It’s a bit of a minefield out there. So many companies are in our faces singing the praises of their latest software, so how can we work out what’s good & what isn’t? I find You Tube quite helpful at times when researching plug ins – especially the posts with HD links, as it helps enormously to hear sound at the best quality for evaluation, but also I look out for blogs from people who seem to know what they’re talking about. Of these, Olav Basoski and Dave Pensado come most immediately to mind. I also find some good helpful thoughts on Gearslutz, but often find it necessary to wade through a ton of crap, inflated egos and bitching to get to the good stuff.
FWIW I thought it might be worth putting my 5 favourite plug ins up here to help anyone browsing this site. Of course I have my preferences – I’ll admit right here that I’m a big fan of the UAD plugs, whereas I’ve found the Waves are a bit hit and miss, PLUS I find their pricing and updating policy more than a bit on the greedy side, so I’ve only bought a handful that I’ve found indispensable. This is just my personal view, I don’t expect you to have the same experience as I do and of course, I expect you to follow your own instincts as to your plug in choices.
1) Equalisation – UAD Neve 1081 or 1073. It’s almost inevitable that one of the first things I’ll put on a channel is one of these. 1073 is more for guitars or keyboard sounds that I’d like to cut through or be brash in some kind of way. the 1081 tends to be used for sounds that need more finesse or ‘carving out’.
2) Classic Compressors – UAD 1176 and Teletronix collections. UAD have recently updated these compressors and what an improvement they are! imho they’re now undisputedly the best models of these particular compressors available. I use the 1176 rev E on most instruments and drum channels, whereas I’ve found the rev AE is a little more subtle for things like vocals. The 1176 collection compares favourably with the real life 1176 that sits in my rack and is WAY more convenient to use, as it saves patching it in etc. As for the Teletronix, I’ve recently used the new LA2A collection to great effect on brass, strings and backing vocals.
3) Tape Emulation – both the UAD Studer A800 and UAD Ampex ATR-102 have given great results both on individual channels and on my stereo buss. More usually the ATR 102 goes over the stereo buss, as I find it gives a bit more of a ‘sheen’ than the Studer, but it depends on the material too. For more retro sounding stuff I’ve used the Studer, as the presets in many cases cut some of the top end in a very pleasing retro way. I’d recommend experimenting with the overdrive features of both emulations.
4) Delays – I’ve had very pleasing results in studios who run the Soundtoys EchoBoy, but in my own studio I use either the UAD Roland Space Echo (I also own a real life Space Echo 501, which sometimes gets used in my signal path when recording to HD) or one of the generic delays from whatever DAW I’m working in, with perhaps some tape saturation across the delay channel. For short delays I love the ATR-102 and sometimes feed these into an ambient space to give more character to the delay.
5) Reverbs – these are a bit more hard to pin down, as there are so many good ones out there, but my main ‘go to’ verbs are the UAD EMT 250, UAD EMT 140 plus whatever generic impulse response plug in comes to hand. I have a massive collection of IRs, some of which are custom-made and there’s always one or 2 of these present in my mixes. Some studios have the Lexicon collection, which I’ve also found to be excellent. Of the impulse response sets, I recommend the Lexicon, Bricasti and TC5000 sets (a google search will offer a plethora of sites offering these) and there are some random oddball IRs that can come handy too!
If you’ve read this far, I hope you’ve found some valuable and/or interesting info here. Don’t forget to hit me up in the comments box with your thoughts and experiences, as I’m always fascinated to hear the theories and techniques of other tech heads out there!