Here's the challenge. Is it possibile to find TOP QUALITY audio plugins that also are very, very AFFORDABLE? Or even ... FREE? I dare to say that the answer is YES. This wasn't the case just a few years ago. If you wanted good quality plugins you had to pay. Sometimes a lot. The cheap stuff just wasn't good enough for professional use. Today, things are different. VERY different.
So, here's a list of 10 plugins that are:
- EXTREMELY HIGH QUALITY. Not just good enough, but really top notch, in every aspect: sound quality, innovation, features etc. Just the best, period.
- VERY AFFORDABLE. And I really mean it. They must be free or almost free. Let's say no more than 50$, and that's the absolute maximum that we allow here. The cheaper, the better.
All plugins here satisfy BOTH criteria. First, we will look at equalizers and compressors.
1. General Purpose Equalizer: SLICK EQ by TOKYO DAWN
PRICE: Completely FREE (or 30 euro for the "Gentleman Edition")
Here's the thing.
This developer, Tokyo Dawn Labs, is just phenomenal.
They will appear several times on this list.
They just make the best plugins, and give them free or sell them for a very reasonable price.
This is SLICK EQ:
So, why do I like it so much?
- very high quality sound
- 6 different "modes"
- several types of smooth saturation
- tilt filter
- automatic gain compensation
- auto de-resonate
I could keep going.
This is a masterpiece of quality, user friendliness and features.
The free version is fully functional. No kidding.
The gentleman's edition is very cheap, and it adds some very nice extra features.
Here's what the great Dan Worral thinks about it:
A seriously great and flexible all-purpose eq.
You can find SLICK EQ here.
2. General Purpose Compressor: DC8C v.2 by KLANGHELM
Price : 20 euros
This is a do-it-all kind of compressor.
Not only that, but it sounds phenomenal too.
Not only that, but it's easy to use too.
Not only that, but it's 2 plugins in one too.
Not only that, but it's super cheap too.
Not only that .... ok, I'm done.
Let's take a look at a few details.
First, it has an EASY mode, which is ... really, really easy. And you can achieve excellent results, really fast, in 95% of possible uses.
Here's a screen shot of the EASY mode:
You see just the fundamental, typical parameters of compressors: threshold, ratio, attack, release. Plus, a very useful high pass filter. Plus, a very useful mix control.
Bet here's the best part.
There's actually 4 different modes (Smooth, Punch, Snap, Crush), which have very different characters and achieve very different results. All with the same easy operations.
So, this is the EASY mode.
Most of the times, you probably don't need anything else.
But what if you need more?
What if you have some very, very, very peculiar needs?
What if you need a lot of control?
What if you are a control freak, just like me?
Here comes EXPERT mode for you:
This is where the real fun begins, with DC8C.
This is where you get something really amazing, for just 20 euros.
Now, I won't go into detailed descriptions here.
But let me assure you that you get a degree of control that it's quite rare to see in other compressors. Even those that cost 10 times DC8C's price.
It's also a great learning tool.
Yes, because if you take the time to really learn what each parameter does, you really learn a lot about compression. Compression can be very easy, but also quite complex.
DC8C is a tool for both situations.
You can find Klanghelm DC8C right here
3. Character Compressor: MJUC by KLANGHELM
Price: 24 euros
Since we're talking Klanghelm, let's talk about MJUC.
The very famous MJUC.
Why is it "famous"?
Well, because the vast majority of mixing engineers love it. And for good reason.
MJUC is a "character" compressor.
A compressor that will definitely give some "mojo" to your tracks.
A compressor not designed to be "transparent", but to be obvious, in your face. Not just a compressor, but a sound shaping tool.
Needless to say, it sounds absolutely gorgeous. Analog vibe like no other.
And here's the kicker:
In perfect Klanghelm style, it's not just one compressor, but THREE.
Three completely different modes (Mk1, Mk2 and Mk3) with very different characters.
Here's the 3 interfaces:
Did I mention it's also extremely easy to use?
Well, it is.
So, what's the catch?
There's no catch.
This is as good as it gets. Really.
And not just because it's super cheap. This is a tool that blows out of the water other character compressors that are 5 or 10 times more expensive.
There you go.
You just have to try it yourself.
It's excellent on most materials, but I have to say that I find it absolutely phenomenal on drums. You can hear it in action here:
You can find Klanghelm MJUC right here.
4. Dynamic Equalizer: NOVA by TOKYO DAWN
Price: FREE (or 50 euros for the Gentleman's Edition)
Admittedly, you don't need a dynamic eq very often.
Unless you have the best one.
Which is also free, fully functional.
Introducing NOVA by Tokyo Dawn Labs.
Now, I don't have to tell you how good this thing is.
I'll let Dan Worrall do it for me ...
So, this is really a phenomenal problem solver of a plugin.
As I said, you won't need it for every single track, but once you start playing with this toy, you will realize that it can be useful in many, many situations.
My favourite feature?
The LEARN and AUTO-DERESONATE function.
You have no idea what a huge time saver this is.
Top quality, period.
Here's a screenshot, in case you haven't seen the video:
5. De-Esser / De-Harsher: SIBALANCE by TONEBOOSTERS
Price: 40 euros (for the BusTools 3 Bundle, which includes 10 high quality plugins from ToneBoosters, including SIBALANCE)
Another hidden gem.
This is what most would consider a "de-esser", that is, a plugin that tames the "esses" of singers, preventing them from being too sibilant and annoying.
Well, that's just a little part of what this plugin is capable of.
There's so much more to it.
It's really a general "de-harsher", a plugin that helps you decreasing the harshness in the high frequency range of any track, not just vocals.
In other words, it's a "problem solver".
Decreasing harshness is so important for a pleasant mix, and so difficult to do without completely ruining the track.
So, why SIBALANCE is so different.
Well, it uses uses a "matched filter" technology to only affect offensive audio components, while leaving all other frequency components untouched. The results will sound cleaner and more transparent than what other de-essers can do. In other words, it can separate tonal from non-tonal sounds, and that's really powerful.
Be warned, it takes a little time to master all its power.
It's not a "set and go" kind of plugin.
You can't just use presets.
The power of this plugin is in its flexibility, so every track will need a different treatment in order to get the best result. And in order to do that you need a little time experimenting and learning.
But it's definitely worth it.
Here's a screenshot:
You can think of it as a special purpose compressor, with a number of options to allow you to target just the offensive part of your sounds.
You can find TONEBOOSTERS SIBALANCE right here
It is worth while mentioning that for 40 euros you gent the whole BusTools 3 bundle, which is incredible value. You get 10 top notch plugins, including SIBALANCE and others that we will review later in this top ten list. It doesn't get any better than that ...
END OF PART 1
This is it for the first part of our TOP TEN of HIGH QUALITY, AFFORDABLE audio plugins.
In the next few days we will post the second part.
See you soon!
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