Enhancers can be a real lifeline for you in audio production. This article will show you the top 7 enhancer plugins for bass, drums, vocals, and harmonics.
You can use enhancers where EQ is no longer valid. It’s a great tool to polish individual tracks and mixes in general. We’ve prepared different options for you, both universal and for specific instruments.
In a nutshell, here is our list:
What Is an Enhancer In Music?
There are situations when the audio signal is somewhat weak. It can be due to improper miking technique or individual characteristics of samples. Or we hear that in the context of the mix, we need an extra bite. Then we come to the aid of enhancers, which can be both analog equipment and software.
What Does An Enhancer Plugin Do?
Enhancer plugins most often generate additional harmonics in the frequency spectrum. These can be both low, medium, and high ranges. Thanks to this, the resulting signal becomes more prosperous and expressive and breaks through the mix better. Using such software can help you a lot when mixing.
But remember that enhancers are not a tool that you need to use all the time. It is advisable to use them only where they are necessary to avoid any overprocessing.
What Is The Difference Between Aural Exciter And Audio Enhancer?
The Aural Exciter can be either a studio unit or a plugin used to add harmonics in high-end frequencies and get an extra spark to the audio signal. And Audio Enhancer can provide content in both the low-end and high-end ranges. But both share the same goal: to improve the audio signal.
Top 7 Enhancer Plugins 2023 (For Bass, Drums, Vocals & Harmonics)
1. Waves Infected Mushroom Pusher
Pusher, developed in collaboration with Infected Mushroom, enhances your audio using exciters, multi-band limiting/clipping, and more.
If you are a fan of electronic music, you undoubtedly know about the duo Infected Mushroom. This plugin aims to capture their style of mixing and mastering in an easy-to-use plugin that is fit for individual instruments, buses, and even full mixes for mastering.
The result is an instant sonic enhancement that you could use for all genres. Using this plugin is simple. After placing the plugin in your signal chain, adjust the Input knob until the LED indicator is steady yellow.
Then, dial in Low, Body, and High knobs to enhance and excite the low, low-mid, and high frequencies. All of them add harmonics to make your sound thicker, weightier, and sparkling
The “Magic” feature includes dynamic punch (Dyn Punch) and focus (Focus) controls. Dyn Punch enhances the dynamic impact of audio, while Focus refines the sonic clarity, allowing you to shape your sound precisely.
- Body Knob
Push allows you to use the “Body” knob to add weight and depth to your audio, providing a richer and fuller sound that enhances the low-end presence.
- Low Knob
The plugin has a “Low” knob that lets you control the low-frequency content, and tuning options allow for fine-tuning the low-end frequencies to match your desired tonal balance.
The “Push” control is a dynamic enhancement feature that helps your tracks stand out in the mix by pushing them forward, making them more prominent and impactful.
- Mode: Clip & Limit
Push allows you to choose between “Clip” and “Limit” modes to manage the dynamic range of your audio. “Clip” adds character by soft clipping, while “Limit” offers a more transparent limiting effect.
- Stereo Image
You can adjust the stereo image to control your audio’s width and spatial characteristics, enabling you to create a balanced stereo field in your mix.
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.
We would recommend this plugin for people who wish for quick results or aren’t experienced with multiple mixing techniques. As it includes so many proven tricks in mixing music, you are bound to reach at least an acceptable mix without spending a long time.
And although the plugin is suitable for any genre, it tends to fit best for electronic or harder genres like DnB, Trance, Trailer Music, Rock, and Pop.
2. BOOM Library UBERLOUD
BOOM Library UBERLOUD is a plugin that aims to maximize not only your tracks but also your workflow.
With only one knob per band to modify, UBERLOUD lets algorithms take control to create greater perceived loudness. You can add harmonics via a ”Clipper” knob and benefit from a denoiser because boosting the volume of drum tracks or voices recorded in poorly soundproofed rooms can sound unpleasant.
We can say that UBERLOUD is a plugin that has modernized the traditional way of maximizing, which is all about clipping and compression.
The Visualizer gives you an idea of what processing exists between each band; the filled spaces of the Visualizer show what gain you get for each band of the plugin. The visualizer range is mapped nonlinearly, which helps you get a much better estimate of the dynamics.
If you see a lot of motion in a band, specifically between highs and lows, you can tell that the original dynamics signals are highly distorted and boosted, meaning the signal is consistently cranked.
- 3 Modes, 3 Characters
In this plugin, everything is at its 3rd power. In the middle part of the plugin, you have 6 interlinked options that help you to choose the sound you want. On the left, you have the modes by which you can choose how many bands you want to use (1-band, 2-band, 3-band), and on the left, the enhancer character, which can be from Nice, Push to Stress.
Once you have selected the bands, in the middle part, you are given controls by which you can alter the amount of enhancement you want.
- Denoise and Clipper
As the name suggests, Denoise takes care of all the noise floor of your sound. It takes care of situations like room tone on voice, guitar amp noise, or background noise, so by helping you with this freq-dependent gate, you will be able to reduce those unwanted frequencies before the plugin is used, so the dynamics boosted by the plugin will be clean.
Also, the Clipper takes care to add distortion to your tracks. Note that there is a limit between output gain because it prevents a true peak clip.
BOOM Library UBERLOUD is available in VST, AAX, and AU formats (32-bit and 64-bit) for Windows 10,8,7 and macOS 10.12 – 10.15.
You can easily enhance your mix with minimum features without any knowledge or learning curve. It can be expensive, but you can find trials on their website and play around with it to see if it suits you.
Using the quick controls, you’ll be able to bring power and volume to your mix and add space to sounds that need it while removing the instrument or vocal floor noise quickly and efficiently. In addition, there is a small chance you will break up your mix with this tool.
3. Wavesfactory Spectre (All-Round Hybrid Enhancer)
A fantastic mix of enhancer and parametric EQ that will help you improve both individual tracks and masters is the Spectre plugin from Wavesfactory.
Wavesfactory is a company located on the beautiful island of Mallorca in Spain that creates great software for musicians and engineers. Their products include audio plugins and Kontakt libraries. Wavesfactory, in particular, has impressive solutions to help you create better music.
One of them is the Spectre plugin, which is a multi-band enhancer and saturator. It’s a powerful tool to work on improving the frequency spectrum. You will have ten saturation algorithms and high sound quality at your disposal. Spectre also has a friendly and intuitive interface, which will be especially nice to work with.
If you get a little confused about working precisely with the plugin, it’s no problem. Wavesfactory has prepared a large number of presets for you. All of them are divided by instruments, and there is a separate set – specifically for mastering. But let’s take a closer look at the main features this excellent plugin has in store for us.
- Color Your Signal
You get an opportunity to color your signal as if you were using analog equipment. The point is that the plugin affects the difference between the input signal and the signal that is processed by the equalizer, adding harmonic content.
- Five Different Bands
You can add life to your music with five different bands. For example, try working with the leftmost one if you need to improve low-end information. You’ll intuitively understand how to work since everything here looks like a modern EQ.
- Choose a Saturation Algorithm
It’s just amazing, but the plugin has as many as ten saturation algorithms. There are options such as Solid, Tube, Warm Tube, Tape, Digital, Rectify, Half Rectify, Bit, Diode, and Class B. Switch between them and listen to which one is right for you.
- Use on Whatever You Want
Thanks to the principle of the plugin, you can use it on any tracks that need more “brightness.” For example, it can be a single instrument or a sub-mix. Also, the plugin will be ideal for mastering.
- Excellent Sound Quality
You don’t need to worry about the quality of the signal, even if the plugin’s settings are incredibly extreme. That’s because it uses 4x and 16x oversampling modes.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
Spectre by Wavesfactory is a plugin that helps to bring your tracks and masters to life. You will be able to add harmonic distortion thanks to 5 different bands. In addition, you’ll have a vast choice of saturation algorithms, which makes this software directionally versatile.
4. Cymatics Vortex (808 Enhancer)
If you want to enhance your 808, the Vortex plugin from Cymatics will do a great job since it was created precisely for that.
If you’re in electronic music or hip-hop production, you know about the 808s. Its history goes back to the legendary Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer drum machine. In simple terms, it’s a sample that’s used as a kick drum. The 808’s main characteristic is a powerful bass sound that will make your walls wobble.
The Vortex plugin is super simple software that will help you make your 808s more expressive by emulating analog saturation. It has four modes of operation and only three knobs with the most necessary settings. You can also use quite interesting presets to experiment with the sound of the plugin.
- One Big Knob
The heart of the plugin is a large knob located in the center. Turning it to the right will give you the most extreme sound. It is how you control how much your saturation effect will be noticeable.
- Make It Electric
The first mode of the plugin is called Electrical. Its sound is based on a pentode tube. And it’s not strange because it will give you a bright and aggressive low-end.
- Add Some Fire
Thanks to this mode, you get a warmer sound, as if it were heated by analog tubes. The developers promise that with it, you can get a loud signal, but without any harshness.
- Danger Radiation
Radiation mode is the third in the order. It will serve perfectly to give your low-end more edge since it is based on symmetrical clipping.
- Extreme Ultraviolet
The last and most extreme is a mod called Ultraviolet. It will give you metallic timbres that can make your sound unique. That’s because it uses waveshaping.
- Dial Into Additional Settings
You can always influence the sound of your plugin even more with additional settings. The three knobs at the bottom often help you adjust the color, filter, and mix levels.
The plugin is available for Windows and macOS, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Vortex is an excellent and super simple plugin from Cymatics that will help you achieve the wealthiest 808s. You can use the four modes of operation and get both expressive and unique sounds. Thanks to the additional settings, Vortex can positively influence the sound or destroy it completely. Of course, this is in the figurative sense.
5. Baby Audio Parallel Aggressor
Parallel processing can do wonders for a mix if done in moderation. For example, dialing in a touch of saturation alongside a dry drum group can make them satisfyingly snap like a dog’s bark.
One of the downsides of parallel processing is that it can use up valuable busses for those confined to a limited number. However, there is a solution!
Baby Audio’s Parallel Aggressor is designed to provide an all-in-one space to apply parallel compression and saturation to a signal. It offers a simple three-fader interface along with a handful of parameters for shaping the sound of the compression and saturation.
The spank feature controls the parallel compression and improves upon Baby Audio’s I Heart NY plugin. Parallel compression can be useful for bringing more body or punch to a sound so that it sits better within a mix. However, if overused, it can become tiring to listen to—especially when used on drums.
The Heat feature controls the saturation accompanying the dry signal and is loosely based on the saturation offered by their Super VHS plugin. Parallel saturation can help achieve a clearer tone by adding harmonics to the signal. This, in turn, can be used to elevate tracks sitting above bass sounds for a clearer low-end.
- Style Injection
Spank and Heat offer up to four style Injection settings for you to shape the tone. Spank offers a side chain option, a mono-mode, a punchier output, or an aggressive output option. Heat offers various filtering options and the option to include a second, grittier distortion algorithm.
The plug-in supports Windows 7 and higher and Mac OS 10.7 and higher. Also, it supports VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
The Parallel Aggressor streamlines using parallel processing and adds a few unique features that could help any sound come alive. So if you’re looking for a plugin that can help you add some life to your mixes, Baby Audio’s Parallel Aggressor is a great choice!
6. Waves Vitamin (All-Round Enhancer 2)
Perhaps one of the most popular enhancer plugins is Vitamin from Waves Audio.
Waves software is used by top producers and engineers all over the world. The company is also famous for collaborating with them to release exciting products, such as Scheps Omni Channel Strip, CLA Classic Compressors, Greg Wells Signature Series, and more.
Vitamin can be your secret weapon for polishing mixes and masters. It is a multiband harmonic enhancer, tone shaper, and stereo widener software. Thanks to it, you can improve the different frequency areas, giving them more spark and excitement with incredible ease. Excellent, isn’t it? Let’s dive into its features.
- Five Bands of Excitement
You will have five faders at your disposal, which belong to different frequency ranges. All of them are separated by four frequency crossover points, which you can also adjust. Just move the zero fader up to hear how the harmonics are added to your signal.
- Add Some Width
It is terrific, but the plugin allows you to add harmonic distortion and extend it in the stereo picture. You can do this thanks to the separate knobs under each of the faders. It will be a great solution to add some width to your mixes.
- Balance Your Signals
On the left side of the plugin, you will see the Direct fader. With it, you can adjust the ratio of the original signal to the processed signal. It is essential to get the “golden mean.”
- Get Extra Bite
If you have set up your sonic richness but still feel missing, the Punch control can help you. It gives you the ability to amplify or soften the impact of the transients.
- Zero Latency
Waves Audio assures that the plugin has no latency whatsoever. Therefore, you can easily use it not only for mixing but also for live performances.
The plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.14.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Waves Vitamin is a plugin that can become one of the “to-go” in your arsenal. Thanks to the five bands, it allows you to work meticulously on adding richness and excitement to the different frequency ranges. Based on this, you can influence both individual tracks and mixes and masters. Also, a great feature is the stereo extenders, which help you improve the full stereo picture and the punch control.
7. Noveltech Vocal Enhancer (Vocal Exciter / Enhancer)
A pretty simple yet powerful Vocal Enhancer plugin from Noveltech will help you achieve a juicy sound in just a couple of seconds.
The Finnish company Noveltech can boast a severe approach to its work as it was founded to commercialize the results of scientific research they had done before. So in their plugins, they promise a whole “rocket science under the hood.” But despite this, the interface of their software remains straightforward, but simultaneously with all the necessary settings.
The developers assure that the Vocal Enhancer plugin works great on anything based on midrange frequencies. It means you can use it not only for vocals but also for guitar and snare. It is based on the patented IAF technology, which allows you to get clarity without side effects such as harshness.
- Adapting to the Source Material
Instead of statically boosting certain areas of the frequency spectrum (like EQ works), the plugin dynamically expands a separate range of the source. It constantly adapts, which gives us a fantastic sound quality without any side effects.
- Set Your Focus Frequency
You can determine for yourself which area of the signal the plugin will affect. The desired panel with a high and low filter is placed in the center of the window.
- Control the Enhancement
Control the amount of signal processing with the large Enhancement knob in the lower-left corner. The developers assure you that you won’t get an annoying sound no matter how you turn.
- Get Standard or Strong
You will have a special Strong Processing button at your disposal. Just click it to make the results of the plugin processing more extreme. But still, we advise you to start working with the plugin with the option turned off.
- Useful Presets
Sometimes we need some starting point to get the job done. In that case, presets can help us. The plugin has several handy ones, namely CrispVocal, FemaleCoval, LeadVocal, MaleVocal, and StrongEnh.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The main feature of the Vocal Enhancer plugin is that you can safely experiment with enriching your vocals without getting unwanted artifacts. This software has a relatively simple and accessible interface – filters and a few knobs but at the same time a robust work algorithm. It will serve you wonderfully, both for improving vocal tracks, as well as guitar and snare.
Top 7 Best Free Enhancer Plugins 2023
1. Cymatics Diablo Lite (Drum / 808 Enhancer)
The Diablo Lite plugin by Cymatics will help give your drums and 808s some heat.
Sometimes a situation may challenge you to get the drums to cut more through the mix. Saturation and enhancing can help you with that. The good news is that Cymatics, next to the paid version of the Diablo plugin, has also made one free version. The features there are limited, but it’s still a great way to help you get results.
It’s a super simple but modern-looking plugin that only has a few knobs. Even if you have quiet kick drum samples, Diablo can help you make them sound ten times hard and punchier. And that’s just amazing. Let’s take a closer look at the functionality of this software.
- Give It More Punch
On the left side, you will see the Punch knob. It is the one that will help make the drums cut through the mix well. It will intensify the attack and give the impression of a more decisive kick.
- Clip Your Signal
It’s great that we can use two types of clipping with the free Diablo lite plugin – Soft and Hard. With the first one, you get a softer but still noticeable clipping. And with the second, you get more aggressive and extreme.
- Adjust the Ratio
You also get some standard controls like Input, Output, and Mix. Thanks to them, you can adjust how much effect will be noticeable in your audio.
- Suitable for Many Things
The Diablo plugin is perfect for kick drum, 808s, and even snare. It will fill them with energy and brightness. Just try it out and listen to how exactly it can fit your mix.
The plugin is available for Windows and macOS, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you need to quickly get a plugin to add more punch to your drums, you can use Diablo lite. This software is straightforward to use – spin a few knobs, and you’ll immediately see how it affects your drums. You’ll have two clipping options, which is also great because this plugin is free. The wonderful thing is that you can use it on all types of drums, including 808 synths.
2. Wavegroove Vastaus (Harmonic Enhancer)
Wavegroove’s Vastaus plugin is created to save you from annoying harsh frequencies.
In many cases, we boost the high frequencies to make the instrument cut through the mix more or clarify it. But after that, we often get a side effect – harsh frequencies that are, to put it mildly, not very pleasant to the ears. Some well-known, costly plugins can help you handle it. But the good news is that you also have a free alternative.
Wavesgrove has created an excellent plugin called Vastaus that you can use to tame annoying sounds on offbeat instruments, stems, and master buses. You can get it completely free on the Patreon page and support the author for his fantastic work.
- Tame Whatever You Want
The Tame knob is the heart of the plugin. Twist it to the right to hear how the plugin responds to the harsh frequencies on the guitar, cymbals, and vocal esses.
- Play With the React Switch
With this switch, you can achieve more detail and clarity in your tracks. Experiment with Tame and React to get the effect you want.
- Adjust the Bias
A small Bias knob will help you generate harmonics as you work with the plugin. Here you can achieve a nice silky effect.
- Balance with Output Gain
Once you’ve tamed the unwanted frequencies, you can use the Output Gain knob to boost the signal a bit and balance it out of the mix by “putting it back in place.” It will give it extra high frequencies.
The plugin is available for Windows and macOS. It comes in VST/3, and AU formats.
The Vastaus plugin can be a fantastic tool for you to “polish” your audio. It will eliminate all annoying harsh frequencies in the most musical way and make your signal more pleasing to your ears. You will have all the necessary settings at your disposal to experiment with taming levels.
3. iZotope Imager 2 (Stereo Enhancer / Imager)
With the following plugin, which is the Ozone Imager 2 from iZotope, you can expand your stereo picture or, conversely, narrow it.
Stereo Imaging is a beautiful mixing technique used by many engineers and producers. All because it helps you expand your stereo picture, whether it’s a single instrument or two buses. As a result, you get a universal sound, and therefore a more exciting sound. Interestingly, you can also use this effect in reverse by narrowing tracks to focus the listener’s attention on them.
The company iZotope, known for its premium products for music production, decided to give a gift and provided the Imager 2 plugin for free. It is a modern-looking software with three metrics, two operation modes, and some more exciting features. Let’s take a closer look at it.
- Add Some Width or Reduce It
You will see this slider on the right. Thanks to it, you can adjust how wide your track will be. Pull it down, and you’ll go back to the mono signal.
- Stereoize the Picture
The second slider is located to the right of Width. With the Stereoize function, you can adjust the time delay. At the bottom, you will have a value in milliseconds.
- Play With Two Modes
Two completely different modes of the plugin will be at your disposal. If the first one can expand your stereo picture as much as possible, the second one does it more subtly.
- Different Visualization
The three visualization modes help you keep a better eye on what’s going on with your stereo picture. Specifically, find the best one for your eyes, how the signal is distributed to the right and left channels.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
An essential tool that you can get for free. It is how we can describe the wonderful Imager 2 plugin from iZotope. It has comparatively enough features to enhance your signal and make it much wider. However, you can choose it to your liking thanks to the two available modes of operation and the Width and Stereoize sliders.
4. Bassprofessor MarkII (Bass Guitar Enhancer)
With the Bassprofessor MarkII plugin from Sonic Anomaly, you can take your bass DI and make it sound like it was recorded with an amp.
Recording a bass DI is a regular practice in music production. The point is that this signal is ideal for the extraction of low-end. But that’s only half the battle. To achieve the full bass sound, you need to add a track from the amp to the top. Not a problem if you don’t have this equipment, because you can use an emulation.
Bassprofessor MarkII is a bass amp sim and enhancer that you can use entirely for free. But, unfortunately, this only applies to Windows users. However, this plugin has all the necessary settings to add drive to the bass line, fill it with sub information, or make it more expressive and cut through the mix. You’ll have as many as seven bands with which to sculpt a bass sound to your liking.
- Control Your Low-End Frequencies
The three bands will refer to the control of the three main areas of low information. These faders are called Sub Bass, Lo Bass, and Hi Bass. Adjust them to get the sound you want.
- Add Some Fullness
This fader helps you make the bass track fuller because it adjusts the midrange frequencies. But be careful because it can also add some muddiness to your sound.
- Adjust the Articulation
With the Atric control, you can add more detail to your bass sound. It makes the attack more expressive, which will also be especially useful in mixing.
- Be Aggressive and Bright
The last two faders are called Presence and Treble. Dive into experimenting with them to make your sound more aggressive or vice versa softer. Treble controls the high frequencies, which will help you achieve more brightness.
- Dirt Control
After you’ve worked on the frequency spectrum of your bass, add some dirt to it. You will see the corresponding control on the right. It is what will add the level of distortion to your signal.
The plugin is available for Windows, both 32 and 64-bit. It comes in VST format.
With the free Bassprofessor MarkII plugin, you get a lot of power in shaping your bass tone. You’ll have complete control over bass, midrange, and treble and tune your distortion level. Still, it’s worth remembering that this amp sim is only available to Windows users and is provided in a single VST format.
5. Analog Obsession Lovend (Harmonic Bass Enhancer)
This fabulous Lovend enhancer from Analog Obsession will instantly turn a weak bass into a powerful one.
Analog Obsession is the company of plugin developer, hardware designer, and musician Rıdvan Küçük. But it is not commercially oriented because you can find all their products utterly free on Patreon. Of course, you can donate to the author. As he noted on his page, it will give him the strength and desire to create new software.
Rıdvan Küçük also has a beautiful plugin in his assortment. It is a harmonic bass enhancer, and we can say that it does its job well. You can hear the plugin’s effect even with the default settings when loading it on a track. Then you have to turn a few knobs and listen to what you get.
- Boost Your Bass
On the right side, you will see the Boost knob. In its initial position, it will already add one dB to your low-end. You can go even further and add bass harmonics up to 10 dB.
- Frequency Control
The following important knob in the plugin is Frequency. It will give you the ability to choose exactly where you want to boost the bass. The whole range is from 60 to 180 Hz.
- Balance the Output Signal
Of course, when you add harmonics, the gain of your signal will increase. Therefore, it is vital to control it at the output of the plugin to avoid clipping. It is what the Output knob is for.
- Can Be Suitable For a Kick
The Lovend plugin can serve you well on the bass guitar and the kick drum. Thanks to this enhancer, you can make it more powerful and expressive.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST/3, and AU formats.
Lovend is a simple but quite effective plugin that will give you lightning-fast results with an analog flavor. It can save weak bass tracks that have suffered from improper recording techniques. And it won’t take you long to figure out how it works since there are only three knobs. This software can be an excellent solution, both for bass guitar and kick drum.
6. Analog Obsession FetSnap (Transient Enhancer)
Another plugin from Analog Obsession, called FetSnap, allows you to enhance your transients well.
This time, you need to work on the drums, which were also not well recorded and sound a bit muffled. In this case, don’t get upset. All is not lost yet, as you can use a transient enhancer to improve the attack. And the FetSnap plugin can do it by adding an analog flavor.
In addition to the attack, this enhancer will also give you color since it is based on FET equipment. As with the other Analog Obsession plugins, you won’t mess up your head here since you’ll only have four knobs.
- Add Some Snap
It will be the central knob of the plugin, as it will regulate how much snap will be added. By this, we mean to increase the difference between transients, which will make the sound more expressive.
- Make It Dark or Bright
The next Tone knob will help you adjust whether the signal is dark or bright. If you turn it to the left, you will hear more fat in the low end, and if you turn it to the right, the sound will be brighter but thinner.
- Get It Right on the Output
It is elementary to achieve clipping with plugins like this because you directly affect the transients. The Output knob helps you keep this under control. There’s also Mix, which allows you to mix the effect in parallel with the original.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher. It comes in VST/3, and AU formats.
The FetSnap plugin from Analog Obsession is quite aggressive but at the same time an effective tool to improve the attack on many sources. Of course, it is best suited for drums and percussion. But still, you can experiment and apply it to other instruments that need an extra bite.
7. Mia Muscle (One Knob Enhancer)
The Mia Muscle plugin from MIA Laboratories will serve as a real protein shake for your tracks.
The Greek company MIA Laboratories makes excellent software for music production based on analog studio units. On their website, you can find many solutions for yourself, such as compressors, tape saturators, and enhancers. Also, these guys provided several plugins for free, and these are high and low-pass filters Border and one-knob enhancers Fat, Muscle, and Thin.
Enhancer Muscle promises to increase the volume and presence of your tracks without any compression. The developers recommend it for the quietest instruments. As a result, they will sound as if they “grew muscles.” You can use this plugin on master buses as well.
- One Big Knob
You will see a large knob marked Protein. It will be the primary tool for working with plugins. Just twist it, and you’ll hear your sound become more expressive.
- Watch Out for Clipping
The developers have made sure that you immediately notice when your signal clips. That’s why they’ve included a significant indicator in the plugin that lets you know when it’s overshooting.
- Control Your Volume
Since the plugin is straightforward, this is his last knob. It will let you adjust the gain when the effect is too much.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only) and macOS 10.7 or higher. It comes in VST2, AU, and AAX formats.
The free Mia Muscle plugin may particularly appeal to you if you like one-knob software. It performs its task one hundred percent like a pretty standard enhancer. With it, your sound will be more powerful and expressive.
1. Melda MBassador (Bass Enhancer)
With the MBassador plugin from Melda, you can easily create missing bass most pleasantly.
There is probably not much to say about how important low-end is for modern music. In most cases, our primary tool for working with it will be the equalizer. But what if your source does not have the bass response due to poor miking techniques? In this case, a plugin from Czech company MeldaProduction can help us to fix it.
The MBassador plugin resynthesizes lost bass frequencies based on existing mid-range harmonics. As a result, you get an enhanced solid and tight bass. You can control this process thanks to modules responsible for different areas and thus find the right sound easily and quickly.
- Use For Any Bass Instrument
The MBassador is great for any instrument that needs a low-end lift. It could be a kick drum, a bass guitar, or a bass synth. The addition of bass frequencies is done musically here, so it sounds the most organic.
- Bass Enhancer
It is the first plugin module that is colored green. Thanks to it, you will be able to add the necessary information around 100 hertz. The re-synthesis is very tight and produces nice upper-harmonics.
- Sub Generator
You can use the second module, called Sub Generator if you want to go even further and add sub information to your sound. It creates a tone an octave below the lowest note.
- The Lowest Sub
It is the last module that will give you the ability to generate even more sub information. The Sub 2 Generator will add harmonics 2 octaves below the lowest note. A great feature for extra low-end.
- Shape Your Tone However You Want
You will have ample opportunity to sculpt your bass sound. For example, you can use the Tone control to add the desired upper harmonics. There’s also a Saturation slider, which will give you more aggression and bite.
The plugin is available for Windows Vista or higher (both 32 or 64-bit) and macOS 10.9 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST/3, AU, and AAX formats.
The MBassador plugin can save your low-end. It comes in handy where EQ is powerless and provides a lot of options with low-frequency restoration. Thanks to the three modules, you can work on both bass and sub information. Plus, the plugin adds this in the most musical way possible, so it’s hard to notice the difference.
2. AudioThing Type A (Vintage Enhancer)
This vintage type of enhancer in AudioThing’s Type A plugin can be a real highlight of your vocal tracks.
Here we are going to make a little excursion into history. The Dolby A301 and Dolby 361 hardware units were created in the 1960s and 1970s as a tape noise reduction system. Engineers soon began to use them for a different purpose to add air to vocal tracks. They used only the encoding stage with the two lower bands off, leaving only the compressed upper frequencies. Later this technique was called Vocal Trick or “John Lennon mod.”
AudioThing, a company based in Ireland, decided to create a digital emulation of these legendary units. And, we must say, they did a great job since the plugin dynamically boosts the upper frequencies of the signal but does not create any side effects. This effect is somewhat similar to the dynamic equalizer and gives a much more presence to the tracks.
- 4 Available Bands
You will have four bends at your disposal in the form of simple buttons so you can turn them on and off. Each acts on a different frequency range. Just listen to which combination will be the winning one for you.
- Adjust the Effect Volume
Go to the volume bar by clicking on the gear icon. There you will see the knobs that allow you to adjust the volume of each band.
- Disable the Direct Signal
You can press the red button to turn off the direct signal and hear only the sound of your bends. It will just be the dynamically compressed signal that the enhancer gives.
- Not One of Your Typical Exciters
This enhancer works more naturally than other enhancers and does not provide any artifacts. It is because the amount of compression here is proportional to the volume. Loud sounds don’t change, but quiet sounds get louder.
- Use “John Lennon mod”
The great thing about this plugin is that you can reproduce exactly the legendary technique that made this unit once so famous. Disable the two low bands, leaving the other two high.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you want to get the coloring of an analog enhancer and even apply the Vocal Trick technique, this plugin will help you with that. Type A has a super simple interface, so you won’t have to deal with the settings for a long time. Turn the buttons on and off, balance the bend volume, or mix just the effect to the original track, and you’re sure to get great-sounding audio.
3. SubBass Doctor 808 (Sub / Bass Enhancer)
The SubBass Doctor 808 by United Plugins will help cure your low-end and give it a new, fresh sound.
If you do not have the necessary monitoring equipment, it won’t be easy to monitor the sub information of your mixes. Moreover, improperly processed subs can even harm some of the extensive PA systems. Plugin United has introduced software to help you keep your 808s healthy. And this is the one we decided to add to our article as a bonus – the SubBass Doctor 808.
This plugin is quite simple but has basic settings to help you get the right low-end. You will see four knobs and a good-looking indicator to help you understand your signal level. Let’s dive into what this doc can do with your subs.
- Cure Your Low-End
It is the central knob that carves your bass but musically with filters. In simple words, it will remove muddiness and some of the high frequencies present in the sub-bass.
- A Nice Saturation
The plugin also has a SAT knob, which gives saturation to your signal. To be more specific, it will add some nice frequencies to the midrange.
- Boost You Sub Harmonics
If you see that you need to add more subs, the SUB knob will help. The thing is that it adds harmonics in the same musical way, so your signal will benefit from it.
- Not Only For 808s
Of course, the SubBass Doctor 808 was initially designed for drums and synthesizers. But you can also use it for other instruments with low information, like 5-string and double bass.
- Smart Bypass
We know that sometimes we can get some clicks when we turn on the plugin. A nice bonus is that SubBass Doctor has an intelligent bypass system, so you can feel free to automate the software where you need it.
The plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher (both 32 and 64-bit) and macOS 10.10 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
SubBass Doctor 808 is a tool to help you keep your subs healthy. It removes dangerous frequencies and, besides, can boost quite pleasant ones for the ear, thanks to the built-in saturation function. Also, a cool feature is that you can use it not only for the 808s but also for bass and contrabass. In short, wherever you need to, make sure that the low-end is right.
4. Boz Digital Labs Sasquatch 2 (Kick Enhancer)
Transform your kick drum or lowest synth with the great Sasquatch 2 plugin from Boz Digital Labs.
As we all know, the bass drum is the foundation of any mix, whether it’s electronic music or more live. It is where the lowest information of our mix is located. Sometimes, this foundation is relatively weak, and you need to bring it up somehow. In this case, the plugin Sasquatch 2 will be a great help.
It is not just a kick drum enhancer but also a kind of customizer. Thanks to it, you will be able to influence the harmonic information and slightly change the sonic characteristics of your lowest instrument. And all this from the more imperceptible nuances to the most extreme ones.
- Add some OOMPH
It is the name of the first regulator of the plugin. Thanks to it, you can control the level of low-end that is generated. Increase it if you want to have a massive and shuddering bass.
- Click Control
With the Click control, you can influence the attack level of your bass drum. Turn it all the way up if you want to get the brightest sound.
- Blend The Unprocessed Signal
You can do this thanks to the purple Dry control. It affects what the ratio of the raw signal to the enhanced one will be.
- Use It as a Virtual Instrument
An outstanding feature of the plugin is that it also supports the MIDI function. That means you can use it as a virtual instrument for writing your bass synths.
- Trigger Section
This section will allow us to fine-tune the triggering response. For example, there are three triggering modes for transients, volume and MIDI. Also, there are settings for side chain filters.
The plugin is available for Windows and macOS, both 32 and 64-bit. It comes in VST2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
The Sasquatch 2 plugin will give you tons of options to improve your bass drum, whether it’s acoustic or electronic. You no longer need to dig through your sampler folders because, with this fabulous enhancer, you will be able to influence the amount of low-end and even the attack. A nice bonus will be the ability to use this plugin as a synthesizer. In that case, it will be beneficial for EDM music.
As you can see, there are plenty of enhancer plugins. From one point of view, they are all very different, but on the other hand, they have one thing in common – they all improve your signal, turn weak into vital, add extra content and make your instruments sound fresher and more expressive. But still, let us give you some tips on how to choose a suitable enhancer for you.
First of all, you need to be ahead of the curve, whether or not you can invest in this software. And secondly, what genre of music you’re into, or whether you want a specific tool for one task or a universal one.
If you have some money and want a versatile enhancer, an excellent option for you would be Vitamin by Waves Audio and Spectre by Wavesfactory. But if you can’t invest the money, there aren’t many universal solutions out there. Nevertheless, you can safely try number 1 of our free list – Diablo Lite from Cymatics and Ozone Imager 2 from iZotope to expand your stereo picture.
For those who create electronic music, we can recommend the software to improve the 808s – it is Vortex and a bonus plugin – SubBass Doctor 808. For bass guitar, you can safely try MBassador. And to enhance vocals, we suggest looking at the Type A plugin from AudioThing.
Remember that enhancers are advised to be used where it is needed. Because, as we know, overprocessing can be a pretty bad habit. So, use them wisely. Good luck!
The 7 Best Exciter Plugins 2023 For Mixing & Mastering
In this roundup, we review six of the best exciter plugins available today and also talk about three free ones.
Interestingly enough, the exciter plugin was first discovered by an honest accident. The pro-audio manufacturer Aphex discovered that playing back an audio clip with a thin, distorted signal of itself gave it clarity. This opened the doors for many enhancers, exciters, vitalizers, etc., to be created.
What Is An Exciter Plugin?
An exciter plugin is an effect plugin that adds harmonic distortion to a targeted frequency range to add more spectral content to the audio. The most common exciter plugins are the high-frequency exciters, which add harmonics at frequencies generally higher than 3kHz.
Exciters have been used to lend clarity to audio by using calculated distortion to generate high-frequency harmonics. Similarly, there are also exciters made for adding low-frequency harmonics to make the audio sound fuller.
Some modern exciters have been built to intelligently generate harmonics based on the target frequencies you select for analysis. So, if you used such an exciter on the vocals to generate high frequencies and set the analyzer to focus on middle frequencies, the exciter will ignore sibilance. Instead, it will focus on enhancing clarity for the main body of the vocals.
What’s The Difference Between Exciter & Saturation Plugin?
The biggest difference is that the exciter plugin targets a specific frequency range, whereas a saturator most often affects the entire frequency spectrum as a whole. However, this isn’t quite the end of the difference, especially with modern plugins.
Nowadays, many saturation plugins will have some sort of emulation going on — some emulate the character of a certain mix console, while some emulate vintage EQs. This means that you might even find a saturator that sounds more like a high-frequency exciter than a general saturation plugin.
Nevertheless, it is enough to understand that while the fundamental function of both exciters and saturators is the same, the difference lies in what frequency range they primarily affect.
The 7 Best Exciter Plugins 2023 For Mixing & Mastering
1. Waves Aphex Aural Exciter
As the name suggests, Waves Aphex Aural Exciter is modeled after the very first design by Aphex themselves, renowned for its use on many classic hits.
This exciter adds clarity and sparkle to any audio you feed into it. The plugin also adds some character to your audio as the original hardware used to. We enjoy the sound of it on vocals and strings in particular.
Turning up the Input adds more drive and character to the sound, and the AX Mix essentially mixes the distorted sound to your audio. However, too much of anything is a bad thing, and this exciter is no different. Adding only a touch of excitement using this plugin and boosting the air with a conventional EQ adds a pleasant sheen to the audio without it sounding tiring.
- Mix Modes
This model is based on a tube-based exciter, which means the sound of the same unit used as a send and as an insert differs in character. Waves have emulated each usage method and provided multiple mix modes to get the characterful sounds in a convenient insert workflow.
- Ax Mode
In the Auxiliary Mode, the Ax Mix knob is disabled. Instead, you use the plugin on a send track and adjust the input and output level on the plugin, which gives out a less colored signal relatively. This mode also adds a high-pass filter of around 800Hz to avoid muddying the sound.
- Convenient Interface
The GUI of this plugin in the Waveshell v12 is resizable. The VU meters at the top can be customized to display input, output, and auxiliary readings, and they can also be calibrated as required.
Character & Sound:
Waves have taken the extra step to ensure full flexibility in capturing this vintage hardware’s character. For example, each of the two Mix modes has a distinct style. While the Mix 1 mode is somewhat clean, the Mix 2 mode changes based on the amount of Ax Mix. At first, the effect remains quite subtle; halfway up, you will notice some phasing occurring at the mid-high frequencies. And turning the mix up even more results in a huge treble boost.
Similarly, an optional noise section is dedicated to giving a hum based on the A/C power hertz (50 or 60Hz).
This plugin is available for Windows 10 64-bit and macOS 10.13.6 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
If you enjoy the sound of vintage sounds of popular artists like Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor, you will find this plugin highly satisfying to use. The amount of detailed work in capturing the true sound of the hardware is exceptional.
2. PROCESS.AUDIO Sugar (Multiband Exciter)
Prioritizing ease of use, Sugar is a universal answer for almost any kind of enhancement needs you might face.
Behind its simple UI, some complex coding is happening to ensure each band of frequencies stays predictable and musical. The buttons under each band let you select either of the two exciter algorithms designed for said band.
You can adjust the amount of excitement by simply grabbing the handles in the band view at the top or using the “wet inject” knob to increase excitement on all bands at once. There are also input filters to help rein in stray frequencies.
Its usage could vary from adding some clarity to vocals, strings, and synth pads to adding bite to drums and guitars. Or perhaps even adding some low-end depth to a bass track. Experimenting with the plugin is highly recommended and delivers quick, gratifying results.
- Multiple Algorithms
Each band has two kinds of excitement algorithms, which give a particular trait to the enhancement appropriate for the band. This simplifies the process of excitement to the point of literally pushing a button and moving a slider.
- Linear Phase Filters
The band crossover filters and the input low-pass/high-pass filters are all linear-phase. So, you needn’t worry about phase issues occurring because of any of the filters. Although, if you prefer the sound of a minimum phase filter, this could be a downside.
- Mid/Side Mode
Sugar can work parallelly in mid/side mode, so you can adjust how much excitement it adds with even more detail. This feature is convenient for stereo depth enhancements.
There is a master saturation section, which can add three kinds of saturation to your audio. If you enjoy smooth, analog warmth, try adding just the slightest bit of Drive to your vocals or instruments
Character & Sound:
The inclusion of multiple algorithms per band is very thoughtful. For example, if you select the Thick algorithm for the Low band, you will hear enhanced low end without any regard for quick transients (of bass drums, for instance). In contrast, the Punch algorithm does exactly what it says — it adds punch to the low end depending on the transients. And the frequencies it focuses on are somewhat higher than the Thick algorithm.
Due to the linear phase filters and the deliberate design to remain neutral, there isn’t any coloration going on at the fundamental level. Manual adjustments deliver all colorful saturation and character.
Sugar is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you are after a convenient, all-in-one sound enhancement plugin, Sugar is a great choice to consider. However, the CPU usage of this plugin is fairly high, so you may be limited to using this plugin only on busses or full mixes.
3. Noveltech Vocal Enhancer
Focused on bringing out vocal presence and clarity, Vocal Enhancer uses adaptive excitement to help your recordings cut through the mix.
This plugin features a convenient interface with a frequency spectrum display between 1kHz and 20kHz. You can easily set the high-pass and low-pass filters to target a specific range of frequencies on this display.
Below the display is the filter section, where you can see what frequencies you have selected and adjust the Q-factor of the filters. On the left is a Focus Frequency knob that adjusts where you want the exciter to focus within the selected range of frequencies. Keeping an eye on the spectrum is helpful while adjusting this parameter.
The plugin is highly efficient — you could easily bring up a voice’s breathiness or just add some shine to the body by adjusting the frequencies affected. You could certainly also experiment with this plugin on synth, drums, and other instruments.
- Adjustable Band
The frequencies this plugin modifies can be adjusted extensively using the filters, the Q-factor, and the slope steepness. This feature lets you focus on what element of the vocals you want to emphasize.
- Silky Smooth Sound
This exciter never makes the vocals sound over-the-top or brittle. The airy boosts remain smooth and pleasing thanks to the adaptive processing.
Character & Sound:
Noveltech Vocal Enhancer “listens” to your audio and generates harmonics based on it. This results in a natural-sounding enhancement without introducing unwanted distortion. We found that it performs well to improve the presence of the vocals’ body without boosting sibilance excessively.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
Among the many exciters available nowadays, Noveltech Vocal Enhancer is one of the winners for sure. We found that it works particularly well on the female voice. That’s not to say that it doesn’t work for male vocals. Truth be told, it works excellently on just about any mid-range instrument or recording. Try out the demo and find out for yourself.
4. SPL Vitalizer MK2-T
Vitalizer is an enhancing plugin with a patented filter network that can bring up clarity and focus in individual stems and even in busy mixes.
This plugin is far more than a simple exciter. Plugin Alliance modeled this plugin on the hardware bearing the same name. The concept is that by creating a set of filters based on research findings on people’s hearing perception, you can create highly effective and musical results.
It has another feature called “unmasking,” which uses both loudness and length of sound to enhance the perceptive loudness of desired frequencies. The result, combined with its stereo widening circuit, is a truly effective sound-enhancing plugin.
We recommend using this plugin on vocals and individual instruments. Tightening up or enhancing the bass, widening and adding clarity to synth, etc., are just a couple of its many uses. And while it can be applied on busses, building up its effect per track results in a truly pristine mix with barely any EQing.
- Innovative Filters
There are two high-frequency enhancement parameters on this plugin: the Mid-Hi Tune and the LC-EQ. The Mid-Hi Tune enhances the high frequencies and attenuates the frequencies below the set value. The LC EQ is a passive coil EQ that enhances over a broad high shelf. What’s special about a passive coil filter is that it can enhance the high frequencies without making it sound sharp.
- Bass Enhancer
On the left are two parameters named Bass and Compression. The Bass knob sits in the middle by default, and by simply turning it to the left, it becomes more rounded and loud. Similarly, turning it to the right makes the bass sound tighter. This simplicity is a huge time-saver.
- Stereo Widener
The Stereo Expander parameter utilizes a mid/side stereo widener. This means you will need stereo audio in the first place to hear any enhancements. However, it is certainly convenient to have that feature readily available.
Character & Sound:
The character and sound of this plugin are that of the original hardware, which has been tried and tested to give unmistakably outstanding results. Enhancing the bass using this plugin instantly lets you control its style without ever touching a transient processor. Similarly, the LC EQ never lets the high frequencies become overly sharp and annoying. This is one of the few plugins that are really difficult to make sound bad.
A fact worth noting is that this plugin is based on tube components. So, it does add some warm, analog sound using the filter shapes and by itself too.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 64-bit and macOS 10.9 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you are looking for an all-in-one sound enhancement plugin that actually works, you should give this plugin a try. While it may look simple, the features it offers for controlling both bass and treble are astounding. Interestingly, it tends to affect the entire frequency spectrum to give a highly desirable sound right off the bat.
5. Drumforge DF-Xcite
Focused on being a drum shaping exciter, the DF-Xcite provides control over the tonality of your drums with convenient preset multiband saturation.
When you need to add some power, bite, and presence to your drum sounds, some saturation targeted to a range of frequencies goes a long way. However, for the beginner, the question is which frequencies to target.
Drumforge provides an easy solution to that question. The Mode dropdown menu at the middle of the plugin lets you select various kinds of presets such as EDM Kick, Rock Kick, EDM Snare/Clap, etc., to aid you in shaping the sound. What it does essentially is that it changes the band crossover frequencies, and it does help.
The sound of this plugin can go from nice and subtle to heavy distortion quite easily. So, for the experimenting producer, it should give plenty of playing field.
- Multiple Excitement Types
Each band has three types of saturation: American, Vintage, and Extreme. The American mode sounds more like a modern saturation, while Vintage focuses on sounding warm. The Extreme one is heavy saturation, which is handy for bringing out biting tones.
- Helpful Modes
The presets for changing the band frequencies are excellent for saving time. We also found that going for a non-conventional mode for experimental purposes delivers surprisingly interesting results.
- Convenient Interface
This plugin has to be one of the most straightforward multiband exciter available. But, it stays true to what it’s meant to do and offers only the fundamental controls to getting a great sound. So, there is no endless fiddling with parameters with DF-Xcite.
Character & Sound:
This plugin is certainly helpful for bringing up life in your drum sounds when they sound dull. The three saturation modes per band can also help your drums have varying characters. For example, you could use the Extreme mode on EDM toms’ low to mid frequencies to give them a lot of bite.
And you could mix in analog-sounding treble sheen to it. So, the sound you could get out of this plugin is quite varying and a lot of fun to experiment with.
DF-Xcite is available for Windows and macOS 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and 32-bit RTAS formats.
This is a handy tool to shape your drums and add clarity and presence without spending a lot of time dialing in the right settings. And if you need to get rid of any aliasing, there is also an HQ mode that introduces oversampling. While on sale, the price is quite low for this plugin and justifies the investment easily.
6. AudioThing Type B
Taking inspiration from the vintage Aphex Aural exciter hardware unit, Type B adds brightness and presence to your vocals, bass, leads, and other instruments.
In this plugin, we have a Tune parameter, which is the frequency selector for the filter section right below it. The Color knob acts as a subtle low pass filter for the generated harmonics.
We liked the sound of it even more on melodic instruments than drums and percussions. The Emphasis on the filter section can generate interesting sounds on synths. You could also try automating the Tune knob to get even more dynamic sounds.
Next, the Direct toggle switch helps add any lost low and mid frequencies while you are exciting. And we also liked the Env toggle switch for the Noise, which makes the noise only come up when there is audio input.
- Classic Sound
The sound of this plugin is that of the Aphex hardware unit. So, if you are a fan of the late 70s hits, this plugin will aid you in achieving that sound.
- Convenient GUI
The GUI of this plugin is resizable. And you can hide the additional sections beneath the six fundamental parameters if you prefer simplicity. So, it caters to both straightforward and adventurous producers.
- Experimental Filter
You can place the filter section before or after the saturation. Similarly, you can also experiment with using a band-pass filter instead of a traditional high-pass filter. Similarly, the Emphasis parameter can give an interesting peculiarity to your sound with ease.
Character & Sound:
By default, this plugin sounds faithful to the Aphex Type B unit. However, with some experimental tweaks, you can get it to sound very distinctive too. We recommend trying this out on electric keyboards, huge saw pads, and vocals. Driving the input higher gives an analog grit that could be the missing element in your wavetable synth or guitars too.
AudiotThing Type B is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
We would recommend this plugin if you are a fan of analog-sounding plugins and enjoy having some flexibility too. There’s even a noise section that lets you add the hum the original hardware used to make for authenticity. And if you just want to hear heavy distortion — check out the 12dB wet boost.
7. Brainworx Vertigo VSM-3w
The Vertigo VSM-3 is pure saturation freedom unleashed.
For the people who want to control every aspect of their effect plugin to create a truly unique sound, the Vertigo VSM-3 offers two kinds of analog saturation with a ton of flexibility. In addition, the two saturators can work in parallel as well as serial mode.
The ‘2nd Harmonic Fat Crusher’ is a warm saturator based on tube stages, and the ‘3rd Harmonic Zener Blender’ is a brighter exciter best suited for adding clarity. Each saturator can be set to affect low, mid, or high frequencies or the entire spectrum.
There is also a mid/side mode for both the saturator giving you ultimate control over your spatial image. We particularly liked using the Crusher on the mid while using the Blender to add sparkling air on the side.
- Ultimate Control
The VSM-3 offers complete flexibility over the sound of the exciter, even more so than the original hardware it is based on. There is also a mid/side monitoring feature along with a distortion solo that lets you hear exactly what’s happening with your audio. And on top of that, the two saturators can work in parallel or serial mode.
- Resizable UI
The GUI of this plugin can be scaled up to 150% of its original size. However, we would have liked to see a bigger zoom factor as the tiny font and knobs of the plugin can get very tedious to work.
- Analog Sound
Brainworx is known for its meticulously accurate emulations of hardware units, and the VSM-3 is no different. The sound it generates remains faithful to the original gear, offers some upgraded controls, and still manages to be CPU-friendly.
Character & Sound:
The difference between the two saturators the plugin has is fairly easy to distinguish. One is warmer, and the other is noticeably brighter and sparkly. Used together, you can create a sort of sound reminiscent of the vintage era and yet somehow very contemporary.
The low-frequency enhancements work particularly well for getting punchier kicks. You could also try using the Crusher for adding saturated air to synths and keyboards. For vocals, the Blender works well at adding presence and sheen.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
For Universal Audio users, it is also available for UAD-2 hardware and Apollo interfaces.
The sound quality of this plugin is highly commendable. The level of detail and control it offers for a hardware-based plugin is unsurpassed by any other. However, the user interface could be a little overwhelming for an inexperienced producer.
The 3 Best Free Exciter Plugins 2023
1. Slate Digital FRESH AIR
Slate Digital needs no introduction to the pro audio community, and this breath of Fresh Air is possibly one of the smoothest exciters in existence.
There are only two knobs in this plugin. However, don’t let its simplicity deter you. Under the hood, it utilizes vintage exciter technology, complete with its smooth high-frequency shine. The Mid Air and High Air parameters, as the names suggest, add brightness to said frequency ranges.
We love using it on vocals, drums, synths, and even full mixes. The plugin never fails to add clarity and presence seemingly magically. And being a free plugin, there is truly nothing to lose in giving it a try.
- Easy-to-use Interface
Despite having multiple parallel processings underneath the plugin, Slate Digital nails the interface design by keeping it astonishingly minimal and elegant. If you are just getting into the world of exciters and enhancers, Fresh Air is the best place to start, without a doubt.
- Smooth Sound
The sound of Fresh Air reminds us of expensive, high-end vintage gears that use induction and capacitors to get their filters, resulting in a smooth sound. Similarly, the plugin also manages to keep the excitement process without distortion or brittleness.
Character & Sound:
According to Slate Digital, Fresh Air was modeled to have the Dolby-A NR band splitting for smooth multi-band function. As a result, the sound of this plugin is that of smooth, analog gears. Also, it doesn’t introduce any frequency dips or notches with either of the two parameters.
This plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.12 through 10.14, both 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
We highly recommend this free plugin as a universal exciter for adding clarity and shine to your vocals, instruments, and mixes. Even for those with no experience with saturators or exciters, the simple interface of this plugin has zero learning curve.
2. Variety Of Sound ThrillseekerXTC
The ThrillseekerXTC is a Pultec-style EQ emulation with an exciter stage added.
This plugin focuses on being all about analog sound and making sure the sound you get out of it is rich and silky smooth. There are pre-selected frequencies in the EQ section. On the right are two knobs, “Mojo” and “Drive,” where Mojo adds harmonic excitement, and Drive gives some analog warmth through the modeled EQ.
Another thing worth noting is that when you download the plugin, you receive two files. One is the black-colored version, which is for quieter audio around -18dB RMS. And the other blue-colored version is meant for louder audio.
- Three Saturators
This plugin uses a separate exciter for each band processing parallelly. However, the Mojo knob only lets you adjust them all at once. Keep in mind that overusing the Mojo can introduce some strange effect into your mix, though. So, it’s probably best to avoid using it on full mixes.
- Customizable Metering
The needle meters can be set to display classic VU as well as LUFS readings.
Character & Sound:
Along with the pleasing sound of the likes of Pultec EQs and the Lang PEQ-1, it uses emulation of transformer-powered tube stages to give it its “mojo” excitement magic. Similarly, the EQ section itself also generates some harmonics and warmth too.
ThrillseekerXTC is only available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit. It comes in VST 2 format.
Being an EQ and an exciter both, this plugin can single-handedly shape sounds with ease while also adding brightness and thickness as needed. However, being a 32-bit plugin makes its use limited. And bridging isn’t recommended if you need many instances of the plugin.
3. Fine Cut Bodies La Petite Excite
One of the quickest ways to add some shine and thick low end to your audio.
La Petite Excite has become a favorite among many producers, and for a good reason too. Both its low and high excitement simply work. Whether it’s drums or vocals or a synth part, you can enhance it using this free plugin, and the results won’t disappoint.
- Simple Interface
We love how you can figure out the GUI of this plugin almost as soon as you open the plugin. It’s no-nonsense and clean to work with.
- High-Frequency Compression
The CV knob at the lower left part of the plugin introduces compression on the high frequencies. This helps when your audio has a lot of sibilance or high-frequency transients. However, avoid overusing it as it introduces heavy ducking unless that is exactly what you are after, of course.
Character & Sound:
The excitement features ensure the output doesn’t have phasing issues. So, the plugin is generally very predictable and easy to work with.
This plugin is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.5 or higher, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3 and AU formats.
If you were to install just one free exciter, the La Petite Excite could be the one. It’s smooth, light on the CPU, and sounds excellent on almost anything. We highly recommend giving it a try.
Nomad Factory COSMOS
Cosmos is designed as both an enhancer and a fattener, and it excels at both without a doubt.
If you are looking for a plugin that can thicken up your kick or vocals or any other instrument, you’re in luck. Cosmos uses a sub-frequency generator to artificially add low-end thickness to any audio you feed into it. You could use it for getting huge-sounding synth pads or thundering bass drums.
It doesn’t end there, though. There is a separate low-frequency and high-frequency enhancer, with the crossover somewhere around 600Hz. The Bottom Drive knob controls the former and helps add punchiness to kicks or some oomph to vocals. Similarly, the Exciter Drive adds shininess and richness to audio at the same time.
The sub-generator analyzes your audio and levels the generated sub-bass accordingly. You can select the generated frequency as well.
- Stereo Widener
The Stereo Imaging knob lets you widen your stereo image right from the plugin interface. It uses the mid/side technique to achieve this effect.
There is an in-built limiter in the plugin. And you can control the gain (post excitement) feeding into the limiter.
Character & Sound:
Cosmos is built to sound mostly flat. It doesn’t introduce any noticeable character to the sound. And it doesn’t affect the overall level of the audio with its excitement. Of course, the sub-generator makes the audio sound weightier, but that is to be expected. The exciter section of this plugin is quite predictable and easy enough to use.
This plugin is available for Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.7 or higher, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
Nomad Factory has always remained a reliable audio plugins developer, and Cosmos proves it true even further. We like the sub-generator the most in this plugin, and the exciters are also just as commendable.
There are plenty of options available nowadays for your perfect enhancer. However, it’s important to note that some enhancers are designed to work better on certain instruments better than others. So, if you are a podcast-maker, for instance, you will want something like the SPL Vitalizer to get smooth, airy vocal recordings.
Or, if you intend to focus on fattening up drums, perhaps the Drumforge DF-Xcite or the Nomad Cosmos is a better choice. Try out multiple options and find one that works best for you. We hope this article helps you find your favorite.
Ilarion Ivanenko is a remote mixing and mastering engineer from Ukraine, a musician with more than 15 years of experience. Specializes in rock, metal, progressive and the other genres. He can’t imagine his life without music, as it is the biggest passion in his life