There are loads of fantastic plugins available on the market for mixing and picking 5 has been very tough. My choices have been based on a number of factors such as; ease of use, included features, sound quality & performance. So, here are my top 5 picks for all your mixing needs (excluding creative effects).
1# FabFilter - Pro Q3
FabFilter create some of the best products on the market and Pro Q3 is just one of those plugins that causes your ears to salivate. There’s many reasons why this is “the standard” for professionals all around the world. Pro Q3 is an incredibly well thought-out plugin with a beautifully designed GUI and a tonne of powerful features packed neatly under-the-hood. If you're in the market to get your first EQ then this should definitely be on your list.
- Up to 24 EQ bands - amazing selection of curves, filters and shelves.
- Dynamic EQ mode - can be used to expand or dip frequencies per band.
- Auto Gain - removes the need to attenuate levels for A/B comparisons
- Solo Bands - use the 🎧 icon to isolate a band for fine tuning.
- Spectral Grab - find and fix resonances quickly.
- Mid-Side Mode - you use M/S per band!
- Surround Support - can support up to 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos
- Analyzer Compare - communicates with other instances of Pro Q3 allowing you to compare frequencies for masking issues.
- Linear Phase - allows put the EQ in linear phase mode. You can also choose between "Zero Latency" and "Natural Phase"
- EQ Match - copy EQ curves of other sources
- Retina Display - can be scaled to work on any size screen.
2# Sonible - smart:comp
An unexpected release for 2019, but a real gem! Sonible smart:comp is a not just another run-of-the-mill compressor, it's a sophisticated spectral-dynamic compressor that utilities powerful A.I algorithms to deliver a truly incredible sound. What's great about this compressors, is it's simplicity. By clicking the "learn" function, smart:comp will listen to the source and automatically set the compressor for you - and it does a great job! No, this isn't a gimmick either.
This plugin really shines when you use spectral compression mode. It's the equivalent of having a 2000+ band multi-band compressor working continually across the frequency range using A.I to balance the independent bands relative to your compression settings. You can also use this compressor as a spectral ducker that is so insanely smooth you won't believe it - nothing that comes close.
- A.I Compression - when using the "learn" function smart:comp will analyze the incoming signal and automatically set the compression for the best results. Don't worry, you can still use the compressor controls to tweak the results to taste.
- A & R Shaping - adjust the attack & release curves of the compression for musical results.
- Spectral Compression - continually analyzes the signal to smooth out tonal imbalances.
- Spectral Ducking - in side-chain mode, use spectral ducking to carve out frequencies for instruments competing for the same space.
- Focus - control where compression is applied using the focus filters.
- Auto Gain - smart:comp will automatically adjust the output gain so you don't get fooled by differences in loudness when using compression.
3# Softube - Tape
There are many tape emulations on the market but there's just something special about the sound of Softube Tape that keeps you coming back for more. Incredibly simple interface with 3 distinct modules to choose from and plenty of controls to satisfy all your tweaking needs.
- 3 Tape Machines - three different reel-to-reel modules.
- High Shelf, Cross Talk & Stability Controls - control the sound.
- Dry / Wet Control - dial in the amount of processed signal to blend with the original.
- Presets - lots of included presets to get you different flavors quickly.
- Start / Stop Button - classic tape stop / start effect.
- CPU efficient.
4# FabFilter - Pro L2
It's no surprise Fab Filter, yet again, make it into the top 5 mixing plugins of 2019. Pro L2 is arguably the best Limiter on the market. A feature packed powerhouse with an incredible sound and ingeniously designed GUI interface. If you were to buy one limiter, this would be it.
- Styles - choose from 8 different limiting styles.
- Metering - choose between different loudness metering all of which conform to new broadcast standards
- Surround Support - supports up-to Dolby 7.1 and Atmos 702 & 701
- True Peak - true peak limiting to catch inter-sample peaks
- Oversampling - up to 32x oversampling for eliminating aliasing
- Loudness Mode - shows peak leaves, true peak, short term, momentary and integrated loudness.
- Target Levels - choose from per-defined target levels or create your own.
- Auto Attenuation - automatically attenuates the output as you increase the amount of limiting allowing you to hear the limiting effects.
5# McDSP - 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip HD
The McDSP 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip is a real powerhouse product containing over 25 of EQ, Compressor, Gate, Expander, Saturators and Filter modules. Not only does each model sound fantastic but you can also re-arrange the signal chain to suit thanks to it's ingenious lunchbox design. You really get a lot of bang-for-buck with the 6050 Ultimate Channel Strip.
- Over 25 EQ, compressor, gate, expander, saturator, and filter modules
- Easy drag and drop, on the fly module auditioning.
- Side chain support
- Analog Saturation modeling
- Double precision processing
- Ultra low latency.
- Mono and stereo versions