If you are cruising the plugin market looking for the best spectrum analyzer, then this article has got you covered up. Firstly, you have to understand what exactly you need a spectrum analyzer for. Almost all spectrum analyzers function in the same way.
In a nutshell, here are the best spectrum analyzer plugins (free & paid) in 2022:
Spectrum analyzers are tools that provide a user with detailed information about the sounds by dividing the frequency spectrum to show the range of frequencies. The horizontal (x) axis corresponds to the frequency, and the vertical (y) axis corresponds to the amplitude of the frequencies.
The frequencies displayed on a spectrum analyzer are normally from 20Hz to 20kHz, which is the range that can be heard by a human ear.
What Is The Purpose Of The Spectrum analyzer?
Spectrum analyzers are very useful to check the overall frequency balance of the mix or when comparing certain parts of a mix. This makes it especially useful when mixing using lower-quality monitors or in a non-treated (acoustically) room which can lead to an accidentally unbalanced mix.
What is the difference between a Signal Analyzer And Spectrum analyzer?
Both signal and spectrum analyzers have the same function. The only difference is that signal analyzers have digital signal processing (DSP) in order for it to solve functions like fast Fourier Transform (FFT). Signal analyzers can also have very high bandwidths.
What Is The Difference Between an Oscilloscope and a Spectrum Analyzer?
Oscilloscopes are normally used to find the time delay between two signals. On the other hand, spectrum analyzers are used to display and edit the frequency properties of a signal.
The difference between an oscilloscope and a spectrum analyzer is that the graph displayed in an oscilloscope is a graph of the signal against time. In contrast, the displayed graph in a spectrum analyzer is of the signal against frequency.
The figure above shows an example of an output waveform in an oscilloscope, showing a square wave in a time domain.
The figure above shows an example of an output waveform of a spectrum analyzer showing a graph of amplitude (in dB) against frequency (Hz).
What Is Reference Level In Spectrum analyzer?
The reference level is the maximum level of amplitude that can be displayed. For example, if we have the highest peak in volume of our signal at 20 dB and we set the reference level at 15 dB, then half of the waveform of that peak will be cut off.
The 6 Best Spectrum Analyzer VST Plugins 2022
1. Voxengo SPAN
Voxengo SPAN is one of the most popular and widely used spectrum analysis plugins that you can find. It is a FREE plugin that manages to compete shoulder to shoulder with industry giants.
SPAN has an extremely flexible system that allows you to set up spectrum analyzer preferences. You can specify the Fourier block size in samples, set the percentage for the FFT window overlap, and specify the spectrum’s visual slope. In addition to that, Voxengo SPAN supports multi-channel display in both real-time and all-time maximums.
- Voxengo SPAN has a real-time FFT spectrum analyzer
- Phase correlation meter that enables you to detect phase cancellations
- Colorful interface with interchangeable colors
- You can listen to a specific frequency through a bandpass filter
- K-level metering to prevent extreme loudness
- Notes can be viewed as semitones and cents, which is not a common feature among many other paid spectrum analyzers
- GUI is scalable, and you can zoom in into the spectrum to view specific ranges in detail
Voxengo has also released an extended version of the SPAN, and it’s called SPAN Plus. On top of the features mentioned, SPAN Plus has many additional features like spectrum export into a PNG image, static spectrums display, and real-time spectrum import/export for comparisons between two tracks.
Voxengo SPAN and SPAN Plus require Windows XP or higher for PC and macOS 10.11 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/AU/AAX formats and supports both 32 and 64 bit systems for Windows but only 64-bits for macOS.
Overall, Voxengo SPAN comes as a surprise to you due to its incredibly high quality and because it’s a free tool which is very rare. This makes the Voxengo SPAN a viral spectrum analyzer plugin that is used in many professional studios by engineers. We have seen very little to no flaws in this plugin, and we highly recommend that you check it out and judge for yourself.
2. iZotope Insight 2
Much like most of the plugins developed by iZotope, Insight 2 is another standout spectrum analyzer plugin that provides you with all the tools required to have an in-depth vision of the track frequency range.
iZotope Insight 2 is an upgrade to the original iZotope Insight spectrum analyzer. Insight is made up of 5 modules that can all be opened in one resizable window. These 5 modules are:
- Spectrogram – this displays the frequency and amplitude distribution for the signal as a function of time.
- Sound Field – this displays the sound signal position, and you can choose between mono, stereo, and surround viewing modes. Mono/stereo mode is a Vectorscope. Vectorscope has three further analysis modes i.e., Polar sample, which shows each sample separately as dots, Polar level, which displays the average levels of the samples; and Lissajous Vectorscope, which displays a plot of the samples on an oscilloscope. Surround mode is a Surround sound view.
- Spectrum Analyzer – displays a graph of frequency against amplitude. You can zoom in over an area of interest by using the mouse wheel or by dragging a box over the area. Different spectrum types like Full and 1/3 Octave or Critical bands can be selected for a better understanding of the graph.
- Level Meters – this consists of a Balance Meter and a Correlation meter. The Balance Meter sums up the left and right channels and displays their stereo location. The correlation Meter is responsible for detecting phase cancellation as it shows the similarity level between two channels.
- Loudness History Graph – this shows a graph of short-term, Momentary Max, and Integrated loudness levels against time. Target level violations appear in red, and the graph itself can be exported in multiple formats like image, CSV, etc. for later inspection.
Insight 2 provides the same functions as the original functions with the addition of a few extra features for better controllability and efficiency. These new features are listed below.
- Intelligibility meter which tells you which frequencies are being overshadowed by the rest of the mix
- iZotope Relay which allows you to route tracks to iZotope Insight 2 for instant inspection
- Insight 2 supports multi-channel audio
- Resizable windows
- Resizable meters
iZotope Insight 2 requires Windows 7 or higher for PC and OS X 10.9.5 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats and only supports 64-bit systems.
iZotope Insight 2 is considered an industry-standard spectrum analyzer by many producers and engineers. It is less expensive than the original Insight plugin but is still a relatively expensive spectrum analyzer plugin.
3. Schulz Audio Spectrum 2
Schulz Audio Spectrum 2 is a highly versatile and easy-to-use multi-channel spectrum analyzer that offers you a ton of interesting features and capabilities.
Spectrum 2 hopes to aid you in finding clashing frequencies and edit them for a cleaner mix. This is a multi-channel plugin which means that it can display frequencies from multiple channels at the same time. The plugin also implements a “Zero Routing” technology which allows the signals to overlap each other when displaying more than one channel.
- Schulz Audio Spectrum 2 is lightweight and designed to have smooth graphics
- Zero routing technology to overlap frequencies when viewing multiple channels
- You can choose colors for each of the displayed spectrums to allow for clearer viewing
- Instances or a range of frequencies can be renamed
- You get 2 displaying mode options -- spectrogram and spectrograph
- Adjustable Block/Window size ranging from 2k to 16k
- Adjustable refresh rate ranging from 40ms to 200ms
- You can view frequencies in Hz or as musical notes
Schulz Audio Spectrum 2 requires Windows Vista or higher for PC and OS X 10.7 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats and supports both 32 and 64 bit systems.
Overall, the Spectrum 2 by Schulz Audio is another exciting spectrum analyzer plugin. Its most interesting feature is that it allows you to analyze multiple tracks for a single effect which is added to the master channel and is applied to all channels. Its smooth graphics, CPU-friendly design, as well as lower price makes it a desirable spectrum analyzer for many producers and engineers.
4. MeldaProduction MMultiAnalyzer
MeldaProduction is well-known for its high-quality, high-value plugins that offer professional tools for a reasonable price. The MMultiAnalyzer continues to maintain the company’s reputation and is one of the best spectrum analyzers you can get.
MMultiAnalyzer is a spectacular multi-track analyzer that enables you to view frequency collisions on a colorful sonogram for you to easily regulate audio inconsistency and frequency collisions.
- Advanced edit mode which enables in-depth manipulation with controls including reharmonization, normalization, and super-resolution
- MMultiAnalyzer has one of the most advanced interfaces on the market. The interface’s color scheme can be changed. It is resizable and is GPU accelerated, which ensures smooth performances
- The visualization engine offered in this plugin is distinctive and has classic meters and time graphs
- Automatic Gain Compensation (AGC) feature which helps maintain the track’s overall output volume
- MMultiAnalyzer comes equipped with a safety limiter to prevent harsh transients from causing damage to the ear
- This plugin has 4 multi parameters for multiple channel spectrum display, with each parameter offering a different viewing mode like overlapped, side-by-side, etc
- Highly versatile modulators for better control
- After purchase, you will get free-for-life updates
MMultiAnalyzer is compatible with Windows Vista or higher for PC and OS X 10.7 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats and supports both 32 and 64 bit systems.
The MMultiAnalyzer by MeldaProduction is a highly recommended spectrum analyzer plugin and for obvious reasons. Its colorful display, as well as in-depth functionality, allows for easier and more efficient frequency display and control. In addition to that, it comes at a fairly reasonable price, just like most of MeldaProduction’s plugins.
5. Sugar Audio Oscarizor 2D/3D Multi-Channel Spectrum Analyzer (Free/Paid)
Another company that introduces a fantastic spectrum analyzer plugin to the market is Oscarizor with their 2D/3D Multi-Channel Spectrum Analyzer plugin.
The plugin itself is no different than others mentioned on this list in terms of workflow. However, this plugin is one of the few plugins that allow you to display a frequency spectrum in 3D. In addition to that, the 2D/3D Multi-Channel Spectrum Analyzer packs an incredible set of features that we will discuss.
- You can choose to view the spectrum in either 2D or 3D formats, which is a rare feature among spectrum analyzers
- DAW host synchronization is useful for you to compare waveforms exactly
- This plugin makes use of side-chaining and send/receive channels to display parallel waveforms and to allow for spectrum comparisons
- This plugin has an impressive instrument tuner that automatically sets the block size for the FFT spectrum
- You can view up to 10 channels at the same time
- The user interface is totally resizable to fit all screens and DAW displays
- You can zoom in using the mouse wheel to view specific frequency ranges
- The spectrum itself can be freely rotated in 360 degrees in all axes
- 3 view modes, i.e., mixed mono, stereo, and M/S
- The 2D/3D Multi-Channel Spectrum Analyzer has a big library of factory presets and a presets manager to load and save presets quickly
Oscarizor 2D/3D Multi-Channel Spectrum Analyzer is compatible with Windows 7 or higher for PC and OS X 10.7 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats and supports only 64-bit systems. This plugin has a limited free version that does not have a 3D view, multichannel display, FFT customization, and some more controls.
Much like the MMultiAnalyzer by MeldaProducation, the Oscarizor 2D/3D Multi-Channel Spectrum Analyzer is a spectacular spectrum analyzer plugin with many unique features that make it a standout among the rest of the spectrum analyzer plugins found in the market. Furthermore, the fact that it comes at a relatively more affordable price, as well as a free version, makes it available for a wider range of users.
6. NuGen Visualizer
NuGen may not be a household name in the plugin market. However, it has been gaining a little bit of traction over recent years due to their consistently high-quality products.
The NuGen Visualizer is as capable as some of the more well-known spectrum plugins. It provides you with powerful tools and features to analyze the audio frequency and improve the workflow. Moreover, NuGen Visualizer enables you to recreate optimum mix settings and reduce frequency-repeated errors.
- NuGen Visualizer has a single-screen interface for you to view the audio frequency spectrum. This interface is resizable, which makes it flexible to use with multiple screens and DAWs. Additionally, you can customize the display for different viewing modes, all with the click of a button
- Impressive comparison mode that allows you to display frequency spectrums from two separate audio channels in different ways for comparison. You can choose to view the audio tracks either overlapping each other, in a differential display, or side by side
- NuGen Visualizer has several level meters like RMS, Peak, K12, and many more
- Provides you with 9 different analysis tools for the frequency spectrum. These tools include a spectrogram, a stereo spectrogram, FFT Spectrum analysis, stereo spectrum analysis, stereoscope, vectorscope, stereo bias meter, stats, and parameter module, and a correlation meter
NuGen Visualizer is compatible with Windows XP or higher for PC and OS X 10.6 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/AU/AAX formats and supports both 32 and 64 bit systems.
Overall, the Visualizer tool by NuGen is an incredibly powerful tool with an attractive, controllable interface that can handle a wide range of audio-related duties. It comes at a relatively higher price when compared to plugins of its caliber, but its versatility and features justify its price point.
FabFilter Pro-Q 3
Despite being designed specifically as an equalizer tool, Fabfilter Pro-Q3 has one of the most powerful spectrum analyzers.
This plugin is by far one of the most popular EQs and spectrum analyzers in the market. You have so much control over the spectrum as it is designed to be an equalizer first. However, this plugin manages to display the frequency spectrum in a way that is so similar to the dedicated spectrum analyzer plugins mentioned in this article.
The spectrum analyzer in the Pro-Q3 is customizable and offers multiple viewing modes.
- The pre and post buttons that are seen on the top left corner in the image above are used to show the audio spectrum before and after applying EQ
- To view the overall spectrum, you can switch on the external spectrum from the button as shown above
- Freeze button at the bottom left of the panel shown above. This causes the spectrum to build up a maximum over a period of time by stopping it from falling or moving out
- Fabfilter Pro-Q3 supports for huge vertical range (up to 120 dB), which can be set manually for better viewing
- A resolution setting to control the precision of the spectrum analyzer
Fabfilter Pro-Q3 is compatible with Windows 7 or higher for PC and OS X 10.8 or higher for Mac. It comes in VST/VST3/AU/AAX formats and supports both 32/64 bit systems for PC and only 64-bits for Mac.
Fabfilter Pro-Q3 is a vital EQ for any producer and engineer. Its in-depth control over sound makes this plugin an irreplaceable one when it comes to the equalizer market. Its ability to display the frequency spectrum in a detailed and controllable way has earned it an honorable mention in this article.
It obviously comes at a higher price, but the fact that it is more than an EQ really justifies that.
What Is The Best Software Spectrum Analyzer?
If you are cruising the plugin market looking for the best spectrum analyzer, then this article has got you covered up. Firstly, you have to understand what exactly you need a spectrum analyzer for. Almost all spectrum analyzers function in the same way. Plugins mentioned on this list differ only in terms of additional features as well as price.
Oftentimes, you may find yourself not needing the extra “cool” features that many of these plugins offer. Thankfully, most of these plugins have a free trial for you to try them out and figure out what you need. If you ask us, we highly recommend getting the Voxengo SPAN since this plugin offers what every other spectrum analyzer offers, and it is totally FREE.
Gather round for the top 7 channel strip plugins of 2022! We’ll explore faithful emulations and innovative technologies, as well as free plugins and a bonus surprise.
Channel Strip plugins help in-the-box mix engineers give a cohesive sound to recordings that may come from several sources. And while some recreate the sound and experience of tweaking the knobs of famous consoles, others peek into the future of recording and mixing.
In a nutshell, here are the best channel strip plugins in 2022:
Why do I Need Channel Strip Plugins? Are They Worth It?
You need Channel Strip plugins to simulate how you would process audio on an analog desk while recording. They’re worth it because they offer several processors such as gate/expander, compressor, EQ, de-esser, etc., reducing the need for more plugins later. In short, they help you give a cohesive, pre-mixed feel to your track.
After you achieve a great sound with a channel strip plugin, you can print your multitracks and start the mixing process. Channel Strips can also be used in bus tracks or even for mastering. Some plugins have a distinct sound that can add incredible flavor to your productions.
Now that we know the importance of a good Channel Strip plugin to your in-the-box workflow, let’s dig in!
1. Brainworx bx_console AMEK 9099
The AMEK 9099 is a fantastic mixer based on the highly versatile Amek 9098i. With a limiter, equalizer, noise gate, and exciting GUI, the Channel Strip by Brainworx will create many vintage vibes for any production.
Achieve complete control of the mixing process with an incredibly versatile console emulator; bx_console AMEK 9099 will deliver all the controls needed for any production at your fingertips. AMEK 9099, apart from offering handy and intuitive knobs, also shines any signal with musicality. With massive lows, you can push the mixing plugin for pleasant, smooth changes in the signal.
The plugin has six controls regarding its filters. HPF On and LPF On work intuitively on enabling the low and high-pass filters. HPF x 3 is a modern feature in the plugin that shifts the high-pass filter’s band by a factor of three. An LPF / 3 feature will turn the low-pass filter’s band by a factor of 1 / 3. The HPF works on the 20 Hz – 900 Hz range and an 18 dB slope value. The LPF will present the same dB slope value of the HPF but operate in the 1.5 kHz – 30 kHz range.
AMEK 9099 has a gate, limiter, and a compression section. The most exciting feature in the gate segment is the gate invert, which will enable you to hear the signal parts that the gate would attenuate. Apart from the standard gate controls, the plugin also has a Gate HPF and LPF interaction, activating additional filters on the gate and controlling the cutoff frequency. The Ambiance is an exciting feature in the compression segment that will output the difference between the compressed and input signals.
The plugin features four bands to fill the HF, HMF, LMF, and LF ranges. An HF Sheen function is fascinating for broadening the curve from the steep and widening the HF shelf. Both LMF and HMF can switch from Peak to Notch filtering. An exciting LF control is the LF Glow, which works the same way as the HF Sheen, but focuses on the lower range.
In a mastering segment of the plugin, you will have access to many exciting parameters. V gain is a virtual gain function that adds noise to the signal. A phase control will invert the signal’s polarity. You can also select between seventy-two different channels in the Console Channel Numbers. An exciting fact is that each channel has a unique character. You can also modify the spatial texture with the featured controls in Stereo Mode.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Brainworx bx_console AMEK 9099 is a complete console emulator that will provide any mix with full dynamics, EQ, and mastering controls. It has parameters for noise gates, compressors, limiters, and many EQ functions.
With an outstanding mastering performance, the plugin also has a role in stereo width and texture by allowing you to operate specific controls related to spatial functionality accurately.
2. PSP InfiniStrip
PSP Audioware’s InifiniStrip offers endless combinations from its 22 processors.
The plugin allows you to add up to seven simultaneous processors and a total of two inserts. Rack up the preamps, expanders, filters, EQs, compressors, limiters, etc., in an order that will benefit your production. Furthermore, you can choose between the various types of processors and change them without changing your settings.
That helps when you’re just looking for a different tone rather than different settings.
- Five Preamps
The plugin offers five types of preamps, each with distinct coloration. Gain solely raises the volume. Pre60s makes instruments sound more organic, while Pre70s enlarges drums and bass without losing transients. Pre80s adds exaggerated transients and ADC 90s applies subtle clipping.
- Three Filters
Here, you can choose between three types of filters: a basic one with HP and LP options. A more complex option with HP, LP, and parametric Mid control. And finally, a Side-Chain filter.
- Dynamic modules
Choose if you need a Gate, Expander, or Ducker for your track.
- Three Compressors
The plugin offers Opto, great for vocals, FET, perfect for drums and guitars, and VCA, which is used chiefly for bus compression.
- Three EQs
You get these options: a flexible four-band EQ called ChannelQ; a redesign of the PSP PreQursor with three types of bell shapes; and the PSP RetroQ, which is based on old-school EQs.
- Limiter Modules
The plugin offers three types of limiters, Opto, VCA, BrickWall, and a Saturator module. Additionally, you get a Master unit with basic stereo field controls.
- Special Modules
There are three special units here: De-esser, De-hummer, and ReactivEQ. While the first two are self-explanatory, the last is a dynamic equalizer.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 and newer and macOS 10.8 and higher in VST and AU formats.
The InifiniStrip is a reasonably new plugin that might need a UI tweak, but which sounds excellent nevertheless. The never-ending sonic combinations are enhanced by comparing the types of processors while keeping the same settings. Overall, the plugin offers tremendous workflow gains and is an excellent addition to any producer’s collection.
3. iZotope Neutron 3 Elements
Neutron 3 Elements, by iZotope, is the entry product of the Neutron 3 line, but it packs enough solutions to heighten your tracks significantly.
The plugin is a four-in-one solution for mixing. It offers a Compressor, an EQ, a Transient Shaper, and an Exciter. Additionally, you can split the audio into three bands and use all processing except the EQ in each band independently. But the plugin’s differential comes from its Track Assistant, which listens to your audio and creates a preset that fits.
- EQ Learn
The plugin chooses the EQ points it thinks are best for the signal and creates a custom curve that benefits the audio. This plugin lets you add up to 12 EQ points.
Use it to add harmonic distortion to your track. Blend the Warm, Tube, Tape, and Retro harmonic profiles to achieve the sound you’re looking for.
- Transient Shaper
You get three contour shapes: Sharp, Medium, and Smooth. In addition, you can design the transients differently for each band when in multi-band mode.
- Track Assistant
Select the instrument category and one of three mix styles. Then, pick the intensity of the processing you want to apply. In up to ten seconds, the Assistant will give you a custom-made preset.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.11 and up and 64-bit Windows 7 and up in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
This amazing iZotope plugin provides an intelligent solution for mixing that no other on this list can compete with. Even with two more powerful versions of Neutron 3 available, Elements is an excellent addition to your collection. It makes mixing easier for both beginning and experienced engineers.
4. Waves Omni Channel
The Scheps Omni Channel offers analog-modeled processing and coloration in a straightforward workflow.
Instead of emulating a single desk or hardware, the Omni Channel gathers the best from different sounding equipment. The blending of flavors is cohesive, even though there are circuit emulations from several famous hardware processors built into this plugin. Furthermore, the experience is enhanced by adding the insert slot, which nods to the analog desk days.
Great for finding offending or root frequencies, this plugin’s hidden shortcut lets you solo the bandwidth knobs to help you focus on the sound you’re looking for. Whether in the EQ or de-esser, when you control-click the bandwidth knob, you’ll hear only the frequencies it’s affecting.
The preamp section gives you three saturation types: Odd, Even, and Heavy. The first two are source-dependent. The third option is a bit crusher that adds a hard drive to the sound.
This subtle effect adds a gentle bump to the low-end. You can choose between adding 2 or 4 dB of gain. Even at four dB, the result is not very prominent initially, but it becomes more apparent as you use the other modules.
This module contains two de-essers that span the entire frequency range. Both let you choose from 4 different EQ curves.
You can load any Waves plugin into the module and affect the signal with the others. Alternatively, you can also double any of the existent modules in the plugin.
This plugin works on macOS 10.13 and up and Windows 10 in VST3, AAX, and AU formats.
From Pultec EQ curves to Fairchild and LA-2A limiting styles, the Scheps Omni Channel is a fantastic Frankenstein. The workflow is effortless, and you can hear the plugin’s characteristic tone with every knob movement. It is incredible for producers looking for a distinctive analog feel.
5. Century Tube Channel Strip
UA’s Century Tube Channel Strip is an amazing-sounding all-in-one preamp, EQ, and compressor.
The plugin’s warmth comes from the tube emulation in the circuitry. The preamp will saturate without clipping, while the optical compressor will gently tame the peaks. Moreover, this plugin takes advantage of Unison, UAD’s software-hardware integration technology. That means that when using a Universal Audio interface to record, the software will modify the interface’s circuitry.
You can choose between two input levels, Low and High, to define how loud the signal reaches the preamp. At higher levels, the preamp will add incredible tube saturation to the sound.
The broad sweepable mid-range lets you focus on any frequency you might want to cut or boost, while the low and high shelves allow you to add body and sizzle to the track.
- Opto Compressor
This plugin’s great Opto compressor is a one-knob solution to tame peaks and lift the details. The tube-inspired sound is smooth and soft, so the compression never sounds squashed.
If you’re recording with a UA interface and using this plugin via Unison integration, you can lower the microphone’s input gain before it hits the preamp. By using the Pad switch, you’ll reduce the input volume by about 20dB.
This plugin is available for Windows 10 and macOS 10.13 and higher, but you need a UAD DSP Accelerator or UA Audio Interface to run it in your DAW.
Overall, this is a fantastic plugin to use when recording, especially vocals and guitars. It spices up the sound in a very colorful way, enhancing the source’s emotional character. Additionally, you can use it during the mixing stage to add personality to otherwise dull digital sounds.
If you’re into the Universal Audio ecosystem, you’ll love the Century Tube Channel Strip.
6. TBProAudio CS-5501
TBProAudio’s CS-5501 is a featured-packed plugin with a smooth sound.
The plugin offers two 7-band equalizers, two expanders/noise gates, two compressors, two de-essers, two limiters, and a saturation engine. This doubles collection can be set independently and routed to the user’s liking on the right-hand side menu.
That ensures thorough processing that can be useful for anything from single instruments to the master channel, with up to 4 times of oversampling.
This is a very soft-sounding EQ with fully parametric controls.
The plugin offers VCA, FET, and Opto compression, all with side-chain functions and a blend knob to create a parallel compression effect.
The expander/gate and de-esser are perfect for vocal processing. The double de-esser also helps with acoustic guitars and drums.
This module emulates several types of tubes, and you can add both odd and even harmonics to the sound simultaneously.
Here, you can click the empty slots and choose which processing you want to place and their order. Additionally, you can mute or solo single processors.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 and newer and macOS 10.11 and newer in VST, AAX, and AU formats.
TBProAudio’s CS-5501 never sounds aggressive, for as much as you crank it. The plugin’s sound is beautifully balanced, which makes it useful for all kinds of music. Moreover, the workflow is superb, and the ability to route all the processors in whatever order you choose makes it a flexible tool. You don’t have to think twice about adding this one to your collection.
7. Lindell Audio 50 Series
The Lindell Audio 50 Series emulates classic API consoles, delivering a powerful, punchy tone.
If you’re familiar with API equipment, you know they sound as tight as it gets. This plugin is no different, delivering the utmost transient and frequency precision.
The plugin’s sound shines through when you place it on the track, but it’s the variety of options within it that make it so unique.
This technology developed by Brainworx provides an accurate representation of 32 different console channels. That means you can have up to 16 stereo instances of this plugin in your session, and they will all sound slightly different.
Use this to control the amount of harmonic distortion from the circuits. The middle position represents the emulation’s natural behavior.
- Two Compressors
The plugin offers an enhanced version of the classic VCA compressor API 2500. Additionally, the developers added a FET compressor based on the API 525.
- Three EQs
Here’s another list of sought-after EQs. You’ll get the semi-parametric 3-band 50A EQ, four-band 50B EQ, and the graphic 60 EQ.
- Lindell 80 Buss
This condensed version gives you a preamp and the master fader with TMT technology. It’s helpful if you’re looking for the plugin’s tone rather than processing.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 and newer and macOS 10.9 and higher in AAX, AU, and VST formats.
The 50 Series is one of the best channel strip emulations on the market right now. If you’re bonkers about analog consoles, you’ll end up adding the Lindell Audio 50 Series to your collection at some point. This robust emulation makes any instrument sound more organic by delivering the warmth and punch of the original API gear.
The 3 Best Channel Strip Plugins 2022
1. Analog Obsession CHANNEV
CHANNEV can add many pleasant textures with its Mic Preamp, De-Esser, Line-Amp, Four-Band Equalizer, Compressor, Tape-Saturation, and Limiter. In addition to that, the plugin is entirely free.
Featuring all the controls needed to shape any mix with precise values and solid results, CHANNEV delivers high-quality performances in many areas of the frequency spectrum.
Besides having exciting opportunities in dynamics, EQ, and other modulation processes, CHANNEV offers light oversampling, standing at a friendly level towards the CPU power.
CHANNEV offers complete control with its standard channel strip modulations. The plugin will give you control over the Mic Preamp, Virtual Gain, PAD, Phaser, and Pre-EQ. CHANNEV also allows the higher frequency control by offering a de-esser with two options, Bell and Soft. The EQ features four bands that are modestly customizable and go through a post and pre-filter. A limiter, compressor, and a saturator are also exciting segments in the main panel.
Apart from having a brilliant design and a vintage analog style, the plugin also behaves modestly towards the device’s processing power. As a sound designer, I had a massive blast using CHANNEV, since I could apply it to a signal and didn’t need any more plugins on the FX chain. Its EQ is so potent that it quickly added rich color to the boosted frequencies, allowing me to create a particularly strong low-end and distort it. For assisting the CPU, the plugin also applies a 2x light oversample.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3 and AU formats.
The recently released CHANNEV, by famous Analog Obsession, is another excellent addition to the manufacturer’s high-quality series of free plugins. This perfect channel strip offers all controls needed for a brilliant modulation in any audio without compromising CPU power.
Its interactive main panel is straightforward and optimal to a fast and organized mix. My experience with CHANNEV is highly positive; the plugin allows for powerful sound sculpting without any additional plugin, which is extremely attractive for many sound designers.
2. Analog Obsession LOADED
Analog Obsession’s LOADED is not a very versatile plugin, but it delivers great sound nevertheless.
Some of the parameters can be a little limiting if you’re looking for absolute control over the processing. With that said, much of the charm of analog is compromising to your unit’s limitations. In that case, the plugin does a great job at delivering a faithful analog experience.
This module is extensive, giving you a polarity switch, several level compensators, and a high pass filter.
You get a high shelf to apply soft or hard de-essing. Although the crossover points are not specified, you can change the range of the band to attend to different input signals.
Although it has no ratio control, you can use the gate as an expander by adjusting the Mix knob.
Like most consoles, you get low and high shelves at 100 and 10.000 Hz, respectively. Additionally, you get two mid-range controls with sweepable frequencies and up to 15dB of cut and boost.
This simple compressor is actually very versatile. With the Fast Attack option and the Auto Release function, it becomes useful for most musical genres.
The plugin is available in VST and AU formats for 64-bit computers running Windows and macOS.
Sonically-wise, the plugin doesn’t add much of a significant tone to the sound. Even so, unlike most plugins on this list, with LOADED, you’re always EQing into the compression. Not only does that create a smoother effect, but it’s also a great mastering technique. Analog Obsession makes loads of great free plugins, and this one is also worth your time.
3. 1208 Audio Plugins 1208 SCS
The 1208 SCS, by 1208 Audio Plugins, is a straightforward plugin that offers a modular signal path.
With its versatile compressor and detailed parametric EQ, you can easily use this plugin on individual tracks and the master chain. Additionally, the saturation button brings in some extra flavor that makes it wonderful for vocals and synths.
- The Patch Bay
You can easily configure your signal flow by changing inputs and outputs on the patch bay. The plugin makes it simple to bypass the filters or make different sequences for the left and right channels, for example.
- Shelf or Bell
You can choose low and high shelves or bells for different effects.
This feature allows you to roll off the lower frequencies, so they don’t engage the compressor. It will not cut the bottom of your track, only bypass it from the compressor.
This plugin is available for Windows as a VST.
Unfortunately, you need to pay to enable the oversample and filter features, but still, this is a plugin worthy of a download. Go crazy trying out different patch bay configurations; perhaps you’ll find a unique sound that only this plugin can produce.
1. Acustica Audio Magenta 5
The Magenta 5 Channel Strip is a great mastering plugin since it’s an emulation of the Manley Massive Passive.
But since it’s a channel strip plugin, you also get a preamp section and a compressor. The GUI is confusing at first, but once you understand it, it gets simpler. Magenta 5 offers great tonal accuracy, perfect for the digital domain, but without losing its analog roots.
- Seven Preamps
Between mono and stereo emulations, you also get different-sounding versions from multiple hardware sources. A is from a tube EQ, B is from an all-tube circuit, while C is from a limiter. Finally, D, DMIC, and DFLT come from mic preamp designs.
- Four Compressors
The plugin offers four kinds of compressors between Vari-Mu and Opto designs, each with its distinctive flavor.
- Zero Latency Version
Perfect for real-time processing and recording, the Magenta 5 Channel Strip offers a ZL version, but it’s very CPU-heavy.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.12 and higher and Windows 7 and newer as a VST, AU, and AAX plugin.
Overall the plugin sounds very subtle but accurate. Magenta 5 does a great job of recreating the imperfections of analog hardware, adding as much color to your mix as you may need. For its sonic detail alone, it’s a great addition to your collection.
2. Brainworx bx_console Focusrite SC
The bx_console Focusrite SC, by Brainworx, is a complete recreation of the rare Focusrite console designed by Rupert Neve.
Only ten units of this console were made until Focusrite shut down the production. Now, thanks to TMT technology, you can have 72 channels, which means an entire console, in your studio. You get faithful recreations of the original gate, compressor, de-esser, EQ, and filters, with the addition of a THD control.
- Neve-Designed EQ
The console gives you a parametric four-band EQ designed by the master himself. You get bell controls for the mid frequencies and shelves for the highs and lows. You can bypass any band by pressing the Band In button.
- Two Filter Sections
Just like the original console, this plugin lets you add filters to both the EQ and dynamic sections. The first will roll off frequencies from the top and bottom of the spectrum. The second will focus the compressor on the range you determine.
- Multiplier Controls
You can change the frequency range of both filter sections and the mid-range EQs by engaging the x10, x3, and/or /3 buttons.
This is an added feature. By increasing the value, you’ll add more simulated analog noise.
- Stereo Mode
This affects the TMT engine. By selecting Analog, you’ll use two different channel emulations, one for each side of the stereo field. However, if you choose Digital, you’ll use one emulation for both sides.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 and higher and macOS 10.9 and newer in AAX, AU, and VST formats.
One of the most transparent consoles ever designed has finally received the faithful emulation it deserved. The price is a little hefty – but worth it when you think of the quality it can add to your mixes. No doubt, the bx_console Focusrite SC will become your go-to channel strip plugin once you add it to your collection.
Today’s list was full of amazing all-in-one solutions for mixing and mastering, but the greatest strength of any channel strip plugin comes during recording. Sometimes it’s just impracticable, but try it out next time you’re about to make a recording. The best analog emulations on our list deliver the closest thing to the emotion of tracking through the real consoles.
When you record with real-time processing, not only does it sound better from the get-go. The artist also gets better feedback from their own execution and puts more effort into making a better performance.
And speaking of the best, you should consider getting the Waves Omni Channel and the Lindell Audio 50 Series for your toolbox. Both are amazing-sounding plugins with incredible recreations of their analog counterparts.
The Waves plugin is looser with its references, which generates an innovative plugin. On the other hand, the Lindell is as true to the original classic as possible, being the best API plugin on the market.
Other Plugin Roundups:
Reverb & Delay Plugins:
Amps & Preamps:
Audio Restoration, Calibration & Utility:
Processing & Sound Design:
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