Best VST Plugins: Sound Design

​Working in sound design requires an ear for subtleties. Some say that sound design is all about making many small tweaks to lead to one great sounding final mix.

Having the right tools could be a major advantage to you as you learn how to mix. For these plugin companies to develop a commercial mixing plugin, it involves having professional music producers as well as audio programmers come together to create a tool that is so finely tuned that major studios will adopt it for their works.

In this article, we have broken down by category all of the sound design plugins you’ll find most useful along your journey.

Enjoy!


​EQ

EQ
Working in sound design requires an ear for subtleties. Some say that sound design is all about making many small tweaks to lead to one great sounding final mix.
Having the right tools could be a major advantage to you as you learn how to mix. For these plugin companies to develop a commercial mixing plugin, it involves having professional music producers as well as audio programmers come together to create a tool that is so finely tuned that major studios will adopt it for their works.
In this article, we have broken down by category all of the sound design plugins you’ll find most useful along your journey.
Enjoy!

​Fabfilter Pro Q (Our Recommendation)

Fabfilter Pro Q (Our Recommendation)
Fabfilter Pro Q

​Fabfilter Pro Q

Fabfilter Pro Q

​Most of the VSTs we recommend, we try to find something negative about them. We’re proud to say that this time we just can’t. It’s not for a lack of trying, it’s simply because Fabfilter Pro Q is essentially the perfect EQ plugin.

The first thing most notice when first using Fabfilter Pro Q is the interface. While we are a fan of vintage looking GUIs, we can’t help but love the look of a sleek and intuitive modern interface that is unhampered by needless features, while remaining flexible.

Fabfilter Pro Q easily has one of the best workflows and looks on our entire list.

All you have to do to see this is create a band by simply double-clicking, and then grab and drag the clicked point around. All the while a tip window gives you helpful tips for whatever feature you’re currently using.

Pro Q covers all features you would want in a modern EQ. You have bypass button for each band, MIDI learn, and a decent sized preset memory system to name a few.

Fabfilter Pro Q Mixing Features
Fabfilter Pro Q Interface
Fabfilter Pro Q FabFilter

For filters, each band can be set to low shelf, high shelf, low cut, high cut, or bell curve. You have up to 24 bands to explore your sound.

Another feature that we really liked is zero-latency modes because it opens up the ability to take this VST to the stage.

Fabfilter Pro Q does everything you would want from a modern EQ and it is hard to find any faults.

Most of the VSTs we recommend, we try to find something negative about them. We’re proud to say that this time we just can’t. It’s not for a lack of trying, it’s simply because Fabfilter Pro Q is essentially the perfect EQ plugin.
The first thing most notice when first using Fabfilter Pro Q is the interface. While we are a fan of vintage looking GUIs, we can’t help but love the look of a sleek and intuitive modern interface that is unhampered by needless features, while remaining flexible.
Fabfilter Pro Q easily has one of the best workflows and looks on our entire list. All you have to do to see this is create a band by simply double-clicking, and then grab and drag the clicked point around. All the while a tip window gives you helpful tips for whatever feature you’re currently using.
Pro Q covers all features you would want in a modern EQ. You have bypass button for each band, MIDI learn, and a decent sized preset memory system to name a few.
For filters, each band can be set to low shelf, high shelf, low cut, high cut, or bell curve. You have up to 24 bands to explore your sound.
Another feature that we really liked is zero-latency modes because it opens up the ability to take this VST to the stage.
Fabfilter Pro Q does everything you would want from a modern EQ and it is hard to find any faults.

​Photosounder SplineEQ

Photosounder SplineEQ
Photosounder SplineEQ

​Photosounder SplineEQ

Photosounder SplineEQ

​Perhaps Fabfilter Pro Q is a little more expensive than you would like. If that’s the case we have you covered with SplineEQ

SplineEQ offers 60 bands of high-quality, flexible filters. These bands work alongside each other and end up making a cubic Bezier spline.

There are no low-pass filters, no shelving filter, nor bell filters here in this plugin. You design your own curves here, and the end result is an incredibly smooth and clean sounding EQ.

The sound is transparent and when you push up the treble, for example, it sounds like you’re simply upping the volume.

Visually, SplineEQ displays it frequencies under the curve as a colorful rainbow of bars. These beams of light pass through the curve becoming brighter or dimmer depending on how far it deviates from the neutral setting.

SplineEQ knows how often plugins hog down computers’ CPUs, so they added a feature that automatically increases its butter size as the resolution goes up. You can turn this feature off, however, but we found it best just to leave it on as we came across a few issues here and there.

Perhaps Fabfilter Pro Q is a little more expensive than you would like. If that’s the case we have you covered with SplineEQ.
SplineEQ offers 60 bands of high-quality, flexible filters. These bands work alongside each other and end up making a cubic Bezier spline. There are no low-pass filters, no shelving filter, nor bell filters here in this plugin. You design your own curves here, and the end result is an incredibly smooth and clean sounding EQ.
The sound is transparent and when you push up the treble, for example, it sounds like you’re simply upping the volume.
Visually, SplineEQ displays it frequencies under the curve as a colorful rainbow of bars. These beams of light pass through the curve becoming brighter or dimmer depending on how far it deviates from the neutral setting.
SplineEQ knows how often plugins hog down computers’ CPUs, so they added a feature that automatically increases its butter size as the resolution goes up. You can turn this feature off, however, but we found it best just to leave it on as we came across a few issues here and there.

​Sonnox Oxford EQ

Sonnox Oxford EQ

​Sonnox Oxford EQ seeks to recreate the features and capabilities of OXF-R3. The highlights of Oxford EQ are the four EQ types.

Sonnox Oxford EQ

​Sonnox Oxford EQ

Sonnox Oxford EQ
  • Type 1 – is your standard EQ with reciprocal boosts and cuts.
  • Type 2 – is similar to 1, but here the cut is much tighter than the boost, which is great for getting rid of frequencies that are giving you issues.
  • Type 3 – has smooth, broad curves when boosting/cutting by a small degree. The curve becomes notably sharper the more the gain increases.
  • Type 4 – is the mastering EQ that gives you very, very wide curves.

​The GUI is increasingly becoming outdated looking as the years go by. It was never a fantastic looking interface in the first place. Honestly, it verges on ugly anymore, though it gets the job down.

The A and B feature is nice, which allows you to instantly jump back and forth between two completely different settings without any clips or load time. This is great for figuring out which tone you want.

Sonnox Oxford EQ seeks to recreate the features and capabilities of OXF-R3.
The highlights of Oxford EQ are the four EQ types.
Type 1 – is your standard EQ with reciprocal boosts and cuts.
Type 2 – is similar to 1, but here the cut is much tighter than the boost, which is great for getting rid of frequencies that are giving you issues.
Type 3 – has smooth, broad curves when boosting/cutting by a small degree. The curve becomes notably sharper the more the gain increases.
Type 4 – is the mastering EQ that gives you very, very wide curves.
The GUI is increasingly becoming outdated looking as the years go by. It was never a fantastic looking interface in the first place. Honestly, it verges on ugly anymore, though it gets the job down.
The A and B feature is nice, which allows you to instantly jump back and forth between two completely different settings without any clips or load time. This is great for figuring out which tone you want.

​Waves Renaissance Equalizer

Waves Renaissance Equalizer
Waves Renaissance Equalizer

​Waves Renaissance Equalizer

Waves Renaissance Equalizer

​Renaissance Equalizer matches the sound transparency of other EQ plugins on our list but fails to be as point-and-click ready. Like we said the transparency of the plugin is great, but Renaissance Equalizer does attempt to recreate the sounds of vintage EQs, so you will get a slightly warm, analog-style sound.

The low-end and high-end bands have four features that allow you to change from Bell to Hi-Shelf to Low-Pass or to Hi-Res Shelf. For the other four bands (six in total) you only have two options: Low-Shelf or Bell. You can move each band across the frequency spectrum as well.

As you can see it’s a very simple EQ and we view it as a step in between EQ plugins that come standard with most DAWs and the more advanced ones like Oxford or Flabfilter.

Waves Renaissance Equalizer Compressor
Waves Renaissance Equalizer Bass

The GUI is small and simple as well, with no little flair or any bells-and-whistles.
For the cost, it’s a nice little paragraphic EQ that can get your feet wet before you dive into the top dogs.

Renaissance Equalizer matches the sound transparency of other EQ plugins on our list but fails to be as point-and-click ready. Like we said the transparency of the plugin is great, but Renaissance Equalizer does attempt to recreate the sounds of vintage EQs, so you will get a slightly warm, analog-style sound.
The low-end and high-end bands have four features that allow you to change from Bell to Hi-Shelf to Low-Pass or to Hi-Res Shelf. For the other four bands (six in total) you only have two options: Low-Shelf or Bell. You can move each band across the frequency spectrum as well.
As you can see it’s a very simple EQ and we view it as a step in between EQ plugins that come standard with most DAWs and the more advanced ones like Oxford or Flabfilter.
The GUI is small and simple as well, with no little flair or any bells-and-whistles.
For the cost, it’s a nice little paragraphic EQ that can get your feet wet before you dive into the top dogs.

​MeldaProduction MAutoDynamicEq

MeldaProduction MAutoDynamicEq
MeldaProduction MAutoDynamicEq

​MeldaProduction MAutoDynamicEq

MeldaProduction MAutoDynamicEq

​If Renaissance Equalizer is a plugin that gets your feet wet, then MAutoDynamicEq is one that throws you into the lake. 

MAutoDynamicEq wants to be your multipurpose go-to equalizer. They even go as far as giving newcomers the option of an “easy screen”, that gives you simplified parameters and about a dozen common presets that are typical for a producer to use.

Now to the complex side, you have an absurd number of features including automatic equalization, which lets the plugin do the work for you and sets up the bands for you based on the sound you chose.

You have seven dynamic filter bands, and four modulators that can work as an LFO, Level follower, MIDI/audio triggered ADSR enveloper, randomizer or pitch detector, or even as a combination of them.

MeldaProduction MAutoDynamicEq Interface

MAutoDynamicEq is a visual treat and all we can say is go take a look at it. The GUI does play up the complexity, so if you want to truly master and get the most out of MAutoDynamicEq, then you will be working with this plugin for a while. This is perfectly fine since the VST works great for both the mixing and mastering stages of production.

https://www.pluginboutique.com/product/2-Effects/16-EQ/190-MAutoDynamicEQ/#a_aid=54a044ffc4684&a_bid=5468b3dc

​TDR Nova EQ (Free)

TDR Nova EQ (Free)
TDR Nova EQ

​TDR Nova EQ

TDR Nova EQ

​Once you learn about this EQ plugin, it’s funny to think that you can get it for free.

That’s not to say that you won’t want to metaphorically run out and upgrade it to the Nova EQ Gentleman’s Edition. Just that it’s a really nice, professional looking and sounding EQ at its most basic. 

The EQ is great for newcomers and it’s at the same time not because of the complexities. It’s great for newcomers because if you, for example want an introduction to parametric EQ, then this is your guy.

You’re probably wondering how a free VST can be complex. Well, that because it can’t just do parametric equalization, but dynamic equalization as well. Oh, and it can do frequency selective compression, multi-band compression, and wideband compression.

TDR Nova EQ Standard Edition
TDR Nova EQ Gentleman's Edition

The complexity engenders itself from its mass amount of features available, but it’s quite simple to use beyond that. Other features include order by frequency, latency-free bypass, and wet/dry mix.

When you upgrade to the Gentleman’s Edition you gain two more bands, 120dB filters, expansion mode, and auto loudness compensation. It’s worth it to upgrade for the insane quality and for the linear phase modes alone.

Once you learn about this EQ plugin, it’s funny to think that you can get it for free. That’s not to say that you won’t want to metaphorically run out and upgrade it to the Nova EQ Gentleman’s Edition. Just that it’s a really nice, professional looking and sounding EQ at its most basic.
The EQ is great for newcomers and it’s at the same time not because of the complexities. It’s great for newcomers because if you, for example want an introduction to parametric EQ, then this is your guy.
You’re probably wondering how a free VST can be complex. Well, that because it can’t just do parametric equalization, but dynamic equalization as well. Oh, and it can do frequency selective compression, multi-band compression, and wideband compression.
The complexity engenders itself from its mass amount of features available, but it’s quite simple to use beyond that. Other features include order by frequency, latency-free bypass, and wet/dry mix.
When you upgrade to the Gentleman’s Edition you gain two more bands, 120dB filters, expansion mode, and auto loudness compensation. It’s worth it to upgrade for the insane quality and for the linear phase modes alone.

​Compressors

Compressors

​Audio Damage Rough Rider (Our Recommendation)

Audio Damage Rough Rider (Our Recommendation)
Audio Damage Rough Rider

​Audio Damage Rough Rider

Audio Damage Rough Rider

​Audio Damage is back with another free VST called Rough Rider. For the first time, we have a free VST plugin that is also our recommendation. This happened for a few reasons.

First, the features are fantastic. You have controls for ratio, attack and release, meter, sensitivity, makeup, active, and MIDI Learn.

Second, you have the GUI. It’s simple, clean, easy to use, reliable, and gives you exactly what you need, no more, no less. Which are all things we want in a compressor VST.

Last and the most important, is the sound. Rough Rider offers a warm sounding compression with just the right amount of vintage style bite. We like the VST most for drums but, found it works well with guitar, vocals, synth, etc.

If you’re going to use compression in your mixes and why wouldn’t you, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t download Rough Rider.

Audio Damage is back with another free VST called Rough Rider. For the first time, we have a free VST plugin that is also our recommendation. This happened for a few reasons.
First, the features are fantastic. You have controls for ratio, attack and release, meter, sensitivity, makeup, active, and MIDI Learn.
Second, you have the GUI. It’s simple, clean, easy to use, reliable, and gives you exactly what you need, no more, no less. Which are all things we want in a compressor VST.
Last and the most important, is the sound. Rough Rider offers a warm sounding compression with just the right amount of vintage style bite. We like the VST most for drums but, found it works well with guitar, vocals, synth, etc.
If you’re going to use compression in your mixes and why wouldn’t you, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t download Rough Rider.

​112dB Big Blue Compressor

112dB Big Blue Compressor
112dB Big Blue Compressor

​112dB Big Blue Compressor

112dB Big Blue Compressor

​We are moving in the opposite direction with our next review. Maybe you thought to yourself “screw a simple compressor; I want a grandiose leviathan one!”

When you first set eyes on the GUI you literally see a big blue compressor that has ginormous gold knobs and gold outline.

You have knobs the controls drive, look ahead, high-pass, low-pass, attack, release, ratio, knee, choke, stereo, and dry/wet. There are two sliders for threshold and makeup gain as well. 

Similar to Rough Rider, Big Blue Compressor is best used for drums, but does sound great for a plethora of other instruments. 

The sound of Big Blue will be best suited for aggressive dance and rock music. We feel this way because it has a warm, vintage sound that gives quite a bit of bite and has a lot of power behind it.

So if you’re looking for a higher price compressor that has a great vintage rock sound, look no further. The plugin is available in both a 32- and 64-bit version and despite its grandiose appearance we had no CPU issues.

We are moving in the opposite direction with our next review. Maybe you thought to yourself “screw a simple compressor; I want a grandiose leviathan one!”
When you first set eyes on the GUI you literally see a big blue compressor that has ginormous gold knobs and gold outline. You have knobs the controls drive, look ahead, high-pass, low-pass, attack, release, ratio, knee, choke, stereo, and dry/wet. There are two sliders for threshold and makeup gain as well.
Similar to Rough Rider, Big Blue Compressor is best used for drums, but does sound great for a plethora of other instruments.
The sound of Big Blue will be best suited for aggressive dance and rock music. We feel this way because it has a warm, vintage sound that gives quite a bit of bite and has a lot of power behind it.
So if you’re looking for a higher price compressor that has a great vintage rock sound, look no further. The plugin is available in both a 32- and 64-bit version and despite its grandiose appearance we had no CPU issues.

​Audified u73b Compressor

Audified u73b Compressor
Audified u73b Compressor

​Audified u73b Compressor

Audified u73b Compressor

​Audified U73b makes up for its lack of feature with its unique sound that won’t always work out for you, but when it does it’s fantastic.

So let’s talk about the GUI and the controls first. You have a three-position knob that allows you to access the Compression, Limiting, or Bypass modes.

There is also release time that offers six positions, IN and OUT, bypass, HPF, and Key Input. That mostly covers the features here, but the sound is really where U73b shines.

The sound is rather unique to our ears and will definitely give an edge to sound designers that want to break away from the norm.

Audified u73b Compressor - 2
Audified u73b Compressor Interface

We did find that Compressor mode cuts the bass a fair amount and will be a dividing line for some. But this can be used to your advantage if you have too boomy of a track. 

It also has a tendency to be heavy on CPU, so you’ll want to be on the lookout for that. The GUI could have easily been twice the size as well.

All in all, try out their 30-day trial and see if the plugin is for you. It’s a bit more on the expensive side for being such a simple VST, but we are sure the sound of Audified U73b will capture the hearts of many.

Audified U73b makes up for its lack of feature with its unique sound that won’t always work out for you, but when it does it’s fantastic.
So let’s talk about the GUI and the controls first. You have a three-position knob that allows you to access the Compression, Limiting, or Bypass modes. There is also release time that offers six positions, IN and OUT, bypass, HPF, and Key Input. That mostly covers the features here, but the sound is really where U73b shines.
The sound is rather unique to our ears and will definitely give an edge to sound designers that want to break away from the norm. We did find that Compressor mode cuts the bass a fair amount and will be a dividing line for some. But this can be used to your advantage if you have too boomy of a track.
It also has a tendency to be heavy on CPU, so you’ll want to be on the lookout for that. The GUI could have easily been twice the size as well.
All in all, try out their 30-day trial and see if the plugin is for you. It’s a bit more on the expensive side for being such a simple VST, but we are sure the sound of Audified U73b will capture the hearts of many.

​Joey Sturgis Tones  Gain Reduction Deluxe

Joey Sturgis Tones  Gain Reduction Deluxe
Joey Sturgis Tones Gain Reduction Deluxe

​Joey Sturgis Tones Gain Reduction Deluxe

Joey Sturgis Tones Gain Reduction Deluxe

​Joey Sturgis is back in our list again, this time with Gain Reduction Deluxe. You’ll recognize Joey’s name if you’re familiar with the metalcore scene and Gain Reduction Deluxe is just one of many great VSTs in his rather affordable line. 

The VST focuses on vocals and mostly vocals that pertain to the rock and metal genres. The GUI is very simple with knobs labeled Slay (ratio) and Gain, and a single UV. There are controls for on (bypass), input, lo-fi, mix, and body. The Body slider is a nice feature that rolls off up to -10 dB of low-end.

While created for vocals, Gain Reduction Deluxe also works well on guitars and can be used to get some more dirt on the guitars without creating harsh highs.

It’s a simple VST that we really have no complaints about and with the low price on the unit, it’s an easy sell. If you’re into heavier genres you will want to check out Joey Sturgis Tones Gain Reduction Deluxe.  

Joey Sturgis is back in our list again, this time with Gain Reduction Deluxe. You’ll recognize Joey’s name if you’re familiar with the metalcore scene and Gain Reduction Deluxe is just one of many great VSTs in his rather affordable line.
The VST focuses on vocals and mostly vocals that pertain to the rock and metal genres. The GUI is very simple with knobs labeled Slay (ratio) and Gain, and a single UV. There are controls for on (bypass), input, lo-fi, mix, and body. The Body slider is a nice feature that rolls off up to -10 dB of low-end.
While created for vocals, Gain Reduction Deluxe also works well on guitars and can be used to get some more dirt on the guitars without creating harsh highs.
It’s a simple VST that we really have no complaints about and with the low price on the unit, it’s an easy sell. If you’re into heavier genres you will want to check out Joey Sturgis Tones Gain Reduction Deluxe. 

​PSP Vintage Warmer 2

PSP Vintage Warmer 2
PSP Vintage Warmer 2

​PSP Vintage Warmer 2

PSP Vintage Warmer 2

​PSP Vintage Warmer 2 is a high-quality digital simulation of an analog-style single- or multi-band compressor/limiter. It comes with a great library of presets, and with the second installment in the Vintage Warmer series, we now have the options to save presets. 

The sound is incredible and has a wonderful fat and warm vintage tone. We found that the sound shines the strongest on drums and guitars. It worked with mix results on vocals and keys, however.

The GUI is more complex than most of the other compression VSTs on our list and you’ll want to make sure to check out the back panel for more hidden goodies. The look of the interface plays hand and hand with the sound.

If you’re looking for a compressor VST with analog saturation then look no further, because Vintage Warmer 2 is the plugin for you. Newcomers will most likely want to start elsewhere, because of the more complex GUI, and the plugin’s price point is in the higher range of compression VSTs.

PSP Vintage Warmer 2 is a high-quality digital simulation of an analog-style single- or multi-band compressor/limiter. It comes with a great library of presets, and with the second installment in the Vintage Warmer series, we now have the options to save presets.
The sound is incredible and has a wonderful fat and warm vintage tone. We found that the sound shines the strongest on drums and guitars. It worked with mix results on vocals and keys, however.
The GUI is more complex than most of the other compression VSTs on our list and you’ll want to make sure to check out the back panel for more hidden goodies. The look of the interface plays hand and hand with the sound.
If you’re looking for a compressor VST with analog saturation then look no further, because Vintage Warmer 2 is the plugin for you. Newcomers will most likely want to start elsewhere, because of the more complex GUI, and the plugin’s price point is in the higher range of compression VSTs.

​Waves H-Comp Hybrid

Waves H-Comp Hybrid
Waves H-Comp Hybrid

​Waves H-Comp Hybrid

Waves H-Comp Hybrid

​H-Comp Hybrid by Waves is best utilized when striving for a vintage compression tone, but with a little messing around you can take that vintage character and really spice up modern-sounding production. 

H-Comp Hybrid is a dynamic processor that combines the modeled behavior of transformers, tubes, and transistors. 

With a large UV meter right in the middle, H-Comp Hybrid’s GUI is simple and easy to navigate. It’s not the greatest looking interface, but it gets the job done.

H-Comp Hybrid features punch control, which brings back any transient information that may be lost due to the attack value being too small. There is dry/wet for parallel compression, as well as an analog switch that lets you choose between four analog modes.

There are a few more features, but most notably there is no makeup gain, sidechain features, nor a drive control for the analog modes.

If there was a drive control for the four analog modes, it could have been H-Comp Hybrid’s best feature. Instead, that is reserved for the Punch Control, which really is fantastic for fast attack times.

Since H-Comp Hybrid has come down in price from its original $200 to $50, it’s a really nice buy. The lack of certain features holds it back from really sticking out for us, but when they get that fix you better watch out.

H-Comp Hybrid by Waves is best utilized when striving for a vintage compression tone, but with a little messing around you can take that vintage character and really spice up modern-sounding production. H-Comp Hybrid is a dynamic processor that combines the modeled behavior of transformers, tubes, and transistors.
With a large UV meter right in the middle, H-Comp Hybrid’s GUI is simple and easy to navigate. It’s not the greatest looking interface, but it gets the job done. H-Comp Hybrid features punch control, which brings back any transient information that may be lost due to the attack value being too small. There is dry/wet for parallel compression, as well as an analog switch that lets you choose between four analog modes.
There are a few more features, but most notably there is no makeup gain, sidechain features, nor a drive control for the analog modes.
If there was a drive control for the four analog modes, it could have been H-Comp Hybrid’s best feature. Instead, that is reserved for the Punch Control, which really is fantastic for fast attack times.
Since H-Comp Hybrid has come down in price from its original $200 to $50, it’s a really nice buy. The lack of certain features holds it back from really sticking out for us, but when they get that fix you better watch out.

​Slate Digital Virtual Buss

Slate Digital Virtual Buss
Slate Digital Virtual Buss

​Slate Digital Virtual Buss

Slate Digital Virtual Buss

Virtual Buss Compressors (VBC) is actually three compressor plugins that come together as a bundle with the hope that it can be a compressor that works across the mix bus. Let’s start by quickly looking at each.

First, there is FG-Grey, which is modeled on the SSL 4000 G-Series Buss Compressor.  

It features the standard VCA Compressor features: attack, release, threshold and ratio, and a high-pass filter in the sidechain.

Second, there is FG-Red. Like FG-Grey, you have attack, release, threshold and ratio; however, instead of operating in milliseconds, FG-Red has continuous controls going from 0.0 to 10.0. We found the lack of ability to run the channels unlinked, turned us off from FG-Red a bit.

Third, there is FG-Mu, modeled off Fairchild 670 though Slate Digital added a few more features. There are still controls per channel for input gain and threshold, as well as a six-position time-constant switch. FG-Mu comes with knobs for attack and release time and has an additional output level adjustment.

​When we were first going over VBC, we became alarmed by the apparent lack of an auto release button. As we scanned the GUI, thinking that is was a huge feature to miss, we stumbled upon it hidden away with black on to black.

​We have a love-hate relationship with the GUI. It looks fantastic and we really like the style, but with black knobs up against a very dark gray background, it’s easy to get lost.

This is a great plugin if you find yourself needing these three types of compression for your tracks. Many probably will not, but for those that do, you have a very affordable VST waiting for you.

Virtual Buss Compressors (VBC) is actually three compressor plugins that come together as a bundle with the hope that it can be a compressor that works across the mix bus. Let’s start by quickly looking at each.
First, there is FG-Grey, which is modeled on the SSL 4000 G-Series Buss Compressor.  It features the standard VCA Compressor features: attack, release, threshold and ratio, and a high-pass filter in the sidechain.
Second, there is FG-Red. Like FG-Grey, you have attack, release, threshold and ratio; however, instead of operating in milliseconds, FG-Red has continuous controls going from 0.0 to 10.0. We found the lack of ability to run the channels unlinked, turned us off from FG-Red a bit.
Third, there is FG-Mu, modeled off Fairchild 670 though Slate Digital added a few more features. There are still controls per channel for input gain and threshold, as well as a six-position time-constant switch. FG-Mu comes with knobs for attack and release time and has an additional output level adjustment.
When we were first going over VBC, we became alarmed by the apparent lack of an auto release button. As we scanned the GUI, thinking that is was a huge feature to miss, we stumbled upon it hidden away with black on to black.
We have a love-hate relationship with the GUI. It looks fantastic and we really like the style, but with black knobs up against a very dark gray background, it’s easy to get lost.
This is a great plugin if you find yourself needing these three types of compression for your tracks. Many probably will not, but for those that do, you have a very affordable VST waiting for you.

​Channel Strips

Channel Strips

​Waves SSL G-Channel (Our Recommendation)

Waves SSL G-Channel (Our Recommendation)
Waves SSL G-Channel

​Waves SSL G-Channel

Waves SSL G-Channel

​Soft-knee compression and limiting, a gate/expander, and automatic makeup gain come together to create one hell of a fantastic plugin. If you’d love to own an SSL 4000G console, but don’t have the money, Waves SSL G-Channel is a very accurate and realistic model. 

The sound of Waves SSL G-Channel is more aggressive and edgier than its brother, Waves SSL E-Channel. This is because Waves SSL G-Channel Q is variable based on the amount of gain.

With Waves SSL G-Channel you can reshape sounds by both tone and frequency.
The interface is laid out nicely and while there are a lot of features the interface stays clean and easy to read.

Waves SSL G-Channel - 2
Waves SSL G-Channel Buss Compressor
Waves SSL G-Channel E-Channel

Waves SSL G-Channel is available only in bundles, of which there are four. You have Pro Show and SD7 Pro Show, both of which are on the expensive side ($4000+).

There are two much cheaper bundles that include Waves SSL G-Channel, which are SSL 4000 Collection and Studio Classics Collection.

Soft-knee compression and limiting, a gate/expander, and automatic makeup gain come together to create one hell of a fantastic plugin. If you’d love to own an SSL 4000G console, but don’t have the money, Waves SSL G-Channel is a very accurate and realistic model.
The sound of Waves SSL G-Channel is more aggressive and edgier than its brother, Waves SSL E-Channel. This is because Waves SSL G-Channel Q is variable based on the amount of gain.
With Waves SSL G-Channel you can reshape sounds by both tone and frequency.
The interface is laid out nicely and while there are a lot of features the interface stays clean and easy to read.
Waves SSL G-Channel is available only in bundles, of which there are four. You have Pro Show and SD7 Pro Show, both of which are on the expensive side ($4000+). There are two much cheaper bundles that include Waves SSL G-Channel, which are SSL 4000 Collection and Studio Classics Collection.

​iZotope Alloy Neutron 2

iZotope Alloy Neutron 2

​UPDATE: iZotope Alloy was replaced by Neutron 2! It’s a fantastic plugin that offers the same features and more.

iZotope Alloy Neutron 2

​iZotope Alloy Neutron 2

iZotope Alloy Neutron 2

​Alloy operates by giving you six individual modules, which can be placed in any order. You have EQ, Exciter, Dynamics, Limiter, De-Esser, and Transient Shaper as your six modules, with the Dynamic module having two stages that can run parallel or at different points in the signal chain. 

Of course, when you have such a large and complex VST you usually run into CPU issues, and the more modules you run the heavier the demand will be. For the same reasons that we get CPU issues, we get a high learning curve and this will be too much for a beginner to handle.

The GUI is outdated looking at this point, but it has a nice workflow and all the features are laid out without becoming overbearing.

iZotope Alloy Neutron 2 Interface
iZotope Alloy Neutron 2 Transient Shaper

Those that are already familiar with VSTs, but weary of Alloy’s large size can breathe a sigh of relief because Alloy comes with a great preset manager and Macro control system.

The presets are categorized by instruments and then the actual preset itself will have a name that pretty much tells you want it does.

UPDATE: iZotope Alloy was replaced by Neutron 2! It’s a fantastic plugin that offers the same features and more.
Alloy operates by giving you six individual modules, which can be placed in any order. You have EQ, Exciter, Dynamics, Limiter, De-Esser, and Transient Shaper as your six modules, with the Dynamic module having two stages that can run parallel or at different points in the signal chain.
Of course, when you have such a large and complex VST you usually run into CPU issues, and the more modules you run the heavier the demand will be. For the same reasons that we get CPU issues, we get a high learning curve and this will be too much for a beginner to handle.
The GUI is outdated looking at this point, but it has a nice workflow and all the features are laid out without becoming overbearing.
Those that are already familiar with VSTs, but weary of Alloy’s large size can breathe a sigh of relief because Alloy comes with a great preset manager and Macro control system. The presets are categorized by instruments and then the actual preset itself will have a name that pretty much tells you want it does.

​Team DNR MixControl Pro

Team DNR MixControl Pro
Team DNR MixControl Pro

​Team DNR MixControl Pro

Team DNR MixControl Pro

​MixControl Pro is actually a package deal and consists of two mixing plugins: MixControl Large and MixControl Small. Small is just a condensed version of Large for easier/general mixing.

MixControl Large features two compressor modes (transparent and colored), three level detection modes, a ultra-responsive gate, internal gate, Input/Output, 6-band EQ, and 13 EQ filter types.

There are still more features in this massive VST. Oh, and there are also 32 presets. 

The 13 EQ filter types:  low cut (12db/24db/36db/48db), high cut (12db/24db/36db/48db), low shelf, high self, bell, band pass, and band stop.

The sound is fantastic and you will quickly start to shape your sound within just a few moments of booting up MixControl Pro.

Team DNR MixControl Pro - 2

MixControl interface is OK, but the real fun comes from a number of skins that can be used. The default interface can come off as intimating at first, but there is a tooltip feature that gives you a brief description when you mouse over the different components of the GUI.  

It may be a little much for beginners, but if they are willing to put the work in, they can grab a very nice channel strip for a great price.

MixControl Pro is actually a package deal and consists of two mixing plugins: MixControl Large and MixControl Small. Small is just a condensed version of Large for easier/general mixing.
MixControl Large features are two compressor modes (transparent and colored), three level detection modes, a ultra-responsive gate, internal gate, Input/Output, 6-band EQ, and 13 EQ filter types. There are still more features in this massive VST. Oh, and there are also 32 presets.
The 13 EQ filter types:  low cut (12db/24db/36db/48db), high cut (12db/24db/36db/48db), low shelf, high self, bell, band pass, and band stop.
The sound is fantastic and you will quickly start to shape your sound within just a few moments of booting up MixControl Pro.
MixControl interface is OK, but the real fun comes from a number of skins that can be used. The default interface can come off as intimating at first, but there is a tooltip feature that gives you a brief description when you mouse over the different components of the GUI.  
It may be a little much for beginners, but if they are willing to put the work in, they can grab a very nice channel strip for a great price.

​IK Multimedia T-RackS 3

IK Multimedia T-RackS 3
IK Multimedia T-RackS 3

​IK Multimedia T-RackS 3

IK Multimedia T-RackS 3

​T-RackS 3 comes in three editions: Singles, Standard, and Deluxe. Deluxe improves upon Standard in a few ways. The most notable difference is the five additional processors.

They both come with Equalizer, Compressor, Multiband Limiter, and Clipper. Deluxe adds Vintage Tube Compressor, Vintage Tube Program Equalizer, Brickwall Limiter, Linear Phase Equalizer, and Opto Compressor.

T-RackS 3 commonly gets a rather vexing and huge complaint, and it’s a complaint that all IK Multimedia VSTs get. The authorization manager is terrible. Not because you have to download it, we understand them taking the security steps.

The problem is, it’s so unstable and buggy, and often when you see negative reviews on T-Racks 3, it’s not because of the plugin itself, but because of the authorization manager.

IK Multimedia T-RackS 3 Compressor
IK Multimedia T-RackS 3 Equalizer

There are a few issues with T-RackS. First, you’re going to have CPU issues and this will give you issues during mixing and will force you to run it on the lowest latency mode. Second, while the interface is mostly great, you can’t reorder effects or hide meters.

There is a lot of competition out there for VSTs around this price, while we loved the sound of T-RackS 3, the interface issues pull it down enough for us to recommend that you do a bit of shopping around first.  

T-RackS 3 comes in three editions: Singles, Standard, and Deluxe. Deluxe improves upon Standard in a few ways. The most notable difference is the five additional processors.
 They both come with Equalizer, Compressor, Multiband Limiter, and Clipper. Deluxe adds Vintage Tube Compressor, Vintage Tube Program Equalizer, Brickwall Limiter, Linear Phase Equalizer, and Opto Compressor.
T-RackS 3 commonly gets a rather vexing and huge complaint, and it’s a complaint that all IK Multimedia VSTs get. The authorization manager is terrible. Not because you have to download it, we understand them taking the security steps.
The problem is, it’s so unstable and buggy, and often when you see negative reviews on T-Racks 3, it’s not because of the plugin itself, but because of the authorization manager.
There are a few issues with T-RackS. First, you’re going to have CPU issues and this will give you issues during mixing and will force you to run it on the lowest latency mode. Second, while the interface is mostly great, you can’t reorder effects or hide meters.
There is a lot of competition out there for VSTs around this price, while we loved the sound of T-RackS 3, the interface issues pull it down enough for us to recommend that you do a bit of shopping around first. 

​Softube Tube-Tech Classic Channel

Softube Tube-Tech Classic Channel
Softube Tube-Tech Classic Channel

​Softube Tube-Tech Classic Channel

Softube Tube-Tech Classic Channel

​Again we have another bundle of plugins; this time with three: CL 1B Opto Compressor, PE1C “Pultec” Equalizer, and ME 1B Mid-range Equalizer. So, let’s break each of the Tube-Tech Classic Channel down.

PE 1C Equalizer gives you controls for low and high-frequencies and both have individual controls for boost and attenuate. There is also a bandwidth knob that moves between Sharp and Broad.  

CL 1B Compressor gives you controls for gain, ratio, threshold, meter, attack, release, select, and bus select. The optical gain reduction circuit makes up a large part of CL 1B’s sound with its tendency to have a quick release time which gives away to a long recovery.

ME 1B Midrange Equalizer gives you controls for low, mid, and high-frequency peak with an output gain control. It’s designed to work in conjunction with PE 1C and gives you more control over frequencies.

Softube Tube-Tech Classic Channel Interface
Softube Tube-Tech Classic Channel Package

The Interface is incredibly clean and looks great. The GUI lacks flair, but in our opinion, that is a good thing.

We are happy to say that we came across no CPU issues nor did we have any reliability issues. The bundle price is anything but a drop in the bucket, but with all the features and the versatility, we think it’s justified.  

Again we have another bundle of plugins; this time with three: CL 1B Opto Compressor, PE1C “Pultec” Equalizer, and ME 1B Mid-range Equalizer. So, let’s break each down.
PE 1C Equalizer gives you controls for low and high-frequencies and both have individual controls for boost and attenuate. There is also a bandwidth knob that moves between Sharp and Broad.  
CL 1B Compressor gives you controls for gain, ratio, threshold, meter, attack, release, select, and bus select. The optical gain reduction circuit makes up a large part of CL 1B’s sound with its tendency to have a quick release time which gives away to a long recovery.
ME 1B Midrange Equalizer gives you controls for low, mid, and high-frequency peak with an output gain control. It’s designed to work in conjunction with PE 1C and gives you more control over frequencies.
The Interface is incredibly clean and looks great. The GUI lacks flair, but in our opinion, that is a good thing.
We are happy to say that we came across no CPU issues nor did we have any reliability issues. The bundle price is anything but a drop in the bucket, but with all the features and the versatility, we think it’s justified.  

​Limiters

Limiters

​Fabfilter Pro-L (Our Recommendation)

Fabfilter Pro-L (Our Recommendation)
Fabfilter Pro-L

​Fabfilter Pro-L

Fabfilter Pro-L

​​​​​FabFilter is back and nabs its second recommendation from us. Before it was for their EQ plugin, this time it’s with their incredible Pro-L.

Flabfilter Pro-L is a multipurpose limiter that wants to and should be your go-to limiter for both mixing and mastering.

To prove this just look at the features:

  • ​linear-phase oversampling
  • ​advanced dithering and noise shaping
  • ​customizable look-ahead
  • ​attack
  • ​release and channel linking settings
  • ​super-precise metering

​We know that it’s a lot, but that why Pro-L succeeds so well. But you’re probably wondering about the sound.

The sound is completely transparent and is as a loud as any other limiter we know about. The best part is the sound doesn’t have to be transparent; with some tweaking, you can achieve some nice crunch, if you want that, that is.  

Fabfilter Pro-L Metering
Fabfilter Pro-L Feature Set
Fabfilter Pro-L - 2

The interface is gorgeously stark. There are a few controls and a huge gain slider, but the rest of the screen is taken up by the waveforms. There is a button for advanced controls that give you things such as four limiting styles:

Transparent, Punchy, Dynamic, and Allround.

You really won’t be using the advance section often, so we are fine with the “hidden” features. There is a 30-day trial available, so go give that a try if you’re still wary of buying.

FabFilter is back and nabs its second recommendation from us. Before it was for their EQ plugin, this time it’s with their incredible Pro-L.
Flabfilter Pro-L is a multipurpose limiter that wants to and should be your go-to limiter for both mixing and mastering. To prove this just look at the features: linear-phase oversampling, advanced dithering and noise shaping, customizable look-ahead, attack, release, and channel linking settings, and super-precise metering.
We know that it’s a lot, but that why Pro-L succeeds so well. But you’re probably wondering about the sound.
The sound is completely transparent and is as a loud as any other limiter we know about. The best part is the sound doesn’t have to be transparent; with some tweaking, you can achieve some nice crunch, if you want that, that is.  
The interface is gorgeously stark. There are a few controls and a huge gain slider, but the rest of the screen is taken up by the waveforms. There is a button for advanced controls that give you things such as four limiting styles: Transparent, Punchy, Dynamic, and Allround. You really won’t be using the advance section often, so we are fine with the “hidden” features.
There is a 30-day trial available, so go give that a try if you’re still wary of buying.

​Thomas Mundt LoudMax (Free)

Thomas Mundt LoudMax (Free)
Thomas Mundt LoudMax

​Thomas Mundt LoudMax

Thomas Mundt LoudMax

​LoudMax is a look-ahead brickwall loudness maximizer that offers a decent clean transparent sound and simple GUI.

It handles most tracks we threw at it well, though a few tracks just fell apart when we used the limiter on them.

We also don’t think it even touched our CPU usage, we obviously know it did, but we only ever saw it register 1% of our CPU. 

Control wise you have one slider for threshold and one for the output level, meters for input, output, and gain reduction, and a fader link.

This is definitely for beginners who are either new to brickwall limiters or just limiters in general. It’s simple to use and has some use depending on the music you’re throwing at it.  

LoudMax is a look-ahead brickwall loudness maximizer that offers a decent clean transparent sound and simple GUI.
It handles most tracks we threw at it well, though a few tracks just fell apart when we used the limiter on them. We also don’t think it even touched our CPU usage, we obviously know it did, but we only ever saw it register 1% of our CPU.
Control wise you have one slider for threshold and one for the output level, meters for input, output, and gain reduction, and a fader link.
This is definitely for beginners who are either new to brickwall limiters or just limiters in general. It’s simple to use and has some use depending on the music you’re throwing at it.  

​vladg/sound Limiter №6 (Free)

vladg/sound Limiter №6 (Free)
vladg sound Limiter №6

​vladg sound Limiter №6

vladg sound Limiter №6

​Limiter №6 comes with five modules (RMS Compressor, peak limiter, high-frequency limiter, clipper, true peak limiter), 4x sampling, and two different GUIs.

The GUI is more complex looking than LoudMax because it displays all five modules, but it’s is simple and easy to use, though it looks cluttered at first glance.

All in all, it’s a decent free limiter that will help prepare you for when you buy Fabfilter Pro-L, if you find yourself needing a better limiter.

Limiter №6 comes with five modules (RMS Compressor, peak limiter, high-frequency limiter, clipper, true peak limiter), 4x sampling, and two different GUIs.
The GUI is more complex looking than LoudMax because it displays all five modules, but it’s is simple and easy to use, though it looks cluttered at first glance.
All in all, it’s a decent free limiter that will help prepare you for when you buy Fabfilter Pro-L, if you find yourself needing a better limiter.

​Mastering Suites

Mastering Suites

​iZotope Ozone (Our Recommendation)

iZotope Ozone (Our Recommendation)
iZotope Ozone

​iZotope Ozone

iZotope Ozone

​iZotope Ozone aims to be the complete package for all you mastering needs and successfully succeeds in doing so. 

Now in its seventh installment, Ozone comes in two forms: Standard and Advance. Ozone 7 includes Vintage Tape for both versions and Vintage EQ, Vintage Compressor and Vintage Limiter modules for the Advance version. Both versions add Codec Preview, an upgraded Maximiser, and new file export format options (Mp3/AAC).

With the Advance version, you have 10 modules in all here, that all come with their own presets. Both Standard and Advanced share stereo imaging, dynamics, exciter, dynamic EQ, and dither.

iZotope Ozone Advanced
iZotope Ozone Standard

If you’re familiar with Ozone 5 and older versions’ interfaces you’re going to be in for a surprise. With version 6, iZotope completely changed up the UI for the better.

The positional layout is similar to older versions, but everything just looks so much more modern and stylish compared to older versions. Some of the black on gray text can be hard to read, but besides that, it’s a great looking UI.

Really, that’s about the only criticism we have for Ozone. We recommend going for Ozone 7 Advance and think the added features easily warrant the higher price.

iZotope Ozone aims to be the complete package for all you mastering needs and successfully succeeds in doing so.
Now in its seventh installment, Ozone comes in two forms: Standard and Advance. Ozone 7 includes Vintage Tape for both versions and Vintage EQ, Vintage Compressor and Vintage Limiter modules for the Advance version. Both versions add Codec Preview, an upgraded Maximiser, and new file export format options (Mp3/AAC).
With the Advance version, you have 10 modules in all here, that all come with their own presets. Both Standard and Advanced share stereo imaging, dynamics, exciter, dynamic EQ, and dither.
If you’re familiar with Ozone 5 and older versions’ interfaces you’re going to be in for a surprise. With version 6, iZotope completely changed up the UI for the better.
The positional layout is similar to older versions, but everything just looks so much more modern and stylish compared to older versions. Some of the black on gray text can be hard to read, but besides that, it’s a great looking UI.
Really, that’s about the only criticism we have for Ozone. We recommend going for Ozone 7 Advance and think the added features easily warrant the higher price.

​Transient Shapers

Transient Shapers

​Softube Transient Shaper (Our Recommendation)

Softube Transient Shaper (Our Recommendation)
Softube Transient Shaper

​Softube Transient Shaper

Softube Transient Shaper

​Softube Transient Shaper is a simple, but an incredibly effective transient shaper. With that said, let’s go over the GUI and break down the features.

You have controls/knobs labeled Sustain and Punch (both provide +/- 20dB and have Hi, Lo, or Wide for frequencies) and knobs labeled Crossover and Level. You have a Punch control operated by a Fast/Slow transient slider.

Softube Transient Shaper’s best quality is the dual-band architecture. This essentially means that it’s not just great for adding bite to drums, but also for complex sounds like vocals and guitars. It can also soften sounds, going against the common thinking of what transient shapers should be used for.

A simple GUI with every control you would want, dual-band architecture, and light CPU use all come together to create a fantastic transient shaper.

Softube Transient Shaper is definitely the most versatile transient shaper on our list and is the only one that can truly work great for instruments other than drums.

Softube Transient Shaper is a simple, but an incredibly effective transient shaper. With that said, let’s go over the GUI and break down the features.
You have controls/knobs labeled Sustain and Punch (both provide +/- 20dB and have Hi, Lo, or Wide for frequencies) and knobs labeled Crossover and Level. You have a Punch control operated by a Fast/Slow transient slider.
Softube Transient Shaper’s best quality is the dual-band architecture. This essentially means that it’s not just great for adding bite to drums, but also for complex sounds like vocals and guitars. It can also soften sounds, going against the common thinking of what transient shapers should be used for.
A simple GUI with every control you would want, dual-band architecture, and light CPU use all come together to create a fantastic transient shaper. Softube Transient Shaper is definitely the most versatile transient shaper on our list and is the only one that can truly work great for instruments other than drums.

​Boz Digital Labs Transgressor

Boz Digital Labs Transgressor
Boz Digital Labs Transgressor - 2

​Boz Digital Labs Transgressor

Boz Digital Labs Transgressor - 2

​Transgressor seeks to be more than just a transient shaper and it does this in two ways.

First, you have separate EQs for your transients and sustains. Second, it has a sidechain and can bring in source audio from another track. These two features are what make

Transgressor stick out among other transient designers.

This also gives more room for the design of the GUI, which Transgressor takes advantage of with a mix of gray, blue, red sections fitting together as if they’re a part of a puzzle. The UI truly looks great because of this.

Sound wise we feel that while Transgressor works great for drums, it lacks a bit when moving on to other instruments and sounds when compared to Softube Transient Shaper.

Boz Digital Labs Transgressor

Softube Transient Shaper also costs less than Transgressor, which brings up another complaint. It’s kind of pricey to be honest, and with so many transient shapers being essentially the same, the cost is a huge factor when considering these types of plugins.

Transgressor seeks to be more than just a transient shaper and it does this in two ways.
First, you have separate EQs for your transients and sustains. Second, it has a sidechain and can bring in source audio from another track. These two features are what make Transgressor stick out among other transient designers.
This also gives more room for the design of the GUI, which Transgressor takes advantage of with a mix of gray, blue, red sections fitting together as if they’re a part of a puzzle. The UI truly looks great because of this.
Sound wise we feel that while Transgressor works great for drums, it lacks a bit when moving on to other instruments and sounds when compared to Softube Transient Shaper. Softube Transient Shaper also costs less than Transgressor, which brings up another complaint. It’s kind of pricey to be honest, and with so many transient shapers being essentially the same, the cost is a huge factor when considering these types of plugins.

​Native Instruments Transient Master

Native Instruments Transient Master

​Native Instruments Transient Master

Native Instruments Transient Master
Native Instruments Transient Master
NI Transient Master is a basic transient shaper that gives you knobs for attack, sustain, and gain. And well . . . that’s all she wrote.
Sound wise, the VST works great for percussive sounds and handles the percussive nature of an acoustic guitar a little bit better than Transgressor did. We really felt that we could take an entire drum kit and easily make it sit far away in the mix, or right up and personal.
Again, cost brings this one down for us, even more so than Transgressor did because while they sit in the same price range, NI Transient Master has fewer controls. But, often Komplete updates/upgrades are on sale and you may be able to grab this for half the cost, which the plugin warrants. 

NI Transient Master is a basic transient shaper that gives you knobs for attack, sustain, and gain. And well . . . that’s all she wrote.

Sound wise, the VST works great for percussive sounds and handles the percussive nature of an acoustic guitar a little bit better than Transgressor did. We really felt that we could take an entire drum kit and easily make it sit far away in the mix, or right up and personal.

Again, cost brings this one down for us, even more so than Transgressor did because while they sit in the same price range, NI Transient Master has fewer controls.

But, often Komplete updates/upgrades are on sale and you may be able to grab this for half the cost, which the plugin warrants.  

NI Transient Master is a basic transient shaper that gives you knobs for attack, sustain, and gain. And well . . . that’s all she wrote.
Sound wise, the VST works great for percussive sounds and handles the percussive nature of an acoustic guitar a little bit better than Transgressor did. We really felt that we could take an entire drum kit and easily make it sit far away in the mix, or right up and personal.
Again, cost brings this one down for us, even more so than Transgressor did because while they sit in the same price range, NI Transient Master has fewer controls. But, often Komplete updates/upgrades are on sale and you may be able to grab this for half the cost, which the plugin warrants. 

​Waves Trans-X

Waves Trans-X
Waves Trans-X

​Waves Trans-X

Waves Trans-X

​Thank you, Waves, for giving us a cheap alternative to all the other more expensive transient shapers on our list. 

This plugin sits at either half and sometimes even a third of the cost of the other transient shapers on our list.

There are two versions: Wide and Multiband. Wide is designed for those that are happy with their EQ on the track, but just need that extra something special.

Multiband, however, is designed for drum loops, buses, and fatter and wider polyphonic tracks that need more work.

Overall, it handles drums very well and other instruments like vocals and guitars a decent bit as well. The GUI makes it stick out among others on the list with it being the complete opposite looking of the streamlined NI Transient Master.

We describe the GUI by saying it looks like you would find it in the control console of a submarine, and that is simply cool to us. 

The cost and GUI alone warrants a look into this transient shaper.

Thank you, Waves, for giving us a cheap alternative to all the other more expensive transient shapers on our list. This plugin sits at either half and sometimes even a third of the cost of the other transient shapers on our list.
There are two versions: Wide and Multiband. Wide is designed for those that are happy with their EQ on the track, but just need that extra something special. Multiband, however, is designed for drum loops, buses, and fatter and wider polyphonic tracks that need more work.
Overall, it handles drums very well and other instruments like vocals and guitars a decent bit as well. The GUI makes it stick out among others on the list with it being the complete opposite looking of the streamlined NI Transient Master. We describe the GUI by saying it looks like you would find it in the control console of a submarine, and that is simply cool to us.
The cost and GUI alone warrants a look into this transient shaper.

​MIDI Sequencers

MIDI Sequencers

​WaveDNA Liquid Rhythm (Our Recommendation)

WaveDNA Liquid Rhythm (Our Recommendation)
WaveDNA Liquid Rhythm

​WaveDNA Liquid Rhythm

WaveDNA Liquid Rhythm

​Liquid Rhythms comes with a collection of drum kits and loops that help you quickly start making beats right away. While this is the main focus of Liquid Rhythm, you do have the ability to load your own samples as well.

If you’re at all familiar with Ableton Live you will recognize the GUI right away.

This includes the same tooltips and built-in tutorials you’d expect to find in Ableton Live. This is great for quickly figuring the plugin out. 

Speaking of Ableton, Liquid Rhythm was created to be paired with Ableton Live 9, so that it can be the be-all and end-all of MIDI-based beat creation.

They work wonderfully together and despite the fact that we have a soft-spot for the DAW, we think most will agree with our assessment. 

WaveDNA Liquid Rhythm Interface
WaveDNA Liquid Rhythm Interface - 2

Since speed is the name of the game here, Liquid Rhythm gives you the ability to create beats with note clusters and patterns instead of individual notes. The result is great sounding beats that take a fraction of the time to create.

Going more in depth with LR’s ability to create beats, you have the Beatform Tumbler that lets you isolate any region of your beat and change its complexity.

BeatWeaver will take a series of beat forms and automatically send them through the BeatForm Step Sequencer and show you every single combination of the beat form. This is great for when you’re stuck in a rut. 

We also really liked the Randomizer feature. This feature works by having you choose the settings for the Barform, Beatform, Collaborate, and Velocity and Groove sliders then you simply hit “Surprise Me!”

It’s a fantastic VST and you have two versions to choose from (Liquid Rhythm and Liquid Rhythm Intro). The latter is half the cost but lacks BeatWeaver, Rhythm Synth, GooverMover, Randomizer, BeatForm Tumbler, BeatForm Shifter, and Ableton Push MIDI Script.

Liquid Rhythms comes with a collection of drum kits and loops that help you quickly start making beats right away. While this is the main focus of Liquid Rhythm, you do have the ability to load your own samples as well.
If you’re at all familiar with Ableton Live you will recognize the GUI right away. This includes the same tooltips and built-in tutorials you’d expect to find in Ableton Live. This is great for quickly figuring the plugin out.
Speaking of Ableton, Liquid Rhythm was created to be paired with Ableton Live 9, so that it can be the be-all and end-all of MIDI-based beat creation. They work wonderfully together and despite the fact that we have a soft-spot for the DAW, we think most will agree with our assessment.
Since speed is the name of the game here, Liquid Rhythm gives you the ability to create beats with note clusters and patterns instead of individual notes. The result is great sounding beats that take a fraction of the time to create.
Going more in depth with LR’s ability to create beats, you have the Beatform Tumbler that lets you isolate any region of your beat and change its complexity. BeatWeaver will take a series of beat forms and automatically send them through the BeatForm Step Sequencer and show you every single combination of the beat form. This is great for when you’re stuck in a rut.
We also really liked the Randomizer feature. This feature works by having you choose the settings for the Barform, Beatform, Collaborate, and Velocity and Groove sliders then you simply hit “Surprise Me!”
It’s a fantastic VST and you have two versions to choose from (Liquid Rhythm and Liquid Rhythm Intro). The latter is half the cost but lacks BeatWeaver, Rhythm Synth, GooverMover, Randomizer, BeatForm Tumbler, BeatForm Shifter, and Ableton Push MIDI Script.

​Sugar Bytes Thesys

Sugar Bytes Thesys
Sugar Bytes Thesys

​Sugar Bytes Thesys

Sugar Bytes Thesys

​Thesys is a step sequencer made for live use and to highlight this fact, Thesys has five sequencers that all cover different types of MIDI data.

There is a lot packed into this VST, especially in the main display, which feels a little too cluttered for our taste. 

The ability to resize the window would go a long way in fixing this issue. Hint-hint, nudge-nudge, Sugar Bytes. 

So what are all of these features? Well, you have pitch recorder, randomizer, and independent loop lengths of all five sequencers, and an internal synth to name a few.

You can create 16 full patterns within a single project and choose from eight effects that can be used in real time, adding to our point of why this VST is geared for live use. 

Sugar Bytes Thesys Real-Time Action
Sugar Bytes Thesys Pitch

Thesys even has a built-in synth, which is a decent single-oscillator with a simple filter, delay, and some envelopes. It’s not the greatest synth by any means, but it works as a simple synth if you need one.

Because of there being so much here, Thesys often feels messy, especially when you first start out. However, if you’re willing to put the work in, Thesys is a great highly customizable step sequencer.

Thesys is a step sequencer made for live use and to highlight this fact, Thesys has five sequencers that all cover different types of MIDI data. There is a lot packed into this VST, especially in the main display, which feels a little too cluttered for our taste. The ability to resize the window would go a long way in fixing this issue. Hint-hint, nudge-nudge, Sugar Bytes.
So what are all of these features? Well, you have pitch recorder, randomizer, and independent loop lengths of all five sequencers, and an internal synth to name a few.
You can create 16 full patterns within a single project and choose from eight effects that can be used in real time, adding to our point of why this VST is geared for live use.
Thesys even has a built-in synth, which is a decent single-oscillator with a simple filter, delay, and some envelopes. It’s not the greatest synth by any means, but it works as a simple synth if you need one.
Because of there being so much here, Thesys often feels messy, especially when you first start out. However, if you’re willing to put the work in, Thesys is a great highly customizable step sequencer.

​Sinevibes Inertia

Sinevibes Inertia
Sinevibes Inertia

​Sinevibes Inertia

Sinevibes Inertia

​Inertia by Sinevibes is a 32-step sequencer that runs in precise sync with the host transport. If you’re a fan of making glitchy and stuttering sounding loops that work great for EDM music, then you’ll love this plugin. 

Inertia offers a multi-envelope generator that has 11 envelope types, variable time and lag, and has a simple, but nice GUI. You can select the loop duration of the input source to 1, 2, 3, 4, or 8 bars at the top of the UI.

In the middle sits the sequencer editing area and we found it easy to draw the volumes of the steps in the editor. There are six envelope shapes: full square, half square, single ramp, double ramp, triple ramp, and triangle, and they all have a polarity control.

It’s definitely a niche plugin, but if you’re looking for glitch-based loops, this is a very affordable way to do so. We had no reliability or CPU issues when using Inertia as well.

Inertia by Sinevibes is a 32-step sequencer that runs in precise sync with the host transport. If you’re a fan of making glitchy and stuttering sounding loops that work great for EDM music, then you’ll love this plugin.
Inertia offers a multi-envelope generator that has 11 envelope types, variable time and lag, and has a simple, but nice GUI. You can select the loop duration of the input source to 1, 2, 3, 4, or 8 bars at the top of the UI.
In the middle sits the sequencer editing area and we found it easy to draw the volumes of the steps in the editor. There are six envelope shapes: full square, half square, single ramp, double ramp, triple ramp, and triangle, and they all have a polarity control.
It’s definitely a niche plugin, but if you’re looking for glitch-based loops, this is a very affordable way to do so. We had no reliability or CPU issues when using Inertia as well.

​I hope you enjoyed this article! Do share it with any of your musician friends.

I hope you enjoyed this article! Do share it with any of your musician friends.