Offering up an assortment of compressors, EQs, reverbs and more, the plugins that come preloaded into your DAW essentially cover all of the bases for processing and are more than enough to get you started.
Some of them are actually quite good, and if you don’t care much for flashy graphics or mountains of presets from A-List mixers and producers, look no further than Pro Tools’ D-Verb, Logic’s Delay Designer, or Reaper’s ReaComp for some versatile plugins that sound great without being overly CPU-heavy.
But as you hone your skills and stretch these stock plugins to their limits, you’ll most definitely find yourself wanting something more – a wider range of control or a more characterful sound. This is where third party plugins come into play, though there’s a mind-boggling amount to weed through before you find the gems.
This quick list of plugins available on Reverb SYNC represents our favorites for augmenting and upgrading your plugin collection to take your mixes to the next level.
Simply put, UltraReverb runs the gamut for adding depth and dimension to your tracks. Using the reverb algorithms from the stunning Eventide H8000FW hardware unit, UltraReverb also boasts some extra processing options to satisfy even the most obsessive tinkerer.
In addition to rather standard reverb controls, UltraReverb gives you parameters for modulation, stereo delay, distortion, compression, and equalization to fine-tune the sound of the plugin.
Whether you’re looking for more standard, organic sounds that emulate plates, rooms and chambers, are seeking out the flavor of 1980s Eventide units, or want to send your tracks into outer space, UltraReverb almost certainly has what you’re looking for if you’re willing to explore its huge range of control.
Sinevibes Singularity Modulated Delay
Sinevibes specializes in sleek, sophisticated plugins for Mac OS, using the Audio Units format compatible with most Mac DAWs. The Singularity delay plugin is a real standout in their catalog, giving you tempo-synchronized (and time signature-synchronized!) feedback delay, which can be further manipulated by onboard effects processors.
The GUI is very clean, well-laid out and extremely easy to navigate, giving off a virtual instrument-type vibe that makes it a great extension for plugin synths.
Leave it relatively clean with just a subtle hint of modulation, or tie together three of the chorus, phaser, distortion or frequency-shifting effects together in series to completely mangle the dry sound into something that would typically require a long chain of plugins to achieve. With a bit of experimentation, you can even emulate “Non-Linear” reverb effects heard in ‘80s digital effects processors.
Singularity is quite inexpensive for what it offers and is a must-have for any DAW that supports AU plugins.
Waves API 2500 Stereo Bus Compressor
The entire Waves API Collection is nothing to sneeze at, but our collective favorite at Reverb is the 2500 Bus Compressor. This exceedingly convincing model of the classic 2500 hardware unit found in API Legacy consoles and the racks of top mix engineers around the world brings all of the control and versatility of the genuine article to your DAW.
As with the hardware boxes, the Waves API 2500 gives you all standard compression controls as well as switchable feed-foward/feedback modes, variable stereo linking with three selectable sidechain filters, automatic makeup gain for easy level-matched comparisons, three-position knee and API’s patented “THRUST” control.
While most frequently used across an entire stereo mix or drum group, the 2500 can also be used with much success on mono tracks like vocals, bass guitar, or anything else that could benefit from its forward, punchy sound.
It’s a little expensive, sure. But this is the type of plugin that your DAW simply does not come with – one that you can leave across your stereo mix from the get-go.
Positive Grid Pro Series Studio EQ
From the makers of the popular BIAS Amp and FX plugins, we’ve highly recommend the Positive Grid Pro Series Studio EQ as a killer compliment to the standard parametric EQs that come with a DAW. Actually three distinct EQs in one bundle, the Pro Series Studio EQ gives you a world of tonal control from the most precise and transparent to vivid models of classic tube equalizers.
The Digital EQ is a 5+2-band with fully parametric control and switchable stereo / mid-side operation. While this surgical equalizer is best-suited for use over the stereo bus in mixing or mastering applications, it’s equally useful for transparently shaping a vocal where you want the color of the original track to remain intact.
Next up is the Tube EQ – a strong swing of the Pultec bat with a little more control and switchable tube emulations for different harmonic involvement. It is a remarkable effect on bass guitars, kick drums and vocals as well as a gentle bit of sheen across your entire mix.
Of a similar flavor while offering up much different control is the Passive EQ. It gives you three parametric bands and switchable output amplifier tubes, capable of some serious 3D guitar and piano sounds that your more vanilla EQs supplied with a DAW just can’t conjure up.
Softube Vintage Amp Room
It was bound to happen. A number of DAWs now come preloaded with simulations of guitar and bass amplifiers – a nonnegotiable for bedroom recordists who want to explore a wider range of sounds but don’t have the space to store and crank up a bunch of different amplifiers.
However, most of what you get in the “stock” world of plugin amp sims tends to produce the fizzy, flat “digital” sounds that tone chasers brush aside as being inherent to all emulations.
But Softube’s Vintage Amp Room does away with any notion of the lifeless processing of direct guitar sounds. These three models of classic British and American amps accurately recreate all of the raw nuance and edge of a 4×12 stack, a classic “blackface” combo and a vintage AC30.
These emulations respond extremely well to even the most subtle changes in your playing dynamics and different types of guitars and pickups. They also give you control over the virtual placement of a microphone.
The amps modeled in this bundle are essentially what you’d find as the go-to rigs in any big studio, and Vintage Amp Room does a good enough job of mimicking these classics to where you won’t just be using them for scratch tracks or stacked overdubs. Be sure to check out Bass Amp Room for the other side of the frequency spectrum, too.