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Unread 07-26-2017, 01:08 AM   #1
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Joined: Feb 2011
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Paid Plugins

I know there's a "Free VST" thread and that's AWESOME. But I'd also like to start a thread to talk about paid plugins. Mostly just a place where I can talk about ones I've bought and used.

Note: I am not advertising, but merely reviewing. Also, as a disclaimer, I am NOT being paid to promote any of these.


--


The first one I want to talk about is the Brauer Motion plugin. I'll add more to this post later, but I'd like to start with a quick video I made talking about it. I'll go more in-depth later and maybe do a second video.

This is a Waves plugin. I got it at a promo price of $29 but it's normally $99. Developed by Michael Brauer himself! From the website:

"Few people understand how to add emotional movement to a mix in the way that multiple Grammy®-winning mix engineer Michael Brauer does. The man behind top-selling albums from Coldplay, John Mayer, James Bay, Elle King, Florence & the Machine, My Morning Jacket, Bob Dylan, Hall & Oates, Aretha Franklin and countless others, Michael has a deep understanding of how you can use movement to energize a mix."

I found this immensely useful for adding more drama to parts of a mix where instruments drop out or become quieter and I really need there to be a lot of emotion in those quieter points. Pretty nifty auto-panner. Here's a quick audio sample:

https://youtu.be/gPVHMqNye0o

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Unread 10-07-2018, 10:47 AM   #2
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To bring an update to this thread:

JST Toneforge Ben Bruce

If you're into mixing rock and heavier music, Joey Sturgis Tones (JST) has a bunch of paid plugins that are absolutely fantastic, from amp sims to EQs to bus compressors. Currently, I use his Ben Bruce amp simulator to blend with live guitars on everything from folk to metal. It's a very versatile amp sim with crisp cleans all the way to searing overdrive and everything in-between. It does cost a few pennies ($89 last I checked), but very worth it. He has other amp sims as well, but none of them are as blatantly versatile as this one. In my opinion, if you decide to only ever buy one amp sim, Ben Bruce is going to be your best bet.

Find it here:
https://joeysturgistones.com/product...orge-ben-bruce
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Ben Toast, I have been sanctioned by the official CGRARC (Christian Guitar Resources Awesome-ness Recognition Committee) to declare that henceforth and hitherto, you are awesome.

Last edited by Toast; 10-10-2018 at 03:29 PM.
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Unread 10-08-2018, 12:04 PM   #3
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Waves F6 Dynamic EQ

These days it seems a bit pointless to actually spend money on an EQ plugin, with so many excellent free options available, but sometimes it's good to find something that is easy to use and geared toward a specific application. While you can find free dynamic EQs (even Reaper's built-in ReaEQ can be configured to run dynamically, though it's a bit more tedious to adjust), Waves F6 makes things very simple.

You can configure this to operate as either a static or dynamic 6-band EQ. F6 has a high pass filter and six band filters that can be configured as bands, band passes, or shelves. You have your usual freq, Q, and gain adjustments, but F6 takes things a step further: you can also adjust threshold, attack, release, and reduction/addition range for each band. This is particularly useful in smoothing out dynamics in vocals. Some DAWs will also allow you to sidechain this EQ, which would then make it useful for ducking (e.g. ducking out some of the high mids on an instrument bus using vocals as a trigger).

I would not recommend this plugin unless you are going to use it as a dynamic EQ.

In particular, Reaper will limit the functionality of this plugin a bit; as of now, you cannot sidechain this plugin in Reaper. Other DAWs do not seem to have this problem as of right now.

Right now you can find Waves F6 for $49 (normal price is $99).

https://www.waves.com/plugins/f6-flo...-f6-dynamic-eq
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Unread 12-29-2018, 02:35 PM   #4
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Drum Leveler.

If you record drums, you'll know how difficult it can be to get a great drum sound. You may be able to get a great mix of your drums, but when you add in bass, guitars, keys, vocals, etc. it can be difficult to make those drums really punch through the mix. A lot of engineers will midi trigger in samples to blend with the original drums as a way to solve this problem (shoot, I do it myself quite a bit with live recordings!) But this is no longer necessary.

"DRUM LEVELER is a new beat detection-based downward and upward compressor/expander and gate.

By selectively applying gain to single drum beats, Drum Leveler easily achieves the desired target level for each beat without affecting bleed noise or any beats that are out of the user-defined processing range.

Drum leveler is powerful yet easy to use. It will help you achieve solid driving grooves, improve clarity and add punch to any percussive performance.

Drum leveler brings a new, radical approach to drums' dynamics control. We'd like to encourage you to take the time and explore Drum Leveler to unleash its full power."

Now, drum leveler does cost some coin, at around $150. But what it can do is worth far more. Check the link to learn more:

https://www.soundradix.com/products/drum-leveler/
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Quote:
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Unread 09-08-2020, 02:38 PM   #5
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Okay I'm back. Based on my personal usage since my last post in this thread, I'm going to talk about some of my experiences with different paid plugins. I'll organize these into "the good" (worth the money), "the meh," (good but maybe not worth the money) and "the bad" (simply not worth the money). Let's start with the good.

Remember, this is all subjective to my own experience with these plugins. YMMV.

THE GOOD

1. Waves F6. I've already mentioned this plugin, but it's my go-to EQ plugin. I use this plugin more than any other. It is absolutely worth the price for it's features. You can usually find this plugin on sale for $30, and I wouldn't recommend paying anything more than that for it.

2. Melodyne. Melodyne is not cheap, but for what it CAN do, it's worth the price. However, it comes with a steep learning curve and you're going to want to invest a considerable amount of time into learning it inside and out, especially if you're going to shell out for the assistant (great for editing vocals) or editor version (for editing vocals and instruments, even polyphonic pitch correction on a piano or acoustic guitar).

3. JST Bus Glue Plugins. Now, there are the JST bundle, the Joel Wanasek bundle (my personal favorite), and the Billy Decker bundle. All of them are great and you should seriously consider investing in all three bundles. Wait until they're on sale, though. Trust me, they are all 100% worth it, once you learn how the affect your sound. I typically don't run these 100% wet, and will rather opt for using them in a sort of parallel fashion (most of the time). What I will say is that the Billy Decker vocal bus glue is NOT my favorite.

4. Waves SSL E-Channel. Believe it or not, I don't normally touch any of the knobs on this plugin. Sometimes I'd use a touch of the EQ to pre-set something before it goes into something else, but otherwise I just slap this on each of my source tracks as the first plugin and turn the analog emulation to "on." There's something about it that seems to sort of "soften" my sound just a bit. Only buy this on sale. It's more of a preferential choice and not a necessity.

5. Waves CLA76. 1176 style compressor. This compressor is obviously limited in usage scenarios, but for what it's good for, it's surprisingly great. Pick it up when it's on sale and give it a spin. It includes two compressors in one for you to choose from as well, for different characteristics. In fact, pick up all of their CLA plugins when they're on sale. Absolutely fantastic line.

6. Waves Brauer Motion. This plugin is very limited in what it's good for. But it can really add a lot to your sound. I typically will use this on slower organs or pads. Sometimes if I want to get super wild I might toss it on a synth line to make it swirl around a listener. Just remember that perception of motion in sound is subjective to the listener; what may sound like motion to you may just sound weird to someone else. Buy this one when it's on sale.

7. Soundtoys.

I'd generally recommend just buying the bundle when you can afford it, but here is something to get you started if you want to go a la carte.

Decapitator. If you want a drive plugin with a variety of drive algorithms and an entire world of flavor choices, this is the tool for you. There's a joke that says "if you don't have decapitator are you even an engineer?" Seriously, buy this plugin. Yes, it's $200 at list price. I was fortunate to get it for super cheap when it first launched. Yes, it's worth the price. Think of it as the ultimate drive pedal, but for your DAW.

EchoBoy. If you only ever buy one delay plugin in your entire life, this is the one. Period. EchoBoy is, hands-down, the single most powerful delay engine I have ever used. Learn this plugin inside and out, learn how to use it with automation, and you'll never need another delay plugin again.

MicroShift. Or Little MicroShift. Phase shifter that works super well. I tend to use just a small pinch of this on anything that I think could use a touch of thickening.

PrimalTap. I was visiting a friend's studio one day (one of the best in Iowa, actually) and saw him whip this tool out to make some truly wild sounds. As soon as I got home that night, I bought it. Modeled retro dual delay with "freeze" for lo-fi pitch warped loops and delays. This is one of those "go crazy and make weird sh*t" plugins.

8. SLATE DIGITAL. I've always been a bit cautious of subscriptions, but this is THE subscription. If you don't buy any other software subscription for your mixing, this is the one for you. Over $5000 worth of pro-level plugins for $10-15 a month. You also get access to numerous mixing courses and tutorials to help you expand your knowledge.

9. Waves J37 Tape. I pop this on all of my busses, always, and will mix into it while it colors my sound. This is a phenomenal tape emulation plugin that can help you add some much needed saturation to your mix.

10. Waves H-Reverb. Hands down, if you only buy one reverb engine, get this one. Super powerful and highly flexible.

11. Valhalla Reverbs & Delays. The $50 per plugin price tag on Valhalla products is, in my opinion, worth it. I personally use Shimmer and Vintage Verb, and find that they are PERFECT. They do have three free plugins to check out as well!

12. Waves L1 Ultramaximizer. The mastering limiter to end all mastering limiters. This is the only mastering limiter I use, and I've tried numerous. This will be the final limiter in your mix, when you're pushing your mix loudness to that final peak before rendering to publish.

13. Izotope Ozone. Prepare your wallet, this one's a doozy. If you're looking for something to really help you push your master to new heights, get the advanced version. You'll want to run it as a standalone after you're done with your mix, though. Unless you like crashing your DAW. I will say, only buy this if you want a standalone mastering suite. Don't use this otherwise.

14. JST Pixelator. This is SO FUN TO USE for only $9. Pixelator is a bit crusher ("audio resolution manipulator for sound design and destruction"). I don't use this one very often but it's a fun effect when you do use it.

15. Helix Native. It's a Helix, but on your computer. Ironically this isn't even my favorite amp & cab sim suite. But it's easy to use and, for the price, packed with a TON of stuff. I find myself using this quite a bit to nail down tones really quickly.

16. JST Toneforge Amps. Here's the deal: these amps have their ideal uses and they're not what you'd think. So here is my breakdown of what I've found to be my favorite uses for them.

Guilty Pleasure: Rock & hair metal style guitars.
Ben Bruce: Heavier rhythms, British style cleans.
Menace: Heavier metal & djent style rhythms.
Jason Richardson: Cleans
Misha Mansoor: Solos

There are also some Bassforge amps for heavier basses, but IMO not that great.

17. AmpliTube. I'm on the fence about IK Multimedia and their general lame-ness, but Amplitube has some super great offerings. The regular software does cost money, and so do add-in amps, but you can, for example, buy an entire suite of Orange amp sims that are surprisingly close to the real deal for only $100, as opposed to spending thousands on individual amps. I've used this an honestly, it's pretty great. For amp sims, I recommend it. Truly.

18. JST Gain Reduction Deluxe. Great for level control on a vocal for rock or heavier. Honestly, my favorite thing about it is that "lofi" switch. Using that on certain parts of a song is a GREAT way to create fun dynamics and add flavor. And for $20, I'd say it's pretty great.

19. JST Finality. This is great on individual drum channels as your "last in chain". Use it to push your shells (kick, snare, toms) to new heights. Can be used on about anything else as well. Be sure to devote some time to learning this plugin, because there's a lot to it.

20. JST Transify. Transient shaper. This one is more subtle but if you really want to push transients on your drums to new heights, this is for you. There are free transient shapers though, so while I say this is worth the money, explore free options first if you're on a budget.

21. JST Clip. Leveling amplifier / clipper. I usually run this in a parallel fashion to add extra "oomph" to things without crushing them too hard (but I don't like to crush things in a mix; I like breathing room).

22. JST Tominator. If you haven't noticed yet, I'm a huge fan of JST plugins. For live drum kits, this can help to mitigate cymbal bleed. It's a gate that triggers a LPF. My ONLY note is you have to be careful of mic placement then. Tom mics pick up cymbals a LOT so if you prefer to use overheads and rooms for cymbals, you may need to work some pre-gain automation on the tom track before going into this plugin. But holy cow, the difference this made on a live punk record I did last year. Simply phenomenal. One of the tracks on that record actually was #1 on the most played rock songs on Reverbnation for a couple of months, which is pretty cool. I attribute that partly to this plugin helping on the drums.

23.


THE MEH

1. Waves Vocal Rider. Don't get me wrong, this tool is pretty great. If you're REALLY chasing quality vocals, you should be doing some sort of volume automation before it hits compression to smooth out peaks. Then Vocal Rider can easily come after your compression chain to smooth things out just a bit more. But is it worth the price? I'd argue "not really." Normally on sale for around $75. If the price came down to $30, I'd move this into the good category.

2. Waves Bass Rider. Same story here. I'd say "better compressors, better understanding of volume automation" instead of using this. Just not really worth it. Fun toy, great tool, and if they brought the price down I'd probably recommend it.

3. Sound Radix Drum Leveler. Don't get me wrong, if you're working with live drums, this plugin is GREAT. But in most cases if you're going after a commercial sound you're probably going to be working with sample-replaced drums and won't have a whole ton of need for this. This one is BARELY in the "meh" category because it's actually pretty great.

4. Waves Bass fingers and Bass slapper. Virtual instruments. I wanted to like them, I really did... but now I wish I had saved my money. If you save up for Kontakt, you can get SO MANY far better midi basses out there. Still, they have their uses, so not bad.

5. Waves Grand Rhapsody piano. This is another case of "if you have Kontakt don't bother." In my opinion a very subpar piano which lacks the range of velocity options you'd come to expect in a decent virtual piano.

6. Soundtoys Radiator / Little Radiator. Tube saturator. I used to use this a bit in the past, but after I got the Slate Subscription, I've stopped using it, as the virtual mix rack has a tube saturator built in. I think this plugin can be good to add some warmth, but at $129 I'd be hesitant to recommend spending your money on it.

7. Soundtoys Devil-Loc Deluxe. This is more preferential. I don't think it's worth $129, but there are a LOT of engineers who would argue otherwise. Give it a demo if you can and decide for yourself.

8. Soundtoys AlterBoy. I actually still use this one (Little AlterBoy) on a regular basis, but I will add in the caveat: Most of my soundtoys plugins I got for free when they launched. Good if you don't have extra backup vocalist but want backup vocals from the same vocalist, simply use this to change the formant of the voice a bit. I will say too that if you have a rapper who wants that (opinion: lame and stupid) "autotune" sound, pop this on their vocal track and hit that "quantize" button.

9. AnalogLab by Arturia. If you buy an Arturia keyboard and get the base software for free with it, USE IT. Because it'll be the best free software you ever get. I got this for free with my Keylab 88 and love it. But if you're looking at paying for it, I'd recommend steering away from it. It's extremely heavy on system resources and your money would be better spent on Kontakt and building a collection of different stuff in there.


THE BAD

1. Waves C1 Comp. If you're buying a Waves bundle, this will probably come with it. This is, in my opinion, one of the worst compressor plugins I've ever used, and Waves should simply remove it from their products. The compression is lackluster and feels sterile, with it's only real draw being that you can set the attack and release to literally any value you want. If it was free, I'd say it's great. But you have to pay for it. It was one of the first compressor plugins to exist, though, so it has a lot of history which is why people THINK it's good.. it's just not. It's actually terrible.

2. Waves VU Meter. A plugin that does... nothing at all. You have to calibrate it to match the levels that show in your DAW's meters and it just takes up screen real estate. This came as part of the Waves Gold Bundle I purchased, and honestly I don't know why it even exist except as a number pad so Waves can say you're getting x number of plugins in a bundle.

3. Waves Scheps Omni Channel. Andrew Scheps is a great engineer. This plugin, however, is a colossal piece of dumpster fire and should not cost money at all. For Waves, I expected better.

4. Soundtoys Pan Man. I'm going to get some flack for this I'm sure, but I'm not a fan of this plugin. There's really nothing you can do in this that you can't do with a very basic left of pan automation in any DAW.

5. JST Bus Glue Billy Decker. There is something super weird going on with the threshold. Even at it's lowest setting, you have to really dial back the volume going into the plugin. And the HPF on it is just set too high for my taste. I've had this plugin for months now and have yet to find any actual usage scenario for it.

6. Analog Obsession plugins. There's nothing special about these plugins and you shouldn't pay for them. They would make excellent freeware, if only AO would realize that's all their plugins are actually good for.
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Journal // I have a business! // What's a genre anyway?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BillSPrestonEsq View Post
...wives are expensive upkeep...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dwight Schrute View Post
Ben Toast, I have been sanctioned by the official CGRARC (Christian Guitar Resources Awesome-ness Recognition Committee) to declare that henceforth and hitherto, you are awesome.

Last edited by Toast; 09-09-2020 at 09:37 AM.
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