Today I wanted to share my top 5 favorite audio plugins. For this list I will be focusing solely on effects plugins, used in mixing and mastering, as opposed to synths or VST instruments. Some of us have a massive collection of sample libraries and synths, and know a bit about composing and music production, but mixing tracks seems to get mentioned frequently as an area where artists are looking to improve (myself included). This top 5 list compiles the audio plugins which I use most frequently in my own productions, and while it was hard to pick just 5, I tried to pick the best sounding and most useful plugins.
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- Blackhole by Eventide. This is an otherworldly reverb which sounds absolutely incredible, and it’s an essential part of my sound design I use this mostly on electronic sounds, such as synths, pads, leads, basses, etc. This is easily the most massive sounding reverb I’ve ever used, and as the name implies, focuses on spacey and dreamlike sounds. I don’t use this reverb for getting a natural and realistic room sound for orchestral samples, but for adding lushness and ambience to everything from synths to vocals. This plugin is based off of legendary Eventide rack mount reverbs, and delivers incredible sound in a simple plugin format.
- Tantra by Dmitry Sches (DS Audio). Tantra is a deep and complex rhythmic processor, capable of transforming even the most mundane sound sources into something fresh and exciting. It has a 32 step sequencer, 8 modulators, and 6 high quality effects. It’s as simple as loading up a preset and applying the effect to any sound source, even something as simple as a square wave from a synth. It instantly transforms the sound, imbuing it with movement and character. I use it on basses, pads, and anything that could benefit from some extra “life”. Synth pulses and futuristic delays are a breeze with Tantra. Filter sweeps, distortion, tremolo and sidechain effects, glitching, delay, flanger, this plugin does it all and then some. A great experimental tool in my arsenal.
- Riffer by Audiomodern. Riffer is a tool that applies random melodies and patterns to any MIDI output signal. There are over 50 scales available to choose from, and options to adjust the amount of steps, complexity of the pattern, set the root key, and more. This is a really nice tool for EDM producers, especially on basses, leads/plucks, and pads. Add Riffer to a pad and you get a very unique, sweeping, arpeggiated sound that is always fresh due to the randomization function and Riffer’s infinite mode, which randomizes the pattern indefinitely. It adds a nice texture and sense of urgency to pad sounds, and can generate bass lines and leads that always play in the right scale and always change, so your track never gets repetitive. Riffer is also available as an iPad app.
- Pumper 2 by W.A. Productions. Pumper 2 is a very simple plugin that combines three different effects: compression, saturation, and stereo image. Each effect is assigned to a big knob on the interface. I often apply these effects in combination when doing sound design, so having them all available in one simple plugin is really nice. It sounds great, is easy to use, and comes with presets that serve as great starting points. Use it to add grit and filth to basses and leads, make drum tracks really pop, and enhance the stereo image of any sound or sample.
- Frei:raum by Sonible. Frei:raum is an incredible mixing tool, and absolutely essential in my mixing process, especially the Smart EQ function. Frei:raum combines three separate plugins into one easy to use module: Smart EQ, Proximity EQ, and Entropy EQ. The Smart EQ is a dynamic equalizer with 7 bands, and can be used just like any multi band EQ. The real magic comes from Sonible’s real time analysis and learning tool, hence the name “Smart” EQ. Simply play your sound source, and click a button on one of three bands, and the EQ will listen to the source and analyze it, and apply a custom EQ curve based directly off the sound that it’s listening to, with precise micro adjustments to really enhance your sound. It immediately identifies problematic frequencies and is an amazing tool for any producer or composer, not to mention a HUGE time saver. The Proximity EQ can remove or enhance the sound of ambient space or room noise in recordings and samples. Use it to remove the room sounds from wet samples or recordings, or provide a sense of space to dry samples. The Entropy EQ allows you to surgically adjust the amount of transients (sound of guitar pick against the string) and harmony (the note the string produces). It can remove unwanted noise from live audio recordings, tame out plosives in speech or vocal recordings, and overall just control the attack of any recording or sample. Frei:raum combines all these incredibly useful functions into one intuitive plugin.
What are your favorite top 5 audio effects plugins? Drop us a comment and let us know!
-Brian Freeland, APD