Most DAWs now come bundled with a plethora of really useable effects plugins. Apple’s Logic in particular has numerous great options for modulation, spatial effects, distortions and dynamic control and with the latest 10.2.1 plugin re-skin they all look pretty darn sexy. Ableton Live isn’t far behind with less options but some more creative ones, and the option to expand with Max4Live opens a whole world possibilities.
However there’s nothing quite like having a few more to choose from, and whilst there’s a good selection of free options out there and plenty of great bundles at the higher end of the price range, but I’m a total sucker for economy options.
A large swathe of plugin developers from solo DSP enthusiasts to larger companies like Native Instruments are developing pocket-money plugins – thing you can impulse buy and that wont break the bank – and I love them! So, with that said here’s a list of my favourite plugins for under £50 (sorry Yanks, I means $75!). All prices correct at time of publishing!
Valhalla DSP is the brain child of Sean Costello, a plugin designer who’s worked with Analog Devices, SHARC, Blackfin DSPs, Eos and good eggs Audio Damage. They currently offer six plugins (five paid for, one free) all of which are spatial effects, with Shimmer being the pick of the bunch for me.
Shimmer specialises in huge cavernous, enveloping and angelic reverbs that wouldn’t be out of place if you dropped acid in a floatation tank listening to an Erik Satie through PaulStretch. It even has a rudimentary built in pitch shifter, what else could you ask for?
It sounds fantastic on vocals, risers, leads, pads, in-fact at 100% wet values it can turn virtually anything into a washy drone. It can also do a pretty good Alesis Midiverb II, pretty darn useful for shoegaze style guitars, and whatever ambient metal(?) is:
It’s rare I find a plugin that makes such an instant impression on me that I go out and buy it straight away – Fielding DSP’s Reviver was one of them. Perusing various YouTube videos on mixing drums I was introduced to this and coming in at just £20 it was rude not to get it.
Reviver adds harmonics (second and third order harmonics to be precise) as well as having input and output gain and a polarity flip button – it certainly doesn’t do much, but I have to say it sounds great. Simply adding a bit of third harmonic can just lift a sound.
Used on drum mics, a drum bus, bass guitar, vocals and even a master channel strip, it certainly has it uses, cooking the upper mids in a pleasing and subtle manor. Bargain.
Electro House stalwarts Dada Life developed this brutal compressor/limiter/distortion tool back in 2011. Marketed as a mastering tool it actually can offer so much more. Another simple plugin with just three dials (although one of them is a volume control, so two really).
As the loudness war debate continues to dominate mixing and mastering forums, Dada Life have capitalised completely taken the piss with this plugin. Having the distinct lack of dynamics is stylistically correct for certain music genres, and they’ve made the plugin that can get you that sound with ease.
It’s really not for the faint hearted, as settings above about 30% will instantly clip your signal into a sordid square wave. Great on kicks, basses, leads, used in parallel on a send/return or on the master. Tasty!
Buy SAUSAGE FATTENER:
The SOR8 is based on the legendary Empirical Labs DISTRESSOR, which sits somewhere between a compressor and distortion. Used inline on bass, drums, in parallel or even on the master it’s an aggressive little number but also capable of adding just enough bite to set your sounds apart.
It should be pointed out that this plugin does come in a free cutdown version, but after trying that it didn’t take to long to convince me to cough up the £20 for the full version. Here’s a nifty video showing you some before/after comparisons:
Buy Pensadia SOR8:
I love a good oscilloscope (phwoar!), but since Bram @ smartelectronix.com have sadly discontinued support for their 32-bit s(M)exoscope I’ve been scratching around for a new one.
While WaveWindow doesn’t quite offer the same zoom features as s(M)exoscope (making it ideal for monitoring breaks and transients) it’s actually much better for sound design and teaching purposes. Oscilloscopes map time across the x-axis and amplitude across the y-axis, ideal for understanding waveforms.
At this price is small change, so no excuses not to get yourself a copy.
Buy WaveWindow AU: