Plugins I Have Known And Loved

@kerushlow and I are murdering another topic with a gear discussion so I would move it here.

We’re discussing DAW plugins as a replacement for effects, amps, and other gear. This Splice post talks about how far technology has advanced a bit in the context of the current Shoegaze renaissance:

At this point, the digital plugins have reached a level of quality that rivals the analog pedals themselves. Palermo shared an anecdote about his collaborator Nick Bassett (formerly of Deafheaven, Whirr, and Nothing) buying up thousands of dollars of vintage equipment in order to get hyper-specific tones, and then selling it all two years later because the plugins sounded better.

Most DAWs can load plugins, even the free/limited versions. (Sorry Audacity users, you need a MIDI-capable DAW for virtual instruments.) Essentially most plugins ship for all of these container formats, but check before buying:

  • VST/VSTi: Steinberg standards that nearly all DAWs can load
  • Audio Unit (AU): Apple products (Logic/GarageBand)
  • AAX: Avid standard, for Pro Tools

A number of plugins are Windows-only.

I’m having super good luck with moving to purely using plugins instead of pedals/amps/etc. I’ll keep editing this list with some of my favorites; we can collect others recommendations too. I use many of these every day.

@howard’s faves:

Bass Amp/Cab Sims

  • Kuassa Cerberus (tube/FET/overdriven amps)
  • Ignite Amps SHB-1 / NadIR (sounds a lot like an overdriving tube amp)

Effects

  • Kilohearts Snap-Ins - ~35 effects, all the usuals like compression, distortion, chorus, phaser, reverb, etc, plus many unique ones
  • MeldaProduction - big bundle of free tools and effects; their paid effects include an excellent multiband chorus and a decent compressor
  • NeuralDSP Darkglass Ultra - The official Darkglass plugin (NeuralDSP is owned by the owner of Darkglass); a perfect clone of the Darkglass B7K Ultra and Vintage Microtubes Ultra.
  • Valhalla Reverbs - some amazing, pro-level reverbs at a reasonable price. I like Valhalla Room and Valhalla Supermassive (free!).

Vocals

  • Celemony Melodyne - pitch correction without artifacting. Made for vocals but works with any audio
  • WA Productions suite - Some nice plugins for vocal compression, cleaning, limiting, and so on.

Utilities

  • Kilohearts MultiPass - a multiband splitter that lets you build effects chains separately for different frequenct bands
  • MeldaProduction MeldaFreeFX bundle - lots of good utility stuff in it, for free

Mastering

  • iZotope Neutron - a track analyzer and mix assistant. Very smart dynamic EQ powered by machine learning
  • iZotope Ozone - a smart ML-driven mastering assistant plugin; mix with Neutron, master with Ozone
  • Mastering The Mix Animate - a dynamics expander that helps “fix” your sound if it has been squashed a bit by compression and limiting
  • d16 Group Frontier - a tone-enhancing mastering limiter

Guitar Amp/Cab Sims

  • Kuassa Clarent (Orange amp sim)
  • Kuassa Matchlock (vintage Fender amp sim)

Synthesizers

  • Kilohearts Phase Plant (Amazing modular synth, my current favorite)
  • Arturia Pigments (really great UI)
  • Xfer Serum (super easy to use, probably the most-used synth in EDM)

Drums

  • Steven Slate Drums 5 - a great set of kits and additional software for riffs and fills
  • d16 Group Drumazon - a great TR-909 clone
  • Air Music Tech Boom - another TR-808/909 clone, part of Pro Tools, purchasable by itself for other DAWs
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A quick followon to mention is there’s a number of good places to find and buy DAW plugins. The most central are probably KVR Audio and Plugin Boutique.

As advice: never buy plugins at full price if you can avoid it. They go on sale all the time for drastic discounts.

Splice also has a rent-to-own system for some of the more expensive ones that helps make them affordable:

There’s also a lot of free plugins out there.

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One I swear by…the Behringer BDI-21 bass driver…it is a DI pedal. It is $33 new, and has a DI. Supposed to be a copy Sansamp…but I find it warmer and tubier if you have the blend knob all the way up. You can get a bit of the Sansamp clank in there too with presence knob at about 3 o’clock. In any case, you can use it to get a bit of baked in tone prior to DAW plugins.

The bass tone here is DI from BDI-21 pedal and then an ampeg SVT plug-in. If you like that tone, it’s a great investment for only $33 bucks, plus gives you a DI.

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The BDI-21 is a great buy for a hardware pedal, for sure. Sounds just like a SansAmp BDDI, at $35.

What SVT plugin are you using? I find Ignite Amps SHB-1 sounds a lot like a SVT but isn’t exactly the same.

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Hmm…not sure, it’s our pro studio guy and he uses Pro Tools. I saw him use it and it shows a picture of the amp interface…but I think a lot of them do that.

Yeah, the Sansamp is $200, but has a mid control, but that seems to be the difference. I love my BDI and don’t care that it’s a cheap knockoff lol.

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The original BDDI didn’t have the mid control - the BDI-21 is an exact copy of it :slight_smile:

Pro Tools has a lot of cool plugins. It has a neat little drum plugin called Boom that is actually a quite good TR-808/909/etc emulator that I like. Should add it to the list i am making up above.

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EZ drummer is pretty good. Not sure what DAWs it is compatible with. I’ve only personally used StudioOne

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I’ve heard it’s awesome - basically the three best regarded seem to be EZDrummer, Addictive Drums 2, and Steven Slate Drums.

Should work with any DAW; most plugins ship as VST (most DAWs), AU (Logic/GarageBand), and AAX (Pro Tools).

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How long you been playing?

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Bass for just under two years now. However I have a few years of computers in music experience - I was a synth programmer and player in a band in college for a few years a couple decades back :slight_smile:

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Came back in with a head full of steam it seems! That’s great. I love seeing people passionate about music. It’s been amazing for me. I can’t believe I got in a band and we released an album, and can’t believe it’s actually pretty good! But been a LEARNING experience. To bring it back to topic, we recorded our first release ourselves, and sent the raw files to a pro mixer…it took like 6 months to release the damn thing. Then we were running into difficulties on the second song we tried. Decided going to a studio would probably be worth it…and oh man! Only time limitations involved his availability, he gets booked out in advance. But made things SO much easier and better sounding. It’s just a HUGE amount of information to learn yourself and get the type of results a pro can do. That said, we will try to keep learning the recording side.

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Great overview - thanks, Howard!

It is another deeeeeeep rabbit hole to venture down into…

Are you aware of these guys?

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I’m aware of Softube for Amp Room - which looks great, especially for guitarists. Haven’t heard of Litium though. What is it?

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Oops, don’t know :man_shrugging: Just wanted to link to softube and then something apparently happened to the link…

Should probably fix that…

EDIT: did the same thing again, so it now it links to one of their products directly… weird!

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This might be helpful for people trying to catch up quickly on this subject:

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Ahh weird! so Amp Room has a really good reputation. On sale now too :slight_smile:

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Cool!

I’ve used the Ignite and Kuassa amp sims they mention - I just bought Kuassa Cerberus, Matchlock, and Clarent, and all are great. Ignite’s Emissary is good but a little extremely overdriven; however Ignite’s free SHB-1 is a great bass amp sim.

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If money isn’t an object (lol right), Helix Native looks pretty amazing.

Basically, a Line 6 Helix in a DAW plugin.

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So what’s your general take on finding stuff that is (mostly) suitable for bass? As always, there seems to be a ton of stuff for guitar, but for bass it seems much more difficult to find something suitable, much less dedicated to the bass? Is that a wrong assumption?

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That’s an excellent question.

So far I have had really good luck with the effects with bass. Basically finding ones I liked better than my pedals were what made me decide to sell them. I like MeldaProduction’s multiband chorus more than I liked my bass clone; NeuralDSP’s Darkglass Ultra sounds exactly like both a B7K and a VMT, and goes on sale for a quarter the price of either; there’s a ton of great compressors; etc. No issues with effects at all.

One thing that helps for bass is something like Kilohearts MultiPass, which lets you build separate effects chains for individual frequency bands. Here’s an example that took me about 10 minutes to make, and sounds a whole lot like a Darkglass bass-preserving distortion:

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As for amp sims, there are definitely more for guitar than bass, but at the same time, the ones I have found for bass are outstanding. Ignite’s SHB-1 is free and sounds better to me than any tube amp I have seen for under $1k. And I like Kuassa’s Cerberus even more.

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