Eric Tarr’s Favorite Plugins from 2015

It’s easy to forget that we’re living in the most technologically advanced time ever. This is true for audio technology, too.

This past year brought the release of some amazing tools for audio engineers to use. Software plugins, in particular, continue to improve.

There were many great options to pick from. I narrowed down my list of favorites based on the following categories: EQ/channel strip, dynamics processor, spatial processor, and all-around.

Here is a list of my favorite plugins released in 2015:

1. EQ/Channel Strip: UAD Neve 88RS

Universal Audio released a new revision of their Neve 88RS console channel strip.

This plugin models an equalizer, compressor, gate and channel preamp input section using the UAD Unison technology.

In my mind, the Neve 88RS could be one plugin used to handle all basic processing for a mix. It has the classic sound that can be used for everything.

In general, I’m glad UAD is continuing to update their plugins with newer modeling methods. Now that we have the Neve and API channel strips, let’s hope 2016 brings the new revision of the SSL 4000 channel strip to the UAD platform.

2. Dynamics Processor: FG-Bomber

Slate Digital released a very unique dynamics processor called the FG-Bomber.

The FG-Bomber is not a conventional dynamics processor like a compressor or gate. I wouldn’t even put it exclusively in the category of transient or envelope shaper.

In some ways it is a combination of a compressor and an envelope shaper, but in other ways it does some unique things. To me, it has a sound of its own.

One of best parts about the FG-Bomber is the intuitive control. Unlike many dynamics processors with complicated controls, the FG-Bomber keeps it simple to achieve a punchy sound.

In my opinion, I love when new plugins are released that do something completely new, rather than just recreating an old processor. Hopefully more companies will come out with more tools in 2016 based on new ideas.

3. Spatial Processor: Waves H Reverb

Waves released their Hybrid Reverb plugin combining advanced tweak-ability with the sound of a high-end hardware reverb.

Software algorithmic reverbs typically have flexible control and are CPU efficient. Convolution reverbs (based on Finite Impulse Response, FIR, processing) recreate the natural sound of reverberation very well, but lack flexibility and are CPU intensive.

H-Reverb accomplishes the best of both worlds between algorithmic and convolution reverb. This plugin uses efficient methods of FIR processing and has many controls for dialing in all kinds of reverb sounds. With the inclusion of a thorough set of presets, H-reverb is one of the easiest plugins for achieving most types of reverberation very quickly.

4. All Around: iZotope Ozone 7

iZotope released another major update to their flagship Ozone plugin. Although previously considered a mastering tool, Ozone has shifted towards an all-inclusive processing suite.

Don’t get me wrong, Ozone 7 deserves to continue as the industry standard for mastering. In my opinion, Ozone 7 should also be considered an essential tool for any audio engineer, regardless of what stage of music creation they work on.

Ozone has always had some of the best digital equalizers and compressors available. With the addition of the emulation, a Pultec-style equalizer, and vintage compressor, Ozone 7 can accomplish everything from crisp and clean to warm and velvety.

Conclusion

2015 has been a great year for new plugins. Software continues to sound better, become easier to use, and is increasingly more powerful. Frankly, you could mix and master 99% of tracks just with these four plugins. I can’t wait to see what is to come in the next year.

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Eric Tarr

Eric Tarr

Eric Tarr is a musician, audio engineer, and producer based in Columbus, Ohio. Currently a Professor of Audio Engineering Technology at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.
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  • Frank Arena

    Do you have a list of favorite “free” plugins? As a hobbyist with no money to put into the craft, I tend to look for a no-cost approach to things. Many argue that a pretty good sounding mix can be had with stock plugins but I like to expand my options if I can.

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