Best new mixing plugins, effects and VST instruments out this week
Software instruments, effects and mixing plugins – here’s everything fresh in the plugin marketplace.
Image: Getty Images
In music production, plugins are software add-ons which expand the capabilities of your DAW; these could be virtual instruments and creative effects, EQ and compressor, or tools that make editing a lot more manageable.
This rolling list keeps you up to date on the newest plugins as they’re announced – as well as some interesting ones you might have missed – so check back regularly for the latest virtual instruments, effects, mixing plugins and more.
Latest virtual instruments, effects and mixing plugins
(Last update: 29 November 2022)
The Spirit vocal effects chain by Cradle
Louis Bell and Cradle, who teamed to create the hyped God Particle plugin have returned with a sleek new effects chain for vocals. The Spirit is centered around vocal processing with an EQ, two reverbs, a doubler effects, a gain rider for tonal consistency, and a Character effect with compression and focus controls.
Presets to get you started come included, and you can create your own to save right inside the plugin. Bell is best-known for his work with Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, Post Malone and Camilla Cabello so there’s a pop mixing vocal chain you can trust.
The Spirit is available for $79 (usually $119) until 4 December. There’s also a five-day trial available on cradle.app.
Lil Tube by Waves
The first in Waves’ new line of Magma custom-modelled plugins is Lil Tube, a saturator that promises to add ‘instant bigness’ and analogue warmth to your tracks with little CPU usage.
Its controls are incredibly simple, with a sensitivity switch to select between Soft, Normal and High saturation levels; a Drive knob for dialling in saturation, and an Output control. Learn more on the Waves website, and hear it in action below:
Aperture: Cassette Symphony by Spitfire Audio
Spitfire’s Aperture: Cassette Symphony is a sample library packed with the sounds of a full symphony orchestra resampled through 200 cassette players at Assumption Studios – that’s done with over 800 tapes of orchestral material passing through 15 speakers.
The full suite of orchestral instruments are found here, from strings to woodwinds, and brass all separated into low and high sections, together with a complete percussion section with a variety of articulations.
Aperture: Cassette Symphony is available for £199/€249. Learn more on the Spitfire website.
Pilot Plugins AI MIDI generator by Mixed In Key
Mixed In Key’s new AI-powered Pilot Plugins was designed to help you generate fresh MIDI and audio files. Think of it as the drummer from Logic Pro X but for melody: you can choose from different avatars and have them generate notes for you in your chosen key, tempo and more.
Pilot Plugins launched with a range of genres under the Futurism Vol 1 collection, but the brand is expected to launch other styles of music in the near future.
Pilot Plugins Futurism Vol 1 is available now for $49.50.
Sound Particles filter Air | Music Edition
Sound Particles has launched Air | Music Edition, a free new filter effect plugin designed to simulate the increasing distance between a sound source and its listener.
Air is based on scientifically measured curves that allow you to apply distance to any sound. Air | Music Edition is a free stripped-back version of the original, which costs $69. While the original Air lets users go into more accurate details of humidity and temperature, has presets included and lets you create distances of up to 20 miles, Music Edition is optimised for music, only allowing for up to 500 feet.
Megalit synth by BLEASS
BLEASS has released its new synthesizer, Megalit, donning both monophonic and polyphonic operation, and three oscillators with 135 wavetables, providing a lot of variety for users.
The instrument marks the manufacturer’s most adventurous synthesizer to date, balancing accessibility to new users while also ensuring good sound quality with the built-in multi-band upward and downward compressor providing control over the sound’s dynamics.
Audiolens reference tool by iZotope
iZotope has unveiled Audiolens, a free desktop app which will make it easier to create music that sounds like your favourite tracks, using AI-powered assistance to adjust tonal balance, width, and dynamics.
Audiolens will seemingly integrate with iZotope’s Ozone 10 and Neutron 4 plugins, without the need to download any files, and will analyse audio from any streaming platform or audio source.
The plugin’s free to download until 22 November at izotope.com.
A-Console by Sonimus
Sonimus A-Console is a console plugin emulation of a classic American console. It’s been developed with the intention of being used on every single channel track and buss groups, the brand says. Sonimus promises “huge sound enhancement” on sound sources when using the console emulation with the characteristics of one of the most popular American hardware consoles.
Both A-Channel & A-Buss versions have now been combined, making the all-in-one plugin quicker and easier to control. “Get ready for this click-and-enhance Console Emulation!” Sonimus says.
The plugin is available for an intro price of $39 at sonimus.com.
Tangle synth by Toybox Audio
Tangle is a new set of curated blocks based on legendary Eurorack modules from the Tangle pack, with other “unique blocks for advanced synthesis and sound creation”, says the brand. It’s part of the Tangle pack, which is effectively a build-it-yourself monophonic synthesizer.
Included in this synth is a mini oscillator, the Tangle oscillator, a filter, modulation effects, delay and reverb.
Tangle a beautiful-sounding synth that certianly looks the part. Check it out and buy it for just $32 at toyboxaudio.com.
PolyMAX synth by Universal Audio
Creator of brilliant plugins that emulate classic hardware, UAD has outdone itself with the new PolyMAX synth, which it announced this week.
A “vintage‑inspired synth gives producers the sound of the golden age of analog polyphonic synthesizers”, so says UAD, with this plugin that emulates the workflows and sounds of classic synths like the Jupiters, Oberheims and Prophets.
Bill Putnam, Jr., CEO of Universal Audio, has said: “Created with our deep analog-modeling expertise, PolyMAX is inspired by these timeless sounds and fits seamlessly into any DAW‑based workflow.”
Buy PolyMAX for $199 at uaudio.com.
Oddity 3 by GForce
Oddity3 is an emulation of the ARP Odyssey synth, released in 1972. It’s been over two decades since the first version of Oddity dropped, and though it’s added a slew of features to its repertoire since, the core of the emulation is still “a faithful and accurate recreation of one of the most highly revered synths ever,” says GForce.
It already had authentic models of the original hardware’s filters, two syncable oscillators, ring modulator, AR and ADSR envelopes, and more. This time around, however, a Vintage knob lets you introduce ‘analogue-style’ imperfections to your signal.
Find out more and buy Oddity 3 for £49.99 at gforcesoftware.com.
Loopmix by Audiomodern
Audiomodern launched its Loopmix plugin this week, which is designed to offer infinite ways to slice, dice, and rearrange loops. Allowing users to slice, pitch, reverse, rearrange and remix their work in more ways than some thought possible, up to six loops can be uploaded and edited using the plugin at any one time.
Find out more about the $49 Loopmix at audiomodern.com.
October 2022: Virtual instruments, effects and mixing plugins
Pocket Dimension by Freakshow Industries
What is the Pocket Dimension? Well, a description of the plugin effect from its product page brings up more questions than answers, but we’ve sort of figured out that’s the entire point.
The latest plugin to arrive from Freakshow Industries seems to have one foot in a Lovecraft horror story, and the other in experimental granular synthesis. It’s highly recommended that you try this one out yourself, or at least give its trailer a watch.
You can pick up the Pocket Dimension at $30, or if you’re feeling naughty, Freakshow Industries also offers the option of ‘Stealing’ the plugin (which essentially lets you pay less than its actual price tag). See the Freakshow website for more.
ShaperBox 3 update by Cableguys
If you’ve been on the fence about picking up ShaperBox, now may be a good time to add to cart. The latest version of the sound movement and mixing plugin toolkit adds a host of new features, bringing into the fold Audio Triggering, Sidechain View in VolumeShaper and a new LiquidShaper Flanger-Phaser.
On top of offering drawable LFO, nine creative effects from bitcrushers to stereo imagers, ShaperBox 3 comes with a preset browser to quickly find combinations that work with your latest track.
ShaperBox 3 is priced at €89 / $89 (usually €301 / $301) during this Black Friday period. Learn more at the Cableguys website.
Noon Toska Instrument for Kontakt
Toska is a Kontakt instrument by Noon Instruments described as a “palette of evolving, atmospheric textures created from multi-layered, imperfect performances”, says the plugin developer.
It’s an elegant thing, and looks to be brilliant for producers looking for abstract, eerie soundscapes. Choose from 83 patches of multi-layered synths, brass, strings, winds, vocals and field recordings re-recorded onto tape and cassette to form saturated, gritty textures.
You can find out more about toska and download it for an intro price of £69 at nooninstruments.com.
BPB Dirty LA – Free compressor VST plugin
BPB‘s continuing its Dirty range of free plugins with its latest offering, the Dirty LA limiting compressor.
The compressor and saturator, which is based on classic amplifiers, is “dirty” because it includes a dirt algorithm that adds a unique crunch. If you’re looking for punchy drums like Jay-Z or Beyonce, as A.J. Hall says in the video above, this can apparently bring you just that vibe. It’s also lightweight and stable, thanks to its low CPU usage.
Dirty LA is free to download at bedroomproducersblog.com.
Zumzet Lo-fi virtual instrument plugin
Zumzet is an affordable virtual instrument made by audiolatry that delivers all manner of beautiful retro sounds.
From twinkling keys to dusty pads, Zumzet looks like a seriously inspiring instrument considering the cost. It also has a fun interface with scrawled pen-like labels for each effect parameter to reflect the dusty sounds you’re hearing as you play.
Zumzet is just $9 (a free version is also available) and is available to download at audiolatry.com.
Moogerfooger S-Series by Moog
Moog has brought each and every effect pedal in the venerable Moogerfooger line into the digital domain for the very first time with the Moogerfooger S-Series plugins.
According to Moog, each virtual pedal has been “lovingly recreated to impart the same lush, distinctive tones of the original analogue circuits and can now be used in DAW-based environments.”
The pedals were first introduced by Bob Moog in 1999, but discontinued in 2018. It brought Moog’s design architecture into the pedal market with gusto, featuring signature Moog knobs and Appalachian wood side panels. They were found to work well with an astonishing range of inputs, from vocals to synths, and also featured inputs and outputs for CV.
The Moogerfooger S-series will be available for Windows and macOS at an intro pricing of $149 (Usually $249). For more information visit moogmusic.com.
BigSky Plugin by Strymon
Originally a guitar pedal which found its place in studio work, the BigSky reverb effects pedal is finally available as a plugin. Described to be a “direct port” of the original, the BigSky Plugin features all 12 reverb machines: Bloom, Cloud, Chorale, Shimmer, Magneto, Non-Linear, Reflections, Room, Hall, Plate, Spring and Swell.
The ‘Hold’ function is also present – this lets you trigger an endless reverb effect in both Infinite (engages infinite sustain) and Freeze (where you can stack unprocessed audio atop) modes.
The plugin format also means producers can finally have more than one instance of the BigSky running in their project – well you could before, but you had to buy one for each track you wanted it on. Instead, you can now run as many instances of the BigSky as your machine can handle for $199.
Learn more at the Strymon webpage.
Spectral Spacer (reverb, delay, grain reverb etc.)
We love Spacer. It’s a modular multi-effect plugin with three reverb modules, two delay modules and finalising controls like chorus, dimension, saturation and stereo effects. Spacer’s five coloured modules can give you any combination of reverb, grain reverb, simple delay, convolution and grain delay. You can switch any module on or off and stack the effects on top of each other.
It’s available for an intro price of $69. Check it out at spectral-plugins.com.
Big Muff Pi hardware plugin
We all know Big Muff, don’t we? Well, if you don’t, not to worry. It’s one of the most iconic distortion pedals on the market. used by guitarists through to 303 acid lovers alike, Big Muff can be found as a default on pedal boards, providing a distinct crunch to beats, bass or, well, whatever you fancy!
Now, Electro Harmonix, in a major move, has turned Big Muff into a plugin and built a faux hardware device along with it to give an unmatched analogue sound. A more affordable alternative to the real thing, this has all the action going on in the DAW while the physical unit simply acts as a controller.
The pedal and hardware unit comes in at $329. Check it out at ehx.com.
Superfly DSP Lost Vinyls lo-fi effect (Freeware)
Lost Vinyls is a free lo-fi effects plugin that uses “state-of-the-art distortion algorithms”, the developer says, to add an old-school vinyl tape crunch to your sounds. With a simple interface, you can control the depth of the tape effect and the rate of the flutter frequency. There’s also a Crunch button to add even more harmonic distortion. There’s also a stereo mode.
Find out more and download for free at superflydsp.com.
Acustica Audio Fire The Bus+ compressor
Acustica’s FIRE series of one-knob plugins aim to provide high quality combined with ease of use. Acustica Audio recommends users to apply this to their whole mix, with it being able to provide the ‘glue’ between tracks, meaning they can have a cohesive timbre across all of them quickly and easily.
The plugin costs $69. Find out more and check it out at acusticaaudio.com.
Sampleson Alienize cinematic sci-fi instrument
Alienize by Sampleson is a simple but strange mouse-sensitive instrument that’s suitable if you’re looking for modern alien-like soundscapes found in the likes of Arrival. Think alien invasion music and you’re there. It’s not just able to make strange background noises, however, as it does a pretty good job of creating unique bass growls for experimental dance music.
Over a fun looping animation of aliens walking through a forest, you can simply wave your mouse around to affect the sound. First, set the pedals, generators, textures and their gains at the bottom, and then affect each parameter via mouse gestures, allowing for a more natural playing experience.
Download Alienize at an intro price of $39 at sampleson.com.
Mixland STEAMDRIVER channel strip plugin
Not only does this new channel strip plugin by Mixland look like the intro screen for a weird PS1 steampunk game, the quirky visuals play a key role in this characterful tool, too. It’s a “pulverizing steampunk channel strip plugin that sounds as demented as it looks”, according to Mixland, that uses three modules, compression, distortion, and an EQ, each visually represented by the weird things on screen. A hydraulic machine press represents the compressor’s behavior and gain reduction, an electric shock chamber represents saturation, and so on.
Download and around with this strange plugin for $14.99 at mixland.io.
Cherry Audio Sines polyphonic synth
Cherry Audio‘s new Sines virtual polyphonic synth combines subtractive synthesis, additive synthesis, and FM synthesis, taking advantage of, Cherry Audio says, “diverse waveshaping to bend pure sine waveforms into infinitely variable and complex shapes and sounds”.
There are four sine-wave-only oscillators – hence the name–, a range of modulation options, and an integrated effects engine. According to the developer, Sines has a vast palette of timbres, from “sublime to sizzling”.
You can buy it for an intro price of $39 at store.cherryaudio.com.
Heavyocity FURY distortion designer
On 4 October, Heavyocity released its latest plugin, a distortion effect called FURY. It provides a range of levels of distortion, from subtle tube warmth to hard clipping, “lo-fi crush”, says Heavyocity. It is a semi-modular distortion designer with drive, distortion and tone parameters on hand, providing 700 possible module combinations.
For a limited time, Heavyocity are kicking things off with an intro price of $99, down from the original $119. Find out more at heavyocity.com.
Punk Labs OneTrick SIMIAN drum synthesizer
OneTrick SIMIAN is an open-source drum synthesizer from Punk Labs. Inspired by “hexagonal classics” like the Simmon SDS-V electronic hexagonal drum kit, it boasts a typically 80s sound. Punk Labs describe the sounds on offer as: “Thumping kicks, punchy snares, and sizzling cymbals coalesce with its clacky claves and crunchy claps. Bring saccharine synthwave sauce to your sublime soundscapes or drop indelable pewww pewww tom toms into your new nu-disco.”
It has 10 voices, 33 factory preset kits , velocity sensitive pitch, filter an damp dynamics and lo-fi EPROM for a classic cymbal sound.
Find out more and buy the OneTrick SIMIAN for $35 at punklabs.com.
UVI Augmented Orchestra 1.1 Update
UVI Augmented Orchestra is a plugin that amasses a range of orchestral sounds and lets you layer them with synths to make something nostalgic yet forward-thinking. Whatever sound you’re making, it’s going to be unique.
Now, with the 1.1 update, 100 new sounds have been added with 35 new sound sources that adopt a further focus on modern sound design.
The update is free for current users of Augmented Orchestra and $199 for first-time buyers. Find out more at UVI.net.
Artistry Audio Monolith bass engine
Monolith is an “infinite bass engine”, according to its developer Artistry Audio. It’s a Kontakt instrument that produces rumbling, floor-shaking basslines perfect for dance music or deep dramatic sounds for soundtracks. It’s got hundreds of presets to choose from made up of 85 groups of sculptable organic basses, swells, subs and other bass styles made up of synth samples.
Monolith is available right now for an intro price of $99, with it normally costing $149, and can be played on the Kontakt player. Find out more at artistryaudio.com.
Smugi filter bank with effects by Felt Instruments
Smugi is a warped take on a historic filterbank used by the likes of Stockhausen and Pierre Schaefer. Designed to let you “get your mad scientist coat out” the plugin builds in the classic sound of the Albiswerk 502, splitting signals into 12 “musical” bands and equipping each with LFOs and movement, flutter and feedback effects.
It’s also highly usable as a mixing tool, with a virtual recreation of the original’s germanium amp giving you saturation and even distortion. Listen to it at the Felt Instruments website.
Smugi is going for an intro price of £59 (usually £79) until 18 October.
Dials channel strip by AudioThing x Hainbach
If you’re looking to give your signals a distinct 1950s sound, Dials could be up your alley. The plugin is described as a “detailed digital translation” of some pretty unconventional vintage gear from YouTuber Hainbach’s studio.
The combination of a “German vacuum tube radio broadcast device” and a “heavy-duty American bandpass filter” provide the main colouration of Dials. There’s also built-in compression that’s suited to vocals. “While its roots are in the past, this is a truly modern device with an unparalleled sound. It can be used to sweeten your music or to experiment – it can even become an instrument in your hands,” reads a product description.
You can get it now at an introductory price of $49 (usually $79).
September 2022: Virtual instruments, effects and mixing plugins
KSHMR Chain workflow streamlining tool
KSHMR Chain is a new workflow streamlining plugin made by Excite Audio in collaboration with EDM star KSHMR. It streamlines your workflow and eradicates copy and paste, the producer says. Make plugin chains, save them and apply them to multiple tracks quickly and easily.
The way it works is by having ‘leader plugins’ and ‘follower plugins’. The leader is where you test out the paramters for your desired result, and then once you’ve decided on that, you can broadcast it out to all the followers, so they have the exact same parametres. It basically solves the issue of duplicating plugin chains all the time.
Buy it for an intro price of $29 on pluginboutique.com.
Waves Spherix Dolby Atmos Compressor/Limiter Suite
Working with spatial audio? Waves has launched Spherix Immersive, an intuitive compressor and limiter plugin suite created specifically for processing audio for surround sound.
Spherix consists of a compressor and a brickwall limiter, designed to make workflows easier for producers and sound engineers working in immersive 7.1.4/7.1.2 mixing environments. It features Channel Linking and Control Linking alongside a speaker zone visualiser.
Check it out at waves.com.
Free 1960s Piano by SampleScience
This amazing and free 1960s Piano plugin by SampleScience is based on the recording of the early 60s studio/semi-grand Kawai Model 600 piano, which is warm and lovingly lo-fi. It includes a multi-LFO, four velocity layers, a room reverb and three voice modes: polyphonic, monophonic, and legato.
1960s Piano is free to download at samplescience.info.
LoopToGo looping software
LoopToGo is a software looper that’s easy to use and designed for live, off-the-cuff performances. There is a free version that’s limited to only 6 tracks while Pro allows you to loop as many tracks as you want. Simply plug in your audio, set the loop time, tempo and get looping in seconds. There are even basic ways to create a full formed track or to test out how a full track might look thanks to its automation clip features.
Take a look at LoopToGo at looptogo.com.
Free SampleScience Zither Renaissance instrument
This new free software instrument by SampleScience is made out of restored recordings of a zither. A zither is is a Chinese string instrument that has a distinctive sharp plucking sound. Recorded by Versillian Studios, the instrument is damaged, giving it an air of unique texture. Spectral repair, adaptative noise removal, and manual retuning has been applied to the audio.
Check it out and download for free at samplescience.info.
Sistema AI-powered software synth by Guk.ai
It’s becoming more common to see artificial intelligence in mixing plugins, but not as often in instruments however. Sistema is an AI-powered soft synth that generates new synth leads, pads, drums and more. All you have to do is choose an instrument category and character, and let the machine do the work.
After that, you’ll be able to tweak parameters to hone in on the sound you want. It’s available now for $10 per month, and there’s a seven-day trial for you to test it out.
Learn more at Guk.ai
ModFlorus chorus-flanger effect by Xhun Audio
Coming from the developer behind LittleOne, a software emulation of the Moog Little Phatty, ModFlorus is a hybrid effect processor that’s a lot more straight-up: it’s a chorus and flanger with simple controls and a realistic sound, thanks to advanced component simulation.
ModFlorus supports MIDI automation and comes with presets aplenty. The intro price of $9.90 (usually $39) also makes it worth considering if you’ve been seeking out a modulation effect for your arsenal.
Check out Modflorus.
Jellyfish granular synth by MiMU
The brand behind MiMU Gloves has entered the plugin market with a granular synth called Jellyfish. Specially designed with live performance in mind, Jellyfish lets you create drones, soundscapes and pulses with the ability to make dramatic audio tweaks in real time.
Simply drag-and-drop your own audio, or choose from a variety of included samples and get started. Then you can manipulate sounds with parameters for grain, as well as a number of playback options that go forward, backwards and inter-spliced.
Available now for £99, learn more at MiMU’s website.
DreamMachines by Melda
DreamMachines a big and flexible collection of sampled drum machines with convenient tools to mix, layer and further process your sound. It comes in instrument form for MSoundFactory, Melda’s own virtual instrument library in plugin form.
There are over 500 samples spanning kicks, snares, rims and claps – all of which cater a wide range of genres from EDM and hip-hop, to 80s synth pop and more. If you own MSoundFactory, you’ll find DreamMachines available as a free download. Otherwise, it’s available as a separate download (running with the free MSoundFactoryPlayer for an intro price of £17 / €19.
Learn more about DreamMachines at the Melda website.
Pockey2 Lo-Fi bitcrusher by Airwindows
The sequel to Pockey runs smoother, and refreshes the character of the fidelity crushing plugin. Now, you’re given a broader range of adjustment with sessions running in 96kHz – with the ability to frequency crush much lower.
Airwindows says of Pockey2: “Pockey2 shines when finding just the right spot to entirely transform a sound into pure lo-fi hip hop classic sampler madness. Even more than the original Pockey, this one can completely transform a sound into retro digital.”
Pockey2 is free to download at the Airwindows website.
Beat Scholar drum machine by Modalics
Taking inspiration from pizzas, Modalics has announced a tasty new drum machine called Beat Scholar. The plugin lets you slice up beats – represented by a circle – for a visually refreshing and freeing take on subdivisions.
Built-in kits and a sampler come included. Here, over 250 curated factory samples are incorporated to capture a wide range of possibilities. What’s more, each sample can be adjusted – giving users complete control over attack times, length, pitch and more.
Moog Minimoog Model D now available on MacOS
Moog has brought its revered Minimoog Model D iOS app to desktops as a plugin for major DAWs and as a standalone app. Best of all, it’s free for existing iOS owners and only $25 for new users.
Packed with 160 presets, Moog Minimoog Model D is more than just a faithful recreation of the 1970 monophonic synth. Along with four-note polyphony, the virtual recreation boasts an easy-to-use arpeggiator, a real-time loop recorder with unlimited overdubbing, a ping-pong stereo delay with tempo sync, and Bender – a “wide-range stereo time modulation effect module,” Moog says.
Download Moog Minimoog Model D App on the App Store.
ER-99 by Extralife Instruments
It’s not quite a plugin (at least without some internal routing) but Extralife’s tribute to the Roland TR-909 is worth a mention. The ER-99 is a browser-based emulation of the Roland TR-909, the iconic drum machine which is celebrated on 9 September – or 909 day – each year.
Play ER-99 at extralifeinstruments.com.
Guitarstrip by Solid State Logic
Solid State Logic’s Guitarstrip combines tube amp emulations with a channel strip with options suited for guitars, in order to get you a great sounding recording. There’s Auto-Gain, a Compressor, a 3-band EQ and a multi-mode Drive module, amongst other tone shaping features.
Guitarstrip is included in the SSL Complete subscription, which goes for $14.99 a month. You can also get it standalone for $199.
Learn more, here.
Phaser-DDL by Dusty Devices
The Ensoniq DP/4 parallel effects processor is a legendary piece of hardware heard on records by Daft Punk, Alan Braxe and Sébastien Léger. Dusty Devices’ Phaser-DDL is a cycle-accurate emulation of the unit’s unique phaser algorithm, featuring all the same controls as its hardware counterpart.
Cycle accurate emulation means that the interactions between virtual components are timed in a manner that accurately reflects the hardware version – meaning its behaviour, in theory, should be reflective of the original both sound- and feel-wise.
Phaser-DDL is available in 64-bit VST3 and AU formats at a suggested price of €24.
Learn more and hear sound demos here.
Needlepoint vinyl emulator by Unfiltered Audio
Unfiltered Audio’s take on vinyl emulation takes advantage of physical modelling rather than preset algorithms to give offer turntable-like playability – for example, you can set the ‘RPM’ freely, or tempo-sync it to your session.
Aside that, you get to sculpt sounds with parameters such as gain, age, dust, noise and, to round things off, a single-knob compressor that takes after vintage hardware samplers.
Unfiltered Audio’s Needlepoint will be available soon via Plugin Alliance (per Synth Anatomy).
Learn more, here.
Strokes sequencing workstation by Cong Burn
Strokes is a powerful MIDI sequencing workstation developed by Cong Burn, instrument rhythm explorers will want to note down this one. Said to be inspired by drummer Jaki Leibzeit of Can, Strokes lets you explore complex rhythms in musical ways.
You ’ll find various sequencing modes such as euclidean, step and algorithmic rhythms on top of parameters that let you add probability to the mix, shift note pitches and loads more.
Strokes is available for £35 at congburn.co.uk.
Phosycon 2 TB-303 emulation plugin by D16 Group
D16 Group has announced the updated second edition of its Phosycon TB-303 bassline synth emulation plugin. According to the developer, it’s said to emulate 303 as a starting point but then provide so much more that hardware just can’t achieve: more state-of-the-art effects, more envelope tools and an advanced step sequencer.
The updated plugin is an upgrade from its predecessor, with a revised arpeggiator, signal chain, sequencer and a new Creative Randomizer function. It is, according to the developer, a “gateway to every 303 every made”. This is 303 in its most advanced form, surely? Go grab it for €89 today.
Learn more at d16.pl.
Quanta 2 granular synth by Audio Damage
Audio Damage announced the second version of its Quanta granular synth, packing on new features to make it a choice pick for producers wanting to get granular. Quanta 2 runs two virtual analogue oscillators and improves its granular engine with pitch detection plus note quantisation so it’s more flexible.
Aside that, users can expect a cleaner interface and a helpful right-click context menu to replace the original’s modulation matrix. Quanta 2 is available for $129, but there’s also a $70 upgrade for Quanta 1 owners with the code “QUANTA2UPGRADE”.
Learn more at audiodamage.com
August 2022: Virtual instruments, effects and mixing plugins
Mouth Play ‘vocal tract’ synth by Dylan Bastan
Bizarre, playful and all sorts of awesome, Mouth Play is a maxforlive instrument that runs on the unique shaping of a vocal tract, together with a simulated glottis (brass model) and accepts FM oscillator as a source. The variety of sounds you get is vast, covering a range of mildly disturbing timbres from breaths and animalistic screeches, to glitchy and droney. Mouth Play is offered at a suggested price of $10.
Learn more here.
IHNY 2 parallel compressor by Baby Audio
Three years on from the launch of Baby Audio’s inaugural plugin, I Heart NY, the developer has launched a follow-up to the original parallel compressor. IHNY2 boasts a complete visual overhaul but continues to drive Baby Audio’s mission to create “the hardest-hitting compressor in the industry.” A new central XY pad enables you to dial in the amount of parallel compression to your mix, as opposed to the original’s two knobs and one slider.
Until 30 September, new customers can purchase IHNY 2 for $39, while owners of the original I Heart NY can upgrade for $25. The plugin is available in VST, VST3, AU and AAX formats and is compatible with M1-equipped Macs.
Learn more here.
Dist COLDFIRE dual distortion by Arturia
Arturia’s new custom distortion tool combining a range of analogue-style and digital algorithms with modulation. There are 11 distortion types that can be applied and combined through filters A and B. These types range from “emulated tube heat” to creative “icy digital bit crush”. It includes saturation, crunch and destruction controls to provide a “near-infinite” amount of distortion possibilities, according to the French software developer.
Available at $99. Learn more here.
OctaSine (v0.8.0) free polysynth by Joakim Frostegård
The latest version of Joakim Frostegård’s free and open source OctaSine is out, bringing improved patch management, waveform visualisations and other talents to the FM synth.
An ongoing development – which shares its code on GitHub – OctaSine’s name derives its four stereo sine-wave operators. Aside that, it offers flexible routing, four multi-wave LFOs, ADSR envelopes for each voice and a white noise mode for creating percussive tones.
It runs on macOS, Windows and Linux in VST2-compatible hosts.
Learn more here.
Synth AI library for Kontakt by Sample Logic
To get this out of the way, the ‘AI’ in Synth AI refers to ‘Animated Intelligence’ – just in case you were expecting a synth that had a brain. With that out of the way, this is a massive Kontakt library with an emphasis on cinematic synths and options – so many options.
Featuring 24GB of samples across 1,074 instruments and presets, Synth AI’s smorgasbord of multi-sampled synths span analogue and digital, both modern and vintage.
Randomisation features, motion effects and a clever sequencer take these synths to the next level, and there’s lots else for media composers to love. It’s now priced at an intro pricing of $149.99 (usually $249.99) and you’ll need the full version of Kontakt to run it.
Learn more here.
Flipity phase inverter by Airwindows
Flipity is a very tiny utility plugin that helps you flip the phase of channels, and it’s also the latest free drop from the charitable musician and developer Airwindows, who has written and given away hundreds of free plugins, samples and more over the years.
In his demo for Flipity, Airwindows – who goes by Chris – also announces that he has a new album out called Welcome To Free Luna, so if you’d like to support his work, we recommend picking up a digital copy.
Learn more here.
Mercury spooky sounds library by Spitfire Audio
Spitfire Audio’s Mercury was created in collaboration with Hollywood composer Chas Smith. It brings the haunting and sinister sounds of films such as Saw, The Hunger Games and Interstellar to your DAW
Comprised of organic sounds, the plugin features 300 presets and a Sonic Experiment option which includes six warp options and the ability to toy with the sounds of different metals.
Mercury is available now for £149, here.
OCS-45 cassette simulator by Spectral Plug-ins
Spectral Plug-ins’ new OCS-45 cassette simulator takes your tracks to lo-fi land with four authentic cassette types, complete with pitch modulations, dropouts and noise.
Punks and indie-rockers looking to give DI-recorded instruments the DIY treatment (how many Portastudios are still out in the wild, really?) can also rely on OCS-45’s rich built-in distortion processor, which lets you dial in any amount of crustiness.
Get it for $15, here.
VAPoly polysynth for iOS and computers by RT Music Software
VAPoly is an eight-voice polysynth designed for iOS devices and MacOS, and it comes fleshed out with effects, automation talents and a sequencer too – not bad for those who want a powerful synth to take on-the-go.
There are two oscillators with mod options, two ADSR envelopes and both high-pass and low-pass filters. The sequencer lets you program 16-bar patterns to launch as clips – of which you can store 16 of, as well.
VAPoly works standalone or as an AuV3 plugin for mobile DAWs. Developer Ryo Togawa, who also previously released VAMono and VADrum2, is marking the launch of VAPoly with a discounted price of $9.99 (usually $14.99) until 31 August.
Cramit multiband compressor
Cramit is a multiband compressor that can be driven into distortion, channelling the aggressive compression techniques of countless dubstep and electronic producers.
It features a three-band compressor with expansion, seven different distortion algorithms with the option to add harmonics before or after compression, solo and bypass functions for specific bands and versatile controls for gain, speed, depth and dry/wet. On top of all of that, it’s completely free.
Based on the well-loved OTT from Xfer Records, which is also free, an “upwards/downwards” multi band compressor with gain controls on both its input and output, Cramit is an easy to use, rather classy-looking tone beast.
Get it here.
Rust Motor EQ by Acustica
An emulation of the legendary Motown EQs of yore populating the ‘Hitsville U.S.A.’ studio, Acustica’s Rust Motor EQ emulates the all-analogue, passive seven-band fixed EQ units that contributed to the sound of The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5 and more. It’s available now for an introductory price of €59, with a regular price of €109.
How to install plugins on Windows, Mac and iOS
If your plugin came as a .zip file, and not an installer, you may have to manually install it. Here’s how…
- Unzip the plugin folder
- Copy the .VST file to your default plugin folder (Windows default: C:\Program Files\Common Files\VST3, Mac default: /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST)
- Start your DAW
- Rescan your plugin directory
- Download and install plugin from the App Store
- Insert plugin in your DAW
- Select the AUv3 plugin from the Audio Unit Extensions tab
Where to download freeware plugins and VSTs
Our freeware section is an excellent place to start; each month, we also compile round-ups of the best free plugins and samples to download.
The production community is full of passionate developers who’ve given away instruments, effects and other plugins as freeware. Some of our favourites include Valhalla’s Supermassive reverb, Apogee’s Soft Limit and Matt Tytel’s Helm polysynth. Remember, most developers also offer free trials for their plugins.
Are DAW stock plugins good enough?
Most major DAWs these days will come with a more-than-serviceable collection of ‘stock’ plugins for music-making: Logic Pro’s software instrument library is rich and varied; Ableton Live’s synth engines cover additive, subtractive and granular methods, and the Pro Tools suite of mixing plugins is still widely used by pro engineers.
A good producer isn’t their plugin folder, but their ability to make good decisions. Increase your knowledge: instead of buying a synth samples, learn about the fundamentals of synthesis; kick drum sounding too skinny? learn to compress properly.
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