10 Best VST Plugins for Music Production in 2024
To be honest, following all of these developers and manufacturers might be tiring (if you are not subscribed to their email list) and articles with lists like the one below exist because of this. Of course, you can follow their new releases and try out their newest VSTs, but definitely it is better when someone else has already checked them and is giving a truthful opinion on them.
For the new producers and mixing/mastering engineers that are just coming in the "music game", we will go over some basics of what a VST actually is, just to introduce all of you to the actual point of the post.
Best VST Plugins for Music Production in 2024
What is VST?
The acronym VST stands for "Virtual Studio Technology" and practically the term explains itself. This is something that is virtually recreated to achieve certain technology that is used in most music production or mixing studios.
This is something that the modern producer cannot work without, because more and more people are moving from the classical "hands-on" mixing and creating music, to a more digital approach - or completely working in their Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) on their computers.
You are able to find two basic types of VSTs; instruments and effects.
The instruments are mostly banks with instruments on them - like pianos, orchestra, synths, and many more. And some instruments - such as drums - have VSTs tailored specifically for them.
Check out our list of the 5 best drum VSTs.
The effects are based on the mixing gear and effects in the studios, like compressors, equalisers, reverbs, and so on.
Well in this article, we are going to focus on the effects part of VSTs and we are going to list them in no particular order. These 10 picks below are probably in 90% of our mixes and our process would not be the same without them. So without further ado, let's dig into the list.
1. Pro-Q 3 by Fab Filter
In some of our instructional videos, we referred to this plugin as our "good old friend" and for good reason. This is the plugin that probably is first on most of the channels we have in a session because besides being a versatile and precise EQ, it also has a spectral analyser on it - meaning you are able to see the frequency curve of the signal and react properly.
Something that is new for the Pro Q 3 is that it has dynamic EQ mode, meaning it applies a type of dynamic designer for the selected band. The signal responds to the loudness of the selected area, meaning the louder that area gets, the more attenuated it will be. Great feature.
Another thing that we love about this EQ is that you are able to put a selected band into a particular place in the mix. You can put them in the middle or to the sides, or left and right. This is where you can get crazy with the EQing and create something really unique frequency-wise. Plugin worth having!
2. Neve 1073 by Universal Audio
The 1073 mic preamp/EQ was constructed by famed console designer Rupert Neve and dates to 1970, where it was a part of the Neve custom-built console. And Universal Audio decided to emulate this preamp/EQ and include it in their enormous list of great plugins.
The brand new plug-in 1073 is mounted vertically, whereas the Legacy model was horizontal, and the brand new model is sweet and large in comparison to a much smaller Legacy UI. The plug-in precisely models all the circuits of a “golden” 1073 very precisely, with particular consideration paid to the unique transformer.
It is a great choice for tracking vocals, acoustic guitar, and voiceovers. Its warm tone will benefit recorded instruments that are known for their warmth, making them sound natural as they should be. If you are not able to purchase or have a physical preamp, this is a great choice to go for.
3. Abbey Road RS124 by Waves
One other collaboration between designers Waves and Abbey Road Studios is one other emulation of hardware inextricably linked with the legendary studios. It's a considerate emulation of not only one, however several, of those unique and iconic compressors, that gives a particular and stylish sound with a couple of trendy twists.
As they say, this compressor was used on all the tracks that The Beatles recorded at the famous Abbey Road studio. That suggests that the compressor will have a touch of a vintage feel to it, and will introduce something that resembles that time period when these songs were recorded.
So if you are after some character while compressing, this is a go-to plugin. Besides that, if you are producing music that has live instruments on it, you will certainly love what this compressor can do to your signal.
4. Waves CLA-2A by Waves
Another classic. Another compressor that you are able to see in many studios. Again for a very good reason, because this is probably one of the most used compressors out there. With only several knobs, you are able to set a threshold and make-up gain from this one. Every other standard parameter that a compressor has is already inside of the unit and it works through its circuitry.
We really love how this compressor sounds on vocals and acoustic/electric guitars, as well as on bass instances. Even though it is an emulation from a vintage hardware unit, it works pretty well on digitally generated sounds.
The only reason we picked the Waves model is that for this one you do not need a sound interface from UAD. You can just buy it and install it - and it is ready to go. It has zero latency, a limiter/compressor switch, and analog mode at 50Hz and 60Hz. Play around with those for best outcomes.
5. Trash 2 by iZotope
Trash 2 is designed to be versatile and applicable in many ways. If you’re an audio engineer seeking that extra grit for a drum recording or guitar, slap on Trash and manipulate the settings to get unique distortion profiles.
Another perk that you have with Trash 2 is that it has multi-band options and it works really well with bass, guitars, brass sections, even vocals. You can create very gentle or very aggressive distortion with it and that is the good thing about it.
You will be able to have both sides of distortion from one interface, and it also comes with a bunch of presets that you can choose from and tweak on. We found that this plugin sounds best on digital sounds, so our usage is mostly on such elements, but that doesn't mean that you cannot try it on a recorded element.
6. C6 Multi-band Compressor by Waves
By now probably you are able to tell that we are Waves fans. Well, that is true, because Waves plugins were there when we were starting out and we learned our craft on these plugins. This one is another one that we very frequently use.
An interesting feature that this multi-band compressor has, is that it incorporates a side-chaining switch for each of these 6 bands. This lets you do some very complicated compression on any signal, for some very inventive, and creative purposes.
The one method to actually get into how creative you will get with it, is to install it and see what can occur. Absolutely you're going to get some compression jobs finished and you will be able to express yourself creatively. What more are you able to anticipate from a single plugin?
7. Delay Tape-201 by Arturia
On the first look at this plugin, you will surely ask yourself, does it really sound like the original? Well yeah, because it was emulated from the original Space Echo by Roland. If you do not know what type of delay plugin to load on your signal, this is the one you can go for.
The warbly analog magic of an outboard tape delay, may be thought about as the polar opposite to the exact, virtually clinical surroundings of recording software. Due to the efforts of Arturia’s engineers, now you can combine these two worlds, and luxuriate in some significantly modern options as well. Isn't that the purpose of every plugin?
You just need to look into the interface of this plugin, to realise that you have a bunch of options you can use to work on the signal and get what we think is the most important aspect of creative mixing - unique sound that is hard to replicate. And proper playing with this VST plugin will surely enable you to do so.
8. Valhalla Plate by Valhalla
So simple looking yet so powerful. Valhalla Plate follows the developer's established 2D design with minimal controls - simply 11 knobs and two menus. Every of the plugin's 12 modes gives a special plate 'flavour', influencing the attack, color, and density, all shown by a set of appropriately sorted and sensibly labelled presets.
In the name itself, you will notice that we are talking about a plate reverb, so this is not your regular hall or cathedral reverb. If you think you will benefit from such a plugin, you will always be able to try it and see if it will work for you.
We expect in the case of a plug-in with such a particular operation, it’s not up to us to persuade you to purchase or keep away from it, however merely to persuade the reader whether or not it’s well worth the effort to obtain and install a demo. So if you want to try it out, we encourage you to go ahead and try it, because this is one plugin that can make or break a record.
9. Soothe 2 by oeksound
Soothe 2 is designed to mechanically and intelligently detect drawback frequencies in an audio signal and attenuate them rapidly and transparently. The Soothe GUI is spacious, clear, and intuitive. There are easy, clear pop-ups to guide you - nice for those of us who don’t wish to read manuals. You get superb visual suggestions about which frequencies are being attenuated and by how much, all pushed by the large depth knob.
Also, the plugin provides mid/side processing which shows its flexibility to work in such areas. Sometimes there are things that we want to address on the sides and leave the mid intact, and such an option always comes in handy when we have situations like this.
If you’re not currently using Soothe, in our opinion, Soothe 2 is one of those plugins that comes around once in a while. If you work with digital audio, you need to try out this plugin as well.
10. RC-20 Retro Color by XLN Audio
Type: Creative Effects
RC-20 is a creative FX unit that packs a whirl of a punch. It's the type of plugin that can inject that warm, cozy feeling of vintage equipment and add audio imperfections that are often missed in today’s digital music recordings.
If you have a love for dissonant, warping, and evolving sounds, then XLN Audio’s RC-20 is the plugin you want to try. The saturation has that nice lo-fi moment that this type of music (lo-fi hip hop) possesses. And that is not all - you have a bunch of other effects on it as well, to come up with something completely unique that will compliment your sound.
This plugin, as well as the other plugins, comes with a big number of presets that you can reach for. Lots of gems can be found in this treasury that with a few additional tweaks will do the job for you. Try it!
Well, this is our selection for the best 10 plugins that you can go for in 2024 to ease up your music production and mixing process. We frequently use these and we are totally satisfied with the outcomes that we are getting from them.
There are lots of other plugins that are similar to these we mentioned and you can go for those, but after long years of audio works, we picked these, and we are closely sticking with them.
If you think that we missed something important that is worth mentioning, shoot us in the comment section. If we collect 10 more plugins from which we can create a second part of this article, we will do that for ya'll!
Until then - have a great time in your studio!
Toshe from Mixing Tips is the admin and content creator for The Mixing Tips and account manager of the Instagram page. With over 15 years working in the audio engineering world, he decided to expand the horizon and help newcomers with some great tips and guides on how to improve their music production and especially mixing.
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