Audio Processing & Effects Software
This is another category where I have far too many plugins to even remember! If I had to strip down my collection, though, I would keep my UAD2, Waves, Slate Digital, Valhalla, and Soundtoys collections. Between those collections, I could get by comfortably. But, I’m a computer geek, and I love collecting and playing around with lots of different audio software.
This list is by no means all inclusive, but just the ones that I use most often and can remember without going through the whole list on my studio computer.
- Universal Audio UAD2 Powered Plugins – I was using the UAD plugins since the original UAD-1 cards. I had four of those UAD-1 cards in an expansion chassis for a long time. When the UAD2 came out, I jumped on that quick and bought a UAD2 Quad card. Kept that running alongside the UAD-1 cards for a while before finally selling off the four UAD-1 cards when I figured I could do most projects with just the UAD2 Quad. As far as the actual plugins go, I have almost all of the available plugins for the UAD2. There are maybe only 4 or 5 plugins that I don’t own. My favorites, though, are the Studer tape emulation (which gets used on almost every track in my mixing projects), and the Ampex master tape plugin (sometimes on the mix buss, sometimes applied subtly in mastering), as well as the brand new 1176 compressor emulations, and the Manley Massive Passive EQ. The Moog filter is also quite cool, as is the Neve buss compressor, and the Precision series, the Cooper Time Cube, the Roland Chorus and Dimension D, and MXR Flanger/Phaser. So many great plugins that sometimes it’s hard to choose which ones to use! I often find myself maxing out my UAD2 card on big mixes these days!
- Waves Mercury + SSL – This is pretty much everything that Waves makes, with the exception of the “King’s Microphone” collection. The Mercury package was the best update I ever did, as I get all the new Wave plugins without having to pay for each new plugin that is released. Lots of great plugins from Waves that get used in every mix that I do. I love the API collection, and the API 2500 plugin is almost as good as my real hardware API 2500 (very hard to tell the difference most of the time). I also love the doubler effects, imaging effects (S1 series), the CLA compressors, H Delay, Kramer Tape, L series, and many more! I don’t know too many professionals who are not using Waves plugins.
- Slate Digital VCC & FG-X – Really nice set of plugins from Slate! My starting point for individual channels when mixing is usually the UAD2 Studer tape plugin followed by the Slate VCC Channel (for console channel emulation), and then a VCC Mix Buss plugin on my main mix buss. Just with those two plugins on most channels, I can do a lot of sound shaping and enhancing, and it really helps the whole mix gel together nicely. For mastering, the Slate FG-X is my new favorite compressor and limiter for bringing the masters up to current loudness levels without destroying the sound too much. If done right, you can make the audio quite loud with barely any noticeable artifacts.
- Soundtoys Native Bundle – I simply can’t live without Echoboy! By far my favorite plugin for delay & echo effects. That plugin is followed closely by Filter Freak… very cool filter plugin. Decapitator is probably my third favorite of the Soundtoys bundle, and works nicely for fattening up bass and drum tracks when needed. Crystallizer and Panman get used once in a while as well.
- Valhalla Room – By far my favorite software reverb! And extremely affordable, plus made by a Seattle company! Next to my Kurzweil KSP8 (hardware), this is my most used reverb. Beats out the UAD EMT250, Plate, and even the UAD Lexicon reverb plugins. Gets used in pretty much every mix these days! Great variety of reverb sounds, and more than enough parameters for any tweakhead.
- SPL Transient Designer, TwinTube, and Ranger EQ series – Transient Designer is another plug I can’t live without, but I also have the version for the UAD2 platform, so I could live without the separate SPL version if I had to. The Transient Designer makes its way onto most mixes I do, but not always. TwinTube was quite good when it first came out, and I still like using it to generate upper harmonics on dull sounds, but I have other, more current, effects now for adding subtle saturation and harmonic effects. The Ranger series of EQ is quite nice, and I probably should try them out more, but I have so many other EQ choices that I often forget to even try the SPL EQs.
- Antares Auto-Tune, Doubler, Harmony Evo & FX – I could live without AutoTune, and I hate how much it is used these days, but everyone expects you to have it. I very rarely use it, though, as I prefer to work with singers who can actually sing, and would rather punch in to fix something that’s a bit off rather than fix it later with tuning. Cubase now has Vari-Audio which is much faster and easier for minor tuning, but AutoTune still has a better sound for pitch fixing, and so it’s what I use when I have to do some minor pitch fixing. The doubler and Harmony Evo & FX get used in some of the remixes that I do as they can help me generate some harmonies that have an electronic kind of almost vocoded type of sound to them. The harmonies generated still sound too artificial to use for when you want them to sound like they were really performed by the singer, but they are cool for pop/electronic type stuff where that kind of vocal sound is more of the standard than the exception.
- PSP Audioware – I’ve got four of the PSP plugins: NobleQ, N2O, OldTimer, and the free PianoVerb. I now like NobleQ better than the UAD Pultec emulation since the UAD version is much older and does not model harmonic distortion (just the EQ curves). The NobleQ also has a nice Valve/Clear switch on the output, with a knob to dial in how much valve saturation/distortion you want to add (or switch it off entirely with the Clear setting). The OldTimer is a cool little vintage sounding compressor. N2O has some very cool delay and other effects, but doesn’t get used as much as it probably should since it doesn’t always play nice with other plugins (earlier versions, at least, would cause Cubase to crash on random occasions).
- Rob Papen RP Delay – Very creative and complex delay effects!
- IK Multimedia Ampex SVG – Great bass amp simulations. Also have some of their free guitar amp simulations as well.
- Native Instruments Guitar Rig – In addition to software instruments, NI has some great processing effects as well. My favorite, and the one I use most often, is the Guitar Rig plugin for guitar amp simulation. Very cool and flexible!