifying five significant modulation effects.
Acting as a single plugin, any producer will benefit from its sophisticated effects such as Flanger, Chorus, Diffusor, and Frequency shifter.
Practicality is the point here. This one single plugin holds an interesting Flanger with a Haas Effect control and invertible feedback for widening your tracks even more. It also features a fluid Chorus mode with six delay lines modded at different rates for a thick chorus. In addition to that, AudioDamage also included a Diffusor in this plugin, which is a unique experiment by them. It is essentially the diffusion block from a reverb, rewired to act as a chorus. And to provide a full package, the QuatroMod also comes with a Frequency Shifting mode, a thoroughly reworked effect by the AudioDamage team, promising to deliver high-standard results.
One significant advantage this plugin has is its brilliant layout. Its five effects of it are easily accessible on the plugin’s window, and the knobs are highly simplistic and informative. Browsing through five different modulations effects with such swiftness is incredibly convenient and the result of a well-designed product.
This plugin is available for Windows 8.1 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit, macOS 10.8 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit, and iOS 9.3 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and AUv3 formats.
The QuatroMod by AudioDamage is a CPU-friendly plugin that holds five effects in a brilliantly designed interface. With the tremendous easy-to-use layout, anyone will be able to set high-quality Flanger, Chorus, Diffusor, and Frequency Shifter.
As a producer, you’ll immensely appreciate this plugin since it delivers quickly and easily. Since you’re starting on this path as a beginner, consider a plugin like QuatroMod even more optimal for your library.
9 Best FREE VST Plugins For Beginners 2023
1. Mathieu Carre Distortion (Distortion)
This free distortion plugin by Mathieu Carres is highly addictive. With a few knobs, the plugin gives you strong autonomy with simple controls and an interactive curve display.
This can be your secret weapon for guitar and bass. This free and easy-to-use plugin reaches distortions that most analogic distortion pedals can’t do by featuring a response curve.
With an intuitive interface, this plugin gives the option to set the cutoff, gain structure, and drive. As for the distortive capacity, this is a powerful plugin, and you’ll be able to notice the modernity and power in the sound after applying it.
- Customizable Curve
The display featured in this plugin allows you to change the nonlinearity curve. The response curve centralized in the plugin’s interface has five points that’ll form the curve in which the distortion will base itself. The lines can be changed and adjusted with many possibilities. For example, you could do a non-symmetric curve by dragging and pulling the lines between the points for some substantial distortion.
- Variety Of Displays
Apart from giving the freedom to shape the curve lines, the plugin also features presets that will add to your experimentation process. By offering different forms in which the dots that make the curve will organize, Mathieu Carre’s Distortion will let you achieve aggressiveness with an almost infinite amount of combinations and reshapes. Adding to that, you can use the Cutoff knob to reduce any hard High-Frequency and get a smoother distortion.
Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.14 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 formats.
A powerful and easy-to-use plugin, the Distortion distorted can be a great addition to any arsenal. By yielding great results on basses and guitars, this plugin will let you shape and reshape the distortion curve to exactly how you want it. Quick, versatile, CPU friendly, and accessible.
2. Softube Saturation Knob (Saturation)
Softube is a renowned plugin manufacturer. The fact that they have a free saturation plugin available is exciting. With Saturation Knob, you’ll be able to fatten up basses, add harmonics to the voices, and much more.
The Saturation Knob has an excellent reputation because of the effect it adds to voices. This plugin, when applied on a voice track, can add some harmonics and shimmer to vocals. Be ready to notice some sweet presence in the singer’s voice.
You’ll fall in love with the design and friendliness of the interface. While equipped with very straightforward controls, this plugin will give quick and satisfactory results without compromising processing power.
- Saturation Types
Softube’s Saturation Knob offers three types of saturation. You can choose between “keep high,” “neutral,” and “keep low.” Each of these refers to the frequency range that the plugin will affect more. The plugin shows its versatility in raising good distortion and harmonics for drums, bass, voice, and guitars by giving these three aforementioned options.
Saturation Knob couldn’t be more practical. The plugin delivers excellent results while featuring only one knob. By using the knob in combination with the saturation type button, you will be able to work effectively while subtlety using the controls. The simple controls are an excellent opportunity for a beginner to learn how distortion works. Using only a knob and no other complex artifacts can be taught if you gradually notate the effects it is applying.
This plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Featuring three saturation modes, the Saturation Knob by Softube will deliver aggressiveness and impact in your mix. Along with strong-sounding bass, drums, and guitar, the Saturation knob also adds some harmonics and shimmer to vocals. It’s easy to use, and most-of-all, it’s a fantastic free plugin by Softube.
3. kiloHearts – 3-Band EQ (Equalizer)
This equalizer features three bands and can powerfully shape your whole song. With robust algorithms, this plugin will deliver much more than standard equalizers.
KiloHearts are very reputable in terms of delivering high-quality filters. The team behind KiloHeart’s plugin 3-Band EQ went beyond by stacking the well-loved and reliable filters together to create a quick and easy-to-use Equalizer.
The 3-Band EQ is a straightforward equalizer. By looking at the image below, you’ll see that the plugin has an intuitive interface. Even though the interface is simple, the 3-Band EQ works in complex and powerful ways, giving your sounds a pleasant effect.
- Spectrum Division
As an equalizer, the 3-Band EQ by Kilohearts gives the possibility to shape up three sections of the spectrum. With three knobs on the interface, you will be able to adjust the low, mid, and highs in any track. You’ll also be able to see the exact curve made by the equalizer in the frequency range’s display. An exciting feature that you’ll find in this equalizer is that it offers a “randomize” button, which can be suitable for experimentation.
Apart from being highly manageable on any device without compromising the processing power, this plugin also features a brilliant interface. This straightforward-designed interface features a checkbox for bypassing the plugin when disabled. Another good tool to make this plugin cozier is the Resize Handle. With the Resize Handle, you’ll have the option to scale the plugin’s window to any size.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and Mac OS 10.7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST2, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
This Equalizer will work on three spectrums of the sound. It will carefully treat the song’s mid, low, and highs with the modern and effective 3-Band EQ. This plugin is a tremendous addition to any producer’s library by offering simple controls and significant effects.
4. iZotope Vocal Doubler (Stereo Enhancer)
iZotope is a very reliable brand to include in your plugin library. They offer significant effects and brilliant designs in all their plugins. The Vocal Doubler is in line with iZotope’s quality of work since it enhances and adds richness to any vocals.
This plugin works with a natural doubling effect. Appropriate to be used on vocals, you’ll be surprised at how much of the quality textures are valued when this plugin is applied.
With minimalistic and intuitive parameters, Vocal Doubler will fill your vocal recordings with life. It’s as effective as it’s CPU-friendly since it won’t cause the device any effort, even in the most complex productions.
To separate and adjust the doubling of the voices in Vocal Doubler is pretty straightforward. With an interactive interface, you’ll be able to drag, rotate and pull the doubling effect simply. The interface also displays what the sound is visually becoming, giving the notion of length and depth with colorful waves.
Many producers acclaim iZotope for its doubling technology. So it’s not surprising that they went further by developing a feature that controls the level of human-like expression in their Vocal Doubler plugin. This feature, called Variation, will give the doubled recording a high-fidelity natural texture. The result is a potent and sparkling vocal mix.
This plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.8.5 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
This must-have free plugin is handy for vocal experimentation. With an acclaimed doubling technology, you’ll be able to make naturally sounding doubling effects in any track. Equipped with an easy-to-use interface, this plugin gives every audio producer practicality and choice in effects, as well as detailed and resourceful monitoring of Separation, Variation, and Amount.
5. Audio Damage Rough Rider 3 (Compressor)
This revolutionary dynamics processor delivers quality, accuracy, and greatness in many applications. And it’s completely free, which explains why it’s the most popular dynamic processor in the world.
This plugin is an excellent opportunity to grow your arsenal. Rough Rider 3 is great and offers no artifacts in your mixes; you’ll be getting fully textured pristine sounds with a manageable interface.
This fantastic production by Audio Damage offers easy controls, and exciting features, and is a versatile application for the whole mix.
- Full Bandwith
When compression is applied, the plugin uses filters to make the sounds more appealing and warm; this means that this compressor colors the sound slightly. The use of these filters has become a trademark in the Rough Rider series. In this current version, which is version three, you have this new feature called “Full Bandwith,” which gives you the option to switch off that filtering process. This new feature provides cleaner sounds in your mix.
Rough Rider 3 has a high-pass filter that it can use to delimitate what portions of the frequency spectrum will be affected, a sidechain filter. The filter can be helpful if you have some boomy low texture in the kick and don’t want them to trigger the sidechain compression. This feature comes as a new addition to this modern plugin version, which has internal sidechaining and external sidechaining.
The interface is convenient, and all the controls are intuitive. Apart from the distinct features, this compressor offers a resize function. Not many modern plugins adhere to this feature, but it’s an excellent and effective way of providing a user-friendly experience for many producers.
This plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.12 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Reliable and modern, the RoughRider 3 is the most popular compressor out there. It has advanced features that can give sounds a smooth and clean compression. It’s also resourceful if you’re trying to apply some detailed compression on specific frequencies of any mix. With a helpful interface, you’ll be able to enjoy the best qualities this free plugin has to offer. Add it to your library now and begin the journey with a strong arsenal.
6. Valhalla Freq Echo (Delay)
Valhalla Freq Echo is an excellent plugin for anything psychedelic. It comes with a bode-style Frequency Shifter and an Analog Echo Emulation.
If you like classic, chorus, and flagging sounds, you’ll have a great time exploring this plugin. With unique algorithms, the Valhalla Freq Echo works precisely and delivers high-quality sounds.
Surprisingly accessible, it can also work as an echoer, a doubler, and a feedback unit. This plugin is a must for any beginner, so do yourself a favor and get it for the arsenal.
- Delay Presets
This incredible plugin gives a lot of freedom with its delay knob, which you can set to any value desired. But it also features a plentitude of delay presets. The many specific presets in the delay time can be extremely useful since they cover a massive field of rhythmic times, giving more musically-sounding delays.
This highly-acclaimed feature gives the Valhalla Freq Echo the psychedelic fame it holds. The feedback knob, when used, controls the level of feedback emitted by the shifted delayed signal. The Feedback will ensure that the delayed response will keep active with the intensity and length you set it to be.
The feedback does not make the Valhalla Freq Echo psychedelic by itself. This plugin also has an innovative feature called “Shift” that sets the amount of frequency in hertz the delayed sound’s tail will go up or down. This feature leads to all kinds of weirdness and uniqueness.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.8 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Valhalla Freq Echo is unlike any delay you’ve tried. By offering an exciting feature called Shift, you can achieve psychedelic greatness with quality and control. You can also enjoy the Feedback feature and do some good intense delays. It’s a surprise that this plugin is free, go grab it.
7. Acon Digital Verberate Basic 2 (Reverb)
The Verberate Basic 2 is an alternate version of the Verberate 2 plugin. This affordable version does not lose on quality, though. By using the same audio quality from the original plugin, this version will deliver unique reverb on your tracks.
By using the same algorithms from the original Verberate 2, this basic version reaches high-quality audio with its four distinct presets.
The four presets found in this alternate version come from the original Verberate 2 plugin. You’ll benefit from presets such as the Plate, Room, Hall, and Lush Hall found on the paid version by getting this free version.
- Strong Realism
Acon Digital’s algorithms developed for the Verberate Basic 2 are highly complex and deliver a solid sound. This plugin produces a high-quality reverb. It works by making realistic early reflections along with reverberation tail processors. It also blends these reflections nicely in the mix without unpleasant comb filter effects.
- Swirl Effect
Like in old digital reverb units, this plugin can achieve high-fidelity cloud-like reverb tails. This effect happens because the Verberate Basic 2, though modern, is equipped with an optional swirl effect. This effect, when activated, models the frequency modulated tails of vintage reverberated audio.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and Mac OS 10.9 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
A decent reverb plugin, the Verberate Basic 2, will give high-quality audio and the reputable four presets of the paid Verberate 2 plugin. By adding this plugin to any track, you’ll ensure smooth and effective reverbs, as well as vintage textures in the mix.
8. Nembrini Noise Gate (Noise Gate)
This Noise Gate plugin by Nembrini is quick, simple, and intuitive. It’s tuned to serve a guitar or bass track with more precision and flavor.
This plugin is filled with a beautiful analog tube coloration that sets the bar for its quality. With a very simple and easy-to-use design, you’ll be able to benefit from its resources quickly and precisely.
Noise Gates are essential. Venturing further into the music production path, you’ll notice that adding unique textures to music is highly valuable. This is one of the reasons why you should consider Noise Gate by Nembrini.
Nembrini developed this Noise Gate to be quicker and easier to set up than regular Noise Gate plugins. You’ll be able to use its features in a very swift and effective way. Its practicality is what Nembrini Audio achieved when they designed an extremely resourceful interface with no complexity.
The Analog Rack Noise Gate is ideal for every Musician, Producer, and Audio Engineer. But a noticeable feature is that the algorithm built within this plugin work with extra precision and accuracy at guitar and bass sounds. When developed, the creators particularly tuned the Noise Gate by Nembrini to handle basses and guitars with perfection.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
This plugin is extremely easy to use and intuitive. As a noise gate, it will work particularly well on guitars and basses. It also benefits the mix by adding color and texture, resulting in pleasant sounds.
9. kiloHearts Limiter (Limiter)
KiloHearts holds fame for delivering high-quality plugins, and it couldn’t be different with this one. This Limiter will let you control gain and peaks with accuracy in any mix.
This plugin delivers perfectly. It makes sure the signal is controlled and never distorts or destroys transients when holding back the loudness of your sounds.
Equipped with a small and straightforward interface, The KiloHearts Limiter will surprise you with its suitability and intuitive controls.
- Four Knobs
While equipped with four intuitive knobs, this plugin gives you a complete and straightforward service. The In Gain and Out Gain knobs, as well as the Threshold knob, are highly indicative and accurate. The Release knob will then adjust the quickness with which the sound’s volume will return to normal. As mentioned, it’s a simple plugin but works effectively and is adequate for fast-pacing productions.
A good amount of users enormously value this often-overlooked feature. While dragging the corner of the plugin’s window, you’ll be able to scale the interactive board to any size. For a limiter plugin, this is extra handy since you will be able to set more prominent controls if, for example, using a touchscreen monitor in a live performance.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
As a beginner in audio, you’ll benefit from growing a library with versatile, practical, and simple in-use plugins. The KiloHearts Limiter is extremely easy to use and features a friendly resizeable interface. As a limiter, it controls the sound’s loudness without compromising any transients and naturality of the signal.
Krotos Simple Concept (Synth)
When trying to create custom sound effects and instruments, you’ll need a synthesizer. Nothing works better than a creative and straightforward Synth plugin for any Producer, especially a beginner.
Simple Concept is a convenient tool for creating unique sounds. You’ll be surprised by how its simplicity achieves high-quality sounds. Don’t get doubtful about this plugin’s few controls.
This synth is not complex. Its limitations will work in your favor as a teaching and creative tool. It uses Kroto’s Concept synth engine, wrapped into a compact interface.
- Tweak It
This plugin offers a diverse range of eighty presets for shape modulations and effects. While this is an impressive amount of presets, it may be limiting if you’re exploring new sounds. That’s why the Tweak It feature is hugely resourceful. This feature, when applied, will instantly create endless preset variations with just a few clicks.
- 7 Knobs Synthesizer
Some people may be having a hard time believing this is real. But yes, Krotos made a synthesizer that features only seven knobs. It’s common for synthesizers to be scarily complex, especially if you’re inexperienced with the many controllers they usually display. Simple Concept goes in the opposite direction. Its extremely easy-to-use interface turns complexity into practicality. You’ll be able to adjust all the essential characteristics of the signal with optimal workflow.
The Macro knobs work in a very interesting way. They are three shapers that, when tweaked, make some fundamental changes to the sound. These three knobs will set the “skeleton” of the signal. Every time you select a preset in Simple Concept, there will be some changes in the macro knobs. The algorithms behind these knobs work in a modern way. They behave as intelligent codes that simplify complex processing by making wise choices behind the scenes. This way, you’ll save time by adjusting a few practical and technologically innovative synthesizer knobs.
This plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Krotos set a new bar with the synthesizer Simple Concept. Highly practical and intelligent, this synthesizer features only seven knobs and does the work of a full-equipped synth. Since it avoids complexity, it is definitely a go-to synth plugin for beginners.
By exploring the presets and the macro knobs featured in Simple Concept, you will benefit from unique and textured sounds. This synthesizer is an incredible addition to any arsenal if the producer values workflow, quality, and modernity by achieving so much with so little.
The audio production market is wide and can expand between multiple inner areas, such as audio editing or mastering. In the music production realm, the possibilities are vast and determined by what plugins you work with. This is why it’s important to select the best tools you’ll be working with, as to properly learn the trades and be able to deliver great results.
The plugins listed here today tend to be great for beginner producers exploring their way into this profession. It can be hard at first, but eventually, all terminology and concepts will become clear to you, especially with a selection like this.
One good element that’s common with all plugins is that they’re visually friendly, with simple design interfaces that can inspire and invite more producers to explore the settings. It can even be useful to get to know specific concepts, such as filtering and enveloping, by literally twisting some knobs on your screen.
Also, each plugin has a determined function, and we tried to bring a selection that would encompass the most useful situations. From virtual instruments to effects, each can be very important in your final sound.
For instance, instruments, such as Addictive Drums 2, can deliver you great instant results and inspire you to do even more by creating a solid drum track virtually, while a synth like Vital will teach you more about sampling and audio manipulation in general.
When it comes to effect plugins, we would include RC-20 Retro Color, ProVocative, Things’ Texture, Little PrimalTap, Initial Audio’s Master Suite, Velo 2, and Waves’ One Knob Series as our favorite ones.
Ranging in complexity and function, we feel that these plugins can adequately serve the audio of every single project with exciting and prominent results, independently of how diverse and extensive these projects can be.
In the list that highlights the free plugins, we feel that Mathieu Carre’s Distortion, iZotope’s Vocal Doubler, Audio Damage’s Rough Rider 3, and Valhalla’s Freq Echo are amazingly optimal and our personal favorites.
In the end, we would also personally recommend checking out FabFilter’s plugins, especially Pro-Q 3 as it’s an essential tool for anybody.
If you decide to go with paid plugins, always make sure to check the trial version, especially as a beginner.
Readings that you may like:
Other Plugin Roundups:
Audio Restoration, Calibration & Utility:
Processing & Sound Design:
Reverb & Delay Plugins:
Amps & Preamps:
Other Recommended Gear:
Headphones & Studio Monitors:
MIDI & Synths:
Eduardo Cardoso is a musician and audio producer based in São Paulo, Brazil. He studied both music production and theory in college and has successfully launched his career as a solo artist in 2021. With over 10 years of experience with the music business, he currently acts as a session musician, music producer, audio editor, and content creator. Read more..