It’s been a while since I posted about my top VST Plugins (my last post was 2015), so I think it’s time I update my list:
Waves DBX 160
This VCA compressor has been my to-go compression for quite some time now, it just works for most applications, though I don’t use it on vocals. Since it can feel a bit aggressive at times, I usually start with the mix around 50% and leave the low end uncompressed (using the Side-Chain button at the bottom)
I try to leave the threshold high so that not a lot of the signal gets compressed and I play with the ratio to change the color.
This compressor has a really nice color to it and I will sometimes even use it on very low mix percentage just to get the color.
UAD 1176 Rev A
This is my to-go compression for lead vocals – it works really well most of the time with my favorite preset.
My default ratio is at 1:12, but will sometimes go 1:8 or 1:4. I rarely use it on higher ratios for vocals.
The Waves CLA-3 is known for its ability to push things forward in the mix. I usually use it on bass on a very low compression amount. I sometimes apply it later in the mix when I feel I need to push a track forward and when raising the volume doesn’t help – snare is a perfect example.
I don’t tend to compress more than 1-3 db with it
UADs Millennia NSEQ-2 EQ
I’m pretty new to this EQ, but it’s definitely a great one and is becoming one of my to-go EQs
I usually use it on vocals and/or the master buss.
What I like about this plugin is its ability to push the low end without overpowering the overall mix, since pushing the low end can be scary at times. As I note in a previous blog post, some engineers tend to cut the low end a lot of the time for no good reason.
I also like the “MS” mode for some applications, especially when I want to add more stereo to a full mix or to an individual track.
This plugin will help you decide if it’s necessary to cut the low end or add more.
A new addition to my toolbox, this is a free plugin that add distortion. I use it mainly on bass tracks, especially on 808’s.
I feel this is a crucial one for every production or mix where the main bass is an 808, but it does a great job pushing any bass-line forward in the mix if necessary. It’s pretty versatile, comes with good presets, as well as, a randomize button that will randomize the preset for you.
Another new go-to plugin in my toolbox. For today’s popular ambient Hip-Hop and Pop productions, this plugin will add a lot of big reverb to your mix without being overpowering. The kind you tend to hear on the radio.
UAD EMT 250 Classic Electronic Reverb
The opposite of Valhalla’s VintageVerb, this plugin will add depth to the sound without you even knowing there’s a reverb on. Using this plugin in combination with VintageVerb will give you most of what you need in my opinion. My favorite application is vocals and acoustic guitars.
UAD Elysia• Alpha Compressor – Master Version
I love this compressor on my master buss, it’s transparent and can add punchy loudness to your mix. I usually stay away from the soft clip and fast attack buttons and don’t compress too much. I tend to keep my mix button around 70%. MS mode is really cool and can add a stereo feel to the mix.
Voxengo Elepent 4
This maximizer, alongside with Izotope 8, are my favorite master buss plugins. My favorite presets are “EDM”, “Clip”, and “EL4”. Each preset works for a different type of mix, but this maximizer is pretty straight-forward and easy to use.
UAD Pultec EQ
This collection has been at the top of my list since it was released, the sweet and unique high end and pleasant low cut of the EQP-1A, along with clean mids and precise mid cit of the MEQ – 5 makes this plugin hard to replace.
Fab Filter Pro Q2 EQ
A week ago Fab Filter has released their new PRO Q3 EQ which I didn’t get the chance to check out, but PRO Q2 is the most versatile natural eq in the market. It offers MS mode, over-sampling, linear-phase, and much more. Its high end is also very nice, when not being pushed too hard, but I would say the biggest use of this eq is precise surgical cuts and bumps that no other eq can deliver.
UAD API 2500
This version is a cleaner version of the Waves 2500 API (both are obviously the hardware emulation). What I like about this version is that it has a “mix” button because I’m not a fan of pushing 100% of the signal through compression most of the time. My to-go preset is the “spread” preset, I sometime raise the attack after applying the preset and play with the release. I also love this compressor on my master buss with mix around 40%.
Slate Virtual Tape, WAVES J37, and UAD Ampex Tape Emulation
These 3 tape emulations are all great and very different from each other. Slate’s tape tends to be fatter and can be pushed much harder, and the J37 is brighter, but can get harsh when pushed too hard. I admit Ampex is new in my toolbox, but I like it so far since it delivers a very unique sound. I’m still playing with it though. 🙂
Izotope is the kind of bundle-plugin that is great for mastering in 2 scenarios:
-If you can’t afford mastering and just want to push your mix a bit further, you can use one of the presets.
-You are very advanced and can actually use its tremendous possibilities to achieve exactly what you need