Today, we’re talking about something everyone enjoys talking about: Plugins.
As some of you may know, I’m a 100% digital producer and I rely 100% on plugins to do my music, and today I’m sharing with you my updated top 10 VSTs in 2020 and my current wishlist for the upcoming Black Friday so you already know what to look for when the promotions arrive!
With the list that I’ll show you below, not only will you see a list of plugins that I’ve used in my own releases and I know you’ll love, but you’ll also avoid wasting money on plugins that you might not even use or not getting the best price for that plugin you want.
This post will be split in two sections:
Let’s dive right in
Disclaimer: I’m only posting about them because I love them. I’m not being sponsored by any of these plugins to advertise them, but some of these are affiliate links, which won’t harm your purchase and will give this website an extra cash.
My Top 10 VSTs in 2020
Xfer Records Serum
There’s no way Serum will leave this list until there’s something else in the market as good as it.
I really enjoy the interface, the sounds are incredible (according to Steve Duda in this interview it has a cleaner sound than other VSTs), and the capabilities you have with it are incredible.
It was the first Synth I bought and what I really enjoyed was that the support comes from Steve Duda himself, and he’s helped me with a lot of issues I’ve had with it. If you’ve never tried it, I definitely recommend you to try it.
It sells for 189.00 USD and, if you’re a student, you can request a 30% discount on it in this link. If you can’t afford this now but still want to try it, I recommend you checking Splice’s Serum Rent-To-Own deal, in which you pay 9.99 USD for 19 months with the ability to cancel anytime and own it completely after the period has ended..
In addition, you can get my first Serum Preset Pack for Xfer Serum called Worldwide, which is available here at Abstrakt Music Lab’s website. It features 15 basses, 15 pads, 15 plucks, 5 stabs, 5 leads and 5 chord presets, most of which I’ve used in tracks of my own.
I own iZotope Ozone 9, Nectar 3, Neutron 3, RX, Trash 2, StutterEdit, Neoverb, and some others, but I constantly use these six.
What I like most about iZotope is how forward thinking they are with their plugins. Yes, plugin emulations are nice, but I also want to see some complex AI on plugins and that’s what they do.
- Ozone 9: I use it as my Limiter for ALL my tracks and for Match EQ, which I use in ALL my tracks. You can check the tutorial I did on EQ Match below and you’ll see how I use Match EQ within ALL my mixes, for myself and for clients:
- Nectar 3: I use it on Vocals mainly for pitch correction before I run them into Melodyne. Sometimes I don’t even use Melodyne after because it does the job really well, which makes it a great substitute for the famous Antares Auto-tune Pro. You can see how this fits in my vocal mixing process here;
- Neutron 3: I use it mainly for dynamic adjustments, like dynamic EQ or dynamic compressors. Look at the GIF below to check how I used it on a vocal to raise the highs (static EQ 4), but dynamically lower (dynamic EQ 3) where it was already too high:
- RX: The best reparation tool out there, I use it to repair vocals that could have a recording problem like a noise or crackle. Especially if you’re doing podcasts or voice-overs/how-to videos, this could be a powerful tool if you need to correct a problem.
Izotope runs a lot of promotions. For starters, if you’re a student, you can get 50% off. In addition, during Black Friday 2019, they sold a package with an introductory version of all their plugins for $50 USD, which you could upgrade with bundles from Plugin Boutique like this one
To thank you for being a reader, the first five people who comment on this post will receive a FREE COPY of Ozone 9 Elements, which you could upgrade to the Music Production Suite 4 for $400 USD with this link.
Youlean Loudness Meter (FREE)
In 2020, I was looking for a free Loudness Meter option to give an example of how I use metering within Ozone’s Insight 2 and Fabfilter Pro-L and I found Youlean’s Loudness Meter.
Instead of just being an example, I completely replaced Insight and even uninstalled Pro-L from my machine with Youlean’s Loudness meter. And, the best part of this plugin is that it is FREE.
To be honest, I was suspicious with a free plugin at first, especially considering the design and functionality it has. But, yes, it is free and, honestly, I don’t feel you need to buy the premium version (at least I never felt I needed to). Check the demo below:
You can download your free Youlean Loudness Meter here.
So far, one of the most used plugins in 2020 is the TruePianos. Check the demo below:
I love how it sounds, the simplicity of it, and I love the options you have in it. I’ve also tried Piano V2 from Arturia and a bunch of packs for Kontakt, but the one I think comes next to it is the Nexus Grandpiano.
I use this piano for almost all my tracks, especially for my new House Music alias. In addition, it is the piano I use for writing new melodies and checking if they are good enough.
It costs $70.00 USD, which might pull you away from it. If so, a great free replacement for it is the Addictive Keys Studio Grand, which is a paid plugin that offers a time unlimited free trial for four octaves of their pianos, which sound amazing.
I bought this bundle in 2018 after testing it for a bit during Black Friday and it is GREAT.
I don’t use all the plugins from it and what got me to buy it was Microshift, but eventually ended up using a lot more of their plugins. Check out the list of plugins I mostly use from it:
- Microshift: Good option for making things stereo. I use this A LOT for widening vocals, especially when I pitch them 12 octaves up or down. You can see it in action in this post.
- Little AlterBoy: Use it mostly to create formant shifts on vocals while still keeping them in key. You can listen to a great example of what is formant shifting in Shelter by Porter Robinson and Madeon, especially at 0:42.
- Echoboy: The father of all delays. Amazing delay that has helped me develop a bunch of creative sound designs with their presets.
- FilterFreak 2: Amazing for complex filtering automations. I use it a lot to create some creative filtering, especially for pianos, so they don’t sound static.
If you’re thinking about getting it, they normally run a 50% off promotion on Black Friday and you can top that with a 50% student discount. I paid $180 USD for my $500 USD bundle, a 64% discount. You can try it for free for one month over here.
Polyverse Wider (FREE)
I’m always suspicious with free plugins and so was I when I first saw WIDER. But, actually, it’s pretty great for what it does. You can check the demo below:
It’s simple with just one fader, but it’s great and it sounds genuinely nice. Whenever I want to make something that is mono wider, WIDER is the choice, and it always does the job.
Grab your free copy over here.
Cytomic The Glue
If you’re looking for a glue compressor, there is no way you can go wrong with Cytomic’s The Glue.
Easy to use and figure out, The Glue is one glue compressor that is closest to the original hardware SSL Compressor according to this video from 7 Skies.
After watching this video, I tried UAD’s, Waves’s, Cytomic’s and Ableton’s Glue compressor and, from top to bottom, Cytomic > Ableton > Waves > UAD. It’s important to mention that each of them has a specific characteristic and I chose the one I liked the most, regardless of the closeness with the real hardware. However, as in 7 Skies’ video, Cytomic’s wins.
Cytomic’s the Glue costs $99 USD and if you’re a student you can ask for a 15% discount on their price. You can try it for free for an unlimited amount of time, although your settings won’t save and you won’t be able to make automations. You can grab your free trial copy here.
Celemony Melodyne 5
If you’re doing any kind of editing of raw vocals, you NEED Melodyne.
It’s pricey, but it’s fantastic. Instead of using just an Pitch Correction from Izotope Nectar 3 or Antares’s Auto Tune Pro, I also use Melodyne to do other pitch corrections in my vocals.
New in the version 5, there is also the ability to correct sibilances with volume adjustments instead of using a De-Esser. I’ve tried it on a vocal recently and the result is better than the De-Esser, although it takes more time since you manually have to adjust the De-Essers. Check the demo below:
Although I recommend it, the ‘Studio’ version costs $849 USD, but the ‘Assistant’ version, $299 USD, should be enough for vocals. You can download the free 30 day trial over here. During their last Black Friday, they offered a 50% off on Melodyne ‘Essential’, which you could later upgrade to the ‘Assistant’ for $199.
Recently, I’m using more Fabfilter plugins than any other plugin from Waves because they are GREAT. These are the ones I use the most:
- Fabfilter Pro-C 2: Great for vocals and recently I’ve substituted using Waves’s CLA-2A or the 1176 for the Fabfilter Pro-C2. You can see my vocal compression chain over here.
- Fabfilter Pro-Q 3: Although I don’t use it quite often because Ableton’s Stock EQ EIGHT does the job, I recognize that the Pro-Q 3 is one of the best EQ plugins out there. At the moment, I use it when I want to do high or low cuts higher than 48db, which is Ableton’s max cut.
- Fabfilter Saturn 2: Great distortion plugin. I use this quite often to make my chords richer.
The Fabfilter Bundle is a bit pricey though, starting at 999.00 for all plugins. If you wait until Black Friday though, they often give a 25% discount, and if you’re student, you’re entitled for a 50% discount.
Native Instruments Kontakt
I love Kontakt. I used to use it a lot more, but I still love the simplicity of it.
Honestly saying, I currently only use the Kontakt Factory Library for Strings and Bass, and sometimes I use Action Strings for some Disco Falls sounds that I often use in my House Music Alias.
Do I recommend it to you? Selling at $399.00 USD alone, I do not recommend it if you only plan to use Kontakt alone since Omnisphere, $499 USD, might be more versatile to you for $100 more. If you intend to buy Native Instruments Komplete 13, but I do not recommend it alone since for $200 USD more you can get A WHOLE LOT more.
My Black Friday wishlist:
Something about it just speaks to me. From the website’s description:
soothe2 is a dynamic resonance suppressor. It identifies problematic resonances on the fly and applies matching reduction automatically.
I’m waiting until Black Friday is close so I can start my free trial and test it. I imagine myself using it a lot for vocals or maybe even during the master process. I’ll update this post once I have a better review, but for now, check the demo below:
It sells for $219.00 USD, but they don’t offer any student discount.
This actually got me more excited than Oeksound Soothe2, but I believe both can be equally important. I discovered both of these plugins, Soothe2 and Gullfoss after seeing Dave Pensado, grammy-awarded mix engineer, saying he uses them on all his mixes. From the website’s description:
Gullfoss is an intelligent equalizer that listens to a signal and decides how to prepare the audio so that your brain can get the most information out of it. (…) Gullfoss is even capable of fixing balancing issues between different sound elements without access to the individual tracks.
Also waiting for Black Friday to see the deals that will appear and I’ll update this post once I have a better review, but for now, check the demo below:
It sells for $199.00 USD and you can get it for $99 with the student discount. Last Black Friday, they offered 30% discount.
Addictive Keys Studio Grand (Freemium)
It’s the next plugin I’ll try. It offers 4 octaves for free so you could try it and use it as an unlimited free version. However, from the sounds I listened to on Youtube, I think it will be a serious contestant for TruePianos and might even replace them.
It sells for 90 USD, but Black Friday is just around the corner.
Cableguys ShaperBox 2 (or just Volume Shaper)
Especially because I’m considering getting Volume Shaper 6, I’m considering getting the Shaper Box 2. I know for a fact that this is the plugin that Fatum uses to do their sidechain and it does the same job as LFOTOOL does, but with more functions built into it and being half the price.
If you get the Shaper Box 2 Bundle, you also get 5 different LFOs (Time, Crush, Pan, Width and Filter), that could be useful tools to create some interesting sound designs.
It currently sells for $99 USD and you get a “no-saving” free trial.
Now it’s Your Turn!
There you have it: my list of 10 top VSTs used in 2020 and my Wishlist for Black Friday 2020.
Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:
Which plugin is on the top of your wish list for this Black Friday?
Which plugin was your most used plugin in 2020?
Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for sharing Leo! Nice wishlist, Soothe is on mine as well. I use pretty much all the plugins you mentioned. I would add Izotope Trash 2, Trackspacer, and OTT to my most used list.
Trash 2 is AWESOME!!!
I use it all the time.
TRackspacer hasn’t convinced me yet, but it’s also on the lookout.
Check this out:
“all four Elements plug-ins plus creative staples like Trash 2 and Iris 2, legendary Exponential Audio reverbs like PhoenixVerb and R2, and hundreds of sounds and presets with the limited edition iZotope Holiday Bundle—over $1,200 in value for $49.”
Thank you so much for this amazing content!! ??????
Thank you for reading it!!
Wow this is amazing! Very well put together and the information is crystal clear. I love finding helpful stuff like this on the internet!
Thank you Billy! I really appreciate the comment!
Hope you like more stuff at Abstrakt as well!
Billy, feel free to subscribe to our newsletter to receive this in your inbox!
Thanks! I’ve been trying to narrow down a list of good Black Friday deals for this year and this was really helpful. I might be looking into the Soundtoys plugins now that the sales are on.
Mateo, thansk for tuning in with us at Abstrakt Music Lab!
Glad you liked this shortlist !!! I’ve tested Soothe2 and Gullfoss and mate, they are amazing!! REcommended
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