The Tools I Use & Love
A full list of everything I use to make music. I use these plugins day in and day out. All the pictures below come from actual projects of mine.
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Ableton Live's EQ8
My go-to general-purpose EQ. I weirdly love this because I can control and fine-tune the EQ nodes with my arrow keys.
FabFilter Pro-Q 3
I mostly use this for surgical and dynamic cutting. The proprietary "spectral grab" feature makes this EQ a no-brainer.
Live's Glue Compressor
This is my go-to compressor. I use this on almost everything: drums, vocals, synths, busses, you name it.
When I need to be more surgical with the dynamics (beyond the Glue) then I reach for this. I also use this for side-chain comp.
FabFilter Pro-C 2
For when I need to get SUPER detailed with dynamics (beyond Ableton's digital comp). Plus it has an awesome visualizer.
My single-band mastering compressor. Great sound. Easy to use. Helps me get the perfect bounce and fatness.
I use this for a very specific reason: to level out the average level of sustaining sounds. Other comps can do this, but I use R-comp.
One of my favorite plugins ever. Presence and grit all day. I bet I've got projects where this is on every single channel and group.
I use this to make sounds POP out of the mix. I often use this instead of an EQ boost because it's richer and adds more presence.
Submission Audio Flatline
My go-to clipping plugin. I use it to put a ceiling on sounds, clip off the peaks and open up more headroom in the mix.
Ozone 9 Exciter
Multi-band saturation with mid-side options. I mean, how much better can it get? I always use this in mastering.
Drive, punish, style, tone, mix it in, done. I love the PUNISH button. And the tone knob is my fav knob of all plugin knobs.
Waves Kramer Tape
This thing sounds amazing! Rounds off transients, de-hypes the top end, and adds presence and character.
This emulates different console sounds. Is it accurate? Don't know. Don't care. Gives me that extra *something* on my mix busses.
Sonnox Oxford Inflator
Want transparent presence and loudness without destroying the dynamics? Here you go. Black magic is definitely under the hood.
FabFilter Saturn 2
I need to dive into this more. But I mostly use it to add harmonics to the bass so it cuts through on smaller listening systems.
XLN Audio RC-20 Retro Color
Running through presets is super fun. By my favorite modules are Wobble and Magnetic for creating interesting stereo movement.
If you don't have this plugin you're doing a disservice to your bass sounds. Instant growl, richness, fatness, character, etc.
My man. This is what I produce and mix through. Even in mastering, after Ozone, I'll drive an extra dB with L2 just for the sound.
My go-to general-purpose limiter. So easy to drop the ceiling down to control peaks, then gain into it for some transparent fatness.
Ozone 9 Maximizer
My mastering limiter. I always run limiter shoot outs in mastering and this always wins. Louder and punchier with no artifacts.
Xfer LFO Tool
Favorite plugin of all time. I use it for side-chaining, chopping up loops and monitoring the waveform. Could not live without it.
Nicky Romero Kickstart
The LFO Tool is very precise. But Kickstart is so easy. So when I need some quick side-chaining, I slap on Kickstart.
NI Transient Master
Punchy, tight, fat — however you want your drums, this is an absolute must. And it's so easy with only 2 controls: attack and sustain.
Neutron Transient Shaper
The surgeon of transient shaping because of its multiband functionality. I love using this to sculpt the perfect kick transient.
My go-to de-essing plugin. The default preset works right out of the box. Pro tip: push this hard before your vox verb and delay effects.
Ozone 9 Dynamics
Multiband compression and limiting with a stereo or mid-side option. This is a permanent staple of my mastering chain.
Live's Multiband Compressor
The best thing about this isn't the infamous OTT preset, rather its extremely intuitive approach to upward compression.
I use the upward-compressor to bring up a subtle fatness and air from under the mix. Feels like the entire mix lifts off the ground.
FabFilter Pro-Q 3
I use the dynamic EQ constantly for clarity. And I use it to side-chain different sounds and frequencies to create more space.
My general-purpose reverb. I'll use this whenever I need to create space with a sound or place a sound in a space.
I use this for one reason: to place sounds in a "room" and push them back in the mix. And there's 2 great go-to presets for this.
This is my drum bus reverb plugin. I love the order of the controls. Helps me dial in the perfect drum verb.
SoundToys Little Plate
This reverb goes on all my hooks: vocals and sound design stuff. It also creates the "atmos beds" in my breakdowns.
Valhalla Vintage Verb
I reach for this reverb when Ableton's reverb isn't getting it done. Or if I'm feeling more adventurous and creative.
Ozone Imager 2
My go-to. You've got the width slider. But you can also "Stereoize" mono sounds with 2 modes and a delay slider for fine tuning.
Ozone 9 Imager
Multiband widener. I mostly use this on the master to widen the mids and highs. But I'll also use it on bass to widen the mids.
Super simple mid/side balance control. But there's also some mid/side control over the tone and dynamics! Super cool and easy!
Another free winner from Voxengo! Easily change the mid/side balance. Plus you can pan the mid/side channels. Interesting!
The wimple width knob is great. But you can right-click and select Mid/Side Mode which most people don't know about.
Classic. Great for quickly fixing pitchy vocals like old acapellas. Or going deep with graph mode for surgical tuning.
Waves Real Time Pitch
Affordable alternative to AutoTune for quick and easy pitch correction. It's also zero latency.
zplane ElastiquePitch 2
Afaik, Ableton outsources its pitching algorithms to zplane. Flawlessly clean pitch and timbre/formant controls.
Soundtoys Little Alterboy
Another modern classic from Soundtoys. This plugin is responsible for most pitched down and "formanted" vocals you hear today.
When I need a lead sound, I reach for Omnisphere. I can't do it enough justice in 3 lines so I'll just say it's #1 for me.
Most of my bass sounds are made with Operator. I don't even use the FM stuff. I just like to move the harmonics around.
My favorite synth for programing sounds from scratch. Love the look, sound, layout and insane modulation possibilities.
Xfer Records Serum
The synth I need to get into more because (1) everyone uses it and (2) it's built for nerds like me. Atm, I use it for thick unison saws.
Arturia Analog Labs
My Arturia Keylab 49 lets me fly through presets in Analog Labs while playing and twisting knobs in search of the perfect sound.
Arturia V Collection 8
A bundle of classic synths. Endless inspiration and endless tweaking. The result? Unique and surprising sounds for my tracks.
Kontakt is all about the libraries. And reach for Kontakt when I want to play a "real" instrument: strings, horns, guitar, etc.
Exactly what you think. I use this to check the levels of the frequencies in the mix. Always use a reference so the info is useful.
I can't believe this is free! But this is a more in depth frequency analyzer than Live's Spectrum. And so much more.
Izotope Insight 2
My favorite thing about Insight is the Spectrogram. Just another way of looking at the frequencies in your mix. Looks cool too.
Youlean Loudness Meter
This is what I use to check the loudness of my mix. There's also tons of other features I need to dive into. Also free.
This has a dynamic range metric that I love. They recommend being around 6. But I always try to smash 3. Loudness wars FTW!
A great way to create stereo movement. I like cranking the depth, dialing in the rate, then pulling back on the depth. Easy.
TAL Chorus LX
The classic Juno-60 chorus. There's also two modes for two different flavors. Or run them together. Can't go wrong here. Free!
Waves CLA Vocals
Even module here is gold on vocals. But my favorites are the widening modes, the slap delay and bite EQ. Goes on all my vocals.
DS Audio Tantra
My favorite multi-FX plugin. I'll run all my hooks through random presets in every track to make signature ear candies and FX.
Sugar Bytes Turnado
This multi-FX plugin is great for creating FX and modulations. But I like simply automating knobs up for weird build FX.
Sugar Bytes Effectrix
One of the OG glitch and multi-FX plugins. Super fun to run sounds through random presets to create stand-out moments.
Max For Live
Peak Level Meter
By ummo. A simple peak level meter that helps with gain staging. The meter displays directly in the Device View. Very convenient.
By alkman. What makes a sound appear far away? Quieter, less highs, narrower image. This adjusts all 3 with 1 knob.