1. Parallel Aggressor - Baby Audio
2. Abbey Road Vinyl - Waves Audio
3. SnareBuzz - Track Spacer
4. Zener Limiter - Softube
5. Trem Control - Goodhertz
6. Speakers - Audio Thing
7. PreFET - Accentize
8. Pro R - FabFilter
9. Dragon Fire - Denise
If you watch these videos, you know I use FabFilter plugins a lot - but I’m limiting myself to just one on this list so that we can focus on some other great mixing effects. First is Parallel Aggressor which is amazing on percussive instruments due to how it distorts.
The Spank function is great for increase the transient, especially of a kick, to make it cut through a mix. Heat is a good-sounding saturator, but in my opinion, this first function is what makes this plugin special.
Let’s take a listen.
This emulation of Abbey Roads lathe has probably the most character of any plugin I’ve used - TG Desk instantly offers some great-sounding compression, where the various needles, tables, and cartridges give you versatile timbres. We can introduce noise, various forms of distortion, and slow down for a creative effect.
The tonearm is also a really cool touch since it mimics how highs are attenuated and more distortion occurs toward the center of a record.
Let’s take a listen.
This one seems like an odd choice, but it’s one of a kind and has a lot more applications than you might think. It introduces snare buzz whenever an instrument plays, so if you put it on a bass track, the snare buzz triggers when the bass is played.
This emulates the 2 instruments being in the same room since this would happen if a bass guitar or synth played in a room with a drum set.
But the true value of this plugin in my opinion is adding high-frequency stereo content to low-frequency mono signals. Like asperity on a tape machine, this plugin dynamically expands these instruments in a frequency-specific way.
Back to more traditional plugins, the Zener limiter applies fantastic sounding compression and limiting best suited for mixing rather than mastering applications. I personally like the Total Harmonic Distortion dial which makes adding character to the signal much easier than with other similarly designed plugins.
Granted this won’t sound as good as the hardware it’s based on, but it gives us a convenient and much more affordable way to access the characteristics of this amazing compressor.
Let’s listen to it on some drums.
This is a great plugin for guitar tremolo, or maybe some reverse-sounding wave-Esque effects, it really inspires you to take some creative risks when mixing. I think I’m using an older version of this plugin, but the features seem about the same as the newer one.
On the left we control the tremolo rate, in the middle, we control the shape of the modulation itself, to the right we control the harmonics and overall tone, and we can access an advanced section to create some awesome stereo effects.
Let’s listen to it on delayed guitar.
This plugin combines impulse responses with distortion, compression, a filter, and noise to give you an incredibly quick and easy way to add a lot of character to a signal. The first response is a microphone, the second a speaker, which in and of itself sounds awesome.
But then we can introduce specific distortion types, and other processors to create truly unique sounds. If you’re a fan of creative plugins like this, check out one they made called Wires which emulates some of the first reel-to-reel recording devices.
PreFET is a simple plugin design-wise, and it’s free, so you may think to just download it but never really use it; however, this plugin has surprising realistic FET emulation. The company that designed it used machine learning to accurately recreate the output of a transistor pre-amp.
It’s easy to use, sounds great, and doesn’t take up much CPU so it’s perfect for mixing.
The Pro R has become the main reverb plugin that I use when mixing because it sounds fantastic and offers options you don’t normally find on other reverb plugins, like the EQ section. I also enjoy being able to determine frequency-specific decay rates, modulation, and other important functions.
The plugin is both innovative while easy to understand which isn’t too common of a combination.
Last up, Dragon Fire lets you quickly combine emphasis de-emphasis compression and distortion, along with peak and RMS detection. The EQ up top determines the signal going into your compressor, and is automatically compensated for - then you have your traditional compressor controls, and a clipper.
I like how I can get a pre-emphasis compression sound without needing to use multiple plugins.
Let’s take a listen.