Music Production - BPM Supreme Contributor - February 25, 2022
Top 10 Plugins for Music Producers

There are a lot of plugins available to producers nowadays, and sorting through which ones you may need can be tedious and expensive. I’ve put together a list of top plugins that every producer will find both useful and fun to use, from compressors to pitch shifting.

Waves CLA-76

This compressor/limiter plugin by Waves emulates one of the most iconic compressors, the 1176LN and 1176 Rev A. Like the original UREI hardware it is modeled after, (United Recording Electronics Industries, created by the same founder as Universal Audio), the Waves CLA-76 has a very fast attack. If you really drive it, you can get some of that classic crunch these types of compressors are known for. 

This plugin is a great addition to your collection for the performance and versatility you get without breaking the bank. It is superb on drums, bass, guitar, and even vocals.

Teletronix LA-2A Leveling Amplifier by Universal Audio

You may be wondering why there are two different compressors on this list. The answer is simple: you need them both. Modeled after another iconic compressor, the LA-2A, this plugin by Universal Audio is absolutely superb and upholds the company’s name as one of the best plugin providers. Because it emulates an electro-optical compressor, this plugin gives you a slower attack time, resulting in a smoother compression that is great for vocals and acoustic instruments, but also effective on all types of sounds. To run this plugin, you will however need a Universal Audio interface (Apollo or the smaller twin series), a UA Satellite, or their PCI-e DSP card.

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 EQ

One of the most important components of the mixing process is equalization (EQ). While stock EQ plugins are great for getting started, the FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is the next leap up with improvements in interface simplicity, visual editing of the EQ bands, and all-around control of the equalizing process. It functions as a multi-band dynamic EQ and also sports a multi-band side chain. The interface can be resized to meet any screen you may be working on without sacrificing picture quality.

The visual simplicity and ease of control go a long way for getting a fast handle on this plugin and molding tracks the way you want with EQ. It took me a while to give this extremely popular EQ plugin a shot, but once I did, I have not looked back.

Serum by Xfer Records

This wavetable synth is a lot of fun. The ability to import audio, draw right on the wavetable, and create/process waveforms using formula function gives it a lot of versatility and ease of use depending on how you prefer to work.

It includes an effects rack of 10 different effects and plenty of filters as well. These effects are available as a separate VST FX plugin that you can use when working with your other favorite synths.

Toontrack Superior Drummer 3

While this virtual drum plugin is rather pricey, Toontrack Superior Drummer 3 packs a lot in. It boasts over 230GB of acoustic drum samples recorded in some of the most revered studio spaces by an array of stellar microphones. It also comes with effects options pre-built into the plugin software so you can edit the tracks before routing them into your digital audio workstation.

The importance of a good drum sample plugin like this cannot be expressed enough. Having the right drums for the right song goes miles in terms of quality, and with the Toontrack Superior Drummer 3, you would be hard-pressed not to find them.

Brainworx Crispy Tuner

Brainworx Crispy Tuner is a great pitch correction plugin that rivals Antares’ Auto-Tune at a more manageable price point. It has three modes to operate under, from easy, to intermediate, to pro. It has a cool lo- and hi-pass filter function that allows you to roll off low or high frequencies before the tuning phase. This gives you a lot of control over the process. It’s also great for pitch correction on vocals, whether subtle or highly imposed for the classic auto-tune sound.

Soundtoys Little AlterBoy Voice Manipulator

Soundtoys Little AlterBoy Voice Manipulator is another pitch-shifting plugin, and it is wonderfully simple. While Crispy Tuner comes in handy for cleaning up vocals, Soundtoys Little AlterBoy is a personal favorite for more drastic and not-so-subtle pitch shifting. While it can do subtle things very well, do not let the simplicity of this plugin’s layout fool you.

It has three simple modes: Transpose, Quantize, and Robot. It has two adjustable knobs on the left for Pitch and Formant, and two on the right for tube simulated drive and a mix knob, which lets you adjust how wet or dry it is.

Output THERMAL Interactive Distortion

Sometimes a producer needs some noise in their music. The THERMAL Interactive Distortion by Output is a great tool with lots of options for injecting tracks with over 15 different kinds of distortion. It has over 250 presets to get started with, and the interface lets you manipulate the distortion in a fun and sleek way. 

This plugin also features several built-in effects, from time-based to modulation. It sounds great on just about anything and is a must for a producer’s plugin library.

Native Instruments Raum – Reverb

This reverb plugin by Native Instruments is best described as a hall reverb, but it does so much more. You can not only set the pre-delay time but the pre-delay feedback as well. It has dials for low-shelf and high-cut, size and diffusion, reverb time, modulation, and a dampening knob to adjust the reverb’s tone. 

Raum by Native Instruments is a splendid plugin with extreme customizability of the reverb. There are other options at similar price points that some producers may prefer, but for me, this takes the cake.

Ozone 9 by iZotope

This mastering suite plugin has become one of the most well-known pieces of mastering software. While it is not the end all be all of mastering, it is a great tool for those producers who are newer to the mastering process. You can edit the stereo field, match the EQ using a reference track matching feature, and do just about anything else for mastering, all within this suite.

It’s also worth mentioning the mastering assistant in Ozone 9 that sets you up at a reasonable point to build off of in the mastering process. This feature is helpful for learning and can get you on the road to different mastering plugins.


Once you start sifting through all the plugins available to producers, you will start to notice patterns and be able to identify which plugins are most popular. Plugins are a little like cars – if you don’t see many of your make and model on the road, it might be a bad sign. However, it could mean you found a hidden gem. This list of 10 top plugins is a great starting point for any producer to get on the path to more professional mixes.

About the Writer

Nick K. is an instrumentalist, performer, songwriter, arranger, and producer from the Philadelphia area. With a degree in Arts in Music from Columbia College Chicago, Nick enjoys playing the guitar and bass guitar and is currently recording and producing an album.
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