My Top 10 Channel Plugins For 2021

Top 10 channel plugins image

I get asked often what plugins I usually use. Just like everyone else, I change the plugins in my standard template that I use more often than I realize. That’s because mixing tastes change, new plugins are introduced, and different combinations seem to work best with one another. That said, here are the Top 10 channel plugins that I currently use and why. We’ll get to mix buss and effects plugins in the future.

  • Avid EQ3-1 – This is the standard Pro Tools single channel equalizer that I use first in the signal path for gain trim and high pass filter. There are some cool alternatives that I’ve tried and liked. I just haven’t committed to them yet.
  • Waves dbx 160 – This sound great on drums, especially kick and snare, adding a nice snappy punch. There are other developers that make a version of this but they just don’t have the same character to my ears.
  • Waves CLA-3 Chris Lorde Alge’s version of the esteemed LA-3 is similar to the 160 in the character department. I still haven’t found anything better on guitars and keyboards. Works on bass too.
  • JST Clip – A clipper is used to tame peaks while maintaining the same level and the JST Clip does the job well. It will be found on my parallel compressed drum buss as well as on keyboard and guitar busses.
  • FabFilter ProQ-3 – This may be the most versatile EQ plugin ever made. It can do more things and emulate more different types of EQs than just about anything else.
  • Avid EQ3-7 – Even though it’s a native Pro Tools plugin that’s been around forever, it’s easy to use and never takes up much processing power. I end up using this a lot on every mix.
  • Slate Trigger 2 – I want to make the original kick and snare that I receive in the mix work first, but if that can’t happen then it’s time for some enhancement or replacement. The Slate Trigger and library make this so simple that I don’t have to think about it.
  • Avid Maxim – Maxim is a Pro Tools native peak limiter that works on the drum, keyboard and guitar busses (although sometimes I’ll use a Waves L2 instead).
  • Kazrog True Iron – If you ever need to give a track just a little more weight, True Iron does it nicely with having it sound like it’s EQed. This works well on the drum buss and the bass.
  • UAD LA-2A – You can’t beat the old standby for vocals and high hat. Sometimes it needs to be augmented with another more precise compressor, but it almost always works on those tracks.

No doubt you will have a different set of channel plugins that what I’ve outlined above, but that difference in approach is what makes the audio world go around. These work for me right now, but it will be interesting to see what’s changed next year when we look at this again. In a future post we’ll look at my go-to mix buss and effects processors.

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