Alright, to those of you looking to find a list full of the “best” plug-ins available, you can stop reading right here. To everyone else, I will tell you why such a list doesn’t and never will exist, and why you should stay away from the temptation to always look for better and better plug-ins, never being satisfied with what you already have in your arsenal. Quit asking yourself the question “what are the best VST plugins”, and read on…
Plug-ins, plug-ins, plug-ins…
No doubt, lots of plug-ins on the market today are of different quality. There are great plug-ins and not-so-great plug-ins. But generally speaking, every plug-in available to purchase is “good” and will do its job properly. Every decent DAW has its stock plug-ins pre-loaded into the software, too.
Any EQ will get the job done, as will any compressor. They are pretty much identical in their core functions.
The Best Plug-ins
The market is filled with plug-ins of different kinds, and while it being a very positive thing, there is also a negative side to it. Plug-in developers have large-scale sales all the time, which is good for business, but makes it worse for the consumer. Why do we need to throw our money away like that, thinking we “gotta catch them all”?
In addition, new plug-ins are developed all the time. We constantly need to update our best plug-in to even a better one, right? Unless you really have the money to spend like paper, then I say no.
Just as I have in the past (and I’ll have to admit I sometimes still do), everyone is always looking for better and better options in the plug-in realm. It can be addictive, because new is hot, and as humans, we love anything new.
This is a battle against our own mind – and it can be beaten.
The Process of Forming a Toolbox
The key is this: when you find a certain plug-in you absolutely love, stick with it and make it your default.
There will certainly be a process involved in forming your own toolbox of plug-ins. You might have to go through various plug-ins before you find a suitable one.
Here’s an example: I went through various delays throughout the years, never being fully satisfied with any that I used. I used stock DAW delays and third party delays – until one day. That one day I happened to try EchoBoy by Soundtoys, and I don’t see myself looking back ever again. EchoBoy is all I need in a delay, and it’s my personal preference for any delay duty.
Understand, that you might prefer a different one, so keep on the lookout!
Know your toolbox – the advantages
When you know your plug-ins inside out, you’ll always have an edge to everyone else, who are constantly searching for new plug-ins. When you understand what every knob, button and function does in a plug-in, you will instantly know what you need to do, and how you get it done with that specific plug.
Advantages? Speed. Workflow. Intuition. When you know your plug-ins, your workflow and speed will be turbo-charged.
You’ll start to use your plug-ins in creative ways you wouldn’t have thought before. This is because the basic functions and operations have already been “carved in stone” in the back of your head. You’ll start to think of advanced ways to use a plug-in, such as automating it creatively.
A Few Principles
Here are a few good starting points and questions you might want to ask yourself whether or not you need to expand your range of plug-ins:
- Am I satisfied with what my DAW can offer me?
- What’s wrong with my DAW’s stock plug-ins?
- Is my DAW missing a certain kind of plug-in that I need?
- My DAW has the plug-in, but the plug-in itself doesn’t have a function that I need.
- Can my needs be satisfied with third party plug-ins?
- Am I satisfied with the sound that my current plug-ins offer me?
- Do I work efficiently enough with my current plug-ins?
- I want to find a plug-in that suits my workflow.
- Does this plug-in inspire me?
In the end, choosing and using plug-ins are a matter of preference. So if you like to use a plug-in a lot, stick to it and don’t try to find alternatives for it. Your personal goal should be to find only one plug-in from each category. One equalizer, compressor, delay, reverb, saturator, and so on.
Of course, you can have different equalizers and compressors because they each offer a different sound. But be reasonable, and limit your selection to a few – and learn them well.
Ultimately, good music doesn’t need insane amounts of plug-ins to be brought to existence. When you use less and a select few of handpicked plug-ins, I guarantee you will start making better music, and make it faster than ever. As you might have already guessed, our minds can function more efficiently when they aren’t occupied by a flood of information.
I hope this article has helped you in becoming a more efficient and productive music producer, and hopefully you have learned something from it about using plug-ins.
Please leave your comments below and I’ll be sure to give you an answer.
Do you have the “new plug-in” syndrome? Do you work with stock plug-ins or 3rd party plug-ins? Have you found any plug-ins that you’ll never replace with another one?