Must-Have Plugins for Music Production in 2024

This year, it’s no secret that the music production landscape is brimming with innovation. New DAW versions boast mind-blowing features and a constant stream of cutting-edge plugins floods the market.

But with so many options, navigating the VST scene can feel overwhelming. Fret not.

Whether you’re a hobbyist bedroom producer or a pro in the studio, certain plugins can significantly boost your workflow and sound quality.

Here are our picks for must-have plugins in 2024 that every music maker should consider.

Key Takeaways:

  • A curated selection of must-have plugins, catering to every step of the production process.
  • From versatile synths and punchy drums to pristine EQs and mind-bending effects, we’ll equip you with tools to make sonic masterpieces.
  • Remember, the “must-have” label is subjective, but these plugins offer exceptional value, versatility, and creative potential.

Let’s dive into the plugin pool and uncover gems that will elevate your productions to the next level!

Instrument Powerhouses: Craft Your Unique Sound

Synthesizers:

Serum
Advanced Wavetable Synthesizer
  • Serum: This industry-standard wavetable synth boasts an intuitive interface and a vast sonic palette.
    From glistening leads to earth-shaking basslines, Serum is a powerhouse for crafting unique and expressive sounds.

See Also: How to Install Serum VST in Ableton: A Quick Guide

For sound design and synthesis, Serum by Xfer Records continues raising the bar. This wavetable synth broke new ground with its deeply customizable oscillator and envelope sections.

FeatureDescription
Wavetable SynthesisCreate complex and evolving sounds with ease.
Drag-and-Drop ModulationIntuitive modulation system for dynamic sound shaping.
Versatile FiltersHigh-quality filters to add warmth or edge to your sound.

Tip: Experiment with Serum’s wavetable editor to design custom waveforms, giving your music a unique sonic fingerprint.

Sculpt unique timbres by drawing and combining wavetables, applying filters, and modulating with LFOs and envelopes.

Presets cover the full spectrum of bass, lead, and pad sounds.

The graphical interface streamlines intricate sound design, whether you’re a beginner finding new sounds or an expert shaping innovative tones.

Backed by frequent updates, Serum remains ahead of the curve in wavetable synthesis.

See Also: How Long Does It Take To Learn Serum VST? (Mastering Serum in 2023)

It’s essential for any electronic, bass, or sound design-focused producer.

Key functions of Serum synth

  • Advanced wavetable synthesis
  • Draw custom wavetables or combine them from the built-in library
  • Intuitive envelope and LFO modulation sections
  • Deep sound shaping tools including filters, distortion
  • Robust preset browser and community sharing
  • Continuously updated with new features
  • Vital VST: Free and bursting with features, Vital is a rising star in the synth world. Its wavetable and phase distortion synthesis engine, coupled with powerful modulation options, unlocks a universe of sonic possibilities.
  • Spire VST: Has a warm analog character and intuitive workflow. Spire excels at creating lush pads, soaring vocal-like textures, and gritty leads.
    It’s a go-to for producers seeking vintage-inspired synth magic.

Drum Machines:

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  • Battery 4: This legendary sampler and drum machine remains a mainstay for a reason. It’s got an intuitive interface, extensive sound library, and powerful sequencing capabilities.
    This makes it a dream for crafting everything from punchy hip-hop beats to driving electronic grooves.
  • Addictive Drums 2: This infamous drum module boasts high-quality acoustic drum samples and a customizable kit builder.
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Addictive Drums 2 delivers realism and creative freedom. Its intuitive groove engine and built-in effects help you sculpt drum parts that breathe life into your tracks.

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  • Loopcloud 6: This cloud-based sampler and loop browser offers instant access to millions of royalty-free sounds.
    Drag and drop loops, edit samples, and tweak parameters to cook up fresh drum patterns and inspire new musical ideas.

See Also: How To Use Splice Bridge with Cubase (Explained For 2023)

Instrument Plugin Roundup

PluginStrengthsBest For
SerumVersatile wavetable engine, intuitive interfaceEDM, sound design, leads, basses
VitalFree, powerful modulation options, unique soundsAll genres, experimentation, complex textures
SpireWarm analog character, intuitive workflowPads, leads, vintage-inspired synths
Battery 4Extensive sound library, intuitive sequencing, punchy samplesHip-hop, electronic music, drum programming
Addictive Drums 2Realistic acoustic drums, customizable kits, intuitive groove engineRock, pop, acoustic-driven genres
LoopcloudVast sound library, drag-and-drop workflow, royalty-free samplesAll genres, inspiration, quick beats

Sculpting Your Sound: Essential Processors

Equalizers (EQs):

FabFilter Pro-Q 3: One of the must-have plugins
  • FabFilter Pro-Q 3: This surgical EQ is renowned for its precision, clarity, and musicality.
    Its dynamic EQ mode adapts to your source material, while its mid-side processing lets you manipulate stereo balance with finesse.

Whether you’re making individual tracks or shaping the overall mix, Pro-Q 3’s transparent sound and intelligent features make it an indispensable tool.

FeatureDescription
Natural Phase ProcessingMaintain the integrity of your audio with minimal phase shifts.
Dynamic EQResponds to changes in the audio for dynamic adjustments.
Spectrum GrabEffortlessly identify and fix problematic frequencies.

Tip: Use the Spectrum Grab feature to identify frequency clashes and make informed EQ decisions. This visual aid speeds up the mixing process.

  • Waves Renaissance EQ: A classic analog-modeled EQ, the Renaissance EQ brings warmth and character to your tracks. Its intuitive interface and multiple filter shapes make it perfect for shaping tonal landscapes.
  • Ozone 10 Equator: Ozone 10’s Equator boasts advanced features like spectral editing and dynamic resonance, making it a powerful tool for tackling even the trickiest EQ challenges.

Compressors:

UAD LA-2A
  • UAD LA-2A: This legendary optical compressor adds smooth glue and gentle dynamic control to your tracks.
    Its got a simple interface and its iconic character make it a go-to for vocals, drums, and bus compression.
  • SSL Bus Compressor: Another industry standard, the SSL Bus Compressor adds punch and cohesion to your mix.
    Its parallel compression mode lets you blend in the compressed signal for extra control.
  • FabFilter Pro-C 2: For transparent and versatile compression, FabFilter’s Pro-C 2 delivers. Its sidechain functionality and multi-band options allow for targeted control over your dynamics.
FabFilter Pro-C 2

Effects and Ambience:

  • Valhalla Room: This legendary reverb plugin creates breathtakingly realistic and immersive spaces.
    Valhalla’s algorithms and customization options let you tailor the reverb to your exact needs, from cavernous halls to intimate chambers.
Valhalla Room VST

For creating vibrant ambiances and lush reverbs, it’s one of the best VSTs out there.

This plugin, developed by Valhalla DSP, brings the charm of vintage hardware reverbs into the digital realm.

Great for creating ambient textures or adding a sense of space to vocals, ValhallaRoom delivers a rich and immersive sound.

FeatureDescription
Vintage AlgorithmsRecreate the classic reverb tones of vintage hardware.
Colorful PresetsInstantly dial in a wide range of reverberation styles.
Shimmer ModeAdd a touch of sparkle to your reverbs for a unique sound.

Tip: Experiment with the Shimmer mode to add ethereal and otherworldly textures to your reverbs, creating a sense of depth and expansiveness.

With its minimalist and intuitive interface, you can dial in realistic room simulations ranging from small spaces to epic concert halls.

The presets cover a wide range of reverbs from classic plates to unusual weirdness.

But where it shines is the customization. You can sculpt the reverb’s character with controls for decay, damping, modulation, and EQ.

ValhallaRoom effortlessly enhances vocals, instruments, and full mixes with natural and creative reverbs.

At under $50, it’s a reverb plugin worth its weight in gold.

Key specifications of ValhallaRoom

  • Natural and surreal room and hall simulations
  • Intuitive preset browser and parameter controls
  • Tailor reverb tones with damping, decay, modulation
  • Integrates seamlessly into all major DAWs
  • Affordable price at under $50

EchoBoy delivers seven iconic analog echo emulations, each with its own distinct flavor.

  • Studio Tape: Warm and smooth, like the legendary Ampex ATR-102, perfect for adding lush ambiance to vocals and guitars.
  • Plex: Punchy and rhythmic, reminiscent of the classic EP-3 tape echo, ideal for spicing up drums and adding slapback delays.
  • Space: Spacious and cavernous, modeled after the RE-201 Space Echo, perfect for creating ethereal pads and otherworldly atmospheres.
  • Cheap Tape: Lo-fi and gritty, simulating worn-out tape, adds a quirky character to any sound you throw at it.
  • Memory: Vintage digital delay goodness, inspired by bucket brigade delays, creates shimmering repeats and rhythmic stutters.
  • Ambient: Warm, diffuse, and chorused, adds dreamy depth and dimension to your instruments.
  • Transmitter: Resonant and quirky, emulates CB radio-style echoes, perfect for adding a unique edge to your sounds.

Sound Design Wizards: Your Creative Toolkit

Granular Synths:

Iris 2 VST
  • Iris 2: This granular synth pioneer allows you to manipulate and resynthesize any sound sample into otherworldly textures, evolving pads, and rhythmic stutters. Unlock your inner sound designer and weave sonic tapestries like never before.
  • Stutter!: Imagine chopping your audio into micro-slices and rearranging them on a musical grid.
    That’s Stutter in a nutshell. Craft glitchy rhythms, stutter effects, and experimental textures that push the boundaries of your sound.

Samplers and Instruments:

  • Kontakt 7: The industry titan of samplers, Kontakt boasts a vast library of meticulously crafted instruments and allows you to build your own from scratch.

    Travel through orchestral worlds, vintage keyboards, or world instruments and add rich sonic layers to your productions.
Kontakt 7

While Pigments VST gives you room to experiment, Kontakt 7 by Native Instruments remains the industry standard sampler.

This is likely because of its ecosystem of official and user-generated libraries covering every genre, instrument, and style imaginable.

FeatureDescription
Expansive LibraryAccess a diverse collection of high-quality instruments.
Scripting CapabilitiesCustomize and fine-tune instruments to your preferences.
Third-Party LibrariesExplore a vibrant ecosystem of add-on instrument libraries.

Tip: Use Kontakt’s scripting capabilities to add a human touch to virtual instruments, enhancing realism and expressiveness.

Kontakt’s simplified interface makes it approachable, while powerful features like multi-sampling, scripting, and multi-timbral playback give you studio-level realism.

See Also: https://homestudiogenie.com/humanize-robotic-sounding-tracks/

Plugins like the Hybrid keys let you play grand pianos and organs with natural expression.

Hybrid keys

Kontakt also serves as a host for other soft synths and effects. So whether you need real strings, authentic drums, or a virtual orchestra – Kontakt 7 delivers the authentic sounds producers rely on.

Keypoints about Kontakt 7

  • Industry standard sampler/librarian
  • Huge library of official and user content
  • Multi-sampling for realistic instrumental layers
  • Multi-timbral for multiple playable parts
  • Hybrid plugins like pianos with expression control
  • Flexible surround panning and performance FX
  • Reliable workhorse for all studios and genre
  • Arcade: This cloud-based playground delivers instant access to a kaleidoscope of loops, one-shots, and instruments.
    Drag and drop elements, tweak effects, and discover unexpected sonic combinations to spark your creativity and ignite new musical ideas.

See Also: Is Omnisphere Still Worth It? (Answered for 2024)

Extra Processing Magic: Must-Have Plugins

MAutoPitch00.v1
  • MeldaProduction MAutoPitch: Want to add that Cher-worthy vocal effect or craft robotically precise harmonies?
    MAutoPitch delivers transparent and customizable pitch correction, opening doors to creative vocal manipulation and expressive experimentation.
  • iZotope Ozone 10 Imager: Struggling with a muddy mix? Ozone 10’s Imager helps you achieve pristine stereo separation.
    Visualize your frequency spectrum, adjust channel balance, and sculpt a clear and spacious soundscape for your tracks.
Ozone by iZotope: One of the must-have plugins in your processing library

For complete and polished final masters, Ozone 11 by iZotope has set the standard. This ultimate mastering suite combines EQ, dynamics, maximizer, and imaging into one streamlined plugin.

See Also: 14 Essential Mixing and Mastering Tips and Tricks Shared by Industry Experts

My go-to is using the Assistant which analyzes your track and suggests balanced settings for loudness, EQ fixes, and dynamics. But you also have full control to shape the sound manually.

FeatureDescription
AI-assisted MasteringUtilize artificial intelligence for optimized mastering.
Tonal Balance ControlMaintain balance across the frequency spectrum.
Vintage ModulesAdd analog warmth and character to your mixes.

Tip: Use Ozone 11’s Master Assistant to kickstart your mastering process. The AI analyzes your track and suggests a starting point, saving you time while delivering professional results.

Tools like the Vintage Limiter, Tonal Balance Control, and Imager deliver pro-quality results.

Ozone can take a flat mix and extract the extra headroom, punch, and clarity needed for commercial releases.

See Also: The Difference Between Mixing And Mastering in Music Production

Ozone is hard to beat for a single plugin solution to your final mastering chain.

Key Components of Ozone 11

  • Assistant analyzes and suggests optimized settings
  • EQ, dynamics, imaging, and limiting mastering tools
  • Tonal Balance Control matches frequency curve templates
  • Vintage Limiter for colored or transparent limiting
  • Integrated metering for loudness and True Peak levels
  • Covers all areas needed for balanced, loud masters

Creative Processing Must-Have Plugins

PluginStrengthsBest For
Iris 2Granular synthesis, sound design, evolving texturesExperimental music, soundtracks, atmospheric soundscapes
Stutter!Rhythmic chopping, glitchy effects, creative manipulationEDM, hip-hop, electronic music, sound design
KontaktVast sample library, instrument creation, orchestral soundsAll genres, cinematic music, world music
ArcadeCloud-based loops and instruments, drag-and-drop workflow, creative inspirationAll genres, songwriting, quick experimentation
MAutoPitchTransparent pitch correction, creative vocal effects, robotic harmoniesPop music, R&B, vocal manipulation, sound design
Ozone 10 ImagerStereo separation, frequency visualization, clear mix balanceAll genres, mixing, mastering
Auto-Tune Unlimited

Auto-Tune: For pitch correction and vocal processing, Auto-Tune by Antares has remained the industry standard for over 20 years.

See Also: 23 Best Waves Plugins for Vocal Processing (2024)

Simple to use yet powerful, it lets you quickly and precisely tune vocals to the scale or key of your song.

Auto-Tune comes loaded with different correction algorithms like Classic, Standard, and Hard modes for varying degrees of tuning.

Auto-Tune VST

You can apply subtle corrections to keep vocals in tune or push them for that legendary T-Pain robotic effect.

Many top hits wouldn’t sound the same without Auto-Tune’s magic on the vocals.

With easy integration into all major DAWs, it’s a no-brainer for any studio.

Key features of Auto-Tune

  • Precision pitch correction for vocals
  • Different algorithms from subtle to exaggerated tuning modes
  • Integrates smoothly into Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton, and more
  • Iconic effect popularized on many #1 hits
  • Simple plugin interface with powerful results

In Summary – Must-Have Plugins Trusted by The Pros

We could dive into dozens more indispensable plugins, but this list covers must-owns that the pros recommend.

Let’s recap the key categories and tools:

  • Mastering – iZotope Ozone 9 for complete tonal shaping and loudness maximization
  • Sampling – Native Instruments Kontakt 6 for pro-grade sampled instruments
  • Drums – XLN Audio Addictive Drums 2 for realism and hyper-detailed acoustic kits
  • Analog Emulation – UAD Plugins for authentic analog warmth and character
  • Synths – Sylenth1 for bread-and-butter synth tones and Serum for advanced digital sound design
  • EQ – FabFilter Pro-Q 3 for surgical tonal balancing and mixing
  • Effects – Soundtoys Effect Rack for iconic studio FX chains and ValhallaRoom for pristine reverb
  • Creative – Cableguys HalfTime for glitches, slow-down, and sound design and RC-20 Retro Color for instant vintage vibe

The bottom line is having high-quality plugins that inspire ideas and make processing efficient is invaluable. Build your production toolkit around time-tested classics chosen by the pros along with specialty tools that spark creativity.

Stay open-minded in trying promising new plugins too. Visit plugin company websites, read reviews, and always demo before buying. Mix things up until you find your perfect personal selection.

The only real must-have is a set of professional plugins covering your core needs that you know inside out. Choosing the right tools allows creativity to flow freely and brings polished, radio-ready results easier than ever.

So take these pro recommendations and craft your powerhouse production suite! Having go-to plugins in your corner lets you stop worrying about technicalities and simply create.