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5 Innovative Plugins from the Past Few Years

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I’ve decided to make a list, once a year, of the “most innovative” plugins to come out. By innovative I mean plugins that push the capabilities of audio engineering forward.

Since this is my first list, I’m going to focus mainly on catching up to the present and will be mentioning plugins that predominantly came into existence between 2010 and 2016.

Next time I create this list in early 2017, I will be exclusively focusing on software developed/released in the year 2016.

5. Waves InPhase

I’ve mentioned this plugin almost too much at this point but it’s fantastically innovative.

It takes very simple ideas — micro timing shifting, variable all-pass filters, and a phase correlation — and puts them together to make the ultimate phase correcting weapon.

I’ve put it #5 on my list because it’s not really breaking new grounds, but in terms of utilization it could easily be #1.

4. Nugen Audio Stereoplacer

Stereoplacer is another plugin that has a simple idea and yet really breaks ground opening up new possibilities.

It’s like an EQ in that you can select bands through bells and shelves, but instead of adjust band level up and down, you adjust pan position in and out. This includes variable Q settings and multiple corner points, and while this sounds like an obvious and simple concept, the actual execution of designing this is more challenging than it seems.

3. Sound Radix Drum Leveler

In general SoundRadix is one of the most innovative companies out there. Any of their plugins could easily have made this list.


Drumleveler is a standout to me because of how simple and powerful it is.

The concept is that it identifies individual drum hits and allows you to adjust their level, but does it using sample detection rather than amplitude detection. The drum sound is perfectly retained, like having the most micro managerial fader rides that would otherwise take hours to do.

2. Sonarworks Headphone Calibration

Sonarworks Headphone Calibration creates a convolution of a headphone’s frequency response and generates a corrective response curve to give you flat translation. It also has algorithms to emulate other types of listening systems like earbuds.

Headphone mixing can be a necessary evil when working on the road, but this plugin has made the process vastly easier in that my balances and EQ choices need very little adjustment once I’m back home.

1. StereoMonoizer

“Things that are conceptually simple yet incredibly useful” is basically the theme of this article, and following that trend, StereoMonoizer earns it’s place as #1.

This program analyzes trackouts, determines if they are mono sources or stereo sources, and re-renders them accordingly. While this is so simple it’s almost dumb it wasn’t created years ago, it’s also ridiculously useful and time saving. Going through every record, figuring if a track is mono or stereo, splitting the signal, deleting one side, and returning the pan position is annoying and also subject to error. Never again!


So that’s my list. I left off older plugins because at one point in time almost everything was innovative — thus I’ve defaulted to more recent developments.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few as the world of audio tech is just always getting better and better, so feel free to flame me for my lack of systemization and not mentioning something obvious that should be here. And more importantly, if I did miss something that’s particularly innovative, feel free to let me know in the comment section below!

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch:

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