Essential VST Plugins: Core 5 Types of Plugins!

Essential VST Plugins


Discovering the essential plugins to make use of in your digital audio workstation is vital if you wish to attain any success in your producing, recording, and mixing.

Whereas your DAW gives the canvas where you sort your musical masterpieces, the plugins are the tools that permit your masterworks to take form.

So in this article, we’ll go over what are a few of the important forms of plugins you’d want to focus on. We will not put a price tag or promote to you some fancy plugins, we are just going to share some types that will give you music that sounds great.

The music production software program world is saturated with software plugins. Each week there appears to be a brand new plugin or plugin update that provides some new or enhanced options. It could actually get overwhelming, both with pleasure or confusion, when deciding on what plugins to try.

Does this imply that the plugins that you just discover in music production online shops are pointless? No, however, you do need to perceive what VST plugins are, and likewise very importantly, what it is you’re attempting to realize in your music in the first place. Then you’ll be able to determine what different plugins you wish to use in your music-making and recording.

What Is VST?

VST is the brief form commonly used for Virtual Studio Technology.

This technology was developed to exchange the standard audio recording with the assistance of a software program that might do the job in a lot simpler way.

This interface standard works to attach synthesizers and effects to editors and recording applications focused on audio. Every program has the basic tools that come with it. In audio, we have essential plugins that are helping us do the job well!

The primary distinction in the course of — when you examine the standard methods with VST — is that you simply don’t have to bother about routing the audio out of the pc to the items made particularly for hardware effects and then get it again to the computer. As an alternative, all of it is executed internally.

There is no modern music production and mixing without plugins and instruments. We are kind of dependent on these software processors if we cannot afford to play with hardware gear.

But for newcomers and people that don’t and can’t spend a little fortune on analog gear, this is the real stuff. You will be able to enjoy the same products on your computer, only you will turn the knobs with your mouse and keyboard instead of physically with your fingers.

There are two kinds of essential plugins that you completely have to learn about if you’re into recording and producing music — VST effects and VST virtual instruments.

Inside every one of those categories, there are tons of various choices for you to select from. All of those might carry out related or vastly completely different features.

VST Effects 

The primary kind — VST effects — work like most different kinds of audio effects and can be used to process audio in a simpler method because it provides you the choice of using it in real-time. VST effects work best when they’re used in combination with the fitting low-latency soundcard

If there’s a specific audio effect discovered in the form of hardware, there will certainly be a VST possibility for the same. All the top-notch units have digital emulations and now everything you need can be found in the box.

With all the features like the originals + something more can be added to the development of these plugins.

  • Modulation effects — For instance, Chorus, Flanger, and Phaser.
  • Time-based effects — For instance, Reverb, Delay, and Echo.
  • Spectral effects — For instance, EQ and Panning
  • Dynamic effects — For instance, Compression and Emulations
  • Filters — For instance, Low-pass, High-pass, Band-pass, and

If you are after some great-sounding plugins, check some of our other articles on vocal plugins or some free plugins that are out there. There is pretty much everything on the internet. For a long time, we looked for the best plugins, but we summed all that down to around 50 plugins in all these essential types that we will use.

Not that Waves Plugins or other developers have not good plugins, but we simply want to explore everything new coming out and see how the technology improved.

Let’s have a look at a few of these essential VST plugins in-depth now.

Modulation Effects


Choruses double or multiplies your audio signals to make it appear as if there are multiple devices or voices being performed back. Additionally, an effect for adding presence if you use it properly.

Most probably, the DAW that you’re using has all of those plugins already. In lots of DAWs like Studio One, Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Reason or Ableton, the plugins that include the software would already be sufficient to make use of.

Particularly in the event, you’re simply beginning out, but even after you’re an advanced DAW person, you possibly can nonetheless depend on the plugins that include your DAW.

little microshift by soundtoys

Flangers and Phasers

Flangers and Phasers give audio an uncommon “wah-wah” impact to your audio. These are normally efficient in slicing out some frequencies and permitting the instrument to sit effectively in a big mix. However, you too can use it for the effects they supply.

Even though their usage is not that common, it’s always good to have some flangers and phasers in your toolbox. When you are at the point of creative processing, such processors might come really handy in changing the sound you are working on.

Chorus, flanger and phaser

Time-based effects

Reverbs and Delays

Reverbs and Delays add an additional tail of sound to your audio. Reverbs are called upon so as to add extra room and space to your sound, just like the sound of singing or taking part in a small room or a big theater.

They are often crucial for vocals, giving the singer presence within the mix. In the studio context, this normally means recording them “dry” after which using both a software or hardware reverb plugin to add the specified effect of space and room.

Some reverb, like spring reverb plugins, acts merely as an effect. They work by thickening a sound and offering extra presence to drums, vocals, or guitars.

Delays are additionally referred to as echoes as a result of they produce an echoing feedback effect on a sound. Just like reverb if you wish to add space to your sounds. Simple delay processes are used to signal that you want to add some space to.

When it comes to using reverbs and delays, we prefer to have them through an FX or AUX track, which provides us with another dedicated fader to these effects.

The perk of going with this process is that the initial signal will not be affected by these effects, but only you will parallelly insert them with the main one.

Besides that, you will be able to additionally process these effects, by adding various effects and processes, to make them even better and more unique. Our biggest thing by doing this is uniqueness.

If you combine the right effects, you will have a great outcome that is unique and hard to imitate. This might be your signature sound or the new style out there, so experiment!

essential vst plugins

Spectral effects

What’s an EQ?

An EQ (equalizer) plugin is a plugin that allows you to increase, take away, increase, lower or leave frequencies in an audio file unchanged.

The modifications in frequency trigger modifications in your mix, and you need to use that to create a space for each component of your track within the mix so everything might be heard correctly without competition.

This type is one of the essential plugins that every producer needs to own. Without EQ, you cannot mix.

What can an EQ plugin be used for?

An EQ plugin can be used to create experimental sounds, preserve your mix from getting muddy and crowded, and help parts of a track better match into the mix or stick out more.

The initial usage is to manipulate frequencies and make changes in the signal at the frequency spectrum analyzer.

Controls and options of an EQ

An EQ normally has a number of completely different controls on it, however relying on the type, that will differ to various degrees. A typical EQ has the next controls:

  • Frequency: This setting adjusts the center range for a particular frequency band.
  • Q: the management that widens or narrows the frequency band curve.
  • Gain: increases or decreases the quantity of every frequency band.
pro q3 by fabfilter

Check our article on what is Passive EQ here!

What’s Panning?

Panning is the distribution of a sound signal in a stereo (or multi-channel) area. Panning creates the illusion of a sound source transferring from one part of the soundstage to another.

Common Uses of Panning

Panning is an effective way to artificially place your sound in a particular place in your stereo field. It additionally enables you to stop muddiness and masking in your mix (when two sounds cover one another up).

Using auto-pan effects enables you to sweep a sound throughout the stereo field over a time period, creating a way of the sound moving between the left and right.

The middle of your mix is normally the busiest. It’s common to maintain the low-frequency parts (bassline, drums) and lead parts (vocals) panned to the middle because they ground your mix.

Different devices are panned someplace to the right or left. However, where do you place them? One of the best rules of thumb is to maintain a balance: in the event, you pan instrument barely to the right, pan one thing with an identical frequency range on a similar spot to the left.

Hard panning is mostly avoided unless it’s an artistic alternative. However rules are made to be broken, am I right?

panning and stereo imaging plugins

And our article on stereo width plugins is here!

Dynamic Effects

Dynamic plugins are dynamic processors that alter the amplitude of the audio signal to supply desired outcomes. This implies, the will either increase or lower components of or entire frequency sections of an audio signal to change the best way it sounds, or in any other case change the best way the signal’s loudness is perceived.


Compressors and limiters are basically identical things. They each have an effect on the perceived loudness of audio by decreasing the number of loud sounds in your music or amplifying the quiet sounds.

Doing this “compresses” the audio signal’s dynamic range to only a small distinction between loudness and softness. If you want to have an industry-standard song, you need to learn how to use compression and have some compressor VSTs in your toolbox.

Limiters do identical things, besides that it reduces the quantity of attack (transients) a lot faster, giving quieter sounds and frequencies the ability to amplify extra, therefore rising the perceived loudness.

There may be additionally one other form of compressor referred to as the “de-esser,” which is designed particularly for these frequencies where you’ve got that “SSS” sound. This removes sibilance from vocals and likewise from instruments like hi-hats, guitar, and bass slides.

compressor plugins

Our selection of the best compressor plugins can be found on this link!

Emulation Plugins

Because we work on digital audio files, there’s an inclination for music purely mixed on a DAW to lose that type of character that an important-sounding mix would usually have.

In this case, you reach for an emulation plugin that, just like the name says, “emulates” the sound of analog hardware studio units.

A few of these plugins come in the type of equalizer or delay/reverb plugins that we talked about above. But when you need to use a plugin so as to add the type of warmth that recording on a tape machine would provide.

Although not fully “essential,” to some, these plugins are a must-have, especially while you get into mixing and mastering music.

Valves EQ


One other set of plugins that work in a manner that’s much like EQs, in essence, are filters. These help in tuning frequencies that go out of a selected limit that has been set because of the cut-off frequency.

This consists of each frequency that goes over it or keeps beneath it. Maybe this type doesn’t look very important but believe me, it is in the group of essential plugins.

You have the choice of constructing probably the most out of the completely different bands on which these plugins perform and function. While there are numerous completely different varieties accessible, there are three major ones that it is best to learn about — high-pass filter, low-pass filter, and band-pass filters.

While a high-pass filter will simply disable frequencies below the cutoff, low pass will disable those that go above the cutoff. These filters types will hold solely those that match in the specified band.

example of filter plugins


As you’ll be able to see, these are simply a necessary set of VST plugins that it’s good to use. The plugins that have been talked about might be sufficient to do all that’s required in your production or mixing. When you’ve mastered the fundamentals, you’ll be able to move on to different superior third-party stuff or experiment with utilizing a different type.

Naturally, every plugin comes with its personal style and approach to doing things, so you could find that you just develop your individual favorites over time.

In the long run, continue to have fun. You may give yourself permission to play with your personal plugins, and get some new plugins to check out. However as you accomplish that, keep in mind to maintain things simple.

With the filters, we conclude the list of essential VSTs and the types that are necessary. With those 5 types, you will be able to finish any song and make it radio-ready. Now from every type, you should own various plugins from different developers, just to have several different options with specific coloring and outcomes.

Here we listed the best VSTs that are essential to mixing a song and creating a unique sound. A lot of producers are confused by the variety of plugins out there, but every single one of them has some third-party plugins for music production.

Every well-known music producer has his own selection of plugins and here we listed the types that are a great starting point. To get you started, check the different types we mentioned above and take a look at some of our other articles where we listed more plugins deeply.

Check our eBook on Mixing Tips! If you want to get a more in-depth breakdown of those tips we share, follow our link and get the “Ultimate Mixing Tips Booklet” and up your game quickly!


Nikoloski is the founder and main content writer and editor of Mixing Tips. With his experience in audio engineering, mixing, and mastering for over 15 years, will provide hands-on experience and expertise in all the matters covered on this website.

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