This article will explore the best plugins for producing Reggae music in 2023.
Reggae music originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. It was influenced by mento music, a form of traditional Jamaican folk, as well as Jazz and Rhythm and Blues. The overall sound of Reggae is characterized by warm tones achieved by the use of tape and unpredictable sound effects achieved by the use of analog effects units.
Top 6 Reggae Plugins In 2023
1. GoranGrooves Library Handy Drums – Reggae Standard (Reggae Drums)
Handy Drums is a drum plugin by Goran Grooves. It specializes in Reggae drum programming.
This Reggae drum plugin was inspired by the Bob Marley and the Wailers records that defined a whole era of Reggae and Ska. The sound recordings included are of the highest quality, and the overall sound of the plugin will complement Reggae, Ska, Roots, and Afro-Beat.
- Perfectly mixed sounds
Handy Drums save you loads of time that you would typically spend trying to tweak individual sounds to fit a drum kit. Instead, the sounds inside Handy Drums were edited and mixed meticulously from multi-track recordings to achieve a cohesive and clean sound. The blend of close mics, overheads, and room mics ensures maximum control over the overall tone of your drum kit, from a natural-sounding kit to a robust and heavy kit.
Inside Handy Drums, you can perfectly blend each drum sound of your kit with the versatile mixer. Every sound is clearly labeled and has a volume fader for fine-tuning and easy blending. You can also mute drum sounds you don’t wish to feature on your kit with the flip of a button.
The main page of Handy Drums features the drum sounds, which you can mute or adjust their volume. A percussion tab also includes sounds like aux snare, cabasa, cowbell, triangles, bottles, shakers, tambourines, and others. These percussion sounds are what you need to add flavor and originality to your drum loops and grooves.
- Keymapping and tape saturation
One of the most valuable features of Handy Drums is the easy key mapping feature. You can enter the key mapping window by clicking on the corresponding button at the bottom of the plugin. Here, you can select which keyboard key triggers which drums. This makes performing your drums live or in the studio a very easy affair. You can also send your drum sounds to multiple outputs so that you can process them in batches in your DAW. Finally, you can send your drums through tape or tape emulation effects to achieve a more vintage sound that aligns with the early Bob Marley and the Wailers records.
Handy Drums is available on Windows and macOS in VST, AU, and Standalone formats.
Handy Drums is a very versatile and genre-accurate drum plugin by Goran Grooves. It achieves a sound that is true to the Reggae spirit and fundamentals by sampling drum sounds with multiple mics so that you can fine-tune the tone of the kit. In addition, the interface is highly intuitive and easy to use, which makes Handy Drums perfect for producers of all experience levels.
2. SoundFingers Heritage Organ
Heritage Organ is an organ plugin instrument by SoundFingers.
The Organ was an integral part of Reggae, Soul, Funk, Ska, and Blues. Heritage intends to pass on to the new generation this valuable instrument that shaped so many genres but also infuses it with new characteristics that will help it shine in the new era of modern music.
- Modern approach
Heritage means what’s passed to us by our ancestors; things passed on from old generations to new. Therefore, Heritage Organ passes on the beauty of Organ music from the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s but packaged in a new box with modern tricks. Heritage Organ is entirely synthetic, meaning that there are no organ samples but rather a synth engine that emulates organ sounds.
- Tone shifter
The tone shifter is the heart of synthesis inside Heritage Organ. It shapes the overall tone of the Organ with three simple knobs titled bass, treble, and harm (odd harmonics). These knobs use sinewaves, sawtooth waves, and pulse waves to add harmonic complexity and richness to your organ sounds. You get to tweak each section’s tone and complexity, which is a fun and easy way to approach sound design.
- Global and master
The global section includes the synth controls of Heritage Organ. You can adjust the volume envelope with attack and perc knobs, select the number of voices to fatten the sound, and detune those voices to achieve the desired effect. The master section includes a drive knob and a cabinet knob to adjust the tone and saturate the sound.
There is a versatile effects rack inside Heritage Organ that helps you shape the sound of the Organ and add modulation and complexity. The effects are delay, reverb, chorus, phaser, filter, a rotary speaker, and an LFO attached to the rotary speaker. The effects sound incredible and come with a variety of different controls. For example, the filter includes a Moog-style filter that sounds particularly good, and the reverb has a convolution mode.
Heritage Organ is available on Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher in VST3 and AU formats.
Heritage Organ is an extremely versatile synthesizer. It can achieve traditional organ sounds or experimental and leftfield sounds when pushed to its boundaries. The interface is simple and easy to navigate, and the effects cover a broad spectrum of sonic possibilities. Overall it’s a great tool to have when making Reggae music.
3. AudioThing Alborosie Dub Station (Multi-FX)
Alborosie Dub Station is a multi-effects plugin by AudioThing.
Alborosie Dub Station was explicitly created to suit Reggae music. AudioThing spent loads of time meticulously analyzing and recreating the original filter, echoes, and spring reverb owned and modified by the legendary pioneer of Reggae music “King Tubby” AKA Osbourne Ruddock. These effects were used by Ruddock during the golden era of Reggae and ensured a genre-accurate sound.
- Filter man
The filter man effect is at the top of Alborosie Dub Station. It’s modeled after the famous “Big Knob” that King Tubby used in the 70s. It’s a passive high-pass filter with 11 frequency steps. You get a knob to select the type of filter, choosing between the original and a more controlled one named measured, a knob to choose the frequency step, the impedance of the filter, and finally, the gain.
Echowuk is based on the iconic MCI 2 tape that King Tubby used to record and create tape delay effects that are now synonymous with Reggae music. AudioThing studied the tape that was located in Tubby’s studio in Waterhouse Kingston to create Echowuk. You can run it freely for a true Reggae feel or sync it to your DAW, making it ideal for all music genres. You get the standard input and output controls, a hiss control for adding noise, a dry/wet knob for parallel processing, and of course, feedback and time controls.
- Spring Bling
Spring Bling is modeled after the modified Fairchild Spring Reverb used by Tubby himself that was located in his studio in Waterhouse Kingston. It contains the iconic spring reverb sound that you’d associate with King Tubby records and has a single knob to adjust the intensity of the effect. The sound is exactly as you’d expect it to be, perfect for Reggae and Ska.
You can easily save patches in Alborosie Dub Station to easily recall them in future projects. Another fun feature is the randomize button which resets the entire interface and randomizes all three effects. It can be an enjoyable tool to play with.
Alborosie Dub Station is available on Windows 7-10 and macOS 10.9-11 in VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.
Alborosie Dub Station is an excellent multi-effects unit by AudioThing. It can achieve effects that truly capture the feel of early Reggae music, and that’s due to the amount of effort and respect AudioThing put into researching King Tubby’s gear. A proper must-have tool for all Reggae producers.
4. IK Multimedia Modo Bass 2 (Bass Guitar)
Modo Bass 2 is a bass plugin by IK Multimedia. It’s considered one of the most versatile and detailed virtual bass plugins.
Modo Bass 2 is all about realism and authenticity. This is precisely why it’s been able to build the reputation of one of the most realistic virtual bass instruments. The bass sounds included are not sampled but generated using ground-breaking modal synthesis technology that models the entire process of playing bass.
- 22 models
Modo Bass 2 includes the 14 models from the original version plus eight new ones. You can select between a Fretless Jazz model, Fretless Bass Man, Studio Upright, Horn Bass, Punk Bass, and Fusion J-Bass, to mention a few. The models are diverse enough to cover a wide variety of genres, from Reggae and Funk to Rock and Blues.
- Deep control
You can choose between 32 different pickup models, apart from choosing the bass model. Some of the features you can adjust on the pickup are the single coil, slot (neck/bridge), position, and circuit (passive/active/piezo). Finally, you can modify and tweak the strings in-depth. You can choose the number of strings, gauge and age, scale, and tuning. The number of possible combinations and unique sounds is infinite.
- Playing styles and patterns
Something that adds to the sophistication and detailed build of Modo Bass 2 is the ability to choose different playing styles. You can choose between fingerstyle, slapping, picking, and muting. In addition, muting can be applied to all the rest of the playing styles. You can also choose to go fretless; something IK Multimedia ensures no other bass plugin can offer. Finally, the patterns section helps you craft playable patterns that fit any song style. You can audition any pattern quickly and locate your ideal one by scrolling through a menu organized by genre, length, time signature, and song section.
- Adjust the mic
Inside the mics section, you can fine-tune and blend different mics to create the perfect bass tone for your track. You can choose from a selection of moveable mics to capture your sound, blend in a piezo signal to add focus and space, send the signal through stomps and amps for extra character and harmonic complexity, and add the ideal amount of space by blending in stereo mics.
Modo Bass includes seven stompbox effects and two bass amplifiers to control the overall sound and tone. Each amp gives you control over the gain structure with a graphic EQ. The effects page includes a distortion, octaver, chorus, compressor, delay, and graphic EQ. The effects are excellent in complementing the bass tone and are always helpful and functional.
Modo Bass 2 is available on Windows and macOS in VST, AAX, and AU formats.
Modo Bass 2 is probably the most detailed and expressive bass plugin on the market. The amount of control over the bass models, pickups, strings, playing styles, patterns, and even effects is mind-boggling. Having said that, I believe this is a potent tool best used by experienced or advanced producers.
5. AcousticSamples B-5 Organ V3 (Organ 2)
B-5 Organ V3 is a sampled-based organ instrument by Acoustic Samples.
B-5 Organ is based on actual tonewheel samples and models Hammond organs. Hammond organs used a set of 91 frequencies that were connected via contactors under each key. Sampled-based instruments were unable to fully model this workflow until B-5 Organ, which simulates the mechanical behavior of a real Hammond organ.
- Sample-based sound
B-5 Organ prides itself in its accurate recreation of all the little things that make a real organ instrument exciting. Things like tonewheels, keyclicks, vibrato scanner, or drawbars can’t be faked, so they were sampled and included in B-5 Organ. Acoustic Samples faithfully reproduced tonewheel pickups, resistance wires, swell pads, drawbars, and even the knobs and controls available on the real instrument. This results in a faithful recreation of an organ in a virtual package that includes all the little imperfections you seek in an organ.
- Rotary speaker simulation
B-5 Organ V3 includes a new and improved rotary speaker simulation with an entirely new Leslie simulation. You can choose between a 122, a 147, and a 3300 Leslie model for different variations in sound. Furthermore, you can adjust the microphone positions, angles and distance, and even the volume and panning. Finally, the new Leslie simulation includes driver distortion and microphone bleed for a more stylish and realistic Leslie sound.
- Multiple models
Acoustic Samples hired Kon Zissis, an expert who spent many years servicing and measuring organs, to incorporate different organ voicings from various models. All tonewheel organs sound different due to minor voicing inconsistencies, making them so appealing and fascinating. Zissis brought 150 different models that you can play with and achieve different organ sounds. There are also four iconic models sampled in B-5 Organ V3: 1968 B-3, 1960 C-3, 1969 C-3, and 1965 A-100. You can switch between different tonewheel sounds for each of these, achieving countless possible combinations.
There is an effects panel inside B-5 Organ. It includes chorus, phaser, delay, overdrive, fuzz, and reverb. There’s also a helpful wah effect that can function as an auto-wah. These effects are pre-Leslie with the exception of reverb which can be placed at any point in the signal chain. Finally, there is a tube saturation on the Leslie, modeled to match actual recordings faithfully.
B-5 Organ is available on Windows and macOS in VST, AAX, and AU formats.
B-5 Organ V3 is a beautiful and detailed recreation of tonewheel organs. It includes all the quirks that make real organs exciting and timeless. The Leslie recreation is very detailed and faithful, while the effects panel includes all the necessary tools to sculpt your organ sounds and create exciting patches.
6. Sound Fingers Le Skank (Guitars, Amps & Effects)
Le Skank is a guitar plugin by Sound Fingers.
Le Skank is a rhythm guitar and aims to bring you the iconic sound of Reggae rhythm guitar. It includes multi-sampled chords and strums to add flavor to your tunes and even envelope and pickup controls to shape your guitar sound.
- Guitar section
The first section of Le Skank is the guitar section, where you get to shape your guitar sound. You can choose between two pickups: single coil or Humbuckers. You can also adjust the position (neck, middle, or bridge) and tweak the amp envelope to shape the sound of your guitar.
Le Skank includes a filter and modulation section. It includes a multimode filter with ten different styles available to shape the frequency response of your guitar. You also get an envelope and an LFO to shape your skank to your preference. The LFO comes with triangles, squares, and random waveshapes.
- Amp and effects
Inside the amp section, you can adjust the amplifier of your guitar. You get frequency and gain controls as you’d expect, but also a cabinet with 12 impulse responses and width and distance knobs. You can find six effects you’d expect to hear in any good Skank record in the effects section. It includes a transient shaper, delay, chorus, phaser, equalizer, and reverb. The reverb comes with over 20 impulse responses, and the delay is particularly powerful.
- Key switches
Key switches are an integral part of any sampled-based performance instrument. Instead of triggering pitched notes, they are keys on your keyboard that trigger specific performance actions. For example, you get one key to switch from major to minor scales, two keys to change rhythm patterns, and two keys to send the guitar sound to delay and reverb. The beauty of key switches is how easy they make performing live and coming up with complex ideas that feel realistic.
Le Skank is available on Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher in VST3, AAX, and AU formats.
Le Skank is an excellent rhythm guitar for Reggae music. Creating a realistic Skank sound is almost impossible with a plugin. That’s why Le Skank is so helpful; its sole purpose is to create that sound. The interface is straightforward, and the sound is realistic.
Top 5 Free Reggae Plugins Available 2023
1. Ample Bass P Lite II (Bass Guitar)
Ample Bass P II Lite is a free bass plugin by Ample Sound. It’s the free version of the versatile Ample Bass II P.
This plugin brings the Fender Precision Bass sound in a free package. The plugin comes with an extensive library of bass sounds, and while practicing restraint in its tweakability, it can be an excellent option for producers on a budget.
- Broad sound library
Ample Bass P II Lite comes with a sound library of 443 samples and an overall size of 450 MB. The sounds are all focused on the Fender Precision Bass and are very realistic. You will find that although all the sounds focus on the same bass instrument, they offer a wide enough range of different sounds to keep you inspired.
- Instrument engine
The plugin comes with a sophisticated Ample Sound instrument engine that helps add nuances and a realistic feel to your bass sequences. The instrument engine has a customized guitar-playing logic that helps mimic a real-world guitar being played. Therefore, it can analyze your patterns and add articulations whenever it thinks it’s appropriate. Some of the articulations are tremolo bar, slide, ghost note, staccato, fade in, popping, tapping, muting, slapping, and many more.
- Tab player
The plugin comes with an extremely useful tab player which can play all prevalent tablature file formats. You can load your favorite song’s tablature and play it back with Ample Bass P II Lite. You can also export the tablature file into an audio file. P II will also read any markers loaded in the tablature, like fingering, looping, chords, and articulations.
- Innovative technology for realistic playing
Ample sound has included many smart technology features to ensure your playing and patterns feel as realistic as possible. Some of these features are the auto buzz system, capo logic which plays intelligently according to bass rules, poly legato, slide smoother, open string first, and manual vibrato wheel.
Ample Bass P II Lite is available on Windows 7-10 and macOS 10.9-10.14 in VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.
Ample Bass P II Lite is an excellent free bass plugin. It captures the sound of the Fender Precision Bass nicely and includes plenty of intelligent features that will help you achieve a realistic and smooth bass performance. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a bass plugin to start with.
2. Afroplug Afroplugin (Drum Machine)
Afroplugin is a drum plugin by Afroplug. It focuses on African genres of music.
Afroplugin is a very straightforward plugin to use. You get to mix your drum sounds, shape them, and add effects to liven them up. The overall sound suits Reggae, Afrobeats, Dancehall, and Reggaeton.
- 12 tracks
Afroplugin comes with 12 drum tracks. You can choose one of the kits included and start adjusting each drum sound’s volume and panning to create a seamless blend between them. The interface looks like an old-school 12-track mixer that Reggae producers would use back in the day, equipped with faders and knobs. You also get 12 pads underneath for triggering and auditioning sounds.
- Shape the sound
You can shape the sound with a few different tools inside Afroplugin. There is a volume envelope with ADSR knobs for shaping the length of your kit. You can easily create punchy drum sounds or boomy and heavy sounds. There is also a dual-mode filter equipped with lowpass and high-pass modes. Finally, there is a simple cutoff knob to roll off unwanted frequencies and add even more aesthetics to your kit.
Afroplugin has a few big knobs over the mixer that help you add the finishing touches to your drum sounds. There is a delay knob and a reverb knob for adding necessary space and flavor to your kit and a volume knob for controlling the loudness of the whole drum bus. Finally, there is a pitch knob which is particularly useful for creating creative drum kits, especially when set to its extreme values. The pitching algorithm sounds pretty impressive.
- Plenty of sounds
Afroplugin comes equipped with a carefully curated selection of sounds that complement Reggae, Dancehall, and Reggaeton. Overall, there are 120 drum sounds included, and ten presets to get you started.
Afroplugin is available on Windows and macOS in VST and AU formats.
Afroplugin is a very inspiring and helpful little drum synth. The sounds are carefully selected and provide a cohesive sound when combined. The effects are minimal but functional, and the mixer is easy to use by producers of any experience level.
3. Fuse Audio Labs VREV-666 (Spring Reverb)
VREV-666 is a spring reverb by Fuse Audio Labs.
Spring Reverb was one of the most iconic and fundamental building blocks of early Reggae music. Its characteristic sound defined the genre, and now you can have a good version of the effect with VREV-666 for free.
- Quintessential spring sound
VREV-666 is a Spring Reverb through and through. It was modeled after the rare hardware piece of the same name from the 60s that was built specifically for the BBC. As a result, it has a rich bouncy sound that offers unpredictable and exciting reverb sounds. Just like an actual electromechanical reverb unit, it will add sonic nuances and different touches every time you use it.
- Great sound-shaping controls
The interface is exceptionally straightforward and easy in VREV-666. You get a tone knob that adjusts the built-in EQ and helps you shape the reverb tone and a useful predelay knob for adding separation from your dry and wet signal. The effect mix knob helps you perform parallel processing, and the effect limiter is extremely useful since it prevents loud peaks from overloading the spring tank.
- Inspiring sound
VREV-666 is not built to be realistic, and that’s why it’s perfect for Reggae music. Any sound you pass through, whether vocals, guitars, keys, or drums, will gain a vibrant and charismatic sound. In addition, it can be pretty dirty and gritty, which is precisely what you need when mixing or performing Reggae music.
VREV-666 is available on Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.12 or higher in VST, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.
VREV-666 is an extremely beautiful recreation of a Spring Reverb. It sounds excellent and provides the necessary quirks to classify as a successful Spring Reverb plugin. Since it’s free, I see no reason for you not to try it!
4. SoundFingers Powerful Dub Siren – Si-007 Model (Kontakt Library)
Dub Si-007 is a siren instrument by SoundFingers. It is a tribute to the iconic siren sounds that shaped Reggae music.
A siren is a crucial element of a classic Reggae record. It can help build up tension, hype, transition between sections, or add memorable moments in any mix. The Si-007 is a very creative free instrument that takes the idea of a traditional Reggae siren and builds upon it to refine it into something modern.
- Manual or auto mode
Si-007 has a manual mode that makes it playable across the keyboard, meaning you can trigger individual notes. Additionally, the auto mode will continuously play the siren sound. By pressing any key, you can start and stop it. Both modes come with sine and square LFO curves.
- LFO and pitch
The LFO is an integral feature of the characteristic Reggae siren sound. The LFO inside Si-007 comes with a rate knob with four positions: 0, 1, 2, and 3. The 0 position applies a very slow rate to the LFO, while the 3 position applies a very rapid one. There is also an octave knob for selecting your pitch range and even an up/down switch that determines the rising or descending nature of the pitch LFO.
Si-007 naturally includes a reverb effect and a delay effect. The reverb comes with the usual time, size, and wet knobs, while the delay with time, repeat, and wet knobs. The overall sound is gritty and suits the Reggae siren sound perfectly.
Si-007 is available on the full Kontakt 5 Player or as a standalone application.
Si-007 is an excellent instrument that focuses on the iconic siren sound. You can create wacky synth lead sounds, abstract effects, or transitional sounds to help your arrangement move along. The plethora of knobs and parameters is excellent if you wish to take Si-007 on the road and perform live with it.
5. AuraPlug California Sun Amp (Amp Sim)
California Sun is an amp plugin effect created by AuraPlug.
An amplifier is a highly crucial effect in producing Reggae music since it’s a genre that depends on guitar sounds and tones. California Sun is an excellent free option for those on a budget that need to craft pleasing and Reggae-appropriate guitar tones.
- Tone flexibility
California Sun is a great tool to shape the tone of your guitars or any other sound. The drive knob will add harmonic distortion, and the low and high knobs will help you shape the overall tone of the distortion. So you can get crispy top end and thin low end, or gnarly low end and muffled top end. Finally, there’s a level knob to help you achieve the optimal loudness level for your sound.
- Dual mode
California Sun has a dual distortion mode as most hardware amps do. You can flip between clean and dirty modes with a switch. In clean mode, the distortion is subtle and adds pleasing harmonics to your sound, while in the dirty mode, the distortion is more pronounced, almost reaching overdrive territories.
- Low CPU
One thing you’ll need to consider with your plugins is how much CPU usage they need. California sun is an extremely low CPU usage plugin, demanding less than 2% on a 2.4GHz processor. This basically means that you can load multiple instances of California Sun without having to worry about crashes and freezes on your project.
California Sun is available on Windows and macOS in VST and AU plugins.
California Sun is a straightforward amp plugin that’s extremely simple to use. There are no hidden features or anything complex going on; it’s just a functional amp plugin to help you achieve great guitar tones. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for an amp plugin on a budget.
Reggae has always been about simplicity when it comes to production. The interest and excitement come from using reverb and delay throws when performing live or in the studio, and the overall sound is shaped by the use of tape machines and analog effects.
This list is meant to guide you to the best plugins available to recreate that analog feel that’s so closely associated with Reggae music. Use it to discover new tools and understand the staple effects and instruments used in Reggae.
Alvinos Zavlis is an artist/producer from Cyprus based in Bristol, UK. With three albums under his belt and plenty of singles, his catalogue covers a wide range of sounds, from hip hop and trip hop to IDM and experimental electronic styles, all fused together to create unique blends of sounds. He works as a freelance mixing and mastering engineer in Bristol for artists of all styles.