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What are the best VST effect plugins?

Here’s our quick list of the best VST effect plugins available in 2022:

  • Minimal Audio Rift
  • The House of KUSH BLYSS
  • Xils Lab CHOR’X 2.0
  • Mixland Rubber Band Compressor
  • WA Production Multibende
  • Leapwing UltraVox
  • Matt Nash DST
  • Unfiltered Audio LO-FI-AF

With the huge range of VST effects plugins, how can you even begin to find the best ones for your project? Well, while there will always be classic plugins we thought we’d pick out the releases over the past year that really appealed to us. We’re looking for a cross-section of attributes starting with great sound, innovative interfaces, fun things to explore and creative applications. Whatever you’re looking to achieve these are going to give your mix a lift.

While many plugins aim to emulate and capture the sound of vintage hardware others make full use of computer technology to reinvent what’s possible in sound processing and music production. In this list you’ll find some classics but you’ll also venture into futuristic possibilities both complex and simplistic and what’s useful is up to you.

Note: “VST plugins” is a term that often covers both software effects and software instruments. We’ve decided that it’s more helpful to separate them out into “VST Effect Plugins” and “VST Instruments” and so if you’re looking for synths and sound machines check out our other article on the year’s best VST instruments.

Your Questions About VST Plugins Answered

What are the best VST plug-ins for beginners?

Robin Vincent

Start with the plugins that come with your DAW. They will be enough to get going and you can learn an awful lot from them before you start fishing for something different or more exciting.

Do you need VST plugins?

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VST Plugins have become an integral part of the mixing process and shape the sound of your music – they are very important. Like the good hardware gear they are often based upon they will help you achieve the best mix of sound and quality of tone.

What VST plugins do Producers use?

Robin Vincent

Producers would use a mixture of stock plugins from their DAW and specialized ones that they’ve come to know and love. Some plugins are keepers whereas other ones take you off into new directions and Producers will love to use both.

Best VST Plugins 2022

Read on for our picks for the year’s best VST plugins.

Let us know which career you are most interested in. Start hereStart here

Minimal Audio Rift

It’s exciting, extensive and blisteringly powerful in its ability to endlessly destroy your audio. The unnervingly white interface pulses and modulates with the vibe of a new type of distortion. You can animate harmonics, push the waveshapes into positive and negative fields, modulate the feedback and tune it to the precise natural of overload you’re looking for.

It comes with a massive preset library of crunch and crushing that you can intelligently randomise for never-ending possibilities. It has multiple sections of processing, taking Drive through to Distortion before sculpting the physical modelled feedback circuit and ending through the modulation effects and filter. You can craft pitches through the system building the effects into sounds of their own while pumping in impossibly shaped sequences of assignable modulations.

Distortions are usually a one-knob deal whereas Rift is a work of audio processing art.

Pros & Cons

  • Exciting distortion
  • Complex possibilities
  • Loads of presets
  • Very animated
  • Interface is a bit unnerving
  • Too complex?

Street Price: $129
minimal.audio

The House of KUSH BLYSS

This is a mastering-style EQ that lives within six stages of boutique saturation and a “finishing compressor”. While it may sit at the end of the chain this is far more than a last minute tweak, this has a vibe all of its own.

It’s something to do with the multiple cascading saturations and the easiest of EQ interfaces that brings thing alive in ways you hadn’t thought of. This is old school sweetening where you drag out the old effects boxes to inject some life back into your project. It’s not complicated, it’s restrictive, thoughtful, and designed to work together as a whole that will bring the lushest of colors and elegance to your mix.

While the EQ section will deal with wayward harmonics the real fascination is found in the saturation section which brings modeled inputs, outputs and interstage transformers with 3 discrete op-amp stages into a single knob that feeds into a mastering class compressor. BLYSS is stunning to look at, use and experience.

Pros & Cons

  • Looks amazing
  • Makes everything sound better
  • Cascading saturation
  • You won’t need anything after it
  • Simplistic
  • EQ is basic

Street Price: $99
thehouseofkush.com

Xils Lab Chor'X 2.0

Core’X 2.0 brings together 4 kinds of vintage chorus with a versatile bucket-brigade delay emulation and a stereo dynamic spatializer for modulating your synths. This is one thick and gooey chorus and I love it.

The 4 chorus emulations come from some classic sources and are labelled up as Synthex, CS-80, Dim-D and VP-330. The interface is beautifully clear and rewards you with minimal controls and an instant hit of chorus that wobbles you into heaven. It’s a joy to use. The stereo spatializer pushes the sound into all sorts of interesting places widening the field and expanding the sound and the BBD delay is as crunchy as you need it to be.

Advanced controls are available if you want to dive into a more creative space and start taking control over what’s happening within the circuit models. But more than likely the main interface will be all you need.

Pros & Cons

  • Some classic chorus sounds
  • Gives everything a vintage feel
  • Great on synths
  • Fantastic stereo spatializer
  • Not terribly versatile

Street Price: $49
xils-lab.com

Mixland Rubber Band Compressor

This is a bit weird but for anyone who has struggled with traditional compression you might find this a complete revelation.

Instead of using regular Threshold and Ratio knobs the Rubber Band Compressor uses… A rubber band. The idea is that you are using qualities of tension and snap to model the behaviour of a VCA controlled audio compressor. It simulates the physical response of pushing the audio and then snapping back aggressively based on the tension, timing and severity. It’s quite fascinating.

The interface is brilliantly simple and the effect gives your audio an organic flexibility and juicy bottom end. And you’ve got to love seeing that rubber band bounce around in response to your settings. There’s also some crunch, some Tilt EQ and a bit of drive to round things off.

Pros & Cons

  • Compression made easy
  • Intuitive interface
  • Sounds awesome
  • Loving the look
  • Traditional compressor users will find it odd

Street Price: $29
mixland.io

WA Production Multibender

Multibender starts off as a vintage style tape delay and rapidly descends into madness with multi-band processing, crushing and detuning effects. This is going to be fun.

Multibender splits your signal into three frequency bands shown in the rather lovely looking display. Each band has its own set of controls so you can add different delays to the high frequencies, the mid-tones and the bass. They can all be in sync or all over the place depending on what you are trying to achieve.

The crazy split delay is just the beginning as each band gets individually pumped through a set of three effects. So you can add saturation to the bass, bit crushing to the hi-hats and detune the mids into gooey modulations or shift those around into any sort of processing order.

Multibender is brilliant and crazy and probably has as much chance of messing up your mix as it does adding creatively interesting vibes.

Pros & Cons

  • Vintage delays on different frequencies
  • Multiband processing
  • Crazy effects
  • Great saturation section
  • Can get complicated
  • Can easily turn to mush

Street Price: $49
waproduction.com

Leapwing Ultravox

Probably the easiest and most instantly effective plugin in this list. Drop it onto a vocal track and use the four interconnected algorithms to compress, gate, harmonise and bring space to your sound with the drag of a slider.

The interface is very groovy with a slowly rotating display of the vocal tracks dynamic content. Then in each corner is a slider for the four aforementioned algorithms. Pull i the Compression a bit to bring the dynamics together, add some Gate to remove breaths, turn up the harmonics to add warmth and color and add some Air for brightness.

Ultravox brings instant satisfaction to vocal tracks with a single interface and no messing about.

Pros & Cons

  • Instant vocal improvement
  • Simple and striking interface
  • Easy to use
  • Not very deep

Street Price: $59
leapwingaudio.com

Matt Nash DST

This distortion from a parallel universe is dark and desperately good in all the right ways. It infuses your audio with life and death with simple modes and unique extremes.

DST has three modes of distortion bringing different characters and tones with each to shape your ideas and formulate your directions. You can push them into four bands to accurately craft exactly where you want the most processing.

The interface is beautiful in the grimmest possible way and I love how it pushes itself off the screen and engages all your senses.

Pros & Cons

  • Fantastic distortion
  • Interface from another dimension
  • 3 types of distortion
  • Multiband processing
  • Simplistic

Street Price: $47
dst.mattnash.com

Unfiltered Audio LO-FI-AF

Unfiltered Audio are not messing about with their plugins; they are absolutely on the money. If you want LO-FI then this is the plugin for you. LO-FI-AF will distress the crap out of your audio.

It brings everything to the table to smear your sound with all the bad stuff. Sure there are vinyl crackles, saturation and bit-crushing but you’ll also find mp3 compression, CD skipping, cassette noise and motor warble. There are four unique modules that can be reorganised in any way you want. Grunge before crushing, skips after dusting and distortion running into tape, into compression, into radio chatter – the choice is yours.

The interface is bold and exciting and invites you to keep on messing with ideas from gentle distress to extreme destruction.

Pros & Cons

  • You want Lo-Fi? This has is by the bucket full
  • Analog and digital distortion
  • Modular interface for lots of signal routing
  • Unusual processes
  • Can get complex
  • Could be overwhelming

Street Price: $149
plugin-alliance.com

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