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5 Essential VSTs To Elevate Your Music Production Game

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Written by Ramsey Brown.

With the music production world constantly changing, one thing that is staying consistent is the heavy and prevalent use of VSTs. VST stands for virtual studio technology and is an audio plug-in that integrates synthesizers and effects into digital audio workstations (DAWs) such as Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Ableton, FL Studios, and others. 

Music producers are constantly trying to expand their sound and deliver a more compelling product. Before virtual studio technology came along, recording and mixing required physical instruments and substantial hardware to accomplish effects like compression and reverb

This equipment would take up a great deal of studio space and was also extremely expensive.  Thus, VST was developed to digitally simulate the functions and sounds of physical instruments, equipment, and hardware. 

When virtual studio technology was first pioneered back in 1996, it instantly revolutionized the world of music production. Over 25 years later, there are now tens of thousands of VSTs on the market — with the technology progressively becoming more advanced. 

For producers, one of the most important aspects of making high-quality music is having the best tools and equipment to do so. While everyone has their own unique creative process, VST plugins can help any producer take their sound to the next level.

Different Types of VSTs

There are thousands of different VSTs on the market, all with various sound capabilities and functions. However, the majority of VST plugins typically fall into three main categories:

  • VST Instruments: These plugins generate audio that sounds like it was created by a synthesizer or a traditional instrument, such as piano or guitar. Many VSTi plugins are designed to sound and look like popular hardware synthesizers — many of which are extremely expensive or no longer available. 

  • VST Effects: These plugins take audio and modify it in a variety of ways. They can't create new audio, but they can add reverb and other effects. This category also includes plugins that provide different types of visual feedback.

  • VST MIDI Effects: These plugins work with Musical Instrument Digital Interfaces, or MIDI data, either on their own or in concert with other VST plugins. If you're a musician and interested in connecting an instrument like a keyboard to your DAW via a MIDI connection, these VSTs are useful.

5 Essential VSTs To Elevate Your Music Production Game

Now that you know the three main types of VSTs and how each of them function, we are going to share with you our overall top favorite VSTs on the market today:

You can't list the best VSTs in the game without mentioning Omnisphere. This monster-power synth program includes over 14,000 inspiring sounds and 58 effects for all types of music production. From lush or vintage pad sounds to powerful bass lines, plucks, and leads. Omnisphere 2 has truly got it all.

Omnisphere can also create purely synthetic sounds without using any samples at all. There are now over 400 DSP waveforms for the synth oscillator, which is 100 times more than the original version. 

This award-winning software brings many different types of synthesis together into one amazing-sounding instrument that will spark a lifetime of exploration. 

Serum is an extremely powerful and easy-to-use synth with clean oscillators and flawless sound quality. With this program, you can create perfect rolling house bass lines, melodic plucks, drum sounds, or import your own audio files to create a virtually any sound possible. 

With 450+ excellent factory patches and a wide array of customization options, there’s almost nothing you can’t do inside of Serum. Unlike a lot of modern synth VSTs, Serum has remained comparatively simple with a clean user interface. 

It’s very beginner friendly yet powerful and diverse enough for advanced sound designers as well. If you’re looking to experiment with sounds and get your production career started, Serum is undoubtedly one of the best tools for to download.

KOMPLETE 13 packs the very best Native has to offer into a do-it-all production toolkit that includes flagship synths, immersive platforms, unique sampled instruments, and sounds for any genre, production, or performance. 

This world leading production suite can be used to create just about any instrument you can imagine. With 36,000 presets in a range of genres and styles, 68 instruments and effects, plus 24 expansions, and so much more, KOMPLETE 13 is truly an audio goldmine. 

Though it might be big, Native Instruments has made it easy to get set up and find the sounds you need fast. Everything in KOMPLETE 13 is pre-mapped to their KOMPLETE KONTROL and MASCHINE hardware, which means macros, tweaks, and effects are just a knob twist away.

iZotope has long been famed for their superior audio tools and technology. Ask most producers what they use for their mastering, mixing, or audio repair and we can almost guarantee you’ll hear iZotope’s name more times than not.

Their latest RX-9 plugin uses a variety of tools to control, replace, or completely remove any problematic frequencies from your audio, making it a go-to for all post-production needs.

RX-9 works great for cleaning up vocal takes, reducing breath sound on the mic, removing distortion from live show recordings, omitting unwanted background noises, removing signal bleed issues, and almost anything else that involves audio repair/restoration. It can even be used as an interesting sound design tool with the spectral processing.

Since its original release in 2009, FabFilter Pro-Q has become the trusted workhorse EQ plug-in for many engineers and producers around the world, widely praised for its superb workflow, excellent sound quality and extensive feature set including:

EQ Match and Spectrum Grab (drag peaks directly in the spectrum analyzer), Dynamic EQ mode, External Spectrum Visualization, per-band mid-side/left-right configuration, ‘brickwall’ filtering and surround processing, and so much more.

The new Pro-Q version 3 is equipped with the highest possible sound quality, a complete feature set, and a gorgeous, intelligent interface that is designed to help users get 'that' sound quickly and easily.

Final Tips For Music Producers

Now that you have a few recommendations, I highly suggest you dive deep into the world of VST and explore the endless creative opportunities that this technology has to offer. 

Even if you don't choose to download one of the 5 programs above, the more you familiarize yourself with different plug-ins, the easier it will be to find one that best fits your production needs.

Make sure you are always striving to expand your music library, production skills, and knowledge, as the game can change quickly, it's best to always stay ahead of the curve.

Remember, YouTube is your friend and practice makes perfect — If you're struggling with techniques or inspiration, it is easy to find some amazing tutorials on Youtube for most plug-ins. Also, the more you play around with your audio programs, the closer you will get to mastering them.

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    3 replies to "5 Essential VSTs To Elevate Your Music Production Game"

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