If I knew what I know today about plugins when I started building my home studio, I would be $1575 richer (yes! I worked out the math!), and that amount includes the discount that I got from codes and bundle deals that were hawked to my inbox every day.
Like many novices when starting out, I believed that the problems with my mix not sounding good was because I didn’t have the right plugins. I totally fell for all the hype about plugins modeled on vintage analog gear. I would purchase ‘great deals’ and ‘daily specials’ in a futile pursuit of plugins that I thought would turn my mixes around.
Today, however, I know that I can mix any song with stock DAW plugins and get a great sound. I do not need Waves SSL channel or need CLA’s signature drums plugs to get my mixes to sound impressive. They are definitely nice to have but are not an absolute necessity.
Looking around for music studio software can be a daunting task these days, especially with so much choice around and very competitive pricing in the market. What advice would I offer? Simple. “Don’t Buy Any More Plugins.”
Before you spend money on plugins, focus on learning how to use every stock plugin you have. You shouldn’t be surprised how similar it would sound, as if you had the Waves Platinum Package.
The Softube Time and Tone bundle included free with the Scarlett 2i2 is worth a look. Most noteworthy is the reverb, which will be most likely outperform your DAW reverb. Softube also provides a free harmonic distortion plugin, which is fantastic.
I’m also a massive fan of the Izotope range of plugins for the mixing and for finalizing (mastering). They also offer a superb selection in Audio Repair Software.
The Soundtoys 5 bundle is also impressive, but don’t buy it until it is on offer. Once a year, Soundtoys drop the price to about $249 (from $499), so put some pennies aside and grab this excellent deal when it comes around and in the meantime, work on your mixes with your stock DAW plug-ins and take your productions as far as you can.
Market leaders such as Waves, Soundtoys, Universal Audio, Izotope, and Softube provide excellent value for money products but often give us, the consumer, so much choice that it can be challenging to decide where to spend our hard-earned cash. Make sure you research your purchase thoroughly beforehand and think about the limitations you may have found with your stock DAW plugins.