The Buyer’s Guide to Mixing and Mastering Plug-in Effects

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We present our guide to mixing and mastering plug-in effect, where we’ve included everything we’ve reviewed over the last four years. Be sure to read part 1 of our essential guide to plug-in effects

Budget

Sonimus EQs


mastering plug-in

Price €32 to €59
Type Vintage EQ emulation suite
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

Three vintage EQs emulating classic Neve and Pultec models.

We say: “Any one of these three EQs could make a great addition to your studio plug-in collection, but they complement each other well, and provide different functionality which can be brought to bear on different instruments within your mix.”

Melda production MAmp



Price €39
Type Vintage-amp emulation
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

A vintage amp with everything from soft saturation to enhance the harmonic content, to creative distortion for a harder edge.

We say: “This is a great amp simulator with a variety of uses.”

iZotope DDLY



Price $49
Type Delay
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

Combines two delay lines with a unique threshold control, which sends audio signals above the threshold to one delay and audio below the threshold to another.

We say: “This is likely to remain a permanent part of our mixing setup for some time to come.”

Mercuriall U530



Price $60
Type Preamp emulation
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

A model of an unusual rack-based guitar preamplifier from Engl: the E530.

We say: “Mercuriall has delivered an exceptional virtual amp for high-gain rock and metal guitarists, and anyone already familiar with the Engl E530 will want to audition this plug-in.”

Rob Papen RP-EQ

Price €75
Type EQ
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

Advanced EQ plug-in designed to be used on everything from individual channels to whole mixes, and also during mastering.

We say: “More features than you will find in most similar third-party EQ effects. It’s reasonably priced and will suit all kinds of mixing and mastering applications.”

Fabfilter Pro-C2

Price £114
Type Compressor
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

This latest version of FabFilter’s compressor adds new features, including five new compression styles, a vastly improved side-chain EQ and a new display.

We say: “Everyone needs a good compressor and few are as good as this. Pro-C 2 can handle anything you throw at it. A future classic.”

FabFilter Pro-Q 2



Price £124
Type EQ
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

Fully featured EQ that can be used for just about any task, whether mixing or mastering, subtractive or additive.

We say: “We have no doubt that Pro-Q2 is set to be our ‘go-to’ EQ for some time to come – it’s absolutely brilliant.”

UVI Relayer



Price €129
Type Delay (and more!)
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

A delay plug-in with attitude and Modulation and Diffusion sections – plus a Master Filter.

We say: “Glitch effects, reverbs, distortion, drive, modulation and filtering, all within a smart interface. Need just one plug-in to take to your desert-island hard drive? This could well be it.”

Midrange

FabFilter Pro-MB



Price £139
Type Multiband dynamics processor
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

This features six bands of compression or expansion, but with the ability to place the bands anywhere on the spectrum to give it a dynamic edge.

We say: “An incredibly powerful and easy to use tool that we’ll be using on every track from now on.”

Audified U73b Compressor V2



Price £149
Type Compressor emulation
Format VST, AU, AAX

Emulation of the classic, highly sought-after Telefunken U73b compressor designed in Germany in the late 1950s.

We say: “If you’re looking for a warm, punchy, thickening effect on individual tracks or your full mix, the Audified U73b is ideal.”

Blue Cat Audio Dynamics 4



Price €149
Type Full suite of outboard
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

A fully featured dynamics processor: it can be used as a compressor, limiter, gate, expander, waveshaper or all of these at once.

We say: “If you’re serious about dynamics processing, this has to be high on the list of go-to plug-ins.”

Oeksound Soothe



Price €149
Type Resonance suppressor
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

A de-esser, multiband compressor and dynamic EQ all in one plus more designed to rein in your frequencies.

We say: “After using Soothe for a couple of weeks, we wondered how we managed without it for so long.”

iZotope Ozone



Price $499 Advanced Elements $129
Type Mastering plug-in suite
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

The all-in-one package for mastering professionally. The latest version includes all sorts of extra hardware emulations, including vintage gear.

We say: “With all of the extra device emulations Ozone sounds better than ever. The ultimate mastering package.”

Sonnox Oxford Envolution



Price £170 to £275
Type Transient shaper
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

Combined compressor and expander for controlling envelopes of a signal by splitting the signal into the ‘attack’ and ‘sustain’ portions for user control.

We say: “Everything you need to thrive. Great control for fine detail.”

Sound Radix SurferEQ 2



Price $199 (requires iLok)
Type EQ
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

Track the pitch of incoming audio and have EQ boosts and cuts move musically to it, without automation.

We say: “An extremely useful sound-design tool that lets you create smoother, cleaner and more natural-sounding mixes.”

Brainworx bx_refinement



Price $199
Type Dynamic EQ and filter
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

Takes out the aspects that make a mix sound harsh and aggressive and helps refine the sound using a filter and EQ.

We say: “We’d recommend this more for improving mixes that are already well balanced. We’d happily pay the price to learn the lessons and dramatically improve our tracks.”

Universal Audio API 2500



Price £229
Type Bus-compressor emulation
Format UAD powered

The API 2500 Bus Compressor offers painstakingly modelled detail from the original hardware bus compressor.

We say: “If you’re a ‘colourful compression’ junkie you might want to look elsewhere, but if you want precision and control, the API 2500 delivers in spades.”

Overloud/MoReVoX REmatrix



Price $249
Type Reverb
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

Convolution reverb from Overloud made with IR specialists MoReVoX.

We say: “With a few tweaks, presets and added features, REmatrix could become a future classic.”

High End

Waves Abbey Road Reverb Plates



Price $249
Type Vintage plate reverb emulation
Format Waves platform

Based on the original EMT 140 reverbs at Abbey Road Studios, but with modifications implemented by Abbey Road’s engineers.

We say: “Arguably the most versatile and authentic-sounding plate-reverb emulation to date.”

Black Box Analog Design HG-2



Price $249
Type Saturation emulation
Format VST, AU, AAX

Emulation of a unit praised for its ability to add subtle harmonic colouration and sparkle without compromising quality, and to make tracks sound richer, fuller, louder, bigger and punchier.

We say: “Not cheap, but if you can get it in one of PA’s sales, a no-brainer.”

Melda Production MTurboReverb



Price €299
Type Reverb
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

Lush-sounding reverb with ‘one button’ simplicity and infinite programmability.

We say: “Stunning-sounding reverb with lots of character. MTurboReverb is highly usable in the mix, quick to navigate and has an infinitely programmable engine.”

UA Fairchild Tube Limiter Collection



Price $299
Type Vintage compressor emulation
Format UAD powered

Update of Universal Audio’s excellent Fairchild 670 plug-in, which has been a mainstay of the UAD platform.

We say: “A near-perfect software replica for a fraction of the cost of the original hardware.”

UA The Culture Vulture



Price $299
Type Distortion emulation
Format UAD powered

A recreation of what many cite as the ultimate hardware distortion box – Thermionic Culture’s Culture Vulture.

We say: “If you’re a real overdrive junkie, then Culture Vulture is not to be missed!”

Melda Production MXXX



Price €999
Type Ultimate multi-effects!
Format VST, AU, AAX and RTAS

Contains pretty much every Melda effect – and that’s a considerable number – in one package. It should be everything you need…

We say: “A supremely powerful monster multi-effect.”

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About Author

Andy Jones

Andy Jones has an MA in Music Technology and has been writing about it for 25 years. He has launched and edited several magazines on the subject and was editor of MusicTech for the last four years. Naturally, he has far too many synthesisers...

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