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Matt’s Top 10 Favorite Plugins

There’s a lot of plugins out there. So many that this could be an endless list. But I’m going to keep it to ten.

These are the plugins I use every day at my home studio to get my mixes sounding like they were done at a major commercial facility. These are not in any particular order, as it’s impossible to say any one of these are “better” than any other (they all do different things).

Without further introduction, here we go.

1. SoundRadix Pi

The good people at SoundRadix must be programming geniuses with no regards to marketing. I say this, because there’s nothing sexy sounding about an “intelligent, variable all-pass filter.” Guys, 75% of your consumer base doesn’t know what an all-pass filter is!

These guys just looked at the digital world and thought, “what can technology do now that it couldn’t do before” and had a vision.

In short, the plugin automatically corrects the phase interaction of multiple sounds playing back simultaneously. It doesn’t “put things in phase” so much as it micro-corrects the phase relationship of everything — which ultimately translates to a more vivid mix with better transient definition and spatial definition.

It’s not a make-or-break a mix type of plugin, and it’s no substitution for solid mixing, but damn if it don’t just make everything a bit better. So cheers to Sound Radix for putting quality above marketing.

*Also, their customer service department is SUPER responsive!

Uses: Everything!

 

2. SoundToys Decapitator

Sound Toys is an awesome company. Everything they make is great. But Decapitator is something special.

There’s five different distortion algorithms, but honestly, this plugin would be worth its price with only the first two. It’s hard to put into words what makes this distortion plug better than the others — ultimately my ear just has a little eargasm every time I put it on and there’s no further need for reasoning past that!

Uses: Drums! Also: Vocals, Bass, 808 kicks, and Guitars… and really anything else that just needs a kick in the ass.

 

3. FabFilter Pro-Q

Look, ya gotta have a utility EQ in your weapons drawer to make a mix come to fruition.

The Pro-Q is my swiss army knife EQ, with M-S and Linear Phase modes, a resonance killing notch filter, super variable Q, very customizable filter curves. And, it sounds great. Desert island EQ hands down.

Uses: Any and e’rything.

 

4. Sonnox Oxford Dynamics

Following that same line of thought, I need a utility compressor as well.

The Oxford Dynamics has an expander, compressor, limiter, and soft clipper with a customizable side-chain built in. All of it sounds great. Desert island Compressor, no questions asked. Just go buy this… why are you still reading? Go… come back after.

Uses: E’ry and anything. Yes, even the mix buss.

 

5. Waves CLA-76

There’s about a billion compressor plugins in the world… but for some reason I just keep coming back to this one.

Maybe its because I use it in parallel on vocals in just about every mix I do. It’s got something to do with the forward midrange tone and the aggressive compression curve.

This is a “character” compressor more than a utility compressor, and I just dig the character.

Uses: Parallel processing. Vocals, Kick, Guitars and Bass guitar.

 

6. FabFilter Pro-MB

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The more I use multiband processing the cooler it gets.

I’m generally aiming for specific effects when I’m using multiband: killing a frequency spike, evening out tonality, or adding some kind of excitement to the sound. The FabFilter Pro-MB is so versatile that I can do pretty much anything I imagine, and the quantity of settings allows me to do it as transparently as need be.

Uses: Anything with a lot of tonal dynamics. Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, and Piano come to mind.

 

7. Waves InPhase

This plugin is exceptionally useful when it comes to multi-captured instruments. Even very well tracked drums, or bass amp + DI, or multi-mic’d guitars have little phase discrepancies that this plugin can really work out.

It’s also become a crucial part of my drum sample layering approach. Much like “Pi,” it’s not a sexy plugin, but it can make a profound impact on the mix.

Uses: Multi-captured anything. Drum layers.

 

8. Slate Trigger

Sometimes, no matter what you do, a sound just isn’t right. Trigger is supremely helpful for enriching (or replacing) poorly chosen or recorded drums.

I don’t use Trigger quite as much as I use the other plugins on this list, but when I need it there is no substitute.

It’s super customizable, very easy to audition sounds and works very accurately.

Uses: Replacing and augmenting drums.

 

9. FabFilter Pro-L

There are a lot of great limiters on the market: Slate FG-X, Oxford Limiter, Massey L2007 — all excellent. I’ve used them all extensively and I find that personally I keep coming back to the FabFilter Pro-L.

Like many things FabFilter, there’s a lot of fine control over the parameters which can be overwhelming to the entry level user.

However, once you get a feel for it, this same fine control (coupled with just great quality sound) is what makes the Pro-L so great.

 

10. AudioEase Altiverb

Unfortunately I’ve run out of slots on this list — which leaves me to choose one ambiance plugin. I love Soundtoys Echoboy, Fabfilter Timeless, and Sonnox Reverb.

But if I had to choose just one that I keep coming back to every mix, time and time again, it’s Altiverb.

There’s convolutions that are great for subtly adding space, and convolutions that are great for character reverbs. Rarely do I complete a mix without Altiverb somehow showing up somewhere.

 

Conclusion

So there you have it, the ten plugins I find myself relying on time and time again to do what I do. Of course there are plenty of plugins not on this list that I love — the entire SoundToys line is great, the FabFilter Bundle is incredible — as is the entire Sonnox collection, and the list goes on.

Of course, if you have a favorite plugin feel free to share about it in the comment section below!

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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: Weiss-Sound.com

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