I often get asked what plugins I regularly use, and even though I like to think that I’m pretty open minded about it, there are some that I keep coming back to. Here are my 10 go-to plugins, with a number of honorable mentions, in no particular order (even though they’re numbered).
1. Universal Audio 1176 – In my opinion, there’s never been a more versatile compressor created, either hardware or software. I’ll use it on drums, room, keys, guitars, bass, vocals – almost anything actually.
2. Universal Audio dbx 160 – Another favorite emulation, it gets used mostly on kick and snare, where it shines for the controlled punch it provides. Be sure to use a low compression ratio of 2:1 or even less.
3. Waves Schepes 1073 – What a fantastically versatile EQ! It’s also one of the few where I even use the presets and they work well (great job, Andrew!). I especially love it on kick and snare, but it will work everywhere else as well.
4. Universal Audio Maag EQ4 – I just love the Air band, which brings out the presence of almost any mic. Stick this sucker on a vocal and you’ll make that cheapie mic sound closer to a C12 than you might have imagined.
5. Exponential Audio PhoenixVerb – I loved the sound of the old Lexicon reverbs, and the PhoenixVerb has all that and more (company owner Michael Carnes spent 25 years working for Lexicon).
6. PSP Vintage Warmer – I use this on the mix buss of every mix. It just makes everything sound better, even without using too much of it.
7. PSP 2445 Reverb – One of my new favorites, it’s kind of a one-trick-pony reverb in that there’s not a lot of different algorithms to choose from, but that one trick always sounds great. The shortest decay settings are excellent.
8. Universal Audio SSL Buss Compressor – Once again, this is one that’s on the mix buss of virtually every mix I do. I’ve tried other plugins, but always come back to the SSL.
9. Universal Audio LA3 – For some reason, this is just the ideal electric guitar compressor. It even makes highly distorted guitars sound better.
10. Pro Tools Native 7 Band EQ – I use this more than just about anything, sometimes just to finish off the sound after another EQ was already applied. The good thing is that since it’s native, you can use a ton of them without eating up much computer processing power.
JST Finality – This is quickly finding it’s way into my top 10. Sound wonderful on kick, but I’m still finding other uses for it.
Universal Audio LA2A – I use this a lot of hat and vocal (usually in conjunction with an 1176).
PSP L’Rotary – This is the best Leslie speaker emulator ever, in my opinion. You won’t need this on every mix, but when you do, it always works.
Soundtoys Microshift – Whenever I need a Harmonizer sound, this is what I turn to. It’s one sound that just can’t gotten any other way.
I know the list leans heavily towards Universal Audio, but I’m can’t deny that I’m a big fan. The list of honorable mentions could have also gone on quite a bit longer, but then I would’ve been getting into plugs that I don’t use as regularly. Anyway, now you know what I use as go-to plugins, but keep in mind that if you check back in 6 months, the list may be completely revised.