In this article, we’ll look at the best plugins for producing Dubstep, UK Grime & Drill music in 2023.
Dubstep has been one of the most popular EDM genres for over a decade. It’s a genre that relies heavily on complex sound design and advanced production techniques. Chillstep, Dubstep’s more mellow cousin, features more ambient sounds emphasizing atmosphere and texture. No matter which of the two genres you produce, this article aims to showcase useful plugin ideas and mixing techniques to assist you on your musical journey.
Some established dubstep recording labels are:
What’s The Difference Between Dubstep, Trap, DnB & House?
Dubstep is more electronic and focuses on complex sound design, while Trap is more about rhythm and bass, with a BPM range of 100 – 176 BPM. DnB is faster than Dubstep and utilizes breakbeats, whether synthesized, programmed, sampled, or designed from scratch.
House music is the most different genre from all the rest since it features four-on-the-floor beats, longer structures, and a BPM range of 110-130BPM.
Dubstep originated in the UK in the early 2000s as an electronic dance style and later evolved into its current form when it reached the United States. On the other hand, Trap is a more recent genre derivative of EDM that emerged from the Hip hop and Rap scene in Southern America, particularly Atalanta.
DnB originated in the 1990s in the UK as the dominant genre in rave parties. The origin story of the genre saw DJs mixing breakbeats with musical samples from all sorts of genres. House music originated in Chicago in the early 1980s as the main music played at illegal club parties.
The DJs would sample Disco records and layer them with drum machines and synthesizers to create long structures that people would dance to for hours.
Plugins are great for making UK Drill & Grime as well. Anyway, if you are unsure if it’s for you, simply try a trial version if it meets your criteria.
Top 7 Plugins For Dubstep, Chillstep, UK Drill & Grime 2023 (Melodic & Deep)
1. ujam Beatmaker BERSERK (Great For Melodic Dubstep)
UJAM’s Beatmaker BERSERK is a software tool that provides intense electronic drum sounds for genres like Dubstep.
It features 20 styles, 50 presets, 23 ready-made patterns, ten drum kits, and 460 patterns, and you can control the punchiness of the sound with the Mix presets and Devastate custom multi-effect. The software also includes a Beat Intensity control and is available as a plugin in VST 2, VST 3, AU 2, and AAX formats. Furthermore, it offers a free 30-day trial for you to test.
While other plugins are available for creating Dubstep, such as Xfer Records Serum and LennarDigital Sylenth1, the Beatmaker BERSERK can be a good option for those looking for intense electronic drum sounds specifically for Dubstep.
- Beat Intensity Control
Beat Intensity Control is a feature on the plugin that enables you to create different variations of the beat, ranging from subtle to intense, by adjusting the intensity level of the beat. It can add more energy and excitement to the beat, making it stand out and grab the listener’s attention. It can also create a more relaxed and laid-back beat by reducing intensity.
- Ease of use
The plugin is easy to use, and its controls can be adjusted in real-time, allowing you to experiment with different intensity levels while creating your track. The drum MIDI programming is quite easy, as each note on the MIDI has a drum sample assigned to it.
- Custom Multi-Effects
It offers custom multi-effect that allows you to further customize the sound by adding distortion, filters, multi-room reverb/ambiance, and other effects.
- Seamless drum programming
The plugin offers real-time input from MIDI controllers and dynamic tonal tweaking, allowing you to create many rhythmical phrases in over fifty musical styles. It also offers MIDI drag-and-drop capabilities, which can be useful for creating and arranging beats. In addition, the plugin is synced to the tempo and has various patterns for different Dubstep tempos.
BERSERK is available in AAX, VST, and AU plugin formats and is compatible with Windows 10-11 and macOS Catalina (10.15) – macOS Monterey (12.5).
In conclusion, the plugin has great sounds and pre-made patterns and offers an efficient and fast solution to create interesting drums for your Dubstep arrangements. It’s perfect for creating demos on the go and even final arrangements, is tonally modern and versatile and perfect for your dubstep and other gritty and dark electronic music genres.
2. Native Instruments Deft Lines (Tailored For Drill – Kontakt Library)
Deft Lines is a dark, sparse, ambient, and twisted hip-hop/UK and US Drill-based Kontakt library.
It’s one of the most expansive instruments for creating UK and US Drill and its sound design. It’s not easy to get the melodics and sonics of the hip-hop subgenre Drill right, with its underground vibe, hybrid textures, fat sliding basslines, and an energetic stack of sounds. With Daft Lines, you can play plenty of these sounds and go in-depth to edit and design them.
The instrument has a whopping set of 150 presets consisting of 131 unique sounds, including 88 multi-samples and 43 wavetables. The library is about 3.7 GB overall and has everything from guitar to violin to pizzicato and vintage sounds.
- Sound Editing
You can edit different layers with parameters like transpose, tune, color, noise, crush, pan, volume, etc. You can also add a filter, 2 LFOs, a modulation envelope, an amp envelope, and modulations from velocity, aftertouch, and modwheel.
The plugin contains numerous effects like chorus, compressor, reverb, flanger, etc., to add the required oomph, textures, and ambiance to your sounds.
You can step-edit the pitch and velocity, add up to sixteen steps, edit the direction of the sequencer, gate the sequencer, and create some interesting movements and grooves, to support your beats.
It’s compatible with the free Kontakt library, which requires Intel Macs (i5 or higher): macOS 10.15 (or later) or Windows 10 or 11 with the Intel Core i5 or equivalent CPU, and at least 4 GB of RAM.
The plugin consists of high-quality sounds that you can use to create not only drill but also Trap, RnB, gritty East Coast, Gen-Z Pop Rap, and other hip-hop genres. It’s great for nailing the bass and melody of your beats and is one of the best hip-hop Kontakt libraries.
3. Xfer Records Serum
Serum is a wavetable synthesizer designed by Xfer. It’s one of the most popular choices for wavetable synthesis in modern electronic music.
Serum features two powerful oscillators, a noise oscillator that works like a sampler, flexible filters and effects, and a multifaceted modulation system that rewards experimentation. It’s a favorite choice for many professionals, like Deadmau5, Delta Heavy, Borgore, SKisM, Feed Me, Subtronics and Skrillex, Nitepunk, The Chainsmokers, and more.
- Powerful oscillators.
Serum offers two identical wavetable oscillators, including a selection of analog, digital, spectral, and vowel wavetable collections. A wavetable oscillator uses a set of waveforms to produce sound, and in the case of Serum, each wavetable can consist of up to 256 waveforms. What makes wavetable oscillators exciting is the ability to cycle through these waveforms and create complex, evolving sounds. Classic controls such as unison (up to 16 voices), detune, volume, and panning are included. A third oscillator, labeled as sub, offers the choice of clean, classic waveforms, such as sine, triangle, saw, square, and can be set in a wide range of eight octaves. It can be routed through the effects and filters available or in its purest form. An additional noise oscillator comes with a selection of hums, noise, and textures that can blend with the main oscillators. The user can also load his sounds and use this oscillator as a sampler.
- Customizable wavetables.
One interesting feature Serum offers is the ability to custom design waveforms on the editor page. By clicking the pencil tool in the waveform oscillators, you enter the waveform editor page, where you can add curves, ramps, or random shapes to the waveform and create new, exciting sounds. If this sounds like too much sound design for you, there’s a wide range of presets you can explore and see how they all use different waveforms to achieve new sounds, making Serum a great sound design learning tool. If Dubstep is your preferred genre, the editor page will be your best friend. While Serum is fairly overused, the editor page ensures you will get unique sounds every time you edit a wavetable, helping you craft your own signature style.
- Creative effects.
Serum has ten effect modules inside its effects section. Effects include choices such as distortion, EQ, chorus, reverb, filter, phaser, and hyper/dimension, among others. The effects sound great, and some of them come with multiple creative controls and menus, such as distortion’s style menu that lets you choose between soft clip, tube, rectify, sin fold, and many others. Hyper/dimension is two effects packaged in a single unit, and they use two delay modules to create stereo widening effects. It’s important to mention that most of the parameters on these effects can be modulated, adding endless possibilities for fun sound design.
- Flexible filters.
Serum has one filter in the front panel and one as an effect module in the effects section. They are both identical; the only difference is that the filter in the effects section affects the sound as a whole, where the main filter can be assigned to either or both of the oscillators. Serum’s filter comes with too many filter types to list here. There are, of course, classic choices like lowpass, highpass, notch, bandpass, and peak, but also cool and unique choices like comb, flanger, and phaser filters, and options like sample & hold, ring mod, french LP, and formant filters. Apart from the expected cutoff and resonance controls, you get the drive and fat knobs that distort, thicken and add harmonic complexity to your sounds. You can also select the keytrack option on the main filter to have different cutoff values for different pitches. This means that your filter cutoff will be different if you play a C#4 rather than a G6.
- Unlimited modulation combinations.
Serum is famous for its drag and drop modulation system, where you simply set up a modulator and drag it into the parameter you wish to modulate. The matrix panel is a powerful tool that helps you see all the modulation happening inside your patch in a neatly organized list. It’s very handy for learning sound design since you can load a preset and easily see how everything is routed inside the Matrix panel. When it comes to modulators, there are three ADSR envelopes and four LFOs. You can choose classic shapes such as sine, saw, and square for your LFOs, or design your custom shapes by drawing them inside the LFO panel. You can also set the LFOs in trigger mode to always restart once a new note is triggered or in envelope mode to turn them into more envelopes. You also get access to four macro knobs that can be assigned to multiple parameters, particularly useful when creating chaotic and over-the-top modulations or when performing live, and you need one knob to modulate numerous things. Furthermore, two chaos knobs can be configured inside the global panel. Finally, you get velocity, aftertouch, and note controls that can be assigned to most parameters and come with their own modulation curve, meaning you can customize how and when the modulation will happen—great options for adding a more organic feel to your patches.
Serum is available on Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.11 or higher, 64-bit only, in VST, VST2, AAX, and AU formats.
Whether you are looking for a synth to design growly bass sounds, wobbles, strong leads, or atmospheric pads, Serum is a capable candidate. The two oscillators are powerful, and the ability to create custom wavetables is a huge plus.
The effects are excellently built, and the modulation system is inspiring. There aren’t many things that Serum does wrong, so it’s definitely an excellent choice for Dubstep music production.
4. Vital Audio – Vital
Vital is a spectral warping wavetable synth designed by Matt Tytel. It’s a subscription-based synthesizer, meaning you can pay monthly fees to receive new presets, wavetables, and sounds. You can also have it for free.
As a wavetable synthesizer, its main competitors are plugins like Serum, Massive, and Pigments. Vital brings something new to the table with its subscription model. This means you can get the plugin for free with a limited amount of presets or pay monthly fees to receive new ones. While relatively new, it has already established a strong following, with many professionals swearing by it, including Barely Alive.
- Multiple oscillators.
Vital has three main wavetable oscillators which offer rich sound. They are perfect for all sorts of electronic sounds, from metallic tones to Dubstep basses. There is a wavetable editor, similar to the one inside Serum, that lets you customize the wavetables with complete freedom. You can also drag and drop samples inside the oscillators to create new wavetables, further expanding your sound design palette. Aside from the main oscillators, you get access to a sampler, where you can drag and drop samples to layer inside your patches.
- Spectral and wave morph.
The spectral and wave morph knobs let you alter the wavetable’s sonic identity. You can bend it, twist it, and completely reshape it into new waveforms. It’s an exciting feature to have as a Dubstep producer since, by modulating these knobs, you can create unique bass sounds and leads that constantly morph and evolve. The oscilloscope included in each oscillator will show you exactly who the wavetable is being processed.
- Map any modulator to any parameter.
Almost every parameter inside Vital can be modulated. Thanks to the easy-to-use drag and drop modulation system, Setting up modulation sources feels effortless. You can also modulate your modulators, meaning you can use an LFO to affect the rate of another LFO, creating even more complex patches. Overall, you get four main LFOs and two random LFOs. The two random LFOs can add unpredictability and nuance to your patches when chosen as modulation sources.
- Nine powerful effects.
Vital has a dedicated effects page with nine powerful effect modules. These are set up in a chain, meaning their configuration order will affect the sound. The effects have an excellent sound quality and what stands out is their graphic interface. Each of these effects has its own graphics that provide useful visual information on how they affect the sound. This will be particularly helpful to users who are not familiar yet with effects like flanger, phaser, or distortion.
- Two main filters.
Vital offers two main filter modules in its front panel. They can be routed independently through the oscillator section, where you can choose which oscillator goes through which filter. This provides interesting sound design possibilities. Like in Serum, there’s an extra filter module on the effects page, which will affect the entire sound. The usual controls are included, such as cutoff, resonance, keytrack, and drive.
Vital is available on Windows 10, macOS 10.12 and above, and Ubuntu Linux 18.04 and above in VST, VST3, AU, and LV2 formats.
Vital it’s an excellent wavetable synthesizer that brings something new to the table with its subscription model. It’s is the ideal synth choice for beginners who need an affordable wavetable synthesizer to get started, but also for professionals looking for a fresh approach to synthesis and sound design. It’s perfect for you if you are into modern digital sounds achieved through wavetable synthesis, as heard in Dubstep, EDM, and Chillstep.
5. Valhalla VintageVerb
ValhallaVintageVerb is a reverb plugin that emulates the feel of the legendary Lexicon reverb units.
VintageVerb is a character reverb, meaning that it offers a specific feel and tone to the sounds you apply it to; it’s not your everyday reverb. With 18 different algorithms and three color modes, VintageVerb can achieve anything from gritty, low-fidelity reverb sounds to modern, clean, and spacious long decays. It’s used by many contemporary artists who swear by it, including Eprom, who said, “I use Valhalla VintageVerb on every track.”
- 18 reverb algorithms.
VintageVerb offers an impressive amount of reverb algorithms, 18 to be exact. These include common options like Concert Hall, Chamber, Room, and Plate and unusual choices like Nonlin, Chaotic Chamber, Dirty Hall, and Chaotic Neutral. The algorithms are mostly Lexicon-inspired and can achieve smooth and dense sounds or chaotic and dirty textures.
- Three color modes.
The three-color modes inside VintageVerb set the overall coloration of the reverb. The options are 1970s, 1980s, and Now. The ‘70s option channels low-fidelity tones to achieve the grungy and lo-fi textures of that era, while the ‘80s is slightly cleaner but still fairly dark. The Now mode offers the modern, super clean reverb sound that current electronic music and Dubstep are known for.
- Simple controls.
VintageVerb’s controls are simple and to the point. You get a big decay knob to control the length of the reverb tail, which can be as short as 0.2 seconds to a staggering 70 seconds. There are also predelay, mix, and shape size controls to further shape the tone of your reverb. The damping section helps you roll off high and low frequencies to clean up your reverb sound, while the bass multiplier will multiply the decay time of the reverb on the frequencies you choose with the bass frequency knob. There’s also a diffusion section with early and late knobs to help you set early and late reflections. This is particularly useful for making sounds feel upfront or distant.
- Excellent sound and infinite sonic possibilities.
The thing that makes VintageVerb so sought after in the world of electronic music is its sound. It’s not exactly a subtle reverb plugin, and that’s okay; its strength lies in its ability to generate ear-catching textures. The Lexicon-inspired algorithms build on the original reverb units they draw from, making VintageVerb able to produce various sounds, ranging from dreamy and lush to haunting and obscure. Furthermore, including the color modes in a different menu creates even more sonic possibilities since you can apply them to each of the 18 reverb algorithms.
Valhalla VintageVerb is available on Windows and macOS, 64-bit only, in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
VintageVerb is an excellent reverb plugin for the producer looking for a more emphasized reverb sound. This plugin does not provide a subtle reverb but a reverb full of character and personality. The color modes and reverb algorithms provide infinite sonic capabilities. The simple but effective controls make it easy to set up your ideal reverb sound, which is the most important thing. It means that VintageVerb is perfect for both beginners and professionals since it can produce excellent sound with minimal fiddling and tweaking.
6. FabFilter Pro Q3
FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is a dynamic equalizer by FabFilter, and it’s the third addition in the Pro-Q series.
Known as the most surgical EQ plugin on the market, FabFilter Pro-Q3 is capable of covering all of your EQing needs. Apart from being used by household names like Dodge & Fuski, Feed Me, Eptic, and FuntCase, it has an easy-to-use interface, 24 EQ bands, and features that will make mixing a much easier and faster process.
- Faster mixing.
FabFilter Pro-Q3 is all about ease of use. Mixing can be frustrating and time-consuming, so it’s a big deal when an EQ plugin offers new features that cut your mixing time in half. You can hover your mouse cursor over the parametric display, and a chart will be drawn of the loudest resonant frequencies on your track. These resonant frequencies are the ones that usually cause mixing issues, and Pro-Q3 makes identifying them the easiest task. You can click on the ones causing issues, and they will get their own EQ band so that you can tame them.
- Flexible bands.
There can be up to 24 bands inside Pro-Q3. Numerous shapes are included like lowpass, highpass, bell, notch, low shelf, high shelf, and band pass, all equipped with different slope values. A brick wall slope is available on the low cut and high cut shapes and provides the ultimate attenuation and accuracy for rolling off low and high frequencies. All these shapes and bands make Pro-Q3 an insanely flexible equalizer.
- Dynamic EQ capabilities.
FabFilter Pro-Q3 is a dynamic EQ, meaning that the EQ bands can work similarly to a multiband compressor. This will help you tame harsh frequencies that cause mixing issues at certain parts of your song. By increasing the Dynamic Range knob value, you set the threshold for the dynamic EQ to start working. Then, it will react to your audio in real-time; the EQ band will start working if the audio level passes the threshold. It’s a very powerful mixing feature that all professional mixing engineers look for inside an equalizer.
- Mid/Side and Left/Right processing.
Each individual band inside Pro-Q3 can be split into two: either mid and side or left and right. This provides unparalleled control over your sound since you can emphasize a sound’s stereo information on a certain band while also making sure it’s mono-compatible. The left and right split option can offer some truly great psychoacoustic results.
Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 is available on Windows XP or higher, and MacOS 10.10 or higher, 64-bit only, in VST, VST2, VST3, and AU formats.
Pro-Q3 is the most surgical EQ plugin on the market. It can remove frequencies with insane precision, and its unique features can cut your mixing time in half. You won’t have to spend hours identifying the problematic frequencies in your mix, something extremely useful in genres where multiple tracks are layered to cover the same frequency range, like in Dubstep. Definitely a must-have tool for all mixing enthusiasts.
7. iZotope Neutron 4
iZotope Neutron 4 is a comprehensive mixing tool suite offering various improvements and additions to previous versions.
The plugin features an Assistant View that provides an easy-to-use and intuitive interface for beginners to change a channel’s sound. Additionally, it includes an Unmask module that allows for easy separation of different sounds and an Exciter module that features new distortion signal mashers.
- Reference with Target Library
This allows you to match the sonic characteristics of your mix to a reference track. It comes with a selection of professionally mixed tracks you can choose from or upload your reference tracks. Once a reference track has been selected, the plugin analyzes its spectral balance, dynamics, and other characteristics and suggests adjusting the mix to match the reference more closely.
- Clear muddy mixes
The Unmask module in iZotope Neutron 4 is a powerful tool for separating overlapping sounds in a mix, allowing you to identify and adjust frequencies clashing with each other easily. This feature works by analyzing the audio of all tracks in your mix and then creating a “masking” profile of each track. From there, you can use the Unmask module to adjust the levels of each track, making sure that each sound is heard clearly and without interference from other sounds.
- Clever Harmonic Processing
You can add warmth, grit, and harmonic distortion to your audio by using Trash Mode. It has four different modes, which allow you to customize the type and intensity of distortion applied to your audio. These modes include “Classic,” “Tape,” “Tube,” and “Warm,” each with its distinct character. You can also adjust the amount of distortion using the Drive and Mix controls.
- Punch Mode
You get a Punch Mode in the plugin’s Compressor module, a transient shaping tool that adds impact and clarity to individual tracks and mixes. It works by emphasizing the initial transient of a sound while reducing the sustain or tail.
That can be useful for punching drums, guitars, and other instruments that need to cut through a mix. It has adjustable Attack and Release controls, allowing for fine-tuning of the transient shaping effect. It can also be used with the Compressor’s other settings for more precise control over a track’s dynamics.
- Comprehensive presets
Neutron 4 has various presets to help you start your audio projects. These preset are designed to provide a range of settings for different types of audio sources, such as vocals, drums, guitars, and more. They can save you time and effort by providing a starting point that you can tweak and customize.
While iZotope Neutron 4’s Compressor module has powerful features like Punch Mode and adjustable Attack and Release controls, it also has some cons. Firstly, the plugin can be expensive, making it inaccessible to some of you. Additionally, the interface can be overwhelming for beginners, with many options and controls that may be difficult to understand.
The presets can be a useful starting point, but they may not always provide the desired effect and require further customization. Finally, the plugin can be CPU-intensive, which can be problematic for those with slower computers or limited resources.
10 Best Free Dubstep Plugins 2021
1. Matt Tytel Helm
Helm is a free, open-source synthesizer designed by Matt Tytel.
Helm is a genuinely free software, meaning you can run it anywhere, study its source code, change it, and even redistribute modified copies of it.
- Four oscillators.
Helm includes two main oscillators that come with a wide range of shapes. There’s a mod knob between them so that you can blend them. The knob can be modulated for some extra control. There are also sub and noise oscillators that offer further sound design control. A mixer helps blend all these oscillators together and can also be modulated.
- Powerful dedicated formant filter.
Helm includes a feature that’s not usually found in free synths: a formant filter. The formant filter comes with an X/Y pad to help you visualize the filtering and sounds excellent. It’s particularly useful for creating Dubstep’s signature wobble sounds. You can modulate its parameters through the LFOs provided for some genre-accurate sounds.
- Multiple modulation sources.
Helm includes multiple modulators, like two LFOs, a Poly LFO, amplitude and filter envelopes, a modulation envelope, a step sequencer, and keyboard modulation knobs like aftertouch, note, velocity, random, pitch wheel, and mod wheel. Each of these modulators has the Helm logo included in its interface. By clicking on it, sliders appear underneath each parameter that can be modulated, and by dragging them, you can set up modulation settings. It’s a very easy and clean interface.
- Functional effects.
Helm includes four effects: delay, reverb, distortion, and stutter. All of the effects parameters can be modulated for extra control. The stutter effect is especially eye-catching since it’s not an effect usually featured in software synthesizers. It is excellent for creating glitchy sounds or adding moments of unpredictability to your patches.
Helm is available on GNU/Linux, Mac OSX, and Windows, in LV2, VST, VST3, and AU formats, or as a standalone synthesizer.
Helm is an excellent free synth. The oscillators and effects are great, and its true power lies in features like the stutter effect, formant filter, and modulation system. The fact that it’s genuinely free makes it even more appealing since you can customize it and redistribute it. I’d suggest this plugin to every beginner producer looking to start Dubstep music production.
2. HY-Plugins Hy-Poly Free
Hy-Poly Free is a freeware polyphonic synthesizer by HY-Plugins. HY-Poly Free has a more complex version of the same synth, which is not free.
Hy-Poly Free is a subtractive synthesizer with dual oscillators, dual multi-mode filters, three effects, and an advanced modulation system.
Hy-Poly Free has dual oscillators which let you morph freely between saw and pulse waveshapes. The oscillators are equipped with the usual tuning, panning, and volume controls and have a range of five octaves. There’s also a fun vibrato section that adds character and personality to the oscillators. You also get a noise oscillator and a sub-oscillator for more control over the tone of your sound.
- Advanced modulation system.
The stronger feature of Hy-Poly Free is its advanced modulation system. There are four envelopes, dual LFOs, sample & hold, three sequencers, and expression controls like pressure, velocity, and aftertouch. You set up modulations by clicking the “+” button underneath the parameter you wish to modulate. Once you select the modulator, you can set up the intensity of the modulation. Almost every parameter inside Hy-Poly Free can be modulated, and some of them, like the filter cutoff, can be modulated by multiple sources.
- Sound sculpting effects.
There are three effects to help you color and sculpt your sounds: delay, chorus, and a utility effect. The effects are simple and easy to use. There are also dual multi-mode filters with three modes: low pass, high pass, and bandpass.
Hy-Poly Free is available on Windows and Mac in VST, VST3, and AU formats.
Hy-Poly Free is a simple and effective polyphonic synthesizer. It comes in a simple and clean interface with all the necessary controls and features. This makes it an ideal synthesizer for beginner producers that wish to experiment with subtractive synthesis without blowing their wallets.
3. Analog Obsession BUSTERse
BUSTERse is a freeware bus compressor plugin by Analog Obsession. It’s an emulation of the iconic SSL G master bus compressor.
There are plenty SSL compressor emulator plugins out there, and they all offer the same controls for the most part. BUSTERse manages to stand out due to a few unique features, excellent sound, and its nonexistent price tag.
- Main controls.
The main compressor section comes with all the controls you are used to seeing in a compressor. There is an attack knob with 0.1, 0.3, 1, 3, 10, and 30 ms values and a release knob with 0.1, 0.3, 0.6, and 1.2 seconds values. There’s also an auto value, just like on the original SSL. Threshold, ratio, dry/wet, and make-up gain control complete the compressor controls. There’s also a handy meter to help you monitor the compression.
- Sidechain section.
BUSTERse includes a very useful and comprehensive sidechain section, which lets you accurately select the frequency range of the incoming signal. This is particularly useful if you are compressing a drum bus and don’t want the kick to trigger the compressor. The sidechain section will let you bypass the low frequencies to push the threshold much harder and get a different compression tone. You get HPF, MID, and HF controls to accurately filter out frequencies.
- Control section.
The control section includes some fun additional features that set BUSTERse apart from other SSL emulations. The TURBO control will help the compressor affect the whole signal range when enabled; otherwise, it will focus on the mid frequencies. The XFORMER will engage the emulated transformer circuit when enabled. This circuit affects the compressor’s impedance, tonal character, and overall sound. The MAIN button is an ON/OFF control, and the Analog Obsession logo will turn red when oversampling is engaged.
BUSTERse is available on Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 – 11. X, in VST, VST3, and AU formats.
BUSTERse is an excellent bus compressor. The amount of control you have over the compression process, courtesy of the sidechain and control sections, is insane, especially considering this plugin is free. It’s a must-have mixing tool for all producers, beginners, or experienced.
4. ViatorDSP Marauder
Marauder is a free bit crusher distortion plugin. It can totally destroy your audio or subtly reduce its bit rate.
Bit crush distortion reduces the sample rate of incoming audio to achieve noisy and low-fidelity sounds. This effect is particularly useful in lofi music, but also Dubstep. Use it to create crushed lead sounds, plucks, or interesting textures and ambiances.
- Intuitive controls.
Marauder has a simple interface with a few intuitive controls to help you stay in control. The main resample knob lowers the sampling rate of the bit crusher circuit, while the bit depth knob lets you select between 6-16 bits to change the audio resolution. The noise knob is a volume control for a pink noise circuit that affects the tone of the distortion; more noise means more crushing tones and harsh distortion. There’s also a mix knob for parallel processing and a filter to cut out the low end of the incoming signal, which results in a cleaner top end.
- Creative Modes.
The jitter mode is a creative and fun addition in Marauder. It’s a special algorithm that changes the accuracy of the up sampling and down sampling set by the resample control. It affects the tone of the entire distortion effect, and it’s a cool option to have. The phase control will invert the phase of the entire plugin when enabled, and the reset control will revert to the default setup of the plugin.
Finally, a drive fader pushes the input signal harder into the bit crusher circuit. This results in a clipping effect that’s particularly useful for Dubstep and Bass music production.
Marauder is available on Windows 10 and macOS in VST3 format.
Marauder is a strong bit crusher effect plugin. The jitter and drive controls are particularly eye-catching and make this more than just another bit crusher. It’s an excellent choice for lofi and Dubstep production.
5. Giant Verb
Giant Verb is a freeware reverb effect plugin designed by Digital Systemic Emulations.
Giant Verb is designed to run on low CPU usage, meaning it’s perfect for machines with low specs. It’s also an analog-inspired reverb effect since it offers the option to overdrive the input signal to warm up the sound.
- Long, lush sound.
Giant Verb is called giant for a reason; its feedback control can be dialed up to 100%, meaning it can create decays with infinite time. The overall aesthetic of the plugin is sound over technical stuff, so expect long, lush reverbs that fill all spaces. Subtlety is not the endgame here.
- Analog-inspired sound.
Giant Verb offers an input control that can be overdriven. Dial it up to drive the incoming signal and achieve warm, analog tones. It’s an excellent feature that adds a lot of character to this simple reverb plugin.
- Reverb modulation.
Another exciting feature is the inclusion of modulation controls, which open up a world of sound design possibilities. They are speed and modulation controls to finely tune your modulation sound, and a shape control for even more accuracy. When applied to long decays, the modulation achieves eerie effects and can simulate irregular spaces, like caverns and cavernous halls.
- Low CPU.
Giant Verb is an amazing choice for all creatives, regardless of equipment. It is designed to run smoothly even on the lowest spec computer.
Giant Verb is available on Windows and macOS 10.7 or higher in VST2 and AU formats.
Giant Verb is an exciting reverb plugin. It’s full of character and perfect for unique applications. I think it’s a great tool to have if you are interested in creating long and evolving reverb tones or if you need a tool that won’t compromise quality for low CPU usage.
6. Xfer OTT
OTT is a multi-band compression tool by Xfer. Its characteristic sound has helped evolve and influence the character of many EDM genres, including Dubstep.
OTT is based on a famous Ableton Live multiband compressor preset that bears the same name. It stands for over-the-top compression and blends upwards and downwards compression to create a unique effect. One of its characteristics is the crisp top end it offers.
- Easy-to-use interface.
OTT comes in a slick interface that’s very easy to use. Being a multiband compressor, the three frequency bands are in the center of OTT’s interface. You get low, mid, and high bands which you can adjust to create your ideal tone. The other main knobs are depth (which acts as the amount), time (attack and release packed in one knob), input gain, and output gain. Adjusting the depth knob is a crucial part of OTT’s workflow since it can offer quite drastic and intense results. The high-frequency band is something I always keep my eye on since OTT tends to exaggerate the top end of the sound it’s processing.
- Upwards and downwards compression blend.
The last controls inside OTT are the upward and downward knobs. These apply upwards and downwards compression. Downwards compression is compression in its traditional form; loud peaks are being turned down so that the dynamic range reduces for a more consistent level. Upwards compression is the complete opposite and can result in much louder sounds. The ability to blend these two styles of compression is what offers the unique and signature OTT sound.
OTT is available on Windows and macOS in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
OTT is one of the most used and famous effects in the electronic music production community. It can provide a crisp top end to any sound and bring elements of the mix to the forefront. It’s also a great tool to use on pretty much any kind of sound, from vocals and leads to basses and drums, or even the master channel. It’s especially useful in genres that require extravagant sound design, like Dubstep. A great tool to have.
7. CamelPhat Crusher
Camel Crusher is a free distortion plugin by CamelPhat. It became popular during the rise of EDM in the early 2010s, mostly because of its simple design and cutting-edge sound.
The plugin is considered a staple distortion effect in EDM production, and it’s particularly useful for genres requiring hard-hitting sounds and heavily distorted leads, like Dubstep. It comes in a simple interface split into five sections.
- Distortion and compressor.
Camel Crusher is split into five sections, the first two being distortion and compressor. The distortion offers two knobs, one for mechanical distortion and one for tube distortion. You can run both of them simultaneously to get the signature Camel Crusher sound. The compressor is a simple compression effect with an amount knob that subtly affects the sound. The second control is a button that activates Phat mode. This is where things can get out of control since the Phat mode offers a bold, in-your-face boost that amplifies the compression.
- Filter and master.
The next sections are filter, where you can set the cutoff and resonance of a low pass filter to eliminate harshness from the high frequencies, and master, where you can control the output level and do parallel processing. The filter is useful for cleaning your top end but can also add bite and aggressiveness when dialing up the resonance control.
- Patch and randomize.
The fifth and final section is the patch section. This is where the preset menu is located. The presets are quite extensive and cover various applications, perfectly showcasing Camel Crusher’s range. There is a randomize button included which will randomize all controls inside the plugin. It’s useful if you are unsure how to process your sound and you need to hear it processed in various random ways.
- Low CPU.
Camel Crusher was created a long time ago, which means it can run smoothly on most computers. Most of us use machines with much higher specs than what was available when Camel Crusher was released, so it can become an easy to load, all-around saturation and distortion plugin for all producers.
Camel Crusher is available on Windows and macOS in VST and AU formats.
Camel Crusher is an excellent distortion and saturation plugin. It’s been around for a long time, and it still attracts many new users year after year, which is a testament to its durability and functionality. The randomize feature is a great touch, and the distortion, filter, and master controls are simple and easy to use—a great first distortion plugin for all new producers.
8. SuperflyDSP Flying Delay
Flying Delay is a free analog-inspired echo plugin by SuperflyDSP. It allows you to periodically repeat the signal like an echo and can run from 50ms up to 5 seconds.
Plugin can run in stereo and include ping pong delay mode. Due to its ability to run as low as 50 ms, it can emulate a reverb, making it perfect for all sounds.
- Simple controls.
Feel free to adjust decay time, delay time, dry and wet values, and host synchronization.
- Color the sound.
Flying Delay includes a tape slider that adds coloration and saturation to the incoming signal to emulate vintage analog tape effects. The tape slider comes in clean mode and dirty mode for some further control over the saturation tone.
There’s also a built-in filter which is perfect for getting rid of unnecessary frequencies from your wet signal. The filter is dual-mode and runs as a high pass and a low pass filter. They can run simultaneously, which is a welcomed feature.
- Easy to work with.
Flying Delay has very few controls, as you can see. This, in combination with the simple graphic interface, results in a plugin that’s easy to learn and will go easy on your CPU. It’s also capable of running in true mono, which will further reduce CPU usage by 50%.
Flying Delay is available on Windows, Linux, and macOS, in VST3 and AU formats.
Flying Delay is a solid analog delay and tape echo plugin. It has a concise interface with the bare minimum of controls and parameters. This means that the sonic sculpting possibilities are limited, but the excellent sound, low CPU usage, and nonexistent price tag make it a worthy tape echo plugin. If you are a fan of vintage tape echo machines, make sure to check Flying Delay out.
9. Analog Obsession HLQSE
HLQSE is a vintage equalizer plugin by Analog Obsession. It’s modeled after the iconic Helios Type 69 style EQ and features an interface reminiscent of the original.
It’s an excellent EQ to use while mixing since it can provide clean boost on your bass frequencies, ideal for Dubstep and Bass music.
- Five frequency bands.
HLSQE has five different bands that let you cut and boost frequencies with immaculate control. They all come with pre-set frequency values, and the sound is rich and pleasing when you boost one of the five bands. You can boost up to 15 dB and cut up to -6 dB. The cut knobs are available on the low 50 Hz band and the high 10k Hz band.
- Excellent sound.
The best thing about HLSQE is its excellent sound. It achieves accurate analog sound by emulating the Type 69 vintage equalizer. The cuts feel clean and clinical while boosting feels smooth and rich.
HLSQE is available on Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 – 11. X in VST and AU formats.
HLSQE is a great equalizer for anyone interested in vintage effect emulation plugins or accurate analog-sounding plugins. The boost knobs offer pleasing musical sound, and the simple interface makes sure you’ll instantly be on the right track.
10. Cymatics Diablo Lite
Diablo Lite is a drum enhancer effect plugin by Cymatics. It aims to make your drums and 808s cut through the mix and hit harder.
Diablo Lite processes the incoming signal in two different ways to get this effect. It uses a transient shaper to emphasize the attack of the drums and a clipper to saturate them.
- Transient shaper.
Diablo Lite’s interface has two main knobs: punch and clip. The punch knob works as a transient shaper. When you dial it up, the transients of the drums will be accentuated. This is extremely useful if your drums feel lost in the mix or if you are using soft drum samples or breaks that are soft and need some more attack to cut through the mix.
The second knob inside Diablo Lite is called clip, which works as a soft and hard clipper. It will saturate your sounds and add harmonic frequencies for a warmer and richer tone. You can be subtle with this clipper or crank it up on hard mode to crush your drums.
- Utility controls.
You also get some utility controls, like input, output, and mix knobs. Increasing the input value will drive the incoming signal even harder and achieve pleasing distortion. The mix knob is a great addition for parallel processing, and the output is necessary to keep your signal in control. There are also handy in and out volume meters for visual feedback.
Diablo Lite is available on Windows and macOS in VST, VST3, and AU formats.
Diablo Lite is a reliable mixing tool to have. It’s hard to fault it since it does perfectly what it aims to do. Dubstep requires hard-hitting drums, so a tool like this will be useful to all Dubstep producers.
1. Native Instruments Massive
Massive is an iconic wavetable synthesizer designed by Native Instruments. It has been influential in the evolution of Dubstep and Bass music and popularized wavetable synthesis, therefore paving the way for modern synths like Serum, Vital, and Pigments.
Massive has established a big following over the years, and it’s considered a staple in Bass music and Dubstep production, with many professionals using it, like Zeds Dead, SKisM, 12th Planet, Eptic, Oolacile, The Chainsmokers, Bassnectar, Datsik, Skream, Caspa, Chase & Status, and more.
- Powerful Oscillators.
Massive has three wavetable oscillators, with wavetables organized in categories inside a well-thought-out menu. Multiple wavetables are included that range from simple waves to sophisticated vocal effects, metallic noises, and textures. Inside the oscillator panels, you can find the classic controls to control pitch and fine-tune, pulse modulation, and volume. You also get the iconic Massive wavetable modulation menu, through which the wavetables can be twisted, bent, and modified in many ways. You can select between spectrum, formant, and three different bend modes, and through the intensity knob, set the amount you wish to modify the wavetable. There is also an additional noise oscillator with multiple noise type choices and can be blended with volume controls with the wavetable oscillators. Finally, there’s a modulation oscillator, which is a sine wave oscillator running at audible frequencies. The difference with this oscillator is that it can’t be added to the mix, but it’s meant to modulate the other oscillators. You can assign it to other oscillators to achieve FM or ring modulation or even assign it to the filters.
- Routing system.
Massive is a semi-modular synthesizer, meaning its default signal flow can be altered and re-configured. This is done through the interactive flow diagram and crossfaders that send the signal to different destinations. For example, each oscillator has a fader through which you can send the signal to two filters. You can blend between the two filters for even more control, which is where Massive’s beauty lies. Additionally, you can assign envelopes and LFOs to these crossfaders for even more impressive results.
- Drag and drop modulation system.
Massive popularized the drag and drop modulation system, a common feature in most modern wavetable synths. Each parameter that can be modulated has small square slots underneath it. The idea is that you can assign LFOs, envelopes, step sequencers, and controllers to empty slots by dragging and dropping them. You then have to drag up or down to set the modulation amount. It’s a very easy and intuitive system that rewards experimentation since you can quickly set up complex and unconventional modulation settings. Overall, there are four envelopes, four LFOs, eight macros, and performance controls like keytrack and velocity. Finally, the modulation system is color-coded to make things even easier, with envelopes being blue, LFOs green, and macros yellow. Once you assign a modulator to a target, a colored circle will appear to help you keep track of all modulations.
- Two filters.
The two filters include various modes, including two and four-pole lowpass and highpass, all pass, bandpass, double notch, band reject, scream, daft, and comb. Some of these modes come with unique controls, like the scream control inside scream mode, which sets the frequency of driven resonant feedback. The overall sound of the filters is warm and pleasing, with the resonance adding bite and aggressiveness, creating the signature wobble and grungy sounds Massive is famous for.
- Creative effects.
You can add two insert effects at any point in the signal path, either shaping the sound or totally transforming and destroying it. The effects include options like sample & hold, additional filters, bit crusher, sine, and parabolic shapers, and ring modulation, among others. You can choose where in the signal path to place them through the routing page. While only two instances can run simultaneously, the effects are powerful and inspiring.
Massive is available on Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.15, 11, or 12, 64-bit only, in VST, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.
Massive is a staple of Dubstep and Bass music production. It has helped evolve and inspire the sound of modern Bass music, and it’s still a powerful synth to own. The oscillators sound great, the modulation system is easy to use, and the effects are simple and effective. If you are a beginner, these are all enough to get you started, but if you are a professional, you can push Massive even further, with its complex routing system that lets you customize the signal path—a trusty powerhouse of a synth to have.
2. Xfer LFO Tool
LFO Tool is a plugin by Xfer, and it’s an LFO processor effect unit. It’s can be useful in a variety of different scenarios, both mixing and creative ones.
The plugin comes with multiple LFOs that control volume, filter, and panning. It’s been widely used as a sidechain processor over the years, mostly due to its ability to control volume. As we’ll explore later on, though, it is capable of much more than just that.
- 12 LFOs.
LFO tool is equipped with 12 independent LFOs that can be fully edited and customized. The shape of each LFO can be edited by double-clicking on it and adding points to create custom shapes. Furthermore, you can assign each LFO to volume, filter cutoff, filter resonance, and panning, and you also get a depth control to adjust the maximum range of the LFO. The LFOs include controls for rate, swing, phase, smooth, and PWM. You can sync LFO tool to your host DAW in order to set it to dotted or triplet notes. Finally, the swing control adds a nice humanized feel to your LFO timing.
- Powerful filter.
Since LFO tool is designed by Xfer, the filter inside included is the same as Serum’s powerful filter, meaning you get all the wonky and sophisticated filter modes that Serum is famous for. There are classic options like low cut, high cut, and bandpass, but also inspiring choices like flange filters, formant, ring, and sample and hold. The filter is versatile and sounds excellent, and the resonance offers a very pleasing bite to the sound when pushed hard.
- MIDI section.
The MIDI section is where the LFO tool takes is own path, since it sets it apart from other similar plugins. Here, you can set the MIDI note parameter to ON and have the LFOs retrigger or map the velocity to the PWM. Some other things you can do is map the pitch of the incoming sound to the LFO rate for some expressive and unique results or transform filter cutoff values to MIDI CC data. This will allow you to record complex LFO shapes in MIDI tracks.
- Excellent creative tool.
The best thing about LFO tool is the excitement it can add to a sequence of sounds. It can be used as an auto panner, wah filter, or sidechain control, all at the same time. The MIDI section also offers exciting options to creatively route signals inside the LFO tool and get even more creative results.
LFO tool is available on Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.5 or higher in VST and AU formats.
LFO tool is a great plugin that can solve mixing issues or provide creative solutions to your sound design or arrangement process. Dubstep producers will find it useful during the arrangement process or even for sound design. I would recommend it to advanced or intermediate producers who are already familiar with their DAW and its audio effects but need a new tool to solve recurring problems or a creative tool to inspire new ideas.
3. Schaack Audio Transient Shaper 2
Transient Shaper 2 is a transient shaper tool by Schaack Audio. It uses compression and gate effect elements to achieve sharp, punchy, or dull and sustained sounds.
Transient Shaper 2 can achieve loud and punchy drums, but also other creative results, like shortening the decay of reverb on a sample or extending the tail of a hi-hat. It’s an excellent mixing tool to have. Some of the industry’s finest mixing engineers use it, and KOAN Sound said, “Transient Shaper plug-in can be a useful tool to make drums really punchy.”
- Attack and Release controls.
At the heart of Transient Shaper 2 are the attack and release knobs. They each have three different shapes, which offer more control over the sound. The attack knob will bring out the transient of the incoming signal when dialed up and has a tendency to boost the overall volume of the sound. The release knob will achieve heavy compression on slow times, while on faster times will achieve gating effects. Using both of these knobs, instead of just a single transient knob like on most similar plugins, gives you unparalleled control over the mixing process.
Transient Shaper 2 has a built-in saturator. Dial-up the drive knob to achieve pleasing, warm tones. The harmonics added are musical and work in harmony with the attack and release knobs, meaning the more you push these knobs, the more the tone of the saturator will change. The saturator also tends to smooth high transients generated on extremely high attack values, which offers an ever more pleasing sound.
- Excellent interface.
The interface has two VU meters so that you can keep track of your levels during the transient shaping process. There’s also a useful gain knob for when things get out of control and a bypass switch. The interface can be resized and minimized, and its simplicity means that it will always run on a low CPU usage.
Transient Shaper 2 is available on Windows XP or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher in VST and AU formats.
Transient Shaper 2 is probably the most surgical transient shaper effect out there. The control you have over the transients of your audio is unparalleled, and the built-in saturator is an excellent addition; a great tool for advanced mixing engineers or producers who feel ready to level up their mixing process.
4. Newfangled Audio Saturate
Saturate is a spectral clipper and psychoacoustic overdrive plugin by Newfangled Audio. It aims to help you saturate and drive your signal without losing fine detail no matter how hard you push it.
Saturate uses Spectral Clipper technology, which helps preserve the fine details of the incoming sound. This feature sets it apart from other clippers and saturators, as we’ll explore later on.
- Unique Spectral Clipper technology.
The Spectral Clipper technology inside Saturate ensures that no fine details are lost during saturation, which would result in muddy or tubby sounds. To explain what this means, we need to establish a few terms and audio fundamentals. Any audio signal can be broken down into a number of sine waves. Many saturation and distortions plugins tend to remove or lose clarity on the high and mid frequencies while overdriving the signal. This is because the low frequencies, which are higher in amplitude, are overly emphasized and take the place of the higher frequencies, leading to muddy sounds. The Spectral Clipper inside Saturate adds back these higher frequencies, which contain fine details without altering the saturation character.
- Ideal for mixing and mastering.
Saturate can be used on single tracks for creative mixing effects and over-the-top saturation. It can also achieve subtle and pleasing saturation, making it a great mastering tool. The high-quality input and output metering that shows both peak and RMS levels further establish Saturate as a great mastering tool.
Saturate is available on Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, 64-bit only, in VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU formats.
Saturate is a high-quality saturator and spectral clipper. It helps maintain your sound’s finest details that would normally be lost during the overdrive process. The metering included showing peak and RMS levels, making it ideal for mastering, and it’s capable of subtle and pleasing saturation or over-the-top overdrive.
Dubstep is all about cutting-edge sounds and extravagant sound design. It’s the genre that encapsulates the biggest advancement electronic music has made in the 21st century: sound design.
Whether you need more growl and wobble sounds, deep basses, hard-hitting drums, crushed leads, or abstract and ethereal textures, this list will help you find the right plugin for your music productions.
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.